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USHISTORY.RU



Current R., Williams T. H., Freidel F., Brinkley A. American History: a survey. 7th edition; New York, 1987.


 

PART THREE. Expansion and Disunion, 1820-1860

Rapid growth and rapid change have been constant features of American history. But in few periods of national life were growth and change more sudden or profound than in the years from 1820 to 1860. During those four decades, the United States experienced a remarkable expansion of the size of its population, of the area of its settlement, and of the extent and complexity of its economy. Together, these changes transformed American life. And together, they helped produce a great national crisis that threatened to destroy the Union forever.

The American population had already, in 1820, nearly tripled in size since the end of the Revolution. Over the next forty years it more than tripled againfrom just under 10 million to just over 31 million. And the population fanned out during those years to inhabit an expanse of territory that would make the United States one of the largest countries in the world. Americans were not only pouring into the regions that the nation had acquired in the first years of the century the vast Louisiana Purchase and the great Florida accession. They were also pressuring their government to acquire, and on one occasion to go to war for, still more landTexas, Oregon, the Southwest. It was the nation's destiny, many Americans argued, to span the North American continent. And some continued to dream of adding Canada and Mexico to the national realm as well.

Of equal importance, the American economy transformed itself in those years. Agriculturein the North, in the South, and in the newly settled regions of the Westgrew dramatically in both extent and productivity. Commercedomestic and internationalexpanded steadily. And industry, which had its tentative beginnings as early as the eighteenth century, emerged as a major part of the national economynot yet the dominant force it would eventually become, but strong enough to reshape the social, economic, and political lives of millions of men and women.

Much of this growth was a result of the energy and resourcefulness of the American people, who displayed in the mid-nineteenth century courage, vision, and remarkable entrepreneurial and technological talents. Indeed, the United States became in these years one of the marvels of the world, a society that served as a model for many Western nations. But American growth was a result, too, of ruthless exploitation: of land, of resources, and of people.

Americans exploited their land and their natural resources with reckless abandon, always aware that a vast, largely untouched continent still awaited them. In much the same spirit, the growing nation exploited people. Indians were ruthlessly driven from their ancestral homes, as they had been since the first years of European and African settlement in the seventeenth century, to make room for the onward march of white settlement. In the South, American growth rested on the exploitation of another group of people: black slaves. Southern agriculture, which experienced a booming prosperity through much of the mid-nineteenth century as a result of the expanding world market for cotton, was based largely on slave labor. Thus, while in some other nations the institution of slavery was in decline during these years, in the United States it was growing stronger. And in the North, economic growth rested in part on the exploitation of white men and womenthe new labor force that developed in response to the needs of industrial capitalism. White factory workers were not in bondage; indeed, many of them found in industrial labor an avenue to economic advancement. But the rise of the factory system did require a large number of peoplesome of them native-born Americans, but a growing number of them, as the century progressed, immigrants from Europeto adapt to a new way of life. For many, the adjustment was a harsh oneso harsh that some critics of the factory system likened it to the condition of Southern blacks and called it "wage slavery."

With changes so sudden and so vast, political and social tensions were inevitable. And that these changes were occurring within a nation still only a few decades old, a nation still in many ways only half-formed, meant that the tensions could become a threat to American unity. At first, the political struggles of the mid-nineteenth century involved issues that largely transcended regional differences. In the 1820s and 1830s, much of the nation's political energy was devoted to defining the position of elitesto debating how to balance the need for stability and order with the desire for expanding individual opportunity. Slowly, however, another set of concernsrelated to the first, but different in impactcame to the fore. Most prominent among them was the issue of slavery. As territorial expansion forced the nation time and again to confront the question of whether new areas of settlement were to be slave or free, as the power of the South in national politics began slowly to decline, as residents of both North and South began to see in the social structure of the other a threat to their own way of life, the conflict between sections grew to menacing proportions. For a time, the forces of nationalism were strong enough to counterbalance the divisive issues of sectionalism. By the 1850s, however, those unifying forces were in decline; and the pressures for disunion, no longer contained, were leading rapidly to the greatest domestic crisis in American history.

Chapter 9. A Resurgence of Nationalism

Like a "fire bell in the night," as Thomas Jefferson put it, the issue of slavery arose only five years after the end of the War of 1812 to threaten the unity of the nation. The specific question was whether the territory of Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a free or as a slaveholding state. But the larger issue, one that would arise again and again to plague the republic, was the question of whether the vast new Western regions of the United States would ultimately be controlled by the North or by the South. Yet the Missouri crisis, which was settled by a compromise in 1820, was significant at the time not only because it augured the sectional crises to come but because it stood in such sharp contrast to the rising American nationalism of the 1820s. Whatever forces might be working to pull the nation apart, far stronger ones were acting for the moment to draw it together. The American economy was experiencing revolutionary growth. And while ultimately the industrialization of the North would contribute to sectional tensions, economic progresswhich brought with it new systems of transportation and communicationseemed likelier for the moment to link the nation more closely together. The federal government, in the meantime, was acting in both domestic and foreign policy to assert a vigorous nationalism through the judicial decisions of John Marshall's Supreme Court; through congressional legislation encouraging economic growth; and through James Monroe's foreign policy, which attempted to assert the nation's rising stature in the world.

Above all, perhaps, the United States was held together in the 1820s by a set of shared sentiments and ideals, the "mystic bonds of union," as they were occasionally described. The memory of the Revolution, the veneration of the Constitution and its framers, the widely held sense that America had a special destiny in the worldall combined to obscure sectional differences and arouse a vibrant, even romantic, patriotism. Every year, Fourth of July celebrations reminded Americans of their common struggle for independence, as fife and drum corps and flamboyant orators appealed to patriotism and nationalism. When the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who had aided the United States during the Revolution, revisited the country in 1824, the glorious past was revived as never before. Everywhere Lafayette traveled, crowds without distinction of section or party cheered him in frenzied celebration.

And on July 4, 1826the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence there occurred an event which seemed to many to confirm that the United States was a nation specially chosen by God. On that special day, Americans were to learn, two of the greatest of the country's founders and former presidentsThomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration, and John Adams, "its ablest advocate and defender" (as Jefferson had said)died within hours of each other. Jefferson's last words, those at his bedside reported, were "Is it the Fourth?" And Adams comforted those around him moments before his death by saying, "Thomas Jefferson still survives."

Events would prove that the forces of nationalism were not, in the end, strong enough to overcome the emerging sectional differences. For the time being, however, they permitted the republic to enter an era of unprecedented expansion confident and united.

America's Economic Revolution

There had been signs for many years that the United States was poised for a period of dramatic economic growth. In the 1820s and 1830s, that period finally began. Improvements in transportation and the expanding range of business activity created, for the first time, a national market economy. Each area of the country could concentrate on the production of a certain type of goods, relying on other areas to buy its surplus production and to supply it with those things it no longer produced itself. This regional specialization enabled much of the South, for example, to concentrate on growing its most lucrative crop: cotton. And it enabled the North to develop a new factory systemto begin an industrial revolution that would, in time, become even greater than the one that had begun in England some forty years before. By the mid-1820s, the nation's economy was growing more rapidly than its population.

Many factors combined to produce this dramatic transformation. The American population was growing and spreading across a far greater expanse of territory, providing both a labor supply for the production of goods and a market for the sale of them. A "transportation revolution"based on the construction of roads, canals, and eventually railroadswas giving merchants and manufacturers access to new markets and raw materials. New entrepreneurial techniques were making a rapid business expansion possible. And technological advances were helping to spur industry to new levels of activity. Equally important, perhaps, Americans in the 1820s embraced an ethic of growth that was based on a commitment to hard work, individual initiative, thrift, and ambition. The results of their efforts seemed, to many people at least, to confirm the value of such a commitment.

The Population, 1820-1840

During the 1820s and 1830s, as during virtually all of American history, three trends of population were clear: rapid increase, migration to the West, and movement to towns and cities.

Americans continued to multiply almost as fast as they had in the colonial period. The population still doubled roughly every twenty-five years. The population had stood at only 4 million in 1790. By 1820, it had reached 10 million; by 1830, nearly 13 million; and by 1840, 17 million. The United States was growing much more rapidly in population than the British Isles or Europe. By 1860 it had moved ahead of the United Kingdom and had nearly overtaken Germany and France.

