As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.

History 110 -Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

Political, Economic and Social Consequences of Manifest Destiny

Our last two meetings focused on the geographical growth of the United States during the era of Manifest Destiny. Today, we will turn to the other part of our ongoing story - the political, economic, and social realities of Manifest Destiny. We have seen how Americans rapidly moved across the North American continent and using their belief in Manifest Destiny, rounded out our borders in just 53 years. Now, let's look at another type of growth that arose during these same decades - the economic and political growth of the railroads.

Maps of railroad growth in U.S.

 

Map of railroads in US in 1860

When examining these maps, you can clearly see that the northern or federalist economic vision of America is marching westward. And why is the vision of the industrial agenda of the federalists - of those living primarily in the North and who favor strong federal governmental involvement in the promotion of industry - is prevailing?

These economic and political realities - the two separate visions for the expanding United States - will shape the era of Manifest Destiny and ultimately, will push us further on the pathway to war.


Discussion Goals - Political, Economic  and Social Consequences of Manifest Destiny, 1800 to 1860

  1. To explore the factors that facilitated the transition between a local market economy and a national  market economy.
  2. To discuss the consequences of economic change upon American society.
  3. To discuss changes in the national political climate and the ways such political changes were directly related to national economic changes.
  4. To explore the presidency of Andrew Jackson and understand how it changed American politics.
  5. To understand the controversies over tariffs that arose during Jackson's presidency and how this moved us closer to war
  6. To examine the early reform movements designed to deal with the political, economic, and social consequences of Manifest Destiny.

 Discussion Goal #1: To explore the factors that facilitated the transition between a local market economy and a national  market economy

Both the colonies and the fledgling United States were tied into a free market economy - Americans depended upon the laws of supply and demand to voluntarily produce what people want and to sell their products to whom they want, with little to no interference from the government.

The transition to a national market economy was facilitated by three factors:

  1. The work force changed from manufacturing by hand to industrial manufacturing.
  2. The invention of the cotton gin allowed cotton production to dominate the economy and made its exportation a vital force for the entire American economy.
  3. A national transportation and communication network was created to link people and goods between regions.

FIRST FACTOR: Changing from Manufacturing by Hand to Industrial Manufacturing - a change fueled by new industrial technologies.

SECOND FACTOR: The invention of the cotton gin allowed cotton production to dominate the economy and made its exportation a vital force for the entire American economy

Cotton production vastly improved with invention of cotton gin in 1793.  Now, one slave could clean 50 pounds per day.  Both Southern and Northern economies improved - factories turn raw cotton into cloth; merchants profit from shipping; plantation owners profited from growing cotton.

As the maps below indicates, by 1821 cotton production accounted for a large portion of the Southern economy. And by 1859 when most farmers owned and used the cotton gin, cotton accounted for 75% of the world's supply and two-thirds of all American exports. In some states, its production had increased from 500-1000% (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi) Cotton production was not just good for the south.

Map of Cotton Production

THIRD FACTOR : A national transportation and communication network was created to link people and goods between regions

During the first decade of the 19th Century, western settlers relied on roads and rivers for transportation.

By the 1850s the popularity of canals and steamboats was dwindling in favor of the increasingly dominant new transportation mode - the railroad.

In short, the transition to a national market economy was facilitated by improved manufacturing, advanced technology, and a new transportation system.


Discussion Goal #2: To discuss the consequences of economic change upon American society

  1. American farming experienced many changes.

2. Society made its first large shift from rural to urban and at the same time, the U.S. population boomed. From 1820 to 1860, the U.S. witnessed the most rapid rate of urbanization in American history.

American Cities maps in 1820 and 1860

3. More goods and services became available, were more reasonably priced, and were especially affordable to the growing middle class.

4. Labor became more specialized.

5. Traditional laboring values and control systems disappeared.

6. Women's role in society was redefined at the same time that the family structure was reorganized.

5. Wealth became a sign of American status and a symbol of respect and recognition. As most Americans hoped to attain great wealth, a tolerance arose for accumulating wealth in any way possible. Few Americans were concerned about the method of becoming wealthy.

6. Environmental degradation occurred.

7. American society was both democratized and improved, as well as stratified and hindered.


Discussion Goal #3: To discuss changes in the national political climate and the ways such political changes were directly related to national economic changes

Before the Revolutionary War, Americans were interested in local matters and had little interest in national or state matters - economic or political. After the War, interest in national and state politics was minimal and involved only a minority of privileged, male Americans. However, from 1800 forward, many people began to realize that federal, state, and local governments could support economic projects in which they would benefit. As a result of this new interest, more people became involved in the political process.

Map of Manhood Suffrage, 1800, 1840, 1860 compared

By the middle of the century, more people began to vote in national elections than ever before, especially as political parties emerged with which people could identify. Increased voting and more interest in political parties combined with a new recognition among Americans that the federal government could be the instrument of stimulating or depressing local economies. Consequently, federal stimulation of the economy largely occurred via two avenues:

  1. Series of Supreme Court decisions that created an economic climate favorable to investment and which, in turn, protected the new forms of businesses that comprised a national market economy. In five major decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall between 1801-1835, economic risk-taking was clearly protected and encouraged. The decisions collectively protected property and contracts by limiting state interference and creating a climate of business confidence.
  2. National political leadership fell to men who wanted to use the federal government to promote rapid economic development. Led by Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and John Quincy Adams, they adopted economic policies designed to foster prosperity in all regions and to strengthen the political union between all states.

States, in turn, enacted measures to stimulate commerce and economic development. Such policies created the commonwealth system, which elevated the public good (common-wealth) above that of private individuals, and which involved two actions:

  1. Granting corporate charters to private businesses to promote private investment in roads, bridges, canals, railroads, banks, iron-mining, textile manufacturing,etc.
  2. Using private corporations for public purposes by promoting economic development thought to be for the good of all.

