Sectional conflict: Regional differences | Period 5: 1844-1877 | AP US History | Khan Academy (2023)


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How did regional differences between the North and South related to slavery lead to tensions in the years leading up to the Civil War? Kim Kutz Elliott compares the economic and ideological differences that drove the sections apart.

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- [Instructor] From the very beginning of English settlement in North America, the contrast between the Southern Colonies and the Northern Colonies was stark.

Things didn't improve much when the 13 Colonies rebelled in 1776 and became an independent nation.

Tensions over slavery flared during the crafting of the U.S.

Constitution, and repeatedly during the 19th Century, when compromises in 1820 and 1850 barely maintained the fragile balance between Northern and Southern states.

But in 1860, the wheels finally came off, and the Southern states seceded from the Union, starting the Civil War.

After more than 80 years of compromise.

Why did the differences between the North and the South finally become irreconcilable in the 1850s? In other videos? We've traced the differences and similarities between the North and South from the Colonial Era until the late 1840s in terms of economics, social structure, and commonly held ideas about slavery.

Let's, revisit those comparisons for the years immediately leading up to the Civil War and see if we can identify why the conflict intensified in the 1850s.

The difference between the economies of the North and South began way back at the outset of colonization in North America.

When the cold climate of the North prevented large scale plantation agriculture., Instead, the Northern economy, centered on trade and manufacturing.

The, first and second Industrial Revolution turned the Northern economy into one based on factories, where men, women and children worked for long hours, sometimes in dangerous conditions.

In, the 1840s, the potato famine in Ireland and revolutions in Europe prompted many Irish and German immigrants to come to Northern cities in search of factory jobs.


Even though most factory workers in the North struggled to make ends meet.

There was some opportunity for social mobility, to climb the economic ladder.


The North also had a growing middle class in the mid-19th Century.

Many in the lower class held out hope that they could move out, West and start a small family farm in order to become financially stable.

So to recap, the class structure in the North, looked kind of like this.

A, large working class of laborers, many of them immigrants, a middle class of managers and small business owners, and a small upper class of factory owners, bankers and successful merchants.


The South, cultivating valuable cash crops to sell on the national and international markets had always been the center of the economy.

Cotton had slowly replaced tobacco as the number one crop in the South, and American cotton plantations were producing nearly 70 percent of the world's cotton supply by 1860.

With agriculture working out so well for plantation owners.

There was no need to industrialize, as in the North.

All, the labor on plantations was done by enslaved people, who had no hope of improving their lot in life except by running away.

There was also a large number of poor white farmers who owned no slaves, and a few modest planters that owned fewer than 10 enslaved, people.


The popular myth of gigantic plantations across the South.

Only one-tenth of a percent of slaveholders owned more than 100 people.

The class system in the South was extremely rigid and aristocratic, not far off from a medieval feudal society.

With a handful of wealthy white families dominating in each Southern, sate.

Wealth was measured in the South by the number of enslaved people.

A planter, owned.

Poorer whites aspired to buy enslaved people and become plantation owners.

Themselves, but their prospects of doing so were pretty slim by the 1850s.

Growing cotton quickly, depleted the soil, and so both large plantation owners and whites, who dreamed of becoming large plantation owners, looked to the West for new lands to cultivate in order to expand the cotton kingdom.

In short, the class structure in the South looked a little like this., A, large, permanent, under class of enslaved laborers, with non-slaveholding whites above them in rights and in economic power.


There was a small number of planters who owned a few enslaved people.

And at the very top, was a tiny fraction of large planters who owned more than 100 enslaved, people.


How did these economic differences lead to tension? Well first,? There were tensions over whether the economic policy of the Federal Government, promoted agriculture or manufacturing.

Things, like tariffs, and the expansion of the railroad turned into bitter fights over whether the government was prioritizing the needs of one section or the other.


Then there was westward expansion., Both, Northerners and Southerners looked to the West for their future economic opportunities, and both sides suspected the other of trying to suppress their paths to social mobility.

The ideologies of the North and South also diverged sharply in the 1850s.


The North.

Most whites didn't object to slavery as it existed in the South, but worried about the potential expansion of slavery to the West.

The Free Soil Movement, aimed to preserve Western lands for small white farmers.

There was also a growing sense among Northerners that the South had too much power in the Federal Government.

Thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise, which granted Southern states representation in Congress for 60 percent of its disenfranchised enslaved population.

In addition to its white population., This was a fair charge to make.

Many events of the 1850s, like the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled Northern whites to assist in capturing runaway slaves, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which reopened the possibility of allowing slavery north of the Missouri Compromise line, and the Supreme Court's decision in the case Dred Scott versus Sandford, which claimed that African-Americans weren't citizens, convinced Northerners that what they called the slave power, had come to dominate government.


The abolition movement, which called for the immediate end of slavery everywhere, grew considerably more mainstream in the 1850s.

