- Aug 16, 2015
Comments by Roger L. Ransom, University of California (Riverside):For regional conflict:
1. The Erie Canal, was completed by 1825 and paid for by 1837. Despite the demand for labor on the project, slave labor was not used in a significant way. The fact that the massive engineering project was economically successful and made New York the dominant state in the United States was an example that made all other major internal improvements viable.
2. Stephen A. Douglas succeeded in getting the land grant funding mechanism for the Illinois Central Railroad. Chartered in 1851 and completed in 1856, it was the longest railroad in the world at the time. Its principal purpose was to create a mode of transportation that competed directly with the steamboat traffic on the Mississippi.
Railroads of course, are not dependent on the weather, and are faster than steamboats.
3. The bridge across the Mississippi River at Rock Island. It was completed April 21, 1856. This proved the viability of bridging the Mississippi and was a direct economic attack by state interests on the riverboat traffic.
It led to the famous legal confrontation which was significant in Abraham Lincoln's legal career.
4. The Sault St. Marie locks opened in 1855, which gave the nation access to the Lake Superior iron ranges.
All four projects were part of the rapid growth of the population of the northern states. All four presaged the dominance of the railroads and emerging significance of the iron industry.
The Democratic resistance to internal improvements, and dreamy conception of a citizenry made up of yoeman farmers, (dominated by rich plantation owners who worked all the good land) had failed and the United States was ready to move to the future without that sectional resistance.
Following the opening of the Erie Canal in 1823, there was growing support in the North and the Northwest for government support of improvement in transportation facilities — what were termed in those days “internal improvements”. The need for government- sponsored improvements was particularly urgent in the Great Lakes region.<Marc Egnal,“The Beards Were Right: Parties in the North, 1840-1860.” Civil War History 47 (2001), pp. 45-50.>. The appearance of the railroad in the 1840s gave added support for those advocating government subsidies to promote transportation. Southerners required far fewer internal improvements than people in the Northwest, and they tended to view federal subsidies for such projects to be part of a “deal” between western and eastern interests that held no obvious gains for the South. The bill that best illustrates the regional disputes on transportation was the Pacific Railway Bill of 1860, which proposed a transcontinental railway link to the West Coast. The bill failed to pass the House, receiving no votes from congressmen representing districts of the South where there was a significant slave population. <Richard F. Bensel, Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877.( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).><Roger Ransom,“Economics of the Civil War”. EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. August 24, 2001. http://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economics-of-the-civil-war/>