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Reform Movements

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Reform movements including religion, temperance, abolition, and women's rights sought to expand democratic ideals in the years 1825 to 1850. However, certain movements, such as nativism and utopias, failed to show the American emphasis on a democratic society. The reform movements were spurred by the Second Great Awakening, which began in New England in the late 1790's, and would eventually spread throughout the country. The Second Great Awakening differed from the First in that people were now believed to be able to choose whether or not to believe in God, as opposed to previous ideals based on Calvinism and predestination.

According to Charles G. Finney, the role of the church is to reform society (Doc. B). In 1834, he said, "When the churches are...awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow." Finney had been influenced by Second Great Awakening ideals. He goes on to say that "drunkards, harlots, and infidels" would also be converted do to reform by the church. In this sense, the Second Great Awakening helped expand democratic ideals by bettering the moral standards of the common man. In 1835, Another example of democratic growth can be shown by Document C, where Patrick Reason created an engraving depicting a black female slave in chains and shackles. Above her is the quote, ‘Am I not a woman and a sister?' This reflects how the abolition and women's movements often tied into one another since both of these movements helped expand democratic ideals in that they desired increased rights, such as suffrage for minorities. For example, The Grimke sisters, Angelina and Sarah were southern abolitionists who also played a role in the Women's Movement.

Susan B. Anthony who was a Quaker, was therefore opposed to the immorality slavery but also played a role in the movement calling for equality and rights of women. Anthony was inspired by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was also active in both movements, but very famous for her aggressive action in the Women's Movement, which can be shown by Document I. Elizabeth Cady Stanton played a very important role in The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. This convention also sought to expand democratic ideals, and more radically than perhaps any other event of any movement. They produced a declaration which stated that all men and women are created equal, and should therefore be treated equal. Stanton believed that women should be equally "represented in the government" and demanded for the right to vote.

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This can be confirmed by an excerpt (Doc I) from the Seneca Falls Declaration on August 2, 1848, where Stanton states that the women are "assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed--to declare our right to be free as man is free." Education reform was also an important movement of this period. Universal manhood suffrage created the need for education reform. The common man began to demand education for his children, as represented in Document E.

This movement sought to expand democratic ideals in that more educated people meant more people would be able to be productive members of society, meaning they could vote. An important supporter of the education reform movement was Horace Mann. Mann accepted the position of First Secretary of the State Board of Education in Massachusetts. He was known for his founding of the "Normal School for Teachers," free libraries, and also helping to provide funds for the public education system by proving its importance to the nation. Alcohol abuse was also becoming widespread throughout the early 1800's. Alcohol abuse led to decreased efficiency of labor, which was a problem for businessmen and consumers alike. Therefore this spurred the Temperance Movement. An 1846 cartoon entitled "The Drunkards Progress. From The First Glass To The Grave" (Doc H) shows what a detrimental effect alcohol had on the life of the common laborer. The Temperance Movement sought to expand democratic ideals in that it protected the common man from himself. It improved the common man's productivity as well as his well-being by discouraging him from the evils of alcohol. Another important reformation was the "Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents." As shown in Document A, the people of America did not believe that it was appropriate that young criminals were being placed in regular prisons as punishment. The citizens did not want the youth, although already troubled, to be exposed to "the ways of the wicked" so the House of Refuge was formed. This was an establishment that was a part of the penitentiary system, specializing in only the punishment of youth. Dorothea Dix was an important person to this reform. Dix traveled all over the nation touring asylums and prisons. Her journals helped spread the idea that these children should not be placed in prisons. Dorothea Dix also proved that crazy people were actually mentally ill, and did not simply choose to be crazy. Her work led to 15 new hospitals and improved conditions in current hospitals of the time. While she did not seek to expand democratic ideals, she did improve the conditions in asylums, which is an indirect increase in the rights of the mentally ill.

Although most reformations did seek to expand democratic ideals, there were a few that did not. Nativism, for example, was also an important reform movement of this time period. Nativism was the belief that only white American citizens should be allowed suffrage and other rights, excluding new emigrants (Doc D). People believed this because they did not want foreign immigrants competing with them for jobs. The Naturalization Law made it impossible for any foreigner who comes into the country to ever be able to vote. This movement obviously did not seek to expand democratic ideals. Another example of non-democratic ideals is utopias. A utopia is a perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects. In Document F, the writer describes a perfect nation, where justice is applied, children are secure, industry is successful, and everyone provides physical support for each other. This represents a socialist type of government, not democratic.
In conclusion, during the period from 1825-1850, the majority of the reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals. However, some did so indirectly and unintentionally, while a few proved to be non-democratic.

