Unity or Division
The period between 1816 and 1840 is one of the most controversial and reformatory times in the history of the United States. On the one hand, the Era of Good Feelings occurred in 1817 which was marked by national unity and lack of political opposition. On the other hand, “the Era of Good Feelings began with a burst of nationalistic fervor” (Digital History, 2012). Enthusiasm was mostly caused by a formal victory in the War of 1812 and the Monroe Doctrine. At the same time, deep national feelings of Americans were gradually developing into chauvinism, racial and religious discrimination. Additionally, American nation was divided into many political issues. Nevertheless, the democratic country cannot be always tranquil and quiet, and this period can be considered the time of mutual agreement compared with the previous and further ones. It could be true if changes and reforms did not trigger the further division of the nation. Thus, the Era of Good Feelings, which may seem to be the period of unity, in fact, became the period of complete division of Americans.
Talking about political issues, America became much more united after the election of President Monroe, although its unity was noticeable solely in the US Congress. In fact, his election coincided with the collapse of the Federalist Party and total domination of the Democratic-Republican Party. As a result, the USA was ruled by the one-party system until the Democratic Party emerged. Monroe supported the idea that strong leaders who were chosen for their merits and “worked to eliminate party and sectional rivalries” should rule a country (Digital History, 2012). The Era of Good Feelings was marked by industrial progress and transport system development, which should have made the nation stronger. However, these factors not only revealed the differences between the North and South but also divided them economically and politically. The differences in economic and social development resulted in the emergence of two different conflicting cultures. For instance, the Panic of 1819 provoked many disputes over banking, tariffs and morality of slavery which severely aggravated the sectional split between the North and South. Northerners insisted on higher tariffs, while Southerners discontinued supporting nationalistic economic systems (Digital History, 2012). Political problems which arose during this era would become decisive for the next forty years. It became obvious, when the Democratic Party gained dominance and Whigs lost their popularity.
Another division of the nation was caused by different public opinions concerning the slavery issue
In fact, slavery divided the country into two different states with various nations and cultures. It symbolized the social, political, cultural and economic gap between Northerners and Southerners. Thus, the concept of freedom was also different because the Southern concept of democracy consisted in liberty of white people and their predominance over African-Americans, while Northerners believed that freedom depended on equality of opportunity for everyone. It resulted in the Missouri Crisis which the government tried to resolve by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Therefore, the Missouri Compromise did not resolve the sectional conflict but only postponed it (Digital History, 2012).
It was also the period of prosperity for religious trends that was an effort to expand the freedom of religion. The aim was to change social and religious values of Americans setting the personal freedom as a priority. Such idea was totally opposite to the puritan doctrine. Additionally, Southerners who were mainly Protestants infringed Catholic Irish immigrants.
Finally, it is obvious that the government endeavored to solve the sectional conflict, although most of their efforts were unavailing. American nation was immensely divided by numerous aspects such as race, religion and politics which were decisive in the nineteenth century.
- Digital History. (2012). Early national period: The Era of Good Feelings. Retrieved from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraID=4&smtid=2