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In the time just after the War of 1812, the United States experienced a rise in nationalism. The people of the country were feeling much better about their country since they had, as they saw it, defeated Great Britain in the war. This led them to have greater pride in the country and a greater sense of themselves as Americans. This helped lead to a situation in which the national government tried to shape the national economy.
There are generally said to be three examples of how the government did this. First, the government re-created the Bank of the United States. Second, the government imposed a tariff on imported goods. Finally, the government tried to (though it generally failed) undertake “internal improvements.” This essentially meant the building of infrastructure such as roads and harbors.
The creation of the Second Bank of the United States, along with the tariff, helped to reshape the American economy. Perhaps most importantly, these moves led to the creation of a diversified economy that included a great deal of manufacturing. This started to move the American economy away from being mainly agrarian and towards becoming more industrialized.
In the early 1800s, a strong feeling of nationalism swept across the United States. This led the United States to stand up to other countries that were pushing us around. Two of these countries were Britain and France. We decided to stop all trade in 1807 with the passage of the Embargo Act. However, this proved to be disastrous for us because we depended on trade. We then passed the Non-Intercourse Act that banned trade with Britain and France since these were the countries that were interfering with our trade. However, that action also failed because we traded so much with these countries. A group of young senators, called War Hawks, advocated for war against Britain because they were the biggest offenders in terms of interfering with our trade. The War Hawks displayed a strong sense of nationalism because they believed no country should push us around.
After the War of 1812 with Britain, the spirit of nationalism remained strong. Henry Clay developed the American System. This placed protective tariffs on imports, created a national bank, and led to the building of roads and canals. These actions helped our economy grow. We entered an Era of Good Feelings where there was little political dissent because we had only one political party. We were able to accomplish a great deal during this time both internally and with other countries. American pride was very strong during this period of time in the early 1800s, and this impacted our economy.
The spirit of American nationalism and its economic impact in the 1800’s is often expressed in the concept of Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny refers to the belief that it was America’s God-given right to expand into the western areas of the continent and claim them as our own. To settle these lands despite the fact that Native Americans and Mexicans were already there required a great deal of rationalizing on America’s part, hence the need to feel that God wanted us to do it. In some cases, this philosophy resulted war.
We are all familiar with the numerous armed conflicts between the Whites and the Indians. However, our westward expansion also led to the Mexican-American War. The American victory in this war contributed greatly to America’s landholdings in the Southwest, as we picked up vast areas in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. These states contributed to the American economy in the areas of ranching, mining, agriculture, and later, oil.
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