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What invention had the biggest impact on South Carolina during the Antebellum period?

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Answered Jun 20History
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Jessica HainesEducation Consultant, Qualified Teacher, highly experienced Private Tutor58 students helped

Hi Tim, Most historians agree that it was the “cotton gun” short for engine. Please see a more in-depth reply underneath. Thanks, Jess young inventor Eli Whitney had his U.S. patent for the cotton gin approved, an invention that would have a great impact on social and economic conditions that led to the Civil War. How much of an impact the mechanical gin (which is short for “engine”) had on the retention of slavery in the South is still being debated. To be sure, the value of cotton as a cash crop grew astronomically in the decades following Whitney’s patent went into effect. By some estimates, the United States supplied three-quarters of the global cotton supply by the start of the Civil War. After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as the machines to spin and weave it and the steamboat to transport it. By midcentury America was growing three-quarters of the world's supply of cotton, most of it shipped to England or New England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. At midcentury the South provided three-fifths of America's exports -- most of it in cotton. However, like many inventors, Whitney (who died in 1825) could not have foreseen the ways in which his invention would change society for the worse. The most significant of these was the growth of slavery. While it was true that the cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, it did not reduce the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, the opposite occurred. Cotton growing became so profitable for the planters that it greatly increased their demand for both land and slave labor. In 1790 there were six slave states; in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860 approximately one in three Southerners was a slave. Because of the cotton gin, slaves now labored on ever-larger plantations where work was more regimented and relentless. As large plantations spread into the Southwest, the price of slaves and land inhibited the growth of cities and industries. In the 1850s seven-eighths of all immigrants settled in the North, where they found 72% of the nation's manufacturing capacity. The growth of the "peculiar institution" was affecting many aspects of Southern life.