Varieties of American Nationalism p. 214-227

                       Henry Clay                                               John C. Calhoun                                          Daniel Webster     

Chapter 8 Study Guide

During the period from 1815 to 1860, the North (New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Old Northwest) began to develop more clearly into a market society, a process that began during the War of 1812. In doing so, the North became distinctly different from the South,which developed more clearly into a slave society during the same period. We first look at the characteristics of a market society and then turn to a discussion of the features that characterized life on pre-industrial farms and the features that characterized the lives of pre-industrial artisans. As the North began the transition from a society with markets to a market society, the lives of farmers and artisans began to change. For example, it was during this transition period that the putting-out system developed in the Northeast, a system that offered an opportunity for farm women to acquire the money necessary to buy more fertile farmland in the West. We also find that the first factories, such as Samuel Slater's spinning mill, emerged along with the advent of the putting-out system. Therefore, the production of goods for the larger marketplace rather than for one's family, one of the major characteristics of a market society, began to alter people's lives and the nature of work.

The shift from a subsistence economy to an industrialized, market-oriented economy was also made possible by a transportation revolution that was encouraged and made possible by state governments that provided economic aid for such internal improvements as turnpikes, canals, and railroads. However, the unification brought about by these internal improvements was regional, for while the North and the West were evolving in the same economic direction, the Cotton South was not. The result was an economic shift from South to North and the solidification of economic links between the Northeast and the Old Northwest. Although many Northerners viewed these internal improvements as a sign of progress, others worried not only about the urban growth these improvements fostered but also about the destruction of the natural environment.

Industrial innovations and an available labor force for emerging factories also helped transform the Northern economy. In the section Factories and Industrialization, we see the advent of the American system of manufacturing (consisting of mass production and interchangeable parts and dependent on the development of a precision machine-tool industry) and its application to the cotton textile industry. However, growth and development in the economic sphere brought changes to the workplace and to the worker. The reality of the Waltham system never matched the ideal, for the emphasis shifted from providing decent working conditions, decent wages, and other amenities for workers to building an industrial empire and maximizing profits. Resulting changes in the workplace, in the nature of the work, in the relationship between owner and worker, and in relationships among workers led the New England mill women to organize and strike in the 1830s. Factory owners then began to search for a more compliant labor force. Irish women, whose work was a necessity and not merely a stage in their lives, provided the answer. Some male workers attempted to regain control over their lives by becoming more active in reform politics and by becoming involved in organized labor. But unsettled economic conditions, hostility by employers, and divisions among workers kept organized labor weak during the period. As a result, organized labor's most notable achievement during the period came when the courts relieved workers from the threat of conspiracy laws being used against them if they organized or engaged in strikes.

The emergence of the textile industry was also accompanied by an increased demand for ready-made clothing, the invention of the sewing machine, and the emergence of the garment industry. With the expansion of manufacturing came the emergence of specialists in commercial transactions. Specialization, another of the major characteristics of a market economy, is also seen in the emergence of commercial farming in the North as many farm families shifted from the mixed agriculture of pre-industrial times to specialization in cash crops.

Although economic expansion accompanied the emergence of a market economy in the North, economic growth was uneven during the period from 1815 to 1860 and was characterized by cycles of boom and bust, which had differing effects on people's lives. In general, ordinary working people faced increasing insecurity, and the lives of farm women were altered as many began to contribute more to the family income. As work assumed more gender identification, the concept of the separate-sphere ideology emerged. It was held that women, by their nature, were more moral, virtuous, and nurturing than men. Therefore, it was believed, they should play a special role in the building of a moral, self-sacrificing, virtuous republic. Except for teaching, paid work was believed to conflict with this domestic ideal.

Urban growth brought not only changes in commerce and trade but transformed cities into teeming metropolises. This led to the urban problems of overcrowding, lack of adequate housing and sanitation, and pollution. In an effort to deal with such problems, cities began to offer the services associated with modern urban governments garbage collection, water service, and sewer service.

Although America, built on the ideal of equality, did offer opportunity to many within the market society of the North, equality of opportunity was not available to all. In early nineteenth-century America, class, ethnic, and religious divisions remained. Such divisions led to increased urban tensions and riots, which often had an ethnic or religious base. The starkness of class divisions may be seen in the contrasts between the lives of the working classes and the urban poor on the one hand and the lives of the urban elite on the other.

