The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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How did the market revolution change the United States?

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The Market Revolution of the nineteenth century changed the United States by ushering in modern capitalism and a market economy. It was the result of a number of developments, including the rise of textile mills in the American Northeast, the cotton economy in the South, and the development of new technologies in communication (the telegraph) and transportation (steam locomotives.) It also featured new production technologies, like interchangeable parts, that facilitated mass production of goods that had previously been manufactured in small shops by craftsmen.

The implications of these developments were profound. The Market Revolution led to unprecedented economic expansion, but it also created economic volatility. Economic panics gripped the country at approximately 10-year intervals beginning in 1819. Many working-class men found that their jobs changed in ways that threatened their social standing, as mass production threatened to make many crafts obsolete. Debates over the proper role of the federal and state governments raged in politics, as promoters of economic expansion supported measures that included canal building and tariffs. The courts, including the Supreme Court, upheld the sanctity of formerly disputed legal contracts.

Perhaps most significant was the expansion of slavery that accompanied the cotton boom. Americans poured into lands formerly occupied by Native Americans in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to grow cotton, and a massive internal slave trade ensued, as plantation owners in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas sold enslaved men and women south to feed the demand for labor.

Economic development and the growing centrality of slavery to the American economy led to increased political sectionalism. Southern states became increasingly sensitive to any perceived effort to restrain the spread of slavery, which accounted for a staggering percentage of the national (as well as the regional) economy. These changes would have serious consequences in the decades that followed.

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The Market Revolution helped to make the modern United States. Farmers began to grow staple crops in order to sell them at market instead of only worrying about subsistence farming. Manufacturers looked for ways to make more product faster which led to interchangeable parts. While some might argue that the craftsmanship may suffer in a market system, men such as Samuel Colt made their fortunes selling the public inexpensive guns.

During this revolution, which happened in the early nineteenth century, many Americans had more spending money, which allowed them greater access to goods that they would not have gotten in the early days of America. American politicians looked for ways to sell surplus American goods abroad and, aside from slavery, the national tariff became one of the leading issues in national politics. The Market Revolution also helped to fuel the Transportation Revolution—farmers and industrialists needed ways to move raw materials and finished products all over the country.

The Market Revolution is therefore indirectly responsible for the internal improvement platform of the Whig Party. The Market Revolution, with its focus on mass production, also encouraged immigration as the early mills looked for cheap sources of labor.  

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The term "market revolution" refers to a period, primarily in the early 1800s, in which the US economy changed from one in which most people produced or bartered for everything they used.  The economy changed from that sort of system to one in which people made things mainly to sell and used the money from those sales to buy other things they needed.

This revolution changed America immensely and in many ways.  First, it made average Americans much more prosperous.  It allowed them to buy goods that they had never been able to have before.  Second, it changed ways of life completely.  It created a system in which people were working not just for themselves, but generally for other people.  It broke down old ways of life in which people in a community traded with one another and generally lived a very communal life.  In its place was a more individualistic system where people were less connected to one another.  Third, these changes led to new ideas.  They led to the idea that society would not always stay the same and that society could be made more perfect through human efforts.  This idea led to reform movements such as the movements for abolition, for temperance, for better education, and for women's rights.

These are some of the very profound impacts of the market revolution.

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