The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790-1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response

By Harry Marlin Tinkcom | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE STATE AND THE UNION, 1790

THE STATE IN 1790

A GENERAL VIEW of Pennsylvania in the year 1790 reveals it as an excellent field for the study of American democracy. Broad enough in area and so geographically constituted as to allow opportunities for the development of sectional tendencies, it nevertheless contained an assortment of elements so variegated as to preclude convenient generalizations. In searching for points of difference between the eastern and western sections, for example, constant attention must be paid not only to territorial demarcations but to political and economic factors as well.

Obviously, there were differences between the frontier regions, North and West, and a great urban development like Philadelphia, but at all times they experienced a political and economic interdependence. If the people dwelling beyond the crest of the Alleghenies evinced a strong interest in trade to the westward, they were certainly not disposed to ignore trading possibilities with the East. At least the value they placed upon their eastern trading outlets was to be violently demonstrated in an opposition to excise laws which hampered such economic intercourse. The Philadelphia merchant, in turn, could not afford to be insensitive to conditions anywhere in the State which affected his business. Furthermore, a predominantly agricultural economy forced a kinship between farmers, for whether they lived on the Schuylkill, Susquehanna or Allegheny, they shared many interests in common.

The barrier created by the Alleghenies, by no means insurmountable, tended to retard passage from one end of the State to the other, but it did not cause sectional isolation. At no time during the period under consideration could one, even by the most arbitrary means, have divided the State in such a manner as to produce a "solid" East or West. The transmontane area was preponderantly agricultural, but it also contained commercial interests of no mean influence. While generally manifesting a fondness for the more advanced principles of democratic government the western counties -- Allegheny in particular -- were not without their distinctly conservative groups.

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