King Cotton

King Cotton was a slogan used by southerners to support secession from the union by claiming that cotton exports would make a self-governing Confederacy flourish economically.   The slogan was effective: by February 1861, the seven states whose economies were based on cotton plantations had all seceded and formed the Confederacy.  Cotton had been so important to the south in fact, that with this cotton boom, the demand for labor (and cheap labor) had skyrocketed, and thus, slavery.  According to “there were approximately 650,000 slaves in the southern states, many working on rice, tobacco, and indigo plantations. By 1850, there were 3.2 million slaves of whom 1.8 million were used to cultivate cotton.”  One can see that as cotton began to become a major cash crop, the number of slaves in the south boomed.  One can argue that this cash crop promoted slavery, as almost 2 million slaves were picking cotton by 1850.  This cotton ultimately led to the demise of the confederacy as well.  During the civil war, the union blockaded the confederacy and prevented them from selling their cotton, which slowly and surely strangled the South’s economy to a grinding halt, and the Confederacy used all available resources they had until they finally ran out and the union won the war. It is hard to believe that one export can have such a major impact on American history.



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