Writers, like Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the influential abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, activists like Frederick Douglas, who had escaped from slavery and toured the North lecturing about its evils, and vigilantes like John Brown, who led deadly raids on slaveholders, dramatized, the moral evil of slavery to a growing audience.

In this time, period.

In contrast to the North, white Southerners believed they had the Constitution on their side, and that Northern attempts to limit the expansion of slavery constituted an assault on their liberty.

In addition, white Southerners began to craft a proactive defense of the institution of slavery in the 1850s.

Instead of treating slavery like the South's embarrassing, but necessary, peculiar institution as they had in the past.

Southern commentators began to frame slavery as a positive good.

They pointed to the conditions of immigrants in Northern factories, who might be injured in an accident at work, and then be fired for no longer being productive.

Slave owners argued that they treated their enslaved laborers, better than Northern factory owners treated their wage slaves.

Southern sociologist George Fitzhugh wrote two books, arguing that slavery was preferable to the kill or be killed environment of unbridled capitalism, and that poor whites should be enslaved in addition to people of African descent in order to protect them from being eaten alive in the free market.


Looking at these economic, social, and ideological differences between the North and South, it's clear that by the 1850s there was really a clash of cultures going on.

Would, the United Stated be an agricultural nation, or an industrial one? One, where anyone, no matter their color or place or birth, could climb the social ladder, or one where just a few deserved to enjoy all the blessings of liberty? In 1860.

These questions would propel the country into civil war.


How did sectional regional differences help contribute to the Civil War? ›

All-encompassing sectional differences on the issue of slavery, such as outright support/opposition of slavery, economic practices, religious practices, education, cultural differences, and political differences kept the North and South at near constant opposition to one another on the issue of slavery.

What is the context of the sectional conflicts that emerged from 1844 to 1877? ›

Explain the context in which sectional conflict emerged from 1844 to 1877. The United States became more connected with the world, pursued an expansionist foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, and emerged as the destination for many migrants from other countries.

What were the regional differences in the pre Civil War? ›

The North had an industrial economy, an economy focused on manufacturing, while the South had an agricultural economy, an economy focused on farming. Slaves worked on Southern plantations to farm crops, and Northerners would buy these crops to produce goods that they could sell.

What were the sectional differences in the 1800s? ›

In the United States

Sectionalism increased steadily in 1800–1850 as the North industrialized, urbanized and built prosperous factories, while the deep South concentrated on plantation agriculture based on slave labor, together with subsistence farming for poor whites who owned no slaves.

What was the main cause of the sectional crisis and the Civil War? ›

During the 1840s and 1850s, the most consistent source of tension on the issue stemmed from northerners refusing to comply with fugitive slave laws. As early as the 1780s, Pennsylvania passed laws that made it illegal to take a Black person from the state for the purpose of enslaving them.

What are 3 reasons why sectionalism developed between the North and the South? ›

All of the issues that divided the nation during the build up to the Civil War, there are four categories they can be classified under: Slavery, Cultural (Social), Economic, and Constitutional (Political). All of these issues led to sectionalism in the United States and pushed the country to the brink of war.

Why are we defining period 5 with the years 1844 and 1877? ›

TIME PERIOD 5: 1848 - 1877. As the nation expanded and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a Civil War — the course and aftermath of which transformed American society.

What were two reasons for westward expansion from 1844 to 1877? ›

Suggested Teaching Instructions
  • Gold rush and mining opportunities (silver in Nevada)
  • The opportunity to work in the cattle industry; to be a “cowboy”
  • Faster travel to the West by railroad; availability of supplies due to the railroad.
  • The opportunity to own land cheaply under the Homestead Act.

What happened in the US between 1844 and 1877? ›

The Civil War was the most influential event that occurred in the years 1844 to 1877. This war in Lincoln's words was a war first fought to “Preserve the Union”. However, it became a war fought for slavery, to grant blacks' freedom from the chains of slavery.

What was sectional conflict? ›

In the years leading up to the American Civil War, the country was gripped by sectionalism and conflict, as supporters of slavery clashed with abolitionists. This conflict culminated in the secession of the southern, pro-slavery states and the beginning of the Civil War.

What were the regional differences between the North and South during Reconstruction? ›

The North had become increasingly industrial and commercial while the South had remained largely agricultural. More important than these differences, however, was African-American slavery. Northerners generally wanted to limit the spread of slavery; some wanted to abolish it altogether.

How did slavery affect sectionalism? ›

One issue, however, exacerbated the regional and economic differences between North and South: slavery. Resenting the large profits amassed by Northern businessmen from marketing the cotton crop, Southerners attributed the backwardness of their own section to Northern aggrandizement.

