Antebellum America


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This presentation covers trends in antebellum life that gave way to some of the sectional tensions, between the North and the South, that will factor into the emergence of the American Civil War. It is the second in a series of textbook/lecture substitutes designed for students in a college seminar on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Statistics from Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1-4. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HIS 5040/7040: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 4-5. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 6-9. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 9-12. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Date accessed: 6/7/2012. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 10-12. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 14-16. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 12-14. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Image from Date accessed 6/1. Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 16-18. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Image from Date accessed 6/1.Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 18-19. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Image from Date accessed 6/1/12. Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Image from Date accessed 6/1/2012. Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 23-26The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 27-36.The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 35-The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 61.The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Donald, et al eds, The Civil War and Reconstruction, 45-47. The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Antebellum America

    1. 1. The Civil War & Reconstruction
    2. 2.  Understand the rapid changes in American life & culture during the antebellum period.  FYI-antebellum simply means before war.  Historians debate the origins of the period butfor our purposes, it spans the period from roughly 1800-1860. Understand the sectional identifies, differences, & tensions that divide Americans. Get a preview of how debates over slavery’s expansion into the western territories and the collapse of the second party system will exacerbate the sectional differences that lead to civil war.
    3. 3.  Historians have identified changes in American society during the 1830s-1850s as triggering some of the sectional strife that became the catalyst to civil war. The advanced modernization of the northern states marked by immigration, industrialization, and urbanization and the continued agricultural focus of the southern states marked by slavery, historians argue, created not only very different ways of life but also very distinct regional identifications. As we will see, this regional identification would manifest itself most in discussions about westward expansion, slavery, political parties, and the future of the country.
    4. 4.  Geographic Expansion  From 880,000 square miles (1783) to 3 million square miles (1860) Demographic Boom  From 23 million to 31 million  Higher birthrates  Immigration from Europe & Asia increases Urbanization  New towns, new cities Industrialization  New technology &better transportation The First Emancipations  A growing free black population
    5. 5.  At the beginning of this period, the Northern States’ abolition of slavery will differentiate this region from the South. Ira Berlin describes northern emancipation as a “slow and tortuous process” because they  Enacted Gradual Emancipation Laws whereby enslaved people who were born after a specific date were held to service for a period of time (18-25 years) and then freed.  People born into bondage before the date would remain enslaved for life.  Some states established apprenticeship riders to these laws which allowed masters to keep these people in bondage after they reached the age specified in the law.  Replaced slavery with other racialized hardships, reflecting anti- black racism, including  Rigid racial discrimination in employment.  Denial of equal rights-(disfranchisement, segregation, property rights, lack of due process, etc.).  Sometimes free blacks are banned from entering newly established northern states like Indiana and Illinois.
    6. 6. The Abolition of Slavery in the North1777 Vermont prohibits slavery via constitutional convention1780 Pennsylvania begins to abolish slavery gradually1783 Massachusetts Supreme Court abolishes slavery1784 Connecticut and Rhode Island pass gradual abolitionlegislation1785 New Jersey and New York legislatures defeat efforts topass gradual abolition laws1799 New York legislature passes gradual abolition bill1804 New Jersey enacts gradual abolition
    7. 7.  Mostly from Germany, British Isles (Scotland), Ireland, Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), & China. More than 3 million arrive, most live in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West with few going to the South. Ethnic & racial stereotypes arose as native-born Americans grew anxious over economic & political competition from new arrivals and from changes they made to the nation’s social and religious landscape. New arrivals are blamed for the ills of the new society.
    8. 8.  Westward Expansion as nation acquires more land from Great Britain and Mexico. Acceleration in crop production provides more food stuff & generates more wealth. Farms, especially those with access to trading centers, become specialized enterprises participating in the national marketplace. Other farms, those in isolated spaces, continue self- sufficient production. Advances in technology increase production.
    9. 9.  Railroads grow, connecting the nation, speeding the movement of people, information, and goods.  8,500 miles of railroad in 1850, 30,000 miles in 1860 Maritime advancements occur  Water transportation is accelerated by discovery of new waterways, shipbuilding, and development of steam- boat technology Atlantic Cable  Telegraph wire escalates communication Southerners will also get this technology but they will embrace it much later and at a slower pace than their northern counterparts.
    10. 10.  Manufacturing Boom  Work becomes more centralized and mechanized.  Growth in cotton textiles, glass, paper, machine tools, woodworking, etc.  Americans’ & Europeans’ innovation increase manufacturing.  Factories grow in number and in size.  Greater demand for manufactured goods. The South will see a much slower manufacturing boom. Southerners quickly integrate slavery into their industrialization. For example, they will put enslaved people to work in tobacco and chemical factories and in salt mines.
