Exam preparation materials

Chapter 11: Growth, Slavery, and Reform, 1800–1850



Cotton gin invented


Interchangeable parts exhibited


Fulton perfects the steamboat


National road begun


Erie Canal built


The height of the Second Great Awakening


United States consists of 12 slave states and 12 free states


David Walker’s appeal published


Nat Turner Rebellion takes place  • Liberator published


Liberty Party splits the American Anti-Slavery Society


Samuel F. B. Morse sends the first intercity telegraph message between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.


American Renaissance in literature takes place.


Convention held at Seneca Falls  • Martin van Buren runs for president on Free Soil ticket


United States consists of 15 slave state and 23 free states  • 4 million slaves exist


American Anti-Slavery Society

John Deere

William Lloyd Garrison

National Road

Transportation Revolution

American Renaissance

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Elias Howe

Second Great Awakening

Nat Turner

Black Belt

Erie Canal

Cyrus McCormick

Temperance Movement

Convention in Seneca Falls

Robert Fulton

Samuel F. B. Morse

Henry David Thoreau

“Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land

Tell old Pharaoh: Let my people go.”

—Negro Spiritual


From 1800 to 1860, there were upheavals in the modes of transportation, industry, and agriculture. These changes resulted in clashes in religion and politics, both inside and outside the halls of Congress. A distinctive American literature also developed out of this ferment.


The South

The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, separated the seeds from cotton fiber at 50 times the manual rate. Using the cotton gin on the difficult short staple inland cotton enabled the slave South to grow from 6 to 15 states by 1860. Cotton production rose from 2 million pounds in 1790 to more than a billion pounds by 1860. By 1840, the United States was already producing 60 percent of the world’s cotton.

The North

By 1860, the growth of the North had far outstripped that of the South. Between 1790 and 1860, the population of New York City grew from 33,000 to 816,000, while Charleston, South Carolina’s only major city, increased from 16,000 to 42,000. There were more jobs and opportunities in the North, so immigrants flocked to the North and West to work in factories, on farms, and in their own businesses.

The Transportation Revolution and the First Industrial Revolution

The growth in the North and West accelerated because of the building of roads, steamboats, and canals, or the Transportation Revolution. Construction of the (federal) National Road began in 1811 in Cumberland, Maryland, and was completed in Vandalia, Illinois, in 1838. The steamboat, perfected by Robert Fulton in 1807, provided more rapid transportation on rivers and lakes. The (New York State) Erie Canal (1817–1825) stretched from Albany to Buffalo, connecting to New York City via the Hudson River. By 1837, there were 3,000 miles of canals, creating sites for cities like Rochester, New York, which spurred production of food, houses, and schools. Jobs grew exponentially. This explosion in jobs and consumer goods created what has been called a market revolution, requiring farmers to specialize in grain or dairy, forcing artisans (hand craftspeople) to compete with assembly line production, and making products cheaper and more plentiful. New England financiers founded cotton mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the 1820s, providing jobs for young New England farm women.


Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper (1830s) and John Deere’s steel plow (1837) set the stage for the late 19th-century expansion of agricultural production. Similarly, the sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe in 1846 and perfected by I. M. Singer, provided the basis for expansion in the garment industry after the Civil War. The engine-powered railroad came to America in 1828, but many hundreds of thousands of miles of track would not be laid until the 1860s. However, Samuel Morse’s telegraph, first used in 1844, was expanded to 23,000 miles of wire by 1853. Assembly lines, in which workers made parts of a shoe, for example, and handed the work on to the next worker, sped up production, as did the manufacture of Eli Whitney’s machine-made interchangeable parts(1801).



As cotton production moved west, slaves were sold from the Upper South of Virginia and Maryland to the Lower South of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, breaking up families in large numbers. The Black Belt, named after the dark fertile soil in the Lower South, contributed to the $194,440,000 worth of cotton production in 1859. Cotton accounted for 50 to 60 percent of total U.S. exports. Slave owners comprised only one-fourth of the population, but planters, those who owned 20 or more slaves, were overwhelmingly the Southern representatives in Congress and the state legislatures.


