The Northern and Southern United States circa 1850: immigration and slavery

De Baripedia

Based on a lecture by Aline Helg[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

In 1850, America was a country beset by deep and complex divisions. On the one hand, the Northern states, mainly made up of immigrants from Europe, were in the midst of a transformation, embracing industrialisation and a philosophy of economic growth. On the other hand, the Southern states were heavily dependent on the labour of enslaved African-Americans, remaining firmly rooted in an agrarian economy. This difference between North and South was far from simply economic or demographic; it reflected a cultural and political divide that would eventually lead to the American Civil War.

Tensions were exacerbated by legislative issues, such as the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This act made aiding a fugitive slave a federal crime, widening the divide between North and South, and highlighting their moral and ideological differences. In the North, the lure of land and the promise of work had brought waves of immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe. These new arrivals, seeking to escape famine, persecution and poverty in their homelands, found opportunity and hope in the industrial cities of the North. The North was also more inclined to support abolition and was generally more favourable to federal government intervention in economic and social matters. By contrast, the South was deeply rooted in an agrarian tradition, where slavery was vital to the plantation economy. Southern states were more inclined to support states' rights and were generally more resistant to federal intervention, particularly in relation to the institution of slavery. The protection of this institution was seen by many as crucial to the Southern economy and way of life.

This divide between North and South was not simply a difference of economic perspective; it reflected a fundamental disagreement about the nature of freedom, justice and the role of government. Immigration and slavery were the visible symptoms of these differences, but beneath the surface, a broader confrontation was underway, shaping the nation and setting it on a course for a conflict that would redefine the United States. The 1850s saw attempts at compromise and reconciliation, but the divisions were too deep, and civil war became inevitable.

The expansion of our territory[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Forced displacement of Amerindians[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

A pyramid of bison skulls used as fertiliser, in the mid-1870s.

The period between 1820 and 1850 was marked by another tragic and controversial policy in the United States: the Indian Removal. While the North and South were locked in heated debates over immigration and slavery, another crisis was developing with regard to the country's indigenous populations. The American government, seeking to expand territories for settlers and exploit natural resources, passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This law, signed by President Andrew Jackson, authorised the President to negotiate treaties to remove tribes from their ancestral lands in the eastern United States to lands west of the Mississippi River.

The implementation of this policy from 1831 to 1838 was devastating for the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. Thousands of Native Americans were forced to leave their homes, many lives were lost along the way, and this sad chapter in American history became known as the "Trail of Tears". The removal was not just about land. It was about the destruction of Native American culture and way of life. Buffalo hunting, for example, was more than a source of food; it was an integral part of the identity and spirituality of many tribes. The destruction of the bison by white hunters, in conjunction with forced relocation, inflicted a double blow on the indigenous populations. In the wider context of the period, the Indian Removal was part of a pattern of tension and transformation that defined America at that time. Westward expansion, immigration, slavery and Native American policy were all symptoms of a nation struggling to define itself. The displacement of Native Americans is a painful reminder that growth and progress can often come at a tragic human cost, and that marginalised voices can be forgotten in struggles for power and influence.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, was a key player in the policy of forced removal of Native American tribes. His belief in 'manifest destiny' - the idea that the American people were destined to spread their civilisation and democratic values across the continent - led him to pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This policy was closely linked to Jackson's vision of robust economic development and the expansion of white settlement in the south-eastern region of the United States. In his eyes, the presence of Native American tribes on these rich and fertile lands was an obstacle to this growth and prosperity. Jackson believed that moving the tribes west of the Mississippi River, away from desirable farmland and economic opportunities, would give white settlers access to more land and resources. He believed this would lead to greater economic growth, and often presented the measure as a "humanitarian" solution, claiming it would protect Native Americans from extinction.

However, the implementation of the Indian Removal Act proved to be a human tragedy. The Trail of Tears, as it came to be known, saw thousands of Native Americans forcibly removed from their ancestral lands, many losing their lives along the way to disease, hunger and exhaustion. Jackson's policy towards the Amerindians is a reflection of the times in which he lived, an era marked by expansionism, ethnocentrism and a burning desire for growth and prosperity. However, it also remains a dark and controversial chapter in American history, and the effects of these displacements continue to resonate in Native American communities today. In the wider context of 1830s America, where slavery, immigration and westward expansion were burning issues, Jackson's Indian Removal policy fits into a complex picture of conflict and change. It highlights the challenges and contradictions of a growing nation, torn between the aspiration to progress and the often cruel realities of how that progress was pursued.

The balance between slave states and free states[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The text of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

In the 1850s, the question of the balance between slave states and free states in the United States became a central political issue, reflecting the growing tensions between North and South. Westward and southward expansion, with the addition of new territories and the formation of new states, exacerbated these tensions and threatened to upset the delicate balance established by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Missouri Compromise had been conceived as a short-term solution to maintain a balance in the Senate between slave and non-slave states. With the admission of Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, the compromise succeeded in temporarily easing tensions. But it was only a temporary solution to a persistent problem. With the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the ensuing gold rush, the issue of slavery resurfaced with renewed urgency. The question of whether California would be admitted as a free or slave state became a major point of contention, reflecting the deep national divisions over slavery. In response, the Compromise of 1850 was adopted, a complex set of measures designed to maintain the balance between slave and non-slave states and avoid an imminent civil war. The compromise included the admission of California as a free state, the establishment of the territories of New Mexico and Utah without restrictions on slavery, and the adoption of a stricter law on fugitive slaves. The latter in particular exacerbated tensions between North and South, as it made it more difficult for slaves to escape and criminalised aiding runaway slaves. The Compromise of 1850 managed to ease tensions temporarily, but it did not solve the underlying problems. Instead, it laid the foundations for new divisions and conflicts. The contradictions inherent in a nation both devoted to the ideals of freedom and equality and deeply rooted in an economy dependent on slavery would eventually erupt, leading to the American Civil War. The period leading up to the Compromise of 1850 represents a crucial stage in American history, a time when cracks in the union became chasms. Efforts to navigate these troubled waters reveal the complexity of the political, economic and social issues of the time, and offer a glimpse of the challenges inherent in governing such a vast and diverse nation.

The Texas Declaration of Independence, adopted on 2 March 1836 at the Convention of 1836 in Washington-on-the-Brazos, was a defining moment in the history of the Republic of Texas. The document proclaimed Texas' independence from Mexico and listed a series of grievances against the Mexican government, justifying the separation.

The full text of the declaration begins, "When a government has ceased to protect the life, liberty, and property of the people, from whom it derives its legitimate powers, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and, far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of these inestimable and inalienable rights, it becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression."

This powerful statement articulates a deep sense of injustice and a conviction that the Mexican government has betrayed the fundamental principles on which it was supposed to operate. The document goes on to specifically list the injustices committed by Mexico and Texas' efforts to rectify them through legal means. In historical context, the Texas Declaration of Independence was a product of growing tensions between Texas settlers and the Mexican government. Cultural, religious and political differences were exacerbated by Mexican President Santa Anna's centralising reforms, which strengthened central government control over Texas. The declaration of independence launched the Texas Revolution, an armed conflict that lasted until the Texan forces won the Battle of San Jacinto. The Republic of Texas then existed as a sovereign state for nearly a decade before being annexed by the United States in 1845. The Texas Declaration of Independence remains a symbol of the struggle for self-determination and freedom, reflecting the ideals of democracy and sovereignty that animated the colonists in their quest for independence. It is a key document for understanding the complex and often conflicting dynamics of relations between Texas and Mexico in the 19th century, and continues to resonate in contemporary Texan culture and identity.

The continuation of the text of the Texas Declaration of Independence is a profound reflection of the tensions that led to the separation of Texas from Mexico. It describes a sense of betrayal and a dramatic transformation of the Mexican government from a federation of sovereign states to what the authors of the Declaration perceive as a "consolidated central military despotism".

The wording reads: "When the Federal Constitution of the country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has substantial existence, and the entire nature of their government has been changed by force, without their consent, from a limited federation of sovereign states, united for specific national purposes, into a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is despised except that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the ever-ready servants of power, and the habitual instruments of tyrants. " This part of the text highlights Texans' deep dissatisfaction with the erosion of the Mexican Federal Constitution and the centralisation of power in the hands of the military and the priesthood, perceived as enemies of liberty. The mention of change without consent expresses a violation of trust and democratic principles, fuelling the desire for independence. These words capture a moment of transformation and conflict, not only in the relationship between Texas and Mexico but also in the wider struggle for autonomy and representative governance. The choice of strong terms such as "despotism", "tyrants" and "eternal enemies of civil liberty" shows the level of outrage and deep conviction that independence was not only justified but necessary. The document goes on to detail specific grievances and is an impassioned indictment of the actions of the Mexican government, affirming Texas' determination to govern on its own terms and values.

The continuation of the text of the Texas Declaration of Independence further amplifies the sharp criticism of the Mexican government. This passage is an impassioned cry against perceived violations of Texans' rights and dignity, and a strong declaration of their resolve to seek independence. The text says: "When, long after the spirit of the constitution has disappeared, moderation is finally so thoroughly lost by those in power, that even the appearance of liberty is suppressed, the very forms of the constitution are abandoned, and, far from their petitions and remonstrances being heeded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent to impose a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet." This paragraph, rich in imagery and emotion, paints a picture of oppression and tyranny. It evokes a situation where the Mexican government not only abandoned the principles of the Constitution, but also actively suppressed attempts to redress grievances through military force. The words chosen - "dungeons", "mercenary armies", "point of the bayonet" - underline the brutal use of force and the Texans' indignation at what they saw as flagrant injustices. In its historical context, this passage reflects the intense tensions that led to the Texas Revolution and subsequent Texas independence. The sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence are both a product and a reflection of the deep divisions and misunderstandings between Texas and the central Mexican government. The rhetoric of the Texas Declaration of Independence captures a time of struggle and change, and still resonates today as an eloquent testament to the quest for freedom and self-determination.

The conclusion of this passage from the Texas Declaration of Independence marks a clear and unmistakable line between oppressor and oppressed, justifying revolt as a right and a duty. Here is the text: "When, in such a crisis, the differing opinions of political parties are forgotten, and the line of demarcation is drawn between the oppressor and the oppressed, it is the right and duty of the latter to revolt against the former, and to bear the arms which he has been forced to take up in defence of his person, his property, and his rights, for which he has pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honour." In these words, the rhetoric reaches a climax, transcending partisan quarrels and focusing on the fundamental principles of freedom, dignity and human rights. The language is imbued with profound solemnity, describing the struggle for independence not just as a choice, but as a moral and ethical obligation. The call to "bear arms" and defend the "person, property and rights" underlines the urgency of the situation and the total commitment to the cause. The reference to "life, fortune and sacred honour" serves to magnify what is at stake, presenting it as an ultimate struggle for identity, survival and integrity. These powerful words from the Texas Declaration of Independence captured a defining moment in history, encapsulating the determination, indignation and idealism that led to the founding of the Republic of Texas. They continue to resonate as a testament to the universal quest for freedom and self-determination, and are a reminder of the sacrifices and values that can shape a nation's destiny.

