American Civil War
Due to the large amount of tobacco planted during the year, the soil in which the farmers had used to plant the cash crop had become overworked and unusable for tobacco. Without any back up crops, the South’s economy was plummeted. The South had grown cotton alongside the tobacco plant, but it took a great deal of labor to plant, tend, and pick the cotton. In order to process the plant, slaves had to separate the tiny seeds from the cotton fiber manually one by one. This was very time consuming and was thought out to not even be worth the effort by most farmers. The South’s agricultural economy was slowly dying off, along with the use of slave labor. If this had continued, slavery would have been completely abolished and the American Civil War would have never begun.
Advance machinery and tools were soon developed and the Industrial Revolution began. Inventions, such as the steam engine or cotton gin, made labor practically effortless and required a smaller amount of skill to operate. This pushed the North to produce countless factories for mass production. The majority of Northern colonists functioned as factory workers and nearly all of the Northern Colonies had already abolished the useless act of slavery. However, due to the invention of the cotton gin, the South was greatly dependent upon slavery in order for their agricultural economy to flourish once again. With that, demand of cotton skyrocketed and the crop was shipped to Europe where it would be manufactured into cloth. Combined with the labor demand from plantations and the demand of cotton from Europe, the slave trade was brought back into America and slavery spread across the Deep South.
Heated arguments based upon the abolishment of slavery began to take place between the North and the South. While the North somewhat accepted blacks and thought slavery was cruel, the South thought of the slaves as more of property, rather than people. Due to their agricultural economy, the South required slaves to survive. Slaves were needed to work the cotton fields in order to fill the large orders from Great Britain and France; the South could not abolish slavery for their economy would not prosper if they did so. If it were not for Europe’s demand of cotton from the South’s plantations, slavery would have died off and quite possibly prevented the American Civil War.
Because of the slavery issue, there was a split between the newly formed country. It was essentially the states located in the North, known as the Union, versus the states located in the South, known as the Confederate. The split became official when Abraham Lincoln, a Northern Republican, won the presidential election of 1860 and caused the South to secede from the nation. The reason for the South’s secession was due to the fact that the Southern states felt that Lincoln sought out to abolish slavery and was a threat to their rights to own slaves. The South knew that without any outside support from other countries, they would surely lose the war to the North. This is why the South would later on try to gain support from Great Britain and France using a tactic known as Cotton Diplomacy.
Although the South had minor advantages, the North could easily overpower the South using population, materials, or tactics. Due to their disadvantages, the South sought out to gain support from Europe by using their number one export, cotton. The South’s cotton exports were vital for the British and French economy, so the South decided to use this to their advantage in order to gain support in the war from both countries. This tactic was known as `Cotton Diplomacy’ and was essentially a failure. The South believed if they could hold off cotton exports from Great Britain and France by employing a self-embargo act, then the countries would eventually cave in and support the underdog in the American Civil War. This would have worked if it were not for the fact that the South overestimated the value of their cotton. The South believed that without their cotton, the British and French economies would collapse in disarray and would try anything to prevent a cotton famine, even if it meant supporting the South in their time of war and providing supplies for them. That was not what happened. Great Britain and France were able to survive the embargo act due to an excess of cotton they had stored at the beginning of the Civil War, and by the time they were ran short they had already `replaced the American cotton with cotton from India and Egypt.’ When hearing this, the South had realized that they were now at a loss due to the failure of the Cotton Diplomacy and suffered a strike to their economy, which would become the main cause of their defeat in the Civil War. If it were not for the false hope that Great Britain and France would support the Confederacy in the American Civil War, the South would have backed down and the Civil War could have been avoided.
Europe’s role in the American economy caused and continued a domino effect that would set off the American Civil War. The explorations of Europeans, such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, had begun a series of events that would later on lay down the foundation of America’s economy. While trading and importing American goods, Europe had influenced the American economy in terms of demand, kept slavery in the South’s economic plan, and created the main components that led to the American Civil War.
Marco Polo, Voyages and Travels of Marco Polo (New York: The F.M. Lupton Publishing Company, [n.d.])
Zinn, Howard. “Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress.” Chap. 1 in A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present. historyisaweapon.com. http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html (accessed January 18, 2012).
Zinn, Howard. `Persons of a Mean and Vile Condition.’ Chap. 3 in A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present. historyisaweapon.com. http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnvil3.html (accessed January 18, 2012).
Borio, Gene. “A Brief History of Jamestown, Virginia.” Tobacco.org. http://www.tobacco.org/History/Jamestown.html (accessed January 19, 2012).
Scheeren, William O. “Invention of Cotton Gin.” ehistory.osu.edu. http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/archive/articleview.cfm?aid=31 (accessed January 20, 2012).
Schur, Joan B. “Eli Whitney’s Patent for the Cotton Gin.” archives.gov. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/cotton-gin-patent (accessed January 22, 2012).
Scheeren, William O. “Invention of Cotton Gin.” ehistory.osu.edu.
“King Cotton Diplomacy – Its Objectives and Reasons for Failure.” worldhistoryonline.org. http://www.worldhistoryonline.org/american-history/king-cotton-diplomacy-its-objectives-and-reasons-for-failure.html (accessed January 22, 2012).