How Accurate Was the Term Era of Good Feelings in the United States
In the 1800’s following the war of 1812, the term commonly applied to that era in the United States was known as the “era of good feelings”. While the United States was growing in several different aspects, such as politically, socially and economically, and changing as a country, there are several key factors that denote this term, and nullify its meaning. While the changes were significant, and the United States evolved at an exponential rate after the war of 1812, the accuracy of the term “era of good feelings” is way off, and the United States was anything but experiencing an “era of good feelings”.
Following the war of 1812, growth occurred primarily economically, politically, and socially for the United States. These changes indicated symbolize development, expansion of both land and industry, and a sense of unifying nationalism within the citizens of the United States. Although Nationalism seemed to unify the nation, there was more of an underlying indication of a much larger problem, Sectionalism. Sectionalism is a relation to a geographic area. So whereas people could have felt patriotic towards the United States, they related more towards the region they lived in and not the country they were a part of.
This sectionalism also indicates a difference in the economic, social and political stances of regions such as the North and the South, and the “era of good feelings” continued to simply widen that gap. Economically, the United States was experiencing growth. But looking further into sectionalism, there are two completely different growths present in the northern United States and the Southern United States. In the north, following the war of 1812, a rapid expansion occurred in the industry of the north.
Technological advances such as the textile mills, and factory workers and the increase in the amount of factories in the North helped create a gap in the economy of the north itself. A lower class, comprised of the workers, got low wages and produced high quantities of product, and the middle class, who were the businessmen and managers. This rift created a class system which benefited the middle class as well as the Northern United States as a whole, as a free market economy developed and increased. Although this was increase throughout the United States, this economical situation occurred primarily in the North, and much less in the south.
In the south, the economic increase was much different. Because of the large amounts of plantations and farms in the south, new land was needed so that the crops that had dried up the soil could continue to grow and the economy can continue to benefit. This growth in land and economy indicates that the economic benefit in the south came from crops and agricultural might, rather than industrial. These differences help identify that the “era of good feelings” and the nationalism that is implied is incorrect and inaccurate, as people have more of a connection towards the land that they make their money on, which implies sectionalism.
Politically, the “era of good feelings” was extremely off. Even before the war of 1812, there had always been a major difference in the political parties and systems of the government. A major difference in this coming from extremely opposing ideologies of the parties and the lack of unity between the two. The difference between the parties is also present in Document C, which shows two different party tents during the fourth of july. Whilst the people are generally happy, the party tents show that the difference is quite evident, and especially how only one of the tents has an American flag flying above it.
This difference helps show the gap in political unity and the disagreement between parties. Also, many parties were so discontent with the others, that one (the new England federalists) offered to secede from the Union so as to follow their own system. This shows that the “era of good feelings” only helped widen the gap between parties, as more and more minor parties came into existence. Socially, The United States was anything but experiencing an “era of good feelings”. The country was experiencing major problems as the south and the north fought for the Missouri compromise.
The north, wanting a free state, fought for Missouri to be free. The south, wanting more power, wanted Missouri to be a slave state. The geographical differences indicate less of a feeling of nationalism and an extreme version of sectionalism. This is also evident in Doc F, “ A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper”.
This quote by Thomas Jefferson emphasizes the difference between the North and South. The usage of the term a geographical line only seems to magnify the situation that the United States is in. If anything nationalism isn’t even implied in the document, and the idea of sectionalism strikes itself deep in the line, indicating that the problems between the North and the South is not just a coincidence. It is because of increasing tensions and a lack of unity between the two regions.
This rift clearly indicates that the “era of good feelings” is not only extremely inaccurate, but also opposite of what actually is occurring, which is an increasing divide in the country, as sectionalism continues to increase geographically, and socially. “The era of good feelings” is anything but a good feeling for the United States. The 1800s provide a turbulent earthquake that splits the nation economically, politically, and socially. The most common indication of this is the ever increasing difference in between the North and the South, which would culminate in 1861 with the deadly civil war that would leave about 620,000 Americans dead.