While America was undergoing an "era of good feeling" there were many problems lying under the surface. These social ills were attacked many social reformers. This reform movement was led by people who believed that America could do anything if she put her mind to it. One writer called America, "The Israel of our time."

Major reform movements existed in the following areas:

A. Women's Rights:

1. This movement led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a women's rights conference at the Seneca Fall Convention. At the convention they wrote a Declaration of Women's Rights.

B. Temperance

1. The temperance movement was an attempt to eliminate the evils of alcohol. Mostly the same women involved in the women's rights movement . Led by the American Christian Temperance Union they sought to save the American family by trying to get alcohol declared illegal.

2. They were successful in getting some states to adopt state constitutional amendments banning alcohol.

3. This movement continued until the passage of the 18th amendment in 1920.

C. Education

1. Led by Horace Mann, the great educational reformer, a movement was led to create mandatory public education in America. It was eventually successful.

D. Treatment of the insane

1. Reformers led by Dorothea Dix led the way to more modern treatment of the mentally ill.

2. The first mental hospital was built in the state of Massachustetts as a result of her efforts.

Few areas escaped the notice of reformers in the 1830's and 1840's. Here are some examples of their writings. For each selection note their goals, methods used to convince their leaders, your opinion of their effectiveness and a judgment as to what extent their goals have been reached today.

1. Dorothea Dix was an extremely influential reformer of the period. Her work led to prison reform and improved treatment of the insane. In 1843 Dix sent the following report to the Massachusetts legislature:

If I inflict pain upon you, and move you to horror, it is to acquaint you with the sufferings which you have the power to alleviate (cure), and to make you hasten to the relief of the victims of legalized barbarity.

Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medford. One idiotic subject chained, and one in a closed stall for seventeen years. Pepperell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another violent; several peaceable now. Brookfield. One man caged, comfortable. Granville. One often closely confined; now losing the use of his limbs from lack of exercise. Charlemont. One man caged. Savoy. One man caged. Lenox. Two in the jail, against whose unfit condition there the jailer protests.

Dedham. The insane disadvantageously placed in jail. In the (charity ward), two females in stalls, situated in the main building; lie in wooden bunks filled with straw; always shut up. One of these subjects is supposed curable. The overseers of the poor have declined giving her a trial at the hospital, as I was informed, on account of expense.

2. Some who worked for equal rights for blacks also fought to win equality for women. Denied admission to the World Antislavery Convention in London in 1840, abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the nations first women's rights convention. The convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It issued the following "Declaration of Women's Rights":

We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. . . Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government. . .

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward women, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this let the following facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise (the vote).

He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she has had no voice. . .

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. . .

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. . .

He has endeavored, ion every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject (submissive) life.

3. Alcoholism was a serious problem in the United States, particularly in an era when women had no right to control their own earnings and an entire family could starve because of a drunken father. Organizations like the American Temperance Union and the American Christian Temperance Union worked to eliminate excessive drinking (and eventually to pass a prohibition amendment). Songs like the following were sung in parades, at meetings, and during rallies:

Father, dear father, come home with me now!

The clock in the steeple strikes one.-

You said you were coming home from the shop,

As soon as your day's work was done.-

Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,

And mother's been watching since tea,

With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms,

And no one to help her but me.-

Come home father, come home, come home!-

Please ,- father, dear father, come home!

4. Horace Mann was an educational reformer. He helped improve schools, curricula, and instructional methods throughout the Northeast. As secretary to the Massachusetts Board of Education, he argued for reforms in reports submitted to the state legislature. The following is his twelfth and last report (1848):

According to European theory, men are divided into classes, some to toil and earn, others to seize and enjoy. . . Our ambition as a state should trace itself to a different origin and propose to itself a different object. . .

Education. . . beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery. . . I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. . .

. . . To all doubters, disbelievers, or despairers in human progress, it may still be said there is one experiment which has never yet been tried. It is an experiment, which, even before its beginning, offers the highest authority for its ultimate success. . . It is expressed in these few and simple words: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old he will not depart from it."

But this experiment has never been tried. Education has never been brought to bear with one-hundredth part of its potentialforce upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race.

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