Social Change in the Nineteenth Century

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What were some major differences between the North and the South before the Civil War?

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Before the Civil War, most of the South allowed slavery. The slaves were viewed as necessary in order to provide labor for the large plantations. A small number of individuals controlled most of the wealth in the South; therefore, they also controlled most of the political power as well. This...

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Before the Civil War, most of the South allowed slavery. The slaves were viewed as necessary in order to provide labor for the large plantations. A small number of individuals controlled most of the wealth in the South; therefore, they also controlled most of the political power as well. This led to a wide gap between the haves and have-nots in Southern society. Most Northern states had done away with slavery before the war. Northern farms were more self-sufficient enterprises that either used hired help or extended families to supply seasonal labor needs.

The North was more socially mobile than the South; one could hope to rise to greatness if one was involved in business or agriculture in the North. While the North had an underclass of poor laboring immigrants from Europe, the North had more opportunities than the South. The North also spent more money on education than the South; in the South, education was considered the domain of future plantation owners, and it was dangerous to teach lower classes of whites to read. It was even illegal in many places to teach a slave to read.

Due to the amount of non-farming opportunities and an availability of free labor, the North also had more infrastructure than the South. The North had more railroad and canal investment than the South before the Civil War. Many Southern planters did not want to give up their land or labor supplies in order to create new infrastructure. In the North, transportation would be key toward managing the diverse resources of the region.

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There were several significant differences between the northern and southern regions of the United States before the Civil War. The northern part of America, having been populated and cities having been established early in the colonial period, had considerably more influence on the economy of the United States by 1861, the start of the Civil War.

Looking at some of the essential statistical information from the period reveals the population in the north was nearly three times greater than the south. Approximately 71% of the people in the United States resided in the northern part of the country. As might be expected, the concentration of wealth was in the northern states, with the north retaining about 75% of the nation’s wealth and holdings. The primary financial and banking system of the United States was located in the north, creating additional capital opportunities for investment. Capitalization of industries such as factories and manufacturing required stable and substantial sources of capital to operate. 85% of the factories in the United States were situated in the north.

Steel production and railways to support industries were located in substantial numbers in the north. Nearly 91% of iron and steel was produced in northern factories. To transport raw materials and finished product, northern factories relied on railroads, of which 72% of the total miles in rail lines was in the north. While the north maintained a dominant position economically from factory production, the south had an advantage in agriculture and farmland under cultivation (84% of large farms located in the south).

Culturally speaking, both areas were considered religious, as there were several denominations and practicing religious communities. The northern colonies many were founded on the principle that every colonist should have some form of at least rudimentary education led the way in educating citizens. This continued well into the Reconstruction Period as the north made significant investments in public education whereas the south continued to lag behind. Other differences are in infrastructure such as roads and telegraph lines for communication. The south lagged behind in both.

These are the significant differences between the north and south before the Civil War began in 1861.

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There were many differences between the North and the South in the years not long before the Civil War.  These differences were demographic, economic, and cultural.

The major difference between the two was economic. The South’s economy was based on the production and export of staple crops.  These were produced on plantations whose workers were slaves.  The North’s economy was much more diverse.  It had industry, farming for food, services, and many other economic activities.  There was no slavery in the North.

Mostly because of slavery, there were demographic differences between the two regions.  The North was much more diverse and had many more immigrants.  Immigrants did not want to go to the South because there was less opportunity for them in an economy that was dominated by plantations worked by slaves.  This meant that there were, for example, not nearly as many Irish and Germans in the South as in the North.

Finally, the two regions had different cultures.  The North had a more modern culture while the South had a more archaic culture.  Historians generally say that this is because the South was dominated by aristocratic planters whose culture was more similar to that of European gentry than it was to modern Northerners.  Southerners valued personal honor and fought duels.  Northerners were more interested in making money than in personal honor.  This helped make the two regions very different.

In these ways and more, the antebellum North and South were very different places.

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