The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979 Page: 352
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
is an obvious need for a full-scale book-length study which will describe
and analyze the subject.2 This work, when it appears, will probably deal
with many important analytical questions raised by economic historians
concerning the antebellum agricultural economy of the South as a
whole. Among these questions are the following: How productive was
slave labor in cotton farming? How profitable was the application of
slave labor to staple-crop production? To what extent were southern
farmers self-sufficient in feeding the populations-both human and ani-
mal-that were dependent on them? What was the degree of economic
development in the antebellum South?
This article seeks to answer these questions for Texas. The Lone Star
State was an especially important region of the antebellum South be-
cause it represented the expanding cotton frontier and thus was vital
to the future of the slaveholding cotton South. Ultimately, of course,
these questions must be answered for the slave South as a whole, but
careful state-by-state analysis constitutes a major step in that direction.
With roughly half a million people scattered over a quarter million
square miles of widely varying terrain and climates, antebellum Texas
presents a formidable challenge to the historian. Any study of "ante-
bellum Texas," that portion of the state settled before the Civil War
and having an economy and society similar to that in the rest of the
Old South, may omit from consideration the nearly vacant, semiarid
plains and mountains of west Texas, roughly from the 98th meridian
westward. It may also exclude the small zone between the Rio Grande
and Nueces River in far south Texas. That area was sparsely settled in
the 185os, and, in addition, its residents were primarily Mexican-born
and Spanish-speaking and thus were more an extension of Mexican so-
ciety than of antebellum southern society. The areas omitted from con-
sideration in this article contained less than 7 percent of the state's free
population and less than i percent of the slaves in both i 85o and 186o.3
2For works that deal in some measure with agriculture in Texas, see Abigail Curlee, "A
Study of Texas Slave Plantations, 1822-1865" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas,
1932); Karl E. Ashburn, "Slavery and Cotton Production in Texas," Southwestern Social
Science Quarterly, XIV (Dec., 1933), 257-271; William R. Johnson, A Short History of the
Sugar Industry in Texas (Houston, 1961); Raymond E. White, "Cotton Ginning in Texas
to 1861," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXI (Oct., 1957), 257-269; Dewitt Talmage
Tarlton, "The History of the Cotton Industry in Texas, 1820-1850" (M.A. thesis, Univer-
sity of Texas, 1923); Mary Jo Edwards, "Texas Agriculture as Reflected in Letters to the
Southern Cultivator Prior to 1861" (M.A. thesis, East Texas State Teachers College, 1948).
For a good textbook introduction to agriculture in antebellum Texas see Rupert Norval
Richardson et al., Texas: the Lone Star State (3rd ed.; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,
3Statistical View of the United States, 308, 314; Eighth Census of the United States,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979, periodical, 1978/1979; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/m1/414/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.