The North and South in Antebellum United States
In the time just before the Civil War, the United States was one of the most successful nations in the world. The United States had become the world’s leading cotton producing country and had developed industry, which would in the future, surpass that of Great Britain. Also, the United States possessed an advanced railroad and transportation system. However, despite its successes, the United States was becoming increasingly divided. The North and the South had many distinct differences in terms of their social, cultural, and economic characteristics that brought about sectionalism and, eventually, the Civil War.
The North’s social structure was very different from that of the South. Industrialization played an important role in forming Northern society. In the North, society was comprised of working class whites and a relatively small number of free blacks. Because of industrialization, a rising number of immigrants were moving into the Northern cities looking for work in the factories. Another effect of industrialization on Northern society was the rise of a wealthy factory-owning group. There was also a group of people struggling in poverty. Between these two classes was a middle class that consisted mostly of workers and entrepreneurs. This middle class came to dominate society in the North. It was the members of the middle class that tended to leave family owned farms in favor of factory work in the cities. In contrast, families in the South still worked independently on farms and plantations. Comparable to the North’s wealthy class of factory owners, in the South there was a small, wealthy class of plantation owners. Unlike the North, it was the wealthy class that dominated Southern society, rather than the middle class. The plantation owners used their wealth to control aspects of Southern political and social life. Also in the South, there was a very poor class referred to as the “clay...
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