The black population increased more slowly than the white. After 1808, when the importation of slaves became illegal, the proportion of blacks to whites in the nation as a whole steadily declined. In 1820, there was one black to every four whites; in 1840, one to every five. The slower increase of the black population was a result of its comparatively high death rate, not of a low birth rate. Slave mothers had large families, but life was shorter for both slaves and free blacks than for whitesa result of the enforced poverty in which virtually all blacks lived.

The mortality rate for whites slowly declined, and life expectancy gradually increased. Epidemics continued to take their periodic toll, among them a cholera plague that swept the country in 1832; but public health efforts gradually improved and reduced the number and ferocity of such outbreaks. The population increase was, however, a result less of lengthened life than of the maintenance of a high birth rate.

From the time of independence, immigration had accounted for little of the nation's population growth. The long years of war in Europe, from 1793 to 1815, had kept the number of newcomers to America down to not more than a few thousand a year, and then the Panic of 1819 checked the immigrant tide that had risen after the restoration of peace. During the 1820s, arrivals from abroad averaged about 14,000 annually, Of the total population of nearly 13 million in 1830, the foreign-born numbered fewer than 500,000, most of them naturalized citizens. Soon, however, immigration began to grow once again. It reached a total of 60,000 for 1832 and nearly 80,000 for 1837.

Since the United States exported more goods than it imported, ships returning to America from Europe often had vacant space and took on immigrants to fill it. Competition among shipping lines reduced fares so that, by the 1830s, immigrants could get passage across the Atlantic for as little as $20 or $30. No longer did they need to sell their services to a temporary master in America in order to pay for the voyage. And so the system of indentured servitude, which had dwindled steadily after the Revolution, disappeared entirely after the Panic of 1819.

Until the 1830s, most of the new arrivals came from the same sources as had the bulk of the colonial populationfrom England and the northern (predominantly Protestant) counties of Ireland. In the 1830s, however, the number of immigrants arriving from the southern (Catholic) counties of Ireland began to grow, the beginning of a tremendous influx of Irish Catholics that was to occur over the next two decades. Generally, the newcomersIrish as well as otherswere welcomed in the United States. They were needed to provide labor for building canals and railroads, manning ships and docks, and performing other heavy work essential to the expanding economic system. But the Irish, as Roman Catholics, excited Protestant prejudices in some communities. In 1834, an anti-Catholic mob set fire to a convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The next year, Samuel F. . Morse (who is better remembered as a portrait painter and as the inventor of the telegraph) published his Foreign Conspiracy, which served thereafter as a textbook for those crusading against what they imagined was a popish plot to gain control of the United States.

The Northwest and the Southwest continued to grow much more rapidly than the rest of the country. By 1830, more than a fourth of the American people lived west of the Appalachians; by 1850, nearly half. As a result, some of the seaboard states suffered a serious loss of human resources (as well as of the material goods that departing migrants took with them). Year after year the Carolinas, for example, lost nearly as many people through migration as they gained by natural increase, so that their populations remained almost static. The same was true of Vermont and New Hampshire. Many villages in these two states were completely depopulated, their houses and barns left to rot, as their people scattered over the country in search of a better life than the infertile granite hills afforded.

Not all the migrating villagers and farmers sought the unsettled frontier: some moved instead to the increasingly crowded population centers. Cities (defined as communities of 8,000 or more) grew faster than the nation as a whole. In 1820 there were more than twice as many cities, and in 1840 more than seven times as many, as there had been in 1790. While the vast majority of Americans continued to reside in the open country or in small towns, the number of city dwellers increased remarkably. In 1790, one person in thirty lived in a community of 8,000 or more; in 1820, one in twenty; and in 1840, one in twelve. The rise of New York City was phenomenal. By 1810 it had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in America. New York steadily increased its lead in both population and trade. Its growth was based in large part on its superior natural harbor. But it was also a result of several commercial and political decisions, by New Yorkers themselves and by others, following the War of 1812. After the war, the British chose New York as the chief place to "dump" their manufactured goods and thus helped make it the nation's leading center for imports. Liberal state laws regarding auction sales encouraged inland merchants to do their buying in New York. The first packet line, with regularly scheduled monthly sailings between England and the United States, made New York its American terminus in 1816. And the Erie Canal (completed in 1825) gave the city unrivaled access to the interior.

The Canal Age

The so-called turnpike era, which lasted from 1790 to about 1830, saw the construction of an important network of roads that did much to link the nation together and to open access to new markets and sources of materials. Roads alone, however, were not sufficient to provide the system of transportation necessary for a growing industrial society. And so, in the 1820s and 1830s, Americans began to construct other means of transportation as well. As in colonial times, they looked first to water routes.

The larger rivers, especially the Mississippi and the Ohio, became increasingly useful, as steamboats grew in number and improved in design. A special kind of steamboat evolved to meet the problems of navigation on the Mississippi and its tributaries. These waters were shallow, with strong and difficult currents, shifting bars of sand and mud, and submerged logs and trees. So the boat needed a flat bottom, paddle wheels rather than screw propellers, and a powerful, high-pressureand thus dangerously explosiveengine. (The river boats were, therefore, prone to deadly, spectacular accidents.) To accommodate as much cargo and as many passengers as possible, the boat was triple-decked, its superstructure rising high in the air. These river boats carried to New Orleans the corn and other crops of Northwestern farmers and the cotton and tobacco of South-western planters. From New Orleans, ocean-going ships took the cargoes on to Eastern ports.

But neither the farmers of the West nor the merchants of the East were completely satisfied with this pattern of trade. Farmers knew they would be able to get better prices for their crops if they could ship them directly eastward to market, rather than by the roundabout river-sea route; and merchants knew they would be able to sell larger quantities of their manufactured goods if they could transport them more directly and economically to the West.

The highways across the mountains, such as the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh turnpike and the National Road, provided a partial solution to the problem. But the costs of hauling goods overland, although lower than before the roads were built, were too high for anything except the most compact and valuable merchandise. It took four horses a full day to pull a wagon weight of one ton twelve miles over an ordinary road; on a turnpike, four horses could haul one and a half tons eighteen miles in a day. But the same four horses could draw a boatload of a hundred tons twenty-four miles a day on a canal. Thus interest quickly grew in expanding the nation's water routes.

Canal building was a task too expensive for the existing institutions of private enterprise. Sectional jealousies and constitutional scruples prevented the federal government from financing the projects. So the job of digging extensive canals fell to the various states. New York was the first to act. It had the natural advantage of a comparatively level route between the Hudson River and Lake Erie through the only break in the Appalachian chain. Yet the engineering tasks were still imposing. The distance from the Hudson to Lake Erie was more than 350 miles, several times as long as any of the existing canals in America. There were high ridges to cross and a wilderness of woods and swamps to penetrate. For many years, New Yorkers debated whether the scheme was practical. The canal advocates finally won the debate after De Witt Clinton, a late but ardent convert to the cause, became governor in 1817. Digging began on July 4, 1817.

The building of the Erie Canal was by far the greatest construction project that Americans had ever undertaken. It was the work of self-made engineers. One of them had made a careful study of English canals, but he and his associates did more than merely copy what they had seen abroad. They devised ingenious arrangements of cables, pulleys, and gears for bringing down trees and uprooting stumps. Instead of the usual shovels and wheelbarrows, they used specially designed plows and scrapers for moving earth. To make watertight locks they produced cement from native limestone. The canal itself was of simple design: basically a ditch, forty feet wide and four feet deep, with towpaths along the banks for the horses or mules that were to draw the canal boats. (Steamboats were not to be used: the churning of a paddle wheel or propeller would cave in the earthen banks.) Cuts and fills, some of them enormous, enabled the canal to pass through hills and over valleys; stone aqueducts carried it across streams; and eighty-eight locks, of heavy masonry, with great wooden gates, took care of the necessary ascents and descents. Not only was the Erie Canal an engineering triumph; it quickly proved a financial success as well. It opened for through traffic in October 1825, amid elaborate ceremonies and celebrations. Governor Clinton headed a parade of canal boats that made the trip from Buffalo to the Hudson and then downriver to New York City, where he emptied a keg of Erie water into the Atlantic to symbolize the wedding of the lake and the ocean. Traffic was soon so heavy that, within about seven years, the tolls had brought in enough money to repay the whole cost of construction.

