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The primary factor driving economic growth during this period was the rise of industrialization; all other factors can be seen as sub-categories of industrialization.
Following the War of Independence, the economy of the United States remained fairly unchanged. The country had an abundance of natural resources, but limited manufacturing capabilities, rudimentary higher education, a largely rural population, and a dependence upon European imports. Economic factors in the War of 1812 highlighted these shortcomings and primed the country for more efficient, productive, centralized and independent economic changes.
Some of the industrial factors that initiated this growth included;
- Railroads and canals: these expanded rapidly, creating a national economy rather than just regional ones. They allowed for greater lifetimes of perishable goods, and greater degrees of specialization as it became possible for communities to move away from subsistence farming.
- Mechanization: this includes both agricultural implements, such as the mechanical cotton gin, and textile implements, such as the Roberts loom. This also led to greater regional specialization, driving the South towards more of an agricultural economy and the North toward a manufacturing one. This was evidenced to great effect during the Civil War. In the West, the mechanical wheat reaper greatly increased the efficiency of wheat farming, leading wheat to replace corn and radically alter the profitability of Western farms.
- Urbanization: the Industrial Revolution is internationally recognized for its urbanizing effect. Rural populations dropped as farms required less workers and jobs moved to urban factories and mills. This led to a different type of consumer profile, one which would lead to additional economic dynamics.
These altered dynamics would lead to some of the issues that would later fuel the Civil War. As demand for raw materials grew, demand for slave labor in the South grew with it. The Northern states kept their antislavery policies, but also kept their economic demands, leading to the Southern states to argue that slaves made economic sense and were a de facto component of the North's consumption. The incompatibility of this growing economy with a morally dubious foundation led to the increasingly partisan politics that characterized the 1850s.
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