THE IMPACT OF THE COTTON GIN AND THE STEAM ENGINE (1790-1850) IN AMERICA
March 19, 2015
The period between 1790 and 1850 brought with it the age of industrial revolution in Europe and the Unites States (US). Though the industrial revolution began very clandestinely in England it managed to penetrate into the US. The age of the industrial revolution involved the discovery and invention of machines such as the Cotton Gin, The Spinning Wheel and The Steam Engine amongst others. Such technological and industrial change also brought a lot of changes and influences in the political, transport, communication, social and economical spheres. It brought along a new way of life, the growth of a nationalized economy and a market revolution across the developed world (Boyer, et al. 2011).
The Cotton Gin Description
Eli Whitney an American inventor is credited with the invention of the Cotton Gin in the early 1790s. The Cotton Gin was a machine that helped to quickly, faster and easily remove cotton from its gin or seed. The mechanical invention was made up of revolving block like cylinders which had spiked teeth to remove the cotton. The spiked teeth removed the cotton from the seed and hence increased productivity. This brought significant changes in the American textile industry as well as the nation as a whole. Previously, separating the cotton from the seed involved the utilization of many human resources in a manual and time consuming manner. Though, the Cotton Gin was discovered in the year 1793 it was patented in the year 1794 after many imitations had already been developed. With the invention of the machine the demand for cotton increased, the demand for slaves to pick the cotton increased, textile production increased, cotton farming as a cash crop increased and the South American economy soared (Boyer, et al. 2011).
The Steam Engine Description
A Scottish discoverer by the name of James Watt is credited with the perfection of the steam engine in the late 1760s. He worked along with the pioneer of the steam engine by the name of John Roebuck. His major invention was the creation of a spare condensing chamber that highly prevented powering steam loss. Basically, his mechanically transforming invention was a steam powered invention that utilized heat to produce the steam and a condenser chamber to curtail the loss of the much needed steam energy. The steam engine consequently brought in a lot of different machineries for different uses in diverse areas. These included steam powered tractors, steam powered locomotives, steam powered boats and steam powered looms amongst others. They brought a revolution in the transport, communication, manufacturing and economic systems in the US (Boyer, et al. 2011).
The Economic Ramifications of the Two Inventions
The two inventions among other brought about the changes in the economy of the US and other areas such as demographics, slavery, mass production, transportation systems and the relations between the South and the North of the time. The invention of the Cotton Gin led to increased productivity in the separation of the cotton from the seeds. Subsequently, this led to the faster and efficient production of the much needed processed cotton for the textile promising industry. The ripple effects caused by these changes in the South meant that more slaves who were of black origin and other races were needed in the South in regions such as Texas, Alabama, Carolina and Mississippi and Tennessee. This is because most of them were based there as well as much of the farming lands and others were easily smuggled in (Boyer, et al. 2011).
Thus, it led to increased immigrants acceptance in such of man power for the Cotton Gin machines, the increased cotton farms and the increased production of textile in the industrialized Northern regions such as Indiana, New York, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. With time cotton was regarded as king as its production had increased from a mere 1,500 pounds in the late 1790s to more than 35,000 pounds by the early 1800s. While the South was based on savage ideology and a plantation economy the North was more of an urban culture that led to cities and interrelation amongst different cultures. The difference in economic well being, relations, leadership policies, slavery and anti-slavery movement ultimately led to the American Civil War of 1861 – 1865. This is because the South expanded significantly while it utilized cheap slave labor while the North was changing dynamically as influenced by changing political, literacy, social and global issues (Boyer, et al. 2011).
On the other hand, the invention of the steam engine impacted many spheres including manufacturing, transport, communication, banking and urbanization. The transport systems were improved with the construction of roads such as the Cumberland Road, the construction of railroads such as Baltimore and Ohio Line and the development of canals such as the Erie Canal. These transport lines helped to move agricultural produce, finished goods, mail, animals, printed material and human beings across the South and the North. This in turn led to the rise of manufacturing hubs, agricultural areas, cities, educational blocks and population diffusion. Ultimately, this lead to market revolutions which influenced how Americans shopped, the rise of capitalism, the rise of banks, city zoning and the change from farming to labor employment. However, it also brought in the negatives associates with rapid urbanization and economic growth such as poor sanitation, poor wages, unemployment, settlements, starvation and high mortality rates (Murrin, et al. 2015).
Political Ramifications of the Two Inventions and Conclusion
In the years between 1790 and the 1850 the American economy, society, demographics, regions and the ideology changed rapidly. The north was more accommodative and adoptive while the South was more rigid and repressive. The economy of the South and its hunger for slaves grew such that it threatened the existence and the continued sustenance of the North. The federal north needed to reign on the fast developing economy in order bring in control over the stately South. The drafting of the proposed American constitution in 1787 put the two regions political asunder (Murrin, et al. 2015).
The North was wary that the South would force its hunger for slaves into the North which it regarded as a strange source of power. This was to become true when such theories entered the Congress discourse. However, the Federal authorities tried to avert any crises by accepting compromises such as the 1820s Missouri Compromise. That was not to be as the political rifts between the two regions became bigger due to political selfishness. The Northern non- slave whites who however did not vouch for equality among the races refused to have a common political and economical ground with the slave holding southerners. They were afraid of the Westward expansion and the use of slavery which they saw as a threat to their new conquests (Murrin, et al. 2015).
The rift was transcended by the fact that the senate and congress had almost equal representatives from the two ideological divides. Later compromises such as the Fugitive Slave Act and the Kansa-Nebraska Act only helped to elevate the political differences (Abzug and Maizlish 2015). Ultimately, the differences would spill into several states and the battle of the damned between the abolitionists and the pro-Slavery supporters would emerge. From the bleeding Kansas the battle poured into the American civil war. The political heats and differences had to be refreshed with the fountains of blood (Boyer, et al. 2011).
Abzug, Robert H., and Stephen E. Maizlish, . New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
Boyer, Paul, Clifford Clark, Karen Halttunen, Joseph Kett, and Neal Salisbury. The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. 7. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2011.
Murrin, John, Paul Johnson, James McPherson, Alice Fahs, and Gary Gerstle. Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People. 5. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2015.