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The economy of South Carolina


State capitol at Columbia
State capitol at Columbia

Long-staple or Sea Islands cotton had been grown in South Carolina, mainly along the coast, since colonial times but was cultivated on a relatively small scale. Then, in the first decades of the 19th century, after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, short-staple cotton rose to first importance among the state’s crops, ahead of rice and indigo. Indigo production had declined into insignificance after the revolution. Cotton was planted in almost every part of the state, and many South Carolinians left the state to plant cotton on rich western lands. Because of the heavy out-of-state migration, South Carolina’s population rose only slowly, from 345,591 in 1800 to 703,708 in 1860. About 60 percent of the population in 1860 were blacks, all but 9,000 of whom were slaves.

The growth of cotton throughout South Carolina did more to unify the state than any previous political expedient. As cotton cultivation spread, so did the plantation system. Upland farmers continued to raise considerable amounts of grain and livestock with few slaves, but the plantation worked by numerous slaves became the more important agricultural unit in the upcountry, as it was in the low country. A landed aristocracy grew up in the upcountry and established close connections with the older aristocracy along the coast. Improved transportation also served to draw the two sections together. Canals and roads were built, and in 1833 what was then the longest railroad in the world, the South Carolina Railroad, was completed between Charleston and Hamburg on the Savannah River, a distance of more than 208 km (130 mi). "South Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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