Reform Movements 1820-1860

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Reform Movements 1820-1860
1. Reasons for reforms in the antebellum period:

  • Puritan sense of mission to create an example of good living

  • The Enlightenment belief in human goodness and perfectibility

  • Jacksonian Democracy

  • Expansion of equality

  • Religious movements

  • Reform movements had success at the state level in the northern and western states

2. What was the Second Great Awakening?

  • Early 19th century religious revival movement

  • Charles G. Finney

    • Presbyterian minister from NY

    • 1823 started a more radical form of revival

    • abandoned rational argument and appealed to emotion and fear of damnation

    • message of salvation through faith and hard work

    • middle class appeal

  • Baptists & Methodists

    • Traveling circuit preachers traveled the south and western frontier; also provided social meetings for settlers.

    • By 1850 became the largest Protestant denominations in the country

  • Millennialism

  • Belief that the impending second coming of Christ meant the end of the world was near. Need for reform of society to hasten the New Kingdom.

  • William Miller gained tens of thousands of followers by predicting a specific date (10-21-1844)

  • Later became the Seven Day Adventists

        • Mormons

  • Also called the Church of Latter Day Saints

  • Founded by Joseph Smith in 1830; cooperative theocracy with himself as the Prophet

  • Mormons moved from New York to Ohio to Missouri and finally to Illinois where Smith was murdered

  • To escape persecution, Brigham Young led the Mormons west where they established New Zion on the Great Salt Lake in present day Utah

  • Initially polygamists

3. Who were the transcendentalists?

        • Questioned organized religion, materialism, and capitalism

        • Believed in an intuitive way of thinking as a means for discovering truth and god,

not through reason, but through introspection and exposure to nature

  • Believed artistic expression was more important than material wealth

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

    • Best known transcendentalist

    • Nationalism: urged Americans not to imitate European culture, but to create an American culture

    • Self-reliance: advocated individualism and independent thinking

    • 1850s became a leading critic of slavery

    • supported the Union during the Civil War

  • Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

    • Friend of Emerson

    • Thoreau’s book Walden: written while living in the woods alone for two years; used time alone to observe nature and introspect on “truth”

    • “On Civil Disobedience”: advocated non-violent protest; argued people should not obey unjust laws; arrested for refusing to pay taxes that might be used to support an unjust war with Mexico; inspired later non-violent movements of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. What were some examples of communal experiments in the mid-1899s?

  • The idea of withdrawing from society and establishing an ideal or utopian community; reaction to urban growth and industrialization

  • Brook Farm, Massachusetts

    • 1841 George Ripley attempted to establish a community based on Transcendentalist ideas

    • Goal was to achieve “a more natural union between intellectual and manual labor”

    • At different times some of the leading intellectuals of the time lived at Brook Farm

    • A fire and heavy debt forced the communal experiment to end in 1849

  • Shakers

  • Religious communal movement with 6,000 members by the 1840s

  • Held property in common (no private property)

  • Strict separation of men and women; forbid marriage and sexual


  • Lack of recruits caused the Shakers to die out by the mid-1900s

  • New Harmony, Indiana

  • Secular (non-religious) communal experiment in utopian socialism

  • Founded by Welsh industrialist Robert Owen

  • Owen hoped his community would solve the problems of inequality

caused by industrialization and capitalism

  • Failed as a result of financial problems and disagreements between

community members

  • Oneida Community

  • Controversial utopian founded by John Humphrey Noyes in Oneida,


  • Dedicated to the ideas of perfect economic and social equality

  • Members shared property (and later marriage partners)

  • Believed in planned reproduction and communal child-rearing

  • Prospered economically by producing and selling silverware

  • Fourier Phalanxes

  • 1840s communities based on the theories of French socialist Charles


  • Fourier advocated that people share work and living arrangements in

communities that became known as Fourier Phalanxes

  • Died out when Americans proved too individualistic for communal

5. How did reform movements move into the political realm during the antebellum?


  • Temperance movement: anti-alcohol

  • Switched from publicly shaming the evils of alcohol to political action

  • 1826 Protestant ministers formed the American Temperance Society:

tried to use moral arguments to persuade people to stop drinking;

another temperance society, the Washingtonians, argued in the

1840s that alcoholism was a disease that needed to be treated.

