"Slavery or cotton trade?" Top 5 Page for this destination History Tip by matcrazy1

History, Richmond: 10 reviews and 10 photos

by matcrazy1

As I already stated I was told different opinions and views on the Civil War.

One of my basic questions was: why did southern states secede from the Union? Was slavery the reason?
Official history books usually cite slavery as the cause for the secession and war. President Abraham Lincoln was chosen in November 1860 and he wanted to ban slavery wheras the southern states wanted to keep it.

I was told in the South that slavery was a factor in the War Between the States, but it was a secondary factor. Slavery was getting to be cost prohibitive. The advent of the cotton gin made picking cotton more efficient without having to pay for the upkeep of the slaves. Even if the slaves didn't earn money, plantation owners had to pay to keep them in working order. Even if the South won the war, slavery would have probably disappeared before 1900.

The real reason of the secession was really the cotton trade. Because of soil and climate, cotton would only grow in the South. Because many of the congressmen were from the North, they made U.S. trade policy with other countries (as it relates to cotton exports) that put the cotton farmers at a distinct disadvantage. The South took that for a number of years and decided in 1861 they were not going to take it anymore so, one by one, the Southern states began to secede from the Union. Slavery was used as the rallying cry up North because most Americans, both up North and down South, were illiterate in the 1860s. Whereas most couldn't get their arms around the finer points of the cotton trade, they could understand slavery. It's just an opinion, but one that makes sense when you set aside the emotion of the debate.

Read the speeches to Georgia legislature of:
- Alexander H. Stephens, future Confederate Vice-President here
- Robert Toombs, future Confederate Secretary of State here.

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  • Updated Nov 20, 2004
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