The Pre-Civil War Era (1815–1850)

History
Summary

Monroe’s Era of Good Feelings: 1816–1824

Summary Monroe’s Era of Good Feelings: 1816–1824

Events

  • 1816

    Tariff of 1816

    Bank of the United States createdJames Monroe elected president
  • 1818

    Treaty of 1818 establishes fixed border with Canada

    Gen. Andrew Jackson invades Florida
  • 1819

    Panic of 1819

    Spain cedes Florida to the United StatesHouse passes Tallmadge AmendmentMcCulloch v. Maryland and Dartmouth College v. Woodward cases
  • 1820

    Missouri Compromise reached

    Monroe reelected
  • 1821

    Supreme Court issues Cohens v. Virginia ruling

  • 1823

    Monroe Doctrine

  • 1824

    Russo-American Treaty of 1824

    Supreme Court issues Gibbons v. Ogden ruling
    • Key People

    • James Monroe

      Fifth U.S. president; presided over unified Era of Good Feelings until sectional differences began to split the nation

    • John Marshall

      Federalist Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 18011835; issued numerous landmark rulings

    • John Quincy Adams

      Son of John Adams; Monroe’s secretary of state; formulated Monroe Doctrine

    • Henry Clay

      Kentucky statesman; promoted American System; orchestrated Missouri Compromise

    • Daniel Webster

      Massachusetts senator; ardent proponent of Clay’s American System

    • Andrew Jackson

      Military hero; invaded Florida in 1818 Seventh U.S. president; lost disputed 1824 election to Adams but later served two terms Seventh U.S. president; actively pursued Indian removal and decommissioned the Bank of the United States

    Postwar Pride

    Although the War of 1812essentially ended a stalemate, Americans came away from the conflict with a newfound sense of national spirit. They began to see themselves as Americans first and New Yorkers or Virginians second (although state pride didn’t disappear entirely). This American spirit boosted the popularity of the federal government, and the nationalistic War Hawks, who had agitated for the war, emerged as its new leaders.

    Henry Clay and the American System

    One of the War Hawks, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, was an ardent proponent of his three-pronged “American System” for improving the United States. First, Clay wanted to improve the financial sector of the economy. Under his leadership, Congress created another Bank of the United States in 1816 to offer easy credit. Second, Clay sought to protect struggling American manufacturers from the postwar influx of cheap British goods. He pushed through the Tariff of 1816, which placed a 20-percent tax on all foreign goods—the first tariff that Congress passed in order to protect merchants rather than just to raise revenue. Finally, Clay’s American System called for construction of new roads and canals in the West.

    Internal Improvements

    Clay’s program of internal improvements in the West was meant to help farmers ship their crops and goods and would be paid for with money raised by the Tariff of 1816. Up to that point, western farmers had a difficult time transporting their crops to eastern cities before they spoiled. The construction of new roads and canals thus helped agriculture immeasurably. Improved transportation also benefited eastern manufacturers, who suddenly had access to new markets in the West. At the same time, the construction of roads and canals accelerated the development of western cities, especially in the Ohio Valley.

    The Era of Good Feelings

    The newfound national spirit after the War of 1812 also spilled over into politics. Democratic-Republican candidate James Monroe easily defeated his weak Federalist opponent in the election of 1816, effectively killing the Federalist Party for good. With the Federalists out of the picture, the popular Democratic-Republicans were left to run the show without much opposition. One newspaper dubbed these tranquil years the “Era of Good Feelings,” and the name stuck.

    The Panic of 1819

    A string of crises toward the end of Monroe’s first term quickly dampened those good feelings, however. The first crisis hit in 1819, when overspeculation in western lands caused a financial panic. The Panic of 1819quickly cascaded into a full-scale depression. The Bank of the United States was hit hard, and many fly-by-night “wildcat banks” in the West went bankrupt. Although all Americans were hit hard, farmers suffered the most. Hundreds were thrown into debtors’ prisons, and poverty was rampant until the economy finally recovered nearly a decade later.

    The Missouri Compromise

    Another crisis arose in 1819 when Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a slave state. Even though Missouri met all of the qualifications, the northern-dominated House of Representatives denied the territory statehood because they did not want to tip the sectional balance in favor of the South (eleven free states to twelve slave states). The House also passed the Tallmadge Amendment later in 1819, declaring that no new slaves could be taken into Missouri and that slaves already there should gradually be freed.

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