The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776-1816

By Arthur Alphonse Ekirch Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE RESOURCES FOR MATERIAL EXPANSION

MUCH of the impetus for the idea of an American mission was provided by the tremendous resources available for material expansion and development in the United States during the period from 1815 to 1860. During these decades, before the Civil War and the final triumph of industrialism, progress in terms of material growth and accumulation was still evaluated with regard to the prosperity of mercantile capitalism. Expansion in this so-called Middle Period was not confined primarily to an intensive development of home industry, but the criteria of economic progress were also based on the rise of foreign commerce and on the speed with which the Great American West was exploited. During this period a great gain was made not only in the acquisition of new raw materials and markets but also in the rapid increase of the population. Expansion westward to the Pacific uncovered areas rich in natural resources, awaiting development by a growing population. To provide the necessary labor force, the large natural increase at home was augmented by the vast numbers of immigrants coming from Europe. Discouraged by the toils and privations of life in the Old World, they came to America in the hope of sharing in its abundant material resources. When the growing numbers of Catholic immigrants came to be considered a menace to American advancement, the religious interests in the United States rose to emphasize the Protestant nature of the national progress. Seemingly threatened by the wave of materialism, the church tempered its support of the new tendencies with an emphasis on moral progress. However, the Protestant churches also sent their missionaries after the pioneers and traders, and Christian people rejoiced that in an era of material progress the church was also making gains.

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