Ap us history exam review The American Reform Movement

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ap us history exam review

The American Reform Movement

From 1600 to the 20th century

Nick Baquera Derrian Dobaldo Alan Flores


A short change-over-time analysis of the major reform-related topics in United States history excluding African-Americans, Labor Unions, and feminists, but including a wide range of issues such as education, temperance, gay rights, public health and sanitation, and politics among others.


The greater part of the reform movement in the 1600’s was theological in nature; developing America went from hosting a fairly homogeneous religious population in the early 17th century to having quite a diverse mix of denominations. Likewise, in non-religious reform areas, the general standard was one of going from complacency to unrest. Although it did not originate in the colonies, Puritanism was essentially a religious protest movement against the Church of England, and groups such as Separatists and Congregationalists were further branches of this reform movement. The first major individual reformers to originate in the American Colonies were Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who with their reform-minded ideas managed to create variety in an initially nearly uniform colonial religious culture. In 1662, the American Puritan church underwent a big reform with the establishing of the Halfway Covenant, leaving behind values of strict religious law. On the more political side of things, Oliver Cromwell reformed the politics of England for a period of just over a decade, and Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion became a major example of an early populist uprising in hopes for reform in American history. As stated before, during the 1600’s the key steps of the reform movement were aimed towards diversification of a former and more uniform culture and were mainly religious with the exceptions of Oliver Cromwell’s interregnum (between kings), and Bacon’s uprising against unfair government.

Puritanism – a religious movement led by English Calvinists which attempted to purify the Anglican Church from Roman Catholic practices

Separatists – Puritans who altogether abandoned the Anglican Church

Congregationalists – Puritans 5who wanted to reform the Anglican Church from within

Roger Williams – a Salem Bay minister who taught the separation of church and state; went on to found Rhode Island

Anne Hutchinson – taught antinomianism, that faith and god’s grace are enough for a place among the “elect”, not moral law and the enactment of good deeds

Halfway Covenant – in response to the increased number of people leaving the church, Puritan clergy would baptize all children whose parents were baptized, but those without “God’s grace” were not allowed to vote

Oliver Cromwell – ruled England in reform as a republic and with a constitution between 1649 and 1660

Bacon’s Rebellion – led by Nathaniel Bacon, a violent reform group of backcountry farmers marched to Jamestown and burned it down out of the belief that they were being used as a human shield to protect easterners from Native Americans


The 1700’s did not host many reform movements or groups when not including the obvious independence movement. In the 18th century, reform was essentially a continuation of the events of the 17th century; that is, religious reform, and three social violent uprisings. That said, while the Enlightenment was spreading throughout Europe, the American colonies’ response was the Great Awakening. Congregationalist Jonathan Edwards and Methodist George Whitefield were at the forefront of the Great Awakening. They hoped to reform a society leaning away from legitimate and righteous religious behavior (e.g. Halfway Covenant) into one of greater piety and theological involvement. On more social matters, the awakening led to a reform in American education, establishing many modern Ivy League colleges to promote a Puritan education for an increasingly wider array of people. Also, not long after the French and Indian War, an Ottawa war chief named Pontiac led a group of tribes into the Ohio Valley to attack several colonial garrisons with resentment towards unfair English economic policies. The incident came to be known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. The next such reform-minded violent uprising occurred following the war for independence in what is called Shays’s Rebellion. Like in Bacon’s Rebellion, a number of backcountry farmers marched on Springfield Massachusetts to violently protest and hopefully reform a number of unfair policies. In 1791, yet another such rebellion happened in the notorious Whiskey Rebellion in which farmers resisted a heavy tax on whiskey. One can see that reform movement in the United States began to pick up speed from 1600 to 1800. In the early 1700’s, the reforms were mainly religious as in the 1600’s but as the century progressed, more and more social uprisings took place (mainly arising from tensions between backcountry farmers and the coastal elite), eventually paving the way for a subsequent American mindset of individuality, fairness, and active reform.

