Massachusetts was a center of abolitionist sentiment in the years before the Civil War (1861-1865). The Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery northerners, brought many fugitive slaves through Massachusetts on their way to Canada.
In 1854 Massachusetts business leaders formed the New England Emigrant Aid Society to help men from the antislavery Northeast travel to the Kansas Territory, which was at the center of controversy over extending slavery beyond the South. Antislavery advocates hoped that the votes of these settlers would keep Kansas from becoming a slave state.
When the Civil War began, Massachusetts was the first state to send troops to support the federal government, and when secessionists in Maryland killed several of these men in riots, Massachusetts soldiers became the first to die for the Union. Massachusetts also was the first Northern state to establish a black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. More than 146,000 Massachusetts men served in the Union Army during the war.
The war completed Massachusetts’s transition from an agricultural and maritime economy to one based on industry. Shipping declined after the war, as did whaling when substitutes such as kerosene were found for whale products.
By the end of the century, the leading industries were leather and textile manufacturing. Industrial labor was supplied by masses of immigrants. The Irish, who had begun arriving in large numbers in the 1840s, were joined by French Canadians, Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, and Poles. With these new residents, the Roman Catholic church came to have the largest membership in the state founded as a refuge for Puritans. The Irish began to gain the economic and political power that would make them a major force in the state’s later development. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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