The Emergence of Regional Differences

An engraving of Cincinnati. The early 1800s.

As the Great Migration occurred after the War of 1812, regional differences came to light amongst Americans.

Styles of architecture varied based on what region Americans lived. In the upper South, Americans built log cabins, whereas Yankees built “homes of sod, stone, or clapboard” and “were more eager to form villages than to live on isolated farmsteads.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 139.

Even governmental subdivisions varied amongst regions. Local governments branching from New England created townships while local governments emanating from Virginia created counties. Id.

As to education, Yankees “believed in public education” while Southerners believed in “individualism and low taxes.” Id. The Yankees thought Southerners to be lazy. Id. Southerners believed Yankees were “miserly, dishonest, selfish getter[s] of money, void of generosity, hospitality, or any of the kindlier feelings of human nature.” Id.

Laying in the middle of these two regions was Cincinnati, which was “a Middle States enclave in an Upland South environment.” Id. quoting Donald W. Meinig, The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2, Continental America, 1800-1867 (New Haven, 1992).

As the Great Migration progressed and regional differences revealed themselves, it also showed that Americans who migrated would not stay in the same place for long. Approximately 60-80% of “frontier residents moved within a decade of their arrival . . . though ‘the wealthier the farmer, the less often his family moved.'” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 142 quoting Allan Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism, 218.

This statistic reflected a prevalent American sentiment at the time: tomorrow always inspired hope. Americans believed that, by moving further into the frontier, they could finally achieve prosperity and build a better life.

This backdrop also set the stage for regional differences to manifest themselves and reinforce in the coming decades before the Civil War. Americans had some unifying characteristics, like the nationalism erupting from the War of 1812, but those characteristics could often be overshadowed by the differences between Northerners and Southerners.

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