Introduction to Sectionalism

Introduction to Sectionalism

Sectionalism is loyalty to the interests of one’s own
region or section of the country, rather than the nation as a whole
The concept of federalism ultimately places the political power of the government in the hands of the people; doing so often reveals many gray areas open to interpretation by the people. The early years of the nineteenth century saw a rise in sectional crises as northern and southern citizens first recognized their differences and then used the gray areas of federalism to pursue their interests. Compromise and threats were the main tools of diplomacy.

There certainly were differences between the New England and Middle colonies as opposed to the Chesapeake and Lower Southern colonies. Sectional differences in the areas of economics, social and intellectual pursuits became more acute after the War of 1812.

The governments of the north assisted business with the development of industry and a free labor system was set up. There were aggressive and new developments of infrastructure such as roads, canals and railroad tracks. New modes of transportation included the steamboat, canal barge and trains. The southern states bent their energies on tobacco and King Cotton. The south develops a “colonial economy” as it relies on outside capital. Slave labor became more important as land opened to the south and west.

This was a time of reform in the north. There were groups which championed temperance, tax supported public schools and abolition. Women not only worked out of the home in factories or as teachers but also became more political while involved in reform groups. The southern plantation owner assumed a patriarchal and paternalistic attitude to wife, children and slaves.

Northern peoples were concerned and frightened by Slave Power. This idea was promoted by abolitionists who warned of a slaveholding oligarchy that intended to dominate the Union through its hold on federal power. They pointed out that this had been done in the...

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