The history of Texas in the first half of the 19th century is a complex and poignant reflection of the tensions that defined the era in the United States, particularly in relation to slavery and territorial expansion. Texas' role in these debates offers a fascinating window on the forces at play during this troubled period in American history. The mass arrival of Anglo-American settlers in Texas, armed with their own conceptions of slavery and property rights, quickly brought local laws and values into conflict with those of the Mexican government, which had abolished slavery in 1829. Tensions escalated until revolt broke out, culminating in the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. The newly formed Republic of Texas was at odds with itself over slavery, reflecting the wider dilemmas facing the American nation as a whole. Despite the formal abolition of slavery in 1829, the institution continued to be practised, reflecting the gap between legislative ideals and the reality on the ground. The annexation of Texas to the United States in 1845 highlighted the crucial issue of the balance between slave and non-slave states. The entry of Texas increased the number of slave states, exacerbating tensions within Congress and throughout the country. The fact that the US Congress recognised Texas' independence, but refused to annex it immediately, shows just how contentious the issue was. This episode in Texas history highlights the interconnected themes of expansion, slavery and political power within the Union. It illustrates how decisions about one territory can have national repercussions and how local issues can turn into national crises. Texas became a microcosm of the moral, legal and political dilemmas of the time, and its complex history continues to illuminate the challenges that have shaped the identity and destiny of the United States.

James Knox Polk (1795-1849) was the eleventh President of the United States. He was elected for a term running from 1845 to 1849.

Oregon's history in the mid-19th century poignantly reflects the same national tensions that shaped the rest of the country at that time, including territorial expansion, Native American rights, and the issue of slavery. The rush to Oregon and the settlement of the region highlighted the tension between white expansion and the rights of indigenous tribes. Treaties, often unjust and manipulative, were used to forcibly remove Native Americans from their ancestral lands. The Doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which justified westward expansion, often served as the ideological basis for these displacements. The situation in Oregon reflected a wider pattern of dispossession and oppression of indigenous peoples across the United States. The creation of Oregon as a slave-free territory in 1848 was a reflection of the national debate over the extension of slavery into new territories and states. Northern Oregon settlers, generally opposed to slavery, succeeded in making Oregon a slave-free territory. However, this also exacerbated tensions between North and South, as each new territory or state added to the Union threatened to upset the delicate balance between slave and non-slave states. Oregon became another flashpoint in the national debate over slavery, which would eventually lead to the Civil War. The situation in Oregon also showed how regional dynamics could interact with national issues. Relationships with the Canadians and the British, as well as local concerns about colonisation and the economy, played a part in how Oregon approached these wider issues. Decisions made in Oregon were linked to local and regional issues, but they also had an impact on national debates. Oregon in the 1840s and 1850s illustrates how the national themes of expansion, Native American rights and slavery were experienced and interpreted in a particular regional context. Oregon history adds another layer of complexity to our understanding of this crucial period in American history, demonstrating how seemingly local issues could have national and even global resonance.

The period centred around the presidency of James K. Polk's presidency in the 1840s is one of the most complex and important in American history. It was marked by territorial expansion, slavery and the resulting regional tensions. The ideology of Manifest Destiny, the idea that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast, was a driving force during this period. James K. Polk, an ardent supporter of this doctrine, saw westward expansion as a national priority. This led to aggressive efforts to acquire vast territories, laying the foundations for future conflicts. The annexation of Texas was a controversial issue, particularly because of its status as a slave state. Its admission exacerbated tensions between North and South and upset the delicate balance between slave and non-slave states. The escalation of these tensions culminated in the Mexican-American War orchestrated by Polk, which resulted in the acquisition of Mexican territory north of the Rio Grande. The acquisition of these new territories created a new set of problems, as the nation had to determine whether slavery would be allowed in these areas. The Compromise of 1850 attempted to resolve these problems, establishing new rules for the territories and attempting to maintain a precarious balance between the interests of the North and the South. However, these measures only postponed the inevitable confrontation. The decisions taken during Polk's presidency helped lay the foundations for the Civil War. The issues of expansion and slavery continued to divide the country, and the compromises reached proved insufficient to keep the peace. Polk's complex legacy, marked by successful territorial expansion but also by the exacerbation of national divisions, left a lasting impact. The presidency of James K. Polk's presidency played a key role in formulating the expansionist policy of the United States in the mid-19th century. The issues of slavery and territorial expansion during his tenure were at the root of conflicts and deep divisions that shaped American history. His commitment to expansion, while contributing to the economy and territorial growth, also created tensions that eventually led to the Civil War. His legacy continues to be a subject of debate and study, reflecting the complexity of this crucial period in the nation's history.

Under the presidency of James K. Polk, the United States underwent a period of landmark territorial expansion, driven primarily by the ideology of "Manifest Destiny." This doctrine, which postulated that the expansion of the United States across the North American continent was inevitable and pre-ordained, shaped the politics and diplomacy of the time. Central to this expansion was the annexation of Texas and Florida to the United States. Texas, in particular, was a contentious issue due to the question of slavery. Its annexation exacerbated tensions between the northern and southern states, fuelling debate over the balance of power between slave and non-slave states. The Mexican-American War, which began in 1846, also became a focal point of Polk's presidency. This war arose from a border dispute between Texas and Mexico and was seen by many in the northern states as an aggressive and unjustified expansion of slavery. The controversy surrounding the war was linked to territorial expansion and efforts to increase the sphere of influence of the slave states. Victory in the Mexican-American War led to the acquisition of vast territories in the West, including California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. These new territories fuelled the debate on the extension of slavery and created a new dynamic in relations between the Northern and Southern states. The presidency of James K. Polk's presidency was a crucial period in American history, marked by expansion, war and growing national tensions. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny and the resulting policies shaped the trajectory of the nation, paving the way for westward expansion, but also for the divisions and conflicts that were to follow. The controversy surrounding slavery, exacerbated by the annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American War, laid the foundations for the tensions that would eventually culminate in the American Civil War. The Polk period remains a complex and multi-dimensional chapter in American history, reflecting the ideals, ambitions and dilemmas of a nation in the throes of change.

Prise de Mexico par les troupes U.S. par Carl Nebel dans The War Between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated (1851).

The Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848, was a crucial moment in the history of American expansion. It culminated in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico ceded a vast expanse of land to the United States, including California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma, in exchange for $15 million. This acquisition, known as the "Mexican cession", represented a major step in the realisation of America's "Manifest Destiny". But it also intensified the growing division between North and South over the issue of slavery. The vast expanse of newly acquired territory reignited the debate over whether slavery would be permitted or prohibited in these new territories. The Southern states, whose economies depended heavily on slavery, wanted the new territories to pave the way for the practice. The Northern states, on the other hand, were largely opposed to the expansion of slavery and feared that the balance of power within the federal government would tip in favour of the slave states. The Mexican cession therefore fuelled the tensions and disagreements that would eventually lead to the Civil War. It highlighted how the issue of slavery was inextricably linked to the politics of territorial expansion at the time, and how the pursuit of growth and prosperity could have profound and lasting consequences for national unity.

The discovery of gold in California in 1848 triggered a gold rush that attracted thousands of people from all over the United States and the world. The lure of sudden wealth drove many people, including Chinese immigrants, to the West Coast. These Chinese immigrants played a vital role in the development of California and the West Coast during the 19th century. Not only did they contribute to gold mining, but they also worked in other industries, such as building the transcontinental railway. Their hard work and determination were often greeted with admiration, but also with discrimination and prejudice. The Gold Rush also had an impact on the issue of slavery. The rapidly expanding population of California raised the question of whether the state would be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state. Eventually, California was admitted as a free state in 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850, a set of measures designed to maintain the balance between slave and non-slave states. In this way, the Gold Rush had a profound impact not only on California's economy and demographics, but also on the national political landscape, exacerbating tensions over the issue of slavery that would ultimately lead to civil war.

The expansion and colonisation of the American West in the mid-19th century marked a tragic and divisive period in relations between European settlers and the indigenous peoples of the region. The promise of fertile land and the lure of wealth, particularly after the annexation of Oregon in 1846 and the discovery of gold in California in 1848, led to a massive influx of settlers to the West. This westward migration led to increased tensions and violence between settlers and Native Americans. The settlers, motivated by a belief in their "manifest destiny" to dominate the continent, often treated the indigenous peoples with contempt and cruelty. Many tribes were forced to abandon their ancestral lands and settle on remote and often infertile reserves. Their populations were decimated by the diseases brought by the Europeans, the violence of armed conflict and forced labour. Government policies of the time, such as the Indian Removal Act of 1830, supported and even encouraged this forced removal and enslavement of indigenous peoples. Events such as the Trail of Tears bear witness to the suffering and injustice inflicted on the Amerindians during this period. Ultimately, westward expansion profoundly altered the ways of life and cultures of indigenous peoples, leaving lasting scars that continue to resonate in the relationship between the United States and indigenous nations today. The legacy of this era continues to be a subject of reflection and debate, highlighting the complexity and ambiguity of the motivations and consequences of American expansion.

The conquest of the West by the United States in the 19th century raised profound ethical and moral questions that continue to resonate to this day. The aggressive expansion of American territory was often at the expense of the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, and the actions of settlers and the US government were frequently in violation of treaties and agreements made with Native American tribes. The forced removal of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands was a common feature of the politics of the time. This was often justified by racist beliefs and theories of superiority that dehumanised indigenous peoples and saw them as obstacles to civilisation and progress. These attitudes allowed, and even encouraged, extreme violence and cruelty towards the Amerindians. The extermination of indigenous peoples and the destruction of their ways of life and cultures have left lasting scars on these communities. The effects of these policies are still felt today, with higher rates of poverty, unemployment and health problems among indigenous populations compared to other groups in the United States. Reflecting on this period in American history requires recognition and understanding of the injustices that were perpetrated. It also calls for an examination of how the values and principles that guided the conquest of the West continue to influence American politics and society today. This is an important part of history that deserves careful study and critical examination, not only to honour the memory of those who suffered but also to inform current debates about rights, justice and equality.

The two-party system in the United States, with its origins in the post-revolutionary period, has undergone a complex and nuanced evolution. The split of the Democratic-Republican Party in 1828 was a key moment in this evolution. The Democratic Party, led by Andrew Jackson, quickly emerged as the representative of the interests of small farmers, labourers and settlers in the West. Advocating more decentralised governance and opposition to central banking, the party sought to position itself as the champion of the 'common man', in contrast to elitist interests. On the other side, the National Republican Party, which later became the Whig Party, represented the interests of the industrial and commercial elite of the North East. The Whigs promoted a vision more favourable to industry and economic development, supporting a stronger central government and the creation of a national bank. This division between the two main parties created a dynamic that influenced American politics throughout the 19th century. It highlighted the tensions between different visions of government and economic priorities, tensions that continue to shape the American political landscape to this day. Over time, the parties evolved and realigned, notably with the demise of the Whig Party in the mid-19th century and the emergence of the modern Republican Party, founded in 1854, largely around opposition to the expansion of slavery. This new party, in alliance with other anti-slavery groups, succeeded in electing Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Overall, the two-party system in the United States has shown a capacity to evolve and readapt in response to changes in society and the economy. The tensions and conflicts between different visions of America, as manifested in the division between the Democrats and the Whigs in the early 19th century, continue to play a key role in American politics, reflecting the nation's evolving values, interests and aspirations.

