What are the economic arguments put forward by historians to explain the system of slave labor that developed in the United States?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In today’s world, virtually everybody considers slavery to be immoral and wrong.  Yet, there was a time in our history when slavery was justified for various reasons. One of those reasons was economic. Farming was the main industry in the South.  When the cotton gin was invented, it completely revitalized the southern farmers.  Cotton, which was a very profitable crop, could now be grown anywhere in the South.  As a result of the increased availability of land for growing cotton, the number of workers needed on the southern farms increased significantly.  Plantation owners claimed they could not survive unless they had slave labor.  They believed that by having slave labor, this would keep their costs lower and lead to increased profits.  They claimed that paying workers would not only ruin them, it would also ruin the southern economy. As a result of these economic thoughts, southerners believed slavery was necessary.  While there were other reasons used to justify slavery, economic factors played a big part in maintaining slavery in the South.

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