In the US in the 80s, sectionalism was a rather popular impression that lasted for as long as slavery, and other ills of that time lasted. It was primarily characterized by individual allegiances to one’s region of the nation over the shared purpose of every member or citizen.
Although this popular impression only became popular in the US at this time, it has generally been believed that this problem of sectionalism started at an earlier time than that, even before America was established as a federation on its own.
Initially, when the colonial empire came into the region, they initiated individual attachments to different regions with each one of them having its own distinct identity.
At that time, sectionalism, in the real sense, was used by the resident colonial authorities as an expression against the centralization of the British colonial rule, and as a result, the Articles of Confederation was established. This was to allow for a loosely-structured (or decentralized) government.
The mid-1880s saw the championing of regional cultures, structures, political beliefs and values by the different people of the United States at that time. The country was divided into regions as a result of people’s interests, behavior, and life outlook.
Those in the north focused on business and industry; the manufacturing and exportation of invaluable goods to different regions of the world. This region played a critical role in the banking and commerce industry. Southerners, on the other hand, were farmers who relied on the institution of slavery for the planting and picking of crops.
This sectionalism in the US was what led Abraham Lincoln to conclude: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
In this article, our focus shall be on the major causes of sectionalism in the US. There are several contributory factors that led to this divide in interest, belief and political value.
● Decentralization of the Colonial Administration
Just as mentioned, this sectionalism began way before America became a nation. This was because of the fear each of the colonies had; they wanted to prevent the strong centralization of power in government, which was likely to lead to tyranny and opposition in the long run. As a result, a system was introduced to allow for powerful regional governments and a weak central administration.
This also, however, led to another rift that brought the division: the North was in support of this proposition and the South was strongly opposed to it, and were, because of this, tagged anti-federalists by the northerners. The causes of Sectionalism in the US arose mainly from this rift. Even the regions were not hesitant in sustaining it.
The slavery institution was also a major problem between the northern and southern regions.
The northerners were the most vocal. They strongly opposed it. For some, it was for economic reasons, for the maintenance of economic and political balance. For others, it was for moral reasons. Southerners, on the other hand, supported it strongly. They heavily depended on slavery to promote their crop production and wouldn’t want to extend their slaves the entitlements they deserve (Bensel, 1984).
Eventually, this disagreement led to the Civil War in America and this later brought about an end to Slavery and human degradation of the black in the United States.
● The Bank of US and Internal Reformations
To improve trade activities, the National Bank made reforms that brought about new developments. The northerners greatly benefited from this as most of them were industrialists and traders. It created a rivalry with the grain farmers in the Western region; a competition that promoted sectionalism and also pushed the northeasterners to dairy and vegetable farming.
“The National Bank and Canals improving the transportation network between the Northeast and Northwest are of great concern to your region. The National Bank will provide a source of investment capital for the manufacturing industry as well as the booming shipping industry revitalized by the Asian trade. Canals will facilitate opening up the west as a market for northeastern manufacturing goods as well as the transportation of Western farm products to the Northeastern cities” (Tellez, no date)