That “flock of down” was cultivated by millions of black slaves whose value rose with the price and power of cotton. By 1860 the approximately four million slaves in the United States were estimated to be worth $2 billion to $4 billion. The aggregate value of the slaves was calculated by multiplying the number of a slaves by a representative price for each age, gender, or occupation category. But caution should be observed when interpreting slave wealth or capital, Except for periods of excess, the price of a slave was vulnerably suspended over the price of cotton. And if a sizeable number of slaves were offered for sale, the price would plummet. The paper calculation of slave wealth was thus a static number in a dynamic environment. Planters could not sell their slave unless they had an alternative labor source. So the $2 billion plus figure is not accurate in calculating market value. In the long run the slave was worth only as much as the profit or expected profit that could be produced from his or her labor. After the Civil War, because cotton production still generated revenue, it could still be financed.

In addition to its profits, cotton was king because it helped create Southern bombast and inspired rhetoric about slavery and an expanding slave reprice, Jefferson Davis, during discussions about California’s entry a free of slave state, was influenced by the Gold Rush in 1849-1850. He blandly promoted slavery, “I hold that the pursuit of gold washing and mining is better adapted to slave labor than to any other species of labor recognized among us.” Southern other than Davis spoke and wrote of mining ventures in Mexico, Chile, and the American West. Sell others dreamed of dominating a slave-based empire that would include the traditional staple of sugar in Cuba and Mexico.