Nationalism and Sectionalism

Nationalism and Sectionalism


            After the War of 1812, a sense of nationalism spread through the nation.  Nationalism is a national unity of purpose, a sense of pride in the country, and a strengthening of the national government.  All the sections of America were pulling together to unite the nation.  The nation was also united in the new Democratic-Republican Party.  The Federalist Party was no more.  All Americans were united under one president, with the same goal, to grow the nation.  This time was called the Era of Good Feelings. 

            The new Democratic-Republican Party advocated industrialization to build the economy with factories making our own goods.  They placed tariffs on foreign goods to protect American factories from overseas competition, and re-chartered the Bank of the Untied States to also grow the economy.  The War of 1812 showed Americans that the nation needed a strong military to defend the nation.  The navy was enlarged to protect U.S. merchant ships at sea, and the Army was enlarged to protect U.S. lands. 

            To further grow the economy, Henry Clay came up with the American System.  The American System would build roads, bridges and canals to link the factories of the north with the raw materials and farm products of the west.  These roads, bridges, and canals would be paid for with tariffs and loans from the National Bank.   The American System would increase the nation’s economic health.   Western settlers loved the American System because it allowed them to quickly travel to the west to farm, and allowed them to send farm products back to the north quickly, and cheaply.  Northern industrialists loved the American system too.  It opened up a new market for their manufactured goods.  In fact the only people who did not like the American System were the people of the South. The South did not need roads, bridges, and canals.  The South had many navigable rivers to float their products to the Gulf of Mexico for sale to Europe.  Also, the South predominantly bought their manufactured goods from Europe, where they sold their cotton.  So, the tariffs on foreign goods hit the South especially hard.  Southerners hated paying high tariffs that only benefited the North and West. 

            During the Era of Good Feelings, John Marshal, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, also strengthened the capitalist system.  Capitalism is  the economic system of the United States, based on the idea that all, or most, of the means of production are owned by the people, includes the rights to private property, free enterprise, and to make a profit.  During this time, Marshal decided court cases that ensured the peoples’ rights to private property, free enterprise, and the right to make a profit.


The Industrial Revolution


            During the Era of Good Feelings, the Industrial Revolution came to America.  The Industrial Revolution changed the way people worked in America.  The Industrial Revolution was a vast economic reorganization with machines and factories replacing craftsmen and hand tools. 

            Samuel Slater brought the Industrial Revolution to America.  Slater was a textile worker in England.  Textile manufacturing was a closely held secret in England.  Slater copied the machine designs and brought them to America, building the first textile factory in America.  His new factory, and others like his, launched the Factory System.  The Factory System was a method of production that brought many machines and workers together in one building. 

            Most of the factories being built were built in New England.  The north had many fast moving rivers.  These rivers were necessary for providing power to the factories.  Huge paddle wheels were lowered into the river and turned by the fast moving waters.  These paddle wheels in turn powered axles that powered the machines of the factories.  Before the invention of the steam engine, factories depended upon fast moving rivers for power. 

            A second reason the Industrial Revolution took root in America was the invention of interchangeable parts by Eli Whitney.  Interchangeable parts were parts that were made exactly like other parts, this allowed assembly line manufacturing that greatly increased the speed and quality of which goods could be made. 

            Industrialization happened mainly in the northern states.  Besides the need for fast moving rivers, which the South had few of; southern states did not pursue factories for other reasons.  The South used plantation economies to make their money.   The South was blessed with enormous amounts of arable land suitable for plantations growing cash crops such as tobacco, indigo, rice, and cotton.   Cash crops were not grown for food, but for sale.  Using slave labor to plant and harvest the fields, the South made a fortune growing cash crops.  Industrialization did not suit their way of life, or economy. 

            Cotton was the most important cash crop for the south.  In 1798, Eli Whitney had developed the Cotton Gin.  The Cotton Gin revolutionized cotton production.  The Cotton Gin quickly processed the cotton fiber off of the cotton seeds.  A cotton gin could, in one day, process fifty pounds of cotton fiber.  A slave could only process one pound a day by hand.  The Cotton gin made slavery more profitable than ever before and made the south desire to protect their rights to slavery even more desperately.

