United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

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Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition


Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013


Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device


Hardcover print text only


Per volume


Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost


Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform


Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Hardcover print text only


Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition


Per volume


Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013


Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition


Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

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Chapter 10: The Market Revolution, 1815-1835

Chapter Overview

The Battle of New Orleans, which came to define the American memory of the War of 1812, rejuvenated the nation. Following Jefferson’s “revolution” in 1800, the expansion of the nation through the Louisiana Purchase, and the constant maritime conflicts in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the United States had grown tired. In just over 25 years, the nation had doubled in size, experienced massive economic and social changes, and seen the meaning of its founding ideas change through bitterly divisive politics (Figure 10.1). The American people, those free citizens who lived in the cities and tilled the fields, hardly had any time to settle down, and think about what it meant to be a member of this new, expansive nation. The experience of the War of 1812 embodied this ever-changing but poorly defined national image. In effect, the United States got ahead of itself. The invasion of Canada simply did not work. The American cause was not defined enough to have any real meaning to the Canadian colonists Madison and his advisors hoped would join the invasion against Britain. After a series of miserable defeats, it was clear that the United States had chosen the wrong fight.

Chapter Objectives

  • Explore the effect of the War of 1812 on the American public, both socially and economically
  • Study the politics of the post-War of 1812 years
  • Understand the causes and legacies of America’s boom-and-bust economy of the late 1810s and 1820s
  • Contextualize the “American System” and the expansion of infrastructure with the technological growth that made it possible
  • Note and appreciate the difference ethnicity, gender, and race made in an individual’s experience of economic growth
  • Follow the development of early American industry

Figure 10.1: The United States following the War of 1812. Note the enormous expanse of territories in the West and Southeast.​

10.01 - Level 3

Click on the state whose residents occupied the White House during the entire period from 1801 to 1825.

The United States did not lack unity or purpose; it simply relied too heavily on the strength and clarity of its future vision while it developed. Similar to the 1780s and 1790s, the regional identities of the nation remained distinct and disparate in the early 1800s and 1810s. The South did not function as a neighbor of the Mid-Atlantic or New England. What little interaction the regions had was predicated primarily on politics and coastal trade. Interregional investment, travel, and migration proved too difficult or expensive to attract serious interest. As a result, when war broke out in the name of national unity, few Americans were fighting for the same thing, especially after the invasion of Canada backfired and Washington burned to the ground. The union of the states had proven defective, and was on the brink of collapse.

10.02 - Level 1

The Battle of New Orleans was technically fought after the War of 1812 was already over and held little political merit even though the battle ended in a lop-sided American victory.





This is why the Battle of New Orleans holds such a transformative place in American national lore. At New Orleans, under the command of a frontier general known best for fighting Indians on the Florida border, a group of people from diverse races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, many of whom had never in their lives considered themselves “American” in any way, defeated a professional British force. Even if the war itself did not weigh heavily on everyone’s minds, the defense of New Orleans and the defeat of the British moved hundreds of disconnected citizens to fight and potentially die together. Suddenly, as Jackson and his men celebrated in New Orleans, the diversity and meaning of the United States became clear to Americans everywhere. 

Figure 10.2: Battle of Lake Erie by William Henry Powell [1]

Few events have had such a sharp effect on national consciousness. Newspapers described the war as a “Second War of Independence” and politicians spoke of a “national rebirth” and proof of America’s “divine exception.” Traders, factors, and merchants in the North looked to the South to fill their factories, stores, and ships, sending speculators and investors to New Orleans, St. Louis, Charleston, and Nashville. Instead of looking outward to international markets for trade contracts and economic clout, the American commercial sphere looked inward, using the expanse of the nation to its own benefit. The United States, it seemed to many who cared to look, had proven itself in the international community. Though beaten and battered, it had defeated the British, tamed the French, and outlasted the Spanish. It controlled every major waterway in North America, owned the most productive land, and had the most expansive population in the western world. With fewer rivals than ever before and the mass of a continent, many Americans, especially the freeborn and landed, saw a future of nation building and growth ahead of them.

Question 10.03

10.03 - Level 3

What effect did victory at New Orleans have on the American national spirit and identity?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.03.

10.04 - Level 2

What statement best describes the American national character immediately following the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans?


A nation beaten and battered from a largely unsuccessful war worried about its international standing.


A proud nation reveling in its victory over its former colonial master and geographically dominant on the North American continent.


A nation split between pro-British sentiments in the South and anti-British, or “Whig,” sentiments in the North.


A young, aggressive nation dedicated to expansion further into Canada, the Caribbean, and Central America due to its victory over the British in the War of 1812.

New Politics for a New Nation

The War of 1812 changed everything. The new Federal City in the District of Columbia, along with its Capitol and Executive Mansion, burned to the ground; Baltimore and many other northeastern towns suffered the same fate, or received widespread damage at the hands of advancing British troops. By the winter of 1814, the northeastern states had experienced more than two years of warfare, and bore the brunt of more than 10,000 casualties and 2,500 deaths. It was their militias, rather than those of the western and southern states, that had fought the majority of battles and taken the heaviest losses. And it all occurred under the command of a Republican president they did not believe shared their interests or beliefs.

The Federalists had taken the northeast in every election they had run. From John Adams’s sweep of both the Middle Atlantic and New England in 1796 to DeWitt Clinton’s similar success against Madison in 1812, the northeast remained Federalist territory—an area wedded to the politics of industry, urbanization, and Atlantic trade. It cared little for anything southbound, even the products and potential profits of Virginia, the Carolinas, and the new Louisiana Territory. Ever since Hamilton took the reins of U.S. Treasury, New Englanders, New Yorkers, and many Pennsylvanians looked to the promises of Federalist centralization, regulation, and industrial support as the standards of American economic development. Jefferson’s embargo of 1808, while praised by parts of the South, hit New England and New York the hardest, effectively shutting down local ports and industrial centers, like Amherst, Newburyport, Lowell, and Portland. Madison’s presidency, and Macon’s Bill No. 2, gave New Englanders some hope, but for many it felt like an exception rather than a true political shift.

10.05 - Level 1

The _________\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_ Party had, since the 1780s, dominated the political sphere in New England and large portions of the northeast, but by 1812 found itself as an isolated dissenting voice.

In 1812, the United States went to war not at the behest of the northeastern traders and merchants constantly victimized by British impressment and French interference. The so-called “War Hawks” who touted war and cleared the path with rhetoric of national pride and self defense came from Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee, places with more to gain than lose in a full-scale war with Britain. By the end of the war, then, New England felt abandoned by the nation and by their neighbors, especially the Republican administration who had listened to the War Hawks and engaged in a war fought almost entirely in areas they did not represent. 

Figure 10.3: “The Hartford Convention or Leap no Leap” by William Charles, Jr. [2]

As Baltimore lay under siege, and, unknown to most Americans, the United States and Britain opened negotiations in Ghent, a group of New Englanders met in Hartford, Connecticut. There twenty-six Federalists from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont met to discuss their frustrations and the options they had before them. Led by Connecticut Senator Chauncey Goodrich, the meeting dubbed itself the Hartford Convention (Figure 10.3) and over the course of three weeks debated and discussed a series of issues resulting in a final report meant for the president’s desk. A number of convention delegates brought up the idea of secession, planning to unite New England in a new nation free of Republican influence and western expansion. Others proposed expelling newer western states, such as Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, from the union altogether. In the end, the group settled on five new amendments to the Constitution, each of which, they claimed, would satisfy their complaints and allay any threat of secession.

The irony was that Federalist delegates at Hartford proposed limits on the powers of government—something that would have seemed absurd just ten years earlier. For years they insisted that Jefferson, and to a lesser extent Madison, had usurped federal power for their own party’s benefit, the same party that had won election four straight times on a continued message of governmental reduction and social and cultural expansion. This was, in many ways, the Federalists’ final attempt to remain relevant in an increasingly Republican nation.

