The Era of Good Feelings was the title of the period after the war of 1812 between the years of 1815 and 1825. The accuracy of this label however, is not accurate. During this era the United States of America were in a period of economic problems, political turbulence, and a mixture of rapid expansion and division.
It is hard to believe that this time period was one of Good Feelings with an economy that kept many people very poor while only a few were able to profit much. In document A, John Randolph addresses congress in 1816. He states that it is unjust, to aggravate the burdens of the people for the purpose of favoring the manufacturers. He is referring to the inequality between the manufacturers or factory owners and the agriculturalists or farmers. Many taxes during this era were placed on the agricultural industry. This taxation left many farmers in the middle and southern colonies struggling. The level of poorness rose for them while in the urban areas factories and corporations that ran them were running in the ring of pleasure and could fatten upon them.
In Document B, John Calhoun says, the extent of the republic exposes us to the greatest of calamities disunitywe are rapidly growing this is our weakness and our strengthlet us, then, bind the republic together with a perfect system of roads This suggests the size and distance of our growing nation was going to be another source of disunity. Because of the distance and lack of roads and other means of transportation, communication and trade between regions lessened and they became more distant. Trade was such an important factor in the economy and binding the nation. The reason that this disunity and sectionalism is such a calamity is that the last thing that the United States wanted or could stand to see was rebellion and a break in the Union. Because the agriculturalist label encompassed such a large part of the American population, the inaccuracy of the title of this Era becomes evident.
Politics, being a very important topic in this time period, was caught in turmoil and became divided. In 1819, the Supreme Court heard the case between McCulloch and the state of Maryland over the right to create a bank. In Document D, John Marshall rules that states have true sovereignty and that the general government is subordinate to that of the states. This division creates disunity and breeds sectionalism among states and regions. The disunity created threatened the nation later on and could be blamed for inciting rebellion. In Document G, Anna Hayes Johnson writes to her cousin in North Carolina about the convictions and executions of a number of leaders in her area. In all probability the execution will not end under 100, but I was told yesterday that the prisoners had been heard to say that even should there be 500 executed there would be still enough to carry the work into execution. It does not specify for what they are convicted exactly but I would not consider civil unrest where hundreds of people are being executed to be a defining feature of an Era of Good Feeling.
Earlier the division and expansion within the nation was mentioned; it is a very important factor in this time period. It influences the accuracy of being able to title this era as one of Good Feelings. In Document 1, it is clear that during the years of 1815-1825, the pattern of presidential election outcomes went from an effectively unanimous turnout for James Monroe to a fairly divided one in 1824. In 1824 the New England states were won by John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson won many of middle and southern states.
We can infer from this that sectionalism was forming in different regions of the country, especially between the north and south. In the expansion of the United States westward many people were encouraged or thought to move into these areas for more land, mainly to farm. From Document E, it is clear that the majority of the population was located in the northwest in and around the major cities. This is another division that promoted sectionalism. This expansion would have only strengthened the economy but the disconnection between the city-dwellers in the north and the farmers and plantation owners of the south created further disunity.
The Era of Good Feelings was a period of great stress on United States. The economy began separating into distinct groups, one which under congressional tax sanctions grew richer, and the other poorer. Parties and regions began to identify themselves separately and a schism was formed in the union. The dangerous, rapid expansion of the United States also fueled the sectionalist separation which foreshadowed an even larger calamity of rebellion and war. Overall, the time period between 1815 and 1825 could not have been justly or accurately named The Era of Good Feelings.
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