Slavery and Abolition, 1831-1841

By Albert Bushnell Hart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE ERA OF TRANSPORTATION
(1830-1850)

UP to 1830 the main economic problem of the United States had been to develop its natural riches in the simplest and easiest way; and such was the abundance of soil, forest, and mineral wealth, that, in spite of wasteful methods of extraction, the country was getting rich. At the same time it was growing wider, through the rapid taking-up of the northwest and southwest; but these new communities were cut off from the ready access to the sea enjoyed by the older states, and found it difficult to reach a world market with their staples. Up to 1815 the only route from the interior to the seaboard, or from one point of the interior to another, was the highway or the stream. The introduction of steam navigation on a large scale after the War of 1812, and the building of railroads after 1830, at once reduced the distance of the producer from his market, and within twenty years brought Chicago nearer to the seaboard than Utica had been in earlier times. This remarkable change revealed vast latent potentialities of wealth, and at the same time opened up competi-

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