AP US History

Antebellem Reformers

Essential Question

What significant social changes took place from 1820 to 1850?

The Pursuit of Perfection-Social Changes & Reforms from 1820's to 1850's

Introduction Video

Introduction

Click this link to watch an introduction into the Second Great Awakening.

The Rise of Evangelicalism

The Rise of Evangelicalism

By the early the 1800's, the end of “established churches” presented the opportunity to convert citizens –In the early 19th century, church membership was low & falling 

 –Peace/comfort = spiritual stagnation

 –NE puritans were increasingly educated, sophisticated, and focused on civil religion 

–New evangelists in the early 1800's led religious revivals using mass appeal techniques & preached that people were capable of self-improvement

The Second Great Awakening


At the end of the 18th century, church membership was low and falling. In 1775, there were probably only 1,800 ministers in a population of 2.5 million. According to one estimate, just one American in 20 was a church member. One observer thought that "infidelity is very general among the higher classes."

Few of the nation's founders were particularly religious. They were men of the Enlightenment, who valued rational inquiry and rejected religious enthusiasm. Many leaders of the revolutionary generation distrusted the clergy, doubted the divine origins of the Bible, and questioned the Biblical accounts of miracles.

George Washington's views were not unusual among the founders. He believed that a benevolent divine force governed the universe, but was skeptical of many specific church doctrines. Thomas Jefferson considered himself a Christian and in a work prepared in 1798-99 revered the teachings of Jesus Christ as "the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man." At the same time, he apparently did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ or in the authenticity of Biblical miracles.

But during the 1790s, a wave of religious revivals began that would continue until the Civil War.

The chief vehicle behind this outpouring of religious faith was the religious revival. Highly emotional meetings were held by preachers in all sections of the country, which sought to awaken Americans to their need for religious rebirth. So widespread were the revivals that the early 19th century acquired the name the "Second Great Awakening."

The Second Great Awakening had its symbolic beginnings in a small frontier community in central Kentucky. Between August 6 and 12, 1801, thousands of people--perhaps 25,000--gathered at Cane Ridge to pray. At the time, the state's largest city only had 1,795 residents.

There was not one minister at Cane Ridge; there were more than a dozen. They came from many denominations: Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist. There was at least one African American minister. The people who attended the meeting came from all social classes. Perhaps two-thirds were women. A minister left a vivid first-person description of the scene:

Sinners [were] dropping down on every hand, shrieking, groaning, crying for mercy...agonizing, fainting, falling down in distress. In the course of six months, 100,000 frontier Kentuckians joined together in search of religious salvation. One observer estimated in 1811 that three to four million Americans attended camp meetings annually.


Evangelical revivalism was the dominant form of religious expression in early 19th century America. The word evangelical refers to a belief that all people must recognize their depravity and worthlessness, repent their sins, and undergo a conversion experience and a rebirth of religious feelings.

What explains the rapid rise of revivalism?

In part, revivals were a response to the growing separation of church and state that followed the Revolution. But revivals also reflected the hunger of tens of thousands of ordinary Americans for a more emotional religion. Even in the late 18th century, Americans were not as indifferent to religion as church membership statistics might suggest. Many Americans were put off by genteel clergy with aristocratic pretensions. They were also alienated by the older denominations' stress on decorum, formality, and unemotional sermons.

Revivals also meet a growing need for community and communal purpose. At a time when the country was becoming more mobile, commercial, and individualistic, revivals ensured that Americans would remain committed to higher values.

In the South, revivals largely attracted the dispossessed, including many slaves and free blacks. In the North, revivals appealed to upwardly mobile groups. Middle-class women were especially attracted to the revivals. The revivals provided many women with avenues of self-expression--through church societies and charitable and benevolent organizations.

The revivals left a lasting imprint on pre-Civil War America. The rituals of evangelical religion--the camp meeting, group prayer, and mass baptisms along rivers and creeks--were the truly distinctive American experience in the decades before the Civil War. The revivals contributed to a conception of the United States as a country with a special mission to lead the world to a golden age of freedom and equality. When Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural spoke about bloody sacrifice, rebirth, and national mission, his words echoed revivalist sermons.

A key concept for the revivalists was that each person had a duty to combat sin. For the revivalists, sin was not an abstraction. It was concrete. Dueling, profanity, and drinking hard liquor were sins. In the future, many northern evangelicals regarded slavery as the sum of all sins.


