Chapter 15

The Ferment of Reform and Culture



Reviving Religion

Thomas Paine promoted the doctrines of Deism.  Deists relied on science rather than the Bible and they denied the divinity of Christ.  They did believe in a Supreme Being who had created a universe and endowed human beings with a capacity for moral behavior.

Unitarianism was derived from Deism.  Unitarians believed that God existed in only one person, and not the Trinity.  It appealed to mostly intellectuals.

The Second Great Awakening began in 1800. A wave of religious fervor swept over the country. Women became more involved in religion during the Second Great Awakening.

Peter Cartwright: a revivalist, traveling preacher who converted thousands to Christianity.

Charles Grandison Finney: one of the greatest revivalist preachers.


Denominational Diversity

The Second Great Awakening widened the gap between the societal classes and regions.  The more prosperous and conservative denominations in the East were little touched by revivalism. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Unitarians derived its members from the wealthier parts of society, while Methodists and Baptists came from less prosperous communities in the South and West.

The issue of slavery split the churches apart.


A Desert Zion in Utah

Joseph Smith: formed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in 1830 when he deciphered the Book of Mormon from some golden plates given to him by an angel; led the Mormons to Illinois.

After Joseph Smith was killed 1844, Brigham Young led the Mormons to Utah to avoid persecution.


Free Schools for a Free People

Tax-supported public education came about between 1825-1850. Americans eventually saw they had to educate their children because the children were the future.  The teachers of the schools were mostly men and did not know how to teach.  There were not very many schools in the U.S. because of their high costs to communities.

Horace Mann: campaigned effectively for a better school system.


Higher Goals for Higher Learning

The first state-supported universities showed up in the South in 1795.

The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson.

Women's schools at the secondary level came in the 1820s because of Emma Willard. At the time, it was still widely believed that a women's place is in the home.


An Age of Reform

States gradually abolished debtors' prisons due to public demand.  Criminal codes in the states were being softened.  The number of capital offenses was being reduced.  Society began to think that prisons should reform as well as punish.

Dorothy Dix: traveled the country, visiting different asylums; released a report on insanity and asylums; her protests resulted in improved conditions for the mentally ill.

In 1828, the American Peace Society was formed.  It was led by William Ladd


Demon Rum - The "Old Deluder"

In the early 1800s, many people developed drinking problems due to social norms and hard/monotonous life. This included women, clergymen, and members of Congress.  The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826.  Its members persuaded people to stop drinking. 

Drinking decreased worker efficiency and threatened the family structure.

Neal S. Dow: thought that alcohol should be outlawed; "Father of Prohibition"; supported the Maine Law of 1851 which banned the manufacture and sale of liquor in Maine.  (The country banned the sale of alcohol with the 18th amendment in 1918.)

Women in Revolt

In the early 19th century, the role of women was to stay at home and be subordinate to her husband.  Women could not vote and when married, she could not retain her property.  Because of these things, women actually started to avoid marriage.

Gender differences were emphasized in the 19th century because the market economy was separating women and men into distinct economic roles (women were viewed as artistic and the keepers of society's conscience, while men were viewed as strong but crude).

Feminists met at Seneca Falls, New York in a Woman's Rights Convention in 1848 to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to include women.


Wilderness Utopians

Several utopian communities were created in the early 1800s, but all of them ultimately failed.

Robert Owen: founded a communal society in New Harmony, Indiana in 1825 to seek human betterment.


The Dawn of Scientific Achievement

Americans were more interested in practical gadgets than in pure science.  Americans invented practical gadgets, but they borrowed and adapted scientific findings from the Europeans.

Medicine in America was still primitive by modern standards.  In the early 1840s, several American doctors and dentists successfully used laughing gas and ether as anaesthetics.


Artistic Achievements

Early American architects used a Federal Style that emphasized symmetry, balance, and restraint (columns, domes, pediments).

Between 1820 and 1850, a Greek revival in architecture came to America.  Most of the ideas of art and painting were taken from Europe.

"Dixie" was the battle hymn of the Confederates and was written in 1859.


The Blossoming of a National Literature

Before the mid-1800s, most literature in America was imported from Britain.

Following the War of 1812, American literature received a boost from the wave of nationalism and the arrival of romanticism to America.

Washington Irving: the first American to win international recognition as a literary figure.

James Fenimore Cooper: the first American novelist to gain world fame.


Trumpeters of Transcendentalism

The transcendentalist movement came about in the 1830s. The transcendentalists believed that knowledge transcends the senses and can't be found just by observation; knowledge comes from within the person.  Associated traits included self-reliance, self-culture, and self-discipline.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: transcendentalist poet and philosopher; urged American writers to forget European traditions and write about American interests; wrote "The American Scholar," which was an intellectual declaration of independence.

Henry David Thoreau: transcendentalist who believed that people should ignore bodily desires and pursue truth through study and meditation.

Glowing Literary Lights

Not all poets and writers of the time were transcendentalists.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: one of the most famous poets to come from America; wrote for the wealthy class; was adopted by the less-cultured class.


Literary Individuals and Dissenters

Edgar Allan Poe: wrote with a pessimistic tone, unlike the literature at the time.

Herman Melville: wrote the novel Moby Dick


Portrayers of the Past

In the mid-1800s, American historians began to emerge.


Next Chapter >>

(Or use arrow key)