Print
Category: Expansion and Conflict, by William E. Dodd
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

When the West under the guidance and tutelage of Jackson, Calhoun, and Benton took possession of the national administration in 1829, the older and more cultured elements and classes of the East trembled for their country and for the institutions they held dear. The day was dark to John Quincy Adams and his followers, not only because they had been deprived of power, but because the rural sections of the East, the towns and villages which had been active and prosperous from 1783 to 1807, showed almost as many signs of stagnation and premature decay as did the Old Dominion, where public men were in a state of alarm and dismay.

For fifteen years the highways of New York and Pennsylvania had borne their burden of New England emigrants, laden with their meager belongings, as they journeyed westward to the Mohawk country, western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other rising communities of the West. Between 1820 and 1830 the population of New England as a whole increased but slightly, while in many counties of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut there was an actual decline. Ambitious young men or discouraged heads of families moved northeastward to the freer lands of Maine or to the Far West, without seeming love for the older haunts or thought for the fortunes of the Commonwealths which had given them birth. And New York, whose population increased from 1,400,000 in 1820 to 2,400,000 in 1840, drew heavily upon her eastern neighbors; Pennsylvania, of more steady habits, drew less from New England than her immediate neighbors, though both New York and Pennsylvania gave freely to the West. There was thus a steady drift of the people from their Eastern homes to the better opportunities of the Middle States, while from these, in turn, large numbers joined the more courageous who were never content until they built their cabins along the river borders or on the prairies of the Northwest.

The total population of the country in 1830 was nearly 13,000,000, while that of the East, including New England, the Middle States, and Maryland, was a little more than 6,000,000. Between 1820 and 1840 the population of the country increased from 9,654,000 to 17,669,000; that of the East increased from 4,850,000 to 7,350,000, of which 650,000 had come from Europe. This represented a growth of only fifty per cent in twenty years. But the rival South, as a whole, and this includes Kentucky and Missouri, had increased her population during the same period from 4,009,000 to 7,748,000, a growth of ninety per cent; while the West, as a whole, including Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, had grown from less than 1,000,000 to nearly 4,000,000. These facts were significant and really distressing to conservative politicians; they explain the jealous rivalry of the sections, and the alliance of the South and West foreboded the day when the more cultivated and the better settled region of the young nation, if it may be called a nation, would find itself in a hopeless minority.

If we add to this the fact that the lands of the East were the poorest in the Union and that their total area was less than 175,000 square miles, while those of the South were counted rich and embraced an area of 880,000 square miles, we shall understand how statesmen who listened to the jubilations of the Jackson men felt and envisaged the future--a future which the South alone might command; but which she would certainly dominate if she could only succeed in keeping the West true to her present allegiance.

But economic and social changes were taking place which gave the darkening cloud a silver lining. On an irregular but narrow belt of land stretching from southeastern Maine to the Chesapeake Bay manufacturing establishments had been erected, towns and cities had sprung into existence as if by magic, and migration from the poor farms and the hard conditions of New England country life was also turning to the mill centers, and thus giving promise of a new East, whose life should be industrial and urban like that of smoky, grimy Lancashire, England. The older commercial and seafaring interests, which had given the Federalists their power and made the American flag known on every sea, were now giving way to the vigorous young captains of industry whose mills at Lowell, Providence, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore gave employment to thousands of people. Much of the money which had made the New Englanders go down to the sea in ships was now invested in manufactures. The woolen mills of the East produced in 1820 a little more than $4,000,000 worth of cloth, the cotton mills, $4,834,000; but in 1830 the yearly manufactures of wool, cotton, and iron were estimated by the Government as worth $58,500,000. Yet the total investment in these enterprises was not much in excess of $100,000,000. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania the growth had been miraculous, and the profits were enormous, if we except one or two years for the woolen interests.

So that while the total annual crop value of Southern plantations amounted to $40,000,000, and the _per capita_ wealth of the white people of the so-called black belt was very large, the returns from three industries located in a much narrower industrial belt of the East were more than a third greater. The taxable value of the slaves who produced most of the cotton and tobacco was not less than $1,000,000,000; the total investments of the East in manufactures of all kinds was certainly not more than a fourth as great as that in slaves. And what made this development the more significant was the fact that nearly all that the black belt produced was sold in Europe, while nearly all that the industrial belt produced was sold to the people of the United States, mostly to States which were not engaged in manufacturing at all.

