Rise of the New West, 1819-1829

Contents:
Author: Frederick Jackson Turner

CHAPTER II
NEW ENGLAND (1820-1830)

By geographical position, the land of the Puritans was devoted to provincialism. While other sections merged into one another and even had a west in their own midst, New England was obliged to cross populous states in order to reach the regions into which national life was expanding; and her sons who migrated found themselves under conditions that weakened their old affiliations and linked their fortunes with the section which they entered. The ocean had dominated New England’s interests and connected her with the Old World; the fisheries and carrying—trade had engrossed her attention until the embargo and the War of 1812 gave importance to her manufactures. In spirit, also, New England was a section apart, The impress of Puritanism was still strong upon her, and the unity of her moral life was exceptional. Moreover, up to the beginning of the decade with which we have to deal, New England had a population of almost unmixed English origin, contrasting sharply, in this respect, with the other sections. [Footnote: For the characteristics of New England in colonial times, see Tyler, England in America, chaps, xviii., xix.; Andrews, Colonial Self-Government, chaps, xviii., xix.; Greene, Provincial America, chaps, xii., xiii., xvi.-xviii.; Bassett, Federalist System, chaps, xi., xiii. (Am. Nation, IV., V., VI., XI.)].

With these peculiarities, New England often played an important sectional role, not the least effective instance of which had been her independent attitude in the War of 1812. [Footnote: Babcock, Am. Nationality (Am. Nation, XIII.), chap. ix.] By 1820, not only were profound economic and social changes affecting the section, but its relative importance as a factor in our political life was declining. [Footnote: Adams, United States, IX., chaps, iv., vii.] The trans- Allegheny states, which in 1790 reported only a little over one hundred thousand souls, at a time when New England’s population was over one million, had in 1820 reached a population of nearly two millions and a quarter, while New England had not much over a million and a half. Ten years later, the latter section had less than two millions, while the western states beyond the Alleghenies had over three millions and a half, and the people northwest of the Ohio River alone numbered nearly a million and a half. In 1820 the total population of New England was about equal to the combined population of New York and New Jersey; but its increase between 1820 and 1830 was hardly three hundred thousand, not much over half that of New York, and less than the gain of Ohio. If Maine, the growing state of the group, be excluded, the increase of the whole section was less than that of the frontier state of Indiana. "Our New England prosperity and importance are passing away," wrote Webster at the beginning of the period. [Footnote: McMaster, Webster, 90.]

Were it not that New England was passing through a series of revolutionary economic changes, not fully appreciated at that time, doubtless the percentage of her growth would have been even more unfavorable. As it was, the rise of new manufactures helped to save her from becoming an entirely stationary section. In the course of the preceding two decades, New England’s shipping industry had reached an extraordinary height, by reason of her control of the neutral trade during the European wars. The close of that period saw an apparent decline in her relative maritime power in the Union, but the shipping and commercial interests were still strong. New England possessed half the vessels owned in the United States and over half the seamen. Massachusetts alone had a quarter of the ships of the nation and over a third of the sailors. [Footnote: Pitkin, Statistical View (ed. of 1835), 350.] Of the exports of the United States in 1820, the statistics gave to New England about twenty per cent., nine-tenths of which were from Massachusetts. [Footnote: Shaler, United States, I., chap, x.; MacGregor, Commercial Statistics of America, 41, 58, 63, 72, 126, 133.] This is rather an under-estimate of the share of New England, because a portion of the commerce fitted out by her capital and her ships sought the harbor of New York.

Great as was New England’s interest in the commercial policy of the United States, the manufactures of the section rose to such importance in the course of this decade that the policy of the section was divided. The statistics of the manufactures of the United States at the beginning and at the end of the period were so defective that little dependence can be placed upon them for details. But the figures for New England were more complete than for the other regions; the product of her cotton mills increased in value from two and one-half million dollars in 1820 to over fifteen and one-half millions in 1831; and her woolen products rose from less than a million dollars to over eleven million dollars. In Massachusetts alone, in the same years, the increase in cottons was from about seven hundred thousand dollars to over seven million seven hundred thousand dollars; and in woolens, from less than three hundred thousand dollars to over seven million three hundred thousand dollars. [Footnote: See Secretary of Treasury, Report, 1854-1855, PP-, 87-92; "Treasury Report," in House Exec. Docs., 22 Cong., i Sess., I., No. 308.]