In the 1820s and 1830s, the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories became increasingly important in American politics, reflecting a deep and growing division between North and South. The controversy surrounding slavery created palpable tension between the major political parties of the day. The Democratic Party, which had its base mainly in the South, broadly supported the expansion of slavery. For many Southern Democrats, slavery was not only an economically vital institution, but also a constitutionally protected right. The expansion of slavery into the new territories was seen as a necessity to maintain the political and economic balance with the rapidly growing North. By contrast, the Whig party, whose base was mainly in the North, was more divided on the issue, although many opposed it. Northern Whigs were often concerned about the expansion of slavery because they feared it would threaten the free-labour economy and upset the political balance in the nation. Some were also motivated by moral and religious convictions against slavery. This division between Democrats and Whigs over the issue of slavery exacerbated regional tensions and ultimately helped shape America's pre-civil political landscape. Compromises such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 were temporary attempts to reconcile these differences, but the issue of slavery remained a sticking point that ultimately led to the Civil War. The issue of slavery revealed deep divisions not only between North and South but also within the parties themselves, which had a lasting impact on American politics.

The dissolution of the Whig Party in 1854 and the creation of the Republican Party marked a turning point in American politics, reflecting the growing polarisation around the issue of slavery. The new Republican Party was formed from abolitionist and anti-slavery groups and quickly took a stance in favour of restricting slavery in the territories. This strong position resonated with the industrial and commercial elite of the North, as well as with the nascent abolitionist movement, making the Republican party a major player in national politics. In contrast, the Democratic Party became increasingly associated with the interests of Southern slave owners. The party supported popular sovereignty, which allowed residents of the territories to decide for themselves the legality of slavery, a position that echoed Southern interests. This dichotomy between the parties amplified the North-South divide and set the stage for a turbulent period in American history. The choice between restricting or expanding slavery was no longer just a political issue, but became a moral and social issue that fuelled passions on both sides. In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, crystallised these divisions and was a triggering factor in the secession of several Southern states, leading to the Civil War. The creation of the Republican Party and the dissolution of the Whig Party illustrated the extent to which the issue of slavery had polarised the nation, and highlighted the complex challenges America faced as it navigated the stormy waters of territorial expansion and the balance between human rights and economic interests.

In the early years of the American Republic, the evolution of the political party system was complex and cannot be reduced solely to issues of racism and xenophobia. While these elements certainly played a role in the society of the time, particularly in the often discriminatory treatment of Irish immigrants and other ethnic groups, they were not the only drivers of political development. The party system in the United States developed in response to a multitude of factors, including regional differences, economic interests, debates over federal versus state power, and moral issues such as slavery. Political parties have formed and reformed to reflect these diverse and often conflicting concerns, and their evolution is the result of a complex set of social, economic and political dynamics. Tensions between the agricultural interests of the South and the industrial and commercial interests of the North, for example, have been a key driver in the formation of parties and their platforms. Similarly, debates over the constitution, the national bank, tariffs and westward expansion all helped to shape the political landscape. In sum, while racism and xenophobia were present elements in American society at the time, and influenced certain aspects of politics, the evolution of the party system was a far more nuanced and multifaceted affair.

During the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny became a deeply rooted doctrine in the American national psyche, holding that the United States was destined by God to spread its civilisation and democracy across the continent. This idea was influential and widely accepted, often transcending partisan divisions. The Democrats, particularly during the presidency of James K. Polk, were particularly enthusiastic about the idea of westward expansion. They saw expansion as a means of expanding the agricultural economy and opening up new land for settlers. In the South, expansion into new territories was also seen as an opportunity to extend the institution of slavery. Although the Republican Party was not formed until the mid-nineteenth century, its precursors, such as the Whig Party, and the Republicans themselves, also saw opportunities in the West. They often focused more on economic development, supporting policies such as the internal transport system, protective tariffs and the creation of national banks to support industrialisation. Opposition to the extension of slavery into the new territories also became a key Republican Party position. Although Democrats and Republicans may have differed in their specific motivations and priorities, they shared a common belief in manifest destiny and supported westward expansion. They saw such expansion as essential to national growth and the flourishing of American democracy. However, the way they viewed this expansion and the policies they promoted often reflected regional and economic differences, sometimes creating tension and conflict within the growing nation.

These differences over slavery and the treatment of indigenous peoples were deeply rooted in the economic and social interests of different regions of the country, and shaped the policies and positions of each party. The Democratic Party, with its strong support in the South, was tied to the agrarian economy and plantation culture of the region. Slavery was an essential part of this economy, and many Southern Democrats saw the expansion of slavery into the new territories as a necessity to maintain their way of life and political influence. They were also less inclined to question policies towards Native Americans that favoured westward expansion at the expense of native populations. The Republican Party, on the other hand, had a base of support in the industrial North and was more influenced by abolitionist ideas and moral concerns about slavery. They opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories, fearing that it would distort the balance of power in favour of the slave states and undermine freedom and opportunity for free workers. The Republican Party was also more likely to sympathise with the demands and rights of indigenous peoples, although this was not always translated into concrete policy. These profound differences between Democrats and Republicans over slavery and the treatment of indigenous peoples not only reflected geographical and economic divisions; they also revealed a deep moral and ideological divide. They played a major role in the rising tensions between North and South in the run-up to the Civil War, and they continue to influence the way we understand this period of American history. The complexity of these issues shows how the questions of slavery and Native American rights were inextricably linked to the larger questions of democracy, economics and national destiny at the time.

The political parties in the United States in the nineteenth century both favoured westward expansion, motivated by the ideology of Manifest Destiny and the possibilities of economic growth. However, these ambitions for expansion revealed deep and persistent divisions over issues such as slavery and the treatment of indigenous peoples. The Democratic Party, whose support base was mainly in the South, was more inclined to support the expansion of slavery into the new territories. For them, slavery was an essential part of the economy and social structure, and they often acted aggressively to protect and expand these interests. The Republican Party, whose support base was primarily in the North, was more likely to oppose the expansion of slavery and to show increased concern for the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples. Their opposition to the expansion of slavery was linked to moral, social and economic considerations, reflecting a different vision of the nation's identity and future. These differences, although they may have seemed secondary to the common goal of expansion, became central and insurmountable. They fuelled regional and political tensions that eventually degenerated into open conflict, leading to the American Civil War in 1861. The complexity of these debates, and the way in which they became entangled with wider questions of power, identity and destiny, show that westward expansion was not simply a matter of territorial conquest, but a profound challenge to the values and principles of the young Republic.

The Manifest Destiny thesis in the United States (1845)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This work, painted around 1872 by John Gast and entitled American Progress, is an allegorical representation of "Manifest Destiny". In this scene, an angelic woman (sometimes identified as Columbia, the personification of the United States in the 19th century) carries the light of "civilisation" westwards with the American settlers, wiring the telegraph in her wake. The Amerindians and wild animals flee to the darkness of the untamed West.

The Manifest Destiny thesis, formulated by John L. O'Sullivan in 1845, was a powerful and guiding ideology for the United States during the 19th century. It was based on the belief that the United States had a unique and divine mission to extend its influence across the North American continent and, eventually, beyond. This idea was not simply a call for territorial expansion; it was deeply rooted in many people's vision of American identity. The United States was seen as an exceptional nation with a superior form of government and democratic values. Expansion was therefore seen not only as a right but also as a duty, aimed at spreading these values and bringing 'civilisation' to less developed regions. This ideology played a key role in America's expansionist movements, justifying actions such as the annexation of Texas, the acquisition of Oregon, and the war against Mexico. It also influenced the way Americans perceived and interacted with indigenous peoples, often with devastating consequences. Later, the ideas of Manifest Destiny also found an echo in American imperialism beyond the continent, influencing actions such as the annexation of Hawaii and the conquest of the Philippines. Although powerful and influential, Manifest Destiny was also controversial. Some saw it as an excuse for aggression and oppression, and it was deeply linked to debates about slavery and the nature of American expansion. How it shaped American history remains a subject for study and reflection, illustrating the complexities of growing a nation and the ethical and moral challenges that accompany such expansion.

The Manifest Destiny thesis, rooted in the belief in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon culture and race, had a powerful and often troubling influence on the politics of American expansion in the nineteenth century. It was a tool for justifying many actions that today are widely recognised as unjust and inhumane. In fact, Manifest Destiny was closely linked to a form of ethnic nationalism that placed Anglo-Saxon culture and race above all others. This idea was imbued with a sense of divine mission, whereby the United States was charged with extending its 'superior civilisation' to the rest of the world. This concept was not merely theoretical; it was aggressively implemented in actions such as the annexation of Mexican territories, the suppression and displacement of indigenous peoples, and the continued support for the institution of slavery. These actions were justified by rhetoric that portrayed the United States as the bearer of a superior democratic ideal, while those in the conquered territories were often depicted as inferior and in need of "civilisation". This racist and ethnocentric approach had profound and lasting consequences, particularly in terms of relations with indigenous peoples. Forced displacement and annexation have often been accompanied by violence and oppression, creating wounds that persist in many communities to this day. In addition, the association of slavery with this expansion exacerbated regional and political divisions, ultimately contributing to the American Civil War.

The post-Mexican-American War period marked a turning point in the way the Manifest Destiny thesis was applied by the United States. The focus shifted from pure territorial expansion through military conquest and annexation to more economic and strategic forms of expansion. The Homestead Act of 1862 is a perfect example. This act allowed anyone willing to work and cultivate the land to claim up to 160 acres of public land. This encouraged the settlement of the West and allowed many American citizens, including many immigrants, to acquire land at low cost. However, this was also often at the expense of indigenous peoples, who were displaced from their ancestral lands. The emphasis on economic expansion was also evident in the development of the railways, which linked East and West and facilitated trade and migration. The transcontinental railway, completed in 1869, is an emblematic example of this effort. Manifest Destiny also had an influence on American foreign policy beyond the North American continent. The annexation of Hawaii in 1898, the acquisition of territory following the Spanish-American War, and interventions in Latin America and Asia were all justified, in part, by this belief in the duty and right of the United States to extend its influence and democratic ideals. Manifest Destiny was therefore a flexible concept that was adapted to the changing needs and aspirations of the nation. While retaining its roots in the belief in a divine mission and cultural superiority, it evolved to encompass a wider range of goals and methods, reflecting America's growing ambitions on the world stage and the country's internal transformations during this crucial period in its history.

The evolution of Manifest Destiny into a form of informal empire, characterised by influence rather than direct annexation, marked a significant stage in American foreign policy. It reflected a growing understanding of the importance of economic and strategic power, in addition to territorial power. In the Caribbean and Latin America, this approach took several forms. The Monroe Doctrine, initially intended to prevent European intervention in the Western Hemisphere, became a justification for American influence in the region. Later, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904 stated that the United States could intervene in the affairs of countries in the Western Hemisphere to maintain stability. This led to several military interventions, such as the occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924). The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 also symbolised the growing reach of American influence in the region, facilitating trade and military movements between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. During the Cold War, the fight against communism became a major justification for US involvement in the affairs of other nations. This included support for anti-communist regimes and opposition to socialist and communist movements in various countries, sometimes by highly controversial means, such as US involvement in the coup in Chile in 1973. This approach of influence rather than annexation reflected a form of imperialism that was less visible, but potentially just as powerful, as direct territorial conquest. It also demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the levers of international power, recognising that economic, political and cultural influence could often be more effective than direct territorial control. However, it also provoked criticism and controversy, both abroad and in the United States. Intervention and interference in the affairs of other nations were often perceived as imperialist and neo-colonial, and sometimes provoked violent reactions and enduring opposition to the United States and its policies.

