America in the 1850s

Slavery and Sectional Animosity

Did people feel there was a race between the North and the South? Was there already that much competition?

There was. Americans, in 1850, were a deeply, profoundly sectional people. They tended to identify first with the state where they lived and then with the geographic section to which that state belonged. This type of sectional thinking and identification had been around almost since the beginning of the republic, but it had truly accelerated since 1815, the year the War of 1812 ended. The conclusion of that conflict with Great Britain allowed Americans to expand in new directions, most of them westward. As they moved west, or did business with concerns in western areas, Americans attempted to bring the culture to which they belonged to new areas. For example, a Massachusetts man who moved to Illinois, and there were many who did, tended to bring his Northern, Yankee type of identity. And a South Carolina man who chanced to move all the way to Texas—as quite a few did—tended to bring his Palmetto State ideas and ideals with him. Perhaps because there was so much geographic mobility, Americans began talking about their “sections” of the nation as if by second nature.


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