Chapter 15 – The Ferment of Reform and Culture

Religious revivals and reform movements

Reviving Religion

  • Before the reform and revival, 3/4ths of Americans attended church in 1850.
  • During the Revolution, Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” shot down churches by saying they were trying to enslave and terrorize and monopolize power.
  • Founding Fathers were deists or people that believed God created a mechanical world. The world was running itself without God’s intervention.
  • Deists also believed that God gave humans the capacity to have moral behavior.
  • Unitarians – Believed in God as one person rather than the Trinity
    • Stressed the goodness of people’s behavior versus the vileness.
    • Free will and salvation by good works.
    • God was a loving Father, not a stern Creator.
    • Against predestination/human depravity/rationality/Calvinism
  • Revivalism-
    • Started in the south
    • spread to the northeast eventually
    • Second Great Awakening – a wave of spiritual fervor
      • church reorganization
      • passionate evangelicalism
      • new sects
      • prison reform, temperance cause, women’s movement, abolitionism
    • Huge camp meetings spread the Awakening to the masses
      • several days where gospel was served up by a preacher
      • dancing, barking, jerking
      • many saved went back to sinful ways later
      • boosted church membership
      • Some even were moved to do missionary work
    • Methodists and Baptists
      • personal conversion (versus predestination)
      • democratic control of church affairs
      • emotionalism
      • Peter Cartwright
          • Travelling frontier preacher – Methodist
          • Called upon sinners to repent
          • Converted thousands
          • would physically beat up people that tried to crash his meetings
      • Charles Grandison Finney
          • Was a lawyer, left bar to become evangelist
          • Rochester and NYC
          • encouraged women to pray aloud
          • Against alcohol and slavery
      • Feminization of religion (church membership and theology)
          • Middle class women and daughters and wives of businessmen were the first to jump into the revivalism
          • Majority of new church members
          • Most likely to stick with their faith
          • Women were apprehensive of the changes and more likely to be converted
          • Women were given role of bringing family and husband back to God

Denominational Diversity

  • Revivals caused fragmentation in faiths
  • Western NY was called the “Burned Over District” because too many preachers there only talked about “hellfire and damnation”
  • Millerites (Adventists)
    • Commanded by William Miller
    • Interpreted the Bible as saying Christ would return to earth on October 22, 1844
    • Gathered in prayerful assemblies to greet Christ
    • Jesus failing to appear caused some to lose heart but it didn’t destroy the movement.
  • Second Great Awakening widened class lines
    • Conservative denominations in the East were not affected much.
    • The wealthy educated took on Presbyterianism, Episcopalism, Congregationalism, and Unitarianism
    • The less fortunate took on Methodism and Baptists. (rural south and west)
  • Slavery
    • dividing issue (southern baptists split with their northern counterparts)
    • Methodists grieved over southern bishop in Georgia for owning slaves
    • Presbyterians split North and South
    • Foreshadowed the succession of the South

Desert Zion in Utah

  • Joseph Smith reported he received some golden plates from an angel.\
  • Deciphered this into the Book of Mormon and created the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
  • Established a Religious oligarchy that was despised by Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois because Mormons advocated cooperation versus individualism and free enterprise which the high ranking Americans did not like.
  • Made people angry by voting as a unit and drilling militia for defensive purposed.
  • Accusations of polygamy because Smith had multiple wives
  • Joseph Smith and his brother killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois.
  • Mormon Moses – Brigham Young led the Mormons into Utah while singing “Come, Come Ye Saints”
  • Used irrigation to get the desert blooming
  • Seagulls ate the crickets that threatened the crops (monument dedicated to seagulls stands in Utah today)
  • 5000 settlers arrived in 1848, more to come
  • Young created a well managed community
  • Young had 27 wives and fathered 56 children
  • Crisis when Washington gov’t decided that Young’s hierarchy was a threat. They marched in in 1857. The Mormons would not give up and the conflict quickly ended.
  • The Mormons then ran afoul of anti-Polygamy laws in 1862 and 1882. This also delayed statehood until 1896.