The idea of Manifest Destiny was transformed into a form of economic and strategic imperialism as the nineteenth century progressed. The period of territorial conquest and annexation may have subsided, but the expansionist impulse continued in different ways. The annexation of Hawaii in 1898, for example, was not part of continental expansion, but part of a wider effort to extend American influence in the Pacific. Similarly, the American victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 led to the acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, and marked a turning point in American expansion outside North America. The Open Door Policy in China, which sought to promote American commercial interests in Asia, is another example of how American expansionism manifested itself in a different form. At home, policies such as the Homestead Act continued to encourage westward expansion, often at the expense of indigenous peoples. The underlying idea that America had a special role to play, not just in North America but in the world, persisted, albeit in different forms. The transformation of American expansionism into a more economic and less territorial form reflected the changing realities of international power and America's growing economic interests abroad. It also foreshadowed the way in which the United States would play a leading role in world affairs in the twentieth century, using its economic, military and cultural power to influence events around the world.

1850: Fragile compromise between slave states and free states[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

29 January 1850: Henry Clay introduces compromise in the Senate.

In 1850, the United States found itself in a delicate balance between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North. This compromise was established to maintain the balance of power between the two regions, but it was fragile. At the same time, new territories were being acquired as a result of the Mexican-American War and the annexation of California, further complicating the issue of slavery and statehood. The Compromise of 1850, a series of laws passed by the US Congress, attempted to resolve these complex and conflicting issues. It included several key measures designed to ease tensions between the northern and southern states. California was admitted as a free state. This appeased the Northern states who wished to limit the expansion of slavery, but it also unbalanced the distribution of slave and free states. To compensate for California's admission as a free state, the Fugitive Slave Act was strengthened, making it easier for Southern slave owners to recover slaves who had escaped to the free Northern states. This exacerbated tensions in the North, where many citizens saw the law as unjust and inhumane. In addition, the Compromise also saw the abolition of the slave trade in Washington D.C., designed to please Northern abolitionists but having little practical effect on the institution of slavery itself. Finally, the organisation of the territories of New Mexico and Utah without restrictions on slavery left the decision to the local population (the principle of popular sovereignty). This left the issue of slavery in these territories undecided, opening the door to future conflict. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily eased tensions, but it also highlighted the depth and complexity of regional divisions over the issue of slavery. The concessions made on both sides did not resolve the underlying issues and, in fact, sowed the seeds of future conflict. The delicate balance established by the compromise was further eroded by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which allowed the new territories to decide for themselves whether they would be slaveholding or free. The following decade was marked by heightened tensions and occasional violence, finally culminating in the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.

In 1850, the burning issue in the United States was the balance between the slave states and the free states, particularly in the context of adding new territories to the nation. The stakes were high. If the slave states became the majority, they could control the Senate and potentially extend slavery to new territories. Conversely, if the free states won a majority, they could work to abolish slavery in those areas. This concern was at the heart of the debates on the Compromise of 1850, a set of laws designed to resolve this thorny issue. The proposed solution included admitting California as a free state, which would please the Northern states, while creating the territories of New Mexico and Utah where the issue of slavery would be decided by popular sovereignty, leaving the decision to the inhabitants of these territories. To appease the Southern states, the Fugitive Slave Act, a law that facilitated the recovery of fugitive slaves by their owners, was strengthened. The Compromise of 1850 was a delicate attempt to maintain a delicate balance between the divergent interests of North and South, an issue that would continue to haunt the nation until the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The Compromise of 1850 was a complex set of laws designed to resolve the growing tensions between the northern and southern states over the issue of slavery in the newly acquired territories. One of the key elements of the compromise was the admission of California as a free state, which appeased the abolitionist states in the North. In addition, the territories of New Mexico and Utah were created with the stipulation that the question of slavery would be decided by popular sovereignty, i.e. by a vote of the residents of these territories. To allay Southern concerns, the Compromise also strengthened the Fugitive Slave Law, making it easier to recover slaves who had fled to the free states. Despite these measures, the Compromise of 1850 failed to settle the issue of slavery once and for all, and tensions continued to escalate. Disagreement over slavery in the territories became a major bone of contention, exacerbating regional and ideological differences. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, with his firm stance against the expansion of slavery, further inflamed tensions. Many in the South saw Lincoln and the Republican party as a direct threat to their way of life and to the institution of slavery. These tensions eventually culminated in the outbreak of the American Civil War, a bloody struggle that put the future of the union and the future of slavery in the United States on the line.

The North: market revolution and immigration[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The market revolution[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The market revolution of the mid-19th century in the northern United States marked a decisive turning point in the country's economic and social history. This period was characterised by the introduction of new technologies, notably railways and steam-powered factories. The construction of vast networks of railways revolutionised transport, facilitating the movement of goods and people across the country. At the same time, innovation in steam technology led to a significant increase in industrial production. These technological advances led to the rapid growth of industry, particularly in the textile and manufacturing sectors. The transition from a predominantly agrarian economy to an integrated market economy was made possible by industrial expansion. Financial markets and banks played a key role, providing the capital needed to finance this explosive growth. Industrialisation also led to rapid urbanisation, with a significant shift in population from rural areas to urban centres. The attraction of the cities and the opportunity for employment in the new factories attracted an ever-growing workforce. This was further reinforced by a massive influx of immigrants, mainly from Ireland and Germany, who were attracted by the economic opportunities in the North. This immigration not only provided an essential workforce for industry, but also added a cultural richness to American society. The rapid evolution of the economy and society also led to significant changes in social structures and cultural values. The emergence of a distinct working class and the valuing of innovation and entrepreneurship became hallmarks of this era. The transformation of the agrarian economy into a modern industrialised economy laid the foundations for future economic development in the United States. The market revolution in the North in the mid-19th century shaped the United States' transition to a modern, integrated economic system. The interaction of technological advances, industrial growth, urbanisation, and cultural and social change created a complex and dynamic landscape, laying the foundations for American economic power that would endure in the centuries to come.

The market revolution in the northern United States in the mid-19th century marked a period of profound economic and social transformation. It saw the introduction of new technologies and transport systems, notably railways and steam-powered factories. These innovations accelerated production and stimulated industrial growth, moving society from a predominantly agrarian structure to a thriving industrialised economy. The transition to a market economy was accompanied by rapid urbanisation, facilitated by a large influx of immigrants, particularly from Ireland and Germany. These immigrants provided the labour needed for industrial growth and contributed to the expansion of cities, transforming the urban landscape of the North. By contrast, the southern United States took a very different path, remaining faithful to an agrarian economy. Centred on the production of cash crops such as cotton and tobacco, the economy of the South was closely linked to the dependence of enslaved African-Americans on labour. This concentration on agriculture and dependence on slavery created a deep economic and social divide between the North and the South. This economic divergence, combined with the cultural and social differences between these two regions, created tensions that ultimately contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. The rapid growth and industrialisation of the North contrasted sharply with the agrarian and slave economy of the South, fuelling disagreements over issues such as slavery, trade and states' rights. These fundamental differences shaped American history, leading to a conflict that would define the nation for generations to come.

The market revolution in the United States in the mid-19th century marked a period of profound economic change, at the heart of which was the rapid development of transport infrastructure. The construction of railways and canals changed the nation's economic landscape, facilitating the movement of goods and people and enabling unprecedented economic integration. In this period of transformation, the North, South, East and West of the country were linked as never before. Railways and canals not only enabled the export of goods from the industrial North to other regions, but also served as conduits for people, ideas and culture. This contributed to the formation of a more unified national identity, strengthening a sense of belonging and cohesion at a time when the country was beset by regional tensions. The impact of this transport infrastructure extended far beyond the economy. It enabled the expansion of industry and the growth of urban centres, particularly in the North. Cities became magnets for immigrants and workers, stimulating innovation and an entrepreneurial culture. Markets were now able to respond quickly to changing needs and demands, fuelling sustained economic growth. But these changes also affected the delicate balance between the different regions of the country. While the North rapidly industrialised, the South remained largely agrarian and dependent on slavery. Economic and cultural differences widened, laying the foundations for tensions that would culminate in the Civil War. The market revolution redefined the way Americans did business and lived their daily lives. It shaped a rapidly changing economy and society, linking regions, stimulating innovation and growth, but also exacerbating the divisions that would test the nation's resilience. The development of transport infrastructure has been a key factor in this transformation, an engine that has propelled the United States into a new era of prosperity and conflict.

Commercialization, the radical economic shift that marked the 19th century in the United States, transformed the way communities lived and did business. Prior to this period, many settler communities existed on the margins of the mainstream economy, relying on subsistence farming and limited trade. Bartering and self-sufficiency were often the main means of survival. With the advent of commercialisation, the country saw an increase in economic activity and the use of money in transactions. Bartering was replaced by the buying and selling of goods and services, and a greater dependence on market systems developed. This led to the growth of cities and industrial centres, attracting workers and entrepreneurs to new economic opportunities. However, this transition was not without its challenges. Commercialisation often led to the erosion of traditional community and family structures. The emphasis on the market economy diminished the importance of the community and family ties that had once been at the heart of American society. In many cases, values and traditions have been replaced by a focus on production, consumption and economic growth. The market revolution and commercialisation have also opened the door to new forms of commerce and industry. Technological innovation, the construction of railways and canals, and the rise of banks and financial institutions all helped to create a more dynamic and interconnected economic landscape. In short, commercialisation was a turning point in the economic history of the United States, laying the foundations for modern industrial society. It transformed rural and isolated communities into an economically integrated and interconnected nation. But this economic progress came with its own set of challenges and tensions, not least the erosion of traditional community and family values. The complexity of this transformation reflects the nuanced nature of progress and growth, revealing both the opportunities and the costs of living in a commercialised society.

Industrialisation, the transformational process that marked economic and social development in the 19th century, reorganised the way we produce and consume. Industrialisation refers to the development of industry on a large scale, characterised by the use of machines and the application of mass production methods. It marks the transition from manual labour to machine production, and the introduction of mass-produced interchangeable parts. This revolutionary process brought many benefits, but also raised new challenges. One of the most remarkable aspects of industrialisation is the increase in efficiency and productivity. Mechanisation has made it possible to produce more goods in less time, and with less labour. It has also made it possible to standardise products, reducing costs and making goods more accessible to a greater number of consumers. Industrialisation has also had a profound impact on the workforce. The need for skilled workers to manage sophisticated machinery has changed the nature of work, requiring new skills and training. At the same time, mechanisation has reduced the need for certain types of manual work, leading to displacement and changes in the structure of employment. In addition to economic changes, industrialisation has also had a significant social and environmental impact. Rapid urbanisation, the concentration of the population in industrial centres and often difficult working conditions have posed new challenges in terms of health, education and housing. In addition, industrialisation has led to greater consumption of natural resources and increased pollution. Industrialisation has been a key driver of modern economic development, fostering innovation, growth and improved quality of life for many. However, it has also brought challenges and tensions, particularly in terms of working conditions, social equity and environmental impact. Understanding these various aspects of industrialisation offers insights into how society and the economy can evolve, and the choices and trade-offs that accompany technological and economic progress.

