Northern cannon may have been the deciding factor in Andrew Jackson's victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815, but white southerners benefited the most from the battle. Jackson's victory secured American claims to the region, which included present-day Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and a flood of settlers soon followed. These migrants — the majority of whom came from Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas — included entire families, individuals, land speculators, slave owners, and slaves.
Following the War of 1812, a huge increase in production resulted in a cotton boom. By mid-century, cotton became the key cash crop of the southern economy and the most important American commodity. In contrast to northern agriculture, which produced corn, wheat, and a variety of other foodstuffs for outside markets, southern agriculture centered on cotton cultivation for export and on the production of other crops to feed African-American slaves.
There were several reasons behind the cotton boom, the most important being technological innovation, international and national demand, western expansion, environmental factors, and growth of the African-American slave population.
In 1793, Eli Whitney revolutionized the production of cotton when he invented the cotton gin, a device that separated the seeds from raw cotton. Suddenly, a process that was extraordinarily labor-intensive when done by hand could be completed quickly and easily.
By the beginning of the 19th century, a demand for cotton already existed in the industrial textile mills of Great Britain, and it was a demand that southern planters were eager to satisfy. Likewise, the construction of textile mills in the Northeast increased the demand for southern cotton.
Thomas Jefferson’s “empire of liberty,” which he believed would provide the foundations for a class of independent farmers, provided extensive opportunities for southern slaveholders to expand operations into the Deep South, particularly Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
The rich dark soil of the Deep South — and the reason why the region became known as the “black belt” — was well suited for the cultivation of cotton. So was the climate, which offered well over the required 200 frost-free days a year necessary for cotton cultivation.
In 1807, the U.S. Congress abolished the foreign slave trade, which made it illegal for Americans to import slaves from Africa. Although smuggling continued to occur, the end of the international slave trade, combined with expansion into the Deep South, increased the demand for domestic slaves, or slaves born in the United States.
The spread of cotton cultivation to the Deep South was accompanied by the migration of white merchants, speculators, rich planters, and ordinary white farmers.
For many whites who wanted to raise cotton, migration to the Deep South meant a fresh start and a chance for wealth. This process transformed many farmers into cotton producers. In the majority of cases, these individuals did not own large plantations. Rather, they remained small farmers who possessed either none or a handful of slaves, and mixed cotton production for profit with corn agriculture, livestock production, and other forms of subsistence.
As the cotton industry boomed in the South, the Mississippi River quickly became the essential water highway in the southern United States. Steamboats — thanks to their enormous freight-carrying capacity and ability to navigate shallow waterways — became a defining mode of transportation on the river. Steamboats also illustrated the class and social distinctions of the South. While the decks carried precious cargo, ornate rooms graced the interior. In these spaces, whites socialized in the ships' saloons and dining halls while black slaves served them.
The majority of steamboats on the Mississippi River were destined for the port of New Orleans, which Thomas Jefferson had secured for the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. By the middle of the 19th century, New Orleans became the center of the southern cotton boom because of its strategic position near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Steamboats moved down the Mississippi River, transporting cotton from plantations throughout the South and unloaded at New Orleans. From there, the bulk of American cotton went to Liverpool, England, where it was sold to British manufacturers who ran the cotton mills in Manchester and elsewhere. Southern cotton from New Orleans was also transported to American textile mills in the Northeast.
The lucrative national and international cotton trade brought new wealth and new residents to New Orleans. By the 1840s, New Orleans controlled 12 percent of the nation’s total banking capital and at least 40 percent of its population was foreign born. In both categories, New Orleans rivaled New York City — the center of the northern economy — in economic influence and population diversity.
The spread of cotton cultivation to the Deep South required not only the migration of white southerners, but also the forced relocation of black, enslaved workers. Some planters who migrated to the region were already wealthy and brought slaves with them. More common, however, was the transportation of slaves from coastal regions to the Deep South through the domestic slave trade.
