America's Reliance on Slavery Grows with the Expansion of Cotton

America's Reliance on Slavery Grows with the Expansion of Cotton


Why Was Cotton ‘King’?

The most commonly used phrase describing the growth of the American economy in the 1830s and 1840s was “Cotton Is King.” We think of this slogan today as describing the plantation economy of the slavery states in the Deep South, which led to the creation of “the second Middle Passage.” But it is important to understand that this was not simply a Southern phenomenon. Cotton was one of the world’s first luxury commodities, after sugar and tobacco, and was also the commodity whose production most dramatically turned millions of black human beings in the United States themselves into commodities. Cotton became the first mass consumer commodity.

Understanding both how extraordinarily profitable cotton was and how interconnected and overlapping were the economies of the cotton plantation, the Northern banking industry, New England textile factories and a huge proportion of the economy of Great Britain helps us to understand why it was something of a miracle that slavery was finally abolished in this country at all.

Let me try to break this down quickly, since it is so fascinating:

Let’s start with the value of the slave population. Steven Deyle shows that in 1860, the value of the slaves was “roughly three times greater than the total amount invested in banks,” and it was “equal to about seven times the total value of all currency in circulation in the country, three times the value of the entire livestock population, twelve times the value of the entire U.S. cotton crop and forty-eight times the total expenditure of the federal government that year.” As mentioned here in a previous column, the invention of the cotton gin greatly increased the productivity of cotton harvesting by slaves. This resulted in dramatically higher profits for planters, which in turn led to a seemingly insatiable increase in the demand for more slaves, in a savage, brutal and vicious cycle.

Now, the value of cotton: Slave-produced cotton “brought commercial ascendancy to New York City, was the driving force for territorial expansion in the Old Southwest and fostered trade between Europe and the United States,” according to Gene Dattel. In fact, cotton productivity, no doubt due to the sharecropping system that replaced slavery, remained central to the American economy for a very long time: “Cotton was the leading American export from 1803 to 1937.”

What did cotton production and slavery have to do with Great Britain? The figures are astonishing. As Dattel explains: “Britain, the most powerful nation in the world, relied on slave-produced American cotton for over 80 per cent of its essential industrial raw material. English textile mills accounted for 40 percent of Britain’s exports. One-fifth of Britain’s twenty-two million people were directly or indirectly involved with cotton textiles.”

“First cotton gin” from Harpers Weekly. 1869 illustration depicting event of some 70 years earlier by William L. Sheppard. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division)

And, finally, New England? As Ronald Bailey shows, cotton fed the textile revolution in the United States. “In 1860, for example, New England had 52 percent of the manufacturing establishments and 75 percent of the 5.14 million spindles in operation,” he explains. The same goes for looms. In fact, Massachusetts “alone had 30 percent of all spindles, and Rhode Island another 18 percent.” Most impressively of all, “New England mills consumed 283.7 million pounds of cotton, or 67 percent of the 422.6 million pounds of cotton used by U.S. mills in 1860.” In other words, on the eve of the Civil War, New England’s economy, so fundamentally dependent upon the textile industry, was inextricably intertwined, as Bailey puts it, “to the labor of black people working as slaves in the U.S. South.”

If there was one ultimate cause of the Civil War, it was King Cotton — black-slave-grown cotton — “the most important determinant of American history in the nineteenth century,” Dattel concludes. “Cotton prolonged America’s most serious social tragedy, slavery, and slave-produced cotton caused the American Civil War.” And that is why it was something of a miracle that even the New England states joined the war to end slavery.

Once we understand the paramount economic importance of cotton to the economies of the United States and Great Britain, we can begin to appreciate the enormity of the achievements of the black and white abolitionists who managed to marshal moral support for the abolition of slavery, as well as those half a million slaves who “marched with their feet” and fled to Union lines as soon as they could following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Fifty of the 100 Amazing Facts will be published on The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website. Read all 100 Facts on The Root.


Cotton Gin and the Expansion of Slavery

In 1792, recent college graduate Eli Whitney moved to Georgia to work as a tutor on a plantation. There, Whitney learned that southern planters were eager to make cotton a profitable crop. Once cotton was picked from the field, seeds had to be removed from the cotton fiber by hand before cotton could be sold. This process was labor-intensive and time-consuming, and it limited the amount of cotton that planters, relying on the work of enslaved people, could produce.