Industrialisation in the United States in the 19th century was a turning point in the country's economic and social history. This transformation can be analysed in several paragraphs that highlight different aspects of this profound change. Industrialisation was characterised by the construction of large-scale industrial facilities. Mass production, made possible by the application of new technologies and manufacturing methods, revolutionised the way goods were produced. This laid the foundations for a more dynamic and diversified economy. One of the most striking social changes during this period was the increase in the percentage of wage earners in the working population. In 1800, around 10% of the working population were wage earners, but this figure had risen to around 40% by 1860. This change was largely due to the growth of factory jobs and the gradual move away from agricultural work, reflecting a fundamental transformation in the nature of work and employment. Industrialisation also stimulated rapid urbanisation. As people moved to urban areas to work in factories, new towns and villages sprang up, and existing urban centres expanded rapidly. This not only changed the geographical landscape, but also led to a transformation in lifestyles, with new opportunities and challenges. Taken together, these changes have had a profound impact on American society and the economy. The transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy created new opportunities for wealth and advancement, but also raised questions about working conditions, social inequalities and class tensions. The role of government, the emergence of labour movements, and debates about regulation and reform became central themes of this period. The period of industrialisation in the United States was one of rapid and radical transformation. The growth of industry, changes in the workforce and urbanisation redefined the American economy and society. These changes continue to influence the country today, and an understanding of this historical period is essential to grasping today's socio-economic dynamics.

Economic growth in the United States (1700-1850).

The period of industrialisation in the United States brought profound changes to the North East region and to society in general. The changes were so profound that they can be described in terms of several aspects that shed light on this important transition. The North-East of the United States was the most industrialised region in the country during this period. The construction of large factories, particularly in the textile industries, marked a break with the traditional image of the United States as a nation of free, self-sufficient peasant settlers. This economic transformation created new opportunities, but also posed new challenges. One remarkable aspect of industrialisation was the employment of women and girls in factories, particularly in the textile industry. Before marriage, many of them found jobs in these factories, contributing to the family income. This not only improved the standard of living for many families, but also began to change the way society viewed the role of women in the economy. Increased wage-earning and rapid urbanisation led to profound changes in social structure and lifestyles. People migrated to the cities to find work, changing family and community structures. Working conditions in factories also raised new questions about workers' rights, employer-employee relations and social justice. These changes had a lasting impact on American society and the economy. Industrialisation created unprecedented prosperity, but also accentuated inequalities and social tensions. The emerging role of women in the economy has paved the way for wider discussions on gender rights and equality. Urbanisation has redefined culture and lifestyle, creating both opportunities and challenges. The period of industrialisation was a time of rapid change and transformation in the United States, particularly in the North East. It reshaped the economy, society and even national identity. Understanding these changes and their long-term implications can offer important insights into contemporary challenges and opportunities in the United States.

The expansion of industrialisation in the 19th century United States not only reshaped the economy but also had a major impact on everyday life and the traditional roles of men and women. The nuances of these changes can be explored through different aspects. During this period, many factory workers, both men and women, were subjected to long working days and often worked overtime at night. Working conditions were often difficult, and wages were low. This reflected the harsh reality of the fledgling industrial economy, where workers were often exploited. As well as factory work, some women found opportunities to work from home. Under contract to the factories, they carried out tasks such as sewing clothes using Singer machines. Although these home-based jobs offered greater flexibility, the wages were often very low, reflecting another facet of the exploitation of female labour. Women's work in these factories and home-based contracts enabled them to earn extra income and contribute to the family finances. This had a significant impact on the economy of working-class families, providing opportunities but also imposing additional pressures on women who had to balance family and professional responsibilities. It also began to change traditional gender roles. Women were increasingly participating in working life and taking on responsibilities outside the home. This not only expanded opportunities for women but also posed new challenges in terms of gender equality and family relations. Increased production of goods and services, thanks in part to the female workforce, has led to economic growth. Industrialisation stimulated demand for consumer goods and contributed to the expansion of the domestic market. The period of industrialisation brought complex and sometimes contradictory changes to the lives of American workers. Economic opportunities were accompanied by challenges and exploitation. The growing role of women in the industrial economy opened up new avenues but also revealed persistent inequalities. Understanding these dynamics offers valuable insight into the social and economic transformation of America at this crucial time.

The period of industrialisation in the United States not only transformed the economy and the workforce, but also had a profound impact on the education system, particularly in the development of the teaching profession. With urbanisation and economic expansion, there was a growing need for education to prepare the workforce and educate citizens. The growth of the state school system was therefore a natural response to these societal needs. The dominant bourgeois ideology of the time played a key role in the way the teaching profession developed. This ideology emphasised the ideal of motherhood and saw women as the natural guardians and educators of children. Women's traditional role within the family was thus extended to the school, where they were seen as mother figures for pupils. Women's role as natural educators made the teaching profession a suitable and respectable career option for them. This allowed women to enter the professional sphere without violating the social norms of the time. This compatibility between the ideal of motherhood and the teaching profession led to a significant increase in the number of women entering the profession. They brought a feminine touch to education and helped shape the next generation of citizens. The expansion of the state school system, with increasing numbers of women teachers, has helped to promote education and literacy among the population. This has made it possible to educate more children and broaden access to education beyond the privileged classes. The profession of schoolteacher in the United States during the period of industrialisation reflects the social and cultural complexities of the time. It shows how gender roles were used to shape the profession, and how the profession itself helped to promote education and literacy. It is a perfect example of how economic and industrial change can have a profound and lasting impact on other aspects of society, such as education and the role of women.

The struggle of the working class during the period of industrialisation in the United States was characterised by unique challenges, highlighting the complexity and difficulties of the working class condition. The period of industrialisation saw large numbers of workers employed in conditions that were often difficult and inhumane. Long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions were the norm for many. With the influx of immigrants and the rapid growth of industry, there was often a surplus of labour. This put workers in a weak position to negotiate better conditions, as employers could easily replace those who demanded improvements. The working class was often divided by ethnicity, race and gender. These divisions made it difficult to organise and create a united front to fight for workers' rights. Prejudice and internal tensions often hampered workers' solidarity. Organising into trade unions was difficult and often met with fierce opposition from employers and sometimes even the government. The means available to workers to air their grievances were limited and often ineffective. The situation in the United States differs from that in Latin America, where the challenges faced by the working class may have been shaped by different factors such as political structures, economic systems, and the social and cultural conditions specific to each region. The struggle of the working class during the period of industrialisation in the United States shows how complex and difficult the situation can be. Working conditions, internal divisions and organisational challenges created a situation where workers struggled to improve their living conditions. This illustrates the challenges inherent in the collective effort for social change and highlights the need for a deep and nuanced understanding of the social, economic, and cultural factors that influence these dynamics.

Immigration[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In the middle of the 19th century, the United States experienced an exceptional demographic explosion. This growth, driven by high reproduction rates and a massive influx of immigrants, transformed the nation in many ways. The population grew from 5.3 million in 1800 to 31.5 million in 1860, and this change had a profound impact on American society, economy and politics. One of the reasons for this population growth was the high reproduction rate within the existing population. With larger families and falling infant mortality rates, the population naturally grew. This internal growth paved the way for societal change, stimulating the economy and creating demand for increased services and opportunities. Alongside natural growth, the massive influx of immigrants from Europe, particularly Ireland and Germany, has had a major influence on the demographic explosion. The promise of economic opportunity and freedom in the United States attracted thousands of people seeking a better life. These immigrants not only contributed to population growth but also diversified American culture. Rapid population growth fuelled westward expansion, urban growth and industrialisation. Increased demand for labour fuelled the growth of industry, while urbanisation transformed cities into economic and cultural centres. The diversification of the population also led to changes in lifestyles and family roles, influencing the social structure of the nation. The demographic explosion was not without its tensions. It exacerbated disagreements between North and South, particularly over slavery and political representation. Some historians see this growth as a contributing factor to the tensions that led to the Civil War. The demographic explosion of the mid-19th century in the United States is a fascinating chapter in American history. It indelibly shaped the nation, influencing its economy, society, politics and culture. Understanding this period and its implications provides a better grasp of the complexities of American history and the challenges and opportunities that marked this crucial era. How the United States navigated through these challenges provides an illuminating perspective on the resilience and adaptability that continue to characterise the nation today.

The mid-19th century saw an unprecedented wave of immigration to the United States. Political, economic and social factors converged, triggering a mass exodus from Europe to America. This crucial period contributed to the demographic explosion of the United States, shaping the trajectory of the nation. The Napoleonic Wars left Europe devastated and unstable. With the rise of industrialisation, the traditional agricultural way of life was undermined, and the small peasantry declined. Faced with extreme poverty and a lack of economic prospects, many Europeans sought refuge in the United States, attracted by the promise of opportunity and prosperity. 1848 was a pivotal date, often referred to as the "Year of Revolutions" or the "Spring of Nations". Many European countries were shaken by protests and uprisings. The Communist Manifesto, published the same year by Marx and Engels, expressed widespread frustration with the capitalist system. These political upheavals prompted even more people to emigrate to the United States. As well as political unrest, many immigrants were also fleeing religious and political persecution. Famines, particularly the Great Famine in Ireland, exacerbated the situation, forcing more people to seek a new future in the United States. The complexity of circumstances in Europe, ranging from wars to revolutions and economic crises, led to a massive wave of immigration to the United States in the mid-19th century. These immigrants not only contributed to the country's demographic growth but also profoundly influenced American culture and economy. Their arrival marked a turning point in the history of the United States, injecting a vitality and diversity that continues to enrich the nation today.

The mid-19th century marked a turning point in the history of Ireland and the United States, with the tragedy of the Great Irish Famine having a lasting impact on both nations. The Great Famine, also known as 'An Gorta Mór' in Irish, was a period of deep distress for Ireland. Between 1845 and 1849, a disease called late blight destroyed the potato crop, which was then the staple food for much of the population. The result was a devastating famine, in which around a million people died of starvation or malnutrition-related diseases. Not only did the famine cause mass mortality, it also destabilised Ireland's economy and social structure. Dependence on the potato was such that its collapse left entire communities destitute. Poverty deepened, families were broken up, and confidence in the British authorities, who administered Ireland at the time, was shaken by their inadequate handling of the crisis. The famine prompted many Irish people to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and the United States became a popular destination. Between 1830 and 1860, almost 45% of immigrants to the United States came from Ireland. They sought not only food and work, but also the promise of freedom and opportunity that America offered. The massive influx of Irish immigrants to the United States contributed to the country's demographic explosion, but it also posed integration challenges. Irish immigrants often encountered prejudice and discrimination. Nevertheless, they have helped shape American identity and culture, bringing with them their Celtic heritage and resilient spirit. Their presence also influenced American politics and the labour movement. The Great Irish Famine and subsequent immigration to the United States offer a poignant study of how a natural disaster can reshape the destiny of a nation and create shockwaves that transcend borders. The memory of this period lives on in Irish-American history and culture, and continues to be a reminder of human frailty in the face of nature, as well as the ability to overcome adversity and forge new lives in foreign lands.

