Comparison Tables: The Nation Before the Civil War (Circa 1830-1860)

Within this webpage, you have 2 methods for finding what you want to see.

1.     Compare North and South on a major issue by click on one of these links
Example: click on Education to compare North and South on issues of Education.




Social Order






2.     If you want more information on one of those issues, look for links such as the word (More) or a specific word such as Nativism


Demographics: What were the basic population patterns?  (Related Links: Who Went Where?     Nativism)


1830-1860 Issue



What was the population growth? Where was it distributed?

Growth of total population—1830s-1840s: 13 million à 17 million

Movement of population to West OF Mississippigrowth of population in West:


- 1840-1860:  300K, Southerners moving to TX with 142,000 post-Panic of 1837. But more migration—by those from old Northwest Territories.

- 1849 +:  ”Forty-niners” to CA in Gold Rush—95% male; Chinese also in region; by early 1850s, diverse population—from Europe, China, Mexico, and South America, and both free and slave blacks.


Movement by Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, or other overland trail (on foot usually). Independence (MO), St. Joseph (MO), Council Bluffs (IA) jump-off points. 1841-1843 5,000 Americans to Oregon – “Great Migration” of 1843


1840s-1860s—growth in size of cities   -  Philadelphia  220,000 à 565,000   -  New York City  312,000 à 805,000


City growth—population in free states

1820-1840¾1 in 20 in cities à 1 in 12 in cities

1840-1860—14% à 26% in cities/towns of over 2.5K—growth in % of population living IN cities

But not in the South1840-1860 6% à 10% growth in number of cities


Growth in # of cities in interior¾St. Louis, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Louisville, KY; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL

But with only one of these in the South


Movement of population to US—growth of immigrant population—ideal for factories (More)

- 1830—500,000 of 13 million total population

- 1840-1850—1.5 million immigrants—mainly Irish and German

- 1850s—additional 1.0 million to 2.5million But not in the South—only 500,000 of immigrants went there


With immigration came nativism. (More)

Where was King Cotton moving?


1840-1860 est. 410,000 slaves moved from upper South to lower or Deep South (SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, AR, TX). Consequences on slave family—More


Shift in population by 1860:

- Deep South   1 slave to 1 white

- Upper South  1 slave to 3+ whites


Statistics for black population in general (not South-specific):

- 1820  1 black to 4 whites in US

- 1840  1 black to 5 whites

Reason for black population not climbing: High birthrates for children, BUT high death rates as well (1/3 before age 1). (Subsistence diets = malnutrition if a pregnant or nursing mother)

What was the motivation for movement into the Southwest (Mexican, formerly Spanish) territories?

This trend came to closure with the annexation of the republic of TX (1845) and the Mexican War (1846-1848). (Additional movement there by overland trails—More.) Mexico: federal government, no slavery; later dictatorship—1834—Santa Anna


Mexico—to use current terms—followed free trade policy in its territories (now NM, CA, TX, AZ) and opened to Americans (and others). Americans move into TX by charter in return for Roman Catholic conversion, no slavery, collecting customs on imported US goods—promises in general they did not keep. 1836-TX Revolution. 1842-3¾Mexico limits trade etc.

What was the motivation for movement into the Far West territories?

This trend came to closure with the British treaty (1846) settling the Oregon boundary[i]. (Migration by overland trails—More) 



Economy: How did they make a living? What was the infrastructure for this economy?


1830-1860 Issue



What happened to agriculture?


NE—farmers staying on land changed to truck farming (vegetables), fruit, dairy for local cities



- Average farm 200 acres—owner worked it

- Industrialization in agricultural machinery and mass production (such as meat packing)


Knowledge changes—big names in agricultural machinery included

- John Deere (IL, 1840s, plow factory)—steel plow, essential on prairie

- Cyrus McCormick (in 1840, reaper factory)—reaper 10X 1 person’s work

- Imported seeds

- Imported stock

Growth in King Cotton as nation’s export:

- $321 million (1836-40)—1.35 million bales—43% of total exports

- $745 million (1850-1860)—4.8 million bales—54% of total exports


Note: Agricultural mechanization in South seemed restricted to the early one of cotton gin


Upper South (VA, NC, plus two states that will not secede—DE, MD) was trying out growing diverse crops, using fertilizer.