Figure 10.4: First page of “Secret Journal of the Hartford Convention” from Theordore Lyman, a short account of the Hartford Convention: taken from official documents. [3] ​

The Hartford Convention adjourned on January 5, 1815, just in time to hear rumors of a treaty signed in Ghent. The delegates selected three representatives from Massachusetts to deliver their report to Madison, hoping to catch him in the vulnerable state of a defeated man. Unfortunately, the rumors of a treaty were true, and news of peace had beaten them to the president. To make matters worse, Andrew Jackson and his ragtag militia had just defeated the British at New Orleans and word had arrived in Washington before the Hartford delegates could deliver their message. Little did the Hartford men know that when they presented the report to Madison, they also presented the end of the Federalist Party.

The Hartford report went public along with news of Jackson’s victory and the Treaty of Ghent (Figure 10.4). Suddenly, what seemed like a well-timed political coup became an anti-establishment act many editors and commentators painted as treasonous and backward. The victory at New Orleans stood so large on the national stage that the defeats of the previous two years evaporated into imagined successes. It was, to many, outright traitorous for a group of Federalists from New England to discuss secession, expelling western states, and offering up amendments that would hinder the progress of the Jefferson and Madison administrations. Within months, following a rabid newspaper response, the word “Federalist” implied sedition and corruption. Public outcry rebranded the Federalist opposition to Republican politics into an opposition to the nation itself. Everywhere the Federalists loosely held seats quickly shifted toward the Republicans, leaving Federalist minorities only in the oldest sections of New England. For all political purposes, the Federalist Party was done, and new political structure had begun. 

Question 10.06

10.06 - Level 4

What was the purpose of the Hartford Convention? How did their plan backfire? Do you see it as bold or ill-advised?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.06.

10.07 - Level 1

Place the following events in order.


Major General Andrew Jackson leads American troops to victory at New Orleans


United States declares war on Great Britain


The end of the War of 1812 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent


Hartford Convention adjourns and sends messengers to Washington

10.08 - Level 1

The Hartford Convention was primarily comprised of political figures from which region of the nation?




Deep South





Economic Rebirth

As the Federalist Party collapsed and the Republicans, together with nearly 300 of their slaves, re-built Washington, American life started to change. Since the Louisiana Purchase, Americans had moved west, looking for land and profit. With Britain all but exiled from North America, and the French in shambles after Napoléon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1814, the United States had room to stretch out and claim the continent it promised to control. With the Mississippi River and New Orleans came an outlet for an entire region previously landlocked and isolated from trade. No longer did the American economy rest on the eastern seaboard and the ability to import the raw materials and foodstuffs required to build an industrial base. The vast expanse of fertile western lands created the opportunity for the economy to look inward, away from the Atlantic, Britain, and France, and toward the yeoman idyll of Jefferson’s vision.

Both northerners and southerners saw the potential of the West. Victory in the War of 1812, claimed or real, caused Americans to re-conceptualize their national path. Prior to the war, the United States only spoke of a self-sustaining economy. Jefferson had, to the dismay of nearly everyone, tried and failed to force it upon the nation in 1807. American traders and merchants continued to focus on foreign goods, looking to distant shores for the same foodstuffs grown in abundance in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Northeastern merchants saw weakness in reliance on external trade, especially for products that grew rapidly and cheaply in the United States.

Figure 10.5: Comparative map of paved roads, 1810 & 1820​

Since the turn of the century, Americans had slowly constructed the means by which the economy could, at least in theory, become more internally focused (Figure 10.5). Beginning in the 1790s, roads started popping up in the northeast, connecting rural farms, factories, and workhouses with the closest ports. Originally based around post roads built for the distribution of mail, these new roads served as the first and only organized transportation system in the region. With the young federal government focused more on stability and international affairs, private citizens or companies owned the majority of these roads, charging tolls similar to docking fees to pass through turnpikes at each end. The oldest official turnpike broke ground in 1792 and entered service in 1794, connecting the port of Philadelphia with the fertile interior around Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Over the next decade, turnpikes became so common that companies chartered specifically to build roads brought in remarkable profits and connected the region’s largest cities with the most productive lands of the interior.

It remained, however, that turnpikes only helped the region within which they operated. The South, several times larger and much more expansive than the entire northeast, could not possibly benefit from the turnpike boom. A North-South road would cost far too much to pull a profit within any reasonable amount of time, and few investors cared enough to take on the project. The Jefferson administration recognized this; but it also saw an opportunity to woo northeastern voters while attracting migrants to the new state of Ohio and the Old Northwest Territory. In 1806, Congress approved a plan to build a paved road between Cumberland, Maryland, and the new Illinois Territory. Begun in 1811 and completed in 1839, the Cumberland Road was the first federally funded road to cross state borders in the west (Figure 10.6). Although it took nearly 30 years to finish, with each new stop the Road opened a new area of the nation to trade, migration, and cultural interaction. It also set a new precedent for internal improvements that would become an important economic practice and political issue into the 1810s, 20s, and 30s. 

Figure 10.6: “First American Macadam Road” by Carl Rakeman [4]​

Although transportation technology remained somewhat antiquated, roads opened the nation up. In 1810, the most effective way to transport goods and people inland was by horse-drawn carriage, a mode that beat walking only in its ease rather than its speed. A trip from New York City to western Pennsylvania took just over two weeks by that method, often over post roads and privately held country roads that may or may not have required a toll. Twenty years later, however, with the proliferation of straight, paved roads often under federal control, the same trip took an average six days, easily enough time to legitimize trade between the two regions. Farmers and producers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and even parts of North and South Carolina could move their crops with relative ease and speed to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston—Atlantic ports and industrial hubs that just a decade earlier had seemed a world away. 

10.09 - Level 2

Click on the westernmost state to have directly benefit from the construction of the Cumberland Road.

10.10 - Level 2

Although the Mississippi River promised to open the entire nation to a revolution in trade, most of the paved roads, turnpikes, and commercial infrastructure popped up in which area of the country?


The West


The coastal South


The northeast and Middle Atlantic


The rural South

The North and South, then, began to form a relationship that had never before existed. As early as 1816, at the height of the turnpike boom, northern investors started moving south. In an effort to construct paved roads and establish a trade infrastructure with America’s “bread basket,” traders from New England and New York took bids from towns and farms to serve a stopping points on proposed roads, selling southern speculators on the possibility of increased foot traffic and trade, promising that each road would result in an effective monopoly for whichever town or farm won out. The right to build an actual turnpike, or toll station, in town guaranteed revenue for the entire region, much less the town itself. Like a port, they claimed, each town along the road could collect fees on good transported on their stretch of road, attracting investors, traders, businessmen, and farmers to area, everyone looking to get a cut of the revenue stream.

The expansion of infrastructure and the economic growth it drove hardly reached every corner of the nation. Indeed, in many ways, the construction of turnpikes, paved roads, and later canals introduced a system of labor and financial benefit that brought about new levels of systematic exploitation and social stagnation that would plague the country for decades to come. Under this new, privatized system of profit-driven growth, labor became an expense that ate away at gains. Although this was nothing new to the American financial world, with extensive federal support and easy access to capital, investors put far more money and interest into the ends of production than to the means. Investors sought out socially liminal, landless individuals who needed immediate return on their labor, however small it was, to increase profit and decrease cost.

These workers, nearly all of whom were unskilled, became mainstays of a developing social hierarchy that placed day labor at the bottom of social and financial privilege among the free. By the 1820s and 1830s, as the United States moved forward into a protocapitalist system of industrial production and middle-class consumption, unskilled laborers, including women, children, immigrants, and free people of color, served more as implements of productions than citizens of the nation they literally helped build. For each new turnpike, commercial road, and industrial space there stood hundreds, even thousands, of wage laborers often paid in worthless company currency, forced to purchase all their wares from company-owned stores, sometimes housed in filthy, makeshift suburban tenements, and regularly worked to physical exhaustion. Though legally “free,” the word had little meaning to many of these men, women, and children, who lived far from their families and had little to show after months of work.

Figure 10.7: Map on travel distances in 1810 and 1830​

Question 10.11

10.11 - Level 5

Do you think trade can help foster and strengthen ties among people of different cultures and societies? What differences separated colonists in the 18th and early 19th centuries? Conversely, what similarities would have united them and how would trade and transportation have aided them in this process?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.11.