The mid-19th century in the United States was marked by a major wave of immigration. This period saw not only the arrival of Irish immigrants, as mentioned earlier, but also Germans, Scandinavians and other ethnic groups. The impact of these immigrants on the development of the United States can be explored through urbanisation, agricultural growth and cultural diversification.

Many German and Scandinavian immigrants were attracted to the fertile lands of the Midwest, where they could establish farms and start new lives. These immigrants often had farming experience and sought to capitalise on the opportunities available in American agriculture. These new arrivals made a significant contribution to the region's agricultural development. They brought with them advanced farming techniques and traditions of hard work that helped make the Midwest the breadbasket of America. Their presence stimulated the local economy and strengthened the United States' position as an agricultural power. Other immigrants, less well-off and often with no farming experience, settled in port cities such as New York and Boston. These cities served as points of entry for millions of immigrants and quickly became centres of economic opportunity. The influx of immigrants into the cities led to rapid urbanisation. Immigrants worked in factories, warehouses and shipyards, fuelling the American Industrial Revolution. This abundant, cheap labour helped make the United States an emerging industrial power. Mass immigration to the cities also led to a rich cultural diversity. Neighbourhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown in New York have become symbols of the American cultural mosaic. The food, music, language and traditions of various ethnic groups have enriched the American cultural landscape. Immigration in the mid-19th century shaped the economic and cultural development of the United States in profound and lasting ways. Whether through the agricultural development of the Midwest or the urbanisation and industrialisation of the major cities, immigrants played a key role in the country's transformation. Their legacy continues to influence American identity, reflecting the promise and possibility of America as a land of opportunity and diversity.

The migration of blacks from the South to the North in the mid-19th century was a significant milestone in American history. Not only did it play a role in the demographic explosion, it also had a profound impact on culture, society and the civil rights movement. This migration was primarily motivated by the desire to escape increasing racial discrimination and segregation laws in the South. The Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case in 1857, which affirmed that blacks were not constitutionally protected citizens, exacerbated the situation. In addition, the prospect of a better life in the North with more economic opportunities and fewer legal restrictions attracted many blacks. A crucial aspect of this migration was the Underground Railroad, a complex network of routes and safe havens for runaway slaves. Quakers and other dedicated abolitionists played a vital role in providing aid and safe havens for slaves seeking to reach the North. Blacks who migrated north often settled in cities, contributing to urban growth. They found work in a variety of sectors, including factories, shipyards and domestic service. Their presence strengthened the economy of the North and contributed to its industrial development. This migration also influenced the culture of Northern cities. African influences in music, dance, cuisine and other aspects of cultural life enriched these communities and laid the foundations for future cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance. The migration of blacks from the South to the North in the mid-19th century was a critical period that influenced not only demographics but also the social and cultural landscape of the United States. It highlighted the racial inequalities of the time and stimulated momentum towards the abolition of slavery. It also laid the foundations for the civil rights struggles that would take shape over the next century. The combination of this migration with European immigration shaped America's unique and diverse identity, demonstrating how population movements can have a lasting impact on the development of a nation.

The gap between rich and poor[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The widening gap between rich and poor in the United States in the mid-19th century is a manifestation of the complex process of industrialisation, the development of capitalism, and changing social and economic structures. The 19th century was marked by the Industrial Revolution in the United States, a period of rapid expansion of industry and technological innovation. The ability to produce goods on a large scale enabled some entrepreneurs to become extremely wealthy. Figures such as John D. Rockefeller (oil), Andrew Carnegie (steel) and Cornelius Vanderbilt (railways) acquired immense wealth by dominating their respective industries. These 'barons' managed to centralise power and wealth by eliminating or absorbing competitors, controlling raw materials and manipulating prices. While the industrial elite accumulated fortunes, the working class struggled to survive. Many workers, especially immigrants, were subjected to miserable wages and deplorable working conditions. The days were long, the conditions often dangerous, and there was little or no protection for workers. Poverty also gave rise to shanty towns in the big cities. Entire families lived in substandard housing, without access to sanitation or adequate medical care. The growing gap between rich and poor was also characterised by the formation of a financial and industrial aristocracy. This elite was made up of old families and the nouveau riche who controlled a disproportionate share of the country's wealth. Families like the Roosevelts and Whitneys, who had roots in the colonial merchant elite, continued to wield significant influence, often combining their wealth with public service and philanthropy. The gap between rich and poor in the United States in the mid-19th century reflects a period of profound economic and social change. Industrialisation and the emergence of capitalism created both opportunities and challenges, winners and losers. This period laid the foundations of the modern economy, including the inequalities that still persist today. The lessons learned from this era continue to inform debates about the regulation of industry, the protection of workers, the fair distribution of wealth and the social responsibilities of economic elites.

In the mid-19th century, the Roosevelt and Whitney families were part of the wealthy merchant class elite in the United States. The Roosevelts were a prominent family with deep roots in American history. Their fortune came mainly from shipping and importing. Later, they also became influential political players, with members of the family serving in prominent public roles, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in 1901.The Whitney family were another symbol of the merchant elite, having built their fortunes through the cotton trade. Their wealth and influence in business and politics were also remarkable.

Central Park, created in 1858, was an ambitious project to provide a green leisure space in the heart of New York. But beyond its role as a public park, it also symbolised the class divisions of the time. The design and location of Central Park made it a favourite leisure spot for the wealthy. The carefully landscaped grounds, sophisticated activities and general atmosphere were more in tune with the tastes and interests of the elite than the working class. The working class and the poor often had little or no access to Central Park. Whether due to geographical location, social norms, or the indirect costs associated with visiting the park, Central Park was largely perceived as a domain reserved for the elite. In the mid-19th century, the United States was undergoing a rapid transformation, marked by industrialisation and urbanisation. Families such as the Roosevelts and Whitneys embodied the rise of a new wealthy elite, whose wealth and influence contrasted sharply with the precariousness of the working class. Central Park, in this context, can be seen as a microcosm of this inequality, reflecting a society where opportunities and advantages were unevenly distributed. This era offers a glimpse into the tensions and challenges that have shaped modern America, including the enduring issues of inequality and social justice.

By 1860, the richest 5% of American families controlled more than half of the country's wealth.

The mid-19th century in the United States was a time of rapid change. Industrialisation, urban growth and westward expansion were key features of this period. At the same time, the capitalist economic system developed, giving rise to unprecedented opportunities for wealth for some, but also creating significant inequalities. The statement that "by 1860, the richest 5% of American families controlled more than half of the country's wealth" highlights a striking economic situation in the United States during this period, and deserves further analysis. The mid-19th century in the United States was a time of rapid change. Industrialisation, urban growth and westward expansion were key features of this period. At the same time, the capitalist economic system developed, giving rise to unprecedented opportunities for wealth for some, but also creating significant inequalities. Individuals and families who were able to capitalise on these economic opportunities often managed to accumulate considerable wealth. Industrial tycoons, large landowners and successful entrepreneurs were among the 5% who controlled much of the country's wealth. Their influence extended far beyond the economy, also shaping the politics, culture and society of the time. This concentration of wealth created a marked disparity between rich and poor. The working classes and immigrants, in particular, were often faced with low wages and precarious living conditions. Wealth was often linked to political power, allowing the economic elite to influence laws and regulations in their favour. Wealth also influenced urban development, with the construction of monuments, parks and infrastructure often designed to reflect and serve the interests of the wealthy class. The concentration of wealth in the United States in 1860 was not simply a statistical fact, but a phenomenon that profoundly influenced the social, economic and political fabric of the nation. It raised fundamental questions about fairness, opportunity and democratic values that continue to resonate today.

The history of the Kennedy dynasty in the United States, and the events of the mid-19th century that shaped the political attitudes of many Irish immigrants, raise several interesting points for further discussion.

The Irish famine of the 1840s led to a massive wave of immigration to the United States. Many Irish immigrants found themselves in precarious situations, living in poverty in cities such as New York. This poverty, coupled with animosity and prejudice towards the Irish, often led to social tensions and even violence. The New York riots of 1863, for example, were partly fuelled by these tensions. Faced with discrimination and economic challenges, many Irish sought ways to assert themselves in American society. For many, this included political involvement, and the Democratic Party became a natural ally for many of them. This alliance proved enduring and helped shape the political landscape of the time. The Kennedy family is a striking example of the success and political influence of Irish-Americans. Their rise to power was gradual, and their achievements are closely linked to the history of America.

  • John F. Kennedy: 35th President of the United States, known for his charisma and his progressive stance on civil rights and the Cold War.
  • Robert F. Kennedy: Attorney General and presidential candidate, committed to the fight against poverty and injustice.
  • Ted Kennedy: Senator from Massachusetts, a major player in health, education and social justice legislation.

The Kennedy family continues to be an influential force in American politics, representing a commitment to liberal and progressive ideals. Their legacy is complex and controversial, but it remains an important part of American political history. The situation of Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century, their political response and the rise of the Kennedy family are examples of how immigration, poverty, politics and identity can intertwine in American history. It highlights the challenges of integration and representation, as well as the potential of political engagement to bring about meaningful social change. It is a chapter in American history that still resonates today, particularly in debates about immigration, inequality and national identity.

The mid-19th century in the United States was a profoundly contradictory and conflicted period in terms of the rights and status of African Americans, particularly those who were free. Free African Americans living in northern cities were often perceived as a threat to white jobs and wages. This perception frequently led to discrimination and hostility in the workplace. Although free, these individuals were often confined to low-paid jobs with little chance of advancement. Antagonism towards the African-American community sometimes degenerated into open violence. Race riots, where white mobs attacked African-Americans and their property, were tragically common. A notorious example is the New York draft riots of 1863, in which African-Americans were lynched and their property destroyed. Segregation and racism were rife, even in the northern states. African-Americans were often excluded from public schools, public places and means of transport. These laws and practices were a reflection of the institutionalised racism that permeated many aspects of everyday life. Even as democracy expanded to include more white men, African-Americans were increasingly excluded from voting and political participation. This exclusion was often codified in law, creating a system where race was explicitly used to determine eligibility to vote. The fight against these injustices laid the foundations for the modern civil rights movement. Individuals like Frederick Douglass and organisations like the American Anti-Slavery Society worked tirelessly to promote the rights and dignity of African Americans. But the road to equality was long and fraught with obstacles, and it would take until the mid-20th century to see significant change. The mid-19th century was a time of contradictions for African Americans, where formal freedom coexisted with widespread discrimination, violence and exclusion. This highlights the complexity of the struggle for racial equality and how the history of this period still resonates today in the debates and challenges surrounding race in the United States. The paradox of extending democratic rights to some while curtailing them for others is a powerful reminder of how inequality and discrimination can be institutionalised, even within a democracy.