Thus, the economy grew - at the same time that the economic and political power of capitalist entrepreneurs also grew and more white men were able to vote. And with this new economic growth, came political growth and further differences between the federalists and anti-federalists. We can especially see this in two very interesting presidential elections in 1824 and 1828.

Map of 1824 presidential election Map of 1828 presidential election

Discussion Goal #5: To explore the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1828-1836) and understand how it changed American politics

With Jackson's eight-year term, the nation's political climate and the presidency gradually changed in at least 5 ways:

  1. The powers of the presidency greatly expanded under the first activist president. The powers of the president were increased while those of congress decreased.
  2. More Americans were involved in Jackson's election than ever before.   More  "common men" voted then in any other national election.  More people voted because the franchise had been gradually extended; and more people choose to vote - 56% of the eligible electorate cast a vote.
  3. Jackson's presidency ushered in a series of "firsts."   Jackson became the first president
  4. This election marked the beginning of patronage in national politics. For the first time in our history, advisors were not selected because they were qualified for the job, but rather because they supported Jackson for President and because they would unquestioningly follow his orders. Political Cartoon King Andrew I
  5. The first time that all regions of the country united to creat national political party. With Jackson's election, the Democrats brought together people from all three regions of the nation - north, south, and west.  People joined because of the issues and their belief in democratic leadership as espoused by Jackson - that the "people" should run the country, not the wealthy "aristocrats."

Jackson's two terms as president ended in 1836 with the election of Democrat, Martin Van Buren.

Thus, the Election of 1840 brought in a Whig (the newest Federalist party) - William Henry Harrison - who was president only for a month. Harrison died and vice-president Tyler, a Democrat who was a lawyer and a strict constructionist of the Constitution, gained control. Thus, the Democrats entered the 1840s in control of the White House.


Discussion Goal #5: To understand the controversies over tariffs that arose during Jackson's presidency and how this moved us closer to war

Protective Tariffs and Internal Improvements

The Tariff Crisis: By the 1820s, South Carolinians had become the most vocal state in its opposition to federalism. They especially feared that a strong federal government would look to the abolition of slavery.

South Carolinians, like many other Southerners, felt the tariffs were not truly national measures, but rather was a sectional tax that helped only some regions of the country while harming others. So, in November 1832, South Carolina’s Nullification Congress declared the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 "null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this state, its officers or citizens after Feb. 1, 1833."

Theory of Nullification - As Conceived by Vice President, John C. Calhoun. The Union was a compact between sovereign states. Thus, the people of each state had the right - through special conventions - toImage John C. Calhoun nullify any federal law that exceeded the powers which the Constitution had given to Congress. If a popular convention declared a law unconstitutional, it would become null and void in that state. Congress could either: yield to the state and repeal the law, or propose a constitutional amendment expressly giving the federal government the power in question.

If the amendment was ratified and added to the Constitution, the nullifying state could then either accept the decision, or exercise its right as a sovereign state by seceding from the Union.

In short, nullification protected the rights of the minority - the South.

The Proclamation of Nullification - As conceived by Senator Daniel Webster and formally presented as a response to South Carolina by President Jackson

The Union was not a compact of sovereign states; the people, not the states, had created the Constitution. Thus, the government was made by and for the people and was answerable to the people. The Federal government had sovereign powers in areas where it had been delegated responsibility. The Supreme Court, not the states, had the final authority to determine the meaning of the Constitution.

Jackson believed that the Union was perpetual and that under the Constitution, no state had the right of secession. While he was a strong supporter of the rights of states over their own affairs, Jackson would not tolerate a state veto on matters of national policy such as a tariff. Nulli-fication, then, was treasonous? He warned South Carolina that the tariff laws would be rigidly enforced, and that the army and navy would be used to quell any insurrection. A compromise was signed by Jackson on March 1, 1833 which called for gradual lowering of duties over next decade.


Discussion Goal #6: To examine the early reform movements designed to deal with the political, economic, and social consequences of Manifest Destiny

During the 1820s and 1830s, unprecedented numbers of men and women joined organizations that sought to improve or reform society. Reform efforts were especially strong in several areas: religion, alcohol consumption, education, criminal justice, social justice, labor, and slavery.


Conclusions: Political and Economic Change, 1800 - 1840

  1. A national economic market developed concurrently with a national political system.  Indeed, one was dependent upon the other.
  2. The transition from a local market economy to a national market economy was facilitated by three factors:
  3. This economic transition affected American society in many ways:  American farming experienced modernity; society made its first large shift from rural to urban; labor became more specialized; women's roles in society were redefined and family structure was reorganized; wealth became a sign of American status and a symbol of respect and recognition; traditional labor values and control systems disappeared; and such social changes encouraged the grown of reform efforts.
  4. The gradual urbanization of American society democratized and improved lifestyles for many and stratified and hindered lifestyles for others.
  5. The electoral process became more democratic and the direct vote became more widely used.
  6. The powers of the Presidency were greatly increased under Jackson.
  7. Americans acquired new expectations of politicians who were supposed to represent "the common man" and were  required to carry out the will of the people.
  8. Political parties became crucial to the election process.  Because not all members of the public had the same goals for their "public servants," the need arose for competing parties that would meet the needs of all the people and that would check and balance any political abuses.
  9. The basic pattern for successful national politics was established:  two political parties, the need to appeal to voters in all sections of the country, and the need to appeal to a range of social classes.
  10. An evolutionary chapter in national American politics began.  Very little was surprisingly new or revolutionary in national politics during the first 40 years of the nineteenth century.

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