Era of Good Feeling
Era of Good Feeling
ERA OF GOOD FEELING
The Era of Good Feeling generally refers to the period in American history between 1815 and 1825, particularly to the two administrations of President James Monroe (1817–1825). The term originated in an article in the Boston Columbian Centinel published on 12 July 1817. The newspaper used the term to refer to the general mood of the country immediately after the War of 1812 (1812–1815), which was nationalistic, harmonious, and prosperous. Historians' use of the term for American history between 1815 and 1825 is, however, somewhat misleading, because the entire period cannot be considered an era of "good feeling."
The period indeed started on positive notes. When the war ended in January 1815 with victory at the Battle of New Orleans, the American people became strongly nationalistic. Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury from 1801 to 1813, commented that "the war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution has given, and which were daily lessened." The heightened nationalism resulted in one-party rule at the national level by the Republican Party, which had led the war efforts. The political dominance of the Republicans culminated in the presidential election of 1820, when Republican candidate Monroe received all electoral college votes except one.
The political monopoly of the Republican Party also owed much to the postwar economic prosperity of the United States. European demand for American cotton and foodstuffs remained high between 1815 and 1818, and American farmers and planters expanded their acreages by purchasing more land. But the positive political and economic environments following the War of 1812 turned to ones of discontent and dissension after 1819.
One cause of this transition to discontent was the economic difficulties resulting from the Panic of 1819, which lasted until 1823. European demands for American cotton and other agricultural products declined from late 1818, leading to a severe depression in the American economy.
At almost the same time that the Panic of 1819 hurt the nation's economy, a political crisis shook the United States. In 1819, the House of Representatives began debating a bill to admit the Missouri Territory to the United States as a state. The southern states supported the territory's application, while northern states opposed its admission as a slave state. Eventually, in March 1820, Speaker of the House Henry Clay engineered the Missouri Compromise: Congress admitted Missouri as a slave state while admitting Maine, theretofore a part of Massachusetts, as a free state. In addition, the agreement declared that the remainder of the Louisiana Territory above the 36°30′ parallel—the southern boundary of Missouri—was to be free of slavery. Thus, it was the Missouri Crisis that started the sectionalization of national politics based on the slavery issue.
Although the domestic political situation became volatile, the United States achieved an important diplomatic success with President Monroe's issue in December 1823 of the Monroe Doctrine, which declared the Western Hemisphere would in the future be free of European interference. Britain supported the Doctrine for its own purposes, which ultimately made it succeed.
Close to the end of Monroe's administration, the Republican Party became fractured into personality-driven factions. In the presidential election of 1824, five Republican candidates—William H. Crawford of Georgia, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, Henry Clay of Kentucky, and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee—vied for the presidency. The election ended with the victory of Adams.
Thus, the Era of Good Feeling started on positive notes of heightened national feelings, domestic political stability, and economic prosperity. In time, however, the Panic of 1819 ended the postwar prosperity, the Missouri Crisis sectionalized national politics, and domestic political stability based on one-party rule ended in 1824.
Dangerfield, George. The Era of Good Feelings. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952.
Feller, Daniel. The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815–1840. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
Moore, Glover. The Missouri Controversy, 1819–1821. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1953.