How did the surplus of farm products change the labor market?

2 sources of workers grouped in cities:

- Farmers forced off land (as above in the 1800s)

- Immigrants (More)


Pattern in the early factory system (More)

- Mid-Atlantic (old middle colonies)—families as workers (kids age 4-5 working side by side)


Massachusetts—young women in the beginning (1820s); the factory was paternalistic (More) but shifted in 1830s and 1840s (More) and turned to immigrants from European economic and political problems who were surplus and more docile labor.

1860—8 million whites; 383,000 slaveholders; 2,292 held 100+ slaves. 4 million slaves—90% on plantations, farms—used to grow 90% cotton, most sugar and rice. About 5% in construction, mines, mills, factories.


Most Southerners did not own slaves. 1860—only 25% had any and only 12% had more than 20 slaves.


Approximate distribution:

- 25% on plantations of 50 + (2% of these on plantations of 200+)

- 50% on plantations of 10-49

- 25% on plantations of under 10

How did the arrival of immigrants change the labor market? What was the situation for black slaves?


- Numerous—therefore cheap (the surplus—with jobs being the scarcity)

- New to US—therefore lacked knowledge of how to use the political system to protect themselves and also not citizens

- Categorized as different, sometimes as subhuman—“Shanty Irish”


Consequences: (More)

- Piece rates (not paid by day)

- Work day to 12-14 hours (with 6-day week traditional)

- Wages down

Throughout the era, blacks:

- Experienced enforced poverty, therefore cheap to use their labor

- Outside of political system—with slave codes

- Carried in skin color instant identification as slaves

What was role of the merchant marine?

Tonnage numbers show growth, with some shipping by fast—as name indicates—clipper ships—1840s-1850—wooden vessels

- 1840 1,577K

- 1860 5,921K


What nation’s vessels are carrying US goods?

- 1821—90% US vessels carrying goods;

- 1860s—dropped to 71% US vessels.  (Why?—we couldn’t build iron ships)

What was happening in water-based transportation?

Canals continue. Steamships:

- E. seacoast, Great Lakes

- 1848 – New York to Liverpool

1840s-1860s steamships on the Mississippi River and other major rivers

1840s-1850s clipper ships

What was happening in land-based transportation?

Northern Summary: Barges replaced by boats—river-sea connection. Boat on inland river to New Orleans; then shipped to ports on US Atlantic—but this pattern was reduced by the railroad (More).


The change in pattern because of railroad:

- Lack of increase in old the NW to South connection that had used the rivers and had dominated in 1830s-1840s

- Increase in new NW to NE connection by rail in post 1840s era

1847-1860 – VA railroad construction

1849 – NC some construction


But the pattern was:

- few canals

- roads unsuitable for heavy goods

- separated railroads

What was the new transportation?

Railroad—innovation of tracks + steam power + regular schedules—supersede canals, steamboats

- 1840—3,000 miles of track

- 1860—27,000 miles of track


Vulnerability: No standard width (gauge). Consequence: unloaded one railroad car and then filled another.


Travel time:

- 1830 New York City to Chicago 3 weeks by boat (lake/canal route)

- 1850 New York City to Chicago 2 days by railroad

NE = 2X NW in tracks per square mile

NE to NW interconnections lessened dependence of NW on Mississippi—and thus on the South

NE = 4X South in tracks per square mile


What was the new communication?

1789—Post Office Department—Post-mail had been the main communication.