Free Schools for a Free people

  • At first government supported schools was something seen as something only for the poor. Now there was a movement for free public education that was met with some opposition.
  • Eventually though, people saw the value of education for it educated the voters and prevented them from making ignorant and uneducated decisions
  • Laborers demanded free instruction for their kids
  • Little red schoolhouse- one room, one stove, one teacher, multiple grades (up to 8)
  • However, there weren’t many trained schoolteachers and schools usually opened for a few months.
  • They usually only taught reading, writing, and math. Most teachers were men at this time.
  • Horace Mann called for reform as secretary of Mass. Board of Education.
  • Better schoolhouses, longer terms, and higher pay, and expanded curriculum.
  • 1860- hundred public secondary schools, 1 million adult illiterates.
  • Black slaves forbidden to receive instruction
  • Free blacks were also excluded
  • Noah Webster
    • Improved textbooks
    • Reading lessons were used to promote patriotism as well as teach reading
    • Published Webster’s dictionary in 1828.
  • William H. McGuffey
    • Published grade school readers
    • these readers promoted morality, patriotism, and idealism

Higher Goals for Higher Learning

  • Second Great Awakening resulted in creation of denominational liberal arts colleges in the South and West.
  • Mostly established to create a sense of local pride.
  • More boredom vs vitality
  • State supported universities in the south beginning with NC in 1795
  • University of Virginia – Brainchild of Thomas Jefferson
  • Women were frowned upon for seeking higher education. They were supposed to stay at home.
  • Too much education was believed to hurt the feminine brain and be a ‘health hazard’.
  • Emma Willard
    • Helped gain respect for secondary education for women
    • Est. Troy Female Seminary in NY.
    • Oberlin College in Ohio allowed women in as well as blacks.
  • Mary Lyon
    • established Mount Holyoke Seminary for women in South Hadley, MA.
  • More learning at private subscription libraries and tax-supported libraries.
  • Traveling lecturers carried learning to the masses. 
  • Robert Waldo Emerson was an example of a traveling lecturer
  • Magazines flourished

An Age of Reform

  • many reform campaigns
  • Most were intelligent idealists touched by evangelical religion.
  • Trying to eradicate the evils such as war, alcohol and slavery
  • Many women went with reform crusades, it was something to get them away from the house and also fight for their own rights.
  • Tried to reaffirm values that disappeared when the factory economy came in and took over.
  • Imprisonment for debt was a disaster as some people were in for owning less than a dollar.
  • Eventually as laborers got their voice heard, the debtors’ prisons were abolished.
  • Brutal punishments and number of capital offenses were soon reduced. Prisons were believed to be able to reform and rehabilitate instead of just punish.
  • But the insane were still treated with cruelty.
  • Dorothea Dix
    • Frail, ill woman with willpower. Traveled many miles to show reports of how the cells for the insane were dismal. She petitioned to the Massachusetts legislature and soon she caused some change and improvements.
    • She also gave people a new view of the insane, that they were not willfully perverse but really ill
  • American Peace Society
    • Declared “war against war”
    • William Ladd
      • The orator that spoke during pre-civil war years for the APS
    • Peace crusade even spread internationally in the organizations of collective security of the 20th century.
    • Was set back by the Crimean War in Europe and the Civil War

Demon Rum – The “Old Deluder”

  • Drinking was a major issue that reformers tried to tackle.
    • Drinking was popular because life was hard and boring at times and for some strange reason, getting drunk was a great way to “leave behind” the world.
    • And of course, when people get drunk, they do some weird and sometimes violent things.
    • But the downside to having drunk people included less productivity, danger of accidents and it made the family a rather unpleasant place.
  • American Temperance Society
    • Formed in Boston in 1826
    • Thousands of local groups formed
      • Persuaded drinkers to sign temperance pledges
      • organized children’s clubs called the “Cold Water Army”
      • Used pictures, lectures, pamphlets
      • T.S Arthur’s “Ten Nights in a Barroom and What I Saw There” described how a town was ruined by Same Slade’s tavern
      • Modern reformers suggested temperance over teetotalism.
  • Some people wanted legislation to stop alcohol consumption, we all know how that went eventually *cough* prohibition
    • Neal S. Dow
      • Father of prohibition
      • Maine Law of 1851 was the prohibition in Maine
      • Other states followed suit…but this was soon repealed.
      • even so they were somewhat successful in reducing the drinking

Women in Revolt

  • So basically women were all to be stay at home moms and not do anything, not even vote. Legally the husband could beat her with a “reasonable instrument”. Yes quite nasty I know. And property was passed onto her husband, not her.
  • However, women were still better off in America than in Europe. In France, rape was only punished lightly while in the US, the death penalty may be issued for rape.
  • Women were thought to be physically and emotionally weak. This was increasingly stressed when the industrial revolution took place.
  • They were also considered more moral as men could be crude and they sometimes could turn into beasts and well…let’s not go any further shall we?
  • Home was the woman’s sphere.
    • Cult of domesticity
      • to take care of house and kids so husband could come home and relax and do nothing
  • Home was like a cage to women and some wanted some freedom.
    • Women began demanding rights.
      • fought for temperance and abolition of slavery.
    • Women wanted to spread their wings and fly, even if they had to take rotten eggs and cursing towards them.
    • Lucretia Mott
      • Quaker, London Anti-slavery convention denied her voice and that drove her to become a feminist.
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
      • mother of 7
      • wanted to leave “obey” out of the marriage ceremony
      • advocated women suffrage (voting rights)
    • Susan B Anthony
      • militant lecturer
      • exposed herself to rotten garbage and vulgar epithets
      • so famous that feminists were sometimes called Suzy Bs
    • Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
      • First female grad. from med. school
    • Margaret Fuller
      • edited journal “The Dial”
      • took part in bringing unity and rep. gov. in Italy
      • Died in shipwreck off NY’s Fire Island
    • Grimke Sisters
      • antislavery
    • Lucy Stoner, Amelia Bloomer
  • Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 where Stanton red the “Declaration of Sentiments” declaring all men AND WOMEN are created equal.
  • Women’s rights was eclipsed by the civil war though