The Spread of Religious Revivals




The burned-over district was a name coined by historian Whitney Cross in a 1950 book to describe an area in central and western New York during the Second Great Awakening. The name was given because the area was so heavily evangelized during the revivalism of antebellum America so as to have no fuel (unconverted population) left to burn (convert). When religion is related to reform movements of the period, such as abolition, women's rights, and utopian social experiments, the region expands to include areas of central New York that were important to the aforementioned reform movements.

Western New York still had a frontier quality during the early canal boom, making professional and established clergy scarce, lending the piety of the area many of the self-taught qualities that proved susceptible to folk religion. Besides producing many mainline Protestant converts, especially in nonconformist sects, the area spawned a number of innovative religious movements, all founded by laypeople during the early 19th century. These include:

Mormonism (whose main branch is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Joseph Smith, Jr. lived in the area and was led by the angel Moroni to golden plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon near Palmyra, New York.

The Millerites. William Miller was a farmer who lived in Low Hampton, New York, who preached that the literal Second Coming would occur "October 22, 1844." Millerism became extremely popular in western New York State. Other groups, including Sabbatarian Adventists and Advent Christians, remained active in the region during the late 1840s and 1850s.

The Fox sisters of Hydesville, New York conducted the first table-rapping séances in the area, leading to the American movement of Spiritualism (centered in Lily Dale) that taught communication with the dead.

The Shakers were very active in the area, with several of their communal farms located there.

The Oneida Society was a large sectarian group that established a successful community in central New York that subsequently disbanded. It was known for its unique interpretation of group marriage which had mates chosen by committee and offspring of the community raised in common.

Finney himself preached at many revivals in the area. His preaching style was an early precursor of Pentecostalism which emphasized a living, practical faith marked by emphasis of the Holy Spirit over formal theology.

In addition to religious activity, the region including the burned-over district was famous for social radicalism. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the early feminist, was a resident of Seneca Falls, New York in central New York where she and others in the community initiated the seminal Seneca Falls Convention devoted to women's suffrage.


The revivals left a lasting imprint on pre-Civil War America. The rituals of evangelical religion--the camp meeting, group prayer, and mass baptisms along rivers and creeks--were the truly distinctive American experience in the decades before the Civil War. The revivals contributed to a conception of the United States as a country with a special mission to lead the world to a golden age of freedom and equality. When Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural spoke about bloody sacrifice, rebirth, and national mission, his words echoed revivalist sermons.

 A key concept for the revivalists was that each person had a duty to combat sin. For the revivalists, sin was not an abstraction. It was concrete. Dueling, profanity, and drinking hard liquor were sins. In the future, many northern evangelicals regarded slavery as the sum of all sins.


Moderate Social Reforms

Introduction to Reforms

Introduction

Click this link to view a quick video about reforms.

From Revivalism to Reform

North vs. South

Northern revivals, unlike in the South, inspired social reform among middle-class participants Led to a “benevolent empire" of evangelical reform movements: Religious conversion,Morality crusaders attacked prostitution, gambling, & slavery, Temperance advocates hoped to end alcohol abuse

Alcoholism

Drunkeness was rampant- dangerous in factories and harmful to family unit 

Two major lines of attack –Temperance or the will to resist :“Cold Water Army”, signed pledges, made pamphlets, anti-alcoholic novel by T.S. Arthur –Legislation or Prohibition and Neal S. Dow of Maine was leader 

By 1857, 12 Northern states repealed or unconstitutional

Extension of Education

Free public schools grew rapidly from 1820 to 1850 to provide educational & moral training: –Middle-class Americans saw education as a means for social advancement, teaching “3 R’s” (Reading, "Riting, 'Rithmetic) & instilling a Protestant ethic –Horace Mann argued that schools “save” immigrants & poor kids from parents’ “bad” influence to create good citizens

1820-1850: taxation for education lagged in the South but as laborers gained suffrage, the cry for public education increased 

Still, by 1860, there were only about a 100 secondary schools, a million white illiterate, and blacks were largely left out of education

Asylum Reform

Reformers believed that all problems were correctable & built state-supported prisons, asylums, poorhouses: –The most famous asylum reformer was Dorothea Dix who publicized inhumane treatment of mental institution patients As a result, 15 states improved their penitentiaries & hospitals

Debtors' prisons were gradually abolished too.


Conclusion

Explain and give at least 2 examples of significant social changes that took place from 1820-1850.  Why are these reforms still important today?

Conclusion


Americans in the 1830s & 1840s seemed ready to improve the nation, but in different ways: 

Political parties (Dems & Whigs) hoped to improve politics 

Industrialists hoped to increase the market revolution 

Religious reformers hoped to convert the masses