A portentous revolution was taking place. Before 1820 nearly all the wool of the country had been made into cloth by hand in the homes of the people, and the ratio of home manufactures to population was about the same in most of the States. Now the sheep-raisers sold their wool to the mill men, who sold the country the finished product and whose factories were concentrated in a small district. The cotton mills had been a negligible economic factor in 1812; now their owners employed a capital of $30,000,000 to $35,000,000 and supplied work for 70,000 laborers. From the farms of the interior, where life was in the open, the poorer and less ambitious elements of the population, who were not attracted to the West, were drawn to the growing industrial towns, where they lived, a family in a room, worked twelve to fourteen hours a day, amidst unsanitary and even immoral surroundings, for wages which ranged from one dollar to six dollars per week. The cost of living was, to be sure, correspondingly low; but when the year of toil for men, women, and children of all ages was told, there was usually an unpaid account at the company's store, and the chance of bettering one's worldly fortunes appeared almost hopeless. Emigration to the West was the only escape, and the difficulties of such an escape, the cost of sustenance for the long journey, on foot, the greater cost of building a cabin in the forest and maintaining one's family till a crop could be harvested, and the necessity of buying the land on which the cabin was to be raised, made the undertaking heroic. Thus, when the mill life was once begun it was seldom deserted.

Without educational advantages, save in the most rudimentary way, without any fair prospect of ever becoming independent or of materially improving their status, these mill workers kept up the daily round of labor, earning the millions which were laying the foundations of a new and greater East, eventually a new United States, and voting, in so far as they exercised the right of suffrage at all, for the cause of their masters, against the "slave-drivers" of the South and for protection to manufactures as a means of defending themselves against their poorer brethren of Europe. As to their total number, we have no more reliable estimate than that of McMaster, who says there were not less than two million operatives in all lines of industry in 1825. Nobody thought of these people as slaves; and most people thought they must be happy to escape the dull life of the country, and that fourteen hours' work was a normal human exercise. A worthless father who lived on the labor of little children of his own begetting was counted lucky to have children to work for him; and the girl who entered the primrose path as a possible way of escape from her hard surroundings was then as now promptly ruled out of the pale of human sympathy and consigned to the lake of everlasting fire and brimstone.

Another great interest had grown to immense proportions in the East of 1830--the financial. Beginning with the flush times of Hamilton's leadership, the financier had grown in power and influence, sometimes purposely organizing a monopolistic control over the money of the public, as in the case of the Suffolk Bank of Boston, sometimes mercilessly robbing depositors, as in the notorious defalcation of the Derby Bank of Connecticut in 1825, until it had become a serious national problem not merely to regulate the currency of the country, but to curb the rapacity of those who, under one pretense or another, violated the laws of all the States in order to heap up hasty fortunes. In 1815 there had been 208 banks in the country, mainly in the Middle States and New England, with a capital of $82,000,000; at the end of the year 1833 there were 502 banks with a capital of $168,829,000. At the end of the second war with England, there were $17,000,000 of specie in the banks; eighteen years later, when the capital had doubled, loans had greatly increased, and notes in circulation were $61,000,000, there were still just $17,000,000 of gold and silver in all the banks.

The business of the East naturally tended to the concentration of the financial resources of the country within her towns, but the location of 414 of the 502 banks of the country in the narrow section under consideration would seem to indicate something more than a natural tendency. The six million people of the East enjoyed three times as many banking facilities, when we consider the amount of money in circulation, as the seven million Southerners and Westerners. New York alone had a banking capital of $28,000,000, Massachusetts $21,000,000, and the _per capita_ circulation of money in the East was nearly $9, while that of the West was $2. To him that hath shall be given is a familiar axiom which seemed doubly true of the United States at the time of Jackson's accession to power.

All signs pointed to a congestion of the financial resources of the whole country in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The great National Bank, with its $35,000,000 capital and loans of $40,000,000, was located in Philadelphia; New York City had not so strong a banking system, but the growth of her real estate values was $40,000,000 in the five years preceding 1831; and the tax valuation of the property of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, in which Boston was located, was $86,000,000 as against $208,000,000 for the whole State.