In 1793, Whitney invented and submitted a patent for the cotton gin—a machine that used rotating brushes and teeth to remove seeds from cotton fiber. His invention revolutionized cotton production, although Whitney faced challenges enforcing his patent and saw little profit from it. While an enslaved person needed about ten hours to separate the seeds from one pound of cotton fiber by hand, two people using the cotton gin could produce about fifty pounds of cotton in the same timeframe.

The invention of the cotton gin forever altered the economy, geography, and politics of the United States. The cotton gin made cotton tremendously profitable, which encouraged westward migration to new areas of the US South to grow more cotton. The number of enslaved people rose with the increase in cotton production, from 700,000 in 1790 to over three million by 1850. By mid-century, the southern states were responsible for seventy-five percent of the world's cotton, most of which was shipped to New England or England, where it was made into cloth. Whitney’s cotton gin and its descendants helped the southern states become a major agricultural force in the world economy on the backs of a growing enslaved population.

After the Civil War, cotton production boomed, as many newly emancipated African Americans continued to work in cotton fields as sharecroppers—tenants who rented land from farmers in return for a share of the crops harvested from that land. In the sharecropping system, landowners often cheated tenants using financial deception reinforced by racial violence to keep sharecroppers working to pay off endless debt. By the 1950s, mechanized cotton pickers had largely replaced manual cotton picking, but modern versions of the cotton gin are still in use today.


03.07 Module Three Exam

1)
It was in response to a British restriction imposed after a British ship sank an American ship—an odd set of circumstances, to say the least.

2)
The Republican majority in Congress passed it and Jefferson vetoed it, but he was overridden for the only time in his presidency.

3)
It stopped all American vessels from sailing to foreign ports—an amazing use of federal power, especially by a president supposedly dedicated to a weak central government.

1) increased the number of indentured servants

2) decreased the number of slaves in the South

3) led to expansion of the internal slave trade

1) They claimed that genuine liberty meant allowing others to eliminate those problems that might threaten that liberty.

2) They stressed liberation from external restraints, like slavery, and internal servitude, such as drinking alcohol.

3) They contended that self-discipline was so rare that someone had to step in and make sure Americans could enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The 1836 passage above exemplifies which of the following characteristics associated with the transcendentalist movement? (5 points)

1) The embrace of American culture and society

2) The emphasis on emotion and instinct

3) The embrace of Northern religious institutions

"Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of Liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and Bible, which are disregarded, and trampled upon, dare to call in question and denounce . slavery 'the great sin and shame of America'!"—Fredrick Douglass, from speech titled "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," 1852

Which of the following groups would be likely to support the point of view of Frederick Douglass in the excerpt? (5 points)

3) Abolitionist Northerners

1) Whitney figured out how to remove the cotton-destroying boll weevil, and thereby, save the cotton crop.

2) Removing seeds from the cotton was a slow and painstaking task, but Whitney made it much easier and less labor-intensive.

3) Processing cotton required many different pieces of equipment, but Whitney figured out how to change the equipment more easily and quickly, saving time and money.


Cotton Gin and the Expansion of Slavery

In 1792, recent college graduate Eli Whitney moved to Georgia to work as a tutor on a plantation. There, Whitney learned that southern planters were eager to make cotton a profitable crop. Once cotton was picked from the field, seeds had to be removed from the cotton fiber by hand before cotton could be sold. This process was labor-intensive and time-consuming, and it limited the amount of cotton that planters, relying on the work of enslaved people, could produce.

In 1793, Whitney invented and submitted a patent for the cotton gin—a machine that used rotating brushes and teeth to remove seeds from cotton fiber. His invention revolutionized cotton production, although Whitney faced challenges enforcing his patent and saw little profit from it. While an enslaved person needed about ten hours to separate the seeds from one pound of cotton fiber by hand, two people using the cotton gin could produce about fifty pounds of cotton in the same timeframe.

The invention of the cotton gin forever altered the economy, geography, and politics of the United States. The cotton gin made cotton tremendously profitable, which encouraged westward migration to new areas of the US South to grow more cotton. The number of enslaved people rose with the increase in cotton production, from 700,000 in 1790 to over three million by 1850. By mid-century, the southern states were responsible for seventy-five percent of the world's cotton, most of which was shipped to New England or England, where it was made into cloth. Whitney’s cotton gin and its descendants helped the southern states become a major agricultural force in the world economy on the backs of a growing enslaved population.

