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How did slavery restrict the South's ability to diversify its economy?

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The South's economy before the Civil War was based almost entirely on slave-grown cash crops, namely cotton. Using slaves on the cotton plantations was very profitable for the plantation owners and investors. The Southern United Staes produced most of the world's cotton during the early nineteenth century. This would have been impossible without slaves to work the fields. It tied up much of the local resources, but because it made the local elite wealthy, they were usually unwilling to diversify the economy by building up industry. It was unthinkable to most slave owners to use slaves in modern factories. Slaves, they reasoned, were unsuited to factory work, as they were less educated and more likely to sabotage the equipment than regular factory workers. Cotton also diminishes the nutrients of the soil. As a result of so much cotton production, many farms in the South were unsuited to growing more nutritious crops.

Most markets and means of transportation were in the North. Northern...

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