More than half of the 4 million slaves in 1860 worked in cotton, while the rest grew rice, tobacco, sugar, and hemp. Living in quarters among themselves, the field hands developed a culture based on both their African heritage and their American experience. They developed a culture of the quarters in which they told each other stories about tricking their masters and sang Bible-influenced spirituals asking to “Let my people go.” Slave sabotage was widespread, and running away, even among house slaves, occurred with surprising frequency, given the severe punishment it might entail.


The Second Great Awakening

As the society was split apart along the canals, people began to follow the revival movement of Charles Grandison Finney. By the late 1820s, western New York came to be called the “burned-over district.” Finney led weeks-long tent meetings, converting thousands to prepare for the coming of Christ. Historians have connected the growth of social reform with this Second Great Awakening.

Social Reforms

The movements for reform were part of a “Benevolent Empire.” In 1837, Horace Mann began campaigning for the development of public common schools as well as normal schools for teachers. In 1843, Dorothea Dix succeeded in convincing the state of Massachusetts to improve treatment of the mentally ill, who had been placed in prisons with criminals. The Temperance Movement succeeded in preventing the manufacture of spirits in Maine in 1851. In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Convention in Seneca Falls in New York to address women’s rights and suffrage.

Antislavery Strategies

Arthur and Lewis Tappan and William Lloyd Garrison, supporters of immediate abolitionism, founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Maintaining in his Liberator that slavery was a sin and that the Constitution that protected it trampled on the Declaration’s phrase “all men are created equal,” pacifist Garrison distributed 1.1 million pieces of literature in 1835. Black newspaper editor David Walker wrote an “Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World,” warning that without equality, blacks would rebel. Both Garrison and Walker opposed the colonization strategy of Henry Clay’s American Colonization Society, which advocated sending freed blacks to Liberia in Africa. Gradual abolitionism was adopted by many Northern states after the Revolution, whereby any child born to a slave after 1790, for example, would be freed at the age of 21. The most dramatic actions were taken by conspirators Gabriel Prosser in 1800, Denmark Vesey in 1822, and the leader of the 1831 Southampton, Virginia, slave rebellion, Nat Turner, who led a group of slaves in killing some 60 whites. Turner believed he was called by God to destroy slavery.


The questions of slavery and societal reform influenced several key literary figures of this period. Ralph Waldo Emerson, lecturer and poet of the transcendentalist movement, wrote an essay called Self-Reliance (1841), which argued that we all possess a natural ability to understand and perfect the world by relying on our higher instincts. Henry David Thoreau, also influenced by transcendentalism, published a call for a return to the simple life in Walden (1854). In On Civil Disobedience (1849), he advocated noncooperation with evil. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855) was a free-verse exploration of democratic self-expression. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) was an epic novel describing an individual’s struggle with nature and fate. Finally, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter (1850) was a psychological novel about Puritan mores set in 17th-century Massachusetts. This extraordinary flowering of literary genius has been called the American Renaissance.


The extraordinary level of political activity by ordinary men and women from the 1820s through the 1840s, along with the first Western president’s Andrew Jackson invitations to the men with “mud on their boots” to come to the White House and enjoy the “spoils” of victory (chapter 10), have encouraged some historians to label this period the Age of the Common Man. Reform also extended to the right to vote: White manhood suffrage became more common by the 1830s. However, the expansion and the increasing harshness of slavery in the South, in combination with the removal of the Indians and the disorienting growth of the market economy, have prompted other historians to call this period simply the Jacksonian Era.


•  Abolitionism: The movement to end slavery; there were many points of view on the subject. Immediate abolitionism advocated ending slavery everywhere and refusing to cooperate with the political process (William Lloyd Garrison). Political abolitionism advocated an end to slavery everywhere as well, but its adherents worked through the political process and ran for political office (Charles Sumner). Gradual abolitionism advocated freeing slaves at the age of 21 who were born after a certain date (James Tallmadge).

•  Artisan: A skilled worker who had learned a trade from a master as an apprentice; shoemakers, bakers, blacksmiths, and carpenters were artisans.