The masters of this region were reaching out for the commerce of the West through the Erie Canal, which made northern and central Ohio the hinterland of New York; through the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which were aimed at western Virginia and the Ohio Valley. The shipping interests of New England and New York did the same for the South, whose millions of bales of cotton all went north or to Europe in eastern-made and eastern-owned vessels. And while these enterprising leaders sought to control the commerce of the country, they also knitted together their own towns and river valleys by canals and turnpikes. Boston and New Haven were almost united by canals and railroads in 1830; the Delaware and the Susquehanna were paralleled far into the interior in order to bring the produce of the country to the manufacturing centers. And a railway connected Philadelphia with the rich Susquehanna Basin, whose commerce had hitherto been controlled by Baltimore. Pittsburg was actually tied to the East before 1835 by water and railroad routes. Trade, manufactures, and finance; railways, canals, and home markets were the great subjects of conversation in the East, just as cotton, slaves, and land formed the trinity of Southern thinking.

The men who owned the industrial plants and managed the large banks and projected the ambitious railway and canal systems, the stockholders and the officers, the factors and storekeepers, were drawn from the same sturdy New England and Middle States stock, the small farmers and little merchants who had composed the democracy which had fought the Revolution. Retired sea-captains and owners of sailing-vessels joined the new régime as profits came in and the art of watering stock was understood. Throughout the East, from Chesapeake Bay to Augusta, Maine, wherever there were good waterfalls, great brick buildings were rising story upon story, proclaiming the new prosperity and enticing the hordes of workers so necessary to the new system. The old-fashioned mansions of retired traders or prosperous shipbuilders, which had so long adorned the hills of the coast towns, were giving way to the larger houses of the captains of industry who built up the inland towns or created the suburbs of the greater cities.

Like the planters of the South, with their two million slaves, these able and prosperous makers of a new era in the East had their two million operatives, and as in the planting districts, the working day was from sun to sun. Carrying the comparison further, the industrial and financial region was relatively small, embracing much less of the area of the country than did that of the black belt.[3]

[Footnote 3: See maps of tobacco and cotton belts on pp. 133, 134.]

From southeastern Maine to Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York City, and on to Baltimore, with a Western extension to Pittsburg, this irregular, now widening, now contracting, strip of country extended. It embraced the strategic positions, the falls of the rivers, the places whence ships could sail laden with the products of the industries or return with the raw materials necessary to their operation; it included the old commercial towns where the surplus capital of the East had been collected and where now gathered the populations which composed the districts whose spokesmen exerted the real strength of the North in the National Congress. It was this articulate East, the growing power of industry and finance, the promise of greater prosperity to come, which drew to it, like iron filings to a magnet, the talented and the ambitious men of the time, just as the black belt was the articulate part of the South for which men of ability and influence spoke in the national assemblies which gathered from year to year in Washington.

But the older mercantile and seafaring interests sometimes resisted the industrial movement and made precarious alliances with the South on the basis of a national free-trade policy. The great Boston merchants actually turned to Hayne, of South Carolina, in 1827, to represent them and their cause in Congress. The Winslows, Goddards, and Lees who thus appealed to a Southern Senator were representatives of the older order, of the same declining class in New York and Philadelphia which had in years past controlled affairs in the East and made alliances with the aristocratic leaders of the South. In a hopeless minority in their own States before 1830, they looked to the South for relief, and at least understood the politics of the planters. Their successors composed the nucleus of the party of Cushing, Everett, and Winthrop in 1860. It is difficult for us in our day of great things to understand the industrial and social revolution of the decade which preceded the inauguration of the first Western President, and it was difficult for men to make the transition from the small farmer system of Jefferson's day to the industrial régime of 1830; many good people were broken in the process, while whole classes of the population exchanged the life of the open country for that of the crowded and unsanitary towns, exchanged a rude and hard independence for a semi-servile subjection.

[Illustration: The Distribution of Industrial Plants in 1833 Miss Maud Hulse drew this map from data in House Documents, 22nd. Cong., 1st. Sess. No. 303.]

The new Eastern régime readily enlisted the support of the old professional classes. The clergy and the votaries of the law, always doing the bidding of the strongest in society, promptly took their places in the system. When dignitaries of an Eastern town gradually laid aside their rough farmers' clothes and put on the smooth garbs of directors of corporations or financial magnates, the legal briefs and sermons underwent a similar change. Social amenities displaced Calvinistic theology; dancing, which had been a crime against the Church, became mere frivolity and finally an innocent pastime. Leading lawyers ceased to plead in petit courts to inferior magistrates, and learned to devise forms of contracts, to lobby in legislatures, or appear with the great Maryland and Virginia practitioners before the Federal Supreme Court.