The profitability of the Erie encouraged the state to enlarge its canal system by building several branches. An important part of the system was the Champlain Canal, begun at about the same time as the Erie and completed in 1822, which connected Lake Champlam with the Hudson River. Some of the branches did not fully pay for themselves, but all provided valuable water connections between New York City and the larger towns of the state. The main line, by providing access to the Great Lakes, led beyond the state's borders, to the West.

The system of water transportation extended farther when the states of Ohio and Indiana, inspired by the success of the Erie Canal, provided water connections between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. In 1825, Ohio began the building of two canals, one between Portsmouth and Cleveland and the other between Cincinnati and Toledo, both of which were in use by 1833. In 1832, Indiana started the construction of a canal to connect Evansville with the Cincinnati-Toledo route. These canals made it possible to ship goods by inland waterways all the way from New York to New Orleans, although it was still necessary to transfer cargoes several times among canal, lake, and river craft. By way of the Great Lakes, it was possible to go by water from New York to Chicago. After the opening of the Erie Canal, shipping on the Great Lakes by sail and steam increased rapidly.

The consequences of the development of this transportation network were far-reaching. One of the immediate results was the stimulation of the settlement of the Northwest, not only because it had become easier for migrants to make the westward journey but also, and more important, because it had become easier for them, after establishing their farms, to ship their produce to markets. Towns boomed along the Erie and other canals. New York City benefited the most of all. Although much of the Western produce, especially corn, continued to go downriver to New Orleans, an increasing proportion of it (including most of the wheat of the Northwest) went to New York. And manufactured goods from throughout the East now moved in growing volume through New York and then via the comparatively direct and economical new routes to the West.

Rival cities along the Atlantic seaboard took alarm at the prospect of New York's acquiring so vast a hinterland, largely at their expense. If they were to hold their own, they knew that they too would have to find ways of tapping the Western market. Boston, its way to the Hudson River blocked by the Berkshire Mountains, did not try to connect itself to the West by canal. Its hinterland would remain confined largely to New England itself. Philadelphia and Baltimore had the still more formidable Allegheny Mountains to contend with, but they nevertheless made a serious effort at canal building. Beginning in 1834, Pennsylvania invested in a complicated and costly system of waterways and railwayswith an arrangement of "inclined planes," stationary engines, and cable cars to take canal boats over the mountainsin an effort to connect Philadelphia with Pittsburgh. But the "Pennsylvania system" was a financial and technological failure. Baltimore planned a canal to ascend the Potomac Valley and tunnel through the mountains to the West. Work began on the grandly conceived Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1828, but only the stretch between Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland, was ever completed. In the South, Richmond and Charleston also aspired to build water routes to the Ohio Valley; Richmond, hoping to link the James and Kanawha rivers, eventually constructed a canal that reached as far as Lynchburg but failed to traverse the Blue Ridge Mountains.

For none of these rivals of New York did canals provide a satisfactory way to the West. Some cities, however, saw their opportunity in a different and newer means of transportation. Even before the canal age had reached its height, the era of the railroad was already beginning.

The Early Railroads

Through most of the 1820s and 1830s, railroads played a relatively secondary role in the nation's transportation system. But the emergence of these first rail lines was of inestimable importance to the future of the American economy. The tentative beginnings of these early years led, by the time of the Civil War, to a great surge of railroad building, linking the nation together as no previous system of transportation had ever done. Railroads eventually became the primary means of transportation for the United States and remained so until the creation of the interstate highway system in the mid-twentieth century.

It is difficult to identify the precise date of the invention of the railroad. It emerged from a combination of innovations, each of which had its own history. One of these innovations was the invention of railroad tracks: rails, wooden or iron, laid on a prepared roadbed to make a fairly straight and level track. Another was the employment of steam-powered locomotives. A third was the operation of trains as public carriers of passengers and freight.

For nearly 200 years before the nineteenth century opened, small railwayswheeled vehicles running along fixed trackswith cars pulled by men and women or by animals had been used to haul coal from English mines; and in the early 1800s similar railways had appeared in the United States. But it took the development of steam power to make railroads viable as a general transportation method. By 1804, both English and American inventors had experimented with steam engines for propelling land vehicles as well as boats. In 1820, John Stevens ran a locomotive and cars around a circular track on his New Jersey estate. Finally, in 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railroad in England began to operate with steam power over a short length of track. It became the first line to carry general traffic. All earlier rail lines had been operated by particular companies to service only their own needs.

This news quickly aroused the interest of American businessmen, especially in those seaboard cities that sought better communication with the West. The first to organize a railroad company was a group of New Yorkers, who in 1826 obtained a charter for the Mohawk and Hudson, and five years later began running trains along the sixteen miles between Schenectady and Albany. The first company to begin actual operations was the Baltimore and Ohio; the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, dug a spadeful of earth in the ceremonies in Maryland to start the work on July 4, 1828; and a thirteen-mile stretch opened for business in 1830. Not only the seaboard but also the Mississippi Valley became the scene of railroad building. By 1836, a total of more than 1,000 miles of track had been laid in eleven states.

There did not yet exist what could properly be called a railroad system. Even the longest of the lines was comparatively short in the 1830s, and most of them served to connect water routes and otherwise to supplement water transportation. Even when two lines did connect the tracks might differ in gauge (width), so that cars from the one line often could not fit onto the tracks of the other. Schedules were erratic, and since roadbeds and bridges were often of shoddy construction, wrecks were frequent.

In response to these deficiencies, railroad pioneers produced a series of important technological developments in the 1830s. Roadbeds were improved through the introduction of heavier iron rails attached to wooden ties resting on crushed rocka system that enabled tracks to withstand the shock of use far better than the earlier methods. American manufacturers began to produce steam locomotives more flexible and powerful than the engines of the past, which had usually been imported from Europe. Passenger cars, originally mere stagecoaches, were redesigned after 1840 as elongated boxes with two rows of reversible seats and a center aislethus making more room for people.

Railroads and canals were soon competing bitterly with each other. For a time, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company blocked the advance of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad through the narrow gorge of the upper Potomac, and the state of New York prohibited railroads from hauling freight in competition with the Erie Canal and its branches. But railroads had the advantages of speed and year-round operation (canals had to close for the winter freeze) and could be located almost anywhere, regardless of terrain and the availability of water. Where free competition existed, railroads gradually took over most of the passenger traffic and the light freight. The future, in fact, belonged to the towns and cities along the path of the "iron horse," not to those that continued to depend exclusively on waterways.

The Expansion of Business

The rapid expansion of business activity in the 1820s and 1830s was in part a result of the growth in population and improvements in the means of transportation. It was also, however, the result of daring and imagination on the part of new generations of businessmen and their employees. Two industries, one old and one new, illustrated the capacities of American enterprise. One was the whaling industry, which was reaching its heyday in the 1830s. From New Bedford and other New England ports, bold skippers and their crews, having driven most of the whales from the Atlantic, voyaged far into the Pacific in their hazardous tracking of the source of spermaceti for candles, whale oil for lamps, and whalebone for corset stays and other uses. Another example of Yankee enterprise was the ice industry. For years, Northeastern farmers had harvested winter ice from ponds and stored it for the summer; but the large-scale transportation and sale of ice as a commodity began in the 1830s. The New England ice harvest then found a ready market in Northern cities, on Southern plantations, and halfway around the world in India, where it was carried in fast-sailing ships; a voyage was considered highly successful if no more than half the cargo melted on the way.

Retail distribution of goods, whether of foreign or domestic origin, remained somewhat haphazard by the standards of later times; but it was becoming far more systematic than it had ever been before. Stores specializing in groceries, dry goods, hardware, and other lines appeared in the larger cities. Smaller towns and villages depended on the general store. Storekeepers did much of their business by barter, taking country eggs and other produce in exchange for such things as pins and needles, sugar, and coffee. Many customers, living remote from any store, welcomed the occasional visits of peddlers, who came on foot or by horse.

The organization of business was undergoing a gradual change. Most business continued to be operated by individuals or partnerships operating on a limited scale. The dominating figures were the great merchant capitalists, who controlled much of the big business of the time. They owned their own ships. They organized certain industries on the putting-out system: providing materials to individual craftsmen, directing the work, and selling the finished product.