In brief, the period witnessed the transfer of the industrial center of gravity from the harbors to the water-falls, from commerce and navigation to manufactures. Besides the textile mills of Rhode Island and Connecticut, the Merrimac mills grew rapidly around Lowell, Massachusetts; the water-powers of New Hampshire became the sites of factory towns, and the industrial revolution which, in the time of the embargo, began to transfer industries from the household to the factory, was rapidly carried on. A labor class began to develop, farmers moved into towns, the daughters worked in the mills. It was not long before Irish immigrants found their way to the section and replaced the natives in the mills. The old social and racial unity began to break down. [Footnote: Woollen, "Labor Troubles between 1834 and 1837," in Yale Review, I., 87; Martineau, Society in America, II., 227, 243, 246; Chevalier, Society, Manners, and Politics, 137; Addison, Lucy Larcom, 6; Clay, Works, V., 467.]

Agriculture still occupied the larger number of New England people, but it was relatively a declining interest. As early as 1794, Tench Coxe had characterized New England as a completely settled region, with the exception of Maine and Vermont. The generation that followed saw an expansion of agricultural population until the best valley lands were taken and the hill-sides were occupied by struggling farmers. By 1830 New England was importing corn and flour in large quantities from the other sections. The raising of cattle and sheep increased as grain cultivation declined. The back-country of Maine particularly was being occupied for cattle farms, and in Vermont and the Berkshires there was, towards the close of the decade, a marked tendency to combine the small farms into sheep pastures. Thus, in the tariff agitation of the latter part of the decade, these two areas of western New England showed a decided sympathy with the interests of the wool-growers of the country at large. This tendency also fostered emigration from New England, since it diminished the number of small farms. By the sale of their lands to their wealthier neighbors, the New England farmers were able to go west with money to invest. [Footnote: Niles’ Register, XLIX., 68; Smith and Rann, Rutland County [Vt.], 166; Goodhue, Hist. of Shoreham [Vt.], 59; Nat. Assoc. of Wool Manufacturers, Bulletin, XXX., 47, 242, 261.]

In the outlying parts, like the back-country of Vermont, farmers still lived under primitive industrial conditions, supporting the family largely from the products of the farm, weaving and spinning under the conditions of household industry that had characterized the colonial period, slaughtering their cattle and hogs, and packing their cheese. When the cold weather set in, caravans of Vermont farmers passed, by sledges, to the commercial centers of New England. [Footnote: Heaton, Story of Vermont, chap. vi.] But the conditions of life were hard for the back-country farmer, and the time was rapidly approaching when the attractions of the western prairies would cause a great exodus from these regions.

While New England underwent the economic changes that have been mentioned, a political revolution was also in progress. The old Federalist party and Federalist ideas gradually gave way. Federalism found its most complete expression in Connecticut, "the land of steady habits," where "Innovation" had always been frowned upon by a governing class in which the Congregational clergy were powerful. Permanence in office and the influence of the clergy were prominent characteristics of the Connecticut government. [Footnote: Dwight, Travels, I., 262, 263, 291; Welling, "Conn. Federalism," in N. Y. Hist. Soc., Address, 1890, pp. 39-41.] The ceremonies of the counting of votes for governor indicated the position of the dominant classes in this society. This solemnity was performed in the church. "After the Representatives," wrote Dwight, the president of Yale College, "walk the Preacher of the Day, and the Preacher of the succeeding year: and a numerous body of the Clergy, usually more than one hundred, close the procession." He notes that there were several thousand spectators from all over the state, who were perfectly decorous, not even engaging in noisy conversation, and that a public dinner was regularly given by the state to the clergy who were present at the election. [Footnote: Dwight, Travels, I., 267.]

