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Economics of Slavery - Essay Example

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The period of slavery was one of the most difficult periods and controversial periods in the history of American nation. Following Kolchin (1995), slavery in American was primarily caused by economic factors including a fast development of the agricultural sector, rapid industrialization and growth of cities, transatlantic trade and immigration to Europe.
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Economics of Slavery
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Running Head Economics of Slavery Economics of Slavery The period of slavery was one of the most difficult periods and controversialperiods in the history of American nation. Following Kolchin (1995), slavery in American was primarily caused by economic factors including a fast development of the agricultural sector, rapid industrialization and growth of cities, transatlantic trade and immigration to Europe.
For the agricultural sector, slaves represented the main source of cheap labor. Cotton and tobacco agriculture of the South were the main industries required slave labor because white immigrants removed to industrial states or retired to Europe. As a result, during the eighteenth century, tobacco imports into Europe increased at an average annual rate of about 350 tons per annum. Since an average slave hand could produce about a ton of tobacco yearly, the total increase in the tobacco trade over the century required an increase of about 70,000 hands, a minuscule fraction of the 5.7 million slaves imported during the same period. "As late as 1860 the average value of the capital invested in an American cotton textile factory was just $109,000 and the average number of employees was just 130" (Kolchin 1995, p. 24). Throughout the eighteenth century, the great slave plantations of the sugar colonies, with profits averaging about 10 percent on invested capital, were the largest privately owned enterprises of the age and their owners were among the richest of all men. The same can be said of the great cotton plantations in the United States on the eve of the Civil War (Kolchin, 1995).
Alternative sources of labor were scarce; European labor was more expensive than African labor; Africans could endure the rigors of the tropics better than Europeans. While each of these factors played a role, no one of them individually, or their joint sum, constitutes an adequate explanation. Traditional explanations treat the rise of American slavery as if it occurred by default-merely because a superior form of labor, free labor, was not available, was too expensive, or somehow could not operate in the tropics These answers slide past the most distinctive feature of American slavery, the feature that made planters prefer slave to free labor even when free labor was relatively abundant, and even in climates, such as those of Maryland and Virginia, that were as congenial to Europeans as to Africans (Kolchin, 1995). It was true that a certain amount of force was involved in the system of indentured servitude under which most Europeans reached the New World before 1800. But the degree of force involved in that case was not much greater than had been traditional in European society, it was closely monitored by the courts, and it was constrained by the character of the contract covering such servitude.
The institution of slavery caused transformations and changes in national consciousness and self-identification, ideas of democracy and importance of freedom. The slavery led to the American Revolution and forced many political leaders to rethink ideals of free society and democratic liberties. The Louisiana Purchase (1803) expanded the US territory in 530 million acres. The next step was the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) which allowed settlements in Nebraska and Kansas. The Missouri Compromise (1820) regulated slavery and prohibited it in the Louisiana territory. In 30 years, the Compromise of 1850 regulated slavery in the South, abolished slave trade and promulgated California as a free state. Emancipation Proclamation (1863) grated freedom to slaves, except the Border States. Only 13th Amendment grated freedom to the slave population (Garraty & Carnes 2001). The Dred Scott (1857) decision was one of the most important law cases which showed that black population was able to resist and oppose slavery fighting for freedom and human rights. These events led to consolidation of the nation and its unity. In contrast to other national minorities coming to America today, black-slaves did not easily assimilate into American culture fighting for freedom and equal rights (Garraty & Carnes 2001). The point was that racial prejudices had consequences for the difference between races experience in, for example, earning money and exercising public power. It is possible to say that slavery accelerated consolidation of the nation and its formation as a national unity.
References
1. Garraty, J.A. Carnes, M.C. (2000). A Short History of the American Nation.
Longman; 8 edition.
2. Kolchin, P. (1995). American Slavery: 1619-1877. Penguin Books Ltd. Read More
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