In larger enterprises, however, the individual merchant capitalist was giving way before the advance of the corporation. Corporations had the advantage of combining the resources of a large number of shareholders, and they began to develop particularly rapidly in the 1830s, when certain legal obstacles to their formation were removed. In the past, a corporation had had to obtain a charter, which at first could be granted only by a special act of the state legislature. By the 1830s, however, states were beginning to pass general incorporation laws. No longer did each corporation need to obtain specific legislative approval. A group could now secure a charter merely by paying a fee. Moreover, the laws began to grant the privilege of limited liability. This meant that individual stockholders risked losing the value of their own investment if a corporation should fail, but they were not liable (as they had been in the past) for the corporation's larger losses.

Corporations made possible the accumulation of larger and larger amounts of capital for manufacturing enterprises as well as for banks, turnpikes, and railroad companies. Some of this capital came from the profits of wealthy merchants who turned from shipping to newer ventures. Some came from the savings of people of only moderate means. Some came from tax collections, since state governments often bought shares in turnpike, canal, and railroad companies. A considerable part was supplied by foreign, especially English, investors.

But these sources provided too little capital to meet the demands of the ambitious schemes of some businesses, and they relied on an expansion of credit-some of it by dangerously unstable means. Credit mechanisms remained highly underdeveloped in the early nineteenth century. The government alone was permitted to issue currency, but it issued no paper-only gold and silver coinsand the amount of official currency in circulation was thus too small to support the demand for credit. Under pressure from corporate promoters, many banks issued large quantities of bank notes to provide capital for expanding business ventures. The notes rested on a bank's promise to redeem them in gold and silver on demand; but many institutions issued notes far in excess of their own reserves. As a result, bank failures were frequent and bank deposits often insecure.

The Rise of the Factory

All of these changesincreasing population, improved transportation, and the expansion of business activitycontributed to perhaps the most profound economic development in mid-nineteenth-century America: the rise of factory manufacturing. Although it was in the 1840s that industry experienced its most spectacular surge of growth in the antebellum period, it was in the 1820s and 1830s that the factory system established itself as an integral part of the national economy.

Before the War of 1812, most of what manufacturing there was in the United States took place within households or in small, individually operated workshops. Most goods were produced by hand; most were sold in local markets. Gradually, however, improved technology and increased opportunities for commerce stimulated the beginnings of a fundamental change. It came first in the New England textile industry. There, even before the war and the Embargo, some farsighted entrepreneurs were beginning to make use of the region's extensive waterpower and of the new machines (some imported from England, some developed at home) to bring textile operations together under a single roof. This factory system, as it was to be called, spread rapidly in the 1820s. Spinning and weaving in the home remained for a time the principal means of producing cloth, but factories were beginning to make serious inroads into the old process of production.

In the shoe industry as well, mass production through the specialization of tasks was expanding and was by the 1830s becoming an important force in the industry. Most of the work in shoe factories continued to be done by hand, but manufacturing in the newer establishments was increasingly divided among men and women who, in a careful division of labor, specialized in one or another of the various tasks involved in production. Private cobblers continued to produce shoes for individual customers; and the artisanal workshops, where groups of shoemakers worked under a single roof but did not divide up the tasks, remained the largest source of shoe manufacturing. But the future of the industry was more clearly suggested by factories producing large numbers of identical shoes in ungraded sizes and without distinction as to rights and lefts. As with textiles, the new shoe factories emerged first in eastern Massachusetts.

By the 1830s, factory production was spreading from textiles and shoes into other industries as well; and manufacturing was moving beyond Massachusetts and New England to become an important force throughout the American Northeast.

From the beginning, American industry relied heavily on technology for its growth. Because labor was scarce in the United States, at least in comparison to other industrializing countries, there was great incentive for entrepreneurs to improve the efficiency of their productive enterprises by introducing new labor-saving devices. Machine technology advanced more rapidly in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century than in any other country in the world. Change was so rapid, in fact, that some manufacturers built their new machinery out of wood; by the time the wood wore out, they reasoned, improved technology would have made the machine obsolete. By the end of the 1830s, so advanced had American technologyparticularly in textile manufacturing become that industrialists in Britain and Europe were beginning to travel to the United States to learn new techniques, instead of the other way around.

Men and Women at Work

However advanced their technology, manufacturers still relied above all on a supply of labor. In later years, much of that supply would come from great waves of immigration from abroad. In the 1820s and 1830s, however, labor had to come primarily from the native population. Recruitment was not an easy task. Ninety percent of the American people still lived and worked on farms. City residents, although increasing in number, were relatively few, and the potential workers among them even fewer. Many urban laborers were skilled artisans who owned and managed their own shops as small businessmen; they were not likely to flock to factory jobs. The available unskilled workers were not numerous enough to form a reservoir from which the new industries could draw. What did produce the beginnings of an industrial labor supply was the transformation of American agriculture in the nineteenth century. The opening of vast, fertile new farmlands in the Midwest, the improvement of transportation systems, the development of new farm machineryall combined to increase food production dramatically. No longer did each region have to feed itself entirely from its own farms; it could import food from other regions. Thus in the Northeast, and especially in New England, where poor land had always placed harsh limits on farm productivity, the agricultural economy began slowly to decline, freeing up rural people to work in the factories.

Two systems of recruitment emerged to bring this new labor supply to the expanding textile mills. One, common in the mid-Atlantic states and in parts of New England, brought whole families from the farm to the mill. Parents and children, even some who were no more than four or five years old, worked together tending the looms. The second system, common in Massachusetts, enlisted young women mostly the daughters of farmersin their late teens and early twenties. It was known as the Lowell or Waltham system, after the factory towns in which it first emerged. Most of these women worked for several years in the factories, saved their wages, and ultimately returned home to marry and raise children. They did not form a permanent working class.

Labor conditions in these early years of the factory system were significantly better than those in English industry, better too than they would ultimately become in the United States. The employment of young children entailed undeniable hardships. But the evils were fewer than in Europe, since working children in American factories remained under the supervision of their parents. In England, by contrast, asylum authorities often hired out orphans to factory employers who showed little solicitude for their welfare.

Even more distinctive from the European labor system was the lot of working women in the mills in Lowell and factory towns like it. In England, as a parliamentary investigation revealed, woman workers were employed in coal mines in unimaginably wretched conditions. Some had to crawl on their hands and knees, naked and filthy, through cramped, narrow tunnels, pulling heavy coal carts behind them. It was little wonder, then, that English visitors to America considered the Lowell mills a female paradise by contrast. The Lowell workers lived in clean boardinghouses and dormitories maintained for them by the factory owners. They were well fed and carefully supervised. Because many New Englanders considered the employment of women to be vaguely immoral, the factory owners placed great emphasis on maintaining an upright environment for their employees, enforcing strict curfews and requiring regular church attendance. Factory girls suspected of immoral conduct were quickly dismissed. Wages for the Lowell workers, modest as they were, were nevertheless generous by the standards of the time. The women even found time to write and publish a monthly magazine, the Lowell Offering.

Yet even these relatively well-treated workers often found the transition from farm life to factory work difficult, even traumatic. Uprooted from everything familiar, forced to live among strangers in a regimented environment, many women suffered from loneliness and disorientation. Still more had difficulty adjusting to the nature of factory workto the repetition of fixed tasks hour after hour, day after day. That the women had to labor from sunrise to sunset was not in itself always a burden; many of them had worked similarly long days on the farm. But that they now had to spend those days performing tedious, unvarying chores, and that their schedules did not change from week to week or season to season, made the adjustment to factory work a painful one.

Female mill workers suffered, moreover, from a special disadvantage. They were, like male workers, generally products of a farm economy in decline and were forced to find nonagricultural work by which to support themselves and contribute to the maintenance of their families. But unlike men, they had very few options. They had no access to construction work; they could not become sailors or dockworkers; it was considered unthinkable for women to travel the country alone, as many men did, in search of opportunities. Work in the mills was in many cases virtually the only option available to them.

The relative powerlessness of woman workers was one reason for the gradual breakdown of the paternalistic factory system. In the competitive textile market as it developed in the 1830s and 1840sa market prey to the booms and busts that afflicted the American economy as a wholemanufacturers found it difficult to maintain the high living standards and reasonably attractive working conditions with which they had begun. Wages declined; the hours of work lengthened; the conditions of the boardinghouses deteriorated as the buildings decayed and overcrowding increased. In 1834, mill girls in Lowell organized a unionthe Factory Girls Associationwhich staged a strike to protest a 25 percent wage cut. Two years later, the association struck againagainst a rent increase in the boardinghouses. Both strikes failed, and a recession in 1837 virtually destroyed the organization. Eight years later, led by the militant Sarah Bagley, the Lowell women created the Female Labor Reform Association and began agitating for a ten-hour day and for improvements in conditions in the mills. The new association not only made demands of management; it turned to state government and asked for legislative investigation of conditions in the mills. By then, however, the character of the factory work force was changing. Textile manufacturers were turning to a less demanding labor supply: immigrants. The mill girls were gradually moving into other occupations: teaching, domestic service, or marriage.