Temperance societies had more than one million members by the



  • 1851 Maine became the first state to ban the manufacturing and sale of


  • Temperance lost popularity during the Civil War, but made a come

back in the 1870s, with the Women’s Christian Temperance


  • Movement for Public Asylums

  • Advocated for the creation of state supported prisons, mental hospitals

and poorhouses

  • Dorothea Dix: former Massachusetts school teacher

  • Began a movement to remove mentally ill from prisons

  • Traveled nation wide convincing state legislatures to build mental institutions

  • Mental treatment at state expense

  • Prisons

    • Reformers believed that structure and discipline could bring moral


  • Pennsylvania began constructing prisons that placed prisoners in

solitary confinement to “reflect” on their sins and repent. Was later dropped due to high suicide rates

  • Reduction in crimes punishable by death

  • Abolished public hangings in many states

  • Abandoned flogging and other cruel punishments

  • Focused on rehabilitation to counter the tendency of prisons to create hardened criminals.

    • Public Education

  • The increased number of people voting during the Age of Jackson led

to a belief in the need for an educated electorate

  • Laborers and employers generally agreed on the benefits of an educated


  • Horace Mann (1769-1858): advocated for tax-supported schools,

compulsory attendance for all children, longer school years and improved

teacher training in Massachusetts

  • McGuffey Readers: series of elementary school textbooks developed by

William Holmes McGuffey that became widely used for reading and

moral instruction (hard work, punctuality, sobriety, etc.)

  • Higher Education

    • The Second Great Awakening sparked an increase in

denominational colleges, especially in the western states

  • Some of these new schools accepted women

6. What do we need to know about the changing roles of family members in the mid-


  • Urbanization and industrialization redefined the roles of men and women

  • Men left home to work in an office or factory, while middle class women stayed at home to take care of the household and children

  • The Cult of Domesticity: Idealized view of women as the moral leaders of the home and educators of children

  • Industrialization and the resulting decreased economic value of children led to a decrease in the average family size from 7.04 in 1800 to 5.42 in 1830

7. What do you need to know about the women’s rights movement in the mid-1800s?

  • Women reformers, especially those in the antislavery movement, resented the secondary roles assigned to women; movement had the biggest impact on women as it gave women status, purpose, and job skills. This was made possible by the democratic spirit of the Jacksonian period, the fact that women went to work in factories and were successful, and the reform movement which allowed women to crusade equally with men.

  • Sarah and Angelina Grimke

    • Objected to male opposition to their antislavery activities

    • 1837 Sarah Grimke wrote Letter on the Condition of Women and the Equality of the Sexes

      • Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began campaigning for women’s

rights after being barred from campaigning at an antislavery convention

      • The Seneca Falls Convention

        • Meeting of leading feminists at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848

        • First women’s rights convention in U.S. history

        • Issued the “Declaration of Sentiments”

          • Closely modeled on the Declaration of Independence

          • Declared “all men and women created equally”

          • Listed grievances against discriminating laws and customs

            • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony led a campaign for

women’s voting rights, legal rights and property rights after Seneca Falls

8. What do you need to know about the antislavery (abolitionist) movement?

    • The Second Great Awakening encouraged many northerners to view slavery as a


    • American Colonization Society

      • Founded in 1817 on the idea of transporting freed slaves to an African


  • Popular among antislavery reformers and politicians who disliked slavery but did not want free African Americans in the U.S.

  • 1822 established a settlement in Monrovia, Liberia

  • The movement was unsuccessful

    • Growth in the slave population made it impractical: from 1820

to 1860 the number of slaves increased from 1.5 to nearly 4


  • Only 12,000 African Americans were resettled in Africa between 1820 & 1860

    • American Antislavery Society

      • 1831 William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, an

abolitionist newspaper

  • Garrison advocated the immediate abolition of slavery rather than waiting

for a political solution

  • Burned copies of the Constitution as a proslavery document

  • Advocated breaking from slave states and forming an antislavery nation

    • Liberty Party

      • Less radical than the American Antislavery Society

      • Pledged to bring an end to slavery by political and legal means

      • Nominated James Birney in the 1840 Presidential election

  • Frederick Douglass

    • Former slave

    • Advocated political and direct action to end slavery and racial prejudice

    • 1847 started the antislavery journal The North Star

      • The Underground Railroad

        • Secret organization that assisted fugitive slaves escape to free territory

in the north or Canada

          • David Walker and Henry Highland Garnet: argued that slaves should

take action themselves by rising up in revolt

          • Theodore Weld worked for gradual emancipation through religious

conversion. Used Oberlin College as a training ground for abolitionists.

          • Nat Turner’s Rebellion (1831)

            • Turner, a Virginia slave, led a revolt that killed several white families

            • In retaliation whites killed hundreds of slaves in retaliation

            • Fear of similar revolts ended antislavery movements in the south

              • Organized abolitionists smuggled 2,000 slaves a year out of the South to

Canada and deluged Congress with petitions despite the gag rule (1836)

which forbid the discussion of slavery.

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