Issues Dividing U.S in the 1780-1830s


IssuesDividing U.S in the 1780-1830s

Followingthe War of Independence, the United States faced different challengeswhich were critical to the process of stabilizing the nation. Forinstance, there were issues such as the creation of a nationalgovernment through the articles of federation, the ratification ofthe Constitution, slavery and its abolition, and the war of 1812among others. Although the nation was in a position to find solutionsto some of the issues that it went through, some were difficult todeal with. This report will discuss the problems that divided theUnited States from 1780-1830s.

Oneof the issues that divided the United States entailed the articles ofconfederation. This was the first constitution to be written in theUnited States. The articles anticipated balancing the need fornational coordination of the War of Independence with the fear that acentralized political power was to pose a danger to liberty (Foner,2013). However, despite the articles of confederation being proposed,it had the weakness of making it possible to have a nationalgovernment. This resulted to its ratification in the 1780s. Disputesconcerning the access to western land almost thwarted theratification of the articles of confederation in the first place.Land speculators, prospective settlers, and politicians from statesthat had clearly defined boundaries claimed that such land must bepossessed by the nation at large. The articles of confederation wonratification following the land-rich states ceding their westernclaims to the central government (Foner, 2013).

Anotherissue that emerged was the Indian land conflict. The establishment ofrules for settlement of the area controlled by the federalgovernment, which stretched from the western boundaries of existingstates to the Mississippi River, was not easy. This was because about100,000 Indians occupied the region. However, in 1784, peaceconferences at Fort McIntosh resulted in resolving the land conflictsand most of the country’s western territory became owned by thefederal government. Also, in the 1780s, the Congress approved termsunder which the Western land was to be marketed and settled. Theordinance of 1784 developed by Jefferson established stages ofself-government for the West. The area was to be divided intodistricts initially governed by Congress and finally admitted to theunion as member states. Through a single vote, the Congress declineda clause that would have barred slavery throughout the West. In 1785,a second ordinance regulated land sales in the area north of the OhioRiver (Foner, 2013). The systems created by this ordinance promisedto control and concentrate settlement, as well as raise resources forCongress. However, settlers violated the rules by pressing westwardprior to the completion of the surveys. Alternatively, in 1787, theNorthwest Ordinance, called for the final establishment of fivestates north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. Thisensured that local Indians’ land was not to be taken withoutconsent.

Thepresidential election of 1800 brought about the issue of aconstitution crisis. During the presidential campaigns, Jeffersondefeated Adams. The acceptance of defeat by Adams established thevital precedent of a peaceful transfer of power from a defeated partyto its successor. During the 1800 elections, the Congress establishedthe Twelve Amendment to the Constitution, which required electors tocast separate votes for vice president and president (Foner, 2013).

Theissue of slavery was also a divisive element during the epoch. In1793, the Congress enacted a law providing for state and federaljudges and local officials to assist the return of escaped slaves.Events during the 1790s highlighted how strongly slavery defined anddistorted the American freedom. In 1800, a slave rebellion becameattempted in Virginia, but this led to Virginia’s slave lawsbecoming stricter.

Anotherissue that attempted to divide the Americans was the War of 1812.From 1800-1812, the Indians sought to revitalize their life.Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh tried reviving a pan-Indian movement so asto unite against the white Americans. During the War of 1812, Madisonrequested the Congress for a declaration of war (Foner, 2013).However, it was difficult for the government to finance the battle,and the Americans enjoyed limited military successes. With the Treatyof Ghent in 1814, peace was officially established. The aftermath ofthis war confirmed that the Republican government was in a positionto conduct a war without necessarily surrendering its institutions.

Theissue of transport was a major problem following the independencewar. However, the creation of a new economy was critical ineliminating the problem. The improvements made by focusing on roadsand steamboats helped in lowering costs and linking farmers tomarkets. The Erie Canal became completed in 1825 making New York amajor trade port (Foner, 2013). Also, railroads helped in opening thefrontier to settlement and offered a link to markets while thetelegraph developed a communication revolution. The expansion oftransport and communication was significant in the establishment ofthe cotton kingdom. The rise of cotton production started with theestablishment of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. The cotton gin led tothe revolutionization of American slavery. The opening up of marketsalso resulted in the growth of major cities in the West.

Duringthe presidential election of 1824, Andrew Jackson emerged as the onlycandidate having a national appeal. Out of the four candidates, noone received a majority of the electoral votes, and the election fellto the House of Representatives. The support of Clay gave Adams thewin. His victory provided him with the platform for supporting theAmerican system. However, in the election of 1828, Jackson obtainedthe presidential seat. During his tenure, the issue that emergedconcerned public and private freedom (Foner, 2013). South Carolinaled the charge for having a weakened federal government due to thefear that a strong federal government could act against slavery. Alsoduring his term, there was the issue of Indian Removal. The growth ofcotton and slavery resulted in the forced relocation of Indians. Thisled to Cherokees seeking court interventions to protect their rights.The Seminoles fought against the Indian Removal from 1835 to 1842.

Byaround 1860, there were approximately half a million free blacks inthe U.S. and most of them resided in the South. Free blacks hadproblems since they could not serve on a jury or testify in court(Foner, 2013). Most city slaves were cooks, servants, and otherdomestics. In the south, slaves working in farms were involved incrops such as sugarcane and cotton. The slaves used different formsof resistance such as feigning illness, breaking tools, doing poorwork, arson, armed assaults, as well as poisoning the master. In1831, white southerners closed ranks and defended slavery morestrongly than ever. In 1839, the Supreme Court accepted Adam’sargument that slaves had been illegally captured in Africa and neededto be freed (Foner, 2013).


Foner,E. (2013). Giveme liberty: An American history.New York: W.W. Norton &amp Co.