Even in the northern states, which were often considered more liberal and progressive in terms of civil rights, African Americans were far from equal before the law and society. Laws varied considerably from state to state. In some states, such as Massachusetts, African-Americans could testify in court, while in others, such as California, they were prevented from testifying against whites. These legal inequalities created a system in which the rights and privileges of African-Americans depended largely on where they lived. Access to jobs was also severely limited. African-Americans were often excluded from skilled and industrial jobs and confined to low-paid manual labour. Trade unions, which could have helped protect workers' rights, frequently excluded African-Americans from their ranks. Even in states where formal equality was recognised before the law, social segregation was commonplace. African-Americans were often excluded from public places, schools and means of transport, or relegated to separate and inferior sections of society. African Americans in the North fought tirelessly against these inequalities, often using the courts to challenge discrimination. Leading figures such as Frederick Douglass raised their voices and argued for equality and justice.

Discrimination and segregation often forced African-Americans to live in overcrowded, run-down urban areas, commonly known as ghettos. These neighbourhoods often lacked adequate public services, and employment and educational opportunities were limited. Despite these challenges, African-Americans showed great resilience by creating their own institutions. These included churches, schools, businesses and civic organisations that served their communities and offered support and solidarity. These institutions played a crucial role in preserving the culture, identity and aspirations of African Americans at a time when they were often excluded from mainstream society. Migration to the Northern states was seen by many as an escape from the more explicit and systematic oppression of the South. Although life in the North was far from ideal, it nevertheless offered relatively greater opportunities and freedoms.

The South: black slavery and white privilege[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Between 1800 and 1860, the southern United States experienced significant economic growth thanks to the expansion of cotton growing and the slave trade. The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 was a major innovation that radically increased the productivity of cotton growing. It made the process of separating cotton fibres from the seeds much quicker and more efficient, encouraging the rapid expansion of cotton growing in the South. Slavery was the mainstay of this booming economy. Plantation owners used slave labour to grow and harvest cotton, as well as for other agricultural and domestic tasks. Life on the plantations was often brutal and inhumane, with few or no rights for slaves, who were often subjected to violence and severe punishment. Although the system of slavery benefited an elite group of plantation owners and other wealthy whites, it also contributed to a rigid, hierarchical society where rights and opportunities were largely determined by race. Many poor whites in the South, who did not own slaves, were also economically disadvantaged by the system, as they found themselves in competition with slave labour. The end of slavery after the Civil War did not put an end to these inequalities. Discrimination, segregation and economic oppression continued to affect African Americans in the South and across the country for decades. The effects of these historical injustices are still present in many aspects of American society today, particularly in areas such as education, employment and housing. The story of the South's economic growth in the 19th century, fuelled by cotton farming and slavery, is a powerful illustration of how wealth and power can be accumulated at the expense of human rights and dignity. It offers important lessons about the costs and consequences of inequality and exploitation, and continues to resonate in contemporary debates about race, justice and opportunity in America.

Panoramic photograph of a cotton plantation from 1907, titled "King Cotton".

Cotton King[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This illustrates the stark contrast between the wealthy and influential plantation owners, often referred to as "cotton kings", and the brutal conditions to which enslaved blacks were subjected. The rapid expansion of the textile industry in England and the northern United States created an unprecedented demand for raw cotton. The South, with its favourable climate and slave workforce, was ideally placed to meet this demand. These owners of large cotton plantations played a central role in the Southern economy, controlling not only production but also the transport and sale of cotton. Their wealth and influence extended far beyond the region, and they exerted considerable influence on national politics, particularly on the issue of slavery. Working conditions on the cotton plantations were often extremely brutal. The days were long and exhausting, and slaves were subjected to severe corporal punishment. Many slaves were separated from their families and denied any education or opportunity for self-improvement. While the "cotton kings" grew rich, the vast majority of white Southerners did not own slaves and lived in modest conditions. This contrast between the wealthy plantation owners and the majority of the white population created social and economic tensions in the region. The economic system based on slavery and cotton left a lasting legacy in the South. After the Civil War, the South struggled to diversify economically, and racial and economic inequalities persisted. Cotton farming also had an ecological impact, depleting soils and contributing to long-term agricultural problems. The rise of the "cotton kings" and the expansion of cotton growing in the South in the 19th century are complex and significant chapters in American history. They show how wealth and power can be concentrated in the hands of a few, while revealing the human and social costs of an economic system based on exploitation and inequality.

Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793 was a key factor in the transformation of the Southern economy and the growth of the slave system. Before the cotton gin, cotton had to be ginned by hand, which was a long and laborious process. Eli Whitney's machine could do the job much more quickly, enabling greater production. Increased efficiency in cotton production made the crop more profitable, prompting plantation owners to expand their cotton-growing land. This expansion spread throughout the South, including the new territories and states. Increased cotton production required more labour, and this led to an increased demand for slaves. The number of slaves in the South increased significantly during the 19th century, creating a system where millions of people were dehumanised and treated as mere property. Increased cotton production had repercussions beyond the United States, fuelling the textile industry in Europe and creating an international cotton trade network. This strengthened the economy of the South and gave it considerable influence. Although the invention of the cotton gin led to economic prosperity for some, it also exacerbated inequality and suffering for many others. Increased reliance on slavery reinforced a racist and oppressive system, the effects of which are still felt today. The invention of the cotton gin is an eloquent example of how a technological innovation can have a profound and lasting impact on society. While it enabled economic growth and shaped the South as a "cotton kingdom", it also reinforced a brutal system of slavery that has left a deep scar on American history.

A cotton gin (1869).

The rapid growth of the cotton industry in the southern United States during the 19th century was both an engine of economic prosperity and a source of deep and lasting controversy. The explosive growth of cotton as an export enriched many plantation owners and stimulated the Southern economy. The global demand for cotton created a vigorous trade dynamic and made the South an economically powerful region. This economic growth was inextricably linked to slavery. The number of slaves more than quadrupled between 1770 and 1860, and although the international slave trade was banned in 1808, the internal slave trade and natural increase perpetuated and amplified this inhumane system. The South's dependence on slavery and its economic importance exacerbated tensions with the North, where slavery was in decline and attitudes towards it were increasingly hostile. This fuelled political and social conflict that eventually led to civil war. The South's economic power and dependence on slavery had an impact on national politics, with compromises such as the Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 attempting to maintain an uneasy balance between slave and non-slave states. The effects of the cotton industry and slavery are still felt today. The racial inequalities, regional divisions and socio-economic challenges that were accentuated during this period continue to influence American society. The growth of the cotton industry in the 19th century is a complex and nuanced example of how trade and industry can be both a source of prosperity and a catalyst for deep conflict. It also illustrates how economic and technological decisions (such as the invention of the cotton gin) can have significant social and moral consequences. The central role of slavery in this story serves as a sombre and powerful reminder of the human costs that can be associated with economic growth.

Natural increase was the main reason for the growth of the slave population in the South during the 1800s. After the ban on the importation of slaves into the United States in 1808, natural increase became the primary means of increasing the slave population. It is important to note that this "natural increase" occurred in a context of brutal control and coercion. Slave owners often encouraged forced reproduction among slaves in order to increase their workforce. They separated families, sold children, and the family life of slaves was often precarious and unstable. The demand for labour on cotton plantations and the economic value of slaves as "property" exacerbated these abuses. The increase in the number of slaves, and their concentration in cotton-producing regions, was one of the most striking features of the pre-Civil War economy of the South. These trends had a major impact on American society and politics, contributing to the tensions that eventually led to the Civil War. The issue of slavery was at the heart of many major debates and compromises, and the growth of the cotton industry and the corresponding reliance on slave labour exacerbated these divisions. The history of slavery in the United States, and in particular the expansion of slavery in the cotton industry, remains a central and controversial aspect of American history. Its impact and legacy continue to shape American society, culture and politics to this day.

In the American South in the 1800s there was a modern and expanding economy based on an inhumane and backward labour system. On the one hand, the cotton industry was at the cutting edge of economic modernity, with technological innovations such as the cotton gin, and global trade linking the South to international markets. Plantation owners and slave traders used advanced methods of accounting, management and organisation, and the Southern economy was integrated into a nascent capitalist system. On the other hand, this system was based on the total dehumanisation of a large part of the population. Slaves were bought and sold like property, and their labour was extorted through violence and coercion. Their daily lives were often marked by deprivation, mistreatment and a total lack of freedom or rights. The wealth and economic progress of plantation owners was literally built on the backs of those they enslaved. This combination of economic modernity and human oppression is one of the most striking paradoxes in American history. It underlines the extent to which the slave system was rooted not only in the culture and society of the South, but also in its economy. The tension between these archaic and modern elements helped shape politics and society before the Civil War, and continues to influence the way Americans understand this period of their history. The coexistence of these modes of production also had a lasting impact on the country's economic, social and racial development, the effects of which are still felt today.

The dichotomous society of the nineteenth-century American South, based on the sharp divide between free whites and enslaved blacks, was a complex and pernicious structure that continues to influence contemporary American society. The economy of the South was deeply dependent on slavery. Enslaved people performed laborious work on plantations, in mines and in transportation. Plantation owners, a small fraction of the white population, controlled much of the wealth and power. This economic wealth rested on the backs of those who were enslaved and dehumanised. This economic system was reinforced by laws and policies designed to maintain social hierarchy. Strict slave laws controlled the lives of enslaved people, while the poor white population was placed above slaves in the social hierarchy. These laws created a legal system that actively supported the dichotomy between whites and blacks. Beyond economics and law, this division was also deeply rooted in the social and cultural hierarchy of the South. Attitudes, traditions and beliefs reinforced the perception that whites were superior and blacks inferior. This entrenched social caste continued long after the abolition of slavery, affecting future generations. Free African-Americans: The presence of a population of free African-Americans adds to the complexity of the Southern racial system. Although they were free, they were often subject to discriminatory laws and deprived of many rights. Their precarious situation testifies to the way in which the system went beyond a simple division between slaves and free men. The impact of this social structure is still felt today, particularly in the persistence of racial inequalities and stereotypes. The system of slavery and white privilege in the southern United States in the 19th century left a lasting legacy that continues to resonate in modern society. Understanding this era and its lasting effects is essential to addressing contemporary issues of race and inequality in America.

