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Years before the Civil War in the U.S. were distinguished by unprecedented economic growth. The North and the South successfully pursued their economic objectives. The goal of this paper is to delineate the main economic differences between the North and the South at the edge of the Civil War. Besides, the rates and pace of economic advancement in the American North and the South before the Civil War are compared.
Years before the Civil War were marked by unprecedented economic advancement. The North and the South successfully pursued their economic objectives. Despite the dramatic differences between the North and the South, an accelerated economic growth was a common trend for all U.S. states before the Civil War (Gallman, 1990). Nevertheless, the scope of economic differences between the North and the South could not be easily dismissed. Being predominantly industrial, the Northern states were in stark contrast to the predominantly agricultural Southern territories. Additionally, slavery exemplified one of the most important distinguishing features of the Southern economy, which created a unique economic climate in the U.S. and actually precipitated further escalation of violence, leading to the Civil War.
The scope of the economic differences between the North and the South before the Civil War could be hardly overstated. In contrast to the American South, the North was mainly industrial. Three main features that defined the economy of the North before the Civil War included industrial manufacturing, the spirit of entrepreneurism, and abundant natural resources. The North had always been a huge trading hub and the cradle of American manufacturing (Anonymous, 1999). Abundant natural resources sped up its industrial development and rapid urbanization during the 19th century (Anonymous, 1999). Since the beginning of the 19th century and up to the beginning of the Civil War, the percentage of agricultural workers in Northern labor force shrank from 70% to less than 40% (Anonymous, 1999). It is no wonder that the prevailing majority of immigrants eventually settled in the North.
Unlike the North, the South was predominantly agricultural. The agricultural specialization of the Southern economy was logical, given the fertile soils and warm climate of the Southern territories in the U.S. (Anonymous, 1999). Tobacco and cotton grew in large-scale farms and brought unbelievable profits (Anonymous, 1999). As a result, Southerners did not need industrial enterprises. Three thirds of Southerners worked in agriculture (Anonymous, 1999). In addition, due to its geographical position, the South was well-known for its well-developed transportation and shipping networks; the latter exemplified an important source of economic benefits and profits of the South. Southern farmers imported their tobacco and cotton products to Europe, and the presence of transportation was a matter of economic survival in the South. However, slavery was deeply embedded in Southern economic thinking. Slavery was closely intertwined with all economic processes in the South. Slavery was one of the most peculiar and important institutions in the South (Anonymous, 1999). Despite the benefits it brought to Southerners, slavery was one of the most pressuring issues in the U.S. and eventually became the central cause of violence and the Civil War.
Industrialization was, probably, the brightest feature that distinguished the North from the South. Simultaneously, slavery was the most controversial aspect of the economic development in the South. Northerners criticized the South for its reliance on slave labor, whereas the South treated slavery as the major source of its economic and social benefits. The lack of industrial development in the South became the most solid argument against slavery. In reality, “the outstanding economic characteristics of southern agriculture before the Civil War were a high degree of specialization and virtually exclusive reliance on a slave labor force” (Conrad & Meyer, 1958, p.95). Unlike the North, the South perceived slavery as an extremely important ingredient of its economic culture. In many instances, slavery and economic development in the South were directly related. The South did not pursue industrial development simply because of its geographical location and economic specialization. Eventually, agriculture in the South and industrialization in the North created a unique economic balance that was later disrupted by the Civil War.
Despite the rapid economic advancement in the U.S. before the Civil War, the scope of the economic differences between the North and the South could hardly be overstated. The North was characterized by the spirit of entrepreneurism, industrialization, and abundant natural resources, while Southerners relied on agriculture, transportation, and slavery. The latter was the cornerstone in the relationships between the North and the South. Although slavery was part of the Southern economic culture and was deeply embedded into its economy and social life, it also became the main cause of escalating violence, leading to the Civil War.