1837—Telegraph—Samuel Morse (Morse Code)—required wires/electrical current (More)


1860—50,000 miles telegraph wire—“most parts” of country—transcontinental --New York City to San Francisco (Pacific Telegraph)—unified company = Western Union Telegraph Company


1866—trans-Atlantic cable


Railroad-telegraph connections—railroad needed anyway for scheduling, emergency notification

What was happening with capital and what was happening with King Cotton?

Capital in manufacturing and the new transportation industries.

No decline in cotton price, so no search for other uses for capital. Plus slaves and land were high users of capital and did not allow rapid shift. Appeal by J. D. B. DeBow (editor DeBow’s Review) for use of slaves in industry, but not followed.

What happened to manufacturing? What happened to King Cotton?


1820s development of factory system¾associated particularly with textiles (cotton, later wool) and shoes but also iron

- Machine-based and also powered—required capital (More)

- All parts of manufacture together (not “putting-out system”)—consolidated workers (More)

Machine-based: 1840s—machine-made tools for making machines (Examples: - Turret lathe, universal milling, precision grinding machine). Needed for success with interchangeable parts to manufacture NEW machines in this era. (Examples:  Watch/clock, locomotive, bicycle, cash register, typewriter)

Industries using machine tool knowledge

- Military (rifle parts standardized)—arsenal at Springfield, MA and at Harpers Ferry, VA

- Sewing machine (also relied on precision grinding)—in a war—clothe troops and later “ready-to-wear”

Power source/supply:

- Early products (flour milling, for example) were by a water source; later burned wood; later coal

- Pennsylvania mining:

- 1820—50,000 tons of coal

- 1860—14 million tons of coal

Patents reflect the new knowledge being applied:

- 1830 patents 544

- 1850 patents 993

- 1860 patents 4,778

1840—manufactured goods—US total = $483million 1860—manufactured goods—US total = $2B—1st time—manufacture = agricultural

NE ½ of manufacturers.

NE produced 2/3 of goods.

NE had ¾ of manufacturing jobs.

Growth in King Cotton as nation’s export:

- $321 million (1836-40—43% of total exports

- $745 million (1850-1860)—54% of total exports

New products

1839 NE—vulcanized rubber (Charles Goodyear)

1846 NE—sewing machine (Howe and Isaac Singer)

Tredegar Iron Works—Richmond, VA—used slave labor


1860—textiles 3X 1840 value, but still only 2% of cotton production


Education: How did they teach their young and the next generation of leaders?


1830-1860 Issue



What did the sections do about basic education for the young and what other basic education was occurring?



Advocacy of free public education by workers’ groups.


Horace Mann—MA Board of Education—“education only way to counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor”—that is, protect democracy.

1860—72% white children enrolled (but varied in quality of school, attendance)


General literacy—94%


Also Perkins School for the Blind (MA)


Lyceum movement—education for adults (plus debating societies)

1860—1/3 white children enrolled.


General literacy—83% white population (58% total population)

What was happening in educational opportunities for women in the sections? 

College education for women:

- 1835—Oberlin (OH)  (Click here for details.)

- Mt. Holyoke (MA)

Approximately ¼ of white women illiterate

What was happening in educational opportunities for Indians and blacks?

1840s: Indian education attempted by missionaries, particularly in Oregon area—again, these were assimilation-type.


Some admission of blacks in North (More)

What were the colleges in the sections? What was happening to the college education of ministers?

College walk out over abolition at Lane Theological Seminary (OH)—led by revivalist/abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, with his supporters later having influence at Oberlin College (OH)—accepts women, men, blacks—radical.


- 260 colleges.

-  25,000 students—upper class income only


Government: How did they govern themselves? What was the infrastructure of government?


1830-1860 Issue




What was happening with infrastructure?

Change to fund internal improvements for infrastructure:

- Railroad funding—by 1860—30 million acres public land by Congress to 11 states to fund railroads—intransparency of transfer of public resources since not directly out of taxpayers’ pockets. (FYI: After Civil War, more grants occurred.)

