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LECTURE #10: Sectionalism (1800-1860). Presented by Derrick J. Johnson, MPA, JD Advanced Placement United States History School for Advanced Studies. Sectionalism.

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lecture 10 sectionalism 1800 1860

LECTURE #10: Sectionalism(1800-1860)

Presented by

Derrick J. Johnson, MPA, JD

Advanced Placement United States History

School for Advanced Studies

  • Within the 50 years following the American War for Independence, the American nation grew in state power, but it also grew in sectionalism.
  • By the 1820s, three distinct regions developed:
    • 1.) The North
    • 2.) The South
    • 3.) The West
  • These difference ran along the lines of culture, economics and politics, and they would eventually escalate in the 1860s with the American Civil War.
the north
The North
  • The North consisted of the Northeast (Middle Atlantic states & New England) and the Northwest (Ohio to Minnesota).
  • The population of the North was higher than the other regions because of the high birth rate and constant immigration.
  • The North also benefited from a more advanced transportation system.
  • The North had a high rate of economic growth based on commercial farming and industrial innovation.
  • The North originally centered in the textile industry, however by the 1830s they diversified their industries to include a wide range of goods like clocks, shoes, etc.
the north1
The North
  • Industrial development led to independent farmers and artisans becoming beholden to the factory owners. Disputes over pay, long hours, and unsafe working conditions began to arise.
  • This led to the unionization of workers and the formation of labor based political parties in 1828.
  • In 1842, organized labor achieved a huge victory with the Massachusetts Supreme Court case, Commonwealth v. Hunt, held that peaceful unions had the right to negotiate labor contract with employers. However, full improvements to the labor movement were hampered by periodic depressions, employers and courts that were hostile to unions, and by the abundant supply of cheap immigrant labor.
  • The urban life in the cities also began to grow, and with it came slums, crowded housing, poor sanitation, infectious diseases, and a high rate of crime.
the north african americans
The North: African Americans
  • 250,000 African Americans lived in the North in 1860 which only made up 1% of the northern population.
  • They were “free” but they were not treated with “equality.” They were denied membership in unions, the right to vote and the opportunities to work in the most skilled professions.
  • However, African Americans were brought in as “strike breakers” during strikes, but they would often lose their jobs after the strike was over.
agriculture in the northwest
Agriculture in the Northwest
  • The big cash crops of the northwest was large grain crops of corn and wheat.
  • Farming was made more efficient with the McCormick reaper and John Deere’s steel plow.
  • The grain could spoil quickly, so most of the grain that wasn’t sold was used to supply distillers and brewers to make whiskey.
  • In 1820, about 8,000 immigrants arrived from Europe, but beginning in 1832, there was a sudden increase. From the 1830s to the 1850s nearly 4 million people from northern Europe immigrated to the United States.
  • The surge in immigration in the North was due to:
    • The development of inexpensive and relatively rapid ocean transportation.
    • Famines and revolutions in Europe.
    • The growing reputation of the U.S. as the land of “freedom and opportunities.”
  • Most of these immigrants arrived at seacoast cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
  • Very few immigrants arrived in the South due to the fact that the plantation economy and slavery limited job opportunities.
immigration irish
Immigration: Irish
  • Almost 2 million came from Ireland which accounted for nearly half of all immigrants during this period.
  • These Irish were mainly Tennant Farmers driven from their homes by potato crop failures and devastating famine in the 1840s.
  • Few of them had skills other than farming, so they would often compete with African Americans for domestic work and unskilled labor markets.
  • They congregated in northern cities where they first landed.
  • They joined the Democratic Party because of the anti-British stance it had and many of the Irish entered politics.
  • Although, the Irish were banned from joining Tammany Hall, New York City’s Democratic organization, during the 1850s, by the 1880s they were in complete control of Tammany Hall.
immigration germans nativists
Immigration: Germans & Nativists


  • Both the economic hardships and the failures of democratic revolutions in 1848 caused over 1 million Germans to seek refuge in the United States in the late 1840s and the 1850s. Most Germans were skilled laborers, farmers and artisans.
  • They settled in the Old Northwest and their political influence was very limited. However, they staunchly opposed slavery and were strong supporters of public education.


