HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
IN the twenty years immediately following the War of 1812 forces were evolving, institutions arising and changing, centers of social gravity shifting, and deep basic movements of various sorts taking place that have had the most lasting effects upon the whole structure of American life.
It was essentially a time of realignment of interests, and of changes in social attitude.
America had hitherto looked eastward across the Atlantic. Sometimes it looked with anger, but always with interest, and its problems were entangled with those of the older continent. Public questions turned on points located, in part at least, beyond the national boundaries. The dominant economic activity, aside from agriculture, had been commerce, and commerce is always concerned with external affairs. The industrial, social, and political upheavals that had taken place in Europe during the early years of the American Republic were such as to attract attention. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars were dramas that compelled the attention of the world.
After the War of 1812 the American social mind became introspective. Henceforth it was not to be concerned primarily with treaties, commercial bounties,
impressment, embargoes, and matters of the open sea and distant lands, but with turnpikes and canals, tariffs and manufactures, public lands, currency, banks, crises, poverty, state sovereignty, and chattel slavery.'
It was not alone that commerce was declining and manufactures growing. The people themselves were leaving the seaboard and setting their faces toward the West. The dribbling streams of immigrants that had been pressing through the clefts in the Alleghenies now became a mighty flood that poured over and around these barriers and swept down upon the Mississippi Valley. Between 1815 and 1820 western Pennsylvania, with Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio and Indiana, were filled with a hustling population.
During this period the people of the Ohio Valley reached the small farmer stage.
Since each farm was a small household manufacturing establishment, and especially
as the beginnings of the factory system were also apparent, this locality
developed a protectionist sentiment. Its most pressing need, however, was for
better transportation facilities. It is not surprising,
1 Boston Yankee, Nov. 4, 1819:
The time appears to be fast approaching when an important change must take place in the situation of the people of this country. The unexampled success of American commerce during the late troubled state of Europe appears to have fairly intoxicated the population of this country. Every newspaper from N. Orleans to Maine was loud in advocating the commercial policy; but the tranquillity of Europe has wrought such a change in the commercial world that the Americans begin to see and feel that it is not on commerce alone they must depend. New evidence arises every day to prove that we cannot entirely be a commercial people. The prosperity of the U.S. is bottomed upon the success of agriculture and manufactures, which begin to excite interest in proportion to the decline of commerce.
See also McMaster, "A Century of Social Service," Atlantic Monthly, Vol. LXXIX, p. 2,3; F. J. Turner, Atlantic Monthly, Jan., 1903, p. 84.
therefore, that Henry Clay, "the father of the American protective system" and the great champion of internal improvements, should have been sent to Congress from Kentucky during this period.
The South was also undergoing an industrial transformation. Here it was not the supplanting of one form of industry by another so much as the rise of a new crop that was working the change. The invention of the cotton gin had made the cultivation of upland cotton profitable, and as a consequence the competition of Western lands was ruining the agriculture of the seaboard. The " Virginia dynasty," composed of the Washingtons, Madisons, Jeffersons, Randolphs, and others, whose families came across the Atlantic at the time of the Commonwealth in England, were being impoverished, and losing their industrial power, were being relegated to the rear politically.So complete was the industrial decline of Virginia that one observer declared that the larger plantations were nearly all plunging their owners deeper and deeper into debt. In 1830 John Randolph prophesied that the time was coming when the masters would run away from the slaves and be advertised for in the public papers.1 It was during this period that Thomas Jefferson became so impoverished that public subscriptions were raised to relieve him and Congress purchased his library, a transaction from which sprung the present magnificent Congressional Library.2
It is not surprising that such an industrial condition should have given rise to
considerable antislavery sen-
1. Frederick J. Turner, "The Rise of the New West," p. 59.
2. Thomas Watson, " Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson," p. 508.
timent in Virginia. This sentiment was of short duration. In another generation the upland cotton planters and the Louisiana sugar raisers were demanding slaves in such numbers that their production in Virginia became a profitable industry. In New England, although the old fishing and mercantile rulers were passing off the stage, many of the same families succeeded to the line of power by investing their capital in the rapidly growing manufactures.
Until this period the merchants and the commercial interests, in alliance with the Southern planters, had controlled the national government. The manufacturers who were struggling for influence in that government were quick to point out the extent to which the nation had used its machinery for the benefit of commerce. Matthew Carey, the great spokesman of the manufacturing interests, places upon the title pages of his "Essays on Political Economy" a table comparing the treatment accorded to agriculture, commerce, and manufactures. In his "New Olive Branch" he points out that,
The second act passed by the first Congress contained clauses which secured to the tonnage of our merchants a monopoly of the whole China trade - and gave them paramount advantages in all other foreign trade. . . .
In order to exclude foreign vessels from the coasting trade they were subjected to a tonnage duty of fifty cents per ton for every voyage; whereas our vessels paid but six cents, and only once a year.
The methods by which these favors for the mercantile interest were secured are very clearly understood by Carey, and he instances them as an example that must be followed by the manufacturers if they are to have the use of the government to defend their interests.
"It is not difficult to account for this parental care," he tells us. "The mercantile interest was ably represented in the first Congress. It made a judicious selection of candidates, and carried the elections pretty generally in the seaport towns. . . . The representation in Congress was divided almost wholly between farmers, planters, and merchants. The manufacturing interest was, I believe, unrepresented ; or, if it had a few representatives, they were not distinguished men, and had little or no influence. It shared the melancholy fate of all unrepresented bodies in all ages and all nations."