Though still in the early stages of a much larger social and financial migration, the interaction between northern and southern interests stood as a hallmark of things to come. The United States, once an impossibly vast nation of distinct cultural and economic regions, was finally moving together as a single economic entity. A new dedication to internal improvements and a determination to separate American interests from those of Europe drove the development of new technologies that made the nation, and indeed the world, smaller. The key is that the North and South did not reject an economic relationship prior to turnpikes and paved roads. It simply did not make financial sense. The amount of time and effort it took to transport perishable goods from farm to factory nullified any possibility of profit in the late 18th century, but paved roads protected axles and wheels, eased the load on oxen, horses, and mules, and cut the travel times in half, even if a toll here and there emptied some pockets. The cost of use paled in comparison to the ability to engage in legitimate, nationwide trade. And as profits rose and speculation increased, so too did investment in new technologies, especially in the realm of transportation.

10.12 - Level 2

Although private companies and state governments invested some funds in commercial and transportation infrastructure in the 1810s and 1820s, the vast majority of paved roads and turnpikes during that time were funded and maintained by the federal government.





The Technologies of Growth

At its apex, around 1816 or 1817, the turnpike craze gave rise to some 900 separate companies looking to find a path and make a profit. Almost all of these companies looked to the northeast for their base, trying to link an untapped part of the South with a growing urban port in the North. New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston, the largest cities and ports in the country, naturally attracted the most attention, but the distance between those cities and the fertile western lands remained oppressive in the 1810s (Figure 10.7). The longest road in the nation connected Philadelphia with Nashville, Tennessee, a distance of nearly 700 miles. Even with the best carriage in perfect conditions the trip took an average of two weeks to complete—an improvement from a decade earlier, but still far from ideal. Lacking any meaningful road system, portions of the Mississippi Territory, as well as the new state of Louisiana, remained several weeks away from the major ports of the east coast. As late as 1830, New Orleans sat a full five weeks from New York by land. Trade between the two economic hubs simply could not exist in any meaningful way. 

Figure 10.8: “A View of New Orleans Take From the Plantation of Marigny” by John L. Boqueta de Woi-seri. [5]

New Orleans, always somewhat of an enigma in the United States, caused the most trouble for American investors and traders. Although it sat at the mouth of the largest, most important river in the continent, technology was slow in taming the Great Mississippi. With the Louisiana Purchase, the United States gained a sprawling expanse of flat, fertile land with its own thriving port. However, the river that connected the land to the port only moved one way. With remarkably strong and hazardous undercurrents, the Mississippi pulled everything south with a ferocity no technology could contain. As a result, farmers could load their goods onto flatboats and barges upriver and float them down to New Orleans with relative ease and speed (Figure 10.8). Once in New Orleans, however, nothing moved north except by land. Sails and rows could not fight the downward current of the river. After unloading crops and goods at the port, farmers and traders simply dismantled their boats, sold what they could for scraps, and journeyed home by foot or by wheel.

As early as 1803, a man named Robert Fulton began testing a new technology that would change riverine travel across the globe. While researching the twisted river system of France, Fulton developed the world’s first functional steam engine powerful enough to move a boat against a current. Tested on the Seine River in 1803, and brought to the United States four years later, Fulton’s new steamboat promised a new future for American traders (Figure 10.9). When his first American prototype, the Clermont, successfully ran the Hudson River from New York City to Albany against the current, a new era had begun. Within four years, the first steamboat, fittingly named the New Orleans, plied the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, making several planned stops along the way. Although the New Orleans sank in 1814, its maiden voyage proved that the Mississippi could serve as the maritime highway Jefferson, Madison, and thousands of investors and traders had hoped it would.

10.13 - Level 1

Perfected, designed, and tested in _______\_\_\_\_\_\_\_, Robert Fulton’s famous steamboat debut-ed in North America on the Hudson River in 1807.

Steamboat travel was not quick at first. The New Orleans took nearly two months to reach its namesake from Pittsburgh, although the trip was more for fanfare than business. With a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour downstream and three miles per hour upstream, the ingenuity lay in its ability to navigate the river in both directions. Though at first rather slow, steamboats, once mass-produced, could run regular routes between New Orleans, Natchez, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. The Mississippi River had become a two-way thoroughfare, a connecting point between the northeast and the Deep South, solidifying the link between northern industry and southern production.

If steamboats moved slowly, they caught on quickly. As technology advanced, speeds increased and shipping costs continued to drop. All along the Mississippi, Columbia, and Ohio rivers, frontier towns became trading cities flush with cash and people. In the 30 years between Fulton’s first trip down the Mississippi and the financial panic of 1837, the population of New Orleans increased by nearly 500%—from under 20,000 to more than 100,000. The same happened in nearly every riverine community. St. Louis, an unincorporated village with fewer than a thousand people in 1810, transformed into a bustling city of nearly 20,000 residents in 1840 due to steamboat trade along the Mississippi and Columbia rivers. Riverine trade increased so quickly that shipyards, located in nearly every town and city on the Mississippi, as well as east coast, could not keep up with demand. In 1807, the first steamboat reached New Orleans. By the end of the next decade, more than 200 steamboats plied the waters of every American river. By 1830, the Mississippi River alone supported more than 100 routes run by 327 individual steamers. The Mississippi Valley and the entire interior of North America had opened up to the world.

Figure 10.9: “Steamboat Maid of Orleans” by Fleury Generelly [6] ​

The competition from the interior mobilized the Northeast. In perhaps the most notable example of the internal shift in the American economy, investors and traders in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston recognized that steam technology had brought the Mississippi River Valley together as a single economic unit stretching from New Orleans to Pittsburgh to the “undiscovered” West. If the northeast was going to return to its dominant ways, it needed a way to harness steam power for its own benefit. Steamboats could not yet cross the Atlantic with any reliability, so investors looked west. The Hudson River, the waterway that defined New York City’s wealth and geographical importance, had to grow. It needed to connect New York and the entire eastern seaboard to the American interior.

In 1817, the main connection point between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes was the 300-mile long Genesee Road, which stretched from Albany on the Hudson to Buffalo on Lake Erie. Even after the introduction of steam power to the Hudson, the trip from New York City to Buffalo took an average of two weeks, and even then little trade awaited. That year, however, the New York state legislature, acting on the recommendation of Governor DeWitt Clinton, one of the lone Federalists remaining in national politics, approved the construction of a canal stretching from Troy, New York, to Buffalo, added more than 300 miles to the Hudson River’s reach.

A massive and unprecedented undertaking, the Erie Canal stood as a direct challenge to the Mississippi River (Figure 10.10). Clinton and his supporters were willing to risk the enormous cost with the potentially monumental profits it would create. With a complete route between New York City and Lake Erie, steamboats could reach Ohio from the east and north, while Canadian ports along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario could engage with Atlantic trade from New York and Buffalo. Thousands, even millions, of people would migrate to Ohio, western Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and the Michigan Territory, creating an entirely new market for New York City and all the urban areas connected to it. In essence, the northeastern United States could bring the Mississippi Valley and the American interior into its economic purview, working with the South and West rather than against them.

10.14 - Level 3

Find Lake Erie on this map.

Begun on July 4, 1817, the 363-mile Erie Canal officially opened on October 26, 1825. Within ten years, major cities appeared along the banks of the Great Lakes. The cities of Cleveland and Toledo developed in Ohio, while Detroit and Chicago started to take on their modern forms to the north and west. In all, the Erie Canal employed more than 9,000 people, many of whom were immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, bringing a large and increasingly influential group into the American workforce. At $7,143,789, the Canal was among the most expensive construction projects in United States history. Tolls and docking fees, regulated and imposed by the state, promised to fulfill the cost and turn a profit by 1835. New York state took an enormous gamble on a man-made river, and it seemed to pay off. 