  • A large number of native born Americans were alarmed by the influx of immigrants, fearing that the newcomers would take their jobs and also subvert the culture of the Anglo majority.
  • These Nativists had a strong dislike of Catholicism, which were practiced by the Irish and by the Germans.
  • In the 1840s, opposition to immigration led to riots in big cities and the formation of a secret anti-foreign society, the Supreme Order of the Star-Spangled Banner which nominated candidates for public office during the 1850s under the Know-Nothing Party label.
the south
The South
  • The South consisted of the states that permitted slavery including those states that were border states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri) that did not join the confederacy.
  • The south was limited in regards to cities and urbanization. However, New Orleans was the most populous of the Southern cities.
  • Agriculture was the foundation of the South’s economy. Rice, sugarcane, and tobacco were the big cash crops, but the biggest was cotton.
  • The development of mechanized mills and the cotton gin made the production of cotton goods affordable throughout the world. Britain had an advantage of mechanized textile mills, whereas the South was Britain’s largest supplier of cotton.
  • By 1850, cotton provided two-thirds of all U.S. exports and tied the South’s economy to Britain.
the south slavery
The South: Slavery
  • In colonial times, slavery had been justified as a necessity, but in the 19th century, apologists for slavery used historical and religious arguments to support their claims that it was beneficial to both the slaves and the masters.
  • The cotton boom was responsible for the fourfold increase in the number of slaves, from 1 million in 1800 to nearly 4 million in 1860.
  • Most of the increase came from natural reproduction, although thousands of Africans were smuggled into the South from Africa in defiance of Congress’ prohibition in 1808 against importing slaves.
  • In many parts of the South, slaves made up as much as 75% of the total population.
  • Fearing slave revolts, southern legislatures added increased restrictions on movement and education to their slave codes.
the south slavery1
The South: Slavery
  • Slaves were employed doing whatever their owners demanded of them.
  • The great majority labored in the field, but many became expert in a variety of skilled crafts, while others worked as house servants, factory workers, and construction gang workers.
  • The conditions of slavery varied from one plantation to the next. Some slaves were treated humanely, while others were routinely beaten.
  • Families could be separated at anytime by an owner’s decision to sell a wife, a husband, or a child. Women were often subjected to sexual exploitation by their masters.
  • Slaves contested their status through a range of actions, including work slowdowns, sabotage, escape and revolt.
  • There were a few major slave revolts, which included the ones led by Demark Vasey in 1822 and another led by Nat Turner in 1831. Even though the rebellions were quickly suppressed, they had a lasting impact on many in the North of the evils of slavery (the peculiar institution).
the south free african americans
The South: Free African Americans
  • By 1860, as many as 250,000 African Americans in the South were not slaves. A number of slaves had been emancipated during the American Revolution. Some were mulatto children whose white fathers had decided to liberate them. Others achieved freedom on their own, when permitted, through self-purchase – if they were fortunate enough to have been paid wages for extra work.
  • They lacked the right to vote and they were barred from certain occupations.
  • They were in constant danger of being kidnapped by slave traders and they had to show papers indicating their free status.
  • Some wanted to be near their family members who were still in bondage, so they would elect to stay in the South. Others found no economic advantages in the North, so the elected to stay in the South.
the south culture
The South: Culture

 White Society

  • Southern whites observed a rigid hierarchy among themselves, with aristocratic planters at the top and poor whites and mountain people at the bottom
  • To be a member of the South’s small elite of wealthy planters, a person usually had to own at least 100 slaves and farm at least 1,000 acres. The planter aristocracy dominated the state legislatures of the South and laws were enacted to benefit them.
  • The vast majority of slaveholders had fewer than 20 slaves working on several hundred acres. Southern white farmers produced the bulk of the cotton crop, worked the fields with their slaves, and they lived as modestly as Northern farmers.
  • Three-fifths of the South’s white population owned no slaves. They were considered by the aristocracy as “poor white trash” or “hillbillies.”
the south culture1
The South: Culture
  • A small number of farmers lived in frontier conditions in isolation from the rest of the South, along the slopes and valleys of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains. They disliked the planters and their slaves. During the Civil War, they would remain loyal to the Union.
  • In the north many business men needed to read, thus a need for schools arose.
  • The rising and falling prices of cotton on which the region depended, caused a falling and rising interest in public education and indifference was the biggest problem of the region.
  • Struggling people didn’t see a need for education to better their lives because they didn’t depend on it.
  • Children of the aristocratic class were, however, afforded the best educational opportunities possible.
  • Southern gentlemen ascribed to a code of chivalrous conduct.
  • Methodists & Baptists in the south actively supported slavery in their sermons.
the west
The West
  • By the mid-1800s, the West was defined as territories beyond the Mississippi River and reach as far as California and Oregon Territory on the Pacific Coast.
  • The west was still the present mid-west and most didn’t go beyond to encounter the desert-like plateaus
  • Pawnees, Kiowa, and Sioux Indians roamed the land hunting for buffalo.
  • The region was an obstacle to farmers which looked more past the Rockies to the far west
  • Life on the frontier was much like everyday life of the original early settlers. They would work hard from sunrise to sunset and lived in log cabins or other improvised shelters.
  • Most of the western settlers died from diseases than from Indian raids.
  • Frontier women performed a myriad of tasks, including those of doctor, teacher, seamstress and cook. However, the amount of work, isolation and rigors of child birth resulted in the limited lifespan of the frontier woman.