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BY,MUHAMMAD HASAN NAGRA,TOBA TEK SINGH,PAKISTAN
The regions of the United States that argued about the Mexican War and its aftermath had grown in divergent ways since agreeing to be a nation in 1788. The
North had experienced a market revolution based on commercial agriculture and the growth of cities and industry. The South, on the other hand, remained tied to
a plantation system that depended on slave labor and international markets. The plantation system enslaved the one-third of all Southerners who were black and
excluded more and more poor whites.
A The Market Revolution in the North
By the 1820s, farmers no longer produced mainly for themselves and their neighbors, selling any excess production on international markets. Most Northern farms
had become business operations. They specialized in a small range of marketable crops (grain, meat, dairy products) and sold the food they produced to an
internal market made up of Americans who had moved to towns, cities, and industrial villages.
In turn, these urbanized and industrialized Northerners provided farmers with finished goods (hats, shoes, cotton cloth, furniture, tools) that had previously been
made in rural households and neighborhoods or imported from Europe. With this self–sustaining internal market, the North stepped out of the old colonial
relationship in which America produced food and raw materials for Europe (primarily Britain) in exchange for foreign finished goods. The northern United States
was no longer on the colonial periphery of the world market economy. It was taking its place as part of the financial and industrial center. See also Industrial
Revolution: The Industrial Revolution in the United States.
This internal market revolution would have been impossible without dramatic improvements in transportation. After 1815 Congress repeatedly considered
nationally planned and funded internal improvements. But these plans were voted down by congressmen who favored states’ rights and a strict construction of
the Constitution—the notion that Congress could legislate only in areas explicitly granted to it by the Constitution. State governments took up the slack by building
roads and canals themselves and by subsidizing private corporations that built them. The result was a system of roads, canals, and—by the 1840s and 1850s—
railroads that reflected no single vision of a national system. Instead, the transportation map reflected the ambitions of the most prosperous and active states.
The first and most spectacular example was the Erie Canal, completed by the state of New York in 1825. It connected the Hudson River at Albany with Lake Erie
at Buffalo. The canal provided farmers in western New York and in the sections of the Northwest that drained into the Great Lakes with a continuous water route
east to New York City—and from there to national and international markets. Steamboats provided a similar service for farms in areas that drained into the Ohio
and Mississippi rivers. The upriver trip from New Orleans to Louisville, Kentucky, had taken three to four months via keelboat before 1815. Steamboats cut that
time to one month. In the 1850s railroads, although more expensive than water routes, brought the manufacturing towns and the food–producing farmers even
closer together. These improvements quickly reduced the cost of transportation. The cost of moving farm produce and manufactured goods over long distances
fell 95 percent between 1815 and 1860. With that drop, farmers could grow wheat in Indiana and sell it at a profit in New York City, while New England
manufacturers could make work shoes and sell them to the farmers of Indiana. Transportation had transformed the old Northeast and the new Northwest into an
integrated market society.
B The Growth of Cities
In the 1820s the urban population of the United States began growing faster than the rural population, and from 1820 to 1870 American cities grew faster than
they ever had or ever would again. For the most part, that explosive urban growth was driven by the commercialization of agriculture.
In the early republic every American city was an Atlantic seaport engaged in international trade. After 1820 new inland towns and cities rose up to serve farmers’
commercial operations. The fastest growing urban area in the country in the 1820s, for instance, was Rochester, New York, a flour–milling and shipping center
serving the farmers of western New York. In subsequent decades western cities such as Cincinnati and Chicago grew quickly. At the same time, towns devoted to
manufacturing for rural markets across the nation—towns such as Lowell, Massachusetts—grew at an almost equal rate.
Even in the old seaports, the fastest growing sectors of the economy were not in the docks and warehouses of the old mercantile economy but in neighborhoods
devoted to manufacturing for the American market, or among wholesalers who served that market. The huge internal market provided by northern and western
farm families was by far the biggest source of urban growth in these years.
C Standards of Living
The commercial and industrial transformation of the North and West increased standards of living. Food was abundant, and manufactured goods found their way
into even the poorest homes. Yet the bounty of progress was distributed much more unevenly than in the past, and thousands made the transition to
commercial–urban society at the expense of economic independence.