The legal profession of the East naturally made common cause with their clients. The state courts, already accustomed to curb the democracy of the time and declare public enactments unconstitutional, when the interests of property required, as readily joined the new standards. The careers of Justice Parsons of Massachusetts and Chancellor Kent of New York, to whom all judges and lawyers of the time looked up as sources of inspiration, illustrate admirably the common tendency. Everywhere in the East as in the South "independent" judges asserted the power to declare laws unconstitutional.

The national courts had undergone the same evolution, except that they had met with violent opposition in the South and West. In many decisions from 1792 to 1830 the Federal Supreme Court asserted its authority over Congress, the President, and the States. In almost all of these instances the federal judges found the heartiest support from the East. The great institution over which Chief Justice Marshall presided with such perfect dignity, and which was not paralleled anywhere else in the world, lent its support to the interests of the East. If the constitutionality of the tariff were denied by irate planters, Eastern men pointed to decisions of the Federal Supreme Court; if the powers of the General Government under which the industrial or financial interests of the East operated were questioned, it was easy to find a decision of Chief Justice Marshall to cover the case. Nothing proved more fortunate for the leaders of the industrial revolution than the almost constant support of the federal courts and of the legal profession as a whole.

The compact social life of the industrial towns was still further reinforced by the clergy. In the shift from a stern theology to an easy-going religious philosophy, William Ellery Channing was a conspicuous leader. Harvard had already become a Unitarian center, and in 1836 the Transcendental Club was organized in Boston with Ralph Waldo Emerson, a preacher in revolt against the old theology, as one of its leaders; high-toned men, whose minds revolted alike against the old Puritanism, the grosser talk of rates of exchange and the building of common roadways, found consolation in speculative philosophy and romantic literature. The _North American Review_ was already fifteen years old, and the best minds of the country were happy to have their thought and inspirations printed in its staid columns. Boston was a state of mind in 1830, and a good Methodist preacher who visited the city a little later lamented the lapse from the great virtues and the great theology of the Mathers.

But outside of Boston and its university suburb, there was little patience with a new religion or with a theology which did not teach the world the total depravity of man and the vengeance of an angry Deity consigning his wayward children to everlasting perdition. Southern gentlemen like Calhoun or Hayne might accept the mild and humane God of Channing, but not the farmers of the rural districts or the business men of the small towns.

If Boston cultivated philosophy and religious reform, New York was the seat of a literature that was read. Washington Irving, the author of the _Sketch-Book_ and _Tales of a Traveller_, was just returning from a long and triumphant literary sojourn in Europe to make his home on the Hudson. James Fenimore Cooper was publishing his _Leather Stocking Tales_, which have made the hair on so many boys' heads stand on end. William Cullen Bryant was making the _New York Evening Post_ the organ of American culture and setting the pace for the better element of the press. In Philadelphia, Carey and Lea were alternately publishing the writings of struggling literary lights and fiery pamphlets on the tariff and internal improvements. In 1832 John Pendleton Kennedy, of Maryland, published his _Swallow Barn_, a novel which portrayed the easy-going life of the Virginia planters; and in Richmond, William Wirt, disgusted with Western politics, rested on his laurels as the author of the _British Spy_ and the _Life of Patrick Henry_. To match the _North American Review_ the Charleston lovers of literature were publishing their excellent _Southern Review_. Even history was not without her muses. Reverend Jared Sparks was editing all the crudities of grammar and errors of spelling out of Washington's fourteen volumes of correspondence; George Ticknor, a young professor at Harvard, was beginning the work which was to culminate in his famous _History of Spanish Literature_; and George Bancroft was writing a _History of the United States_ which was to win him international fame and ultimately to secure him a seat in the Cabinet of President Polk.