Enlightenment – a European intellectual movement that promoted rational thought over emotionalism or spirituality; it was heavily influenced by ancient philosophy

Great Awakening – a wave of religious revivalism that spread through both Europe and the colonies between the 1730’s and the 1740’s

Jonathan Edwards – a Great Awakening Congregationalist preacher that preached Calvinistic predestination and who formulated “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

George Whitefield – a Great Awakening Methodist preacher that preached emotionalism and spirituality, laying the foundation for evangelism.

Pontiac’s Rebellion – in retaliation for English economic monopolies that hurt them (their French trading partners had been removed after the Seven Years’ War), a group of reform-minded tribes led by an Ottawa chief named Pontiac attacked various colonial outposts in the Ohio valley

Shays’s Rebellion – like Bacon’s rebellion, a group of 1,500 backcountry farmers marched on Springfield to violently protest economic and unfair policies

Whiskey Rebellion - initiated in 1791, a group of farmers protested against a heavy tax on whiskey in hopes of reform


During the first half of the 19th century, America was busy understanding its role as a nation. Much of the first half of this century was dominated by reform movements in education and in the disposing of the social evils. Under Jacksonian Democracy, white males were able to enjoy the right of universal white manhood suffrage, which gave all white males the right to vote, even if they did not own land. As Americans began to experience the benefits of a large epicenter of commerce within the cities, many discovered that sanitation within them was atrocious. Urban governments were ineffectual with handling such a rapid expansion. Disease, as always in large cities, was prevalent, but disease was nearly inevitable at this time, leading to future reforms for sanitation. During the Second Great Awakening, people worried about religious revivals and eliminating the world’s social evils such as drinking and poverty. One important thing to note is that many reform groups were typically led by women of the upper and middle class because they would usually be the victims of such humanly vices. Temperance societies, which rallied for people to pledge not to drink alcoholic beverages and sought prohibition of liquor, were erected during this time. Likewise, the Female Moral Reform Society led a battle against prostitution in the cities, focusing not only on eliminating the profession, but also on rehabilitating women involved in it. The Shakers, a utopian group which splintered from the Quakers believed that the church put too much weight on the life in this world and neglected their afterlives. They also gave women near-equal rights. Brook Farm, another utopian group which was founded as a joint stock company, promised its participants a portion of the profits from the farm in exchange of performing an equal share of the work. Brook Farmers believed that by sharing the workload, ample time would be available for leisure activities and intellectual pursuits. The Mormons avoided religious persecution in the east and traveled west to found a successful society which placed much importance on a strong sense of community. In the 1830s and 1840s cities began offering public schooling to educate children, usually, if not solely, boys. The Hudson River School of Art likewise sprang up during this time. It was the first distinct school of American art. Horace Mann established the first “normal school” for standard teacher training, and pushed for education reform because he believed that “education is the great equalizer”. In summation, social evils were heavily combated in this era by reformers, along with important advancements for an organized public education system, which proved to have an everlasting effect on today’s society.

The Female Moral Reform Society - fought against female prostitution in American cities.

Horace Mann - believed that “education is the great equalizer”, and pushed the importance of public education and education reform.

The Hudson River School of Art - the first distinct school of American art

Jacksonian Democracy - replaced the Jeffersonian democracy; where Jackson believed in a nation which was governed by a middle and upper class of educated property holders, in which the government would only be as large as absolutely necessary

The Mormons - a successful religious group that prospered on the ideal of a strong sense of community

Prohibition - the legal prohibiting of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks for common consumption

Prostitution - the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money

Second Great Awakening - Religious revival that provoked the reform societies of this period

The Shakers - a utopian group which splintered from the Quakers and gave women near-equal rights

Temperance societies - a group that rallied for abstinence from alcoholic beverages and sought prohibition

Universal white manhood suffrage - gave all white males the right to vote regardless of ownership of land

Utopian groups - groups that aimed for a “perfect” society; some of these groups were the Shakers and Brook Farm


