Trent University History 211 Workshop 15: Antebellum Age of Reform 26 January 2004

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Trent University

History 211

Workshop 15: Antebellum Age of Reform

26 January 2004


Ralph Waldo Emerson: “in the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as the present hour.” Discuss.

Discuss what you have learned about the following causes. In your discussion consider definitions that relate to specific moments and people.

  1. temperance

  2. women’s rights

  3. domesticity

  4. prison reform

  5. educational reform

  6. abolition of slavery

What are the interconnections or overlaps between these causes, and were the helps or hindrances?

What is the best definition of “reform movement”? Define antebellum reform.

Write a job description for a reformer in each of the five areas.

Which reform do you think most captures the essence of both reform and American society? Give reasons, and draw further conclusions.

Of the people you encountered in these readings, rank them as reformers on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most solid reformer. Be prepared to discuss your rating.

What role do Reformers expect governments to play? Individuals? God? Be specific and comprehensive in your response.


  1. “We, and the world wish to see the charges of Mr Jefferson refuted by the blacks themselves, ... “ [David Walker, 1829, 266] Discuss.

  2. How important is the Declaration of Independence? [266-9]

  3. “I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population.” [William Lloyd Garrison, 1831, 268] Discuss.

  4. “And is it not the office of enlightened patriotism, to relieve the individual and society from the countless variety of evils that flow from intemperance, thro’ idleness and prodigality?” [Thomas Grimke, 270] Discuss.

  5. “In the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as the present hour....” [Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841, 270] Discuss.

  6. “In its ultimate success, the Community will realize all the ends which selfishness seeks, but involved in spiritual blessings, which only greatness of soul can aspire after.” [Elizabeth Peabody on Brook Farm, 1843, 272] Discuss.

  7. “I come as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane, and idiotic men and women; of beings sunk to a condition from which the most unconcerned would start with real horror; of beings wretched in our prisons, and more wretched in our almshouses...” [Dorothea Dix, 1843, 273] Discuss.

  8. “Motives which determined the use of that power derived from the revival, and they were frankly millenarian.” [Paul E. Johnson, 275] Discuss.

  9. “The wave of popular religious movements that broke upon the United States in the half century after independence did more to Christianize American society than anything before or since.” [Nathan O. Hatch, 285-6] Discuss the “double legacy” and its implications.

  10. “Democracy loosens social ties, but it tightens natural ones. At the same time as it separates citizens, it brings kindred closer together.” [Alexis De Tocqueville, 297] Discuss.

  11. “... woman has an equal interest in all social and civil concerns; and ... no domestic, civil, or political institution is right which sacrifices her interest to promote that of the other sex.” [Catherine Beecher, 298] Discuss.

  12. “Women also entered a variety of reform movements, to pursue objects in their own self-interest as well as to improve their society.” [Nancy F. Cott, 312] Discuss.

  13. “The cultural metonymy by which the nurturant maternal roel stood for the whole of woman’s experience further confirmed that ‘heartfelt’ caring was woman’s characteristic value.” [Nancy F. Cott, 317] Discuss.

  14. ‘... most women were willing to accept a sphere they saw as different but equal.” [Nancy F. Cott, 318] Discuss.

  15. “Women in the Garrisonian abolitionist movement not only absorbed its anticlericalism, but also drew on its principle of the absolute moral equality of all human beings.” [Ellen Carol Dubois, 322] Discuss.

  16. “... the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State:...” [North Carolina law, 1831] Discuss.

  17. “With the advantage of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away, can be almost entirely prevented, although the slaves be located on the borders of a free state, within a stone’s throw of the abolitionists...” [Dr Cartwright of New Orleans, 1851] Discuss.

  18. “At the slaveholding South all is peace, quiet, plenty and contentment.” [George Fitzhugh, 366]

  19. “Young as I was then, the iron entered into my soul.” [Josiah Henson, 368] Discuss.

  20. “For the slaveholders paternalism represented an attempt to overcome the fundamental contradiction in slavery: the impossibility of the slaves’ ever becoming the things they were supposed to be.” [Eugene Genovese, 376] Discuss.

  21. “And the slaves, drawing on a religion that was supposed to assure their compliance and docility, rejected the essence of slavery by projecting their own rights and value as human beings.” [Eugene Genovese, 377] Discuss.

