Brian Chen Dis 1AYou WangHistory 22-Paper 1During the period from 1760-1850, slavery essentially went hand in hand with industrialization. After the mechanization of industries worldwide, there was an increase in the exploitation and enslavement of Africans by native slave traders. There are many instances throughout history that illustrate this assertion that is shown by the analysis of the history of ships as well as the cotton industry. Ships were significant in the exchange of commodities, ideas, and later slaves.
The cotton industry was especially important in the countries of the West Indies and South America, and later North America. The relationship between slavery and industrialization was shown through the histories of ships and the cotton industry in regards to the expanding global industrial economy of exploitation of slave labor. To start, the history of ships was integral in the development of slavery and industrialization. Ships were important for creating a global economy, allowing people to conduct trade, migrate, explore, wage war (Lecture, 1/11). They provided the easiest and fastest way for transportation, especially before the invention of cars and trains. As time passed, ships started carrying things that mattered to people, including goods and eventually slaves in a Triangle Trade (Figure 2). With the advent of the slave economy, ships were predominantly carrying the precious cargo of African slaves, often in miserable conditions. As seen in Figure 1, the African slaves were packed into these slave ships and given insufficient resources to survive the journey across the Atlantic (Figure 1).
This was known as the Middle Passage and was one of the worst stretches of transoceanic travel for the slaves. The colonizing countries of Britain utilized exploitation and forced labor of enslaved Africans, with 2.5 million Africans forcibly transported from Africa to America between the years of 1500 and 1867 (Lecture, 1/11). They took advantage of this slave economy to help keep up with the increased demand in the cultivation of cotton. Moreover, the themes that were associated with ships also included the exchange of idea and vital information. This was especially evident in the exchange of the events surrounding the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment brought about the ideas of natural freedom, liberty, and rights by John Locke, and included the notion of consent from the governed (Lecture, 1/11). When drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was heavily influenced by Locke’s writings.
The American colonies were tired of getting taxed for their raw materials and felt that it was time to separate themselves from the industrial dependency with the British. In the French-controlled island of Saint Domingue, the slaves were inspired by the American Revolution and proceeded to revolt against their captives. They formed the new country Haiti and effectively ended the cotton cultivation in the West Indies.
The European countries that relied on the West Indies and their raw materials for their cotton mills were forced to find alternatives to the Saint Domingue supply. Finally, ships gave countries the ability to colonize foreign countries, and this led to the expansion of European countries into the Atlantic. Many European countries depended on violence to eliminate and subdue these American natives. These nations would board ships to foreign countries with the intention of conquering Native Americans and their arable land. The Americas became the center of the cotton industry after the Haitian Revolution because of the great amounts of land that was available to the white settlers.
The shipment of African slaves for the purpose of working the land increased exponentially to the South and West states of the United States, especially to states like Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina (Figure 2). Next, the history of cotton had been focused in the countries of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The Europeans were heavily reliant on these countries to provide the raw materials that would supply their mills. However, as the Industrial Revolution pushed the mechanization of the cotton industry into mass production, these manufacturers needed to find a better environment for this increased cotton desire. Britain was the leading manufacturer of this “white gold”, and they were desperately looking for other options in terms of cotton suppliers. Their solution was found in the countries of the West Indies and South America. These Caribbean planters had much more experience growing compared to other countries, and they also had plenty of land and labor to act upon. The French island of Saint Domingue took over the main role of global production of cotton.
According to Sven Beckert in The Empire of Cotton, “in 1791, this island exported 6.8 million pounds of cotton to France, 58 percent more than eight years earlier” (Beckert 90). To keep up with this boom of production, Saint Domingue imported upwards of thirty thousand African slaves annually to work in their cotton fields, displaying their great flexibility of their labor force.
Although Saint Domingue was the face of cotton production for much of the cotton boom, the Europeans understood that cotton was an ever-growing empire that needed vast areas of land. South America was the prime location for this expansion, and growers in this region were ready to profit on this booming industry. Brazil became the next hub of cotton production. Beckert states that by 1792, “nearly 8 million pounds of Brazilian cotton had landed in Great Britain” (Beckert 94). This was the ideal country to produce cotton because of the amount of land accessible to these growers who were already in on the plantation economy because of their staple crop sugar. The Brazilian growers also had plenty of slaves that were already working on these plantations due to their sugar plantations.
However, the whole landscape of the cotton industry was drastically altered in 1791 when the Saint Domingue slaves revolted against the French colonials. As a result of this rebellion, cotton production was effectively shut down in this area, and the global economy involving cotton was halted as well. The slave population overthrew the French and thus established the new country of Haiti. The rest of the world suffered from a continued rise in cotton prices, and without the help of the former Saint Domingue production, Brazil and the rest of the West Indies could not keep up with the skyrocketing demand (Lecture, 1/16).
In addition, sugar plantations were starting to have more prominence in Brazil, thus cotton fields were slowly starting to lose their priority. Clearly, the British manufacturers were in dire need of finding a new supplier for their cotton. The British found their solution in the newly established country of the United States. Previously, the lands of North America had not been explored as viable options for cotton cultivation.
However, the United States was actually the perfect location for the cotton industry. Not only did they have plenty of available lands, they also supported the institution of slavery. This gave them a free source of labor, and hundreds of thousands more African slaves were constantly being imported to the Southern states. The slave-owners could force their slaves to work long hours in the field (Figure 3), picking cotton and punishing those that did not meet demand. Another important factor was the political power that many of these southern slave owners had. They could uphold this system of slavery and prevent any revolts, as seen with the three-fifths clause in the Constitution. The sway they had in Congress and lawmaking made slavery essentially integrated into the lives of all Americans, especially in the South. In sum, countries like the United States and Britain helped instigate the industrial revolution.
The foreign demand by British merchants for cheap raw materials drove them to look into America as their supplier, both before and after the United States received their independence. Ships were integral in moving commodities and eventually slaves. As a result of the rise in demand for cotton, the cultivating countries needed to keep up in terms of increasing their production. They began to enslave more African Americans using the already established Triangular Trade and pushed even further south and west to find more land to plant this new crop. The history of ships and cotton was intertwined with slavery and industrialization.