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

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Market Revolution had a significant impact on the North. As more machinery was introduced to the United States, many changes occurred in the North. Northern farms became big business operations. Prior to the introduction of machinery, most northern farmers practiced subsistence farming.  After the introduction of machinery, these farmers began to produce many crops to be sold to people living throughout the region.

The introduction of new machines led to the growth of factories in the North. These factories produced a variety of products including clothes, tools, and furniture. Many of these products were sold to many people in the United States.

The Market Revolution also impacted the North because there were improvements in transportation. With the development of the steam engine, it was easier and quicker to ship products. River transportation improved as did travel by road. The building of the National Road, the Erie Canal, and the use of the steam engine in boats and trains helped get products and people from one place to another quicker than in the past.

The South was impacted by the Market Revolution. As the use of the cotton gin expanded, the South turned more and more to the growing of cotton. Cotton eventually became the leading export of the South. The growth of cotton plantations also led to an expansion of slavery in the South. The Southern economy relied more and more on the use of slaves. Thus, the invention of the cotton gin greatly impacted Southern life and the Southern economy.

The Market Revolution impacted both the North and the South.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Market Revolution truly transformed the economy of the North.  By contrast, its impact on the South was less pervasive.  It is said to have brought about the boom in cotton, but it did not fundamentally change the way the economy worked.

In the North, the Market Revolution brought about a decline in subsistence agriculture.  Instead of working on family farms that were self-sufficient (or nearly so) people started to work on farms that grew crops to sell.  Many people even left farms to work in the factories that were springing up around the North.  This created a situation where the North developed a diverse economy that was based on the market system where it had previously had an economy that depended on small practitioners of subsistence farming.

By contrast, the South’s economy was not so drastically changed.  The South’s economy had never been dominated by small subsistence farmers.  Its dominant power was the plantations.  The Market Revolution, in the form of Whitney’s cotton gin, did change the dominant crop in the South.  It also ensured that slavery would boom as cotton was able to spread across the South.  However, it did not create a diverse economy as in the North.  The South was dominated by plantations before the Market Revolution and continued to be dominated by plantations after the revolution.

The Market Revolution, therefore, helped the North become modernized and industrialized but did not do the same for the South.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Market Revolution created new jobs with interchangeable parts.  This meant that goods could be mass produced cheaply enough that people could buy them.  There was also a Transportation Revolution that went with the Market Revolution—businesses had to obtain raw materials and ship finished products to market.  There were several factories in the North which employed new immigrants from Europe in making the goods that a growing American economy needed.  There were also more internal improvements, such as canals and railroads, in the North due to the abundance of labor to work on these projects.  

The South was affected by the Market Revolution as well.  Eli Whitney's cotton gin made cotton easier to produce and planters bought more land and slaves in order earn large fortunes.  The North, especially the Northeast, demanded Southern cotton and, before the Civil War, cotton was needed in textile mills in Britain and France as well.  The money earned from the export trade allowed rich Southerners to import some of the finest European goods, while most poor Southerners could not even own their own land as they were priced out by rich plantation owners.