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Did the invention of the cotton gin prolong slavery?


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Poll: Slavery - Cotton gin

Slavery - Cotton gin

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#1 Flying Spaghetti Monster

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:03 PM

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#2 NCCommish

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:14 PM

I used to feel differently but after really digging into this I have changed my mind. Yes the Cotton Gin prolonged slavery. It did it by putting the most labor intensive and expensive part of harvesting cotton into the machines hands. Before this the scale of labor needed on the production end was getting real expensive. Prohibitively so. Once an owner didn't need those slaves for that he could use them other places while still having lower cost overall. Allowing the slave economy to continue. After the gin arrived in a relatively short time the number of slaves doubled while cotton output increased nearly geometrically. Oh and all Eli did was improve the gin. Really he didn't invent it. Hand cranked gins have been around since at least the first century BC
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

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#3 BobbyLayne

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:26 PM

I used to feel differently but after really digging into this I have changed my mind. Yes the Cotton Gin prolonged slavery. It did it by putting the most labor intensive and expensive part of harvesting cotton into the machines hands. Before this the scale of labor needed on the production end was getting real expensive. Prohibitively so. Once an owner didn't need those slaves for that he could use them other places while still having lower cost overall. Allowing the slave economy to continue. After the gin arrived in a relatively short time the number of slaves doubled while cotton output increased nearly geometrically. Oh and all Eli did was improve the gin. Really he didn't invent it. Hand cranked gins have been around since at least the first century BC

Believe we had this discussion during the World's Greatest Draft a few years back. IIRC NCC judged the Inventions category. I've always thought it prolonged slavery. Cotton was too labor intensive, and it wasn't much of a cash crop before Mr. Whitney took a few minutes to look over the problem. IIRC he built his easily copied 'invention' inside of a couple weeks. Am I correct in remembering he never patented it? I know it brought him no significant wealth - he more or less did for a friend who lived in the south, and he was visiting the plantation.

#4 timschochet

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:27 PM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.
Unless otherwise stated, any comment or statement I make is strictly MY OPINION, and should not be taken as an implication of fact, no matter how definitive it sounds. I speak for no one but myself.

#5 NCCommish

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:38 PM

I used to feel differently but after really digging into this I have changed my mind. Yes the Cotton Gin prolonged slavery. It did it by putting the most labor intensive and expensive part of harvesting cotton into the machines hands. Before this the scale of labor needed on the production end was getting real expensive. Prohibitively so. Once an owner didn't need those slaves for that he could use them other places while still having lower cost overall. Allowing the slave economy to continue. After the gin arrived in a relatively short time the number of slaves doubled while cotton output increased nearly geometrically. Oh and all Eli did was improve the gin. Really he didn't invent it. Hand cranked gins have been around since at least the first century BC

Believe we had this discussion during the World's Greatest Draft a few years back. IIRC NCC judged the Inventions category. I've always thought it prolonged slavery. Cotton was too labor intensive, and it wasn't much of a cash crop before Mr. Whitney took a few minutes to look over the problem. IIRC he built his easily copied 'invention' inside of a couple weeks. Am I correct in remembering he never patented it? I know it brought him no significant wealth - he more or less did for a friend who lived in the south, and he was visiting the plantation.

IIRC he made about 90k all told. But his gin had the South producing millions of pounds of cotton so he definitely should have made more. And he did patent it. But cotton plantation owners would get their own mechanics to build them one and just disregarded his patent. It was real easy to copy.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Thomas Jefferson

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

Woody Allen

#6 BobbyLayne

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:44 PM

That's right, he did patent it, but the patent laws were new (1790ish) and all that really did was give him the right to sue. Oh, and it was Greatest American Draft - mid-life memory sucks.

#7 NCCommish

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:49 PM

That's right, he did patent it, but the patent laws were new (1790ish) and all that really did was give him the right to sue. Oh, and it was Greatest American Draft - mid-life memory sucks.

I know the feeling.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Thomas Jefferson

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

Woody Allen

#8 NorvilleBarnes

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 05:38 PM

We'll never know.

Seriously, this shouldn't even be close. Give a woman a flat chest, and she can still be attractive. Give a woman a flat butt, and she can still be attractive. Give a woman a penis?


#9 Bottomfeeder Sports

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 07:19 PM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.

Does the impact on American slavery really outweigh the benefits of improved cotton production on the rest of humanity?

#10 NutterButter

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 07:42 PM

It did b/c "America: the story of us" told me so.

