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Why were southerners eager to bring territories such as New Mexico, Texas, and California—where very little cotton was grown—into the Union as slave states?
Richmond, VA, had mills and factories as early as 1800. When I ask college students to talk about the causes of the war, many tell the story of Eli Whitney and the cotton gin.
The 1860 census shows the fairly even spread of manufacturing across the states, with only New York and Pennsylvania recording 17,000 or more manufacturing establishments (see Primary Source Farms Census Data , List of Urban Areas , and Manufacturing Census Date ). They remind me that there were no factories in the South prior to 1860 and are astonished when I tell them that factories flourished in the South as early as John Adams's Presidency. They began to arrive in the early 1600s to work on farms that grew a number of different crops.
Pro-slavery advocates in California, for example, wanted slaves to prospect for gold and build gold and silver mines.
And if slavery was so central to the southern economy of farming, why did only one fourth of southerners own slaves?
Many students believe that the Republican Party, created in 1855, focused on slavery in the 1860 campaign, but their key issues centered on political corruption of the Buchanan Administration.
The Republican platform called for containment, not the end of slavery.
At the same time, the warmer Southern states continued to rely on slaves for their farming economy and cotton production.
Southerners made huge profits from cotton and slaves and fought a war to maintain them.
Northerners did not need slaves for their economy and fought a war to free them.
Everything else, many textbooks claim, was tied to that economic difference and was anchored by cotton.