Northern United States

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The Northern United States is a large geographic region of the United States of America. Most Americans refer to the region simply as "the North". It is currently divided by the United States Census as the Midwest and Northeast, both of which have their own sub-regions. Given its large size, the Northern United States includes a wide variety of socioeconomic, religious, ethnic, and cultural differences in its people.


One way of identifying the North is to compare and contrast its development with the Southern United States. Before the American Revolution the South tended to be settled by people of English or Scotch-Irish stock, most of whom came to America as either indentured servants or to simply better their fortunes from what they had known in their homeland. The North, however, was settled by a much wider variety of groups - the Dutch founded the New Netherlands colony in what is now New York, the Swedes founded New Sweden in what is now Delaware, the Germans settled in Pennsylvania, and in New England the Puritans, a well-educated and strict English Protestant religious group, founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans saw themselves as establishing a "City Upon A Hill"; this view of America as a "special place" would have a profound effect upon American history.

During the antebellum period before the Civil War, the North and South developed in very different ways. The colder climate and rockier soils of the North led to less emphasis on agriculture than in the South. Northern farmers were usually subsistence farmers, while in the South large plantations were not unusual. Furthermore, Northern farmers usually grew a wide variety of crops, including corn, wheat, beans, and large numbers of livestock. Southern farmers often focused on growing a few large cash crops, such as cotton or tobacco. In turn, the North developed a society in which manufacturing and industry played a large role. In addition, large numbers of immigrants came to the Northern United States; many of these were Irish Catholics driven from their homeland in the 1840s by the Great Irish Famine. German Catholics and Scandinavians also moved to the North in large numbers during this period. The South, in contrast, received very little foreign immigration before the Civil War. The North also developed the nation's first large cities; by 1860 Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Buffalo, and Cleveland all had well over 100,000 residents, while Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City each had over 400,000 residents. By contrast, the South remained overwhelmingly rural, with few large towns or cities.

Despite these differences, however, it was the issue of slavery that drove the North and South apart. Although most white Southerners did not own slaves, wealthy slaveowners, i.e. the so-called "tuckahoes", tended to control Southern politics, and they vigorously defended the institution of slavery as essential to the region's unique character and prosperity. In the North, a small but growing and passionate group called abolitionists declared that slavery was immoral and had to be ended, by force if necessary. In addition, the North's rapidly growing population gave it increasing power in the federal government, a fact which worried Southerners who felt that a Northern-dominated government might try to free the slaves. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois Republican, was elected President. Lincoln's victory came entirely from the Northern states; in most Southern states his name was not even on the ballot. Although Lincoln was a moderate on the slavery issue and declared that he did not intend to interfere with the practice of slavery in the South, many Southerners did not believe him, and in late 1860 and early 1861 eleven Southern states seceded and formed their own nation, the Confederate States of America.

The secession crisis precipitated the Civil War. The Civil War is often considered to be the easiest historical way to identify "The North". A total of 23 Northern states, calling themselves the Union and dedicated to preserving the United States of America as a single, united nation, went to war with the Confederate States. Led by President Lincoln, their primary goal was to crush the Confederates (or "rebels") and bring them back into the Union. After the Battle of Antietam in 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the rebel Southern states and thus transforming the conflict into a war to end slavery. The conflict lasted for four years, and while relatively few battles were fought on Northern soil (the great exception being the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in 1863), the North suffered heavy losses in the war. However, by the summer of 1865 all Southern resistance had been crushed, slavery had been ended, and the Union had been preserved. The Union, or Northern, states which fought in the Civil War are: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were deeply divided by the war, and although they did not formally secede they sent large numbers of troops to fight on both sides of the conflict. Other states which supported the Union, but are not generally considered to be a part of "The North", are Kansas, California, and Oregon.

Following its victory in the Civil War, the North would dominate American politics, economics, and industry for decades to come. Not until Woodrow Wilson in 1912 would a Southerner become President, and not until Lyndon Johnson in 1964 would a presidential candidate be elected from a former Confederate State. New York City would become the economic and cultural capital of the nation, while prestigious prep schools and universities in New England such as Yale and Harvard would train Northerners for national leadership positions in government and industry. In the years from 1860 to 1930 the North would become the most populous and heavily urbanized region of the nation. It was also the most ethnically diverse; in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries millions of immigrants would pour into the North from Italy, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Germany. Many of these immigrants would arrive at Ellis Island in New York City; they would then create large ethnic neighborhoods in the North's larger cities.

Beginning in the 1950s the North began to lose population to the South and West, a region known as the "Sunbelt". Much of this exodus was due to the declining industrial base of the North, as many factories closed and moved to the Sunbelt or even overseas to low-wage markets. This led some sociologists to nickname the North as the "Rustbelt", after the large number of closed factories in the region. By 1990 the South had passed the North in population, and as the North declined in relative population its political power declined as well. In the 1952 presidential election the 17 Northern states that fought for the Union in the Civil War held 254 electoral votes, by the 2004 presidential election they had only 200 electoral votes. Following the defeat of Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election not a single Northerner has served as President, and no Northerner has actually been elected President since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Generally speaking, the Northern states (and especially the Northeastern United States), have become identified with the Democratic Party, usually voting Democrat in Presidential Elections.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.
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