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Difference Between Southern and Northern States before the Civil War

Southern vs Northern States before the Civil War

Prior to the Civil War there were several significant differences between Northern and Southern states in terms of demographics, occupational opportunities, income–potential, economic classes, production choices, development, and sociopolitical philosophies.

The population of the Northern states was more than twice that of the Southern states. Despite the fact that many people, in both the Northern and Southern states, worked on farms during the time before the Civil War, the Northern become both more industrialized and more urbanized, while plantation agriculture remained the focus in the South.  The industrial transformation which took place in the North caused the two territories’ economies to develop very differently. Transportation improved via railroad development and manufacturing exploded in the North, making it attractive to opportunity seekers looking for improved wages in the North and West states. The cities in the areas offering manufacturing jobs experienced major population growth which triggered extensive housing and urban development, and provided an economic environment conducive to the establishment of a middle-class made up of skilled and white-collar workers.

US southern States

US southern States

Southern states continued to invest in plantations and relied on slave labor to meet their production needs.  Slavery occurred in the North, as well, but was outlawed in the non-border Union states, while slavery continued in Union states bordering Southern slave states. Northern states felt slavery should be outlawed, though, many did not wish to compete with former slaves for job opportunities and this sentiment was used politically in anti-Black campaigns in the region. Northern Union states desired to cease the expansion of slavery in the West, while Southern states, still dependent on slave labor to drive their economies, put great importance on State’s rights in order to have slave ownership recognized in the West, outside of their home states.  In contrast, the Northern states’ objective was to preserve the union.

The Northern states not only had superior transportation and shipping means but also held the manufacturing plants which produced the vast majority of the countries’ tools and machinery. The south, on the other hand, were the producers of much of the countries’ food goods, and in comparison to the white-collar labor found in the North, the South turned out the vast majority of military officers, with only one of the eight military schools residing outside of the South.  In spite of the occupational differences in the regions, the division of labor worked to some degree, for example: cotton cultivated and harvested on Southern plantations was transported to New England mills in large quantities for further processing (spinning, spooling, and weaving) into various textile products.

During the revivalist movement, different religious denominations took hold in different regions. In the South and the West, where income-potential there were fewer opportunities for advancement, evangelical sects were more popular. In the North, those who were better off economically were more attracted to the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Unitarian denominations.

A major factor which further advantaged the Northern states was the importance placed on education in comparison with Southern states.  Only 9% of the public high schools in the country resided in the South, a clear indication that continued education had greater priority in the North.  Greater literacy in the North gave native residents a better chance to attain higher paying, white collar jobs when competing against the significant number of Southern workers who migrated north for better job opportunities.

  • Northern states experienced greater urbanization and industrialization, while the Southern states largely remained rural (with only a few well-populated urban areas) and focused on plantation agriculture.
  • The population of the Northern states was more than twice that of Southern states.
  • White-collar and skilled workers in the Northern states established a new city-based middle-class, whereas, the vast majority of military officers were located in the Southern states and there was little closure of the economic and social gap between the property-holding elite and slave/farm laborers.
  • Northern states invested more in machinery and the Southern states more so in slave labor, despite the increasing price of slaves.
  • Northern state placed more value on education than Southern states, resulting in a greater number of public schools in the North.
  • Northern states were determined to preserve the union, while Southern states were focused on preserving states’ rights.Image Credit : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Southern_states.png

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  1. i need to know what were the economical and social differences of the slaves and union states. idk what they are

    • the union staes never had slaves so the slaves in the south had ran from the owners and went towards the union staes and they they would find special homes were they could rest and to eat. but i dont know about the

      • The Union did have slaves, though not many and only on the boarder states. later on in the war (1863) the emancipation proclamation was signed, banning all Slavery throughout both the north and the south. The south even called for Britain’s help. Britain did not get involved. The Union did not prosper much from having slaves, that’s not too say they didn’t prosper.

      • The north had many slaves but only illegal in the south. Northerners treated blacks worse than the south. Eli Whitney a yankee invented cotton gin which created a need for more slaves. The north wasn’t squeaky clean.

  2. The main post is a good read. George’s comment prompted my response here, but I will also address a few other issues with the main post.

    The people of the northern states hold no moral high ground on slavery or race relations. Most of the slaves came to the states through northern ports on northern ships. Most of the northern states had slaves. Some northern states completely abolished slavery between 1777 and the start of the war in 1861, but not all of them. Some of the laws abolishing slavery were only partial. As states abolished slavery, the slaves were often sold to slave states instead of being set free. Contrary to popular belief, the northern states did not fight a war to free the slaves. Some northern states still had slaves, even after the war in 1865.

    i.e. Slaves in New Jersey were freed in 1865, by the Thirteenth Amendment. – Sources: wikipedia & slavenorth.com

    The northern states did not welcome fugitive slaves, nor free people of color. The underground railroad ran through both the southern and the northern states to Canada. People in both the south and the north whom assisted or “gave comfort” to those fugitive slaves took great risk in doing so.

    Slavery was an institution the states inherited from the British. All of the states eventually abolished the institution of slavery.

    Without the tax revenue from southern ports, or the food and material supplies from the southern states, the northern states would have starved and gone bankrupt. Call it preserving the union, but control of the money and materials supplied by the southern states was what the northern states were focused on. To this day the federal government controls this, in the best interest of the northern states.

    Continued education isn’t necessarily an advantage, particularly when the main purpose isn’t to educate, but is more importantly used to separate classes of the citizenry and to indoctrinate federalist or northern myths of grandeur.

  3. who was right about slavery the north or the south during the civil war?

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