Nationality Essay, Research Paper
A Trace of the Development of Southern Nationality
na?tion?al?ism (n sh -n -l z m, n sh n -)
1. Devotion to the interests or culture of a particular nation.
2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.
3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.
The first successful colony in the future U.S.A was Jamestown, founded in 1607. The group was made up of townsmen and adventurers more interested in finding gold than farming. It was not long, however, before a development occurred that revolutionized Virginia’s economy. In 1612 John Rolfe began cross-breeding imported tobacco seed from the West Indies with native plants and produced a new variety that was more pleasing to Europeans. Within a decade it had become Virginia’s chief source of revenue. This established the south as a primarily agricultural region. In the south, the first blacks were brought to Virginia in 1619, just 12 years after the founding of Jamestown. Initially, many were regarded as indentured servants who could earn their freedom. By the 1660s, however, as the demand for plantation labor in the Southern colonies grew, the institution of slavery began to harden around them, and Africans were brought to America in shackles for a lifetime of involuntary servitude. In contrast to New England and the middle colonies were the predominantly rural southern settlements: Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. By the late 17th century, Virginia’s and Maryland’s economic and social structure rested on the great planters and the small farmers. The planters of this region, supported by slave labor, held most of the political power and the best land. They built great houses, adopted an aristocratic way of life and kept in touch as best they could with the world of culture overseas. At the same time, small farmers, who worked smaller tracts of land, sat in popular assemblies and found their way into political office. Their outspoken independence was a constant warning to the more powerful of planters not to encroach too far upon the rights of free men.
No pertinent differences arose between this era and the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. It was at this time however that the greatest dissention began to arise between the two regions and differences other than slavery and economy arose. These differences lay in the political and social standing on the creation of a new united government. The articles of confederation were the first manifestation of these differing beliefs. The 18th-century statesmen who met in Philadelphia at the Federal Convention were believers in the concept of balance of power in politics. These influences led to the decision that three equal and coordinate branches of government should be established. Legislative, executive and judicial powers were to be so well balanced that no one could ever gain control. The delegates agreed that the legislative branch, like the colonial legislatures and the British Parliament, should consist of two houses. On these points there was unanimity within the assembly. But major differences arose as to the method of achieving them. Representatives of the small states, like New Jersey, for instance, objected to changes that would reduce their influence in the national government by basing representation upon population rather than upon statehood, as was the case under the Articles of Confederation. On the other hand, representatives of large states, like Virginia, argued for proportionate representation. Northerners wanted slaves counted when determining each state’s tax share, but not in determining the number of seats a state would have in the House of Representatives. According to a compromise reached with little dissent, the House of Representatives would be assigned according to the number of free inhabitants plus three-fifths of slaves. Many more compromises were made during this time. All of these compromises, however fair, increased a sense of separation between the North and South, with the obvious effect of instilling a sense of nationality in the Southern states.
When the time came to ratify the Constitution, many new problems arose. In Virginia, the ‘Antifederalists’ attacked the proposed new government by challenging the opening phrase of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States.” Without using the individual state names in the Constitution, these delegates argued, the states would not retain their separate rights or powers. Wavering delegates were persuaded by a proposal that the Virginia convention recommend a bill of rights, and Antifederalists joined with the Federalists to ratify the Constitution on June 25. This idea of dissolving the individual states into the union is very important in Southern nationalism and can be considered a cause of the Civil War.
Later, as a national equilibrium was being reached, the issue of slavery, which had up to now received little public attention, began to assume much greater importance as a national issue. In the early years of the republic, when the Northern states were providing for immediate or gradual emancipation of the slaves, many leaders had supposed that slavery would die out. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. As late as 1808, when the international slave trade was abolished, there were many Southerners who thought that slavery would soon end. The expectation proved false, for during the next generation, the South became solidly united behind the institution of slavery as new economic factors made slavery far more profitable than it had been before 1790.
