Cotton Drove U.S. Economic Growth
According to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, cotton provided over half of all U.S. export earnings. By 1840, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton and provided some 70 percent of the cotton used by the British textile industry. Thus, according to the institute, slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron, and manufactured goods that laid the basis for American economic growth.
Enslaved Africans Represented a Significant Amount of Wealth in the Southern U.S.
When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — which freed enslaved Africans only in the rebellious states and territories of the U.S. — approximately $10 trillion in today’s money was eliminated from the American economy with a stroke of his pen, according to MeasuringWorth.com. The Three-Fifths Compromise in the U.S. Constitution allowed the Southern states to count enslaved people as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating states’ representation in the U.S. Congress. And so, the balance of power between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census. Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle. Taxes paid on the enslaved supported the national treasury. So, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic and political life.