As American cities grew, the nature of work and society in the city changed in fundamental ways. In 1800 nearly all manufacturing was performed by master
artisans who owned their own workshops and hired at most a few journeymen (wage-earning craftsmen) and apprentices. After 1815 the nature of manufacturing
work changed. As production speeded up, many masters stopped performing manual work and spent their time dealing with customers and suppliers and keeping
records. The number of journeymen increased, and they often worked in workshops separate from the store. Increasingly, less-skilled work (sewing together
pieces of shoes, assembling ready–made clothing from pieces cut in uniform sizes) was farmed out to women who worked in their homes. Thus successful
masters became businessmen, while most skilled men and thousands of semiskilled women became members of a permanent working class. Although there had
been rich and poor neighborhoods in early seaport towns, class segregation and stark contrasts between rich and poor became much more prevalent after 1820.
In the northern and western countryside there were signs of prosperity. Wallpaper, manufactured dishes and furniture, and other finished goods were finding their
way into most farmhouses, and paint, ornamental trees, and flowers were dressing up the outside. Yet even in the countryside, the distance between rich and
poor increased, and the old neighborhood relationships through which much of the local economy had been transacted became weaker. Debt, for instance, had
always been a local, informal relationship between neighbors. After 1830 a farmer’s most important and pressing debts were to banks, which required annual
payments in cash. Commercial society also demanded good roads to transport products, and public schools to teach literacy and arithmetic; local taxes rose
accordingly. Farmers spent less effort maintaining necessary relations with neighbors and more effort earning cash income to pay taxes and debts. Those who
could not establish or maintain themselves as farmers tended to move out of agriculture and into towns and cities.
Women and men who left rural communities to take up wage labor experienced the transition in different ways. White men, whose citizenship and social standing
had rested on being independent property owners with patriarchal responsibilities, experienced wage labor as a catastrophic fall from grace. Relatively few,
however, ended up in factories, and those who did took more-skilled and better-paying jobs.
Until the 1840s the factory work force of the Northeast was made up primarily of women and children. Women who left poor New England farms (and the
crumbling patriarchy that often governed them) and moved into factory villages valued the independence that wage labor provided them.
Beginning in the mid–1840s, New England’s factory work force was increasingly dominated by Irish immigrants—refugees who often saw factory work in America
as a big improvement over famine and colonialism back home. Much of the labor force in Northern cities and factory towns and on the new transportation projects
was composed of German and, particularly, Irish immigrants. A trickle of Irish and German newcomers had been coming to America since the 18th century. There
were large German-speaking areas in the mid-Atlantic states, and the Irish were sufficiently numerous and politically active to become the targets of the
Federalists’ Alien Act of 1798. These early immigrants possessed craft or agricultural skills, and most of them, like their British neighbors, were Protestants. A
newer immigration grew quickly after 1815, peaking in the 1840s. The new immigrants were landless peasants driven from their homelands by famine (see Irish
Famine). They took menial, low-paying jobs in factories and as servants, day laborers, and transport workers—replacing white women in factories and blacks in
household service and on the docks. Most of these new immigrants were Catholics, and they arrived in such numbers that by 1850 Catholics were the largest
BY,MUHAMMAD HASAN NAGRA,TOBA TEK SINGH,PAKISTAN
single denomination in the United States. They overwhelmingly sided with the Democratic Party in politics.
Many American entrepreneurs welcomed this new supply of cheap labor. But militant Protestants and many native-born working people perceived the immigrants
as a cultural and economic threat. Arguments over immigration would shape Northern politics for more than a century after 1830.
E Northern Blacks
As the North passed gradual emancipation laws, freed slaves moved toward cities. In 1820 African Americans made up about one-tenth of the populations of
Philadelphia and New York City. They were excluded from white churches and public schools and, increasingly, from the skilled crafts, dock labor, and household
service at which they had been employed. Attacks on individual blacks were routine, and occasionally, full-blown racist riots erupted—in Cincinnati in 1829 and in
New York and Philadelphia in 1834, for instance. African Americans responded by building their own institutions: Methodist and Baptist churches, Masonic lodges,
schools, charitable and social organizations, and newspapers. It was from within this web of institutions that they protected themselves and eventually demanded
freedom for Southern slaves. See also African American History: Free Black Population.
