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Losing the ThreadCotton, Liverpool and the American Civil War$
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Jim Powell

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781789622492

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789622492.001.0001

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When Johnny Went Marching Home

When Johnny Went Marching Home

Aftermath and conclusions

(p.167) Chapter VIII When Johnny Went Marching Home
Losing the Thread

Jim Powell

Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers the aftermath of the war, in Liverpool and in the American South during Reconstruction. In Liverpool, a combination of speculation, financial crises, the transatlantic telegraph and futures trading created a cauldron of disruption. The immediate question was whether American cotton could be produced in the pre-war quantity at the pre-war price. The reality was that, after the evils of slavery and the sacrifices of the war, little got better afterwards for anyone who produced cotton in America. The American South proved unable to organise itself collectively, to diversify its industry, or to escape the stifling control of the credit merchants, and the result was endemic poverty. There was no demonstrable failure of free labour, but there was a catastrophic failure of the free market. The conclusion of the book is that the civil war years were a time of unmitigated catastrophe for most of Britain’s cotton trade, and ultimately for America’s cotton producers. 1861 marked the end of the largely Anglo-centric era in which British cotton goods, using a raw material produced by American slaves, dominated the world market.

Keywords:   American South, Reconstruction, Liverpool, transatlantic telegraph, futures trading, slavery, free labour

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