    11. 11.  Expansion of industry & transportation support the growth of cities. Cities spring up around trade and access to transportation (by land or by sea). Jobs bring people to the cities to work and to live, severing social ties of agrarian world. Low wages, limited opportunity, crime, disease, etc. trigger chaos. The South certainly has booming cities in Charleston, New Orleans, Mobile, Richmond, and Atlanta but there were fewer major cities in the region than there were in the North.
    12. 12.  Class divisions widen as a result of economic development. More working class women enter the workplace. More working class workers (men and women) form associations to protect their interests. Rise of cities exposes more Americans to hardship & triggers rise of an underclass. Economic crisis of 1857 reveals the limitations of the advances in technology and transportation. All of this triggers a series of reform movements designed to address the social ills.
    13. 13. EducationSeen as a way tolevel thesocioeconomicplaying field.Also viewed as away to train theworkforce.Primary andSecondary Schoolsincrease.Seminaries forwomen open.
    14. 14. TemperanceOrganized effortsto:Educate Americanson the harmfuleffects of “demonrum.” Enact legislation toprotect individuals,families, &communities.Decrease alcoholconsumption.
    15. 15. Women’sRightsWomenmobilize tofight beingdenied humanrights propertyrights(couverture),disfranchisement as well asdiscriminationin employmentand wages.
    16. 16. Anti-slavery Movement Anti-slavery societies spring up- support gradual abolition of slavery and colonization. Rise of abolitionism- support immediate abolition. Antislavery in some circles comes to mean anti-southern.The painting of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention atExeter Hall.
    17. 17.  Newspapers and journals  Increased from 1200 in 1835 to 2,526 in 1850.  Increased power of the press to shape opinion and policy.  Connects Americans and reduces the space between individuals, ideals, political beliefs, and events,which some historians argue will factor significantly into the hostility that we see leading up to the war. Literary Writers  Longfellow, Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, Emerson capture the concerns of the time.  New women writers, like Stowe, capture concerns affecting the family and women’s oppression. The South will have similar cultural developments but they will be slower in their advancement & smaller in their numbers.
    18. 18.  Modern. Industrious. Support for tariffs, ship subsidies, and internal improvement bills that supported railroads, public education, etc. More reform minded to address the ills of society. More supportive of industry and urbanization. Some are opposed to slavery for moral, economic, and political reasons but most believe that blacks and certain immigrants are inferior. Believed the U.S. was a place where every man could succeed.
    19. 19.  The South experienced many of same changes as the North.  It had a very diverse population; it experienced great new settlement; some parts of the South were booming (inland) while some were in decline (seaboard).  It started to catch up to the North in terms of modern innovation—factories, cities, newspapers, telegraphs, and political machines. The South, however, was very different.  It remained mostly agricultural and rural; it had a smaller white population; it was dominated by a planter aristocracy; its family arrangements gave men more patriarchal authority.
    20. 20.  Production of agricultural cash crops (hemp, tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar, indigo, wheat) at the center of southern economy and life.  In the Chesapeake region (DL, MD, D.C., VA), selling surplus slaves into the Deep South (AL, LA, MS, KY, MO, etc.) was a booming business. The slaveholding plantation is the ideal life for most whites. The hierarchy of white southern males involved planters, yeomen farmers, and landless whites.  30-50% of white farmers owned no land and no slaves-- they were renters, tenant farmers, and day laborers who scratched out an existence.  Of the slaveholders, the majority owned less than 20 slaves.  The dream of many of these men was to become wealthy by owning slaves. The dominance of planters and slavery varied by region even within the same state.
    21. 21.  By 1860 there were only 393,967 slaveholders out of a total U.S. white population of 8 million. ¾ of southern families owned no slaves. Owners of more than 50 slaves numbered fewer than 8,000 (only 3% of the population).  In other words, only 35% of the population owned a slight majority of all of the enslaved people. Median slaveholding in the antebellum period was 4-6 slaves/master. Only a very small portion of slaveholders were black and most of these people bought their relatives out of slavery and could only legally free them if the laws of their states permitted them to do so.
    22. 22.  Cotton Gin was created by Eli Whitney and patented in 1793. The gin freed enslaved laborers to pick the cotton and use the gin to separate the seeds. Cotton is easier to produce in massive amounts as a result of this invention. Short staple cotton (with a shorter growing season) becomes “king” among the antebellum cash crops produced by enslaved people. Though other crops (sugar in LMV) and industries (mining, factories, lumber) use slave labor, cotton becomes the foundation of antebellum slavery.
