What was the context of the small farmers' demand for more political power in the Confederacy during the Civil War?

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boomer-sooner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Small farmers demanded more political power in the Confederacy during the Civil War because of the stranglehold of "King Cotton" on southern society.  King Cotton was not one person, but the term ascribed to the dominant plantation owners in the south.  The aristocracy of cotton production allowed the large plantation owners to become wealthy and use that wealth to influence politics heavily.

Prior to the American Civil War, cotton production in the south was the main cash crop.  Great Britain imported nearly 80% of its cotton from the south.  When the Confederacy was formed in 1861 by South Carolina's secession from the Union, the main goals of the South were to keep the cotton aristocracy that relied upon slave labor.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis devised a plan to force Great Britain to side with the South by destroying millions of bales of cotton, thereby creating a shortage.  The shortage took a year to take effect because of stockpiling done before the war.  The wealthy cotton plantations could afford to absorb the some of the economic blow from this strategy, but the small farmers could not.  The vast majority of farms had one or two slaves, with less than 3,000 persons throughout the entire South hosting more than 100 slaves.

The average southern man did not own any slaves due to the cost.  Their reasons for defending the system were not solely rooted in diminished finances.  However, many of the laws affecting cotton and their farms were centered around keeping slavery as the driving force for large plantation owners.  There became a disparity between the political elite and the small farmers who made up the majority of the Southern population.  This disparity created the demand for more political representation by small farmers in the Confederate government.