Wilderness Utopias

  • communities of communistic nature
  • Robert Owen
    • New Harmony, Indiana
    • Failure because not everybody wanted to work
  • Brook Farm was a place of brotherly and sisterly cooperation that did last quite well until 1846 when fire destroyed a building and sank the community into debt
  • Oneida Community
    • free love, birth control, eugenic selection of parents to produce superior offspring
    • Lasted more than 30 years b/c artisans made great steel traps
  • Many attempts since Jamestown – died out because of change in methods or the competition from free enterprise and democracy
  • Shakers –longest living community led by Mother Ann Lee
    • religious communities
    • died out because they prohibited marriage and sexual relations

The Dawn of Scientific Achievement

  • Professor Benjamin Silliman
    • pioneer chemist/geologist and prof at Yale
  • Prof. Louis Agassiz
    • French swiss immigrant – Harvard
  • Prof Asa Gray
    • the “Columbus” of botany with over 350 books, monographs, and papers.
  • John J. Audubon liked watching birds and wrote the “Birds of America”.
    • Audubon Society to protect birds named after him
    • but he was the one that shot birds
  • Medicine was still behind
    • Smallpox
  • self-prescribed patient meds
    • one dose for people, 2 for horses
    • Fad diets
    • Surgery without anesthetics

Artistic Achievements

  • America, at first, did not have the resources to give focus to the arts. Many of the architecture followed Greek and Roman influences, just like the Europeans.
  • Greek Revival between 1820-1850
  • Thomas Jefferson and his Monticello was one of the classics and so was the University of Virginia, both Jefferson creations.
  • Painting was also a weak area. Workers were too busy and had no time to enjoy being painted. There weren’t enough wealthy to be painted. Middle class probably was also busy. Therefore, the early birds went to England.
  • Puritans – painting was a sinful waste of time, like theater
  • Competent painters that eventually emerged
    • Gilbert Stuart
      • Rhode Islander, most gifted
      • Several portraits of Washington, most dehumanized
      • When Washington posed, he had already lost teeth and original facial appearance
    • Charles Willson Peale
      • 60 portraits of Washington
      • 14 were painted from a pose
    • John Trumball
      • Painted Revolutionary War scenes
  • Nationalism from the War of 1812 turned the attention of the artists to the romantic landscape rather than just people
    • Hudson River school excelled in this art
  • In competition with the painters was the daguerreotype (a type of photograph) by Louis Daguerre
  • Music also started to become popular (Puritans would have objected before) with darky tunes.
  • “Dixie” written in 1859 (later became Confederate battle hymn) in Ohio
  • Stephen C. Foster
    • “Old Folks At Home”
    • Captured the plaintive spirit of slaves

The Blossoming of a National Literature

  • Not much literature written in America
  • Most writing was political essays
  • Only one that managed prestige was Ben Franklin’s Autobiography
  • Nationalism did spark some literature
    • Knickerbocker Group in NY allowed America to brag about the literature that matched the beautiful landscape
  • Washington Irving
    • NYC
    • First American to achieve international attention as a lit. figure. by writing about New York
    • Published Knickerbocker’s History of New York
    • Published The Sketchbook after his family business failed.
    • Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    • Interpreted Europe to America and vice versa.
  • James Fenimore Cooper
    • First American Novelist
    • Said he could write a better book than the English books
    • First failed, then wrote The Spy
    • Best known for Leatherstocking Tales and The last of the Mohicans
    • wide sale with Europeans
    • explored destiny of America’s republican experiment
  • Puritan William Cullen Bryant
    • wrote Thanatopsis which was a poem that Cullen wrote at 16
    • Made living on editing New York Evening Post
    • set model for journalism
  • All three authors above were a part of the Knickerbocker Group.