Many saw the growth of Northern urban areas as a sign of progress. Yet many, especially middle-class reformers, saw the disease, poverty, and crime in urban areas as evidence of moral decay that they feared would eventually blight the entire nation. In addition, such reformers tended to blame such things on the depravity and immorality of immigrants and the urban poor, not as the consequence of cramped living conditions and poverty. In other words, such reformers blamed the victim and believed that such conditions could be alleviated if the poor simply worked hard and led virtuous lives. This was, therefore, a moral expression of the free-labor ideology, an ideology eventually accepted by most Northerners, and an ideology that convinced many Northerners that they were morally superior to what they perceived to be the backward slave society found in the South.

Digital History

The Roots of American Economic Growth
After the War of 1812, the American economy grew at an astounding rate. The development of the steamboat by Robert Fulton revolutionized water travel, as did the building of canals. The construction of the Erie Canal stimulated an economic revolution that bound the grain basket of the West to the eastern and southern markets. It also unleashed a spurt of canal building. Eastern cities experimented with railroads which quickly became the chief method of moving freight. The emerging transportation revolution greatly reduced the cost of bringing goods to market, stimulating both agriculture and industry. The telegraph also stimulated development by improving communication. Eli Whitney pioneered the method of production using interchangeable parts that became the foundation of the American System of manufacture. Transportation improvements combined with market demands stimulated cash crop cultivation. Agricultural production was also transformed by the iron plow and later the mechanical thresher. Economic development contributed to the rapid growth of cities. Between 1820 and 1840, the urban population of the nation increased by 60 percent each decade.

A New Epoch 1815-1828

1802 U.S. Military Academy established at West Point, New York.

1811 Charter of the First Bank of the United States expires.

1816 Second Bank of the United States chartered. Tariff of 1816 establishes protection for American manufacturers.

1817 President Madison vetoes the Bonus Bill, which funded internal improvements.

1818 Anglo-American Convention draws boundary with Canada and establishes joint American and British control over Oregon Territory.

1819 Panic of 1819. U.S. acquires Florida in Transcontinental Treaty (Adams-Onis Treaty).

1820 Missouri Compromise.1821 Spanish Claims Commission reimburses American creditors and spurs industrialization.

1823 Monroe Doctrine warns European powers to leave the Western Hemisphere alone.

1824 Presidential election with four sectional candidates results in deadlock.
House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams president.
General Survey Act provides federal support for westward expansion.


American Identity: This period ushered in explosive growth westward and shaped the expansionist character that Americans espoused throughout the nineteenth century. Distinct sectional development threatened but did not overpower strong nationalist forces.

Demographic Changes: The irony of American development in this period and over the course of its history is that as the United States acquired more land and its population migrated to the vast agricultural regions of the West and the South, the nation was becoming more urban and industrialized.

Economic Transformations: The factory system took shape during this era using the Lowell System as a model. National policy lent support with internal improvements and a protective tariff. The country was shifting its support to Hamilton's vision for America.

Environment: Particularly in the cotton culture of the South abundance and waste went together. As cotton and tobacco depleted soils in the Old South, westward migration of the plantation system followed. Population growth fostered the opening up of new land throughout the country.

Slavery and Its Legacies in North America: Not since the debates in the Constitutional Convention had slavery been so contentious an issue. The Missouri Compromise exposed issues of federal versus state power, regional lifestyles, and economic prosperity. However, the controversy was short-lived, and the Compromise appeased both sides for the three following decades.

Digital History

The Era of Good Feelings

The Era of Good Feelings was a period of dramatic growth and intense nationalism. The spirit of nationalism was apparent in Supreme Court decisions that established the supremacy of the federal government and expanded the powers of Congress. American interest and power in foreign policy was especially apparent in the Monroe Doctrine. Industrial development enhanced national self-sufficiency and united the nation with improved roads, canals, and river transportation. Forces for division were also at work. The financial Panic of 1819 led to the emergence of new political parties. The Missouri Crisis contributed to a growing sectional split between North and South.

Antebellum American Culture

At the end of the 18th century, the United States had few professional writers or artists and lacked a class of patrons to subsidize the arts. But during the decades before the Civil War, distinctively American art and literature emerged. In the 1850s, novels appeared by African-American and Native American writers. Mexican-Americans and Irish immigrants also contributed works on their experiences. Beginning with historical paintings of the American Revolution, artists attracted a large audience. Landscape painting also proved popular. An indigenous popular culture also emerged between 1800 and 1860, consisting of penny newspapers, dime novels, and minstrel shows.

Lecture Outlines

Sectionalism 1790-1825