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Humanities Libertexts

8.8: Primary Sources

  • Page ID
    9911
  • James Madison Asks Congress to Support Internal Improvements, 1815

    After the War of 1812, Americans looked to strengthen their nation through government spending on infrastructure, or what were then called internal improvements. In his seventh annual address to congress, Madison called for public investment to create national roads, canals, and even a national seminary. He also called for a tariff, or tax on certain imports, designed to make foreign goods more expensive, giving American producers an advantage in domestic markets.

    A Traveler Describes Life Along the Erie Canal, 1829

    Basil Hall, a British visitor traveled along the Erie Canal and took careful notes on what he found. In this excerpt, he described life in Rochester, New York. Rochester, and other small towns in upstate New York, grew rapidly as a result of the Erie Canal.

    Blacksmith Apprentice Contract, 1836

    The factories and production of the Market Revolution eroded the wealth and power of skilled small business owners called artisans. This indenture contract illustrated the former way of doing things, where a young person would agree to serve for a number of years as an apprentice to a skilled artisan before venturing out on his own.

    Harriet H. Robinson Remembers a Mill Workers’ Strike, 1836

    The social upheavals of the Market Revolution created new tensions between rich and poor, particularly between the new class of workers and the new class of managers. Lowell, Massachusetts was the location of the first American factory. In this document, a woman reminisces about a strike that she participated in at a Lowell textile mill.

    Alexis de Toqueville, “How Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes,” 1840

    The French political thinker Alexis de Toqueville travelled extensively through the United States in gathering research for his book Democracy In America. In this excerpt, he described the belief that American men and women lived in “separate spheres:” men in public, women in the home. This expectation justified the denial of rights to women. All women were denied political rights in nineteenth century America, but only a small number of wealthy families could afford to remove women from economic production, like de Toqueville claimed.

    Abolitionist Sheet Music Cover Page, 1844

    The “transportation revolution” shaped economic change in the early 1800s, but the massive construction of railroads also had a profound impact on American politics and culture. This sheet music title page shows how abolitionists used railroad imagery to advocate for the immediate emancipation of enslaved people and to promote their political platform before the 1844 presidential election.

    Anti-Catholic Cartoon, 1855

    Irish immigration transformed American cities. Yet many Americans greeted the new arrivals with suspicion or hostility. Nathanial Currier’s anti-Catholic cartoon reflected the popular American perception that Irish Catholic immigrants posed a threat to the United States.

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