Cotton dominated the American export market from 1803 to 1937 and played the leading role in the dynamic economic growth of the antebellum period. As the business historian George David Smith wrote.

Never before, and certainly not since, has the demand for any one crop fired economic growth to the degree that cotton did in the United States during the five decades before the Civil War. Without cotton, that growth would have far less dramatic.

The South’s slave–produced cotton exports were the backbone of its power and sense of nationhood. It was easy to see why the South…..