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Administration of Andrew Jackson as U.S. president


Governor William Wyatt Bibb
Governor William Wyatt Bibb

By 1817 so many white settlers had migrated into the eastern (Alabama) part of Mississippi Territory that they seemed likely to get political control of the whole territory. Citizens living along the Mississippi River, who had dominated the territorial government until then, were eager to separate from the Alabama portion. Thus, when Mississippi became a state in 1817, Alabama became a separate territory with its capital at Saint Stephens. On December 14, 1819, it was admitted to the federal Union as the 22nd state. Territorial Governor William Wyatt Bibb became the first governor of the state. Alabama’s first years of statehood were marked by an influx of settlers from Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The population more than doubled, from 127,901 in 1820 to 309,527 in 1830. Small subsistence farms and large cotton plantations were established in the fertile dark-soiled Black Belt and the Tennessee Valley. Caravans of slaves, mules, and household goods lined the roads and trails into the state. Pressure intensified on Native American enclaves, especially those of the Creek in eastern Alabama.

During the administration of Andrew Jackson as U.S. president (1829-1837), these nations were forced to give up their lands and move west of the Mississippi. Some remained, however, particularly those who had adopted white culture and claimed individual parcels of land.

Meanwhile, cotton production became the way to make fortunes in Alabama. Driven by the cotton boom, planters bought land and slaves on credit, and sold their crops through factors who shipped them to Mobile or New Orleans. To grow cotton, Alabama adopted the plantation system, organized around slave labor, that had been developed in Virginia.

Thus the slave population of the state grew 270 percent from 1830 to 1860, compared with 171 percent for the white population. A lifestyle based on cotton wealth developed, and an elite group of wealthy planters dominated Alabama society.

Despite their influence, however, slaveowners were a small minority (6.4 percent of the white population in 1860) and did not control the votes of the common people. The mostly nonslaveowning small farmers of the hill country, the mountains, and the Wiregrass region (in the southeastern corner of the state) dominated statewide elections. They were not commercial farmers interested in the price of cotton on the world market. They were largely adherents of Jackson’s Democratic Party, favoring local control, equality of opportunity, and dispersal of economic power. They also tended to be hostile to private banks, which they distrusted as concentrations of economic power. Consequently, because Alabama faced a shortage of capital, the legislature established a state bank in 1824. However, mismanagement and political interference weakened the bank, and the nationwide economic slump of 1837 devastated its solvency. The issue of bank reform dominated state politics for years before the state bank was finally liquidated in the 1840s. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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