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22 Pages

Southern Whiggery and Economic Development: The Meaning of Slavery Within a National Context

WithLarry K. Menna

The idea of the incompatibility of slavery with economic development resonated throughout the North. Many Southerners themselves expressed grave reservations and fears about the disruptive effects of economic development on their slave society. Ironically, the expansion of the Cotton Kingdom and the deepening of the plantation system prior to the Civil War occurred as a response to the increasing industrial activities of both Europe, particularly Britain, and the Northern United States. The discussion of economic policies in the antebellum South usually turned on the issue of slavery, and the tariff was no exception. Southern Whigs proposed several measures, beginning with the diversification of slave labor itself. They urged Southern farmers to divert slave labor from cotton cultivation to manufacturing, primarily textiles. The economic reforms advocated by Southern Whigs could hardly have been possible without an improved credit system through the reestablishment of a national bank and a proliferation of financially stable Southern state banks.