Nationalism, not sectionalism, was the driving force during the era of good feelings. Nationalism became the leading ideology of the American republic. While sectionalism proceeded in bringing the nation into turmoil and constant bickering among the politicians, as in the case with dealings leading to the Missouri compromise, nationalism was able to unite the nation into a headstrong body, led by an ever-increasing, more powerful central government.
Nationalism, many can argue, was a guiding light that helped the populous in Europe unite. As early as the late great Roman Empire, it was that notion of being a part of a uniform body of civil, governed people who helped these places flourish. In early 19th century America, during the “Era of Good Feelings” as one newspaper put it, Americans began to root themselves in all that the nation stood for which helped them in turn begin to think about moving the United States into a respectable position among the world’s super powers. For example, Stephen Decatur toasts the country and acknowledges that it is our country, for better or for worse. This is a sharp contrast to the views of our founding fathers because George Washington himself, the “father of our nation”, saluted king George although he was a part of the attempt to establish a separate nation. Poets and writers also began to capture the nation’s spirit.
In her Address to the New York State Legislature, Emma Hart Willard, explains how America has no problem in setting precedents and taking risks for the benefit of the country. For example, did the country take a risk in having a democracy instead of a monarchy? The answer to this question is yes, because no one in the history of the world before America, was able to successfully run a government the way that new nation ran. Although they had to switch from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, this just proved that the nation could adapt with its people, thus setting precedents.
Sectionalism only succeeded in dividing the country. This is because sectionalists always had their own agendas, which often clashed with that of their opposition. The division of votes on the tariff of 1816 was a pretty noticeable one, although the final vote was not really affected by non-tariff votes. Sectionalism can be found here in the numbers of each region. The majority of New England Votes were cast against the tariff. This should be of no surprise because New England, which at the time was largely federalist, was against the whole war of 1812 effort from the get go. If it were not for the nationalistic pride of the western and southern regions, this protective tariff would have not been passed.
Nationalism creates an atmosphere which attempts to propel the nation forward instead of becoming entangled in issues which cause a separation of agendas, thought, and eventually causes a rift in peoples beliefs. The nationalism brought about by the Era of Good feelings helped the United States get on track to becoming what it is today. If you look at current events, you can see that the United States operates with more fluidity when we have a common enemy instead of creating enemies out of our brethren because of our ideals.
Courtney from Study Moose
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