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Extra info for Causal Factors in American Economic Growth in the Nineteenth Century

Sample text

Then they would choose not to make their profits by owning slaves if they could make the same profits in other ways. If they made more profits from owning slaves than from owning cotton mills, this would help to overcome their reluctance to do so, and we may presume that there is some rate of profit at which the potential slave owners would feel themselves compensated for the onus of owning slaves. SimiIarly, if slave owners liked having slaves for reasons other than the profits they generated, then these slave owners would be willing to hold slaves even though the profits from their activities was below the profits attainable from an equal investment in cotton mills.

The innovations of the English Industrial Revolution vastly increased the demand for cotton, and Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s dramatically lowered the cost of supplying it. Southern agriculture was transfonned as a result. Slaves had been used to grow tobacco, rice and sugar in the eighteenth century. While production of all these crops continued, they faded in importance as employers of slave labour. Recent studies of the economics of American slavery have concentrated on the nineteenth century and on the production of cotton.

A second use of bank financing was for industrial enterprises, and there can be no doubt that the pattern observed in Britain was reproduced to some extent in the United States; many industrial activities were financed out of the web of commercial credit just described [Pollard, 1964]. All firms operated with large volumes of financial obligations and credits, and an increase in the former relative to the latter was an increase in the capital available to the firm. In addition, railroads and New England textile firms issued stocks and bonds that were held at times by banks.

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