The increasing supply of immigrant workers was a boon to manufacturers and other entrepreneurs. At last they had access to a cheap and plentiful source of labor. These new workers, because of their growing numbers and because of unfamiliarity with their new country, had even less leverage than the women they at times displaced; and thus they often encountered far worse working conditions. Construction gangs, made up increasingly of Irish immigrants, performed the heavy, unskilled work on turnpikes, canals, and railroads under often intolerable conditions. Because most of these workers had no marketable skills and because of native prejudice against them, they received wages so lowand received them so intermittently, since the work was seasonal and uncertain that they generally did not earn enough to support their families in even minimal comfort. Many of them lived in flimsy, unhealthy shanties.

By the 1840s, the Irish workers (men and women) predominated in the New England textile mills as well; and their arrival accelerated the deterioration of working conditions there. There was far less social pressure on owners to provide a decent environment for Irish workers than for native women. Employers began paying piece rates rather than a daily wage and employed other devices to speed up production and exploit the labor force more efficiently. By the mid-1840s, the town of Lowellonce a model for foreign visitors of enlightened industrial developmenthad become a squalid slum. Similarly miserable working-class neighborhoods were emerging in other Northeastern cities.

It was not only the unskilled workers who suffered from the transition to the modern factory system. It was the skilled artisans whose trades the factories were displacing. Threatened with obsolescence, faced with increasing competition from industrial capitalists, craftsmen began early in the nineteenth century to form organizationsthe first American labor unionsto protect their endangered position. As early as the 1790s, printers and cordwainers took the lead. The cordwainersmakers of high-quality boots and shoessuffered from the competition of merchant capitalists. These artisans sensed a loss of security and status with the development of mass-production methods, and so did members of other skilled trades: carpenters, joiners, masons, plasterers, hatters, and shipbuilders. In such cities as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and New York, the skilled workers of each craft formed societies for mutual aid. During the 1820s and 1830s, the craft societies began to combine on a city-wide basis and set up central organizations known as trade unions. Since, with the widening of the market, workers of one city competed with those at a distance, the next step was to federate the trade unions or to establish craft unions of national scope. In 1834, delegates from six cities founded the National Trades' Union; and in 1836, the printers and the cordwainers set up their own national craft unions.

This early labor movement soon collapsed. Labor leaders struggled against the handicap of hostile laws and hostile courts. By the common law, as interpreted by judges in the industrial states, a combination among workers was viewed as, in itself, an illegal conspiracy. But adverse court decisions did not alone halt the rising unions. The death blow came from the Panic of 1837 and the ensuing depression.

Sectionalism and Nationalism

For a brief but alarming moment, the increasing differences between the nation's two leading sections threatened in 1819 and 1820 to damage the unity of the United States. But once a sectional crisis was averted with the Missouri Compromise, the forces of nationalism continued to assert themselves; and the federal government began to assume the role of promoter of economic growth.

The Missouri Compromise

When Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a state in 1819, slavery was already well established there. The French and Spanish inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory (including what became Missouri) had owned slaves, and in the Louisiana Purchase treaty of 1803 the American government promised to maintain and protect the inhabitants in the free enjoyment of their property as well as their liberty and religion. By 1819, approximately 60,000 people resided in Missouri Territory, of whom about 10,000 were slaves.

In that year, while Missouri's application for statehood was being considered in Congress, Representative James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York, proposed an amendment that would prohibit the further introduction of slaves into Missouri and provide for the gradual emancipation of those already there. The Tallmadge Amendment provoked a controversy that was to rage for the next two years.

Although the issue arose suddenly, the sectional jealousies that produced it had long been accumulating. Already the concept of a balance of power between the Northern and Southern states was well developed. From the beginning, partly by chance and partly by design, new states had come into the Union more or less in pairs, one from the North, another from the South. With the admission of Alabama in 1819, the Union contained an equal number of free and slave states, eleven of each. If Missouri were to be admitted as a slave state, not only would the existing sectional balance be upset but a precedent would be established that in the future would increase the political power of the South still further.

This concern about the balance of power among the states was not yet accompanied by a widespread or fervent opposition to slavery itself. There were groups, in both the North and the South, opposed to slavery on moral grounds and committed to its destruction. On the eve of the dispute over Missouri, for example, the Manumission Society of New York was busy with attempts to rescue runaway slaves; and Quakers were conducting a campaign to strengthen the laws against the African slave trade and to protect free blacks from kidnappers who sold them into slavery. But most Northern opponents of slavery were affluent philanthropists and reformers associated with the Federalist party; and for many of them, humanitarian concerns were secondary to political ones.

The Missouri controversy provided the opportunity for which Federalist leaders such as Rufus King had long waited: the opportunity to attempt a revival and reinvigoration of their party. By appealing to the Northern people on the issue of slavery extension, the Federalists hoped to win many of the Northern Republicans away from their allegiance to the Republican party's Southern leadership. In New York, the De Witt Clinton faction of the Republicans, who had joined with the Federalists in opposition to the War of 1812 and were outspoken in their hostility to "Virginia influence" and "Southern rule," were more than willing to cooperate with the Federalists again. The cry against slavery in Missouri, Thomas Jefferson wrote, was "a mere party trick." He explained: "King is ready to risk the union for any chance of restoring his party to power and wriggling himself to the head of it, nor is Clinton without his hopes nor scrupulous as to the means of fulfilling them."

The Missouri question was soon complicated by the application of Maine for admission as a state. Massachusetts had earlier consented to the separation of this northern part of the commonwealth, but only on the condition that Maine be granted statehood before March 4, 1820. The Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, now informed Northerners that if they refused to consent to Missouri's becoming a slave state, Southerners would deny the application of Maine. Despite the warning, the Northern majority in the House continued to insist on the principle of the Tallmadge Amendment; but in the Senate, a few Northerners sided with the Southerners and prevented its passage.

The Maine question, however, ultimately produced a way out of the impasse. The Senate finally agreed to combine the Maine and Missouri proposals into a single bill. Maine would be admitted as a free state, Missouri as a slave state. Then, to make the package more acceptable to the House, Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois proposed an amendment prohibiting slavery in all the rest of the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri (latitude 36° 30'). The Senate adopted the Thomas Amendment, and Speaker Clay, with great difficulty, guided the amended Maine-Missouri bill through the House.

Nationalists in both North and South hailed the Missouri Compromise as a happy resolution of a danger to the Union. Others, however, were less optimistic. Thomas Jefferson, for example, saw in the controversy a "speck on our horizon" which might ultimately "burst on us as a tornado." And he added, "The line of division lately marked out between the different portions of our confederacy is such as will never, I fear, be obliterated." (That was one reason why Jefferson, in his last years, devoted so much attention to the construction of the University of Virginiaan institution that would, he hoped, confirm Southern students in the values of their own region and protect them against the taint of "anti-Missourianism" that he believed pervaded the Northern universities.) The Missouri Compromise revealed, in short, a strong undercurrent of sectionalism that competed withalthough at the moment failed to derailthe powerful tides of nationalism.

Marshall and the Court

John Marshall served as chief justice of the United States for almost thirty-five years, from 1801 to 1835. He was a man of practical and penetrating mind, of persuasive and winning personality, and of strong will; and he dominated the Court as no one else before or since. During his years as chief justice, Republican presidents filled vacancies with Republican justices, one after another; and yet Marshall continued to carry a majority with him in most of the Court's decisions. The members of the Court boarded together, without their families, during the winter months when the Court was in session, and Marshall had abundant opportunity to influence his younger associates.

But Marshall's achievements went beyond the narrow one of influencing his colleagues. He literally molded the development of the Constitution itself. The net effect of the hundreds of opinions delivered by the Marshall Court was to strengthen the judicial branch at the expense of the other two branches of the government; increase the power of the United States and lessen that of the states themselves; and advance the interests of the propertied classes, especially those engaged in commerce.