Trumpeters of Transcendentalism

  • Golden age of literature in 19th century, mostly caused by Transcendentalism
  • Resulted from the liberalizing of the strict Puritan doctrines
  • Foreign influences such as German romanticism and religions of Asia
  • Derived belief from John Locke “Truth, rather, “transcends” the senses. It cannot be found just by observation" Every person possesses an inner light that can illuminate the highest truthe and put him or her in direct touch with God or the “Oversoul”
  • Characteristics of Transcendentalism
    • Strict individualism in religion as well as social issues
    • Self-reliance, self-culture, and self discipline
    • There was hostility to authority as a result of these traits.
    • Humans are dignified, no matter what race they were
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    • Trained as a Unitarian minister
    • Most famous for: Phi Beta Kappa address “The American Scholar” at Harvard
      • International declaration of independence urging American writers to break away from the European tradition
    • Poet and Philosopher but not best in either one
    • More influential as a philosopher thru his essays
    • Individualistic – advocated the traits of Transcendentalism (see above bolded 3 traits) and more such as self-improvement, self-confidence, optimism and freedom
    • Ideals reflected on those of expanding America which was pretty much all about the individual
    • Against slavery and supported the Union
  • Henry David Thoreau
    • Friend of Emerson, poet, mystic, transcendentalist, and nonconformist
    • against slavery and was against a government that supported slavery
    • refused to pay poll tax in Mass. in protest
    • Prose writer, Walden: Or Life in the Woods
      • Thoreau wrote about his two years of seclusion in a hut on the edge of Walden Pond.
      • He did this because he believed that cutting out the bloat of life would allow him to focus and meditate on the pursuit of truth
    • On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
      • idea that if government makes an unfair law, people should protest it by not acknowledging its existence without any violence
      • this idea encouraged Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Walt Whitman
    • Famous collection of poems Leaves of Grass
    • highly romantic, emotional and unconventional
    • wrote some suggestive stuff
    • book was banned in Boston
    • Poem collection was a failure but eventually gain prestige after his death
    • America had turned back on Old World

Glowing Literary Lights

  • Not all literary figures were transcendentalist though but they were slightly influenced by it.
  • Professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    • taught modern languages at Harvard College
    • poet
    • tragic life
    • only American ever to be honored by Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey
  • John Greenleaf Whitter
    • another poet
    • aroused America on slavery issue
    • moving force of generation
    • poet of human freedom
  • James Russell Lowell
    • succeeded Longfellow
    • essayist, literary critic, editor, diplomat
    • Political Satirist in his Biglow Papers
      • Mexican War
      • Yankee dialect
      • papers condemned slavery and its expansion
  • Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes
    • Anatomy teacher at Harvard
    • poet, essayist, lecturer, novelist, wit
    • nonconformist and conversationalist
    • “hub of the universe”
    • “The Last Leaf” honored the last “white Indian” of the Boston Tea Party
  • Louisa May Alcott
    • grew up in Concord, Mass. where the center of transcendentalism was
    • Wrote Little Women
    • wrote to support mother and sisters after her father ditched them for his idealism rather than realism
  • Emily Dickinson
    • lived alone
    • explored universal themes of love, death, nature, and immorality
    • Refused to publish poems but they were later discovered
  • William Gilmore Simms
    • novelist that portrayed the issues of the south even though he was unwanted in his own crowd because he was poor and the southern aristocrats that owned plantations and slaves would not appreciate him

Literary Individualists/Dissenters

  • Not all writers were optimistic
  • Edgar Allan Poe
    • weird but smart
    • saw lots of tragedies, wife fell ill of tuberculosis
    • suffered a lot
    • Failed at suicide
    • horror stories of his “nightmares”
    • “The Gold Bug” was probably the closest to the first mystery novel
    • Ghostly and ghastly “The Fall of the House of Usher”
    • prized by Europeans over Americans because he wrote pessimistic stories
    • Was later found drunk and died soon
  • Some were obsessed with Calvinism
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • The Scarlet Letter described how the puritans made adulteresses wear a red letter “A” and described the psychological damages caused by the weight of the constant guilt
    • The Marble Faun dealt with Am. artists that witness murder in Rome.
  • Herman Melville
    • ill educated but went out to sea
    • served as a whaler
    • wrote about the sea, first stories were popular
    • wrote initially unpopular Moby Dick
    • Captain Ahab tried to capture Moby Dick, a whale that sunk his ship leaving him as the only one survivor.
    • was not popular because Moby Dick wasn’t straightforward

Portrayers of the Past

  • George Bancroft
    • Founded Naval Academy of Annapolis
    • Father of American History
    • wrote 6 volumes of American history to 1789
  • William H. Prescott
    • blind in one eye
    • wrote about conquest of Mexico and Peru
  • Francis Parkman
    • wrote volumes beginning in 1851
    • wrote about Britain and France and their issues with each other
  • Most historians were New Englanders because Boston had a well stocked library and were stimulating reading
  • Mostly abolitionists
  • writing was mostly biased towards the slavery issue, mostly favoring the North’s views

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