The Cotton Revolution

In the American Yawp textbook, chapter 11 sheds light on one of the most influential revolutions in the south. The introduction to cotton revolutionized the global economy all together. The new version, Petit Gulf cotton, “slid through the gin…and grew tightly, producing more usable cotton than anyone had imagined to that” (Wegman). The South continued their more “traditional” practices like slavery and agricultural lifestyle because of the implementation of cotton. Of course, it was no surprise that when it started in Mississippi in 1820, merchants, planters and even botanists developed their own cotton as well to produce an abundance of profit from their plantations. According to the chapter, by the end of the 1830s technological advances made cotton “the primary crop” not only of the southwestern states but of the entire nation” (Wegman). By that time, “the five main cotton-producing states-South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, produced more than five hundred million pounds of Petit Gulf for a global market stretching from New Orleans to New York and to London, Liverpool, Paris and beyond” (Wegman). Their range was endless, and the economy was undeniably booming. Behind all that success and triumph, resided the agonizing truth of how the South maintained their “cotton kingdom”. Without slavery there would be no cotton, no capital. They were dependent of using slaves to produce massive amounts of Petit Gulf every day. Slavery was “seen as the backbone of southern society and culture” (Wegman). Cotton and slavery were so intertwined in the south that any idea of change could implode their entire economy, also being that cotton was the only major product that they could sell internationally.

While reading this chapter, I questioned the very sanity of the people in the south. How could they allow the foundation of their whole state rely on using enslaved people to do their dirty work. It’s no wonder that the Cotton Revolution, a time of capitalism, lead to competition. A product like that made every planter want to be the best and would often get into massive amounts of debt because they were actively working against everyone else. Wealth has a tricky way of manipulating people into getting more of it, making people capable of unspeakable deeds. Owners would do anything to make more cotton and enslaved people was the only thing they needed. Resistance would only cause them unimaginable pain. To them, the slaves weren’t people, they were just tools or a means to an end. Never once did they stop to question their cruelty.

Blog Post #1 Fulcher (Capitalism)

This reading follows the idea of Capitalism and the different forms seen throughout history. Merchant Capitalism was the earliest form where profit was made from trading scarce products across long distances. One of the downsides of this was that it “required a heavy investment of capital in the expectation of large profits”(Fulcher 4). The second form was Capitalist production, which relied largely on wage labour to make profit. The third form of Capitalism mentioned in the reading is Industrial capitalism. It was similar to capitalist production but was a little more advanced. All of these had pros and cons but are still seen in our capitalist society. Today, the whole economy has become dependent on investment of capital to prosper, we don’t just rely on trade, but production as well.

Before I didn’t really understand what was involved when it came to capitalism. I knew what it entailed yet couldn’t grasp the concept and connect it to the issues we face in our economy today. This reading gave me more insight on it and shed light to the injustices that were seen back then and actually still prevalent now. For example, The exploitation of workers in the cotton mill company around 1839. By that time the industry had around 1,815 mills, which would later increase even more. This meant that they would need a lot of workers to manage the machines and because they needed a heavy amount of profit, the workers had to operate day and night. Most of the labour was “cheap child labour and at times nearly half of those employed were under the age of 16″(Fulcher 5). It progressively got worse when the ages began to start lower to 7 year olds working from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm. Although wage labour is considered “free”, it’s also “unfree” in a sense because when one lives in a capitalist society, it’s almost impossible to survive without paid work. Not to mention in early capitalist society there were very little job opportunities available which may have led to employer manipulation and in this case inhumane acts like child labour. We don’t see child labour today but there are still workers being paid way less than they should for the long shifts they take to make capital for large companies  or institutions. My new attained knowledge on capitalism really changed the way I viewed this part of American history because I feel it’s wrong to mainly depend of wage labour for our economy to flourish. New ways should be found instead of making people think paid work is the only way to  provide for themselves and their families.