If literature and history were beginning to thrive in New England and the Middle States, painting and sculpture also had their devotees. Allston and Greenough had won laurels in Boston; Inman and Sully were making portraits in Philadelphia which well-to-do Middle States lawyers and Southern planters liked well enough to pay for in good banknotes; even in far-off Kentucky Joel T. Hart was making the busts of great American politicians on which his title to distinction was to rest. And Charleston, never outdone in _ante-bellum_ times, encouraged a real genius in James de Veaux, the painter, so soon to fall a victim to tuberculosis. That was a promising religious, literary, and artistic life, which kept time to the looms of the industrial belt or idealized the nascent feudalism of the South. But we must turn to the fierce economic and political struggles about to be reopened in Washington--struggles in which Americans of that day as well as of this always take supreme interest.

The change in Massachusetts and Connecticut from a defiant particularism and an uncompromising free-trade policy, during the short years of 1815 to 1830, to a positive nationalism and emphatic protective program parallels exactly the change at the same time in South Carolina from nationalism and a protective tariff to a strict states-rights and an unbending free-trade system. If Calhoun turned sharp corners in those years, Webster proved equally agile. The whole life of the East was being reconstructed, and all classes were adapting themselves to the new organization. The small farmers, allies in 1804 of Thomas Jefferson and his up-country democracy, became ancillary to the industrial towns where they found markets for their products; and the new river and canal and railroad towns were but the recent creations of the new order. With the exception of a few remote counties and certain old-fashioned merchants, all New England and the Middle States ranged themselves around the dominant industrial masters and presented an almost solid front to the Southern and Western combination which had swept the country in 1828. There was no doubt that Adams, Webster, and Clay would renew the fight in time to make an issue in 1832.

And their case was by no means hopeless. In the electoral college of 1832 these Northeastern States would cast 131 of the total 286 votes. If the industrial forces could hold their communities together as the West had learned to do, and regain their former hold on Ohio, their candidate would again be successful. Losing the Presidency, they would still have, after the apportionment of 1831, a majority of 10 in the Federal House of Representatives, which would guarantee the protective policy against serious modification. And the moral support of the Supreme Court was not without value. Thus if the new President and the Senate be conceded, the popular branch of Congress and the national judiciary would make steady bulwarks.

If there were sections of New England, like Maine, or of the Middle States, like western Pennsylvania, whose people would not support the industrial program, there were dominant sections of the old South, like eastern Virginia and all South Carolina, where the leaders either feared or hated Jackson. Nor did all the West love the South. In the States which bordered the Ohio River most men demanded internal improvements at national expense, which all knew the South could not grant. With the ablest New England and Middle States leaders in the Senate and House, why might not the arrangement of 1825 be renewed? It was, then, with every expectation of victory in 1832 that the sanguine Clay came back to Congress in December, 1831; even John Quincy Adams, who now became a member of the House, was not without hope that the ill-selected Cabinet of Jackson would go to pieces and that a "restoration" would follow in due time. Washington was to be the scene of still another conflict of the sections that would threaten the very existence of the Union, not yet accustomed to the idea of a compact nationality.

 

Bibliographical Note

The best sources for the growth of the various industries before 1830 are government documents. _The Report on Manufactures, Executive Documents_, 22d Cong., 1st Sess., 2 vols., is a rare and valuable work; and _Executive Documents_, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., vol. 4, gives the statistics of manufactures down to 1850 by States. Darby and Dwight's _New Gazetteer of the United States_ (1833), and J. L. Bishop's _History of American Manufactures_ (1868), are useful if sometimes exasperating. Miss Katharine Coman's _The Industrial History of the United States_ (1910) is the best account for general use. J. B. McMaster's _History of the United States_, vol. v (1900), and F. J. Turner's _The Rise of the New West_ already cited (1906), are always serviceable. For a cross-section of the industrial revolution in New England, read C. F. Adams's _Three Episodes of Massachusetts History_ (1903). Davis R. Dewey's _Financial History of the United States_ (1903) is standard; and A. C. McLaughlin's _The Court, the Constitution and Parties_ (1912), gives the best account of the beginnings of judicial supremacy, while W. G. Sumner's _History of American Banking_ (1896) tells the story of the banks by sections. The _American Commonwealth_ histories are serviceable for the individual States. For the biographies of leading statesmen, the _American Statesmen_ and _American Crises_ series are satisfying. Intellectual life is well treated in W. P. Trent's _History of American Literature_ (1903), G. W. Sheldon's _American Painters_ (1899), and Lorado Taft's _History of American Sculpture_ (1903).

 

powered by social2s