    23. 23.  Sugar cane cultivation in Louisiana region grows. Refugees from Saint- Domingue (Haiti) bring skills and desire to rebuild. Sugar becomes a major cash crop. Intensifies demand for slave labor in the region and pushes it from a “society with slaves” to a “slave society.”
    24. 24.  As Americans move west, so does slavery. Northern and Chesapeake slaveholders sell surplus slaves further south and west, creating a new “cash crop” of people. According to Walter Johnson, more than 1.5 million people transported in the domestic slave trade.
    25. 25.  Pro-slavery, some even supported re-opening the transatlantic slave trade; Farmers were mostly Democrats; urban commercial & banking interests were Whigs; planters had been Whigs but they became Democrats in the mid-1830s; Opposed the federal government’s tariffs, ship subsidies, and internal improvement bills; Rise of southern nationalism comes in the 1830s; Cult of chivalry; public honor; loyalty to kin; white racial superiority; Self-conscious identification with “southern way of life.”
    26. 26.  Nation starts to grow in Size and in Population with birth rates, influx of African slaves and European immigrants. Urban North urbanized and modernized by technological advances in transportation & rise of factories. Americans start migrating across the continent. Rural South remains static with less modernization, beyond those that support slavery’s advancement. Concerns, anxiety about changes & new political paranoia.  A lot of the rhetoric bears signs of not only sectional difference but also sectional strife.
    27. 27.  Proslavery southerners & Democrats decried what they called the “money power conspiracy.”  Argued northern bankers, businessmen, and industrialists controlled the credit were trying to rob “ordinary Americans” of their wealth & rob slaveholders of their human chattel so they could replace slaves with free white laborers.  Freedom couldn’t be extended to all men at once, so slavery or personal servitude allows for greater economic freedom for some.  Black slave labor preferable to “exploitable” white free labor.  Slavery paves the way toward progress for “all”.
    28. 28.  Anti-slavery northerners, Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans decried the “slave power conspiracy”  Argued southern slaveholders and wannabe slaveholders used their wealth to rob access to the land, depress wages of free laborers; were backwards and anti- progress.  South lagged behind the North and the Western world because of a single minded focus on slavery.  Decaying towns, roads, infrastructure, sky high illiteracy rates (excluding blacks), higher poverty rates (excluding slaveholding apparatus), less productive economy (slaveholders gobbled wealth and kept it for themselves), backwards—failure to urbanize.  Argued slaveholders wanted to “infect” the entire nation with slavery.
    29. 29. Democrats Whigs Supported limited government.  Supported more expansive Opposed national policies limiting government to improve nation & local control and subverting the grow economy. individual authority of whites.  Supported more religious influence Advocated states’ rights over on politics. national or federal rights.  Opposed slavery’s expansion into Supported the territorial expansion the West. of slavery.  Were more tolerant of women’s Advocated patriarchy. rights. It was a national party with support  Became a mostly northern party. in both regions.  Will be divided by Know-Nothings Support Native American removal. & Free Soilers and then supplanted by the Republican Party. Figures—Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas  Figures—John Q. Adams, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln.
    30. 30.  Although the narrative of a modernizing North and a slaveholding South is simple and therefore easy to follow and remember, it is important to understand that these differences alone did not lead to civil war. It would take other factors—namely tensions about such constitutional questions as where slavery can and cannot exist and how much power the national government has v. that of states, as well as political questions of which party dominates the government— to ignite the American civil war.
    31. 31.  Railroads: Steamboats: Atlantic Cable: Horace Mann: Temperance Movement: Women’s Rights: American Anti-slavery Society: Louisiana Plantation: Cotton Gin: . Sugar Cane: Cutting the Sugar Cane: Domestic Slave Trade Map: http://highered.mcgraw-
    32. 32.  David Herbert Donald, et al eds., The Civil War and Reconstruction Jeremy Atack& Fred Bateman, To Their Own Soil Richard Brown, Modernization Victoria Bynum, Unruly Women Catherine Clinton, Plantation Mistress Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders Walter Licht, Industrializing America Patricia Limerick, Legacy of Conquest Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds James Oakes, The Ruling Race Adam Rothman, Slave Country Betram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honors David Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion
    33. 33.  American Slavery  The Transatlantic Slave Trade;  The “terrible transformation” to lifelong, hereditary, race-based slavery;  The growth of slavery as an American institution;  Northern v. Southern slavery  Rural v. Urban v. Industrial slavery  Enslaved people’s lives and resistance to bondage;  The North’s abolition of slavery & the South’s expansion of it; and  The domestic slave trade