It can strongly be argued, as it has for many years, whether or not an American identity ever occurred between 1776 and 1861. The answer to this question really depends on your definition of what an identity consists of.
An identity is the sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing; oneness. The thirteen colonies tried hard to find a sense of themselves as a nation even before they had a nation. Nationality became an American invention (notes). To find an identity the thirteen colonies created a flag, symbols of nationality (bald eagle, pluribus Unum), and they established national heroes (George Washington).
Next they began to shape a national character. They asked themselves what it is to be an American (notes). An American should have no ethnic roots, and they gave this country a moral definition in order to build an identity. They had three objectives as well. The people wanted freedom and justice for all, they made the understanding that we are one nation under God and they wanted to help distinguish America from Europe. Like nature America was young, vigorous and strong compared to civilization in Europe.
These colonists were desperately trying to create their own identity, which would separate them from England and any other country. They were dedicated to live their lives of Christian brotherhood while being guided by the divine providence. They were dedicated to the expansion of human rights. From these thoughts and their common quest for freedom the thirteen colonies formed their identity. As years went on and the nation united politically, their views and ideas changed.
The north and south separated and one national identity did not exist. Using slavery, sectionalism and it is quite clear that the nations first common goals of unity and peace were lost. There were strong signs that the nation could very well divide. They did not have a strong central government because many people believed in states rights. Sectionalism started to form and it divided the country into regions with diverse and conflicting beliefs.
Sectionalism is the exaggerated devotion to the interests of a region. The sections that existed were the northeast, the south and the west. The main reason they began to separate was quarrels over tariffs, the idea of a central banking system and the issue of slavery. The north felt slavery contradicted the idea of liberty.
The north also had mixed feelings about expansionism. Each section consisted of very different people. Westerners in the 1800s had a romantic image. However, most were thought to be like barbarians because they had no type of civilization. An example of a westerner is Huckleberry Finn.
He ran around having little formal schooling, and he was considered a heathen. Westerners moved to the west for their desire for land. They could be characterized as greedy, dirty and not educated. Some of their occupations were commercial farmers, traders and fisherman. Northerners were traditionally manufacturers. The textile industry began to flourish here.
The stereotypical Yankees were known for their greed. They were very religious and well educated. The north produced some of the best literary figures. Northeast people had a Puritan temper. They had strict morals; they were devoted to their principles and were set on organizing and improving.
The southerners were more similar to the westerners then the north. They were the farmers. They had southern values and were not open to change, unlike the north. They were very big on slavery and had different ideas about government, religion and economy than the north.
As slavery grew in the south and in the west, the north grew cold to the idea of slavery and sectionalism became a big problem. In the 1850s Lincoln won the election (he was against slavery) and South Carolina succeeded from the union. Ten other states followed and the Civil War was not far behind. Identity of this one nation was lost with sectionalism. The south wanted to become their own union.
The dreams that the original thirteen colonies hoped for were lost and so was any identity established. Slavery was a huge problem for the states. Southern plantations were swamped with black slaves. The south believed in slavery, contrary .