After the Civil War, cotton production boomed, as many newly emancipated African Americans continued to work in cotton fields as sharecroppers—tenants who rented land from farmers in return for a share of the crops harvested from that land. In the sharecropping system, landowners often cheated tenants using financial deception reinforced by racial violence to keep sharecroppers working to pay off endless debt. By the 1950s, mechanized cotton pickers had largely replaced manual cotton picking, but modern versions of the cotton gin are still in use today.


Cotton Gin and the Expansion of Slavery

In 1792, recent college graduate Eli Whitney moved to Georgia to work as a tutor on a plantation. There, Whitney learned that southern planters were eager to make cotton a profitable crop. Once cotton was picked from the field, seeds had to be removed from the cotton fiber by hand before cotton could be sold. This process was labor-intensive and time-consuming, and it limited the amount of cotton that planters, relying on the work of enslaved people, could produce.

In 1793, Whitney invented and submitted a patent for the cotton gin—a machine that used rotating brushes and teeth to remove seeds from cotton fiber. His invention revolutionized cotton production, although Whitney faced challenges enforcing his patent and saw little profit from it. While an enslaved person needed about ten hours to separate the seeds from one pound of cotton fiber by hand, two people using the cotton gin could produce about fifty pounds of cotton in the same timeframe.

The invention of the cotton gin forever altered the economy, geography, and politics of the United States. The cotton gin made cotton tremendously profitable, which encouraged westward migration to new areas of the US South to grow more cotton. The number of enslaved people rose with the increase in cotton production, from 700,000 in 1790 to over three million by 1850. By mid-century, the southern states were responsible for seventy-five percent of the world's cotton, most of which was shipped to New England or England, where it was made into cloth. Whitney’s cotton gin and its descendants helped the southern states become a major agricultural force in the world economy on the backs of a growing enslaved population.

After the Civil War, cotton production boomed, as many newly emancipated African Americans continued to work in cotton fields as sharecroppers—tenants who rented land from farmers in return for a share of the crops harvested from that land. In the sharecropping system, landowners often cheated tenants using financial deception reinforced by racial violence to keep sharecroppers working to pay off endless debt. By the 1950s, mechanized cotton pickers had largely replaced manual cotton picking, but modern versions of the cotton gin are still in use today.


4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution

Slavery formed a cornerstone of the British Empire in the eighteenth century. Every colony had enslaved people, from the southern rice plantations in Charles Town, South Carolina, to the northern wharves of Boston. Slavery was more than a labor system it also influenced every aspect of colonial thought and culture. The uneven relationship it engendered gave White colonists an exaggerated sense of their own status. English liberty gained greater meaning and coherence for White people when they contrasted their status to that of the unfree class of enslaved Black people in British America. African slavery provided White colonists with a shared racial bond and identity.

SLAVERY AND THE STONO REBELLION

The transport of captured Africans to the American colonies accelerated in the second half of the seventeenth century. In 1660, Charles II created the Royal African Company (Figure 4.9) to trade in African goods and enslaved people.. His brother, James II, led the company before ascending the throne. Under both these kings, the Royal African Company had a monopoly on the slave trade to the English colonies. Between 1672 and 1713, the company bought 125,000 captives on the African coast, losing 20 percent of them to death on the Middle Passage, the journey from the African coast to the Americas.

The Royal African Company’s monopoly ended in 1689 as a result of the Glorious Revolution. After that date, many more English merchants engaged in the slave trade, greatly increasing the number of captives being transported. Africans who survived the brutal Middle Passage usually arrived in the West Indies, often in Barbados. From there, they were transported to the mainland English colonies on company ships. While merchants in London, Bristol, and Liverpool lined their pockets, Africans trafficked by the company endured a nightmare of misery, privation, and dislocation.

Enslaved Africans strove to adapt to their new lives by forming new communities among themselves, often adhering to traditional African customs and healing techniques. Indeed, the development of families and communities formed the most important response to the trauma of being enslaved. Others dealt with the trauma of their situation by actively resisting their condition, whether by defying their captors or running away. Escaped enslaved people formed what were called “maroon” communities, groups that successfully resisted recapture and formed their own autonomous groups. The most prominent of these communities lived in the interior of Jamaica, controlling the area and keeping the British away.