  22. “The slaveholders found themselves trapped by the exigencies of their untenable view of their relationship to their slaves.” [Eugene Genovese, 378] Discuss.

  23. Is a harsh and unjust system preferable to no orderat all? [379]

  24. “And yet liberalism, in the end, provided the slaves with the crack into which their acts of resistance drove the decisive wedge....” [James Oakes, 382]

  25. “In each case, cultural traditions that had little to do with slavery were drafted into the service of southern slave society and in the process were dramatically transformed into a complex and highly developed body of proslavery thoughts.” [James Oakes, 385]

  1. “If the ethic of consumption was beginning to transform the way Americans talked about freedom, it could not help but transform the way they talked about slavery.” [James Oakes, 386]

Trent University

History 211

Workshop 15: Antebellum Age of Reform

26 January 2004

Name _____________________________________ Morning __________ Afternoon __________

Define antebellum reform. In what ways does your definition now differ from that held at the start of the class? What has been most strongly reinforced of ideas you brought to class?

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde Major Problems in American History

Chapter 9 _ Reform and the Great Awakening in the Early Nineteenth Century


1. Peter Cartwright, a Methodist Itinerant Preacher, Marvels at the Power of Religious Revivals, 1801 242

2. Frances Trollope, an Englishwoman Views a Religious Meeting in Indiana, 1829 264

3. African American Abolitionist David Walker Castigates the United States for Its Slave System, 1829 266

4. William Lloyd Garrison Calls for Immediate Abolition, 1831 268

5. Thomas Grimke, a Southerner Advocates Temperance as a Form of Patriotism, 1833 269

6. Ralph Waldo Emerson Considers the United States as a Center for Reform, 1841 270

7. A Woman Explains the Benefits of Brook Farm, 1843 271

8. Dorthea Dix Depicts the Horrible Conditions Endured by the Mentally Ill, 1843 272

9. Horace Mann Illustrates the Significance of the Public School, 1849 274


Paul E. Johnson, “Religious Reform as a Form of Social Control” 275

Nathan O. Hatch, “Religious Revivalism as a Form of Democratization” 285

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde Major Problems in American History

Chapter 10 _ Women, Men, and the Family at Midcentury


1. Alexis de Tocqueville Considers the Influence of Democracy on the Family, 1831 296

2. Harriet Martineau Remarks on Marriage and "True Love" in America, 1837 297

3. Catherine Beecher Sees Linkages Between Democracy and Women's Rights, 1841 298

4. A Guidebook Instructs Women on the Role of Mother, 1845 301

5. The Seneca Falls Convention Declares Women's Rights, 1848 302

6. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Demands Women's Right To Vote, 1848 304

7. Lydia Sigourney Sentimentalizes Women in the Home, 1850 306

8. Sojourner Truth Links Women's Rights to Anti-slavery, 1851 307

9. A Marriage Contract Protests the Contemporary Phrasing of Marriage Vows, 1855 309


Nancy F. Cott, “Feminism and the Private World of Women” 310

Ellen Carol Dubois, “Feminism and the Public Demands for Suffrage” 318
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde Major Problems in American History

Chapter 12 _ Agricultural Development and Slavery in the South at Mid-century


1. A North Carolina Law Prohibits Teaching Slaves to Read or Write, 1831 361

2. John Pendleton Kennedy, a Southern Man Romanticizes Slavery and the Life of Slaves, 1832 361

3. A Southerner Observes the Life of Poor Whites in Georgia, 1849 363

4. Dr. Cartwright, a Southern Doctor Theorizes About the Peculiar Diseases of Slaves, 1851 364

5. George Fitzhugh Argues That Slavery Is a Positive Good That Improves Society, 1854 366

6. Josiah Henson Portrays the Violence and Fears in Slave Life, 1858 367

7. Former Slaves Recall Their Lives in Slavery, 1850s 368

8. Harriet Jacobs Deplores Her Risks in Being a Female Slave, 1861 371

9. Mary Chestnut Describes Her Hatred of Slavery from a White Woman's View, 1861 372

10. Frederick Law Olmsted Depicts the Economic Costs of Slavery, 1861 373


Eugene D. Genovese, “The Paternalist World of the Slave South” 374

James Oakes, “The Liberal World of the Slave South” 381

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