How Accurate Is the Label Era of Good Feelings?

Published: 2021-09-14 00:05:10
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Category: United States, Nationalism

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Prior to the war of 1812, the United States was riddled with domestic political conflicts between the Federalist and Republican parties and diplomatic conflicts with Britain and France. The Federalist and Republicans’ opinions differed in every subject and diplomatic policies against Britain and France divided the nation. At one point, disunion was so apparent that during the Hartford Convention in 1814, New England almost seceded from the Union.
After the war of 1812, from 1815 to 1825, some Historians claimed that the nation embraced an Era of Good Feelings due to the destruction of the Federalist Party (but not its ideas) and the numerous nationalistic improvements. However, a better name for the post war years of 1815 to 1825 is an Era of Mixed Feelings because although there were improvements stimulated by nationalism, there were also conflicts created by sectionalism. After the war of 1812, the people of the United States felt enormous pride in winning a war against the almighty Britain and used their nationalism to inspire improvements.
Beginning with James Monroe’s election in 1816, Monroe (Republican) won the election with an outstanding ratio of 183 electoral votes to his opponent Rufus King’s (Federalist) 34 votes. Then in 1820, Monroe had no formidable opponent and acquired every vote expect, thus marking the end of the Federalist Party. The nation was more untied than the pre-war era due to the emergence of the National Republican Party which had a hybrid of both Federalist and Republican beliefs. During Monroe’s presidency, the Monroe Doctrine was created and Florida became U. S. territory, both of which bolstered U. S. supremacy in the Western Hemisphere.



In 1819, the U. S. acquired Florida from Spain for $5 million, which basically secured U. S. power in North America. Then in 1823, the Monroe Doctrine constituted U. S. supremacy in the Western Hemisphere by stating that European powers have no right to interfere in Western affairs, and are not allowed to have further colonization within the Americas. The doctrine was especially important because it helped to proclaim U. S. independence since Monroe chose to not align U. S. with Britain and took a firm position against the potent European powers. (Doc. H) Both of these events created positive vibes in the country as the U. S. ecame more and more of a superpower. At a cultural level, people rejoiced with nationalism and celebrated national holidays such as Independence Day with vanity. (Doc. C) Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner gained ubiquitous popularity and became the national anthem and many great works of literature such as Washing Irving’s short stories illustrated American culture and values. In addition, the nation’s economy prospered due to Henry Clay’s American System, which promoted protective tariffs to protect and create industry and internal improvements such as roads, turnpikes, and canals to enhance internal commerce and unity.
The internal improvements were especially important because as Calhoun puts it, “the extent of the republic exposes us to the greatest of calamities—disunion,” thus by binding “the republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals”, the U. S. can economically grow in unity. (Doc. B) By examining the prevalent post-war accomplishments and improvements, it is evident that from the period of 1815 to 1825, the U. S. enjoyed a period of nationalism and prosperity. On the contrary, although the years 1815 to 1825 had numerous improvements due to nationalism, sectionalism and the 2nd B. U. S. ilemma caused many conflicts for the United States. First off, despite the fact that President Monroe won the elections of 1816 and 1820 with little to no opposition, by 1824, there were four candidates from the north, south and west; Andrew Jackson from Tennessee, John Q. Adams from Massachusetts, Henry Clay from Kentucky, and William Crawford from Georgia were representing different sections of the United States with unalike interests. (Doc. I) One of the main differences in interests was the issue of slavery, which Thomas Jefferson had predicted that one day it would be “the [death] knell of the Union. (Doc. E) The North’s economy had little to no use for slavery while the South’s economy depended on the slavery; especially after Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which allowed the production of cotton thus increasing demand for slaves. The Missouri Comprise of 1820 was a chief example of how slavery separated the people. The Missouri Comprise allowed Missouri to enter as a slave state and Maine to enter as a free state in order to fashion a balance of power and created a 36-30 latitude line border that unofficially established the North as anti-slavery states and the South as pro-slavery states.
Undoubtedly, the compromise damaged the nationalistic feelings of the nation and created sectionalism since the North and the South refused to give up political power that would put their region’s interests at stake. Economically, the nation’s wealth did increase but the issue of protective tariffs brought disunion because the North supported it while the South opposed it. Many people of the South shared John Randolph’s view that it was “unjust, to aggravate the burdens of the people for the purpose of favoring the manufactures. ” (Doc.
A) Furthermore, the Panic of 1819, which was chiefly the fault of the 2nd Bank of the United States, hindered the nation’s growth. Initially, the 2nd B. U. S. was run by William Jones who issued more banknotes than there were species and allowed employees to steal from the bank. When Jones was replaced by Cheeves, Cheeves stopped issuing bank notes so he could stop the distressing inflation. This course of action damaged businesses and farms throughout the country thus people could not pay their loans. As a result banks foreclosed people’s properties but even then, banks could not sell the mortgages.
This dominoes effect destroyed the nation’s economy and stymied the national pride. Due to the sectionalist conflicts of slavery and economic issues, it is palpable that the years 1815 to 1825 was not completely an Era of Good Feelings but bad feelings as well. Shortly after the war of 1812, the United States experienced many improvements culturally, economically, politically, and diplomatically. The nation celebrated its culture and virtues, adopted Henry Clay’s American System, was united politically until the years prior to the election of 1824, and made auspicious declarations with European powers.
However, disregarding the accomplishments and improvements were the sectionalist conflict of slavery that divided the north and the south, the 2nd B. U. S. internal improvements such as roads, turnpikes, and canals to enhance internal commerce and unity predicament that caused the devastating Panic of 1819, and the issue of protective tariffs. In the end, because the years 1815 to 1825 had both good and bad feelings, improvements and conflicts, it is best to label the period as an Era of Mixed Feelings characterized by nationalism and sectionalism.

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