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Cotton’s Impact on the United States Before the Civil War
With the end of the War of 1812, few people in the United States envisioned a civil war in the
future. With a developing Western section of the country, the future looked bright for a stable growing
economy based on extraction of resources (agriculture, timber, and various resources in the ground). With
the shipping resources of New England and financial centers in the North, agriculture and extraction of
resources seemed to be the foundation to base the country's economy on. Within a short period of time,
however, the North was beginning to industrialize while the Southern states stayed agrarian. A reason why
the South did not industrialize was that cotton provided an economic system for the whole country that was
as rewarding to the Southern farmers as to the Northern industrialists.
An example of the Southern attitude toward the Northern way of life is illustrative.
A white Alabaman during this period exclaimed, "We have no cities. We don't want them. We want no
manufactures; we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufacturing classes. As long as we have our rice,
our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want."
Factors that contributed to the economic system that this attitude was part of were: the sale of government
land in the South, foreign and domestic demand for cotton, and the contrast between free and slave labor.
Early Years of Cotton