How did the Market Revolution affect the society, politics, and economy of the U.S. in the years 1800-1860?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Market Revolution fundamentally altered American politics and society. The advent of mass production and the factory system permanently altered the traditional master-apprentice relationship, and squeezed many traditional craftsmen out of business by breaking up the tasks in production of many manufactured goods. This created an enormous class of wage laborers in cities, especially in the North, where the move to manufacturing was the most advanced. These workers toiled in a far more discipined environment than ever before.

Along with a class of wage laborers, a new class of capitalists, people who invested in manufacturing and other ventures emerged. These middle-class city dwellers attempted a number of reform movements aimed at curbing what they saw as the immorality of the urban working class. Their efforts were encouraged by religious reformers that emerged in the Second Great Awakening. Many people, aghast at the rapidity of these changes, retreated into utopian communities which dotted the countryside in the North.

In the South, the Market Revolution was characterized by rapid expansion of the cotton economy, which of course entailed rapid territorial expansion into lands formerly held by Native Americans and Mexico. The impact of the expansion of slavery on the nation by midcentury is well-known, but it also should be noted that it involved the rise of a massive internal slave trade by which slaves were sold from plantations in the Upper South, especially Virginia, into new lands in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.