No state, the Constitution says, shall pass any law "impairing the obligation of contracts." The first Supreme Court case involving this provision was that of Fletcher v. Peck (1810), which arose out of the notorious Yazoo land frauds (see p. 201). The Court had to decide whether the Georgia legislature of 1796 could rightfully repeal the act of the previous legislature granting lands under shady circumstances to the Yazoo Land Companies. In the unanimous decision, Marshall held that a land grant was a contract and therefore, regardless of any corruption involved, the repeal was invalid. This was the first time the Supreme Court had voided a state law on the ground that it conflicted with a provision of the United States Constitution, although the Court had previously declared state laws unconstitutional because they were inconsistent with federal laws or treaties.

Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) expanded further the meaning of the contract clause. The case had originated in a quarrel between the trustees and the president of the college, and it became a major political issue in New Hampshire when the Republicans championed the president and the Federalists took the side of the trustees. Having gained control of the state government, the Republicans undertook to revise Dartmouth's charter (granted by King George III in 1769) so as to convert the private college into a state university. When the case came before the Supreme Court in Washington, Daniel Webster, a Dartmouth graduate, represented the trustees in opposing the charter revision. The Court, he reminded the judges, had decided in Fletcher v. Peck that "a grant is a contract." The Dartmouth charter, he went on, "is embraced within the very terms of that decision," since "a grant of corporate powers and privileges is as much a contract as a grant of land." Then, according to legend, he brought tears to the eyes of the justices with an irrelevant peroration that concluded: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it." A year later, the Court gave its decision in favor of Webster and the trustees. The ruling had a significant bearing on the development of business corporations. It proclaimed that corporation charters were contracts and that contracts were inviolable; this doctrine placed important restrictions on the ability of state governments to control corporations.

The Dartmouth College   case raised another important constitutional question as well. Did the Supreme Court have the power to override the decisions of state courts? The Judiciary Act of 1789 and the Dartmouth College   decision itself both seemed to have established that the Court did have that right. But some advocates of states' rights, notably in the South, continued to argue otherwise. In Cohens   v. Virginia   (1821), Marshall provided a ringing reaffirmation of the constitutionality of federal review of state court decisions. The states no longer were sovereign in all respects, he wrote, since they had given up part of their sovereignty in ratifying the Constitution. The state courts, he insisted, must submit to federal jurisdiction; otherwise the government would be prostrated "at the feet of every state in the Union."

Meanwhile, in McCulloch   v. Maryland (1819), Marshall had confirmed the "implied powers" of Congress by upholding the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States. The Bank, with headquarters in Philadelphia and branches in various cities throughout the country, had become so unpopular in the South and the West that several of the states tried to drive the branches out of business by outright prohibition or by prohibitory taxes. Maryland, for example, laid a heavy tax on the Baltimore branch of the Bank. This case presented two constitutional questions to the Supreme Court: Could Congress charter a bank? And if so, could one of the states thus tax it? As one of the Bank's attorneys, Webster first repeated the arguments used originally by Hamilton to prove that the establishment of such an institution came within the "necessary and proper" clause. Then, to dispose of the tax issue, Webster added an ingenious argument of his own. The power to tax, he said, involved a "power to destroy," and if the states could tax the Bank at all, they could tax it to death. Since the Bank with its branches was an agency of the federal government, the power to tax it was the power to destroy the United States itself. Marshall adopted Webster's words in deciding for the Bank.

The case of Gibbons   v. Ogden (1824) raised the question of the powers of Congress, as against the powers of the states, in regulating interstate commerce. The state of New York had granted Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston's steamboat company the exclusive right to carry passengers on the Hudson River to New York City. From this monopoly, Aaron Ogden obtained the business of navigation across the river between New York and New Jersey. Thomas Gibbons, with a license granted under an act of Congress, went into competition with Ogden, who brought suit against him and was sustained by the New York courts. When Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court, the justices faced the twofold question whether "commerce" included navigation and whether Congress alone or Congress and the states together could regulate interstate commerce. Marshall replied that "commerce" was a broad term embracing navigation as well as the buying and selling of goods. Although he did not say that the states had no authority whatever regarding interstate commerce, he asserted that the power of Congress to regulate such commerce was "complete in itself and might be "exercised to its utmost extent." He concluded that the state-granted monopoly was void.

The decision, the last of Marshall's great pronouncements, was the first conspicuous one in which the Marshall Court appeared to be on the popular side. Most people, then as always, hated monopolies, and he had declared this particular monopoly unconstitutional. But the lasting significance of Gibbons  v. Ogden was that it freed internal transportation from restraints by the states and thus prepared the way for the unfettered economic development of the nation by private capitalism.

More immediately, however, the decision had the effect of helping to head off a movement that was under way to weaken the Supreme Court. For some time, such Virginia Republicans as Thomas Jefferson, Spencer Roane, and John Taylor had argued against the views of their fellow Virginian John Marshall. In Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated, published in 1820, Taylor argued that Marshall and his colleagues were not merely interpreting but were actually changing the nature of the Constitution, which should properly be changed only by the amending process. In Congress some critics of the Court, mostly from the South and the West, proposed various means of curbing what they called judicial tyranny. A Kentucky senator suggested making the Senate, not the Court, the agency to decide the constitutionality of state laws and to settle interstate disputes. Other senators and congressmen introduced bills to increase the membership of the Court (from seven to ten) and to require more than a mere majority to declare a state law unconstitutional.

Still others argued for "codification," that is, for making legislative statutes the basis of the law, rather than the common-law precedents that judges used. Such a reform, codifiers argued, would limit the power of the judiciary and prevent "judge-made" law. The Court reformers did not succeed, however, in passing any of their various panaceas; and after the Gibbons v. Ogden decision, the hostility to the judicial branch of the government gradually died down.

The decisions of the Marshall Court had a profound cumulative influence on the future development both of American government and of the American economy. They established the primacy of the federal government over the states in exercising control over the economy. They opened the way for an increased federal role in promoting economic growth. And they created or affirmed protection for corporations and other private economic institutions from local government interference, hence facilitating the growth of the new industrial capitalist economy. They were, in short, highly nationalistic decisions, designed to promote the growth of a strong, unified, and economically developed United States.

The Latin American Revolution

Just as the Supreme Court was asserting American nationalism in the shaping of the country's economic life, so the Monroe administration was expressing nationalism in the shaping of foreign policy. As in earlier and later years, the central concern of the United States was its position in relation to Europe. But in defining that position, Americans were forced in the 1820s to develop a policy toward Latin America, which was suddenly winning its independence.

To most citizens of the United States, South and Central America had long seemed to constitute a "dark continent." After the War of 1812, however, they suddenly emerged into the light, and Americans looking southward beheld a gigantic spectacle: the Spanish Empire struggling in its death throes, a whole continent in revolt, new nations in the making with a future no one could foresee.

Already a profitable trade had developed between the ports of the United States and those of the Rio de la Plata (Argentina), Chile, and above all Cuba. Americans exported flour and other staples and received in return sugar, gold, and silver. Great Britain remained the principal trading nation in Latin America, but American commerce was growing steadily. Many believed that trade would increase much faster once the United States established regular diplomatic and commercial relations with the countries in revolt.

In 1815, the United States proclaimed its neutrality in the wars between Spain and its rebellious colonies. This neutrality was in itself advantageous to the rebels, since it implied a partial recognition of their status as nations. It meant, for example, that their warships would be treated as bona-fide belligerent vessels, not as pirate ships. Moreover, even though the neutrality law was revised and strengthened in 1817 and 1818, it still permitted the revolutionists to obtain unarmed ships and supplies from the United States. In short, the United States was not a strict and impartial neutral but a nonbelligerent whose policy, though cautious, was intended to help the insurgents and actually did.

Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and President James Monroe hesitated at first to take the risky step of recognition unless Great Britain would agree to do so at the same time. In 1818 and 1819, the United States made two bids for British cooperation, and both were rejected. Finally, the nationalist impulses so strong in the United States of the 1820s prevailed. In 1822, President Monroe decided to proceed alone. He informed Congress that five nations La Plata, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexicowere ready for recognition, and he requested an appropriation to send ministers to them. The United States would be the first country formally to recognize the new governments, in defiance of the rest of the world.