As fond parents are prone to predict brilliant futures for each new-born infant, so at the time of the birth of the factory system the most extravagant blessings were expected from its development. Even the columns of the Annals of Congress break into peans of promise, singing of the blessings to be brought with the new machinery. In a report submitted by Tench Coxe in 1814 he congratulates the workers of America on "the variety of ingenious mechanisms, processes, and devices, which, while they save labor, manifestly exempt them from the deleterious modes of the old manufacturing system." He proceeds in a strain that has a queer
156 SOCIAL FORCES IN AMERICAN HISTORY
sound in the ears of those who have seen the effects actually produced by these machines:
Women, relieved in a considerable degree from their former employments as carders, weavers, and fullers by hand, occasionally turn to the occupation of the weaver, with improved machinery and instruments, which abridge and soften the labor, while the male weavers employ themselves in superintendence, instruction, superior or other operations, and promote their health by occasional attention to gardening, agriculture, and the clearing and improvement of their farms. . . . These wonderful machines, working as if they were animated beings, endowed with all the talents of their inventors, laboring with organs that never tire, and subject to no expense of food, or bed, or raiment, or dwelling, may be justly considered as an equivalent to an immense body of manufacturing recruits enlisted in the service of the country."1
with fairly strong protective features. This measure was carried by the votes of the Middle and Western states, with some help from the South. The commercial interests of New England, led by Daniel Webster, a newcomer in Congress, offered the; strongest opposition. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was a supporter of the tariff. Changing economic interests later reversed the positions of these two antagonists.
The South still hoped that it might become the seat of manufactures, or at least that it would find in New England cotton factories a better market than abroad; while the fear of foreign competition in the raising of cotton led Southern planters to desire a market in which they might hope to have at least a great advantage.1
Louisiana was beginning to produce sugar, and the interests of the producers of
this crop led her representatives in Congress to join with the protectionists.
The decline of New England commercial and Southern tobacco interests was
transferring the center of power to the Middle and Western states. Pennsylvania
was now becoming the "Keystone state" in more than location. Although it had not
yet obtained the domination in manufacturing that it was later to possess, it was
advancing toward that position. Its most strikingly strategic position at this
time was due to its possession of the principal gateway to the West. Hostile
Indians still occupied northern Ohio and Indiana, and the great highway of the
Hudson, Mohawk, and Genesee rivers was not being used.
1 Edward Stanwood, "American Tariff Controversies in the Nineteenth Century," p. 106 ; C. K. Babcock, "The Rise of American Nationality," p. 160; Niles' Register, Vol. XXVI, p. 113.
The Ohio River was the main artery of trade and travel. Until after 1830 there
was to be little settlement west of the Alleghenies that was not dependent upon
this river. A map of population prior to that time shows few important
settlements in that region bordering on the Great Lakes that is now almost
dominant in national life. The principal cities of the West were Cincinnati,
Marietta, Louisville, and St. Louis. This trans-Allegheny empire had grown to
great importance in American life. Its trade was determining the growth of
seaboard states and cities and the direction of future national development.
Three cities on the Atlantic coast were contending for the control of the Western
trade. These were Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. The weapons with which
cities fight for trade are usually improved systems of transportation. At this
time inland transportation was by canals and turnpikes. There was a perfect craze
for the construction of these forms of trade highways.1 New York was
planning the Erie Canal. Baltimore had succeeded in inducing Congress to
undertake the Cumberland Road, a great national highway to pass through
Cumberland Gap, near Wheeling, West Virginia, and on into and across Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois.2 Philadelphia was developing a system of
internal canals with state help, to secure the advantage possessed by the fact
that the principal gate for Western trade was already located at Pittsburg.
1. For a description of the manner in which the War of 1812, with the Embargo and blockade, had compelled the development of inland transportation, and especially of trade by wagons, see McMaster, "History of the People of the United States," Vol. IV, pp. 218-221.
2. L. Ringwalt, "Development of Transportation Systems in the United States," p. 21.
There was still another contestant for the trade of this Western territory. New Orleans, with all the advantage of a never ceasing river current flowing from the source of the trade past her doors, was the natural outlet for many of the products of this district. In 1811, by the launching of the first steamboat on Western waters at Pittsburg, the advantage of the current was largely lost, and the whole aspect of Western travel began to be transformed.1
One of the important sources of Western wealth during this period was the fur trade. The American Fur Company, controlled by John Jacob Astor, was chartered in 1808, and within a dozen years had become a power throughout the upper Mississippi Valley and even on the Pacific coast. The explorations of Lewis and Clark and Pike opened up rich fur territory, which was exploited until settlement invaded its sources a generation later.
Owing to the difficulties of transportation, there was no strong national
feeling. It was not alone New England that threatened to secede. The Mississippi
Valley was filled with intrigue and with separatist sentiment. The ties that
bound the interests of this locality with the Atlantic coast were few and
tenuous, and were only tightened when the national government used its power to
protect Western interests through internal improvements and a protective tariff,
and later when the railroad, steamship, and canal systems laid a firm basis for
1. L. J. Bishop, "History of American Manufactures," Vol. II, p. 173; Timothy Flint, "Condensed Geography and History of the Western States," Vol. II, pp. 228-220.