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Reform Movements


Second Great Awakening (1790-1850)

  • Revivalist preachers said that God created man as a "free moral agent" -- sinners could not only reform themselves but could also remake the world.

  • Charles Grandison Finney

  • Minister who advocated Christian Perfectionism

  • Promoted social reform such as abolition, equal education for women and African Americans

  • Taught at Oberlin College of Ohio

  • Appealed to women

  • Sparked a wave of social activism.


  • Denied the trinity (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) - instead, Jesus was a man

  • Didn't follow emotionalism of revivals

  • Interpreted the Bible broadly, not literally.

  • Reform

  • Like evangelicals, they were committed to bettering the world

  • Famous Unitarians

  • Presidents: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, JQ Adams

  • Reformers: Dorothea Dix, Horace Mann

  • Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson (former Unitarian priest) George Ripley


  • Began in Europe as reaction against Enlightenment (in U.S. 1820-1860)

  • Emphasized emotion and intuition as sources of truth.

  • Glorified unlimited potential of the individual

  • Reform:

  • Glorified humanitarianism

  • And sympathized with the oppressed.



  • Belief that both individuals and society are capable of improvement.


  • Abolition (slavery)

  • Temperance/Prohibition (alcohol)

  • Prison Reform

  • School reform

  • Prostitution

  • Women's rights


  • Most were middle-class, Christian, white women

  • Respectable women didn't work


ABOLITION (see entry on slavery)

  • American Colonization Society

  • Called for abolition with the "colonization" of freed slaves to Africa

  • Liberia (capital Monrovia) was founded in 1822 in west Africa as a place for resettlement of free blacks.

  • Supported by Henry Clay, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson.

  • Not supported by most black people in America nor by Garrison

  • William Lloyd Garrison - militant abolitionist

  • In Jan. 1831 Garrison published The Liberator.

  • He was against gradual emancipation and colonization of free Blacks to Africa

  • Instead wanted immediate emancipation without compensation to owners.

  • Theodore Dwight Weld

  • Co-wrote American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses in 1839 with Angelina and Sarah Grimke

  • The book recorded violence against slaves

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852 (partially based on Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses)

  • Frederick Douglass

  • Wrote autobiographies about his life as a slave.

  • Including: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845



  • Lyman Beecher

  • Father of Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • Co-founded American Temperance Society in 1826

  • Different Reformers

  • Temperance

  • Believed drunkenness was evil, not alcohol itself.

  • Encouraged people to "temper" consumption of alcohol/moderation

  • Teetolars/Prohibition

  • Believed alcohol itself was dangerous.

  • Necessary to swear off alcohol tee-totally

  • "Moral suasionists"

  • Said abstinence was individual responsibility

  • "Legal suasionists"

  • Wanted prohibition of manufacture and sale of liquor

  • 'Demon Rum"

  • Per capita consumption peaked in 1820s - more than 7.5 gallons per person each year.

  • Mostly rum and whiskey.

  • Dr. Benjamin Rush

  • Describe physically destructive effects of excessive drinking

  • Statistics showed crimes committed

  • Connections between poverty and alcohol

  • Critics: Irish and German immigrants were hostile to temperance

  • Successes and Failures

  • Between 1830 and 1840 consumption of alcohol per person fell by half.

  • "Dry" states and "wet" states

  • 1845 New York enacted anti-liquor law

  • Authorizing local governments to forbid the sale of alcohol within their jurisdictions

  • "Fifteen Gallon Law"

  • Massachusetts, 1838

  • To reduce alcohol consumption among poor, prohibited sale of rum or whiskey in quantities smaller than 15 gallons (ended after 2 years)

  • Maine Law, 1846

  • Led by Neal Dow

  • Adopted first statewide prohibition law.

  • By 1860, 13 states had followed.



  • Before reform

  • The severely insane were housed in prisons.

  • Dorothea Dix

  • Massachusetts school teacher

  • In 1841 she visited prison and saw helpless insane in cages, chained, naked, beaten.

  • She persuaded Congress to establish a hospital for the insane in Washington and 15 states to build humane asylums.



  • Evangelicals introduced idea

  • that prisons could be place for moral and social rehabilitation, not just punishment

  • Believed people were curable

  • Pennsylvania System

  • ​Every prisoner would be in solitary confinement day and night except when minister came.

  • Belief that time to reflect on sinfulness would lead to reform.

  • but expensive and caused mental breakdowns.

  • Auburn System (NY)

  • ​Prisoners marched to workrooms and dining hall several times a day

  • Conversation forbidden



  • Horace Mann

  • Massachusetts lawyer and Whig polititian

  • Served as director of Massachusetts board of education.

  • Wanted universal public education so society wasn't so fractured.

  • Supported tax-supported state system of "common schools" open to all children.

  • rather than just local schools, private academies, charity schools.

  • Supporters

  • Labor organizations, factory owners, middle-class reformers.

  • North and South

  • North: By 1860 every northern state had established tax-supported school system.

  • South: Lagged behind North

  • Literate blacks (like Nat Turner) were seen as dangerous to social order

  • Wealthy white planters didn't want to pay for the poor.

  • Schools provided job opportunities for women who became teachers.

  • Thomas Gallaudet

  • Co-founded 1st institution for the education of the deaf in North America.

  • Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons opened in 1817.

  • Oberlin College, Ohio

  • Est. 1833. Open to all genders and races



  • Background

  • Women greatly involved in Second Great Awakening

  • Women considered morally and religiously superior to men, but expected not to stay at home (except teachers)

  • In 1839 some women organized the American Female Moral Reform Society

  • 1840 several women went with their husbands to an antislavery conference in London - they were denied admission because of their gender.

  • Seneca Falls, NY 1848

  • Small group of men and women

  • Wrote "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions"

  • Used wording from Declaration of Independence

  • "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary..."

  • Injustices listed:

  • Women couldn't vote

  • Women had to give up their property when they married

  • Husbands had considerable authority over wives

  • Exclusion of women from professions.

  • Declaration signed by 68 women and 32 men

  • Attendees

  • Most were already active in reform

  • Many were Quakers or evangelicals.

  • Lucretia Mott

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • Susan B. Anthony (Quaker schoolteacher)

  • Amelia Jenks Bloomer (advocate of the "bloomer" pants for women)

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