Figure 10.10: “Lockport, Erie Canal” by W. H. Bartlett, from Nathaniel Parker Willis et al, L’Amerique pittoresque: Ou vues des terries, des lacs et des fleuves des États-Unis d’Amérique [7]

Immediately, other states answered the call. In joint efforts, and sometimes on their own, states across the nation started building canals in order to connect major waterways and bring profit and traffic to previously isolated areas. By 1837, the end of what historians called the “canal boom,” states governments and interstate investors had constructed more than 3,000 miles of canals providing reliable steamboat service to and from nearly every major waterway in the nation. The Mississippi River was no longer a three week hike from New York City. Now, days separated the two economic titans and hundreds of steamboats spanned the gap each day. In 1824, the port of New York harbored an average 310 steamboats per day. A decade later, that number had increased to nearly 1,200. The same could be said of New Orleans, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, with each city attracting investment, profit, traffic, and people at a rate few Americans ever imagined.

Question 10.15

10.15 - Level 3

What made the Erie Canal so important? What did its success promise to do for the American economy as a whole?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.15.

10.16 - Level 1

Match the following roads or canals with their primary location.


Erie Canal




Welland Canal




Lancaster Turnpike


New York

10.17 - Level 2

The Erie Canal was funded primarily through private investment.





The People and the New Nation

Buoyed by the rush of roads, canals, and steamships, the people of the nation started to move, some physically, others ideologically and financially. The Erie Canal and the new accessibility of the Mississippi River Valley to investment and migration effectively democratized the American financial landscape. Suddenly, farmers in the Chesapeake, the Carolina low country, western Pennsylvania, and the Mississippi Delta could take trade into their own hands. They no longer needed to rely on expensive and exploitative brokers and salesmen to get their goods to market. Steamboats had cut the cost of freight by more than two thirds between 1815 and 1825. Farmers lucky enough to own riverfront property built their own small docks on the river, and simply hired one of the many steamboats to pick up and transport goods on a regular schedule. They even served as brokers themselves on occasion, providing contacts and usage for their neighbors at nominal cost.

This brought the average American into the economic flow. Instead of an established elite owning effective monopolies over the transportation and sale of goods, as existed in many markets prior to the War of 1812 and nearly everywhere later in the 1850s, the speed with which steam power took hold brought about a competitive market in which individual sellers, farmers, and workers retained a negotiable value. If one steam-boat captain or firm offered services for less than another, the less expensive option got the business.

Figure 10.11: The Country Wedding, Bishop White Officiating by John Lewis Krimmel. [8]

There was not just one place to go or one contract to sign. The rivers and canals moved in both directions. If New Orleans could not provide good terms for produce and goods, maybe St. Louis, Pittsburgh, or even New York would do. Southern produce followed the best prices, and ports, firms, and merchants had to compete with each other attract business. The wider a product’s reach, the more markets it could influence and the higher prices it could command. The American economy was becoming a market economy based on the emerging principles of competition between vendors and supply and demand for goods and services.

Such power placed in the hands of individual producers improved many Americans’ financial outlooks, and led to broad changes in daily life. For the first time, local producers and farmers could look outside their immediate surroundings for investment opportunities. Shipyards and transportation firms in New Orleans attracted investments from the Mississippi Territory, New York City, and Canada. Trading firms reached out to farmers and merchants alike with promises of immediate wealth and an expanded market for goods. The North, in effect, realized that it did not need farmland at the same time that the South came to a similar conclusion about industry and trade. Cities did not have to exist in the Deep South if the metropoles of the northeast lay just a week upriver. Indeed, the North and the South took their most lasting forms in the 1820s and 1830s, the one relying on the other for what it did not have—industry in the North fueled by produce from the South. If a farmer from Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, for example, decided to invest some extra money in a steam-powered cotton gin or an automatic loom, he did not need to build one himself. He could simply send his money where one already existed and wait for the returns as his crops came in.  

Question 10.18

10.18 - Level 4

How did the technological advancements and internal improvements of the 1820s and 1830s change the way the North and South interacted economically and financially? How did this differ from previous decades?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.18.

Technology changed more than just trade. In the wake of the steamboat, inventors and engineers looked to transfer steam power to other areas of production. In 1818, the first functional steam-powered cotton gin appeared in Louisiana, quickly making its way across the South over the next decade. By the late 1810s, Richard Trevithick’s standup steam engine allowed for steam-powered pumping stations and regularized some early sources of running water in the northeast. That same engine, called the Cornish Engine, allowed for the mechanization of looms, small-scale factory lines, and perhaps most importantly, the printing press (Figure 10.12).

As steamboats scaled the length of America’s rivers and canals, engineers in urban areas worked to connect the two worlds. In 1810, German printer Friedrich Koenig patented the first steam-powered printing press. By the end of the decade, most major American newspapers used a variant of the process to produce print at untold rates. The completion of the Erie Canal and the proliferation of steamboats throughout the nation in the 1820s not only shortened trade routes but increased news networks as well. Urban newspapers could receive fresh news from other towns, and even other regions, within days, and have the stories in print hours later. Like trade, the expansion of news networks brought the American people together.

Figure 10.12: An 1864 One-Cylinder Printing Press, lithograph from Robert Hoe, History of the Processes of Manufacture. [9] ​​

The ability for average Americans in distant cities and towns to read the same news stories created a sensation of unity and empathy. If a resident of New Orleans could read and formulate an opinion about an event that happened earlier that week in New York City, it was as though he or she had experienced the event firsthand. Tragedy and crime became more meaningful to previously disconnected populations. A ship explosion in Lake Erie affected readers in Nashville, Vicksburg, and St. Louis, both financially and emotionally, in ways it never could before. In essence, what historians call the “communications revolution” united the nation more than ever before. With trade stretching across regional borders, money flowing freely from north to south, and news connecting the lives, thoughts, and emotions of every corner, the Revolutionary dream of a “more perfect union” was finally taking form.   

10.19 - Level 2

Match the 19th-century inventors to their inventions


Robert Fulton


Steam-powered printing press


Richard Trevithick


Upright steam engine


Friedrich Koenig




Eli Whitney


Cotton gin

New Industries and New Problems

At the same time as new inventions made communication and transportation easier, the value of labor started to shift toward the individual rather than the product he or she created. In the growing cities of the Northeast, where factories and workshops be-came the standard of employment and work, a new form of wage-based labor took hold in the 1820s. Dedicated to production of finished goods, such as furniture, textiles, clothing, and some machines, northeastern factors and investors looked to a new class of wage earners to fill their factories and move their products. This was the beginning of the American middle class, a community of wage workers and professionals, both skilled and unskilled, who worked for another person or company without creating or satisfying debt. Early American entrepreneurs realized that increased costs came with increased production. The days of indentured servitude were over. Workers, especially in cities, required incentive—payment for both their effort and the profits they produced for their employers.

Some investors took this idea further than others. As the idea of industrial production finally reached the New World, American capitalists began to conceive of new ways to streamline production and provide the best products while likewise incentivizing workers to continue working at profitable rates. The boldest of these moves came in the 1822 when the Merrimack Manufacturing Company founded Lowell, a village in northeastern Massachusetts entirely dedicated to textile production and milling. By 1825, the town, located about 35 miles north of Boston, was home to three manufacturing companies operating under the aegis of Merrimack. Less than ten years later, more than 17,000 individuals lived and worked in Lowell and its 27 textile mills.

Interestingly, the majority of laborers in Lowell were unmarried “mill girls” sent to town by rural families to earn wages and learn “urban skills.” The women lived in boarding houses built and run by the factories and companies that operated the mills. They lived under tight moral and social restrictions, rarely venturing beyond Lowell on limited work breaks, and maintaining a specific “dress code” of long, loose dresses that the girls often adapted to fit the colorful fashion trends of the nearby cities. They could not marry while under company watch, and could not start families. Though seemingly strict, the lifestyles of these women met much applause at first. A number of commentators, especially in cities like Boston, New Haven, and Providence, saw the movement of migrant “mill girls” as a form of liberation. At last, in their views, the rural areas had taken to the notions of productivity that made the cities so important, wealthy, and morally pure. Initiatives like the Lowell mill system allowed young women to learn the ways of production, become valuable members of a productive society, and gain a sense of self-worth they could never get from a life of rural farming. These women, commentators and supporters dreamed, would soon become a vanguard of politically and financially minded women capable of leading an entire population to middle-class respectability and social freedom. In time, however, the reality fell rather short of this vision.

