The beginnings of the sectional conflict



During the period now under consideration certain important variations had taken place in the industrial relations of the people. There was a growing tendency to the division of the country into two marked sections,-one the home of free labor and of advancing commercial and manufacturing interests, the other the seat of slave labor and of developing agricultural conditions. Up to 1790 this separation of interests was not clearly evident. The vigorous measures of England had prevented any thriving development of manufactures, while outside the tobacco of Virginia the country produced no agricultural staple of sectional importance. The difficulties attending the preparation of cotton for the market as yet checked the development of that industry. But with the invention of the cotton-gin by Whitney, in 1791, cotton quickly rose to a prominent position among American industries. By the aid of this instrument three hundred and fifty pounds of cotton could be cleaned in a day, as compared with one pound by hand-labor. As a result, the cotton-product augmented with the utmost rapidity. In 1800 the export had reached the seemingly high figure of 19,000,000 pounds. In 1824 it reached 142,000,000 pounds.

Slave labor, which had been growing an undesirable form of industry, now became of high value, and the slaves of the country increased from 657,047 in 1790 to 1,524,580 in 1820. During the same period the total population increased from 3,929,782 to 9,654,596 persons. But, while slavery was thus developing in the South, it was vanishing from the North, and the industrial interests of the country were becoming strikingly differentiated, the character of the inhabitants of the two sections similarly deviating.

The industrial development of the slave States soon fell behind that of the North. The character of Northern agricultural labor required the division of the land into small farms, which had to be kept up to a high level of productiveness. The system of agricultural labor in the South tended towards increase in size of plantations, in which the soil was systematically exhausted, with no attempt to reproduce its fertility. In the North industry was the business of all, emulation was excited, and the worker was looked upon as the peer of any in the land. In the South labor was despised, the planter gave himself up to social enjoyment, and left the care of his interests to the overseer. The price of land in the South steadily fell behind that of the North.

Manufacture on a large scale had no existence in the Southern States. Their capital was monopolized by agriculture, and the development of the manufacturing industries was left to the North. Thus the distinction between the industries, ideas, and condition of society in the two sections of the country steadily grew more marked, until no two civilized nations could have been socially more unlike. In the South society became divided into three well-marked classes, with little in common between them: the great land-owners, who posed as a veritable aristocracy; the lesser slave-holders, the middle class; and the poor whites, an ignorant and worthless rabble, who were despised even by the slaves. Slavery served as the foundation-stone of these distinctly-separated classes. In the North no such class-conditions existed. The tendency there was towards the breaking down of social distinctions, and to the merging of the population into one general mass, in which every man considered himself the equal of every other, and all rising or falling below the broad level was an individual - not a class - phenomenon. The diversity of conditions which thus arose between the Northern and Southern sections of the country was destined to have the most vital consequences in its succeeding history, and to give origin to a strife which had its final outcome in the civil war.





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