Social change in the United States in the period 1820-1860 Essay

Transportation has played a significant part in the development of spurring economic and industrial growth in America. Between 1820 through 1860, the groundwork of transportation such as the highway system, railroads, and canals began to develop new aspects of American life. The development of transportation helped increase industrialization, sectionalism, and expansion.

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Fostering industrial growth was one of the most important targets in the 1800s. In 1820, Henry Clay attempted to do so with his American System with protective tariffs, improvements, and a national bank. The most important and fastest way of this plan was the canal system. Canals such as the Erie Canal paid for construction tolls by connecting the Mississippi River to the Eastern seaboard. Robert Fulton got rid of the need of ground transportation with the invention of the steamboat. The steamboat proved how quick it could travel by traveling from Albany to New York City in 32 hours or so, making American waterways more effective. Industrial shipping began to increase over rivers and cities like St. Louis and Cincinnati grew in population. However, the most significant factor of transportation in the 1800’s was the invention of the railroad. It made land transportation faster, more effective, and less expensive. The North began to also industrialize. These improvements made the North and Midwest the centers of American industry.

Transportation had also played a major role in expansion of the west. Transportation was a way to keep the country connected while moving more westward into the country. Turnpikes and roads were the beginning of it all. Roads such as the National Road, which crossed the Appalachian Mountains and through the Ohio River Valley, were made. Transportation was unable to keep up after the Mexican War. Settlers traveled on wagons through the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, and Stephen Douglas called for railroads to go through the west. In 1852, the Gadsden Purchase was made, clearing a path for the transcontinental railroad.

Transportation not only connected the United States, it also promoted sectionalism, mostly in the South. The South did not need transportation as much as the North and West did because they were mostly dependent on cotton plantations. The American System ignored the South. Even Andrew Jackson, who vetoed the Maysville Road, was against sectionalism in American transportation. Despite this, however, the development of two unequal transportation systems began in the north and south.

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