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Economy During Civil War and Slavery

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Published: Tue, 20 Mar 2018

Group A: Colonial Experience

3. How could each of the various labor arrangements extant in the colonies be characterized? Why did the mix of people working under different arrangements change over time?

The labor arrangements in colonial times widely varied from indentured servitude, redemptioners, prisoners, African slaves, to those from the free population. Indentured servants were individuals contracted to a certain type of work for an agreed upon amount of time, typically lasting from four to seven years (Hughes & Cain, 2007). Their contracted work is in return for transportation across the Atlantic, as well as food, clothing, housing and perhaps training in a specific craft. Redemptioners were immigrants from Europe who were brought over by ship captains and were allowed a specified time to pay the captain back after arrival; according to Hughes & Cain, payments were often made by placing one of their children into indentured servitude. While the transportation of prisoners over to colonial America was not the most popular of methods to acquire workers, it was still an important one nonetheless. Men and women convicted of a crime punishable by death in England were allowed to live on the condition of transporting themselves elsewhere. Ship captains welcomed prisoners on their voyage, as they proved to be a valuable commodity since they would trade them for produce before making the voyage back to Europe. The most well-known of all labor arrangements was that of African slaves. They were not protected as British subjects nor had any status in court, which means the slaves were unable to contract their own labor. Slaves were also considered their master’s property for life, including any children the slaves may bear. Lastly, the final form of labor was those from the free population who on their own funds purchased transportation to the colonies, which therefore made them eligible for individual land grants.

Over time, indentutured servants became less enticing to employers, as slaves were cheaper for unskilled labor; most indentured servants were eventually replaced by African slaves or white servants. Once America gained its independence, British prisoners were understandably less welcomed in the new country as well. As new circumstances arise, the labor market changes accordingly to fit with the needs of the new market.

Group B: Slavery and the Civil War

4. In what ways were the economic situations and economic policy interests of the south and other regions shared and different, in the years leading up to the civil war?

While the Civil War mainly revolved around the fundamental differences between the north and the south, often times the similarities of economic policy of the two sides can be overlooked. For starters, both economies relied heavily on farming and they both used similar methods while working the land, even if the north was far more advanced from an industrial manufacturing point of view. As far as the economic differences, one need not look any further than the labor market of the two sides. In the south, the labor market was obviously driven by slave labor, as that was one of their main fighting points and a direct reason for secession; while the north did not allow slavery, but as a consequence, the labor was significantly more expensive than that of the south. Tariffs were a fundamental difference between the two sides as well; the south opposed tariffs entirely, as they wanted to keep the price of imported goods low. The north on the other hand was a proponent of imposing high tariffs; this is because the higher the tariff from other countries, the more competitive the price of goods produced in the north would be. Without such tariffs, the goods from Europe were a cheaper option for the south to purchase, instead of directly benefitting the northern economy. As Baack and Ray assert, “the fact that tariff cuts were systematically associated with fast growth industries…lends support to our contention that tariff rates across industries and tariff changes over time were structured to serve the narrow economic protectionist needs of special interest groups” (Hughes & Cain, 2007). The north had narrow interests in supporting their own economy and imposing tariffs served as that protection for special interest groups, exactly as Baack and Ray contended. This idea also lends itself with the concept of infant industry, where new economies may achieve domestic economic growth if only they initially shield themselves from foreign competition. The final difference lied in industrial manufacturing, as it was almost solely occurring in the north while the south had little involvement in the initial American industrial revolution.

Group C: The Nineteenth Century

8. What were the key characteristics of industrialization in US, and important contributing factors?

Immediately following the Civil War, the United States underwent what is now referred to as the “industrialization” process, where production by machine replaced manual labor and where new inventions and applied science were greatly emphasized. Some key characteristics of American industrialization include an increasing proportion of workers involved with manufacturing, as well as an overall greater availability of labor. Hughes and Cain (2007, p. 343) contend, “[w]orkers generally made their way into the industries experiencing the most rapid growth and demand for labor, producing relatively rapid labor force expansion.” Other key characteristics included growth of a national transportation network and expanded markets with ability to move products and raw materials quickly. Industrialization necessitated a wide-reaching transportation system for rapid movement of raw materials and finished products, which gave way for the steam engine and the railroad system. As Hughes and Cain (2007, p. 287) assert, “[t]he products of farm and factory, thousands of miles apart in their origins, were now easily mixed in the country’s new establishments of manufacturing and distribution.” The rail network provided a way for products to be shipped from New York to far reaching west coast towns at a pace previously unimagined. Isolated markets quickly became a thing of the past in the United States, as individuals living in previously unreached economies now had the access to products that were completely unavailable before the advent of the railroad. One of the final key characteristics of American industrialization included a steady increase in size and population of urban areas. As the population and labor availability increased, cities meant jobs and a variety of opportunities for a myriad of individuals. The extent of the economic scale of cities includes: transportation, education, medicine, sewage systems, central water, commutation, etc. The different amenities and job prospect attracted individuals to urban areas across the United States. Industrialization was clearly a major component of the advanced society of today, as it connected America through transportation, communication, utilizing cheaper raw goods, and taking advantage of an abundance of employment opportunities.


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