Sunday, 25 December 2011


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In the 1840s, sectionalism grew strong. People felt loyalty to their state or section instead of the whole country. In the North, industry boomed. In the South, agriculture flourished. During the nineteenth-century the North and South became increasingly divided by economic structure, political and social issues.

The Northern states were the main centres of manufacturing, commerce, and finance. Principal products of the area were textiles, lumber, clothing, machinery, leather, and woolen goods. At the same time, shipping had reached the height of its prosperity, and American vessels were distributing the goods of all nations.

In the South, agriculture was the basic way of life and cotton was the leading money crop. Slavery was the labour system on which everything rested. After the invention of the “cotton gin” in 17, more and more cotton was grown. Every 10 years from 1800 to 1860, cotton production doubled. Soon the South’s cotton accounted for two-thirds of America’s economy. The South relied on slave labour, rather than becoming involved in the Industrial Revolution that was taking place in the North. In time, the South became the section with the strongest identity. The Southern states looked toward traditions, stability and the past. With the “Cotton Kingdom”, America became the largest slave-holding nation in the world, but as long as profits were high, the South had the strongest voice in national politics and the American economy.

As well as, and due to, their different ways of life, the North and South each wanted political and economic decisions to favour their particular needs. The North wanted tariffs on foreign goods to protect its developing industries. The South opposed them, as they believed that these tariffs would damage the cotton industry. They demanded that the federal government lower tariffs to encourage trade with England. Working for the good of the nation became less possible and the sections were divided over their different interests.


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The issue of slavery further divided the North and South. A fresh surge of religion called the “Second Great Awakening” began in the North. People wanted to end all sins of human kind and this led to reform in many areas including public education and treatment of workers. The most controversial movement was that to abolish slavery.

While the North was in favour of abolishing slavery, the South was in great opposition to the idea. They argued that abolishing slavery would lead to great economic and social disaster for them, but the North continued to argue that slavery violated American democracy. An extreme group called the Abolitionists emerged. They wanted an end to slavery. Many Abolitionists wanted the Northern states to leave the Union to be free from the South. Many of the Abolitionist groups joined to form the American Anti-Slavery Society. The campaign to abolish slavery was often violent. A number of Southern states passed laws to keep slaves under tighter control because of the pressure form the North. The passing of laws allowing slavery to extend farther across the United States meant that slavery would no longer be locked in the South. Support for the American Anti-Slavery Society increased as more and more Americans became convinced that slavery was a danger for all American freedom.

Another issue dividing America was the fight for congressional power and balance. When Missouri looked to gain statehood, the issue that was dividing America became an unbalance in representation of free and slave states in congress. The Missouri Compromise was a temporary solution to the problem. It established Missouri as a slave state, allowed Maine to enter the Union as a free state and set a line to divide the country into free and slave, North and South. The issue was readdressed 1850 when California sought statehood. The Compromise of 1850 was the response to this. It said that California would be a free state and, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed and obeyed by the North, and, popular sovereignty would decide the issue of free or slave state in remaining territories looking for statehood. This compromise only seemed to lead to more problems.

The North and South were so different in their industry and political and social views and it was this difference that divided them into sectional interests. The two sides went from talking to shouting, then from shouting to shooting. It was in this setting that the foundations of the United States, compromise and democracy, began to fade away.

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