Enslaved people everywhere resisted their exploitation and attempted to gain freedom. They fully understood that rebellions would bring about massive retaliation from White people and therefore had little chance of success. Even so, rebellions occurred frequently. One notable uprising that became known as the Stono Rebellion took place in South Carolina in September 1739. A literate Angolan named Jemmy led a large group of captive Africans in an armed insurrection against White colonists. The militia suppressed the rebellion after a battle in which both enslaved people and militiamen were killed, and the remaining rebels were executed or sold to enslavers in the West Indies.

Jemmy is believed to have been taken from the Kingdom of Kongo, an area where the Portuguese had introduced Catholicism. Other enslaved people in South Carolina may have had a similar background: Africa-born and familiar with White people. If so, this common background may have made it easier for Jemmy to communicate with the other rebels, enabling them to work together to resist their enslavement even though enslavers labored to keep their captives from forging such communities.

In the wake of the Stono Rebellion, South Carolina passed a new slave code in 1740 called An Act for the Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Other Slaves in the Province, also known as the Negro Act of 1740. This law imposed new limits on enslaved people’s behavior, prohibiting them from assembling, growing their own food, learning to write, and traveling freely.

THE NEW YORK CONSPIRACY TRIALS OF 1741

Eighteenth-century New York City contained many different ethnic groups, and conflicts among them created strain. In addition, one in five New Yorkers was an enslaved person, and tensions ran high between the enslaved and the free population, especially in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion. These tensions burst forth in 1741.

That year, thirteen fires broke out in the city, one of which reduced the colony’s Fort George to ashes. Ever fearful of an uprising among enslaved New Yorkers, the city’s White residents spread rumors that the fires were part of a massive revolt in which enslaved people would murder White people, burn the city, and take over the colony. The Stono Rebellion was only a few years in the past, and throughout British America, fears of similar incidents were still fresh. Searching for solutions, and convinced their captives were the principal danger, nervous British authorities interrogated almost two hundred enslaved people and accused them of conspiracy. Rumors that Roman Catholics had joined the suspected conspiracy and planned to murder Protestant inhabitants of the city only added to the general hysteria. Very quickly, two hundred people were arrested, including a large number of the city’s enslaved population.

After a quick series of trials at City Hall, known as the New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741, the government executed seventeen New Yorkers. Thirteen Black men were publicly burned at the stake, while the others (including four Whites) were hanged (Figure 4.10). Seventy people were sold to the West Indies. Little evidence exists to prove that an elaborate conspiracy, like the one White New Yorkers imagined, actually existed.

The events of 1741 in New York City illustrate the racial divide in British America, where panic among Whites spurred great violence against and repression of the feared enslaved population. In the end, the Conspiracy Trials furthered White dominance and power over enslaved New Yorkers.

Click and Explore

View the map of New York in the 1740s at the New York Public Library’s digital gallery, which allows you to zoom in and see specific events. Look closely at numbers 55 and 56 just north of the city limits to see illustrations depicting the executions.

COLONIAL GENTRY AND THE CONSUMER REVOLUTION

British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor helped give rise to a wealthy colonial class—the gentry—in the Chesapeake tobacco colonies and elsewhere. To be “genteel,” that is, a member of the gentry, meant to be refined, free of all rudeness. The British American gentry modeled themselves on the English aristocracy, who embodied the ideal of refinement and gentility. They built elaborate mansions to advertise their status and power. William Byrd II of Westover, Virginia, exemplifies the colonial gentry a wealthy planter and slaveholder, he is known for founding Richmond and for his diaries documenting the life of a gentleman planter (Figure 4.11).

My Story

William Byrd’s Secret Diary

The diary of William Byrd, a Virginia planter, provides a unique way to better understand colonial life on a plantation (Figure 4.12). What does it show about daily life for a "gentleman" planter and enslaver? What does it show about slavery?