- Railroad funding—also by state, local government loans, bond guarantee

- Canal funding—by states—example Erie Canal.

- Experiments funding—1843—Congress—$30,000—telegraph—an experiment—Baltimore to Washington line (wires)—communicated nomination for presidency (Polk’s). Later widespread. (More)

- Tolls as funding—7 years paid for costs of Erie

What was happening with government jobs?

Jacksonian era—1828+: “Spoils system”—giving of government taxpayer-paid-for jobs to members of your political party so they keep working for it.

What was happening with corporations?

Corporation—organizational structure developed from railroad, with separation of ownership and control

- Pre-1830s charter—state law¾needed to get entire state legislature to agree

- After-1830s—paid a fee for limited liability

Compared to the rapid development of organizational structures, limited financial infrastructure


What was happening in the law with laborers?


Courts and laws anti-union workers or artisans. Changes started (slowly) with Commonwealth v. Hunt—MA—1842

- legal to organize

- legal to, as a group, not work (strike)—as unskilled workers, what other leverage did they have?

What was happening in the law with fugitive slaves?

Constitution had backed return of fugitive slaves (Article IV, Section 2, paragraph 3) plus 1793 federal law on fugitive slaves.



Supreme Court—1842—Prigg v. Pennsylvania:

- States not obligated to enforce this federal law

- Only federal government required to.


States therefore wrote their “personal liberty laws” to forbid state authorities from aiding return of slaves.



Knowledge: What kind of knowledge had they gathered?

Some knowledge topics are covered under the economy.


1830-1860 Issue



What was the state of the medical profession?

Public health problems continue. Cholera—fewer than ½ lived.   


Varieties of types of REFORM (some strange, some useful):

- Dietary—Sylvester Graham (Graham cracker)

- Phrenology—science of bumps

- Anesthetics—1840s

What was the state of the national literature, art?

Hudson River school—painting

1820s—James Fenimore Cooper—example: Last of the Mohicans

1850s—Walt Whitman—Leaves of Grass

1851—Herman Melville—Moby Dick

Edgar Allen Poe—“The Raven” 

Rise of transcendentalism—a movement that rejected reason (or rather renamed it) of the Enlightenment and its focus on observation of reality in favor (to simplify) of individuals’ perception.

1830s-1840s—Ralph Waldo Emerson—transcendentalist—“Self-Reliance”—Coined phrase “Young America” (1844), a phrase reflecting this new era’s pro-market economy, pro-expansion, pro-technology views

1854—Henry David Thoreau—Walden Pond—“Resistance to Civil Government” (1849)—refusing to obey unjust laws

William Gilmore Simms (SC) essayists, lecturer


1846—creation of Associated Press (AP) (consolidation of papers—shared reports but still great competition in newspapers). Also: new inventions (steam cylinder, rotary press) fueled growth of mass circulation newspapers (more penny press).



Social Order: How was the society organized?

Although the reform issue for slavery is placed under varied issues under Social Order, it has economic and governmental elements as well.


1830-1860 Issue



What was happening with rich and poor?

1860—5% of families = 50% of nation’s wealth

- Separated from the poor (they did not have to see them)

- Separate neighborhoods –ostentatious homes, clothes, carriages


Era also brought some:

- With no resources—people died from starvation or exposure.

- Who survived—but a shift in America with workers and laborers who became renters



- Free blacks in North better off than in slave South (not separated from family by being sold away)

- Immigrants better off than in economic distress of Europe

- Some moved West—or dreamed of it

- Those in the middle class benefited—cheap consumer household goods; varied foods; cast-iron stove (safer), icebox; some indoor plumbing by 1850s.