On the surface, like the increased availability of investment for small-scale farmers in the South, the market revolution of the 1820s and 1830s placed the foundation of the American economic system in the hands of these urban and semi-urban workers. Wages, once predicated upon the direct sale or trade of the items produced, were in most cases guaranteed through contracts and hiring agreements. The employer’s profits, or lack thereof, did not affect the worker’s initial wage. In essence, the worker’s labor became her or his personal product, something they literally sold to employers who invested in the potential profits derived from that work. The worker, for the first time, had power, a product, and a legitimate place in the economic system.

The developing wage earning class redefined urban life, especially as the 1820s gave way to the 1830s. Instead of centralized hubs of industry and exchange, urban spaces gave way to the demands of culture and lifestyle. Parks, fountains, sidewalks, and paved roads started to pop up in major cities across the nation. Similar to English cities in the late seventeenth century, during the famed Industrial Revolution in Europe, cities became places to live as well as places to work. Boutiques and shops opened their doors to the new wage earning class rather than focusing entirely on external trade. Fashion became something of a social marker as pants, hats, and laced shoes replaced breeches, wigs, and buckles as the trappings of modern manhood. Social and benevolent organizations, complete with secret initiation rites, passwords, and membership dues, formed in nearly every city in the nation.

The “middling class,” as it was called at the time, did not command massive sums. They were not an elite or an aristocracy. They often owned little more than a single suit, a pair of leisure shoes, and maybe a small home near work. But their labor meant something more than just profits at the top. They owned their work, quite literally. The sidewalks were built for them. The parks, the fountains, the boutique stores all stood to provide them the fulfillment and lifestyle they needed to get up and go to work each morning. It was not a glorious life, but it belonged to the individuals who claimed it—the workers themselves.

Like the factories at Lowell, this all seemed wonderful at first. Workers now had respect and value in a system apparently built for their well-being, comfort, and eventual consumption. Most notably, this new middling class of wageworkers included a number of women, immigrants, and free people of color. Especially in the Northeast, where slavery no longer existed under the law, free people of color entered into skilled trades and factory lines regularly. Although their wages almost always fell well below those of their white co-workers, the era did bring increased opportunity to urban black communities where little had existed before. This increased focus on American working life also fell in line with a wave of immigration, welcoming, it seemed, a new crop of eager and willing workers primarily from Germany, Ireland, and China in the West. From the outside, the system appeared built for this very moment in history, allowing the socially marginalized to enter into society as working Americans.

Experience, however, betrayed this outward image. Like the earlier expansion of turnpikes, roads, and canals, the quest for profit and easy access to capital chipped away at workers’ autonomy and ownership of production. In Lowell, the already rather strict social environment became industrial in nature, introducing restrictions on mill girls’ movement, language, dress, and interaction with each other. Conditions in the boardinghouses deteriorated to unreasonable levels and hours increased in the mills. Wages, of course, remained stagnant, or in some rare cases even decreased. By the mid-1830s, when Lowell became a city of its own, working and residential conditions had devolved enough to necessitate drastic action. In 1836, some 2,000 women in Lowell walked off the job in protest of a recent increase in rent at the required boardinghouses and the lack of a “satisfactory leveling of incentive” in return. Wages had not increased to offset the higher rent and hours remained well beyond the eight hours most reformers claimed was reasonable. The women made the bold and progressive claim that they too stood as “daughters of free men” and thus deserved the same respect and privileges as their fellow citizens who happened to be men. They had worked for the public good, added to the financial and social system, and received nothing for it. “Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave / For I’m so fond of liberty, / That I cannot be a slave,” they sang, claiming liberty as something innately owed to all working Americans, not just working men.

The Lowell protests of 1836, though successful in defeating the rent increase, did not end the system of insulated factory labor. Neither did they bring about fundamental change to the political reality of the time. Women still could not vote and, in many cases, did not fit the basic definition of citizenship. The protests did, however, make public the notion that liberty and belonging could, and indeed should, stand as a universal right of all working people—female, male, foreign-born, black, white, Indian, or youth. They highlighted the dark side of industrial expansion and financial boom on a level that many American did not care to investigate. They humanized the process of wealth creation and its inevitable consequences, poverty and exploitation.  

Spotlight on Primary Source

Take a look at this collection of accounts, schedules, and journals from Lowell Mill workers of the 1830s and 1840s.

Question 10.20

10.20 - Level 2

How did the Lowell Mill system both liberate and repress the women it employed?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.20.

Question 10.21


How did the external view of the Lowell Mill system differ from that of the workers who experienced it?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.21.

10.22 - Level 1

Which of the following technologies gave rise to new, more advanced versions of printing presses, looms, and cotton gins, all of which expedited and simplified production, sale, shipment, and communication in the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s?









Question 10.23

10.23 - Level 4

Which inventions, advancements, and improvements fueled the so-called “communications revolution” of the 1820s and 1830s? How did it change American life?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.23.

Question 10.24

10.24 - Level 3

Describe the unique social experiment that was undertaken in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.24.

The Politics of Change

The War of 1812 and the final victory at New Orleans brought profound change to American politics. Some scholars call this period the “Era of Good Feelings,” noting the lack of true political parties and the unusually positive worldview held by many Americans in the wake of victory over Great Britain. In some ways, this designation holds up. The nation did, in fact, view itself more positively than before. The Treaty of Ghent made official the survival of the United States against a major colonial power. There was no longer any question concerning America’s independence and belonging in the international community. Following the War of 1812, an era of international peace began. Although American forces engaged in military actions in Algiers (the Second Barbary War, 1815) and Spanish Florida (the Seminole Wars, 1816-1818), the United States did not declare war or field a fully mobilized force again until the Mexican-American War in 1846.

The lack of external distractions allowed the nation to focus on bringing itself together through social, cultural, economic, and technological growth. This ushered in a politics of compromise, the likes of which the United States had never and would never see again. Although a member of the dreaded “Virginia Dynasty”—the line of Virginia-born leaders who served as four of the first five presidents—James Madison (Figure 10.13) recognized that his legacy, as well as that of his ideological kin Thomas Jefferson, rested upon his ability to attract former Federalists to his side and justify the cost of the “victorious” War of 1812. Success in both cases, he believed, would ensure the continuation of republican ideologies in the emerging single-party system. 

Figure 10.13: “President James Madison” by Alonzo Chappel [10] ​

In 1811, Madison played politics to force the expiration of the First Bank of the United States. Founded in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton, the First Bank defined Federalist politics for two decades. By 1811, it was the only vestige of the Federalist Era remaining after a decade of Republican domination. Without a national bank printing currency and defining value and interest, the power fell to the states, who now had the right to charter their own banks, print their own currencies, and raise and lower interest rates at will. The decentralized system worked relatively well until war erupted in Canada and the northeast, creating state-based debts that mirrored those of the American Revolution. After the Treaty of Ghent, war debts sat in different states and under various currencies. State banks in the northeast owed thousands of dollars to southern banks that had lent them money to fund the actual fighting of the war. The lopsided distribution of debts accrued during a war declared by the United States government rather than the individual states themselves sustained the dying breaths of the Federalist Party in the northeast and threatened to break Madison’s hold on post-war politics.

A year after the war ended, Madison made his move. Riding the first waves of interest in federal programs and internal improvements, former “War Hawks” John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster introduced a bill that would create a new national bank. The Second Bank of the United States (SBUS) (Figure 10.14) centralized currency production and value, and oversaw the regulation and distribution of funds, debts, and credits to and from the states. Each local branch would be a satellite of the central bank located, as before, in Philadelphia. Madison made his name in politics vehemently opposing federal banking and financial systems. Just five years earlier, he had supported the expiration of the First Bank’s charter, and swore off even the possibility of a second. But now, a half decade and a war later, Madison remained quiet. He did not mobilize his forces in Congress to oppose the bill, and even went so far as to promise his signature if the bill passed. Following a quick, successful vote in both houses, President Madison signed the bill into law on April 10, 1816. The following January, the Second Bank of the United States opened its doors.

