Unit IV: Antebellum America (1800s up to the Civil War)

Trail of Tears by Robert Lindneux (1942)

This unit’s essay prep is incomplete because at the time, there was other things going on and my partner and I didn’t have the time to fully expand on all the points, so I’ll only include the prompts that were completed.

(1) The Jacksonian Period (1824-1848) has been celebrated as the era of the “common man”. To what extent did the period live up to its characterization? Consider TWO of the following in your response.

Economic development   Politics   Reform movements

Synthesis: There’s a lot you can use here, but the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights movement would be prime examples.

Contextualization: “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824



  • Voting power
    • westward expansion added new states (Alabama, Ohio…)
      • these states lowered voting requirements in hopes of more voters and influencing national politics (other states have begun the process)
      • People were more free to form political parties like the Anti-Masonic and the “nativist” American Party
  • however, the common men also supported Jackson’s policies (veto National Bank’s charter, pet banks, Specie Circular Act) against the Bank
  • Nominating conventions became a thing
  • expanded the use of the spoils/ patronage system
  • to appeal to the masses, the campaign was invented and provided the foundation for what would become reality TV
  • the people’s newfound political clout was instrumental in the disagreement over the Tariff of 1828 by diverting power away from New England and forcing the Compromise of 1833 (Calhoun from SC)


  • A whole bunch of reforms. Get ready:
    • industrialisation and revivalism encourage reforms to alcohol consumption, prison reform, the creation of mental asylums (and Silent Hill), abolition (The Liberator Garrison), women’s suffrage (Susan Anthony, Seneca Falls etc), and an education requirement for children
  • the rise of utopian societies: Noye’s Oneida, Ripley’s Brook Farm and Owen’s New Harmony
  • immigrants found their situation to be slightly better (education and voting-wise)
  • more consideration for a wider amount of people
  • Native Americans were excluded from this reform fest as evidenced by the boot in their buttocks

(2) Compare and contrast the impact of the market revolution (1815–1860) on the economies of TWO of the following regions.

The Northeast The Midwest The South

For this one, I said that the market revolution wasn’t nearly as impactful on Southern economy than it was for Northern economy, so just keep that in mind for your thesis.

Synthesis: The industrial and economic boom post-Civil War

Contextualization: The influx of immigrants (especially the Irish during the mid-1840s due to the potato famine)


  • Urbanisation & Industrialisation (North)
    • massive concentration of workforce and production centres (aka factories)
    • Whitney’s interchangeable parts means viability of factories
    • Lowell Girls (Massachusetts) as example of change, new economic opportunities, more participation from a wider demographic
    • but but BUT! crowdsource manufacturing was still prevalent even in the face of industrialisation (more officially known as the “putting-out” system)
  • Specialization
    • North (textile mill), South (cotton)
    • internal trade
    • independent US economy
    • but too much specialisation wouldn’t be good (a big reason why South lost Civil War)
  • Federal Involvement
    • Clay’s American System-railroads and canals affected both (though significantly more in the North, actually South didn’t have much of that at all)
  • South
    • cotton gin and British demand for cotton jumpstarted South economy
    • strong exports in cotton->favourable balance of trade (very)
    • intense focus on cotton=slaves and reinforcement of institution (over 9000!)
    • relied increasingly on Northern and English products because of overspecialization
  • RESULT: ¡¡¡WORLD-CLASS ECONOMY!!!! (almost) 

(3) Explain how the Second Great Awakening in the north influenced TWO of the following movements.

Abolitionism    Utopian Communities  Temperance  The cult of domesticity

This one is short and a bit rushed. The points listed aren’t very organised so you’ll have to do that yourself.

Synthesis: First Great Awakening, obviously

Contextualization: the fact that the Second Great Awakening was encouraged by residual Revolutionary sentiments (namely, freedom in all aspects of like and dislike of authority)


  • Charles G. Finney was one of the most effective preachers
    • preached against Calvinism in “burned-over districts” in New York (Erie Canal attracted poor workers)
    • the slave-holding aristocracy ignored the Great Awakening teachings/beliefs
  • Utopian Communities: New Harmony (Robert Owen), Oneida (Joseph Humphrey Nodes), and Brook Farm (George Ripley)
  • Reforms and Perfectionism( achieving sinless perfection)
  • No predestination- salvation available to everyone
    • slavery is not right because everyone is equal in God’s eyes –  equality for all

(4) Compare the experiences of two of the following groups of immigrants during the period 1830-1860.

Irish     German    English  

Synthesis: Discrimination against the Chinese in the later half of the 1800s that resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Contextualization: Whichever immigrant group you didn’t use could be used as contextualization which in this case, would be the English. They moved mostly for the opportunity and to escape poverty



  • Germany was a diverse group- so they included Catholics, Protestants, and Jews
  • The Germans bound together in neighbourhoods ( very self-sufficient). The Germans were clannish
  • Americans disliked their economic success and their clannish ways
  • They usually left the ports on ships heading towards the cotton trade in New Orleans.
  • Germans immigrated to flee the economic hardship
    • crop failure, lack of land, and overpopulation in Germany
    • a lot were farmers and land was cheaper and more abundant in America
  • Some Germans also came to America for democracy, due to political persecution from the autocracy in Germany- there was not a lot of freedom in Germany


  • Between 1845 and 1850 there was a potato famine in Ireland, so the Irish immigrated to escape the famine and because of the land and economy of America.
  • Many of the immigrants were Catholics from poorer classes (the Irish were the poorest white immigrants)
    • American Protestants became very hostile and anti-Catholicism with the Irish (the Americans thought the Irish were inferior)
    • due to the increase in Catholic immigration anti-immigrant societies were created and the American Party was born
    • also not received well by the Native Americans
  • The Irish accepted lower wages and were taking the jobs of Americans
  • The Irish men helped dig canals and railroads  and the women were domestic servants or worked in the textile mills
    • the majority of the canal work done by the Irish
    • where they congregated in New York ( Five Points District became the worst slum in America)
  • “ Irish Need Not Apply”- a sign said this for the Irish when they looked for jobs in industries.


  • Political organisations would help the immigrants in return for their votes.
    • The Germans and Irish mostly aligned themselves with the Democratic Party
    • Irish hated abolitionism because they feared they would lose their jobs if the slaves were freed and the Whigs’ religious values threatened those of the Irish and Germans
    • They even disliked the public school reform
  •  The  Irish and the Germans drank a lot
  • The labour could be slavish, and they were not protected.

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