More rich planters—1830

Most Southerners did not own slaves but followed the culture, with some being economically dependent upon the planter class. Terms frequently used:

§  Planter (owned land and 20 or more slaves)—4% of total population; 12% of slaveholders

§  Factor—job to market crop and to provide funding in advance of crop sale

§  Overseer—job to control slaves and production

§  “Plain folk” or yeoman farmers—owned land but subsistence farmers—acceptance of planter class.  Opposition to planter class was mainly in “back country” (Remember the term from VA and Nathaniel Bacon?). Some joined the Union against the South.

§  “Crackers,” “sand hillers,” “poor white trash”—degraded, ill, pellagra, hookworm, malaria—but they were white.

§  “Peculiar institution”—the South: perceived special institution, but with variations by master in a basic structure of slave codes (with a trace of Africa determining black status).



- Dorothea Dix (MA)—national movement (by persistent individual) to treat mentally ill (not imprison as criminals)

- Some prison reform (NY) with solitary confinement intended to be a REFORM

- Temperance REFORM—by 1840s national movement.

 (earlier Content Page) evolved into a focus on REFORM.

What was happening with workers?

1820s—Paternalistic factory when the factories had no alternative labor supplies

- Boarding house, food provided by factory

- Supervision—including of morals

- Good wages


1830s—Competition in boom/bust period:

- Hours over 10/day (not confirmed for Lowell, but work weeks were usually 6 days/week)

- Decayed, crowded boarding houses—increased rent in 1836 (strike over this failed)

- Wages down—25% wage cut in 1834 (strike failed)


Resistance (besides strikes): 1840s—Organization (Female Labor Reform Movement—Sarah Bagley) went to state asking for an investigation of the mills. Mills went to immigrant labor (More).


1834—General Trades’ Union—pressure for public education, 10-hour day, end of imprisonment for debt


1860—only then 10-hour day in major industries

Slave codes (varied in how applied):

- Any African blood = black status

- Owner’s killing a slave, not a crime

- Slave’s killing an owner, death penalty

- Could not leave, own property, assemble, learn to read and write (could fake own travel pass), be out after dark


Life and work (varied by owner, region):

- Planter provided slave quarters, shoes, “Negro-cloth”-quality clothing, staples (corn)

- Slaves grew their own food

- Worked dawn-dusk, 6 days week; Sunday for laundry, etc.

- Family structure (More), religion provided support

-Some house slaves, some slave drivers, some artisan crafts, some industry


Free blacks:

- 1860—500,000, 250,000 of these in slaveholding areas (VA, MD)

- Few slaves able to achieve either as gift by owner or by selling labor to purchase freedom.

- 1830s—laws made it harder (fears of Vesey, Turner—More)

- Location—northern areas of slaveholding states


- Rebellion, sabotage, pretended stupidity

- Noted insurrections (and earlier Gabriel Prosser):

1822—Denmark Vesey, Charleston free black; 1000 followers

1831Nat Turner, VA, killed 60; 100 blacks executed. Only one that actually occurred.

What was happening with slaves and the slave trade?


Increased pressure on slaves from internal (inside US) slave trade from upper to lower South (More).


Slave trade and consequences:

Weakened family but not commitment to it since running away frequently related to family member being sold away.

- 1/3 of black families split by slave trade.

- Slaves, average lifetime—10+ relatives sold away from them.

What was happening with slavery reform?



REFORM by free blacks :


Example:  Frederick Douglass

- Escaped slave, later purchased his freedom.

- Orator in England, later US.

- Founder of North Star, a newspaper—1847.

- Wrote beautiful autobiography: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.


REFORM by whites:

- William Lloyd Garrison—editor of Liberator (MA)—for immediate end to slavery. Founder of what became American Anti-Slavery Society—1838—1,350 groups, 250,000 members.

- Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to freedom

- Petition to Congress to end slavery in DC and in territories in spite of the gag rule

- “Personal liberty laws” (More)

- 1852—Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel—Uncle Tom’s Cabin—300,000 copies 1st year

- Free Soilers—Keep slavery out of the territories (may or may not have cared about slaves or slavery itself)—able to get broader base of Northern white population


Opposition to abolitionists in the North:

- 1834—Philadelphia race riot—starts over burning abolitionist headquarters

- 1835—abolitionist newspaper editor killed (IL—Elijah Lovejoy)

REFORM by whites:

- 1817—American Colonization Society formed—Compensated owners; sent freed blacks out of country—limited.

