Throughout the early 1800’s the country was split in many areas over many issues. Some of the more severe clashes between differing groups resulting from such issues as slavery, expansion, and internal improvement. With all of these controversial topics to worry about along with the vast diversity in the nation, caused separation and tensions throughout the country.
The most prominent of the previous topics was slavery. This was an issue in the days of the bible and continues to be an issue in the middle 1800’s. The divisions in the country brought about by slavery seem to be categorized into two main groups, abolitionists, and slave holders. These two groups also were divided geographically for the most part due to the South’s need of slaves for cheap, and reliable man power, and the North, as it was not an agriculturally based economy and needed little in the way of unskilled laborers. It was very easy for the North to bash the South’s slavery because their economy did not depend upon slavery. They had no slaves, no need for slaves, and saw slavery as inhumane and unlawful. The south, however, depended upon slavery as a basis of production, and the only way to operate large farms at the time, primarily being the large cotton plantations of the south.
Several people tried to resolve the issue of slavery with compromises and bills that set clear rules and laws to appeal to both sides. The most prominent being the Missouri compromise. This document set the standard for slavery at the time. It also managed to further divide the country into two opposing groups geographically separated by the 36 degree 30 minute line. The bill clearly stated that no states above the proposed line shall have slavery, with exception to those already in existence. This meant that all new states being brought into the country from the west had a choice to have slavery if and only if they laid below the line. Obviously, the south did not really like the idea, as it allowed the northern non-slave states to outnumber the southern slave-states in the south as far as representation in the government was concerned.
Another part of the slavery controversy was the moral issue and whether or not it was inhumane, and an injustice to the Negro. So, that raises the question of how you could treat another human as if they were non-human, but still complain about their enslavement by other people for the benefit of your own country. Two pieces where this argument is seen are “Appeal to the women of the south” and “Slavery as it is.” These two articles discuss slavery in the light that it is wrong, and should be abolished. They completely see it from the standpoint of Christianity, and do not see it as accepted by the Bible. In “Appeal to the women of the South,” many quotes are used directly from the Bible citing specific examples of slavery as being wrong and not accepted.
The next area of national division was expansion and the issues pertaining there to. The nation was a young one, with a rapidly growing population, and great ideas of world supremacy. People’s views were basically divided into two groups, the expansionists, and the non-expansionists. These two groups were not as geographically separated as the North and the South of the slavery issue, but none the less were partially divided by the Mason-Dixon line. When people tried to rally for interaction in the war of 1812, they campaigned with the idea of new found land, and how our country could expand. As people thought about the prospects of war, and acquisition of new land, they found the struggles of war, along with the fact that our country was young and relatively weak, not very promising. There was not a great need for land, and people were not very enthused about the war with England. Sure many people would have liked to stomp England in an easy war which netted us complete disaffiliation with them, but we weren’t sure that we could really win at the time. The people with these ideas tended to be in the North, where cities were the norm, rather than small farming communities. The South, on the other hand, had a great deal to gain if we acquired more land. Since they were a predominantly a rural farming community, they saw a need for land, and felt strong about the nations abilities in the war. In the end, no land was won or lost, but the war was won.
As for the final topic, internal improvement separated the country by political parties. These parties were the federalists and the republicans. They had very few geographical divisions, and views were mixed on both sides. We see the best example of this in the Maysville Road article. There was a dispute over the proposed road, and whether or not it should be built with federal money. The government claimed that the road was for the benefit of the mail, and allowed easy passage through the mountains of Kentucky. Many people did not like the idea still because it represented federal money being distributed in unequal amounts to different states, along with non uniform benefits. This quickly set defined boundaries between the political parties of the time, and started a vast amount of tension between the two parties. By the end of the dispute, the opposed (Federalists) came out on top, and the road was never built, but it shows the first, strong, divergence in the populous of our nation since its conception.
All of the above examples are all representative of issues of the time which played a large role in sectionalism, and the breakup of the United States. Over the long run, it is a miracle that, with the vast spectrum of people in the country, we have managed to stay together, through thick and thin, driven by one common force, “Freedom.”
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