Many believe that Eli Whitney’s creation of the Cotton Gin had a positive impact on life prior to the Civil War, but in reality its impact contained much more negatives. The Cotton Gin removes the seeds from cotton rapidly. The people affected by the Cotton Gin were enslaved black people, plantation owners, and all individuals located in the North and South.
These people were affected due to the many changes that the Cotton Gin imposed. As a result, the Cotton Gin increased the atrocious treatment slaves endured. With the anti-slavery North and pro-slavery South, racial tensions were heightened in the country.
The Cotton Gin negatively transformed slave life and increased racial tensions tremendously prior to the Civil War.Slavery and racial tensions increased due to one major issue: the Cotton Gin invented by Eli Whitney. Whitney’s invention of the Cotton Gin was not made to harm or belittle enslaved black individuals. As a matter of fact, it was made to benefit slaves and decrease their workload.
Whitney knew of the hardships enforced on the slaves when it came to picking the seeds out of cotton, and it was exhausting and time consuming (Woods). Whitney’s invention increased slavery by allowing cotton to become more profitable and desired by plantation owners. Plantation owners now wanted more land and slaves in order to increase the production of cotton, allowing themselves to increase the money received (Schur). Plantation owners bought even more land to help plant more seeds for cotton, and with this came the need for “helping” hands. Now slaves were more of a necessity for plantation owners since, more were needed to help grow and harvest cotton (Woods).The North was growing increasingly large economically, while the South was slowly dying out and losing large amounts of money.
Industries and small farmers from the South were now moving up North due to the lack of money. The North benefited economically due to the cotton trade because, “They would load bulging bales of cotton at southern ports, transport them to England, sell their fleecy cargo for pounds sterling, and buy needed manufactured goods for sale in the United States.” (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”). This allowed for the North to purchase raw materials at a low price, and sell their manufactured goods at a higher price. The North has had slavery banned since the Missouri Compromise in the early 1800s with “.
.. area north of the 36° 30′..
.” excluded from having any form of slavery (“The Second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism”). The South wanted slavery due to their arable land, plus they were not into industrial life as much as the North.
So, while the North accepted the blacks for who they were regardless of their skin color, the South did not care as much and were still stuck in the colonization era. Racial tensions increased since more white Southerners, who were for slavery, moved up North due to the cotton gin and the rising monopolies of cotton industries in the South. This allowed for a segregation boost in the North because Southerners were bringing their segregation ideas up North (Lawson) (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”).
The Cotton Gin increased slave production, and now slaves were treated more poorly than before. The South was now becoming more dependent on slaves since the cotton gin required more slave labor. Slaves worked on ruthless plantations in order to produce enough cotton to satisfy their master’s needs. After the invention of the Cotton Gin, “… slaves worked from sunup to sundown; when the moon was full, they worked into the night as well.” (Hamner).
No rights were given to slaves at this time either, in fact they were not even consider people amongst the whites (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”). Technically, slaves did not have any constitutional rights unless they were free or located in the North. Slaves were greatly affected by racial tensions and segregation prior to the Civil War; however, they found ways to compensate for the hardships they faced. Slaves created their own communities where they would gather together and feel free, along with focusing on religion and keeping family close (“Cotton and African-American Life”). Plantation owners in the South still performed inhumane acts on enslaved black people. They would beat and whip slaves who did not perform their “rightful” duties, and sometimes they even sold slaves away from their families (Hamner).
Not only were plantation owners cruel to black individuals, but so were white males living in the North who did not own plantations. Northern white men would segregate themselves from black individuals just because they were “different”, but in reality only their skin tones were. White northers did not dislike the race specifically, but they disliked the black individual itself (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”).
The motivation of the plantation owners is purely focused on money. Due to the Cotton Gin allowing more cotton to be produced at a faster rate, plantation owners are able to gain an immense amount of money. With an increase in money means more plantation owners becoming rich, and each individual would do whatever they could to receive more money. The motivation for white men, regardless if a northern or southern, is the feeling of superiority and power over an individual. White men at this time enjoyed the feeling of being better than another individual, but in this case they considered themselves better than an entire race. Politically, the Cotton Gin is one of the factors that caused an uneasiness in the balance of the anti-slavery North and pro-slavery South. Citizens of the United States began bickering and arguing over the debate of whether or not blacks should be admitted as citizens. This was the beginning of racial tensions, that would eventually continue until the end of the Civil War (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”).
Economically, the Cotton Gin helped increase revenue amongst the nation. More plantation owners were becoming wealthy in the South, and industries in the North were flourishing too. The Cotton Gin helped make cotton production rapidly increase, allowing money to flow in swiftly for the nation. This helped get the nation back on its feet again since the tobacco industry was failing at this time. Slave life changed once again, but this time due to the Cotton Gin.
The Cotton Gin required more slaves and time on plantations to ensure that picking and harvesting kept up with the rapid production of cotton. Fortunately, this did not stop the enslaved black individuals from still trying to fight for their rights and have their own life. Some slaves would rebel in a minor or severe manner against their white master, but this usually ended up in the slaves being hurt badly.
Yes, an enslaved black individual’s life and mindset was broken due to the hardships they went through, but they tried their hardest to feel free somehow (“Cotton and African-American Life”). Unfortunately, Whitney’s invention was taken the wrong way and it caused more problems than it solved. Now since there was an increase in production of cotton, more slaves were needed to help pick the cotton and harvest it (Schur). While Eli Whitney’s invention had many negatives, it did help benefit the country in a few ways. Whitney’s invention helped decrease labor done by slaves when it came to cotton, by doing the work for them. It also helped increased revenue in the North by allowing the North to trade cotton with England for better manufactured goods. Wealthy farmers became profitable in the South, while smaller farmers moved up North to work in the industries.
Cotton was able to produce clothes, threads, and textiles, so an increase in it meant more products made that were a necessity (“The South and the Slavery Controversy”). Another important factor of the Cotton Gin was that it eventually helped the North create the proper technology to win the Civil War (Schur). The Cotton Gin did help enforce the Civil War, but it was not the main cause since other events happened that mainly enforced the war.
The Cotton Gin was simply a factor that increased the probability of the Civil War occurring, and increased the racial tensions within the United States. The Cotton Gin had a negative impact on the lives of slaves and increased the racial tensions between the North and South. Eli Whitney created the Cotton Gin, and he invented it in order to help better slaves’ lives. Whitney’s Cotton Gin increased slavery in the South, rather than helping decrease the need for slaves. Even though the Cotton Gin negatively impacted the social statuses and personal mindsets of slaves in the South, it did economically help the North flourish with the rapid trading of cotton.
The creation and impact of the Cotton Gin can be related to the sewing machine in the 1850s. Just like the Cotton Gin, the sewing machine helped decrease production time, but produced some ruckus in America too. Harsher working conditions, unfair wages, and a revolution arrived due to inventions like the sewing machine. While both inventions did have negative impacts, they both helped revolutionize America in miraculous ways and advance it to where it is today.