How did the Market Revolution impact the North and the South differently?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Broadly speaking, in the North, the Market Revolution led to increased urbanization and economic integration. A major part of both of these trends was industrialization, of which the textile industry was the most prominent example. The market revolution also saw rapid growth of infrastructure in the North, including state and federally-subsidized roads, canals, and eventually railroads. Additionally, the Market Revolution, as well as other external forces (especially famine in Ireland) led to massive immigration during the 1830 and especially the 1840s.

In the South, the Market Revolution, particularly in the deep South, was characterized by the expansion of cotton agriculture, famously facilitated by the invention of the cotton gin. Far from the idyllic plantations romanticized in historical memory, hunger for new lands to cultivate cotton led to rampant speculation and aggressive land-grabs in the fertile black belts of western Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi (and later Texas.) This not only led to the deportation of Southeastern Indians, but created a insatiable demand for slave labor. Because the foreign slave trade was banned, southern planters turned to the border South, particularly Virginia, where there was a labor surplus. This led to one of the other defining characteristics of the Market Revolution, namely the internal slave trade. Thousands of slaves were taken in coffles to the Deep South, where they labored on the new plantations.

On the other hand, the rise of Jacksonian democracy, with its emphasis on extending the franchise to all white men, was also a legacy of the Market Revolution in the South as well as the North. And the Market Revolution also led to increased economic integration of the North and South, as well as the West. This took place even as the regions began to experience sectional tensions over the expansion of slavery and other issues related to slavery.