Chief among these was the rise of a great cotton-growing industry in the South, stimulated by the introduction of new types of cotton and by Eli Whitney’s invention in 1793 of the cotton gin. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution, which made textile manufacturing a large-scale operation, vastly increased the demand for raw cotton. Additionally, the opening of new lands in the West after 1812 greatly extended the area available for cotton cultivation. Cotton culture moved rapidly from the Tidewater states on the East coast through much of the lower South to the delta region of the Mississippi and eventually to Texas. Sugarcane, another labor-intensive crop, also contributed to slavery’s extension in the South. The rich, hot lands of southeastern Louisiana proved ideal for growing sugarcane profitably. By 1830 the state was supplying the nation with about half its sugar supply. Finally, tobacco growers moved westward, taking slavery with them. As the free society of the North and the slave society of the South spread westward, it seemed politically expedient to maintain a rough equality among the new states carved out of western territories. In 1818, when Illinois was admitted to the Union, 10 states permitted slavery and 11 states prohibited it; but balance was restored after Alabama was admitted as a slave state. Population was growing faster in the North, which permitted Northern states to have a clear majority in the House of Representatives. However, equality between the North and the South was maintained in the Senate.
In 1819 Missouri, which had 10,000 slaves, applied to enter the Union. Northerners rallied to oppose Missouri’s entry except as a free state, and a storm of protest swept the country. For a time Congress was deadlocked, but Henry Clay arranged the so-called Missouri Compromise: Missouri was admitted as a slave state at the same time Maine came in as a free state. In addition, Congress banned slavery from the territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri’s southern boundary. At the time, this provision appeared to be a victory for the Southern states because it was thought unlikely that this “Great American Desert” would ever be settled. The controversy was temporarily resolved, but Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that “this momentous question like a firebell in the night awakened me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.”
Another source of considerable strife was the tariff issue during the 1820-30’s. Toward the end of his first term in office, Jackson was forced to confront the state of South Carolina on the issue of the protective tariff. Business and farming interests in the state had hoped that Jackson would use his presidential power to modify tariff laws they had long opposed. In their view, all the benefits of protection were going to Northern manufacturers, and while the country, as a whole grew richer, South Carolina grew poorer, with its planters bearing the burden of higher prices. The protective tariff passed by Congress and signed into law by Jackson in 1832 was milder than that of 1828, but it further upset many in the state. In response, a number of South Carolina citizens endorsed the states’ rights principle of “nullification,” which was voiced by John C. Calhoun, Jackson’s vice president until 1832. South Carolina dealt with the tariff by adopting the Ordinance of Nullification, which declared both the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 null and void within state borders. The legislature also passed laws to enforce the ordinance, including authorization for raising a military force and appropriations for arms. Nullification was only the most recent in a series of state challenges to the authority of the federal government. There had been a continuing contest between the states and the national government over the power of the Union, and over the loyalty of the citizenry, almost since the founding of the republic. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, for example, had defied the Alien and Sedition Acts. When the question of tariff duties again came before Congress, Senator Henry Clay, the great advocate of created a compromise measure through Congress. Clay’s tariff bill, quickly passed in 1833, specified that all duties in excess of 20 percent of the value of the goods imported were to be reduced by easy stages, so that by 1842, the duties on all articles would reach the level of the moderate tariff of 1816.
After the war with Mexico, new lands were aquired and new difficulties arose. Texas, which already permitted slavery, entered the Union as a slave state. But California, New Mexico and Utah did not have slavery, and when the United States prepared to take over these areas in 1846, there were different suggestions on what to do with them. Extremists in the South urged that all the lands acquired from Mexico be thrown open to slave holders. Antislavery Northerners, on the other hand, demanded that all the new regions be closed to slavery. One group of moderates suggested that the Missouri Compromise line be extended to the Pacific with free states north of it and slave states to the south. Another group proposed that the question be left to “popular sovereignty,” that is, the government should permit settlers to enter the new territory with or without slaves as they pleased and, when the time came to organize the region into states, the people themselves should determine the question. Southern opinion held that all the territories had the right to sanction slavery. The North asserted that no territories had the right. In 1848 nearly 300,000 men voted for the candidates of a Free Soil Party, who declared that the best policy was “to limit, localize and discourage slavery.” The Midwestern and border state regions, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, were even more divided, however, with many favoring popular sovereignty as a compromise.
