What Was the Impact of the Cotton Gin on Slavery?

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The invention of the cotton gin drastically increased the need for more slaves. The cotton gin removed seeds from the cotton much faster than human labor. As the ease and speed with which cotton was ginned increased, so did the need for cotton growth in the South.

With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, cotton became “king” in the South. Cotton emerged as quite a money-maker for the Southern states. Planters wanted to cash in on this cotton boom, but more manpower was needed to grow the larger cotton crops. Southerners depended on slave labor to provide much of that extra work force. The number of slaves as well as the number of those who owned slaves began to increase. The importing of African slaves rose dramatically, with 250,000 new slaves coming to America between the years 1787-1808. Although importing slaves from another continent was prohibited starting in 1808, slave trade within the nation’s borders continued. By about 1850, 75 percent of the world’s cotton was grown in America. Ironically, the inventor of the cotton gin, which led to such great wealth for so many, struggled financially. Eli Whitney did not profit from his invention because his first patent was not upheld in court. The market was flooded with different versions of Whitney’s invention for which he did not share the profits.