After the War of 1812, this dominance of the Congregational clergy throughout the section was attacked by a combination of religious and political forces. [Footnote: Schouler, United Stales, II., 282, 511, III., 52; Adams, United States, IX., 133.] There had been a steady growth of denominations like the Baptists and Methodists in New England. As a rule, these were located in the remoter and newer communities, and, where they were strongest, there was certain to be a considerable democratic influence. Not only did these denominations tend to unite against the Federalists and the Congregationalists, but they found useful allies in the members of the old and influential Episcopal church, who had with them a common grievance because of the relations between the state and Congregationalism. Although the original support of the Congregational clergy by public taxation had been modified by successive acts of legislation in most of these states, so that persons not of that church might make their legal contributions for the support of their own clergy, [Footnote: Fearon, Sketches of America, 114.] yet this had been achieved only recently and but incompletely.

We find, therefore, that the alliance of Episcopalians and Dissenters against the dominant clergy and the Federalists was the key to internal politics at the opening of our period. "The old political distinctions," wrote the editor of the Vermont Journal, "seem to have given place to religious ones." But the religious contentions were so closely interwoven with the struggle of New England’s democracy to throw off the control of the established classes, that the contest was in reality rather more political and social than religious. By her constitutional convention of 1818, Connecticut practically disestablished the Congregational church and did away with the old manner of choosing assistants. [Footnote: Baldwin, "The Three Constitutions of Conn.," in New Haven Colony Hist. Soc., Papers, V., 210-214.] In the election of 1820 the Republican candidate for governor was elected by a decisive vote, and all of Connecticut’s representation in the lower house of Congress was Republican, [Footnote: Niles’ Register, XVIII., 128.] although, in 1816, the Federalist candidate had been chosen by a small majority. [Footnote: Adams, United States, IX., 133.] New Hampshire’s toleration act was passed in 1819, but she had achieved her revolution as early as 1816, when a union of the anti- Congregational denominations with the Republicans destroyed the ascendancy of the Federalists and tried to break that party’s control of the educational center at Dartmouth College. [Footnote: P. B. Sanborn, New Hampshire, 251 et seq.; Barstow, New Hampshire, chaps, xi., xii.; Plumer, William Plumer, 437-460.]

The contest was not so clearly marked in Massachusetts as in the other states, for the old centers of Congregational power, notably Harvard College, had already begun to feel the liberalizing influence of the Unitarian movement. Congregationalism in Massachusetts divided into warring camps [Footnote: Walker, Cong. Churches in the U.S., 303-308.] and was not in a position to exercise the political power it had shown in other states of New England. The discussion in that state between the Unitarian and orthodox wings of the Congregational churches tended, on the whole, to moderate the extreme views of each, as well as to prevent their united domination. In her constitutional convention of 1820, Massachusetts refused to do away with the advantage which the Congregational church had in the matter of public support, and it was not until 1833 that the other denominations secured the complete separation of church and state. The moderate attitude of the Federalists of the state lengthened their tenure of power. Governor Brooks, elected by the Federalists in 1817, was a friend of Monroe, and a moderate who often took Republicans for his counselors, a genuine representative of what has been aptly termed the "Indian summer of Federalism in Massachusetts."

The Republican party controlled the other states of the section, but there was in New England, as a whole, a gradual decline and absorption, rather than a destruction, of the Federalist party, while, at the same time, marked internal political differences constituted a basis for subsequent political conflicts. Just before he took his seat in Congress in 1823, Webster lamented to Judge Story that New England did not get out of the "dirty squabble of local politics, and assert her proper character and consequence." "We are disgraced," he said, "beyond help or hope by these things. There is a Federal interest, a Democratic interest, a bankrupt interest, an orthodox interest, and a middling interest; but I see no national interest, nor any national feeling in the whole matter."[Footnote: McMaster, Webster, 99.]

In general, northern New England—Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont- -showed a distinct tendency towards Democracy; in southern New England the fortifications of Federalism and Congregational power lay in a wide belt along the Connecticut River, while along the sea- coast and in the Berkshire region the Democratic forces showed strength.