In January 1848 the discovery of gold in California precipitated a headlong rush of more than 80,000 settlers for the single year 1849. California became a crucial question, for clearly Congress had to determine the status of this new region before an organized government could be established. The hopes of the nation rested with Senator Henry Clay, who twice before in times of crisis had come forward with compromise arrangements. Now once again he halted a dangerous sectional quarrel with a complicated and carefully balanced plan. His compromise (as subsequently modified in Congress) contained a number of key provisions: that California be admitted as a state with a free-soil (slavery-prohibited) constitution; that the remainder of the new annexation be divided into the two territories of New Mexico and Utah and organized without mention of slavery; that the claims of Texas to a portion of New Mexico be satisfied by a payment of $10 million; that more effective machinery be established for catching runaway slaves and returning them to their masters; and that the buying and selling of slaves (but not slavery) be abolished in the District of Columbia. These measures known in as the Compromise of 1850 were passed.
In 1854 the old issue of slavery in the territories was renewed and the quarrel became more bitter. The region that now comprises Kansas and Nebraska was being rapidly settled, increasing pressure for the establishments of territorial, and eventually, state governments. Under terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the entire region was closed to slavery. The Compromise of 1850, however, inadvertently reopened the question. Dominant slave-holding elements in Missouri, objected to letting Kansas become a free territory, for their state would then have three free-soil neighbors (Illinois, Iowa and Kansas). They feared the prospect of their state being forced to become a free state as well. For a time, Missourians in Congress, backed by Southerners, blocked all efforts to organize the region. At this point, Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic senior senator from Illinois, stirred up a storm by proposing a bill, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which enraged all free-soil supporters. Douglas argued that the Compromise of 1850, which left Utah and New Mexico free to resolve the slavery issue for themselves, outdated the Missouri Compromise. His plan called for two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and permitted settlers to carry slaves into them. The inhabitants themselves were to determine whether they should enter the Union as free or slave states. Northerners accused Douglas of currying favor with the South in order to gain the presidency in 1856. Angry debates marked the progress of the bill. The free-soil press violently denounced it. Northern clergymen assailed it. Businessmen who had up to then allied with the South suddenly turned their back. Yet in May 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed the Senate amid the boom of cannon fired by Southern enthusiasts. When Douglas subsequently visited Chicago to speak in his own defense, the ships in the harbor lowered their flags to half-mast, the church bells tolled for an hour and a crowd of 10,000 hooted so loudly that he could not make himself heard. The immediate results of Douglas’s ill-starred measure were momentous. The Whig Party, which had straddled the question of slavery expansion, sank to its death, and in its stead a powerful new organization arose, the Republican Party, whose primary demand was that slavery be excluded from all the territories. In 1856, it nominated John Fremont, whose expeditions into the Far West had won him renown. Although Fremont lost the election, the new Republican Party swept a great part of the North. Such free-soil leaders as Salmon P. Chase and William Seward exerted greater influence than ever. Along with them appeared a tall, lanky Illinois attorney, Abraham Lincoln.
Other events brought the nation still closer to upheaval: notably, the Supreme Court’s infamous 1857 decision concerning Dred Scott. The Supreme Court which was dominated by Southerners decided that Scott lacked standing in court because he was not a citizen; that the laws of a free state (Illinois) had no effect on his status because he was the resident of a slave state (Missouri); and that slave holders had the right to take their “property” anywhere in the federal territories and that Congress could not restrict the expansion of slavery. The Court’s decision thus invalidated the whole set of comprise measures by which Congress for a generation had tried to settle the slavery issue. The Dred Scott decision stirred fierce resentment throughout the North. Never before had the Court been so bitterly condemned. For Southern Democrats, the decision was a great victory, since it gave judicial sanction to their justification of slavery throughout the territories.
All the events and historical facts contained within this essay prove without a doubt that a sense of nationalism developed within the South because constantly throughout our nation’s history, events have occurred to create a rift between North and South. Constantly the South found itself on the defensive against various things that could be considered harmful to the very different southern way of life. This sense of nationalism can be associated undeniably with the Civil War. If there had been no such rift and sense of nationalism within the south, there would have been no war. This rift caused such differences in standing on issues between North and South that the two might as well have been enemy nations by the time the war came.