FYI: 1830—some of these groups of freed slaves set up Liberia on African west coast.


Some Southern abolitionists and anti-slavery advocates:

- Cassius M. Clay—KY

- Hinton R. Helper—1857—Impending Crisis of the South


Post-1830s—South locks out communications (including the mail) that are anti-slavery. Shift:

- From slavery as “necessary evil”

- To slavery as “positive good” (based on their view of blacks as inferior, argument that the Bible supported slavery, and argument of humanitarian action to protect inferiors)


Examples 1850s—VA—George Fitzhugh—Sociology for the South—South treats slaves better than North treats factory workers

What was happening with skilled labor—the artisan class?

Reminder: Colonial America had small entrepreneurs in towns and cities. artisans, like small farmers, considered key to republican government. decline:

- Couldn’t compete in price with machine-made goods by immigrant workers at 14 hours/day on piecework pay

- Joined together but were not able to protect themselves¾including because of the law (More)

Dependency of commercial business on planter class and the plantation system


Labor in cities by slaves—on contract, for hire, in industry such as Tredegar Iron Works (More)

What’s happening to women and the family?

Colonial times and farming life—family = social and economic unit. Traits continued in this era as noted by the traveler Alexis de Tocqueville.


Industrialization, however, resulted in:

- Urban individual faced the workplace alone—and may have faced economic survival alone (work and survival no longer tied to the land and family)

- Middle-class women were less likely to produce economically useful goods as part of family life and instead became consumers as part of “cult of domesticity” (although those on farms in the 20th Century continued to—canning, egg and chicken raising)

- Lower-class women produced income as laborers or by taking in washing or other work—and, like children, were paid less for the work than men.

White woman as “Southern lady”—as myth of protected child. Black slave woman as equivalent of single parent—with the authority and fatigue that came with that (since spouse may have been distant).


Child-centered families and corresponding birth rate change and methods reflecting new roles and new family social order:

- 1800 average 7 children per woman

- 1860 average 5 (with urban and middle class having fewer)


Legal—male authority over property, children.

Separation male/female since workplace¾for middle class¾became male-centered.


REFORM: women’s rights

Seneca Falls Resolutions (NY)—1848—“Declaration of Sentiments and Assertions”—“all men and women are created equal”


Some leadership for the women’s rights movement came out of the women in the antislavery movement.


Among leaders:

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton—strong link between their efforts for blacks and for themselves

- Lucretia Mott

- Susan B. Anthony (later)


What was happening with temperance?

1840s 0 Washingtonians - women and men - “pledge”

What was happening with Indians?


Movement in the 1840s-1850s to place the Indians on reservations (isolation from whites) as a way them to protect them and retrain them. Note: additional benefit to whites—reservations required less land for Indians.


Indian population in the Mexican territory of CA (acquired by US in 1848) had already been reduced under Spanish rule. Reasons: same as early colonization era—exposure to Western disease; enslavement/serfdom. Mexican 1833 policy officially freed Indians from missions but also threw them off the land, making them targets for new, more aggressive enslavement by new, large-scale landowners.

What was happening with organized groups trying to reform society?

Attempts to reform economic structures, family structures, and so on were numerous.


Among these utopian efforts:

1825—Robert Owen—British industrialist—in New Harmony, IN—equality—commune—failed.

1826-1828—Francis Wright (Scottish)—Nashoba (TN) slave commune – Slaves work to earn their freedom.

1830s—Mormons—Religious issues not touched here, but its social organization included polygamy (men able to have multiple wives). Attacks on this group and murder of its founder led to their mass migration to Utah in the 1840s.