From the outlying rural forces, where Democracy was strong, the settlement of New-Englanders in the middle west was to come. To Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, who voiced the extreme conservatism of Federal New England, the pioneers seemed unable to live in regular society. "They are impatient of the restraints of law, religion, and morality; grumble about the taxes, by which Rulers, Ministers, and School-masters, are supported; and complain incessantly, as well as bitterly, of the extortions of mechanics, farmers, merchants, and physicians; to whom they are always indebted. At the same time, they are usually possessed, in their own view, of uncommon wisdom; understand medical science, politics, and religion, better than those, who have studied them through life." These restless men, with nothing to lose, who were delighted with innovation, were, in his judgment, of the type that had ruined Greece and Rome. "In mercy, therefore," exclaimed Dwight, "to the sober, industrious, and well-disposed inhabitants, Providence has opened in the vast western wilderness a retreat, sufficiently alluring to draw them away from the land of their nativity. We have many troubles even now; but we should have many more, if this body of foresters had remained at home." [Footnote: Dwight, Travels, II., 458-463.]

Perhaps the most striking feature of New England life was its organization into communities. What impressed the traveler from other sections or from the Old World was partly the small farms, divided into petty fields by stone fences, but, above all, "the clustering of habitations in villages instead of dispersing them at intervals of a mile over the country." The spires of the white churches of separate hamlets dotted the landscape. Simple comfort and thrift were characteristic of the region. "Here," wrote a Virginia planter, traveling in New England in the early thirties, "is not apparent a hundredth part of the abject squalid poverty that our State presents." [Footnote: "Minor’s Journal," in Atlantic Monthly, XXVI., 333.]

The morale of New England was distinctive. Puritanism had founded the section, and two centuries of Calvinistic discipline had molded the New England conscience. That serious self-consciousness, that self-scrutiny, almost morbid at times, by which the Puritan tried to solve the problem of his personal salvation, to determine whether he was of the elect, [Footnote: Wendell, Cotton Mather, 6.] was accompanied by an almost equal anxiety concerning the conduct of his neighbors. The community life of New England emphasized this trait.

Tudor, who was not friendly to the ideals of the "land of steady habits," criticized "the narrowing influence of local policy," and lamented the "sort of habitual, pervading police, made up of Calvinistic inquisition and village scrutiny" in Connecticut. [Footnote: Tudor, Letters on the Eastern States (ed. of 1821), 60.] Not to be one’s brother’s keeper and not to assent to the dictates of community sentiment were indications of moral laxity. This long training in theological inquiry, this continued emphasis upon conduct, and this use of community sentiment as a means of enforcing certain moral and political ideals, led the New-Englander to war with opposing conceptions wherever he went.

A test of the ideals of New England is found in the attitude of those who spread into new regions. The migrating Yankee was a reformer. A considerable proportion of the New-Englanders who left the section were "come-outers" in religion as in politics; many of the Vermonters and the pioneers who went west were radicals. But the majority of these dissenters from the established order carried with them a body of ideas regarding conduct and a way of looking at the world that were deeply influenced by their old Puritan training. If, indeed, they revolted from the older type of Calvinism in the freer air of a new country, they were, by this sudden release from restraint, likely to develop "isms" of their own, which revealed the strong underlying forces of religious thinking. Lacking the restraining influence of the old Congregational system, some of them contented themselves with placing greater emphasis upon emotional religion and eagerly embraced membership in churches like the Baptist or Methodist, or accepted fellowship with Presbyterians and welcomed the revival spirit of the western churches.

Others used their freedom to proclaim a new order of things in the religious world. Most noteworthy was Mormonism, which was founded by a migrating New England family and was announced and reached its first success among the New-Englanders of New York and Ohio. Antimasonry and spiritualism flourished in the Greater New England in which these emancipated Puritans settled. Wherever the New- Englander went he was a leader in reform, in temperance crusades, in abolition of slavery, in Bible societies, in home missions, in the evangelization of the west, in the promotion of schools, and in the establishment of sectarian colleges.

