The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Civil War 150th

May 19, 2011

Part 8. King Cotton 

  Slavery arrived in the New World before the Pilgrims, and it might not have survived to see Southern secession had it not been for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

   Generations of early Americans tolerated slavery, most hoping the country would outgrow it by “slow, sure and imperceptible degrees,” as George Washington said, according to Joseph Ellis’ biography, “His Excellency.”

   Ending slavery was the logical outcome of the revolution Washington led against the British, a fact he acknowledged in his will, which freed his own slaves upon his wife’s death.

   Washington, like other founders, also thought slavery inefficient. Only a fraction of Mount Vernon’s more than 300 slaves worked, he once noted. The rest remained because he did not desire to break up families.

   James Madison once reported that the owner of a 10-acre free farm in Pennsylvania made more money than he did working 2,000 acres with slaves, according to historian Paul Johnson.

   The Founding Fathers, waiting for slavery’s demise, perhaps did not foresee the impact of Whitney’s machine, which separated seed from cotton and gave rise to King Cotton in the South. Nor could they have anticipated the Second Great Awakening, a religious movement that fueled the rise of abolitionism, mostly in the North.
   The South, rather than moving away from slavery in the early 19th century, actually became more dependent on it, writes historian Allan Nevins: “It was not relaxing the laws which guarded the system, but reinforcing them ... The South was further from a just solution to the slavery problem in 1830 than it had been in 1789.”
   The transformation was such that in 1837, one of that generation’s leading lights, South Carolinian John Calhoun, argued that slavery was a “positive good.” Calhoun’s disciple, Jefferson Davis, shared that view.
   Four years after Calhoun’s remark, an observer traveling through the South by boat witnessed a Kentucky slave owner and his 12 newly-purchased slaves, who were chained at the wrists and looked like “so many fish upon a trot-line.”

   If slavery was “good,” wondered the observer, how was it that no man desired it for himself?

   “I never knew a man who wished to be himself a slave,” he later wrote.
   Thus, Abraham Lincoln had begun moving toward a position he would elucidate in later years: “He who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it.”

Quick Fact: Cotton’s Machine

   Eli Whitney was a Yale graduate who took a job as a tutor on a Georgia plantation to pay off his college debts. There he invented a machine to comb the sticky seeds from cotton, allowing the crop to flourish throughout the South. The region’s cotton yield, as a result, doubled in each decade after 1800, according to the Eli Whitney Museum.



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Civil War 150th
  • 082412newtonia.jpg Living history events will commemorate 1862 Newtonia battle

    One of the oldest and most historic homes in Southwest Missouri — the two-story brick mansion built by Matthew Ritchey about 160 years ago — will be the centerpiece for the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle at Newtonia.

    September 1, 2012 2 Photos

  • More Civil War events scheduled for this fall

    The 150th anniversary of the 1862 battle at Newtonia isn’t the only Civil War event slated for the region this fall. A site dedication and sesquicentennial celebration will take place in late October at the Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site near Butler.

    September 1, 2012

  • Confederate Gen. Price led 1864 campaign into Missouri to liberate state, disrupt election

    When former Missouri governor and Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price led an invasion of the state in 1864, he hoped to liberate Missouri from what he believed was Union occupation that had been in place since the first year of the war.

    December 17, 2011

  • PrairieGrove BayonetorRetreat.jpg 'Angel of death'

    Maj. Henry Frisbie of the 37th Illinois — a Union veteran of the campaign that culminated near here in December 1862 — wondered after the Civil War why events in the East so often overshadowed events in the West.

    October 18, 2011 12 Photos

  • painting Civil War: Order No. 11 reduced border to a wasteland

    Solomon Young epitomized everything Americans admire in one of their own: self-made, a restless, westering soul hewing a life out of the wilderness with nothing but “a gun and an ax and two babies and a blanket,” according to family tradition.

    September 24, 2011 1 Photo

  • Battle of Baxter Springs William Quantrill’s legacy remains mixed 150 years after Civil War

    In the spring of 1881 — the American Civil War had been over for 16 years — a newspaper editor from Dover, Ohio, wrote an open letter to Joplin residents, asking them to tell their stories about William Clarke Quantrill.

    September 3, 2011 2 Photos

  • Ricky Dodson Battle of Wilson’s Creek played key role in Civil War

    The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, 150 years ago this week, was a victory for the Confederates. It also resulted in the first death of a Union commander, Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon.

    August 11, 2011 1 Photo

  • Ann Raab Battle of Island Mound marked first time blacks fought in Civil War combat

    In October 1862, Rufus Vann’s journey brought him to the farm of imprisoned bushwhacker John Toothman in Bates County.

    July 30, 2011 1 Photo

  • (8)EliWhitney.jpg Part 8. King Cotton 

    Slavery arrived in the New World before the Pilgrims, and it might not have survived to see Southern secession had it not been for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

    May 19, 2011 3 Photos

  • (7)Johnston.jpg Part 7. ‘Pavement of Dead Men’

    Having captured Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862, Ulysses Grant and his Army of the Tennessee pushed up the river of the same name as spring came.

    May 19, 2011 2 Photos


Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

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