What were the 3 main sectional differences between the North and the South that led to the Civil War? ›

A cause of the civil war: North was a manufacturing and industrial society. Used cotton to make clothes. People lived in cities and cultures and classes worked together. South was an agricultural society (need for cheap labor).

What caused sectional conflict in the mid 1800s? ›


As far back as 1830, sectional lines had been steadily hardening on the slavery question. In the North, abolitionist feeling grew more and more powerful, abetted by a free-soil movement vigorously opposed to the extension of slavery into the Western regions not yet organized as states.

What are the three types of sectionalism? ›

Sectionalism is the idea that your region or location is better or more important than the nation as a whole. All in all, there are three different types of sectionalism. There is economic, political, and social sectionalism.

What was the main cause of sectionalism? ›

Sectionalism in the United States began with the Westward Expansion of the early Nineteenth Century. Northern states were angry with the federal government's encouragement of settlers to move out to the Western territories. In their minds, the West was taking all their best laborers.

What was the sectional crisis summary? ›

The sectional crisis of the 1850s, in which Georgia played a pivotal role, led to the outbreak of the Civil War (1861-65). Southern politicians struggled during the crisis to prevent northern abolitionists from weakening constitutional protections for slavery.

How did sectionalism cause the war? ›

Sectionalism was the major cause of the United States Civil War because it was integral to creating the Southern social life as well as shaping its political tendencies, not the issue of slavery, which only affected a very small percent of southerners.

What are the effects of sectionalism? ›

Sectionalism highlighted the differences of the North and South through their economy as manufacturing versus farming, Abolitionist ideas versus Pro-Slavery ideas, and different religious views about slavery. By examining these complex details, these were the reasons that the Sectionalism set the stage of a Civil War.

What are the economic differences in sectionalism? ›

Answer and Explanation: One economic difference that caused sectionalism between the North and the South was Northern industrialism compared to Southern plantation agriculture. In the South, wealthy planters owned much of the land, leaving poor white farmers with marginal land holdings.

When did sectionalism start and end? ›

Between 1820 and 1846, sectionalism drew on new political parties, new religious organizations, and new reform movements. As politics grew more democratic, leaders attacked old inequalities of wealth and power, but in doing so many pandered to a unity under white supremacy.

What are the key points of period 5? ›

OVERVIEW. AP U.S. History Period 5 focuses on the social and political effects of the antebellum period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. During this period, the United States also experienced a wave of immigration from western European countries, especially Ireland and Germany.

Why is 1844 a turning point in American history? ›

Abstract. The presidential election of 1844 was a critical turning point in the antebellum era. At stake was the controversial issue of Texas annexation, supported by the pro-expansionist Democrat James K. Polk and questioned by Whig Henry Clay.

What was the Compromise of 1877 explain its major causes and results? ›

The Compromise of 1877 was an informal, unwritten deal that settled the disputed 1876 U.S. Presidential election; through it Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the White House on the understanding that he would remove the federal troops from South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.

What were 3 major reasons that led to expansion westward for Americans? ›

A significant push toward the west coast of North America began in the 1810s. It was intensified by the belief in manifest destiny, federally issued Indian removal acts, and economic promise.

What are the three most important things that happened as part of westward expansion? ›

  • In 1845 the United States annexed Texas;
  • In 1846 the Oregon Treaty ended British claims to Oregon Territory;
  • In 1848, following the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded much of the Southwest to the United States;
  • In 1853 the United States bought an additional tract of land from Mexico.

What were the main ideas about westward expansion and the rise of sectionalism? ›

Answer and Explanation: Westward expansion led to sectionalism between North and South because of the issue of the spread of slavery. Southerners desired that slavery should be permitted in Western territories and newly admitted Western states.

What were the three most important events in American history up to 1877? ›

American History to 1877 - HIST 121 Resource Guide
  • Civil War.
  • Reconstruction 1865-77.
  • Westward Expansion.
May 16, 2023

What was the most important thing that happened in 1877? ›

March 2 – In the Compromise of 1877, the U.S. presidential election, 1876 is resolved with the selection of Rutherford B. Hayes as the winner, even though Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote on November 7, 1876. March 4 – Rutherford B.

What was the biggest impact of the Compromise of 1877? ›

The Compromise of 1877 effectively ended the Reconstruction era. Southern Democrats' promises to protect the civil and political rights of Black people were not kept, and the end of federal interference in southern affairs led to widespread disenfranchisement of Black voters.

What were the two biggest issues that caused sectional divide? ›

It had many causes, but there were two main issues that split the nation: first was the issue of slavery, and second was the balance of power in the federal government. The South was primarily an agrarian society. Throughout the South were large plantations that grew cotton, tobacco and other labor-intensive crops.

What were the differences between the North and the South in the 1850s? ›

By the 1850s the United States had become a nation polarized by specific regional identities. The South held a pro-slavery identity that supported the expansion of slavery into western territories, while the North largely held abolitionist sentiments and opposed the institution's westward expansion.

