In his book, A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, Frederick Law Olmsted recounted a train journey that, along with passengers and slaves, was delivering a load of hay to a plantation at, what he thought, was an exorbitant rate. Many forage crops could be raised in South, he surmised. Why wasn't it being done? Did it have something to do with productivity and slavery?
Here is where the story continues in his own words.
August Glen-James, editor
Bring cotton down to three cents a pound, and there would be more abolitionists in South Carolina than in Massachusetts.
I put the case, some days afterwards, to an English merchant, who had had good opportunities, and made it a part of his business, to study such matters.
“I have no doubt, said he, “that, if hay cannot be obtained here, other valuable forage can, with less labor than anywhere at the North; and all the Southern agriculture journals sustain this opinion, and declare it to be purely bad management that neglects these crops, and devotes labor to cotton, so exclusively. Probably, it is so—at the present cost of forage. Nevertheless, the fact is also true, as the planters assert, that they cannot afford to apply their labor to anything else but cotton. And yet, they complain that the price of cotton is so low, that there is no profit in growing it; which is evidently false. You see that they prefer buying hay, to raising it, at, to say the least, three times what it costs your Northern farmers to raise it. Of course, if cotton could be grown in New York and Ohio, it could be afforded at one-third the cost it is here—say three cents per pound. And that is my solution of the Slavery question. Bring cotton down to three cents a pound, and there would be more abolitionists in South Carolina than in Massachusetts. If that can be brought about, in any way—and it is not impossible that we may live to see it, as our railways are extended in India, and the French enlarge their free-labor plantations in Algiers—there will be an end of slavery.”