Figure 10.14: “United States Bank, Philadelphia” by Charles Burton [11]

The Bank immediately began distributing government-backed credit to those states most heavily in debt from the war. As a result, private debts between individual states became public debts between a state and the federal government. These debts were much more stable, and often forgiven after a series of payments and deals could be worked out, as inflation now followed a single currency issued by or with the authority of a single bank. The states could no longer issue paper currency without the permission of the Bank of the United States. If they wanted to issue a separate currency, it had be specie—coins made of precious metals like silver and gold—which had “innate,” established value.

The centralization of finance empowered the federal government far beyond many Americans’ comfort levels, and it also alienated the South, previously the base of the Republican electorate, but Madison knew what he was doing. Because the Hartford Convention backfired so terribly for the Federalists and shattered the party, the political land-scape had opened up. Without an organized party in the northeast, the Republicans had the chance to unify the nation politically, effectively meeting former Federalists half way. The South, ever the Republican heartland, would never walk away from the party, even if its leaders made some concessions to more northern interests. If it worked, the gamble promised the continuation of Republican leadership in the guise of a unified political system, and essentially guaranteed Madison and his successors free rein with policy and legislation. It was a brilliant and effective strategy to consolidate power while preaching message of democratization. Without an organized opposition party, no one, it seemed, could be excluded from the political process. By using their base as a scapegoat to attract their former opponents, Madison and his Republican allies could move forward without fear of reproach.

Question 10.25

10.25 - Level 3

What was the purpose of the chartering the Second Bank of the United States? How did it change the production of currency and credit in the United States?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.25.

10.26 - Level 2

In chartering the Second Bank of the United States, President James Madison, a close political and ideological ally of Thomas Jefferson, acted in accordance with the platform and beliefs of the Jeffersonian Republican Party





10.27 - Level 2

Which of the following situations drove the creation of a centralized financial and currency system in the early 19th century?


Significant wartime debts accrued by many states


A sudden collapse of the stock market


Fears over another war with Britain

The Election of 1816

When James Madison signed the Tariff of 1816 into law in April 1816, he set the stage for James Monroe’s election that November. Alongside the Second Bank of the United States, the 1816 tariff alienated the South while receiving glowing praise from the north-east and Mid-Atlantic. The tariff stood to levy taxes of all foreign cotton, sugar, lumber, iron, clothing, paper, and woolen textiles, looking to boost American production of such products and protect the American market from cheaper, more mass-produced European imports. In theory, the tariff promised good things for the South. As the main producers of cotton, sugar, and lumber for the nation, even before the cotton boom of the next two decades, the South, Madison and many Republicans thought, would benefit from the increased buying rates of all three staples.

The problem was that with expansion of industry and transportation out of the northeast and Mid-Atlantic, the South had effectively ignored industrial development, relying on the northeast and Europe for finished goods. Moreover, most cotton and sugar farmers in the South were not the large-scale producers who appeared in the 1840s and 1850s, owning hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres of land. In the mid to late 1810s, the vast majority of southern farmers were small-scale producers of a single crop. They lacked economic diversity, rarely owned more than one or two slaves, if any, and were only starting to engage the new transportation and trade networks introduced by steam power and internal improvements. If a tariff increased the price of imported staples, those same staples would increase in price within the United States. Large-scale farmers, especially those well located on trading routes, canals, and rivers, would gain a foothold in a new, closed market. Those farmers most capable of dealing with immediate losses could create a monopoly on individual crops by controlling their production. Higher prices led to higher profits as well as smaller markets. Fewer traders and merchants could afford to purchase crops at the same rate as before, and the first people hit by the decreased demand were the smaller, less integrated farmers of the South.

Figure 10.15: Map showing the results of the election of 1816​

Although Madison did not anticipate such fervent opposition from the southern states, he gained the support of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who assured him that the Middle Atlantic and New England states held more potential than a slightly annoyed South already dedicated to the Republican vision. If Madison could gain significant support in former Federalist territories outside his homeland, he could essentially choose his successor with impunity.

The Election of 1816 (Figure 10.15) affirmed Calhoun’s prophecy. Running on promises of national unity, Madison’s handpicked successor James Monroe soothed the ruffled feathers of the South by promising economic interdependence between the agricultural and industrial sectors of the nation. The tariff, Monroe assured his constituents, would merge with federally funded internal improvements, a stabilized currency under the Second Bank of the United States, and increase land availability in the Deep South. Beyond that, the United States, Monroe promised, would stand as the talisman of North American political and economic might, earning the respect and admiration of the international community. To Republican and former Federalist ears alike, Monroe sounded like the perfect man for the job. 

Figure 10.16: Portrait of Rufus King by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery ​[12]

10.28 - Level 3

In the following sentence: “Beyond that, the United States, Monroe promised, would stand as the talisman of North American political and economic might, earning the respect and admiration of the international community,” what is the best synonym for the word “talisman”?









The election results followed suit. Monroe commanded the entire South and large portion of the northeast against Senator Rufus King of New York (Figure 10.16), one of the few remaining Federalists in Congress and two-time vice-presidential candidate. Not only did Monroe win King’s home state of New York by a large margin, he also won the former Federalist strongholds of New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Monroe’s 183 electoral votes left just 34 for King, who carried only three states and 31% of the popular vote. The election was the most lop-sided presidential contest since 1804, and marked the fifth straight Republican victory and the third consecutive Virginian to win the office. Coming on the heels of the Hartford Convention and the dissipation of much of the Federalist establishment, King’s regrettable performance marked the end of the Federalist Party in American politics. By 1818, only 12 Federalists remained in Congress (including Rufus King). Two years later, that number shrank to four. 

10.29 - Level 1

By 1818, the Federalist Party was so disorganized and isolated that just ______\_\_\_\_\_\_ members remained in Congress.

James Monroe, a career politician, lawyer, and planter from Virginia, proved less willing to continue Madison and Calhoun’s compromise policy than many new Republicans had hoped. A disciple of Thomas Jefferson, Monroe followed his mentor’s career path. They served together as delegates in the Congress of the Confederation in the 1780s. Monroe used the influence he had earned as United States Minister to France in the 1790s to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Both men served as Secretary of State, and both men saw the United States as an expansive, decentralized nation.

For all the change Madison had brought to Republican ideology in the 1810s, Monroe saw the future as Jefferson envisioned it—a nation dedicated to democracy and the distribution of authority to the people and the states themselves. The government, to Monroe, existed to protect the ambition and liberty produced and maintained within its borders. Federally funded canals, roads, and banks complicated a system built upon individual success and initiative. Though hardly a proponent of the antiquated “yeoman republic,” Monroe feared that Madison’s unifying vision required too much federal action to keep every region of the nation happy. It was a system built to fail, and the new president had no intention of taking the blame once it did.

Question 10.30

10.30 - Level 4

On a basic level, how did James Monroe’s vision of government differ from those of his predecessors, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.30.

Figure 10.17: Portrait of James Monroe by John Vanderlyn, 1816 [13]

A Monrovian Presidency and the Future of Democracy

James Monroe (Figure 10.17) seemed to embody the Jeffersonian image even more than its namesake. Originally against ratification of the Constitution in 1788 due to fears of tyrannical centralization, Monroe immediately set about tempering the policies of his predecessors, rejecting federally funded agencies and projects, and reducing the influence of the executive branch. He wanted to distribute authority across an expansive state, and organized his presidency accordingly. In the first three years of his presidency, Monroe accepted the applications of three new states into the union—Mississippi in 1817, Illinois in 1818, and Alabama in 1819. He broke ranks with many establishment Republicans when he appointed John Quincy Adams, the son of Federalist President John Adams, as Secretary of State. But he put him to work fulfilling the promises of President Adams’ chief rival, negotiating a treaty with Spain to establish the ever-controversial western border of the Louisiana Purchase territory and settle the status of Florida.