What were three differences between the North and South's economy? ›

The North produced 17 times more cotton and woolen textiles than the South, 30 times more leather goods, 20 times more pig iron, and 32 times more firearms. The North produced 3,200 firearms to every 100 produced in the South.

What were the differences in the North and South population before the war? ›

Differences in Population

Nearly 21 million people lived and worked in the North. There were no large cities in the South with the exception of New Orleans and Atlanta. Only 11 million people lived in the South, and many of them were slaves.

Who were the key people of sectionalism? ›

In the U.S. Senate, three great spokesmen personified the sectional clash and became sectional heroes. Daniel Webster was the proponent of the East, Henry Clay the idol of the West, and John C. Calhoun the statesman of the South.

How did sectionalism affect the country? ›

Sectionalism served Abe Lincoln well in the presidential election of 1860. All of the Northern states opposed slavery, so the popular vote went with like-minded Lincoln. The victory spurred 11 Southern states to secede from the union and form the Confederate States of America.

Who supported sectionalism? ›

In the United States, for example, the enslavement of African people created feelings of sectionalism that eventually led to the Civil War fought between Southerners, who supported it, and Northerners, who opposed it.

What is sectionalism and how did it impact the Civil War? ›

Sectionalism is the idea that individual communities of people, sharing a set of cultural, economic and geographic realities, create individuated sections and loyalties within a larger polity, and it existed long before and continued long after the Civil War.

How regional economic differences affected the outcome of the Civil War? ›

The Union's industrial and economic capacity soared during the war as the North continued its rapid industrialization to suppress the rebellion. In the South, a smaller industrial base, fewer rail lines, and an agricultural economy based upon slave labor made mobilization of resources more difficult.

How did government policies and regional differences contribute to the Civil War? ›

A key issue was states' rights. The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn't support, especially laws interfering with the South's right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished. Another factor was territorial expansion.

How did sectionalism divide the US prior to the Civil War? ›

The nation was divided by its interests, attitudes, and overall lifestyles. Northerners focused on fast-paced business and industry, spending their days manufacturing, shipping, and trading goods. By contract, the Southern economy relied on slow and steady agricultural growth.

What was the biggest cause of sectionalism? ›

Sectionalism in the United States began with the Westward Expansion of the early Nineteenth Century. Northern states were angry with the federal government's encouragement of settlers to move out to the Western territories. In their minds, the West was taking all their best laborers.

How did sectionalism affect American society? ›

Between 1820 and 1846, sectionalism drew on new political parties, new religious organizations, and new reform movements. As politics grew more democratic, leaders attacked old inequalities of wealth and power, but in doing so many pandered to a unity under white supremacy.

How did sectionalism cause tension? ›

The north was intimidated and felt that the south's way of life could be influenced by the Union, this also created tension among the sides because the south also felt if the north had taken away the slaves, the thriving society they were experiencing would all be taken away.

What was one economic difference that caused sectionalism? ›

Answer and Explanation: One economic difference that caused sectionalism between the North and the South was Northern industrialism compared to Southern plantation agriculture. In the South, wealthy planters owned much of the land, leaving poor white farmers with marginal land holdings.

Why did economic differences cause the Civil War? ›

Southerners made huge profits from cotton and slaves and fought a war to maintain them. Northerners did not need slaves for their economy and fought a war to free them. Everything else, many textbooks claim, was tied to that economic difference and was anchored by cotton.

How did the Civil War impact the southern economy and culture? ›

The war had done away with slavery, but in the process it destroyed the southern banking system and eliminated a major part of Southern antebellum capital stock. The sudden disappearance of both capital and labor meant that the agricultural economy of the South had to be completely restructured.

What are the 3 main causes of the Civil War? ›

For more than 80 years, people in the Northern and Southern states had been debating the issues that ultimately led to war: economic policies and practices, cultural values, the extent and reach of the Federal government, and, most importantly, the role of slavery within American society.

What are the 7 causes of the Civil War? ›

Table of Contents
  • The Compromise of 1850.
  • The Fugitive Slave Act.
  • 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' Is Published.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act.
  • The Pottawatomie Massacre.
  • The Dred Scott Decision.
  • John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry.
  • The Election of 1860.
Jan 17, 2023

How did the Civil War change the relationship between government and citizens? ›

The Civil War confirmed the single political entity of the United States, led to freedom for more than four million enslaved Americans, established a more powerful and centralized federal government, and laid the foundation for America's emergence as a world power in the 20th century.

What is sectionalism in simple terms? ›

sectionalism, an exaggerated devotion to the interests of a region over those of a country as a whole.

What is an example of sectionalism in the United States history? ›

In the United States, for example, the enslavement of African people created feelings of sectionalism that eventually led to the Civil War fought between Southerners, who supported it, and Northerners, who opposed it.

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