Continuing some of the reform movements of the early 1800s, the later 1800s served primarily to clean up poverty and serve as a gateway to the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. By 1860, every state in the Union had outlawed lotteries and prohibited other forms of gambling. In a period after the Civil War, many Americans wanted the transfer or integration of silver into backing American funds. However, this would cause inflation enabling the lowering of debt, because the dollar wouldn’t be worth as much. The northern banks disliked this while the southern farmers idealized it. This was known as the conflict over the Gold Standard. Political bosses arose during this era to take advantage of poverty by hiring the poor in order to gain the favor of the people to achieve their goals. These bosses utilized horizontal integration which combined many businesses into one superpower monopoly, and vertical integration, which allowed bosses to buy all raw materials and means of production to improve their product. Aiming to limit the political bosses, the U.S. passed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which forbade any “combination… or conspiracy in the restraint of trade”. However, the act did little to the bosses, and actually harmed trade unions. Railroad lines were improved to be an essential part of American transportation, especially during the Civil War. As a result, the U.S. created the Interstate Commerce Act in order to regulate unfair and unethical practices on the railroads. Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor which highlighted the injustices of the Native Americans on the reservation system. Because of A Century of Dishonor, reformers received the Dawes Severalty Act in 1887 which broke up the reservations and distributed American land of the head of each Native American family. Andrew Carnegie promoted “Social Darwinism” claiming that in business, only the “fittest” were to survive and it was the responsibility of the wealthy to take care of the less fortunate. Carnegie promoted the Gospel of Wealth, which encouraged philanthropy, but not charity. Dorothea Dix led the movement to build and strengthen the use of penitentiaries, asylums, and orphanages to protect the welfare of the least fortunate in society. Furthermore, Jane Addams founded the Hull House to educate immigrants, provide daycare for working mothers, and childcare classes for parents in the attempt to battle poverty. Civil service reform came with the Pendleton Act, which was a result of the charges of patronage in the awarding of government jobs. This would pave the way for the “hiring based on merit” that we are accustomed to today. The Populists were a political group who aimed at bettering society by protecting the people. They campaigned for things such as shorter work days, and served as the based for the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. The 1850-1900s began with the battle against poverty and were capped off with the rallying for Progressive ideals.
Andrew Carnegie - founder of U.S. steel, promoted “Social Darwinism” claiming that in business, only the “fittest” were to survive and it was the responsibility of the wealthy to take care of the less fortunate

Asylum - an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance

Civil service reform - changing the way that people were allowed to get government jobs, countering the commonplace “spoils system”

Dawes Severalty Act - broke up the reservations and distributed American land of the head of each Native American family.

Dorothea Dix - promoted the advancement of penitentiaries, asylums and orphanages

Gold Standard - the backing up of the U.S. currency with reserves of gold

Gospel of Wealth - endorsed by Andrew Carnegie; encouraged philanthropy, but not charity

Helen Hunt Jackson - wrote A Century of Dishonor which highlighted the injustices of the Native Americans on the reservation system

Horizontal integration - combines many businesses into one superpower monopoly

Hull House - poverty house created by Jane Addams to teach immigrants English, provide daycare for working mothers, and childcare classes for parents

Interstate Commerce Act - passed in order to counter unfair and unethical practices on the railroads

Jane Addams - founded the Hull House and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her life’s work in 1931

Pendleton Act - a federal law established in 1883 that stipulated that government jobs should be awarded on the basis of merit

Penitentiaries - a place for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment, especially a prison maintained in the U.S. by a state or the federal government for serious offenders

Populists - a political group under The People’s Party who aimed at bettering society by protecting the people

Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 - forbade any “combination… or conspiracy in the restraint of trade”.

Vertical integration - allows bosses to buy all raw materials and means of production to improve their product


During the early 20th century there were many social reforms taking place in the United States. Alcohol consumption was viewed negatively amongst the American society, slowly escalating towards prohibition. Although Americans had repealed the 18th Amendment it brought to attention the dangers that coexisted with the consumption of alcohol. Previously, in the years of 1901-1918, industry was steadily progressing. As a result, the progressive movement arose with Theodore Roosevelt at its center. Middle class Americans were concerned with the monopolization big industries had begun. So, the progressives sought out to promote environmentalism and social justice. Unfortunately they were faced with a stalemate when the Great Depression crippled America. Despite the failed implementation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1990 it was Roosevelt’s administration that enforced it. As a result of his enforcement the act made big industries well aware of the consequences the U.S government would impose. On a different note, the literature reform was an occurrence that enabled artists, such as Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell to reveal some of the truths in the corruption of American society and critiqued how political figures would respond to some of these issues. Annoyed by their accusations, Theodore Roosevelt often referred to them as muckrakers in order to insult them. Before the Great Depression had begun another progressive leader, Woodrow Wilson, was in the developing stage of New Freedom. These new ideas for change would include practices to gain control of the Federal Reserve and the Clayton Antitrust Act.

