America’s Social, Economic, and Political Developments During the Early Nineteenth Century
The beginning of the nineteenth century was characterized by many changes in America’s political, social, and economic aspects, which not only triggered developments during the period but also built the country’s foundation. The signing of various treaties, wars, and events, such as the market revolution, had different impacts on its population. Increased industrialization and slavery were the major positive and negative changes witnessed in the early nineteenth century.
The nineteenth century was marked by remarkable economic growth in the country. During this period, vast industries were created in the North, which employed many workers. Many farmers began growing crops for sale rather than for subsistence use. The transportation improvement in terms of canals, railroads, steamboats, and roads continually fueled trade within and outside the country, resulting in the market revolution. For example, between 1790 and 1807, America’s exports increased from $20.2 million to $108.3 million. This proves the immense economic growth witnessed in this era. The availability of banks helped farmers to access credit to expand their enterprises (The American Yawp). Therefore, the expansion of the manufacturing industries and cash crop farming contributed to significant economic development.
In the political sphere, the American government established some diplomatic relations with other nations. Diplomacy promoted trade between the country and other nations, particularly in Europe. The government also signed treaties to protect its citizens; for example, the Treaty of Ghent was passed to safeguard American sailors. The country’s social structure also experienced some slight improvements that changed the employees’ lives. The War of 1812, which focused on “A free trade and sailors’ rights,” introduced the protection of workers, such as sailors, against impressment by the British navy. Although this slogan was first used to safeguard the rights of Americans at sea, it was later used by groups of workers to protest against low wages and unfavorable working conditions. For instance, a version of the slogan dubbed “Free Trade and Mechanic’s Rights” was used in 1828 by cloth workers to protest against the closure of stores in the evening by merchants in New Hampshire (Gilje 20). Thus, this era introduced social movements to protect workers’ rights.
Conversely, the beginning of the nineteenth century was accompanied by several adverse changes. The corporation’s involvement in the political landscape provided leeway for government injustices. In Andrew Jackson’s message concerning the Bank, he explains his displeasure with the interference of private corporations to bend government regulations for their self-interests (Jackson). This was at the expense of farmers and other laborers, proving that some government regulations oppressed the poor. The increased economic growth also negatively affected some groups of people. In this case, the high demand for cotton in the textile industries increased slavery (Ford 102). This is because the plantations in the South needed more slaves to increase the supply of cotton. The increased industrialization also introduced child labor and low wages for employees. This raised an endless cycle of poverty, and the gap between the rich and the poor widened.
In addition, this era was characterized by great injustices to the African-Americans and the Native Americans, most of whom were still enslaved. For example, Frederick Douglass narrates his struggles as a slave, where slaves had to borrow free papers from other black people to move from one region to another (Douglass 245). The New Echota Treaty allowed Indians’ land to be grabbed and limited their freedom (Ross 458). There was also widespread racism in the country because, despite the “Free trade and sailors’ rights” policy, any black sailors who came on shore while on the port were imprisoned. Therefore, the government that had pledged to protect all its citizens’ rights enacted some regulations that adversely affected them.
In conclusion, the nineteenth century’s social, political, and economic developments had both positive and negative effects. The market revolution significantly improved the country’s economy while the government’s diplomacy created peace, promoting trade. Nevertheless, economic growth encouraged slavery, low wages, and child labor. Racism also became prevalent, affecting many people of color, especially African-Americans. Regardless of the negative impacts, this era significantly contributed to the development of a great nation.
The American Yawp. The Market Revolution. Stanford University Press, 2021. Web.
Ford, Lacy. “Reconfiguring the Old South: “Solving” the Problem of Slavery, 1787–1838.” The Journal of American History, vol. 95, no.1, 2008, pp. 95-122. Web.
Douglass, Frederick. “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” De Wolfe & Fiske, 1892, pp. 245-247.
Jackson, Andrew, “Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the U.S.,” Congress, 1832, United States Senate, Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Gilje, A., Paul. “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights”: The Rhetoric of the War of 1812. Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 30, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-23.
Ross, John. The Papers of Chief John Ross. University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.