The Monroe Doctrine

In 1823, Monroe stood forth as an even bolder champion of America against Europe and an even more forthright champion of American nationalism. Presenting to Congress his annual message on the state of the Union, he announced a policy that would ultimately be known (beginning some thirty years later) as the "Monroe Doctrine." One part of this policy had to do with the role of Europe in America. "The American continents," Monroe declared, ". . . are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." Furthermore, "we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." And the United States would consider any "interposition" against the sovereignty of existing American nations as an unfriendly act. A second aspect of the pronouncement had to do with the role of the United States in Europe. "Our policy in regard to Europe," said Monroe, '*. . . is not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers."

How did the president happen to make these statements at the time he did? What specific dangers, if any, did he have in mind? Against what powers in particular was his warning directed? To answer these questions, it is useful to consider first the relations of the United States with the European powers as of 1823, and then the process by which the Monroe administration reached its decision to announce the new "doctrine."

After Napoleon's defeat, the powers of Europe combined in a "concert" to uphold the "legitimacy" of established governments and to prevent the overthrow of existing regimes from within or without. When Great Britain withdrew, the concert became a quadruple alliance, with Russia and France the strongest of its four members. In 1823, after assisting in the suppression of other revolts in Europe, the European allies authorized France to intervene in Spain to restore the Bourbon dynasty that revolutionists had overthrown. Some observers in England and the Americas wondered whether the allies next would back France in an attempt to retake by force the lost Spanish Empire in America. In fact, such concerns were almost certainly groundless. France was still a relatively weak power, not yet recovered from the long and exhausting Napoleonic Wars. It did, to be sure, try to promote the establishment of friendly kingdoms in Latin America by means of intrigue, but it dared not challenge British sea power with an expedition to subvert the new governments by force.

In the minds of most Americans, and certainly in the mind of their secretary of state, Great Britain seemed an even more serious threat to American interests. Adams was much concerned about supposed British designs on Cuba. Like Jefferson and others before him, Adams feared the transfer of Cuba from a weak power such as Spain, its present ruler, to a strong power such as Great Britain. He thought Cuba eventually should belong to the United States; for the "Pearl of the Antilles" had great economic and strategic value and, because of its location, was virtually a part of the American coastline. Adams did not desire to seize the island; he wanted only to keep it in Spanish hands until, by a kind of political gravitation, it should fall naturally to the United States. Despite his worries over the supposed British threat to Cuba, he and other American leaders were pleased to see the rift between Great Britain and the concert of Europe. He was willing to cooperate with Britain, but only to the extent that its policies and his own coincided.

Those policies did not always coincide, however, as the British demonstrated when they rejected the American overtures for joint recognition of Latin American independence in 1818 and 1819. The Americans demonstrated the same thing by their reaction to a British proposal for a joint statement in 1823. That summer, the British secretary for foreign affairs, George Canning, suggested to the American minister in London, Richard Rush, that Great Britain and the United States should combine in announcing to the world their opposition to any European movement against Latin America. But Canning's refusal to join the United States in recognizing the Latin American nations forestalled agreement. And in the fall, after receiving assurances from France that it had no plans to intervene militarily in Latin America, the British abandoned the proposal altogether.

Even before Canning changed his mind about cooperation with the United States, Monroe and Adams were developing grave reservations about a joint pronouncement. Adams, in particular, argued that the American government should act alone instead of following along like a "cock-boat in the wake of a British man-of-war." Canning's loss of interest, therefore, only strengthened an already growing inclination within the administration to make its own pronouncement.

Although Canning's overture led to Monroe's announcement, the message was directed against all the powers of Europe, including Great Britain, which seemed at least as likely as Russia to undertake further colonizing ventures in America. Monroe and Adams hoped the message would rally the people of Latin America to look to their own security. They also hoped it would stir the people of the United States. America was mired in a business depression, divided by sectional politics, and apathetic toward the rather lackluster administration of Monroe. In the rumors of European aggression against the Western Hemisphere lay a chance for the president to arouse and unite the people with an appeal to national pride. The Monroe Doctrine was, then, in one sense a culmination of the growing spirit of unity and nationalism that had been emerging in the United States for over a decade. But it was also an expression of concern about the forces that were already gathering to threaten that spirit.

The Revival of Opposition

For a time during the "era of good feelings," it seemed that the dream of the founders of the republicof a nation free of party strifehad been realized. After 1816, the Federalist party offered no presidential candidate. Soon it ceased to exist as a national political force. Presidential politics was now conducted wholly within the Republican party, which considered itself not a party at all but an organization representing the whole of the population.

Yet the policies of the federal government during and after the War of 1812, and particularly the nationalizing policies of the 1820s, continued to spark opposition. At first, criticism remained contained within the existing one-party structure. But by the late 1820s, partisan divisions were emerging once again. In some respects, the division mirrored the schism that had produced the first party system in the 1790s. The Republicans had in many ways come to resemble the early Federalist regimes in their promotion of economic growth and centralization. And the opposition, like the opposition in the 1790s, stood opposed to the federal government's expanding role in the economy. There was, however, a crucial difference. At the beginning of the century, the opponents of centralization had also often been opponents of economic growth. Now, in the 1820s, the controversy involved not whether but how the nation should continue to expand.

The "Corrupt Bargain"

From 1796 to 1816, presidential candidates had been nominated by caucuses of the members of each of the two parties in Congress. In 1820, when the Federalists declined to oppose his candidacy, Monroe ran unopposed as the Republican nominee without the necessity of a caucus nomination. If the caucus system had prevailed in 1824, the nominee of the Republicans in Congress would have run unopposed again. But it did not prevail. Several men aspired to the presidency, and they and their followers were unwilling to let a small group of congressmen and senators determine which one of them was to win the prize.

In 1824, therefore, "King Caucus" was overthrown. Fewer than a third of the Republicans in Congress even bothered to attend the gathering. The caucus did go through the motions of nominating a candidate: William H. Crawford of Georgia, the secretary of the treasury. Other candidates received nominations from state legislatures and endorsements from irregular mass meetings throughout the country.

John Quincy Adams, secretary of state for two terms, had made a distinguished record in the conduct of foreign affairs, and he held the office that had become the traditional stepping stone to the presidency. But as he himself ruefully realized, he was a man of cold and forbidding manners, not a candidate with strong popular appeal. Crawford, in contrast, was an impressive giant of a man who had the backing not only of the congressional caucus but also of the extreme states' rights faction of the Republican party. In midcampaign, however, he was stricken by a paralyzing illness.

Challenging the two cabinet contenders was Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House. The tall, black-haired, genial Kentuckian had a personality that gained him a devoted following. He also stood for a definite and coherent program, which he called the "American System." His plan, attractive to citizens just recovering from a business depression, was to create a great home market for factory and farm producers by raising the tariff to stimulate industry, maintaining the national bank to facilitate credit and exchange, and spending federal funds on internal improvements to provide transportation between the cities and the farms.

Andrew Jackson, the fourth major candidate, offered no such clear-cut program. Although Jackson had served briefly as a representative in Congress and was a member of the United States Senate, he had no significant legislative record. Nevertheless, he had the advantages of a military hero's reputation and a campaign shrewdly managed by the Tennessee politician friends who had put him forward as a candidate. To some of his contemporaries he seemed a crude, hot-tempered frontiersman and Indian fighter. Actually, although he had arisen from a humble background as an orphan in the Carolinas, he had become a well-to-do planter who lived in an elegant mansion ("The Hermitage") near Nashville.

Once the returns were counted, there was no doubt that the next vice president was to be John Calhoun, of South Carolina, who ran on both the Adams and the Jackson tickets. But there was considerable doubt as to who the next president would be. Jackson received a plurality, although not a majority, of the popular vote. In the electoral college too he came out ahead, with 99 votes to Adams's 84, Crawford's 41, and Clay's 37. Again, however, he lacked a majority. So, in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment, the final decision was left to the House of Representatives, which was to choose among the three candidates with the highest electoral vote. Clay was out of the running.

But while Clay could not be elected president in 1824, he was in a strong position to determine who would be. As Speaker, he had indirect influence throughout the House of Representatives. And as a candidate for the presidency whose electors had won in three statesKentucky, Ohio, and Missourihe was in a position to influence those state delegations directly.