The movement of African Americans to the Deep South through the domestic slave trade made up one of the largest forced internal migrations in the United States. Between 1790 and 1859, slaveholders in Virginia sold more than half a million slaves. In the early part of this period, many of these slaves were sold to people living in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Beginning in the 1820s, however, slaveowners and traders in Kentucky and the Carolinas — along with those in the Chesapeake region — sold slaves to the Deep South. In addition, it was not uncommon for free blacks in the North to be kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South.
During travel to the Deep South, enchained slaves often walked in columns that numbered anywhere between 12 and 100 individuals, and traders expected them to march up to 25 miles a day. The journey from Virginia to Mississippi or Louisiana could take up to eight weeks if one was traveling by land. Coastal vessels also shipped slaves from the Chesapeake region to slave markets in New Orleans. Kentucky and Tennessee, meanwhile, shipped many individuals south along the Mississippi River.
Upon arriving at slave markets in New Orleans or elsewhere in the region, slaves often no longer saw certain family members again.
Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, described one such instance in great detail when he, along with fellow slave Eliza and her children Randall and Emily, arrived at a slave market in New Orleans:
Overall, slave trafficking became big business in the United States and affected an enormous number of people. Consider some of the statistics below:
Upon arriving in the Deep South, the labor involved with clearing land and preparing it for cotton cultivation could be backbreaking for slaves. Most slaves on a plantation labored as field hands, but a significant minority worked in planters' households as domestic servants.
Within the "big house," masters often took a personal interest in the lives of their domestic servants and, likewise, many servants also took a keen interest in the lives of their masters' families. Sometimes, slaves pretended affection toward masters; at other times, fondness was reciprocal.
EXAMPLESojourner Truth (who escaped from captivity in 1826) fondly remembered her master, John Dumont, but Dumont’s wife, Sally, did not return any kindness toward Sojourner Truth and often abused her.
Masters attempted to justify their various relationships with slaves through an ideology that historians refer to as planter paternalism.
Advocates of planter paternalism understood their relationships with slaves in a manner similar to that between fathers and sons. They believed that African Americans were childlike individuals who required a master's care. In this way, planters attempted to use paternalism in order to rationalize slavery as a humane process rather than as an economic relationship that deprived the natural rights of an entire race in order to make a profit. Paternalism denied the exploitative aspects of slavery and, instead, portrayed masters as father figures who cared for their workers. Slaveholders, according to this ideology, took care of their slaves from birth to death, providing food, clothing, and shelter. This stood in stark contrast to the North, where workers were at the mercy of economic forces beyond their control.
In this way, planter paternalism enabled white slaveholders to justify their position in southern society and to distinguish themselves from the North.
Among the clearest instances where white southerners used planter paternalism to distinguish themselves from the North came on February 6, 1837, when South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun gave a speech on the Senate floor. In it, Calhoun insisted that slavery was “indispensable” for maintaining harmonious relations between white Americans and African-American slaves in the South. He then responded to northern critics of slavery by arguing that slavery was “a positive good.”
Calhoun’s speech contained several elements that were central to planter paternalism. At one point, he deemed the working and living conditions of African-American slaves as superior to those of European workers:
Calhoun then concluded this section of his speech by framing Southern slavery as an economic system immune from class conflict, or the “conflict between labor and capital” that affected northern and European factories:
“...I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions….There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North….”
This tutorial curated and/or authored by Matthew Pearce, Ph.D
Source: Derived from Openstax tutorial 12.1 http://bit.ly/2jJfzOJ, 12.2 http://bit.ly/2jJ6bud and 12.3 http://bit.ly/2jJd3b7. Some sections removed or edited for brevity. Image of Cotton Plantation, Library of Congress, http://bit.ly/2ka2k61 .Moss Hill plantation house, PD, http://bit.ly/2jWKIvc Calhoun, J. C. (1837). Slavery as a Positive Good. Speech. Retrieved January 20, 2017, from http://bit.ly/2kGfmeL.