Figure 10.18: Map of Adams-Onis Treaty

The resulting Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 revived America’s faltering westward drive (Figure 10.18). Similar to the Louisiana Purchase, the treaty gave the United States all of Florida (both East and West Florida) and established the Louisiana Purchase border at the Sabine River (the current border between Louisiana and Texas) to the south, stretching north along the Red and Arkansas Rivers, and finally resting at the 42nd parallel in the west. In a remarkable example of political ingenuity, Adams successfully negotiated that Spanish territory would stop at the western shore of each river involved in the treaty, giving the United States full authority over the waterways in question. Even if the Spanish wanted to set up a port along the Sabine, Red, or Arkansas Rivers, they would have to negotiate its use with the United States rather than claiming half of the river as was most common in those types of treaties.

The Adams-Onís Treaty came on the heels of a similarly expansive agreement struck with Great Britain a year earlier concerning the northwest border between the United States and British Canada. In what was simply called the Treaty of 1818, the United States and Great Britain agreed to an official straight-line border at the 49th parallel as well as joint occupation of the Oregon Country west of the Rocky Mountains. The Adams-Onís Treaty completed the borders of the both the Louisiana Purchase territory and the United States as a whole. Taken together, both treaties effectively nullified British influence south of the 49th parallel (the current northwestern United States-Canada border) and established the United States as the primary political force on the North American continent. American influence now stretched to the Pacific Ocean and included every major waterway in North America. At least for a time, Americans no longer needed to look west for the future. With borders established on all sides, the United States now had a heartland from which to reap untold rewards.

Adams continued to promote an aggressive American foreign policy, especially when concerned North America and the position the United States held in the area, through Monroe’s presidency. In 1823, he proposed and implemented one of the foundations of Monroe’s legacy—the so-called “Monroe Doctrine.” The brainchild of Adams, the Doctrine was the centerpiece of Monroe’s state of the union address in January. Speaking of America’s place in the western hemisphere, Monroe declared that the United States would henceforth view any European political advance in the area as a direct threat to American sovereignty. Establishing an American “sphere of influence,” the Monroe Doctrine extended American interests and protections to all independent nations of Central America and the Caribbean, placing itself as the singular political power in the region. Through Adams’s ideas, Monroe looked externally for internal unity. This view of foreign policy placed American interests at the heart of a new concept of nationalism, one that involved all Americans in the future of the nation and its interests throughout the continent. This was largely Adams’s work, but it defined Monroe’s presidency.

Though focused on a strong foreign policy, Monroe was not as dedicated to internal improvements as other presidents. He did not reject the principle of federally funded roads and canals, but he believed the states and individual investors needed to lay the groundwork, and the federal government would potentially follow suit. Instead of making industry and commerce easier for the northeast, Monroe sought to open western lands and usher in a more agricultural economy, a policy that Jefferson heartily applauded from retirement at Monticello. In 1822, he vetoed the Cumberland Road Bill, a popular measure that would have set up federal funding for road maintenance through tolls on the Cumberland Road, claiming that federal tolls were an unconstitutional breach of congressional authority. The Second Bank of United States, having equalized inflation and opened stable credit sources for a great many Americans, Monroe claimed, was enough to initiate private investment and maintenance on its own.

Question 10.31

10.31 - Level 3

How did John Quincy Adams influence and affect James Monroe’s presidency? What were his chief accomplishments as Secretary of State?

Click here to see the answer to Question 10.31.

Monroe’s reluctance to tap the American people further for the maintenance of federal institutions came as a result of the unnerving economic collapse of 1819. Called the Panic of 1819, the downturn served as the inevitable, though hardly foreseen, consequence of rapid social, cultural, and economic change following the War of 1812. The seemingly immediate growth of paved roads and navigable waterways caused massive speculation by anxious investors in both the north and south. Small-scale farmers took out mortgages for larger farms expecting that increased traffic and trade would justify the increased debts. The same occurred with northern manufacturers, who invested in larger, more expensive equipment, workforces, and land to meet the expected rush. 


All seemed well until European markets began to sink following the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the realization of massive debts across the entire continent. At the same time, the Second Bank of the United States began implementing regulations on currency values issued by state banks, much of which was not backed directly by specie, and thus had little value on an open market. The problem was that many of the loans and mortgages the state banks had issued were in this unbacked currency, causing both banks and debtors to foreclose and default on the loans at extraordinary rates. With the Tariff of 1816 forcing internal production and purchase, American factors and farmers had nowhere to look as mortgage payments came due. European markets had likewise collapsed, and what little European imports arrived at American ports commanded such high prices that few, if any merchants could afford to buy them.

Monroe countered the panic by easing governmental expenses. He vetoed the Cumberland Road Bill, suspended specie payments for bank notes, and effectively stopped all federal funds for internal improvements. He allowed landowners who foreclosed on government supported mortgages to keep the portion of land for which they had paid, relinquishing the remainder for resale by the government itself. He also appointed Langdon Cheves of South Carolina as the new president of Second Bank of the United States, who all but stopped speculative loans and dividends for government bonds. Monroe, along with Cheves and their allies, effected a hard restart of the American economy in hopes of bringing about a more rational, slower paced financial system. The government, they believed, could not support a system so prone to excess and speculative spending. Investment needed to be regulated, but not granted, by the federal government.

All told, James Monroe’s presidency did little for the unity established with Jackson’s unlikely victory at New Orleans in 1815. But it did temper the uncontrolled zeal of a new era with a calm certainty born of a different era. He wrote constantly to both Madison and Jefferson, sometimes receiving praise and advice, other times receiving sincere rebuke. He sought to place Jeffersonian ideas into a system of technological advancement and wild dreaming. In a single-party state, he actually reduced the reach of government, even if the Supreme Court had other ideas in mind. He could have looked further than Madison and even Jefferson in utilizing the decade long dominance of his party over the executive and legislative branches, initiating countless unchallenged reforms, but he did not. He sought to expand democracy by making government regulation supportive rather than definitive. In doing so, however, he opened the door to a new conflict over the meaning of democracy itself, one that would define the careers of a new, bitterly divided generation of American politicians stuck between regional conflict decades in the making.

Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 10.01

Class Discussion 10.01 - Level 5

Do you think the War of 1812 was a success for the Americans? Why? Why not?

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Class Discussion 10.02

Class Discussion 10.02 - Level 5

What made turnpikes so important in the development of American infrastructure and trade?

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Class Discussion 10.03

Class Discussion 10.03 - Level 3

How did urban life change after the advent of the steamboat and the construction of canals and waterways?

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Class Discussion 10.04

Class Discussion 10.04 - Level 4

What are some of the benefits and pitfalls of a wage labor system? How do contracts both benefit and alienate workers?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 10.04.

Class Discussion 10.05

Class Discussion 10.05 - Level 3

If everything seemed to be moving forward for the United States under Monroe in the post-War of 1812 years, why did the Panic of 1819 happen, and what did it do to the nation?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 10.05.

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Suggested Additional Material

  • Ammon, Harry. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. 1990.
  • Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books. 2014.
  • Bernstein, Peter L. Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation. New York: W. W. Norton. 2005.
  • Clark, Christopher. The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780-1860. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1992.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009.
  • Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York. New York: Hill and Wang. 1978.
  • Johnson, Walter. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2013.
  • Sellers, Charles. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846. New York: Oxford University Press. 1994. 

Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 10.03

The victory at the New Orleans enlivened the American people on a general scale and wiped clean the bad memories of constant defeat up North during the War of 1812. The lopsided victory became the face of Americans’ memories of the war itself, in fact, becoming the rallying cry of a new generation of Americans who looked to the War of 1812, or more realistically the Battle of New Orleans, as the final victory in a second War of Independence.

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Answer to Question 10.06

The Hartford Convention was meant to give the New England states a platform of protest against the War of 1812 and the uneven price paid by the Northeast during the fighting. Some radical voices at the Convention actually called for secession, while others simply called for a series of new amendments to the Constitution. The problem was that by the time their petition reached the president’s desk, and the press had gotten their hands on it, the War of 1812 was no longer seen as an abjectly negative experience. The Treaty of Ghent had by then ended the war with little American loss and Andrew Jackson had soundly defeated the British at New Orleans. As a result, even the hint of secessionist ideologies promoted by the Hartford Convention doomed the movement as a whole and made the group look like bitter, radical, and even treasonous elites. Eventually, the Hartford Convention became part of what killed the Federalist Party on a national scale. 

