Nationalism and Sectionalism in the 1800’s

On December 2, 1823, President Monroe addressed a message to congress. In his message, James Monroe was informing the powers of the Old World that the American continents were no longer open to European colonization. He also stated that the outside powers shall not try to overthrow the newly independent republics in the Western Hemisphere. Any effort to extend European political influence into the New World would be considered by the United States “as dangerous to our peace and safety.” At the same time, the United States would not involve itself in European affairs or interfere with existing colonies in the Western Hemisphere. These principles became known as the Monroe Doctrine.

In 1819, settlers in Missouri requested admission to the Union. Its settlers came largely from the South, and it was expected that Missouri would be a slave state. The government did not want to have an unequal number of slave states and free states because of representation in the senate. Until 1818, the United States consisted of ten free states and ten slave states. The government admitted Illinois as the eleventh free state in 1818 and therefore southerners expected Missouri to become the eleventh slave state. Before Missouri could become a state, Congressman James Tallmadge amended the Missouri statehood bill to require the state to gradually free its slaves. In between all of this controversy, Alabama was admitted into the Union and now Missouri’s status became crucial to the delicate balance. Under the leadership of Henry Clay, Congress managed to temporarily resolve the crisis with a series of agreements collectively called the Missouri Compromise. Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, thus preserving the sectional balance in the Senate. The rest of the Louisiana Territory was split. The dividing line was set at 36° 30` north latitude. South of the line slavery was legal. North of the line, except Missouri, slavery was banned. President Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise in 1820. For a generation, the problem of slavery in federal territories seemed settled.

The National Bank, which was proposed by Alexander Hamilton, aroused a storm of controversy. Hamilton’s idea of the National Bank aroused a storm of controversy. James Madison claimed that the bank would forge an unhealthy alliance between the government and wealthy business interests. The National Bank would be funded by both the federal government and wealthy private investors. The North would want the bank because they make a lot of money through industries and the South, on the other hand, opposed the National Bank because they just lived by what we say, “from paycheck to paycheck”. Madison also argued that it is unconstitutional because the constitution says nothing about having a National Bank. The National bank was needed because the government had a debt from the Revolutionary War and each state had a different currency. In the end, Hamilton convinced Washington and the majority of the congress, which resulted in the establishment of the Bank of the United States.

Ever since the end of the War of 1812, British goods, such as iron and textiles, were sold far below the cost of American made goods. Consequently, few bought American-made merchandise. If a tariff would be put on imported goods, the price of foreign merchandise would increase, thereby eliminating the price advantage. Tariff revenues would also help with internal improvements. As a result, President James Madison proposed the Tariff of 1816. Most of the north welcomed this tariff but the South and the West, whose lives did not depend on manufacturing, disliked the tax on European imports. People in Congress, who were either from the South or the West, like Henry Clay and Calhoun, wanted to improve the Tariff of 1816 in a national interest.

The American economy was changing drastically. The Monroe Doctrine had stopped from any European colonization in the Western Hemisphere, the Missouri Compromise had settled the controversy about slave states and free states, the National Bank would finally organize the currency and financial issues that the country had, and the Tariff of 1816 had boosted the manufacturing industries. Nationalism and Sectionalism had challenged each other throughout the first six decades of the 19th century. These are just few of the many issues of nationalism and sectionalism that our country went through to be what it is today.

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