This writeup refers to the United States, pre-Civil War

During the middle of the nineteenth century, the Southern agricultural economy had a resented dependency on the North. After falsely analyzing their status in the country, they believed they were only a colony of the North. This caused many Southerners to suspect they were victims of a cruel Northern conspiracy. It also created more tension in heightening the feeling of sectionalism in the United States.

The South’s economy was overwhelmingly agricultural. This was believed to be the best route for the South to take; yet the North was leading the South in both wealth and population. The South thought of itself as only a colony of the North’s bankers, merchants, manufacturers, and political agents. This is when the idea of conspiracy began to form.

Because some of the statements made, the Southerners believed that Northern capitalists didn’t make money only from their own efforts, but from the South’s as well. The Northerners now had the federal government on their side, too. The Northerners had monopolies in shipbuilding and received most of the trade between American ports. Manufacturers benefited from tariffs, and the New England fishing industry obtained bounty from the treasury. The federal government was now looked upon as something to stimulate and benefit the economy of the North and to destroy that of the South.

This feeling that the Northern profits were made at the expense at the South grew among the Southerners, and even though the idea can now be challenged, it was what the South believed at the time. It heightened sectionalism by dividing the United States into two parts: a healthy Northern region with business markets helped along by the government, and the serfdom of the agricultural South, which was exploited at the expense of the former.

The suspicion of conspiracy in the North and the inferiority the Southerners felt was influenced by the belief (whether correct or incorrect) that the South was economically dependent on the North. With the federal government on the North’s side, the South felt inferior, as if a colony. This heightened feelings of difference and made sectionalism a greater issue.

Sec"tion*al*ism (?), n.

A disproportionate regard for the interests peculiar to a section of the country; local patriotism, as distinguished from national.

[U. S.]


© Webster 1913.

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