Sectionalism In Antebellum America
Following the Revolutionary War, Americans began going about the business of building a
They developed a Constitution, elected officials, fought another war, and began exploring and
developing the new nation.
Slowly the Americans began to view their nation as a nation with two
sections, each one with a distinctive and homogenous culture:
the North and the South.
These differences were readily apparent by the early 1800’s.
Whereas the North had developed
into an industrialized region with many cities, a large population, and an efficient network of railroads,
canals, and roads for transportation, the South was nearly a complete opposite.
The South had fewer
cities, a smaller population, relied on agriculture as an industry and lacked a transportation system as
large as in the North. Other differences could be seen in the kind of labor force employed, the attitude
toward the Federal Government, the geography, and the values and beliefs of the people. This paper will
focus on three areas of significance:
the social issue of slavery, the economy and urbanization.
First, the most significant difference between the North and the South probably was the use of
This issue was so emotional and divisive for both regions that it led to a Civil War between the
North and South.
The growing industrialization in the North created a need for a larger workforce.
the North was committed to a free labor economy.
Instead of slaves, the factories, mills and other
businesses employed the local citizens.
Consequently, people began to leave the farm to live in a city
where work was available.
An influx of immigrants from Europe also took place because of the promise
of jobs in the cities.
On the other hand, the South had never abandoned the use of slaves as most of the North had done. In the
beginning, slaves were brought to the United States to do some work, and were then supposed to be freed,
but that didn’t happen.
Instead as more people heard about the cheap labor, the slave trade
the late 1700's to early 1800's, 400,000 people were brought to the United States to be sold as slaves. By
1860, that number had jumped to 4,000,000 people. Therefore, most of the workers on the many farms
were either slaves or poor farmers who managed to own their own land.
It was a common misconception
in the North that everyone in the South had slaves; probably as few as 25% of the white population owned
A majority of the slaves were concentrated on the large plantations that had developed in response
to the need for cotton by the North and Britain for their textile mills. Other slaves did menial jobs in the
mills, worked as domestics in the homes of the upper class whites.
Others lived in urban areas where they
acted as blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, bakers, or other tradespeople.