•  Assembly line: A method of mass production whereby the products are moved from worker to worker, with each person performing a small, repetitive task on the product and sending it to the next for a different task until the finished item is assembled; in the 18th and 19th centuries in America, assembly lines did not move; instead, workers handed the product from one to the next.

•  Colonization: The political position advocating sending free blacks to Liberia in Africa to reduce the number of them in the country—the more blacks that were freed, the fewer there would be in America; it was seen as a way of alleviating the danger of slaveinsurrection. Henry Clay was an advocate of colonization, as was Lincoln, until, as president, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

•  Cotton gin: A machine that separates seeds from the cotton; the short-staple cotton that grew inland in the South’s Black Belt could be cleaned profitably only with the cotton gin. The invention of the cotton gin allowed cotton cultivation to spread, enabling slavery to move from the coast of Georgia and South Carolina across the South to Mississippi and Louisiana.

•  Culture of the quarters: The traditions, language, and modes of behavior of the field hands who lived in the slave quarters; they practiced many forms of resistance to the wills of their masters, told each other African-derived tales, sang spirituals, and practiced their own African- and Christian-derived religion.

•  Interchangeable parts: Machine-made or standardized parts that could be put together to make a product; Eli Whitney demonstrated to President John Adams in 1801 how a box of guns could be disassembled and reassembled randomly. Each part must be precision-made so that it will fit with any other precision-made part. Before Whitney’s invention came into widespread use, parts were handcrafted with respect to each other to fashion a gun or other machine. Interchangeable parts were used in mass productionin the late 19th century.

•  Planter: A slave owner in early Virginia or Maryland; later, according to the census, a man who owned 20 or more slaves

•  Short-staple cotton: Cotton that grew inland in the Black Belt of the South, an area characterized by its dark soil; short-staple cotton could not be grown profitably until the cotton gin was invented.


1.   The Erie Canal connected

(A)    North to South.

(B)    Midwest to South.

(C)    Northeast to West.

(D)    Southeast to West.

(E)    Southeast to Northeast.

2.   Match the reform to the reformer.

V)    Mental institutions

W)    Abolitionism

X)    Suffrage

Y)    Education

Z)    Religion

1)    William Lloyd Garrison

2)    Charles Grandison Finney

3)    Horace Mann

4)    Dorothea Dix

5)    Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Answer choices:

(A)    V-4, W-1, X-3, Y-2

(B)    V-3, X-5, Y-4, Z-2

(C)    V-4, W-1, X-5, Z-2

(D)    W-1, X-5, Y-2, Z-4

(E)    W-5, X-1, Y-2, Z-4

3.   In the South,

(A)    all whites held slaves.

(B)    slaves told each other Bible stories.

(C)    slaves rarely ran away.

(D)    there were no free blacks.

(E)    all slaveholders were rich.

4.   The cotton gin

(A)    produced cotton cloth faster.

(B)    planted cotton seeds faster.

(C)    was a curse to the planters.

(D)    allowed cotton to be grown profitably further North.

(E)    allowed cotton to be grown profitably further West.


1.    C

The Erie Canal connected Albany to Buffalo on Lake Erie, which connected to the Old Northwest via other canals and the Great Lakes. The Hudson River connected Albany to New York City. The connection led to the economic and then political isolation of the South from the West.

2.    C

Dorothea Dix worked to improve treatment of the mentally ill. William Lloyd Garrison helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked for women’s rights and suffrage. Charles Grandison Finney helped lead the Christian revival movement. Horace Mann campaigned for public common schools and normal schools for teachers.

3.    B

Slaves learned Christianity from whites and used it to develop their own theology of liberation. The spiritual “Go Down Moses” was written by slaves. Many spirituals were songs of freedom. Slave owners made up only one-fourth of the population of the South. Running away was common among slaves, despite harsh penalties. Some blacks in the South were not slaves.

4.    E

The cotton gin separated the seeds from the cotton fiber by forcing the fiber through a series of comblike teeth. The cotton that grew near the coast (South Carolina and Georgia) was characterized by long-fiber or long-staple cotton, from which the seeds came out more easily. The cotton that could be grown further inland was short-staple and was much more difficult to de-seed. The cotton gin enabled short-staple cotton to be grown profitably in the Black Belt, further West.

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