QUESTION: Explain the changes in both social and political relationships in the United States that were brought about by developments in technology related to cotton production in the South and textile manufacturing in the North between 1790 and 1860.
DIRECTIONS: Please write a four paragraph essay answering the question. Cite relevant historical evidence in support of your generalizations and present your arguments clearly and logically with a well-formed thesis statement.
Use both the documents AND your knowledge of history to develop your answer. Only those answers with substantial use of both outside information and accurate interpretation of the documents will achieve high scores.
In crafting your answer, remember that you must use information from at least 75% of the documents.
Cotton Exports from the United States, 1800-1845
Source: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970. Bureau of the Census, 1975.
Between which two years did cotton exports decline?
Between which two years did cotton exports more than double?
Harriet Robinson was wife of a New England newspaper editor who provided an account of her labor as a textile worker in the mills of New England between 1834 and 1848 when she was ten years old.
We can hardly realize what a change the cotton factory made in the status of the working women. Hitherto woman had always been a money saving rather than a money earning, member of the community. Her labor could command but small return. If she worked out as servant, or "help," her wages were from 50 cents to $1 .00 a week; or, if she went from house to house by the day to spin and weave, or do tailoress work, she could get but 75 cents a week and her meals. As teacher, her services were not in demand, and the arts, the professions, and even the trades and industries, were nearly all closed to her.
As late as 1840… [women] had no property rights. A widow could be left without her share of her husband's (or the family) property, an " incumbrance" to his estate. A woman was not supposed to be capable of spending her own, or of using other people's money…. Thus it happened that if a woman did not choose to marry, or, when left a widow, to remarry, she had no choice but to enter one of the few employments open to her, or to become a burden on the charity of some relative.
Among [these] older women who sought this new employment were many lonely and dependent [ladies]… to whom a chance of earning money was indeed a new revelation…. But after the first pay-day came, and they felt the jingle of silver in their pockets, … their bowed heads were lifted… [they] walked with elastic step to and from their work. It seemed as if a great hope impelled them, -- the harbinger of the new era that was about to dawn for them and for all women-kind.
Harriet Hanson Robinson, Loom and Spindle or Life among the Early Mill Girls, New York, 1898
What does “incumbrance” mean?
What employment opportunities did women have prior to working in a mill?
Massachusetts Personal Liberty Act, 1855
Sec. 15. Any sheriff, deputy sheriff, jailer, coroner, constable, or other officer of this Commonwealth, or the police of any city or town, or any district, county, city or town officer, or any officer or other member of the volunteer militia of this Commonwealth, who shall hereafter arrest...any person for the reason that he is claimed or adjudged to be a fugitive [slave] from service or labor, shall be punished by fine... and by imprisonment...
Sec. 19. No jail, prison, or other place of confinement belonging to, or used by, either the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any county therein, shall be used for the detention or imprisonment of any person accused or convicted of any offence created by [the Federal Fugitive Slave Acts].…
Massachusetts, Acts and Resolves, 1855.
Did Massachusetts follow the Federal Fugitive Slave Acts?
Trans-Atlantic Slave Imports by Region, 1450-1900
Number of Slaves
British West Indies
French West Indies
British North America & U.S.A.
Dutch West Indies
Danish West Indies
Europe (and Islands)
Why do you believe Brazil and the “Indies” imported the most slaves?
The Slave Tradeby Hugh Thomas, Simon and Schuster, 1997 ISBN 0-68481063-8
Jefferson's prophetic letter was written a month after the passage of the Missouri Compromise. …[T]his momentous question [slavery], like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence….
… But as it is, we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other
I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it.
Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 20, 1820
What does “Knell of the Union” mean?
Sir, A few days ago I was informed that you wanted a manager of cotton spinning, in which business I flatter myself that I can give the greatest satisfaction, in making machinery, making good yarn, either for Stockings or twist, as any that is made in England….
Weaver Drawing in Warp Ends in a Lowell, Massachusetts Textile Mill, circa 1845. “Drawing In,” an illustration from A History of Wonderful Inventions (New York: Harper, n.d.) (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Does this machine look complicated? Do you think machines at that time were more or less complicated than today? Why?
Am I Not Man and a Brother?
This large, bold woodcut image of a supplicant male slave in chains appears on the 1837 broadside publication of John Greenleaf Whittier's antislavery poem, "Our Countrymen in Chains." It is typical of antislavery propaganda before the Civil War.
What is propaganda?
I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.
Lincoln in speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention, June 17, 1858
Was Lincoln correct and why couldn’t our country be both?
Percentage of Slave Owning Families as a Fraction of Total Free Households
in Each Southern State, 1860 Census
Percentage of slave owning families in slave states that seceded before Ft. Sumter was attacked (SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, FL) – 36.7%
Percentage of slave owning families in slave states that seceded only after Ft. Sumter was fired upon ((VA, NC, TN, AR) – 25.3%
Percentage of slave owning families in slave states that did not secede (DE, MD, KY, MO) – 15.9%
Eli Whitney’s cotton gin or “engine,” circa 1793 – a device so simple that a skilled blacksmith could construct it in his shop.
Why do you think the simplicity of this invention was important?
Without the firing of a gun, without drawing a sword, should they [Northerners] make war upon us [Southerners], we could bring the whole world to our feet. What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what every one can imagine, but this is certain: England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her. No, you dare not make war on cotton! No power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is King."
March 4, 1858, Senator James Henry Hammond (South Carolina) in a speech replying to Senator William H. Seward (New York)
Why is cotton called King?