The Political Parties of To-Day: A Study in Republican and Democratic Politics

By Arthur N. Holcombe | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V
WHEN COTTON WAS KING

WHEN the existing Republican party was born and the Democratic party assumed something like its present shape cotton, as people then liked to say, was king. By this they meant primarily that cotton-growing was the most profitable of the leading industries in the United States, and the most conspicuous factor in the prosperity of the country. In the middle of the nineteenth century the figure of speech seemed well supported by the facts. There is no better sign of prosperity in a well-established industry than the rate of increase in the volume of production, and during the 1850's the production of cotton increased more rapidly than that of any other staple crop. The number of bales produced in 1860 was more than double that of ten years earlier. The rich bottom lands along the lower Mississippi were steadily coming under more intensive cultivation, and the fertile virgin soils of Arkansas and Texas were being opened up for cotton planting with unparalleled energy and zeal. Tales of the ample, even spectacular, fortunes which had been won by the pioneer cotton planters in the Southwest fired the imaginations of ambitious and enterprising young men from the older settlements of the East, as similar tales of citrusfruit growing in California, pineapples in Hawaii, and oil wells anywhere, have done in recent years. But the opportunities for ventures in these fields are by no means unlimited, and the capital requirements are great. In the 1850's land was cheap in the Southwest and almost any

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