James M. McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 122-123.
The minimal impact of the Panic of 1857 in the South underscored Southern boasts about the superiority of their system. While many Northern businesses failed, banks closed, and factories shut down during the depression, causing unemployment and suffering among Northern workers during the winter of 1857-1858, cotton prices held firm and cotton crops set new records. This led Senator James Hammond to deliver his famous “King Cotton” speech in the Senate on March 4, 1858. Southerners were “unquestionably the most prosperous people on earth.” Only the continued exports of cotton during the Panic, Hammond told the North, “saved you from destruction.” This was conclusive proof of slavery’s virtues.