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Answer to Question 10.11

Opinion-based. Answers will vary. The primary difference between colonists/citizens in the 18th and 19th centuries were, among others, technologies, religions, and senses of economics. In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, a proto-capitalistic mentality had long dominated, sending most ambitious individuals into trade, commerce, or commercial production. In the South, on the other hand, concepts of yeomanry, subsistence, and more localized markets dominated. Trade between the North and South, which began in earnest after the War of 1812, started building a cultural bridge between the two areas, as the movement of people and ideas became easier and the success of one group became fundamental to the success of the other.

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Answer to Question 10.15

The Erie Canal opened the Hudson River Valley and New York City to the western lands attached to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Valley. By connecting these three regions to maritime travel, the time it took to transport both people and goods across the nation was cut by more than half. Suddenly, ports like New Orleans and New York, once literally weeks away from each other, now stood but days away, enabling trade to every corner of the country.

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Answer to Question 10.18

In the same way that the Erie Canal opened up trade to new corners of the continent, so too did technology. With the advent of steamboats and steam-powered presses, as well as paved roads and turnpikes, the nation became smaller. Distance was no longer an untamed barrier between people. Mail traveled more quickly, as did goods and money. Major ports which rarely ever exchanged goods directly could more easily send and receive people and produce. Importantly, too, perishable items, such as foodstuffs and animals, could be sent longer distances, opening up larger markets for small-scale farmers who had to rely on local markets for decades. 

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Answer to Question 10.20

The Lowell Mills opened up positions of wage labor to rural girls who, due both to social expectations and geographic restrictions, would rarely have a chance to enter into the industrial sphere. At the same time, however, they did not stand on equal footing with their male counterparts in other areas, especially the urban areas. They were required to wear certain uniforms, live under a moralistic code, worked extremely long hours at lesser pay rates, and could not advance in the system at all. After their contracts were over, they either returned to their homes or moved to the city with expectations of marrying. Their time at Lowell was not, in other words, supposed to be the beginning of an independent career.

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Answer to Question 10.21

The outside view held that the Lowell Mill system offered these women training in production and virtue, teaching them the experiences of their future husbands and imbuing within them a sense of meaning and belonging with the wider industrial system. The experience, however, was that of a controlled, tightly restricted work camp. The girls were not paid well, overworked, and could not flip their experience at Lowell into a career elsewhere. Instead of a liberating experience, it often restricted the girls to a life of housewifery and domestic work after their contracts concluded.

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Answer to Question 10.23

Steam power, perhaps more than anything else, aided in the explosion of the “communications revolution.” More directly, however, the steamboat and the steam-powered printing press allowed newspapers to print news that occurred just days before at immense speeds, giving a much larger audience access to the events of the nation and the globe.

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Answer to Question 10.24

The village of Lowell (MA) was actually founded by a private company, the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, for the expressed purpose of textile production and milling. The majority of the workers here were unmarried “mill girls” who came from rural areas to learn “urban skills.” These young women lived in essentially a capitalist convent, where their behavior, dress, and life choices were carefully monitored and regulated. Curiously, this oppressive environment was at the time praised for its progressive nature, with the hope that it would transform these women into productive members of society as well as politically-minded citizens who could enjoy greater freedoms than most other women. 

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Answer to Question 10.25

The Second Bank of the United States accomplished two primary ends: 1) it transferred a large amount of war debt from the states to the federal government, replacing private state debts with loans directly from the federal government. 2) It regulated the issuance of currency, requiring that if a state insisted upon issuing its own currency, it had to be made of a precious metal, such as silver or gold, so that standard market values maintained the value of the coins themselves. This way, individual state currencies fluctuated together as the markets for precious metals dictated, making it so that one state could not have a currency worth significantly less than any other state.

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Answer to Question 10.30

James Monroe was much more moderate than his predecessors. Having waiting longer than either of them to serve as president, he saw the division that their policies had fomented in the nation. As a result, he made a concerted effort to bridge the gap between the North and the South politically. Although from Virginia, he did not act as a member of the so-called “Virginia Dynasty” as starkly as his predecessors. He believed that the government existed to protect the ambitious and offer liberty to those who did not have a clear path to it. In that way, he believed, more or less, in an active federal government, and looked to welcome former Federalists into the Republican Party.  

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Answer to Question 10.31

John Quincy Adams was the centralizing voice in the Monroe administration. Serving as Secretary of State, he was among the closest advisors to Monroe when it came to foreign policy. He believed that the United States needed to use the perceived success of the War of 1812 to enforce its reputation abroad. His “Monroe Doctrine” did just that, as did his extremely important work with the Adams-Onís Treaty. As a result, Monroe’s presidency is best known for its bridging the gap between former Federalists and Republicans (the former of which Adams was a member), and for establishing a bold, coherent American foreign policy. 

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Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 10.01

There are several ways to look at the War of 1812. As a military exercise, the war was a disaster for the United States. The invasion of Canada failed miserably and once the British forces landed on American soil, they marched directly to Washington and burned it down. As a social and cultural event, however, the War of 1812 had a much different effect. Due to Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans, the memory of the war changed drastically as a roaring national success. The memory of Jackson’s victory quickly became a tale of the United States “standing up” to the British for a second time and grew into a unifying spirit that bound the American people together. 

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Answer to Class Discussion 10.02

Although seemingly simple, the construction of turnpikes fueled a massive expansion of America’s roadways. Because they were privately owned and operated, turnpikes brought an entrepreneurial spirit to the Northeast, still rebuilding after the War of 1812. As the post-war period moved forward, turnpikes eased the transportation of goods across the nation, opening trade to areas that previously stood weeks, if not months, away from urban hubs and ports. Turnpikes, unsurprisingly, laid the foundation for the transportation revolution that followed.

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Answer to Class Discussion 10.03

In the three decades that followed the War of 1812, America’s cities exploded with growth and change. Regional ports that stood weeks away from the national hubs of New York and Boston grew by more than 300 and 400%. New Orleans, for example, grew from 20,000 residents to 100,000 by the mid 1830s. City life also changed, as the docks became the centers of activity across the nation, especially along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. St. Louis saw an enormous increase in riverine traffic and attracted thousands of new residents. The increased traffic at the docks and ports likewise brought waves of money into the towns, introducing a more recognizable middle class to America’s urban centers. 

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Answer to Class Discussion 10.04

Wage labor introduced the luxury of a consistent wages to the labor system. Unlike agricultural lifestyles, wages did not directly fall in line with an individual’s ability to sell their wares. Wages arrived, more or less, regardless of profit. Of course, businesses closed and factories shut down, ending all wages. But as long as the company continued to operate, wages tended to follow. The downside of this, however, is that individuals no longer owned their own labor. Wages were most often set by the companies, and the workers had little or no say in the matter.

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Answer to Class Discussion 10.05

The Panic of 1819 came about as a result of zealous lending by both the Bank of the United States and smaller state banks. In the post-war expansion, especially along turnpikes and paved roads, ambitious Americans purchased land for farms, roads, workhouses, and even new towns, borrowing thousands from banks and investors. As the expansion slowed, traffic likewise fell. Suddenly, turnpikes were not such a guaranteed investment, and markets started to shrink. As a result, those ambitious Americans who borrowed the money began defaulting on their loans, or simply absconding into the country. Banks then started to fail, and currency values collapsed. So even as coastal trading continued and traffic continued on major roadways, the economy in the interior of the nation started to die, and the disease quickly spread to the coast. 

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Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of the United States Senate in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[3] Image courtesy of Daderot in the Public Domain.

[4] Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of Humanities Texas in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of the National Archives Call # 7723148 in the Public Domain.

[7] Image courtesy of Erie Canal in the Public Domain.

[8] Image courtesy of H. Churchyard in the Public Domain.

[9] Image courtesy of Parhamr in the Public Domain.

[10] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[11] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[12] Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. in the Public Domain.

[13] Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. in the Public Domain.