#11 Christo

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:03 PM

Not to be a contrarian or anything, but couldn't it be argued that the cotton gin helped bring about the end of slavery sooner? When it came along it caused an explosion in the number of slaves. The increase in slaves in the South led to an increase in the abolition movement in the North. It also caused the South to rely on the plantation system as the backbone of its economy. Without the cotton gin, there wouldn't have been nearly the amount of hostility against slavery in the North. And the South wouldn't have been nearly so willing to go to war to maintain its economy. No Civil War might have meant slavery kept being the South's dirty little secret for a lot longer.
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#12 RhymesMcJuice

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:49 PM

Not to be a contrarian or anything, but couldn't it be argued that the cotton gin helped bring about the end of slavery sooner? When it came along it caused an explosion in the number of slaves. The increase in slaves in the South led to an increase in the abolition movement in the North. It also caused the South to rely on the plantation system as the backbone of its economy. Without the cotton gin, there wouldn't have been nearly the amount of hostility against slavery in the North. And the South wouldn't have been nearly so willing to go to war to maintain its economy. No Civil War might have meant slavery kept being the South's dirty little secret for a lot longer.

That's one way to look at it. However, I think without the South's intense economic need for slaves they would have been more willing to go along with the abolitionist movements in the northern states. Either way, slavery was on it's way out by 1863 around the world. Even though it may have continued in the U.S. another decade or two without the Civil War it would have ended anyway.

#13 geoff8695

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 12:46 AM


Not to be a contrarian or anything, but couldn't it be argued that the cotton gin helped bring about the end of slavery sooner? When it came along it caused an explosion in the number of slaves. The increase in slaves in the South led to an increase in the abolition movement in the North. It also caused the South to rely on the plantation system as the backbone of its economy. Without the cotton gin, there wouldn't have been nearly the amount of hostility against slavery in the North. And the South wouldn't have been nearly so willing to go to war to maintain its economy. No Civil War might have meant slavery kept being the South's dirty little secret for a lot longer.

That's one way to look at it. However, I think without the South's intense economic need for slaves they would have been more willing to go along with the abolitionist movements in the northern states.

Either way, slavery was on it's way out by 1863 around the world. Even though it may have continued in the U.S. another decade or two without the Civil War it would have ended anyway.

I have to agree with the idea that the cotton gin caused the South to become more entrenched in the slavery system, and that without the HUGE economic success and new life that it breathed into the institution of slavery, that the South would have been less likely to hold onto this system which clearly was at odds with American ideals of freedom and equality. Instead the increased dependence upon slave labor resulted in entrenchment, division, and ever more fervent mental gymnastics about a racially based system of enslavement, i.e. the insistence that Africans were so inferior that slavery was preferable to them being left to their own devices if granted the same freedom as Americans of European descent.
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#14 NCCommish

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 05:01 AM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.

Does the impact on American slavery really outweigh the benefits of improved cotton production on the rest of humanity?

The means don't justify the ends.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Thomas Jefferson

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

Woody Allen

#15 Juxtatarot

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 06:11 AM

Tell the conservative: Cotton gins don't enslave people. People enslave people.

#16 Bottomfeeder Sports

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 02:49 PM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.

Does the impact on American slavery really outweigh the benefits of improved cotton production on the rest of humanity?

The means don't justify the ends.

So? The cotton gin provided the new industry that provided the benefits to humanity. Using slaves to cut cost and create "wealth" were just tragic incidentals that were a result of the culture than the invention.

#17 NCCommish

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 03:16 PM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.

Does the impact on American slavery really outweigh the benefits of improved cotton production on the rest of humanity?

The means don't justify the ends.

So? The cotton gin provided the new industry that provided the benefits to humanity. Using slaves to cut cost and create "wealth" were just tragic incidentals that were a result of the culture than the invention.

It's OK that slavery continued because we produced more cotton? I guess the Holocaust was cool because some medical advances came from the Nazis torture of their victims and provided benefits to humanity. I mean the deaths of 6 million people was just a tragic incidental that was a result of the culture not the tools they used to do it.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Thomas Jefferson

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

Woody Allen

#18 Bottomfeeder Sports

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 03:55 PM

Absolutely it did. I'm surprised it's even a question. I am generally pro-technology, meaning that I generally believe that in most instances, new inventions which affect human society are generally beneficial. But this is one pretty clear instance where it wasn't.

Does the impact on American slavery really outweigh the benefits of improved cotton production on the rest of humanity?

The means don't justify the ends.

So? The cotton gin provided the new industry that provided the benefits to humanity. Using slaves to cut cost and create "wealth" were just tragic incidentals that were a result of the culture than the invention.

It's OK that slavery continued because we produced more cotton? I guess the Holocaust was cool because some medical advances came from the Nazis torture of their victims and provided benefits to humanity. I mean the deaths of 6 million people was just a tragic incidental that was a result of the culture not the tools they used to do it.

The purpose of the cotton gin wasn't to create a demand for slavery, it was just a tragic result. The purpose of the holocaust wasn't to torture and eliminate various classes of people, it was just a tragic result. One of the above sentences is true. One is not. Every day a 125 people, give or take die is car accidents in the US. About 3000 a day worldwide. Is the car beneficial to humanity? Every day is a 9-11. Every half decade a holocaust worth of people die in these accidents yet no one complains. Should we talk about the number of people that die each day as a result of modern medicine mishaps next?




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