One Country, Two Cultures

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"Plan of the City of Lowell, Massachusetts," 1850. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

By 1861, life was very different north and south of the Mason Dixon line. Although neither was monolithic, the North was characterized by industry, reliable transportation and a wage labor force that had been bolstered by internal and transatlantic migration. A burgeoning middle class arose and a new Republican Party promised that the free soil of western territories would enable all men to participate in fulfilling the founding vision.

Southern politicians also wanted to expand the nation but in service to an agricultural system built on slave labor. Limited transportation and few urban areas were not a problem for the realm where cotton was "king." The small farmer could aspire to enter the planter aristocracy, as long as the new territories would allow slavery.