August 27, 1709
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Josephus. I said my prayers and ate milk for breakfast. I danced my dance. I had like to have whipped my maid Anaka for her laziness but I forgave her. I read a little geometry. I denied my man G-r-l to go to a horse race because there was nothing but swearing and drinking there. I ate roast mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I played at piquet with my own wife and made her out of humor by cheating her. I read some Greek in Homer. Then I walked about the plantation. I lent John H-ch £7 [7 English pounds] in his distress. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thanks be to God Almighty.
September 6, 1709
About one o’clock this morning my wife was happily delivered of a son, thanks be to God Almighty. I was awake in a blink and rose and my cousin Harrison met me on the stairs and told me it was a boy. We drank some French wine and went to bed again and rose at 7 o’clock. I read a chapter in Hebrew and then drank chocolate with the women for breakfast. I returned God humble thanks for so great a blessing and recommended my young son to His divine protection. . . .
September 15, 1710
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Thucydides. I said my prayers and ate milk and pears for breakfast. About 7 o’clock the negro boy [or Betty] that ran away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot iron, for which I quarreled with her. . . .

One of the ways in which the gentry set themselves apart from others was through their purchase, consumption, and display of goods. An increased supply of consumer goods from England that became available in the eighteenth century led to a phenomenon called the consumer revolution. These products linked the colonies to Great Britain in real and tangible ways. Indeed, along with the colonial gentry, ordinary settlers in the colonies also participated in the frenzy of consumer spending on goods from Great Britain. Tea, for example, came to be regarded as the drink of the Empire, with or without fashionable tea sets.

The consumer revolution also made printed materials more widely available. Before 1680, for instance, no newspapers had been printed in colonial America. In the eighteenth century, however, a flood of journals, books, pamphlets, and other publications became available to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. This shared trove of printed matter linked members of the Empire by creating a community of shared tastes and ideas.

Cato’s Letters, by Englishmen John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, was one popular series of 144 pamphlets. These Whig circulars were published between 1720 and 1723 and emphasized the glory of England, especially its commitment to liberty. However, the pamphlets cautioned readers to be ever vigilant and on the lookout for attacks upon that liberty. Indeed, Cato’s Letters suggested that there were constant efforts to undermine and destroy it.

Another very popular publication was the English gentlemen’s magazine the Spectator, published between 1711 and 1714. In each issue, “Mr. Spectator” observed and commented on the world around him. What made the Spectator so wildly popular was its style the essays were meant to persuade, and to cultivate among readers a refined set of behaviors, rejecting deceit and intolerance and focusing instead on the polishing of genteel taste and manners.

Novels, a new type of literature, made their first appearance in the eighteenth century and proved very popular in the British Atlantic. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded found large and receptive audiences. Reading also allowed female readers the opportunity to interpret what they read without depending on a male authority to tell them what to think. Few women beyond the colonial gentry, however, had access to novels.


America's Reliance on Slavery Grows with the Expansion of Cotton - HISTORY

A woman stands beneath a monument commemorating the "Door of No Return" where enslaved people were loaded onto ships in the historic slave port town of Ouidah, Benin, July 18, 2019. /Reuters

"I don't want to survive. I want to live." The words said by an African American slave in the movie "12 Years a Slave," a 2013 biographical film adapted from a 1853 slave memoir by Solomon Northup, tells of the harsh, fear-ridden life that many like him suffered in the American South.

In the late 18th century, the cotton industry in the southern United States saw a rapid expansion after the invention of the cotton gin, a machine that revolutionized the industry and enabled profitable processing of short-staple cotton. As efficiency in the production process enhanced substantially, the demand for labor on cotton plantations became much greater. Unlike today, where the industry is largely mechanized, growing and picking cotton at the time relied entirely on human labor.

With cotton becoming the most important textile supporting the manufacturing of cloth, the market potential of cotton production businesses was limitless. For plantation owners in the southern U.S. states, using slaves was the answer to generating lucrative profits.

In the 25 years following 1800, about 109,000 enslaved Africans were transported to the territories that make up the present-day United States, more than one third of the overall number transported there. Although Congress banned the importation of slaves in 1808, it did not stop slave traders from smuggling them into the country, and plantations in the Deep South were further reinforced as the domestic market supplied them with another one million slaves.

In 1860, there were nearly four million enslaved Black people in the U.S., accounting for 13 percent of the overall population.

"Cotton produced under slavery created a worldwide market that brought together the Old World and the New: the industrial textile mills of the Northern states and England, on the one hand, and the cotton plantations of the American South on the other," wrote Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, in a piece contributed to The New York Times Magazine.

Thanks to the huge fortunes they had amassed for themselves, plantation owners in the South had immense political capital at the time. Coupled with the support of a series of pro-slavery presidents, Supreme Court justices and lawmakers from Congress, they were guaranteed disproportionate political power at the federal level and were enabled to further expand their cotton businesses in the new territories they gained.

