Sectionalism means having more loyalty to ones region, or section, of the country than to the nation as a whole. As the young United States grew, and as different ways of life developed in different parts of that growing country, so, too, did the needs and wants of the people in those sections change. Each section wanted, and expected, different things from the national government.
Business leaders in the Northeast wanted the government to pass a high protective tariff. A tariff is a tax on imported goods. These would make foreign-made goods (imports) cost more. They thought that if foreign goods were more expensive, people would buy the goods manufactured in the U.S.
Additionally, many people in the Northeast thought slavery was wrong. States in the Northeast had outlawed slavery and people in the North had set their slaves free. They did not want slavery to be allowed in the western territories.
Southerners, on the other hand, believed that slavery was necessary, and that they should be able to take their slaves into the western territories, just as they would take any of their property. They argued that slaves were better treated than factory workers in the Northeast.
As for the tariff, the people of the South were against it. They wanted low, or no, tariffs. There were few factories in the South, so the people there had to buy most of their manufactured goods from somewhere else. They did not want to have to pay more. Also, many people in the South were afraid that if tariffs were too high the British would get angry. Then they might stop buying southern cotton to get even.
The people of the West had different concerns. They wanted cheap land and better transportation. They wanted the government to build roads, railroads, and canals so that they could more easily get their crops to market, and more easily get the items they needed from the East. For this reason many people in the West were willing to go along with high tariffs, providing that money was used for the internal improvements they wanted.
As for slavery, opinions in the West differed. Slavery had been forbidden in the Old Northwest by the Ordinance of 1785, so in that area it was not an issue. The states that were created from the Old Northwest automatically entered the Union as free states.
Most of the Old Southwest had been settled by people who had moved west from states that already allowed slavery. In many cases, those people brought their slaves with them. When new states were created from the Old Southwest, they became slave states.
But what about slavery in the states and territories of the Louisiana Purchase? This was the big issue. Opinions varied, and were usually based on where the settlers had come from. Those who were from northern or free states were generally opposed to slavery. Those who were from southern or slave states were generally in favor of slavery. This one difference would lead to many problems.
What about slavery in the Louisiana Purchase?