Before Congress made its decision, supporters of Jackson, Crawford, and Adams approached Clay on behalf of their respective candidates. Jackson's followers insisted that Jackson, with his popular and electoral pluralities, was really the people's choice and that Congress had no rightful alternative but to ratify the people's will. But Jackson was Clay's most dangerous rival for the political affections of the West; and Jackson, moreover, had demonstrated no support for Clay's nationalistic legislative program. Crawford was out of the question, for he was now a paralytic, incapable of discharging the duties of the presidency. Adams was no friend of Clay and had clashed with him repeatedly when both were peace delegates at Ghent and afterward. But alone among the candidates, Adams was an ardent nationalist and a likely supporter of the American System. Thus Clay finally gave his support to Adams, and the House elected him.

The Jacksonians were angry enough at this, but they became far angrier when the new president announced that Clay was to be his secretary of state. The State Department was the well-established route to the presidency, and Adams thus appeared to be naming Clay as his own successor. To the Jacksonians, it seemed clear that Clay and Adams must have agreed to make each other presidentAdams now, Clay next; and they claimed to be horrified by this "corrupt bargain," Very likely there had been some sort of understanding; and though there was nothing corrupt, or even unusual, about it, it proved to be politically costly for both Adams and Clay.

Soon after Adams's inauguration as president, Jackson resigned from the Senate to accept a renomination for the presidency from the Tennessee legislature and to begin a three-year campaign for election in 1828. Politics now overshadowed all else. Throughout his term in the White House, Adams and his policies were to be thoroughly frustrated by the political bitterness arising from the "corrupt bargain."

The Second President Adams

The career of John Quincy Adams divides naturally into three parts. In the first part, as befitted the son of John Adams, he was a brilliant diplomat, serving as the American minister in one foreign capital after another and then as one of the most successful of all secretaries of state. In the second phase of his career, as president from 1825 to 1829, he endured four unhappy and ineffectual years that amounted to a mere interlude between the periods of his greatness. In the third, as a congressman from Massachusetts, he served with high distinction, gaining fame as "Old Man Eloquent," the foremost congressional champion of free speech. His frustration in the White House shows that the presidency demands more than exceptional ability and high-mindedness, for John Quincy Adams possessed both. The presidency also requires political skill and political luck, and these he did not have.

In his inaugural address and in his first message to Congress, Adams gave voice to his own nationalistic vision of the powers and duties of the federal government. He recommended "laws promoting the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, the cultivation of the mechanic and of the elegant arts, the advancement of literature, and the progress of the sciences, ornamental and profound." He had no chance of getting an appropriation from Congress for most of these goals. All he actually did get was a few million dollars to improve rivers and harbors and to extend the National Road westward from Wheeling. Still, this was more than Congress had appropriated for internal improvements under all his predecessors together.

Even in the field of diplomacy, where Adams had more experience than any other president before or since, he failed in the major efforts of his administration. Yielding to Secretary of State Clay's wish for cooperation with the Latin American governments, Adams appointed two delegates to attend an international conference that the Venezuelan liberator, Simon Bolivar, had called to meet at Panama in 1826. Objections arose in Congress for two reasons. One was that Southerners opposed the idea of white Americans mingling in Panama with black delegates from Haiti, a country whose independence the United States refused to recognize. The other reason for obstruction was simply politicsthe determination of Jacksonians to discredit the administration. They charged that Adams aimed to sacrifice American interests and involve the nation in an entangling alliance. While the Jacksonians filibustered, Congress delayed the Panama mission so long that by the time it was finally approved it was too late. One of the American delegates died on the way to the conference; the other arrived after it was over. Adams had hoped to offset British influence, which prevailed in Latin America, by having the United States play an active role at the conference. Those hopes were dashed.

Adams was also bested in a contest with the state of Georgia, which wished to remove the remaining Creek and Cherokee Indians from the state so as to gain additional soil for cotton planters. The United States government, in a 1791 treaty, had guaranteed the Creeks possession of the land they occupied. But the Georgians extracted a new treaty from the tribe in 1825, by which the Creeks ceded the land to the state. Adams was convinced that the new treaty had been fraudulently obtained and refused to enforce it, setting up a direct conflict between the president and the leaders of the state. The governor of Georgia defied the president and went ahead with plans for Indian removal. The conflict was finally resolved in 1827, when the Creeks agreed to still another treaty, in which they again yielded their land, thus undercutting Adams's position. The affair was memorable in one sense: Adams became one of the few major American public figures firmly to oppose the continuing displacement of the Indians. But at the time, it served mainly as a political embarrassment.

Even more damaging to the administration was its support for a new tariff on imported goods in 1828. This measure originated in the demands of Massachusetts and Rhode Island woolen manufacturers, who complained that the British were dumping woolens on the American market at prices with which the domestic mill owners could not compete. The New Englanders were frustrated at first by Southern opposition in Congress, but eventually they combined with the middle and Western states to create political pressures that could not be resisted.

But the 1828 bill, the result of these efforts, contained provisions attractive to the West that antagonized its original New England supporters. It established high duties not only on woolens, as the New Englanders had wanted, but also on a number of other items, such as flax, hemp, iron, lead, molasses, and raw wool, some of which the West produced and for which they wanted protection from foreign rivals. That distressed New England manufacturers; the benefits of protecting their manufactured goods from foreign competition now had to be weighed against the prospects of having to pay more for raw materials. Indeed, a story arose that the bill had taken its shape from a Jacksonian plot to embarrass and discredit Adams. The bill related to "manufactures of no sort or kind but the manufacture of a president of the United States," John Randolph said. The bill would present Adams with a dilemma, for he would lose friends whether he signed or vetoed it. To sign the bill would lose him support in both the South and the Northeast. To veto it would lose him support from the farmers and manufacturers of the West.

When Congress considered the bill item by item, Southerners voted against proposals to reduce the tariff rates, in the hope that some of its outrageous duties would so antagonize New Englanders that they would help defeat it. But when it came to a final test, Daniel Webster voted for it despite its duties on raw materials, and he carried with him enough New England votes to enable the bill to pass. Adams signed it. The tactics of the Southerners had backfired, and they were left cursing the bill as the "tariff of abominations."

Jackson Triumphant

By 1828, the schism within the Republican party was complete. Once again, as in 1800, two parties offered candidates in the presidential election. On one side stood the supporters of John Quincy Adams, who called themselves the National Republicans. They supported the economic nationalism of the preceding years. Opposing them were the followers of Andrew Jackson, who took the name Democratic Republicans. They argued for a dispersal of public authority, an assault on privilege, and a widening of opportunity. Adams attracted the support of most of the remaining Federalists (among whose number he had once counted himself); Jackson appealed to a broad coalition that stood opposed to the "economic" aristocracy.

Issues seemed to count for little in the campaign of 1828. There was much talk of the "corrupt bargain" and frequent rhetorical references to the "tariff of abominations." But while Adams's position on the tariff was a matter of record (he had signed the bill), nobody knew where Jackson stood. Again, as in 1824, personalities became a more important factor than policies. Indeed, the tone of the campaign was such as to suggest that two criminals were running for the highest office in the land.

Thejacksonians charged that Adams as president had been guilty of gross waste and extravagance and had used public funds to buy gambling devices (a chess set and a billiard table) for the White House. But that was not the worst of Adams's alleged crimes. While Adams had been minister to Russia, the Jacksonians falsely claimed, he had tried to procure a beautiful American girl for the sinful pleasures of the czar.

Adams's supporters directed even worse accusations at Jackson. He was, they claimed in speeches, handbills, and pamphlets, a murderer and an adulterer. A "coffin handbill" listed, within coffin-shaped outlines, the names of militiamen whom Jackson was said to have shot in cold blood during the War of 1812. (The men had been deserters who were executed after due sentence by a court-martial.) It was also rumored that Jackson had knowingly lived in sin with the wife of another man. Actually, he had married the woman, his beloved Rachel, at a time when the pair apparently believed her first husband had divorced her.

Jackson's victory was decisive, if sectional. He won 56 percent of the popular vote and an electoral majority of 178 votes to Adams's 83. But thejackson-ians made few inroads into the National Republican strongholds of the Northeast. Adams swept virtually all of New England, and he showed significant strength in the mid-Atlantic region. Nevertheless, the Jacksonians considered their victory complete, and they hailed it as an event as important as the victory of Jefferson in 1800. Once again, the forces of privilege had been ejected from Washington. Once again, a champion of democracy would occupy the White House and restore liberty to the society and the economy. America had entered, many claimed, the "era of the common man." And Andrew Jackson, the people's champion, departed for Washington determined to transform the federal government.

 


 

 



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