Over time, the slave market became an indispensable part of the cotton production industry, as the former played an important role in influencing the latter.

For plantations, the consistent search for labor was not the only key to success, exerting draconian control over enslaved labor was the other weapon that plantation owners needed to wield, and that control reeked of the capitalism and greed that incentivized such practices.

The success of plantations hinged largely on how owners used violence as a means to maximize productivity. For them, beating the enslaved men, women and children was a way to ensure an impressive ledger, and the unbearable physical pain afflicted on them was completely disregarded. Often seen and heard amid the whippings were anguished screams, trembling and fainting from the pain.

In the day-to-day of cotton picking, each slave was assigned a quota for the day's work. If they picked more than what was required of them, they would likely be subject to a higher quota the next day. Falling short of the target would get them beaten, and the number of lashes they received was determined by that deficit.

But that was not the only factor contributing to the frequency of violent punishment faced by the slaves. The risk of being whipped also fluctuated as cotton prices went up and down in the global market. "When the price rises in the English market, the poor slaves immediately feel the effects, for they are harder driven, and the whip is kept more constantly going," fugitive slave John Brown said following his escape.


Cotton promoted slavery

But during the next generation, the south was converted into a section which for the most part was united behind the institution of slavery. This change came about for various reasons. The spirit of philosophical liberalism which flamed high in Revolutionary days gradually became weaker, and a general antagonism between puritanical New England and the slave-holding south became evident. Above all, certain new economic factors made slavery far more profitable than it had been before 1790.

One element in the economic change was the rise of a great cotton-growing industry in the south. Several causes were responsible for this change. Improved types of cotton with better fibers were introduced. Eli Whitney's epochal invention, in 1793, of the "gin" for cleaning the seeds from cotton greatly accelerated production. At the same time, the demand for raw cotton was vastly spurred by the Industrial Revolution which made textile manufacture a large-scale industry. And the opening of new lands in the west after 1812 greatly expanded the area available for cotton cultivation

Cotton culture moved westward rapidly from the tidewater states, spreading through much of the lower south to the Mississippi River and eventually on to Texas. Another factor which placed slavery on a new basis was sugar growing. The rich, hot lands of southeastern Louisiana proved ideal for growing a profitable sugar cane crop in the late eighteenth century, and by 1830 the state was supplying the nation with about half its sugar supply. This required slaves who were brought from the eastern seaboard. Finally, tobacco culture also spread westward taking slavery with it. Therefore the slaves of the upper south were largely drained off to the lower south and west.

As the free society of the north and the slave society of the south spread westward, it seemed politically expedient to maintain a rough equality between the new states then being established. In 1818, when Illinois was admitted to the Union, ten states permitted slavery and eleven free states prohibited it. When Alabama was admitted as a slave state the balance was restored. Many northerners at once rallied to oppose the entry of Missouri except as a free state, and a storm of protest swept the country. For a time, Congress was at a deadlock. Under the pacific leadership of Henry Clay, however, a compromise was arranged. Missouri was admitted as a slave state, but at the same time Maine came in as a free state, and Congress decreed that slavery should be forever excluded from the territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri's southern boundary. This proved a temporary solution. Jefferson felt that the fire bell in the night had been hushed but for the moment. "This is a reprieve only, " he wrote, "not a final sentence. A geographic line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passion of men, will never be obliterated and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper."

Save for a migration into Texas beyond the bounds of the United States, the westward march of the agricultural frontier did not pass Missouri until after 1840. In the meantime, the far west became a field of great activity in the fur trade which was to have a significance in history far beyond the value of the skins which were collected. As in the first days of French exploration in the Mississippi Valley-indeed, as in the first steps of the English and Dutch westward from the Atlantic Coast-the trader was the pathfinder for the settlers. The French and Scotch-Irish "trappers" explored the great rivers and their tributaries and found all the passes of the Rockies and the Sierra Mountains. Through the knowledge they gained of the geography of the western regions, the traders made possible the overland migrations of the forties and the later occupation of the interior. In addition to expanding by westward emigration, the United States in 1819, in return for assuming the claims of American citizens to the amount of $5,000,000, obtained from Spain both Florida and Spain's rights to the Oregon country in the far west.


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