Prohibition- This was also known as the abolishment of alcohol during the early 1900’s

18th Amendment- Ratified on June 16, 1919 it had halted the consumption, production and sales of alcohol.

Progressive Movement- was a political movement by the progressive party in order to protct middle class Americans from big business.

Theodore Roosevelt- Was the former president of the U.S in years 1901-1909 and previously the leader of the Progressive Party.

Progressives- Promoted environmentalism and social justice in big industries and the railroad businesses.

Sherman Antitrust Act- This act had been adopted in 1890 in order to stop the formation of monopolies.

Upton Sinclair- Author of The Jungle, Sinclair challenged Americans food industries and resulted in new safety and health standards.

Lincoln Steffens- Was a New York Reporter who launched a series of articles best known as The Shame of the Cities.

Ida M. Tarbell- Published The History of Standard Oil Company and challenged oil drilling, as well as its workers, and the negative effect it had on American Society

Muckrakers- One who spreads real or alleged scandal about another person.

New Freedom- New ideas for change would include practices to gain control of the Federal Reserve and the Clayton Antitrust Act.


The second half of the 20th century brought forth some complex and interesting reform movements. In the 1950’s people didn’t conform and sought out to innovate in style, experiment with drugs, have alternative sexualities, etc. Authors such as Ginsburg and Burroughs challenged the 1950’s interpretation of the American life, this was also known as the Beat Movement. As the Beat movement winded down in the 1950’s, unanswered questions from WWII started to circulate and thus led to John F. Kennedy’s idea of a New Frontier. The New Frontier hyped up American crowds in hope for a change of policies. But tragedy struck in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was gunned down by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, leaving vice president Lyndon B. Johnson in charge. Two years later Johnson signed a bill to provide both Social Security and Medicare to his citizens. Both of these greatly impacted American society and even some adaptations such as Obamacare have been implemented. There were still financial concerns running through the air during this period and the American society would be fighting off poverty with the Great Society. What opened eyes of people to the issue of poverty was the case of Gideon v. Wainwright. This landmark case would require the United States, under the 14th Amendment, to provide a council when dealing with criminal cases. On a different note, the Stonewall Riots had struck much controversy in 1969; it was a result of pent up opinions on gay rights. Groups such as the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis were involved in these movements and helped lead to the recent legalization of same sex marriages in 11 states. However, the gay rights movement owes it all the Free Speech Movement that occurred through the mid 1960’s. These student-led protests lifted the on-campus ban of political activities and right of free speech at the University of California at Berkley. They indeed had an impact on a variety of movements in the United States, paving the way for 21st Century reformers.

Beat Movement- A movement that influenced non conformity and experimentation.

New Frontier- This was Kennedy’s campaign slogan in promise of change and explanations.

Lyndon B. Johnson- He was the 36th president of the United States from 1963-1969.

Social Security Act- Bill that refers to the federal Old Age, survivors and disabled. This program aids these groups financially through taxes.

Medicare- This is a system of health insurance for people above the age of 65 and the disabled.

Obamacare Bill- Is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed on March 23, 2010.

Great Society- Was a Group of people that fought off poverty during the 1960’s.

Gideon v. Wainwright- This was a landmark court case where a council would have to be provided, by the United States Federal Government, when dealing with criminal cases.

Mattachine Society- Founded in 1950 was one of the earliest homophile organizations.

Daughters of Bilitis- Is the first lesbian rights organization founded in 1955in San Francisco.

Free Speech Movement- Student led protests that lifted the on campus ban, at the University of California at Berkley, of political activities and right of free speech.

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