The domestic slave trade served as an almost universal way of making money, this was particularly true in the south. The southern economy largely depended on domestic slave trade as well as the high revenue from cotton sales internationally. Slaves were used to clear up forests and plant cotton in the south states by providing cheap and very reliable labor. Slaves were also used as a measure of exchange when planter had a huge debt. The plantation owner would settle his debt by trading a couple of slaves with the person he owes or sell them to make money to settle the debt.
During 1800 and 1860 there was an expansion of slave trade to both slave traders and cotton planters. This was largely as a result of the industrial revolution especially in the textile industry which required a lot of raw materials for production. The cotton boom happened around the 1840s. This resulted in the U.S. especially the southern states, producing and exporting over two-thirds of the world’s cotton1. That meant more man power was required to produce more cotton. What really promoted domestic slave trade was the restriction of slave import when Congress outlawed the Atlantic slave trade. This meant that there was a limited number and supply of slaves versus the growing southern cotton plantations that required intense manual labor which only slaves could offer. All these factors led to the rise in the value of slaves resulting in the so- called “mania for buying negroes”
The domestic slave trade operated in two systems: the inland system and the coastal system2. The inland system used roads and rivers to send slaves to the cotton south. The coastal system used the Atlantic seaports to send slaves to the sugar plantations in Louisiana. The inland system used professional slave traders to obtain slaves from inland and it was less apparent but more extensive than the coastal system. The coastal system also sent slaves to the west. This domestic slave trade boom played a fundamental role in the economic growth of the southern states.
Rothman Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South.
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007.312p
Henretta A. James and Brody David. America: A Concise History. New York: Bedford/St.
Martin’s, 2009. 624p