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Effect of the Cotton Gin on Slavery in the United States

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In 1793 an American inventor, Eli Whitney, a man also looked up to as the pioneer in American manufacturing brought to existence the cotton engine. His invention was patented in 1794 (Wright,1975). The cotton gin is generally an engine that makes it easy to separate cotton seeds from the fiber. From the invention cotton became American leading export commodity in the mid 1800’s (Wright,1975). At this time, America was growing about three-quarters of the world’s cotton supply. With this major contribution to the economy, it led to high labor demand. On the other side, slave trade mainly the trans-Atlantic was taking place. The trade mainly happened between the 16th and the 19th century and America was seen as the biggest home to slave enterprise at that time. One of the main reasons that led to rapid growth of slave trade is believed to be, Whitney’s invention on cotton manufacturing.

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It was in the 18th century, when slave trade was at the verge of collapse, that the high profitability in cotton began to be noticed. High profits came as a result of reduction in labor for cotton seeds separation from the fiber. Despite labor reduction during the separation process, there was high output rate due to the mechanization involved. High output led to high demand for the raw material needed, which is cotton. This led to higher slave need to grow and collect the cotton from the fields. But still at this same time is when the Americans passed the bill to ban the slave trade happening on their soil. Slave trade practice was therefore an illegal practice in the U.S. at this time. So there were two conflicting matters at this time; the rapid demand for slaves in the cotton manufacturing industry; and the ban of the slave trade by the government at the same time. High demand for slaves then led to rise in prices of slaves, with the high profitability in slave trading. This even pushed the slave traders more, in search for slaves. In a high demand for slaves it led to rapid growth of slave trade, with everyone overlooking slave trading as a real gold mine for wealth at this time. This brought the rise of the well documented history of, the American civil war (Aiken,2003). The American states were divided, as the northern states abolished slave trade the southern states still saw it as a legal practice. Generally the main reason for this civil war was their differences on slave trade abolishment, slave trade was seen an injustice to the black people. The southern states on the other side wanted slave trade to be constitutionally legalized. This was mainly because most cotton farms were in the American southern states.

The slave trade finally came to an end in the late 18th century. With an agreement between the southern state and the northern state leaders. This marked an end to the American civil war with slaves being freed (Aiken,2003). But still some people resisted and some slaves were illegally held and even continued giving birth to more slaves. In the mid-19th century a complete end to slavery was achieved. This was as the whole country now was united in slavery abolishment.


  1. Wright, G. (1975). Slavery and the cotton boom.
  2. Freehling, W. W. (1972). The founding fathers and slavery. The American Historical Review, 77(1), 81-93.
  3. Aiken, C. S. (2003). The cotton plantation South since the Civil War. JHU Press.
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Effect of the Cotton Gin on Slavery in the United States. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
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