            Ironically, Eli Whitney’s invention of the Cotton Gin and interchangeable parts made the Civil War of 1861 – 1865 a certainty.  His Cotton Gin made slavery more profitable than ever before, and the south’s desire to protect slavery more fervent.  However, Whitney’s invention of interchangeable parts made the North’s factories more productive and capable of producing the weapons, supplies, and railroads it needed to win the Civil War, the event that ended slavery in the United States. 

Even as nationalism and modern inventions were sweeping the nation, sectionalism, a conflict among geographic sections of the nation and loyalty to one’s own sectional interests, threatened to destroy the nation.  The north, south, and western states rarely agreed on anything.  This was especially true of the north and south.  The north favored high tariffs to protect industries, and the American Systems roads, bridges and canals that linked their factories to western markets.  The north also wanted the government to sell its western land at high prices, prices the northern factory workers could not afford to keep them stuck in low paying factory jobs in the north.  However, the south disagreed.  The south sold most of its cash crops to Europe, and therefore bough most of its manufactured goods from Europe. This meant the south was paying the majority of the high tariffs that were used for the American System.  The south thought this unfair.  After all, all the roads, bridges, and canals were in the north and west.  The south received no benefit from their tariffs.  Furthermore, cotton sucked the nutrients from the soil quickly.  Cotton farmers wanted the government to sell its western lands cheaply, so that southern planters could move to more fertile soil in the west. 

            But the most violent arguments between the north and south were over the issue of slavery.  Northern factories did not need slave labor.  Slaves were expensive, and they would have to be taught basic skills to operate machines.  Labor was cheap in the north, slavery was not needed, or wanted.  The south, however, needed slave labor for their plantation economies.  No machines existed that could take the place of the slave labor.

            The problem between the north and south was over representation in the Congress.  If the north could get enough “free” states, they could have the Congress pass laws limiting the expansion of slavery, or banning it altogether.  This would destroy the south’s economy.  The south wanted to expand the number of “slave” states for the same reason.  If the number of “slave” states outnumbered the “free” states, then Congress would pass laws protecting the rights of slave owners and allow slavery to expand. 

            In 1818, the number of “slave” and “free” states was tied at eleven states each.  With the number of “slave” and “free” states tied at eleven, the Congress maintained a balance of power.  Neither side could settle the slavery debate.  The North could not eliminate slavery in the U.S., nor could the South expand slavery.  However, that all changed in 1818.  In 1818, Missouri petitioned the Congress to enter the union as the 23rd state, a state that would allow slavery.  This would upset the balance of power in the senate. 

            Congress argued for two years.  The north blocked the south’s attempts to allow Missouri to enter the union.  Finally, Henry Clay proposed a compromise.  Clay had learned that Maine wished to enter the union too, and Maine did not want to allow slavery.  The compromise was proposed and passed, and became known as the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state, if Maine entered the union as a free state.  The compromise also decided the fate of other states to be admitted to the union.  The Missouri Compromise drew a line along the southern border of Missouri known as the Missouri Compromise Line, any new states that would enter the union below this line could have slavery, and any new states made above this line were banned from having slavery. 

            Though the Missouri Compromise of 1820 balanced the power in the Senate between slave and free states, it did not settle the dispute.  The Missouri Compromise was but one of many compromises that the north and south would have on the road to the Civil War. 

The Monroe Doctrine


            The ultimate expression of nationalism came in 1823.  In South America, several countries had fought for their independence from Spain, just as America had fought for its independence from England.  The nations of Europe saw this as a threat to them.  Not only had Spain, a monarchy, lost its colonial possessions, but the kings of Europe feared that this new idea of self-government might cross the Atlantic Ocean and find a home in their lands.  None of the European kings wanted the violence and chaos to spread to their lands and cost them their kingdoms.  They had already seen the French Revolution tear down the French kings and watched as they lost their heads to the guillotine. 

            To stop the spread of self-government, and retake the colonies that Spain was losing, the European kings were amassing their armies and navies to take back Spain’s now independent colonies.  President Monroe could not allow this to happen.  Monroe feared that if the European kings could retake their South American colonies, perhaps they might grow stronger and wish to regain America as well!  To put a stop to this, President Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine. 

            The Monroe Doctrine stated that the Western Hemisphere, North and South America, were closed to further European colonization.  Any incursion into the Western Hemisphere by Europe would be considered an act of war by the United States.  America would defend the new South American nations.  In return, America pledged not to interfere with European affairs.