CHAPTER III. THE MIDDLE REGION (1820-1830)

The middle states formed a zone of transition between the east and the west, the north and the south [Footnote: For earlier discussions of the middle colonies and states, see Tyler, ENGLAND IN AMERICA, chap, xvii.; Andrews, COLONIAL SELF-GOVERNMENT, chaps, v., vii., xviii., xix.; Greene, PROVINCIAL AMERICA, chaps. xvi.-xviii. (AM. NATION, IV., V., VI.)]. Geographically, they lay on the line of the natural routes between the Atlantic on the one side, and the Ohio and the Great Lakes on the other. [Footnote: Gallatin, WRITINGS, III., 49; Clinton, in LAWS OF THE STATE OF N.Y. IN RELATION TO ERIE AND CHAMPLAIN CANALS, I., 140.] The waters of the Susquehanna, rising near the lake region of central New York, flowed to Chesapeake Bay, which opened into the Atlantic far down Virginia's coast-line. The Great Valley ran through eastern Pennsylvania, across Maryland, and, in the form of the Shenandoah Valley, made a natural highway to the interior of North Carolina. New York City and Philadelphia saw in an intimate connection with the rising west the pledge of their prosperity; and Baltimore, which was both a metropolis of the south and of the middle region, extended her trade north to central New York, west to the Ohio, and south into Virginia, and, like her rivals, sent her fleets to garner the commercial harvest of the sea. In the composition of its population, also, the middle region was a land of transitions between sections, and a prototype of the modern United States, composite in its nationality. In New York an influential Dutch element still remained; the New England settlers had colonized the western half of the state and about equaled the native population. In Pennsylvania, Germans and Scotch-Irishmen had settled in such numbers in the course of the eighteenth century that, by the time of the Revolution, her population was almost evenly divided between these stocks and the English. [Footnote: See Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement in Pa., in University of Pa., Publications, I., 24, 35.] There was also a larger proportion of recent immigrants than in any other state, for by 1830 Pennsylvania had one unnaturalized alien to every fifty inhabitants.

Following the Great Valley in the middle of the same century, the Scotch-Irish and German settlers had poured into the up-country of the south, so that these interior counties of Virginia and the Carolinas were like a peninsula thrust down from Pennsylvania into the south, with economic, racial, social, and religious connections which made an intimate bond between the two sections. A multitude of religious sects flourished in tolerant Pennsylvania, and even the system of local government was a combination of the New England town and the southern county.

This region, therefore, was essentially a mediating, transitional zone, including in its midst an outlying New England and a west, and lacking the essential traits of a separate section. It was fundamentally national in its physiography, its composition, and its ideals - a fighting-ground for political issues which found their leaders in the other sections.

Compared with New England, the middle region was a rapidly growing section. The population of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware combined was about two and three-quarter millions in 1820, and three and two-third millions in 1830. By that date New York alone balanced all New England in the number of its people. But it was its western half that permitted this growth of the middle section. During the decade 1820-1830, New York west of Oneida Lake increased in population by a percentage more than twice as great, and by an amount almost as great, as that of the populous eastern half of the state. By the end of the decade, about one-third of Pennsylvania's population was found west of her central counties. At that time New York and Pennsylvania became the most populous states in the Union. Virginia and Massachusetts, which in 1790 held the lead, had now fallen to third and eighth place respectively. New Jersey, meanwhile, lagged far behind, and Delaware's rate of increase was only five and one-half per cent. In 1829 a member of the Virginia constitutional convention asked: "Do gentlemen really believe, that it is owing to any diversity in the principles of the State Governments of the two states, that New York has advanced to be the first state in the Union, and that Virginia, from being the first, is now the third, in wealth and population? Virginia ceded away her Kentucky, to form a new state; and New York has retained her Genessee - there lies the whole secret." [Footnote: Va. Constitutional Convention, Debates (1829-1830), 405.]