Differences and similarities between the Antebellum North and South
Differences and similarities between the Antebellum North and South.
The pre-civil war period was characterized by the existence of class, class conflict, ideological politics, land speculation and industrial and economic development. This saw the United States divided into two nations, the North and the South. The Northern Antebellum was mainly industrialized whereas the Southern Antebellum was mainly driven by agriculture. Scholars are yet to agree on whether the North and the South were entirely distinctive or a case of just a few similarities and dissimilarities, but the debate can be easily centered on the economic, socio-cultural and political factors.
The North and South began to diverge early in the seventeenth century, when agriculture was being commercialized and radical slavery being formalized. By the time the civil war was approaching the North and South were showing distinctive features. On the eve of the civil war, the North population was estimated to be more by 50 percent to that of the South. The Northern population was largely white, with blacks accounting for less than one percent of the population. In contrast, the South had a large black population, accounting for one-third of the Southern population, mostly working in plantations. Both the North the South primary practiced farming but the Northern Antebellum was extensively industrialized with railroads and manufacturers. This led to urban areas developing rapidly in the North unlike in the South.
Socially, the North and the south are believed to have been divided into class stratus. In both states, communities were divided into fairly distinct social classes. Top of the pyramid were the planters and merchants that consisted of the landowners of large plantations with more than two hundred slaves, the powerful in government, the elite such as lawyers, doctors, and the business class. Ironically, this class consisted about six percent of the population but controlled control 70 percent of the resources. Next was the middle class; the middle class consisted of landowners who had less than two hundred slaves and small merchants and middle-level professionals. The other level was the common whites followed by the fourth class of poor farmers, the free blacks and finally the enslaved blacks. Wealth was the defining factor of where one belonged in society, leading to socio-economic classes (Bolton 40).
Politics, power and influence were also important aspects in the antebellum period. Both in the South and the North slaves had no political say, as they were not allowed to vote. They were subjected to intimidation, punitive laws and discrimination from the white population. The Northern and Southern antebellum both advocated for democratic governments, thus creating political systems guided by the doctrine of political equality. In both the North and the South, the high in office, planters and merchants held significant influence in government and politics. Rael argues that it is the nature of a society that is economically and socially stratified to confer leadership on those who have the substantial material advantage (Rael 70). Politics in the South was mainly centered on the slave issue as opposed to the North, which was more liberal in their politics.
It can be argued that the antebellum societies shared many similarities than dissimilarities to a larger extent. Scholars have extended the debate to include factors such as climatic and geographic conditions and even modes of transport. It is still an open topic as different scholars and students continue to contribute to this debate.
Bolton, Charles C. Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi. Durham, NC [u.a.: Duke Univ. Press, 1996. Print.
Rael, Patrick. Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Print.