Perhaps the most significant elements in the disintegration of the old Congregationalism in New England itself, however, were furnished by the Unitarians and the Universalists. For nearly a generation the liberal movement in religion had been progressing. The Unitarian revolt, of which Channing was the most important leader, laid its emphasis upon conduct rather than upon a plan of salvation by atonement. In place of original sin and total depravity, it came more and more to put stress upon the fatherhood of God and the dignity of man. The new optimism of this faith was carried in still another direction by the Universalist movement, with its gospel of universal salvation.

The strength of the Unitarian movement was confined to a limited area about Boston, but within its own sphere of influence it contested successfully with the old Congregational power, captured Harvard College, and caught the imaginations of large numbers of the best educated and prosperous classes of the community. Attempting to adjust themselves between the old order of things on the one side, and the new forces of evangelism and liberalism on the other, another great body of Congregationalists found a middle ground in a movement of modified Calvinism, which sustained the life of Congregationalism in large areas of New England. By these movements of conflict and readjustment, whatever of unity the older Congregational faith had possessed was gradually broken down and a renaissance of religious and moral ideas was ushered in.

This change was soon to find expression in a new literary movement in New England, a movement in which poetry and prose were to take on a cheerful optimism, a joy in life, and an idealism. This new literature reflected the influence of the Unitarian movement, the influence of European romantic literature, and the influence of German philosophy. Before long the Transcendentalists proclaimed the new idealism that was showing itself about Boston. [Footnote: Wendell, Literary Hist. of America, book V., chaps. iv., v.] Bryant, Longfellow, Whittier, Hawthorne, and Emerson were all prophesied in the forces of intellectual change that now spread over the section.

Even New England’s statesmen were deeply influenced by the literary spirit. Daniel Webster, although the son of a New Hampshire pioneer whose log cabin was on the edge of the vast forest that stretched north to Canada, had won an education at the "little college" at Dartmouth; and, after his removal to Boston, he captivated New England by his noble commemorative orations and enriched his arguments before the courts by the splendor of his style. He united the strong, passionate nature of his backwoods father with a mind brought under the influences of the cultured society of Boston. John Quincy Adams, also, had been professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard, and he found in the classics a solace when the political world grew dark around him. Edward Everett represented even more clearly the union of the man of letters with the political leader. If we except the brilliant but erratic John Randolph, of Roanoke, no statesman from other sections showed this impress of literature.

While these forces were developing, a liberalizing of the colleges, and particularly of Harvard, by the introduction of new courses in literature and science, was in progress. Reform movements, designed to give fuller expression to common-school public education, began, and already in 1821 Boston had established the first English high- school, precursor of a movement of profound importance in the uplifting of the masses. Lyceums and special schools for the laborers flourished in the new centers of manufacturing. The smaller educational centers, like Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Amherst, and Williams, where the farmer boys of New England worked their way through college, sent out each year men to other sections to become leaders at the bar, in the pulpit, in the press, and in the newer colleges. The careers of Amos Kendall, Prentiss, and others illustrate these tendencies. In short, New England was training herself to be the school-mistress of the nation. Her abiding power was to lie in the influence which she exerted in letters, in education, and in reform. She was to find a new life and a larger sphere of activity in the wide-spread western communities which were already invaded by her sons. In furnishing men of talent in these fields she was to have an influence out of all relation to her population.[Footnote: Century Mag., XLVII., 43.]

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Chicago: Frederick Jackson Turner, "Chapter II New England (1820-1830)," Rise of the New West, 1819-1829 in Rise of the New West, 1819-1829 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906), Original Sources, accessed January 23, 2020, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4L1V36G5ZEBCACW.

MLA: Turner, Frederick Jackson. "Chapter II New England (1820-1830)." Rise of the New West, 1819-1829, in Rise of the New West, 1819-1829, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1906, Original Sources. 23 Jan. 2020. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4L1V36G5ZEBCACW.

Harvard: Turner, FJ, 'Chapter II New England (1820-1830)' in Rise of the New West, 1819-1829. cited in 1906, Rise of the New West, 1819-1829, Harper & Brothers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 January 2020, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4L1V36G5ZEBCACW.