Chapter 9 Summary
A Revolutionary War Hero Revisits America in 1824
A great surge of westward expansion and economic development, accompanied by soaring nationalist fervor, characterized the United States after the War of 1812. Marquis de Lafayette’s return to the United States in 1824 facilitated widespread support for his tour of the nation, he had helped win independence. His declarations praising the young nation’s success further fed nationalist sentiment.
Expansion and Migration
Before the abundant potential wealth of the Mississippi Valley could be realized, a dramatic westward surge of settlers had to be encouraged.
Extending the Boundaries
When John Quincy Adams hammered out the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819 with Spain, he was confirming the American belief in a continental destiny. Interest in the West grew as John Jacob Astor carried the fur trade to the Pacific Northwest, and the legends of “mountain men” were popularized.
Settlement to the Mississippi
Pushing the Indian tribes before them, settlers surged westward into the trans-Appalachian West. The federal government supported an official policy through a series of treaties with the Indians that stripped them of their land east of the Mississippi River. Most of the land originally passed through the hands of speculators before it reached the hands of farmers and planters. Local marketing centers (developed to meet the needs of the farmers) quickly arose.
The People and Culture of the Frontier
Most western settlers moved in family units and carried the elements of their "civilized" eastern existence with them. Communal cooperation eventually accomplished most of the work that had previously required self-reliance. Attracted by abundant western land, many settlers pulled up stakes after only a few years. Novelist James Fenimore Cooper helped this trend through the popularization of Natty Bumpo or “Leatherstocking,” whose traits laid the foundation for the western hero and the western romantic myth. Cooper’s characters epitomized American romanticism by demonstrating the superiority of solitary life in the wilderness.
A Revolution in Transportation
Political leaders realized the importance of linking these distant citizens with the rest of the nation through a viable transportation network.
Roads and Steamboats
The National (or Cumberland) Road was the first of the overland toll roads. Chartered by the states, these “turnpikes” failed, for the most part, to meet the need for cheap transportation over great distances. America's river network proved to be more efficient, and the Ohio-Mississippi system beckoned first the flatboat trade and, after Robert Fulton's invention in 1807, the steamboat.
The Canal Boom
In addition to rivers and roads, a system of canals was needed to link the Great Lakes, the Ohio, and the Mississippi with the coastal states. In 1825, the Erie Canal was finished, signaling the birth of the "canal boom," which lasted until the late 1830s.
Emergence of a Market Economy
Transportation improvements provoked increases in farm income and instigated commercial agriculture to take hold of the nation’s economy, further pulling the country into the web of a global, market economy.
The Beginning of Commercial Agriculture
Increasing farm productivity promoted the transition from subsistent diversification farming to profit-oriented staple farming. The availability of good farmland, increasing demand for cotton, the invention of the cotton gin, and slave labor made the South the world’s greatest cotton producer.
Commerce and Banking
The extension of credit by local merchants and manufacturers was crucial--it insured profits, the expansion of capital, and the need for banking. This demand for money after the War of 1812 created state and private banks exponentially, but they were often poorly regulated.
The surge of a market economy encouraged new industrial development. The nation’s first factory system emerged in New England’s textile industry. The U.S.’s infant industries before the 1840s, however, developed less dramatically than in European regions; as late as 1840, only 8.8 percent of the nation’s population labored in factories.
The Politics of Nation Building
A cohesive nationalist sentiment united the U.S. following the War of 1812. This spirit quelled the combatant political rhetoric that dominated the nation’s early political discussions, provoking many to proclaim the period an “era of good feelings.”
The Republicans in Power
The nation developed, and even prospered, economically, oftentimes with assistance from federal programs. Henry Clay called for an “American System” of protective tariffs and financed internal improvements. A second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 to promote the nation’s financial stability.
Monroe as President
James Monroe projected the image of a high-principled, disinterested statesman. Congress responded weakly to the economic crisis that began in 1819, and Monroe had no program of his own. He insisted that he was not responsible for the drastic economic downturn. He prized national harmony over economic prosperity.
The Missouri Compromise
Congress narrowly averted a national calamity with the Missouri Compromise in 1820, which settled the most serious sectional issue yet to challenge the federal government. Although Jefferson called the decision “a fire bell in the night,” it seemed that for the moment, nationalism triumphed.
Postwar Nationalism and the Supreme Court
With strong national leadership by Federalist John Marshall, the Supreme Court made great contributions to nationalism and the expansive powers of the federal government. In such decisions as McCulloch v. Maryland and Gibbons v. Ogden, the Supreme Court supported economic nationalism at the expense of certain state powers. Under Marshall, the Court played a powerful role in supporting the growth of a prosperous nationwide, capitalist economy.
Nationalism in Foreign Policy: The Monroe Doctrine
Recognizing the threat of a European Grand Alliance, and concerned with the collapsing Spanish empire in Latin America, and with the possibility of European re-colonization in the Western Hemisphere, President Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams issued the Monroe Doctrine, which was delivered as a warning to European powers that the United States opposed further colonization and political interference in the Americas.
The Troubled Presidency of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the supreme spokesman for nonpartisan and scientific achievement, but his leadership could not survive the growing sectional and economic divisions in the nation.
Conclusion: The End of the Era of Good Feelings
A nation founded and weaned on political debate could not sustain an “era of good feeling” for too long. John Quincy Adams’s presidency witnessed the end of calmer political discussion. Nonetheless, the nation maintained its devotion to national greatness and economic development.
August 21, 2008