1840s—Shakers (founder Mother Ann Lee in 1770s)—20 communities in NE and NW—name from their religious dance. Sexual celibacy—thus no children born into group. Sexual equality.

1842-1852—34 communes (phalanxes) following theory of Charles Fourier (French).

1848—Oneida Community—all married to all, children raised by all, liberation of women.



Religion: What were the major religious patterns?


1830-1860 Issue



What was happening with religion?

1800s-1820s: Struggle in churches and the colleges (Harvard, Yale) against Enlightenment principles and the Unitarian movement. Examples in Content Pages.

1800s-1820s: Revivalism in the South, a relatively unchurched area since its founding.


1816 and ongoing—African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)—free black church, suppressed in Deep South


Methodists and Baptists split over slavery leading to Northern denominations and these Southern ones:

§  Methodist Episcopal Church, South

§  Southern Baptist Convention


Who Went Where?


Immigrant (Religion if Applicable)

Main Period

Quantity and Main Settlement

Traits and Typical Consequences


Irish (Catholic)


1.5 million by 1860; Northeast cities (New York, Boston, Philadelphia) – Fares low to region since timber trade from Canada/US Northeast to England so shippers carried the Irish from Ireland to those areas to avoid financial losses of empty vessels on 1 leg of the journey.

Unskilled. Had in US low-paying jobs. Lived in city slums, increasing problems already there.

Anti-Catholic riots – 1844 - Philadelphia

Potato Famine

Germans (Catholic and Lutheran)

1840s +

1.0  million by 1860; Midwest farms; Midwest cities (St. Louis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee)

Farmers or skilled artisans. Had in US farms or small businesses.

Failed Revolution of 1848 and economic depression


Midwest (WI, MN)

Similar to Germans.


1849 +

70,000 by 1870; CA railroad jobs

Initially unskilled labor.

Economic need



Americans failed with the challenge of trying to understand what seemed at that time to be a rapidly changing world and with economic displacement, turned to quick solutions of blame—anti-Catholicism and anti-immigrant (particularly against the Irish, who were both).


Group:  “Know-nothings”


Time Period: 1837-1854


Major Traits:  Secret order—password “I know nothing”—thus the name. Objectives: Religious and US birth qualifications:

- For public office

- For voting: literacy tests

- For citizenship—more requirements


Launched American Party—1854—short-lived success


How to Use the Comparison Tables

Tables are written in sentence fragments on purpose in this type of study tool. You may find using fragments helps in creating your own study tools; however, do not however use fragments for your Writing Assignments.


Tables are homely looking, but you can use a single table for many purposes. For example, you can use these comparison tables for these purposes:

·         To examine a specific attribute for this stage in America, read each row across. - Data applicable to all sections is in a cell across all 3 columns; to 2 sections, in a merged cell for those 2 sections. Click here for what years are covered by the terms 18th century, 19th century, etc.

·         To examine all about each section, read down each column.

·         To examine what this developing nation is like, read the table as a whole.

·         To examine how sections are alike and different, compare attributes from left to right individually and all the rows together.


If you have questions, please ask.


Sources Used for This Data

The data in the tables is from:

§  Robert A. Divine’s The American Story

§  Alan Brinkley’s The Unfinished Nation

§  Edward L. Ayers’ American Passages

§  General reference books, including the Encyclopedia of American History (edited by Jeffery B. Morris and Richard B. Morris)

What Years Are Covered By The Terms 18th Century, 19th Century, Etc.?

The convention coming from those who long ago set up the time terminology follows this pattern:

18th century = 1700s

19th century = 1800s

20th century = 1900s

21st century = 2000s


Because this convention is known for causing human error, it’s safest to think about and write dates as numbers, such as 1600s (and not 17th century).



Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2003-2016


WCJC Department:

History – Dr. Bibus

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[i] 1842 - British and United States also settle NE/Canada boundary - Webster-Asburton Treaty (as in Daniel Webster).