F The Market Revolution in the South
The South experienced a market revolution of a different kind. In the years leading to the American Civil War, the South provided three–fourths of the world’s
supply of cotton, which was a crucial raw material for the international industrial revolution. In the same years, cotton accounted for one–half to two–thirds of the
value of all American exports, contributing mightily to a favorable balance of trade. The plantation was a business of worldwide significance, and the cotton boom
made thousands of planters rich. At the same time, however, the South’s commitment to plantation agriculture stunted other areas of its economy, opened the
region to intense international criticism over slavery, and led ultimately to political and economic disaster.
Plantation agriculture led to an undemocratic distribution of wealth among whites. The plantation economy rewarded size: Big farms were more profitable than
small ones. Successful planters were able to buy more slaves and good land, depriving less-successful planters of these benefits and concentrating wealth in fewer
and fewer hands. In 1830, 35 percent of Southern households included slaves. By 1860 the figure stood at 26 percent, with fewer than 5 percent of white
households owning 20 or more slaves. Most whites lacked the fertile land, the slave labor force, and the availability of transportation to bring them into the market
economy. Along with slaves, most whites formed a huge majority of Southerners who had minimal ties to the market and who bought few manufactured goods.
The result was that the South remained in a colonial trade position in relation to Britain and, increasingly, to the northeastern United States. Without regional
markets, there was very little urbanization or industrialization in the South. Southern states financed few internal improvements: Plantations tended to send goods
to markets via the river system, and smaller farmers preferred low taxes and unobtrusive government to roads and canals. The few Southern cities and large
towns were ports on the ocean or on the river system. These cities were shipping centers for cotton exports and for imports of manufactured goods.
Manufacturing, shipping, banking, insurance, and other profitable and powerful functions of the market economy stayed in London and—increasingly—in New
F1 Changes in Slavery
During the cotton boom, slaveholders attempted to organize plantation slavery as a paternalistic system in which the planter exercised a fatherly authority in
every area of slaves’ lives. Some evidence suggests that discipline of slaves became more strict and systematic in the second quarter of the 19th century, and that
whippings and other forms of physical punishment persisted. The brisk interstate slave trade often destroyed family and community ties among slaves. At the
same time, however, the food eaten by slaves improved, and more slave families lived in individual cabins than had in the past. After 1830, masters who had
participated in Baptist and Methodist revivals (and who had been frightened by a bloody Virginia slave revolt led by Baptist preacher Nat Turner) provided religious
instruction to their slaves. The goal of these changes, proudly stated by the planters, was to create not only economic dependence but also emotional dependence
of the slaves upon their masters.
For their part, slaves learned to put the masters’ paternalistic efforts to their own uses. They accepted the food and housing, listened to the preachers, endured
the labor discipline, and then made their own lives within slavery. Slave family forms, for instance, were a mix of the European nuclear model and African
matriarchy and village kinship, shaped by the limits imposed by slavery. And while they became Christians, slaves transformed Christianity into a distinctly African
American faith that served their own spiritual interests. In particular, Moses the liberator (not the slaveholders’ patriarchal Abraham) was the central figure in
F2 Growing Isolation of the South
The slave–based plantation economy of the South was economically successful: Planters were making a lot of money. But in the long term, Southern commitment
to slavery isolated the region morally and politically and led to disaster because most other white societies were branding the institution as barbarism.
Northern states abolished slavery soon after the revolution. Slaves in Haiti revolted and formed an independent black republic in 1804 (see Haitian Slave Revolt).
Four years later the British (whose navy controlled the oceans) outlawed the African slave trade. In ensuing years, the Republic of Colombia, or Gran Colombia
(present-day Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia), Mexico, Peru, Chile, and other mainland colonies won wars of independence against Spain. Each of the
new South and Central American republics outlawed slavery. Finally, the British Parliament emancipated slaves on British islands in the Caribbean in 1833. By then
Brazil, Cuba, and the southern United States were the only remaining large-scale slave societies in the world. Southern slavery was producing profits for the
masters, and political and moral isolation for the region.
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