The gap between rich and poor whites[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

During the crucial period from 1820 to 1850, the southern United States was in the grip of growing socio-economic tensions that shaped the path leading to the Civil War. This state of affairs was characterised by several interdependent elements. The Southern economy was deeply rooted in agriculture, with a particular dependence on cotton growing. Plantation owners derived their wealth from the exploitation of enslaved people, who provided the labour for this thriving industry. However, this wealth was largely concentrated among a wealthy white elite, driving a wedge between them and the majority of white Southerners. Most white Southerners were not wealthy plantation owners, but rather farmers or labourers who often lived in poverty. They had no access to the wealth, power or opportunities available to the elite. This socio-economic inequality was a persistent source of tension within Southern society. Enslaved African-Americans were an essential part of the economy, being the main workforce on the plantations. They were deprived of basic human rights and reduced to a condition of property. Their existence in this dehumanised state underlined the moral and ethical contradictions of the time. Although the South shared many characteristics with the North, including an economic disparity between rich and poor, the South was distinct in that it was more dependent on agriculture and slavery. This unique dependence created its own social and economic dynamics that helped to widen the gap between the two regions. The dichotomy between the wealthy plantation owners and the poor majority, combined with the dependence on slavery, created a complex social landscape in the South. The resulting inequality and tension provided fertile ground for conflict, contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War. Understanding this period and the complexity of its economic and social issues is essential to grasping the origins and consequences of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

In the complex and often contradictory South of the 1800s, slavery was a pervasive institution whose effects were felt at every level of white society, even though only a small minority of whites owned slaves directly. Only a small percentage of Southern whites, around 1.5%, owned more than five slaves. This small elite group was largely responsible for large-scale agriculture and most of the region's wealth. The majority of whites, around 64%, did not own slaves, but nevertheless benefited indirectly from the institution of slavery. Enslaved people performed the most arduous and least desirable tasks, enabling poor whites to access more attractive and better-paid jobs and opportunities. A particularly revealing mechanism was the 'slave lending' system, whereby plantation owners lent slaves to small farmers and sharecroppers. In exchange for a share of their crop or a small fee, these whites could access the benefits of slave labour without owning them directly. While extending the economic benefits of slavery to a wider group, these arrangements also magnified the moral and ethical problems associated with the dehumanisation and oppression of enslaved people. The fact that so many people benefited from this system highlighted the deep social and ethical contradictions that ultimately contributed to the Civil War. Slavery in the South in the 1800s was not simply a matter for wealthy plantation owners. It was integrated into the economy and society in a way that influenced the lives of the majority of white people, even those who did not own it directly. This allowed slavery to become a dominant force in Southern society, while contributing to the tensions and contradictions that eventually led to the Civil War. Understanding these nuances is essential to appreciating the profound and lasting impact of slavery on the American nation.

The embrace by many white Southerners of the independent peasant ideal of freedom and self-reliance during the 1800s provides a fascinating insight into how slavery was rationalised and sustained within that society. Many white Southerners, particularly small farmers and sharecroppers, saw themselves as independent and self-sufficient individuals. They believed they could make a living through hard work and determination, an image embodied by the Democratic Party, the dominant political party in the region at the time. These whites saw slavery as a necessary aspect of their freedom and autonomy. The labour of enslaved people was seen as essential to the functioning of the economy and society, and therefore to the maintenance of their own independence. This paradoxical view led to deep support for slavery among many white Southerners, who saw an inextricable dependence between white freedom and the perpetuation of slavery. Self-reliance and economic independence were linked to a system that denied these same rights to enslaved people. This belief was tested by the growing abolitionist movement in the North and the struggle for freedom for enslaved people in the South. The tensions between these conflicting ideals contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War, forcing the nation to confront the moral and ethical contradiction at the heart of slavery. The independent farmer's ideal of freedom and autonomy in the South of the 1800s illustrates the complexity and contradictions of the culture of slavery. It shows how a system based on oppression and dehumanisation could be interwoven with the values of independence and freedom, creating a social and political fabric that was both resilient and profoundly unstable. The disruption of this delicate balance was a key element that led to the Civil War and the subsequent transformation of the American nation.

The American Civil War, a conflict that tore the nation apart from 1861 to 1865, was the result of deep-rooted tensions and contradictions in Southern culture and society. Here's how the belief in the independent peasant ideal of freedom and self-reliance, and the conviction that white freedom depended on slavery, shaped these tensions and led to the war. The South was animated by the ideal of freedom and autonomy of the independent peasant, a value that was deeply rooted in the collective consciousness. This ideal glorified self-employment and individual property ownership, even among poor whites. Paradoxically, this notion of freedom was closely linked to the institution of slavery. Even the poorest whites believed that their autonomy and privileged status were directly linked to the humiliation and oppression of enslaved blacks. This close intertwining of slavery and the ideal of freedom led to fierce resistance to any attempt to abolish or change the status quo. The mere suggestion of racial equality was seen as a threat to the very identity of the South and its way of life. Faced with mounting pressure for abolition and social transformation, the South chose to secede from the Union. This dramatic choice was a desperate attempt to protect the institution of slavery and maintain a society in which whites were considered superior and privileged. The conflicting ideals of individual freedom and collective slavery formed a fragile social fabric in the pre-Civil War South. The tension between these values was a powerful catalyst that ultimately led to the Civil War. Understanding this complex dynamic offers important insights into the nature of the war, the legacy of slavery and the ongoing struggles for equality and justice in the United States.

The complexity of the years leading up to the Civil War in the United States lies in the way values, beliefs and legislation intertwined to create a highly divided and volatile society. The ideal of freedom and autonomy of the independent farmer was sacrosanct for white Southerners, even the poorest. This ideal was linked to the image of a white person who succeeded through his own hard work and ingenuity. This ideal of freedom was at odds with the reality of slavery, which provided the labour needed to sustain the Southern economy. The belief that white freedom depended on black slavery created a profound moral and ethical tension. Southern laws reinforced the separation between blacks and whites, and deprived blacks, whether free or enslaved, of fundamental rights and privileges. This legislation reinforced the belief in white superiority and the necessity of slavery. The constant comparison with the miserable conditions of enslaved people allowed poor whites to feel part of a white aristocracy. Even in poverty, they felt privileged compared to blacks. Wealthy plantation owners used these beliefs to mobilise poor whites behind the Democratic Party. They defended slavery and the racial status quo, relying on racial solidarity rather than economic class. These elements eventually combined to lead to civil war. The widening gap between rich and poor among whites, intransigence about abolition and fear of losing racial privilege inflamed tensions to the breaking point. Southern society before the Civil War was a complex mix of conflicting beliefs, racial privilege and economic tensions. The way these elements were manipulated and exploited by the ruling elite created the conditions for a devastating war. The resulting conflict was not only a struggle over the future of slavery but also a reflection of the profound challenges to equality, justice and identity that continue to shape America today.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  • Nacional, Defensa. “2 De Marzo De 1836, Texas Declara Su Independencia.”,
  • Barker, Nancy N. (July 1967). "The Republic of Texas: A French View". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 71.
  • Calore, Paul (2014). The Texas Revolution and the U.S.–Mexican War A Concise History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-7940-5.
  • Edmondson, J.R. (2000). The Alamo Story: From Early History to Current Conflicts. Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press. ISBN 1-55622-678-0.
  • Hardin, Stephen L. (1994). Texian Iliad – A Military History of the Texas Revolution. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-73086-1. OCLC 29704011.
  • Vazquez, Josefina Zoraida (July 1985). translated by Jésus F. de la Teja. "The Texas Question in Mexican Politics, 1836–1845". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 89.
  • Weber, David J. (1992). The Spanish Frontier in North America. Yale Western Americana Series. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05198-0.
  • Winders, Richard Bruce (2004). Sacrificed at the Alamo: Tragedy and Triumph in the Texas Revolution. Austin, TX: State House Press. ISBN 1-880510-81-2.
  • Morrison, Michael A. "Martin Van Buren, the Democracy, and the Partisan Politics of Texas Annexation". Journal of Southern History 61.4 (1995): 695–724. ISSN 0022-4642. Discusses the election of 1844. online edition.
  • Polk, James K. The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, 1845–1849 edited by Milo Milton Quaife, 4 vols. 1910. Abridged version by Allan Nevins. 1929, online.
  • Smith, Justin Harvey. The War with Mexico, Vol 1. Vol 2. (2 vol 1919).<
  • Ortega Blake, Arturo. Frontera de papel, tres hermanos en la Guerra México-Estados Unidos. México: Grijalbo, Random House Mondadori, 2004. ISBN 970-05-1734-9.
  • John S.D. Eisenhower. "So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848". UNIVERSITY of OKLAHOMA PRESS Norman, 1989.
  • Crawford, Mark; Heidler, Jeanne; Heidler (eds.), David Stephen (1999). Encyclopedia of the Mexican War. ISBN 978-1-57607-059-8.
  • Bauer, Karl Jack (1992). The Mexican War: 1846–1848. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-6107-5.
  • Guardino, Peter. The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2017). ISBN 978-0-674-97234-6
  • Henderson, Timothy J. A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States (2008)
  • Meed, Douglas. The Mexican War, 1846–1848 (2003). A short survey.
  • Ralph K. Andrist (2015). The Gold Rush. New Word City. p. 29.
  • "Gold rush". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008
  • Billington, Ray Allen, and Martin Ridge. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (5th ed. 2001)
  • Billington, Ray Allen. The Far Western frontier, 1830–1860 (1962), Wide-ranging scholarly survey; online free
  • "Annexation": The July–August 1845 editorial in which the phrase "Manifest Destiny" first appeared
  • Johannsen, Robert W. "The Meaning of Manifest Destiny", in Sam W. Hayes and Christopher Morris, eds., Manifest Destiny and Empire: American Antebellum Expansionism. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-89096-756-3.
  • Sampson, Robert D. John L. O'Sullivan and His Times. (Kent State University Press, 2003) online
  • « C’est notre destinée manifeste de nous déployer sur le continent confié par la Providence pour le libre développement de notre grandissante multitude. » (« It is our manifest destiny to overspread the continent alloted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions »
  • Howard Zinn, Une Histoire populaire des États-Unis, 1980, Agone 2002, p.177
  • Compromise of 1850
  • Compromise of 1850 and related resources from the Library of Congress
  • Texas Library and Archive Commission Page on 1850 Boundary Act
  • Map of North America at the time of the Compromise of 1850 at
  • Hamilton, Holman (1954). "Democratic Senate Leadership and the Compromise of 1850". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 41 (3): 403–18. doi:10.2307/1897490. ISSN 0161-391X. JSTOR 1897490.
  • Russel, Robert R. (1956). "What Was the Compromise of 1850?". The Journal of Southern History. Southern Historical Association. 22 (3): 292–309. doi:10.2307/2954547. ISSN 0022-4642. JSTOR 2954547.
  • Waugh, John C. On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History (2003)
  • Childs, Frances Sergeant. French Refugee Life in the United States: 1790-1800, an American Chapter of the French Revolution. Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1978. Print.
  • Blackett, R.J.M. (2013). Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Curtis, Anna L. (1941). Stories of the Underground Railroad. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. (Stories about Thomas Garrett, a famous agent on the Underground Railroad)
  • Frost, Karolyn Smardz (2007). I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Larson, Kate Clifford (2004). Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45627-0.
  • Still, William (1872). The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom, As Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates. (Classic book documenting the Underground Railroad operations in Philadelphia).
  • Maier, Thomas (2003). The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04317-0.
  • The Kennedy Family. The JFK Library
  • Collier, Peter; David Horowitz (1994). The Roosevelts: An American Saga. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-65225-7.
  • Schriftgiesser, Karl (1942). The Amazing Roosevelt Family, 1613–1942. Wildred Funk, Inc.
  • William Richard Cutter. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Volume 3 (Boston: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908) pp. 1400–1401.
  • "Racing Proud of Whitney Heritage: Three Generations of Family Prominent on American Scene; Among Founders of Jockey Club, Campaigned Abroad; Owned Two Derby Winners". Daily Racing Form at University of Kentucky Archives. 1956-05-05.
  • Frank Lawrence Owsley, "The Confederacy and King Cotton: A Study in Economic Coercion," North Carolina Historical Review 6#4 (1929), pp. 371–397 in JSTOR
  • Frank Lawrence Owsley. King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign relations of the Confederate States of America (1931).
  • Ashworth, John (2008). Slavery, capitalism, and politics in the antebellum Republic. 2. p. 656.</ref>

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]