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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3664

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Prosperity.]

The population of the United States at the end of the war was about eight million five hundred thousand, and it was increasing relatively faster in the South and West than near the seaboard. The return of peace seemed also a return of prosperity. Short crops abroad revived the demand for American cereals, so that the surplus accumulated during the war could be sold at fair prices, and the exports in 1816 ran up to $64,000,000. In 1815, American shipping recovered almost to the point which it had reached in 1810. The revenue derived from taxation in 1814 was but $11,000,000; in 1816 it was $47,000,000. More than twenty thousand immigrants arrived in 1817. Wealth seemed increasing both in the North and the South.

[Sidenote: National literature.]

[Sidenote: The Clergy.]

Another evidence of the quickening of national life was the beginning of a new national literature. In 1815 was founded the "North American Review," and in an early number appeared Bryant's "Thanatopsis." Already in 1809 had appeared the first work of an American which was comparable with that of the British essayists,-Washington Irving's "Knickerbocker" History of New York. His quaint humor was not less appreciated from his good-natured allusions to the Jeffersonian principle of government "by proclamation." The hold of the clergy had been much weakened in New England; there had been a division of the Congregational Church, with the subsequent founding of the Unitarian branch; and the Jeffersonian principle of popular government was gaining ground. The people were keen and alert.

[Sidenote: Means of transportation.]

[Sidenote: Steamboats.]

In two respects the war had taught the Americans their own weakness: they had had poor facilities for transportation, and they had lacked manufactures of mi

litary material. There was a widespread feeling that the means of intercommunication ought to be improved. The troops on the northern frontier had been badly provisioned and slowly reinforced because they could not readily be reached over the poor roads. A system had been invented which was suitable for the rapid-running rivers of the interior and for lake navigation: in 1807 Fulton made the first voyage by steam on the Hudson River. Nine years later a system of passenger service had been developed in various directions from New York, and a steamer was running on the Mississippi.

[Sidenote: Rise of manufactures.]

[Sidenote: Foreign competition.]

Manufactures had sprung up suddenly and unexpectedly in the United States. The restrictive legislation from 1806 to 1812, though it had not cut off foreign imports, had checked them; and shrewd ship-owners had in some cases diverted their accumulated capital to the building of factories. In 1812 commerce with England was totally cut off, and importations from other countries were loaded down with double duties. This indirect protection was enough to cause the rise of many manufactures, particularly of cotton and woollen goods. In 1815, the capital invested in these two branches of industry was probably $50,000,000. On the conclusion of peace in England and America an accumulated stock of English goods poured forth, and the imports of the United States instantly rose from $12,000.000 in 1814, to $106,000,000 in 1815. These importations were out of proportion to the exports and to the needs of the country, and they caused the stoppage of a large number of American factories. Meanwhile, American ships had begun to feel the competition of foreign vessels in foreign trade. Without intending it, the country had drifted into a new set of economic conditions.

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