5 December 2011
The Era of Good Feelings The eight year span of James Monroe’s presidency, 1816 to 1824, is known as the Era of Good Feelings. It was a time of both consensus and conflict after the War of 1812. The creation of the American System and the Monroe Doctrine resulted in harmony. On the other hand, the Panic of 1819 and rivalry between the North and South, which was exemplified by the Missouri Compromise, resulted in conflict. Overall, the title “Era of Good Feelings” belies the reality of this time period. When President Monroe took office, the War of 1812 had ended and the country was in especially good times. These good times were possible due the development of the American System. Promoted by the Senator of Kentucky, Henry Clay, the system consisted of three parts. First, Clay wanted to improve the economy financially, so it stated the creation of another Bank of the United States. Secondly, he wanted to protect struggling industries from cheap British goods, so the Protective Tariff of 1816 was instituted. Thirdly, the American System called for internal improvements, or the construction of new modes of transportation. This system greatly helped the U.S. because of its developments. “The Second Bank of the United States offered easy credit and supported the expansion of industry and trade, while The Tariff of 1816 placed a twenty percent tax on all foreign goods, protecting American manufacturers” (Dangerfield 115). Last but not least, the program of internal improvements constructed new roads and canals, such as the National Road and the Erie Canal, both of which made business for farmers and manufacturers much easier. Henry Clay talking about the success of the system stated, “…It has completely falsified all the predictions of its opponents. It has increased the wealth, and power, and population of the nation. It has diminished the price of articles of consumption and has placed them within the reach of a far greater number of our people than could have found means to command” (U-S-History, “American System”). The America System really helped the U.S. into good times after the hardships of the War of 1812.
Not long after, a terrible financial crisis swept across America in 1819. The economic boom that followed the War of 1812 came to an abrupt halt. Over speculation of new land and territory by banks caused the Panic of 1819, which spread like wildfire across the country. There was a decline in the demand and price for cotton, British were dumping cheap goods on the U.S., and there was more paper money than valuable specie, or gold and silver. As a result of this crisis, there was a rise in unemployment, bank failures, mortgages foreclosing, property prices falling by half, and investment in the west collapsed. For the first time in history, poverty was the main problem. The number of jobless people grew each year. “Matthew Carey, a Philadelphia economist, estimated that 3 million people, one-third of the nation's population, were adversely affected by the panic” (Digital History, “The Growth of Political Factionalism and Sectionalism”). To try and fix this growing problem, soup kitchens were set up and newspapers appealed for clothes, shoes, anything that would help the poor. Commenting on the Panic of 1819, John C. Calhoun said, “There has been, within these two years, an immense revolution of fortunes in every part of the union; enormous numbers of person’s utterly ruined: multitudes in deep ditress” (Dangerfield, 188).This comment truly shows how hard the crisis hit America, affecting all classes of people. During this era, the Union consisted of eleven free states and eleven slave states. Threatening to upset this balance, the territory of Missouri applied for statehood. Thomas Jefferson expressed his opinion on the conflict over Missouri by saying, “Like a fire bell in the night, it awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it once as the knell of the Union.”