CCD   HISTORY 201 - History of United States 1

US History

  Ch 11 America's First Age of Reform

 Lecture Notes

Orientation In the Beginning  

Ch 1  The Peopling and Unpeopling of America

Ch 2  Plantations and Cities Upon a Hill, 1620–1700

Ch 3  Provincial America in Upheaval, 1660–1760

Ch 4  Breaking the Bonds of Empire 1760–1775

Ch 5  The Times That Tried Many Souls, 1775–1783

Ch 6  Securing the Republic and Its Ideals, 1776–1789

Ch 7  The Formative Decade, 1790–1800

Ch 8  The Jeffersonians in Power, 1800–1815

Ch 9  Nationalism, Economic Growth,  Sectional Conflict

Ch 10 Power and Politics in Jackson's America

Ch 11 America's First Age of Reform

Ch 12 The Divided North, the Divided South

Ch 13 Cultures Collide in the Far West

Ch 14 The House Divided

Ch 15 A Nation Shattered by Civil War, 1860–1865

Ch 16 The Nation Reconstructed

Chapter 11 America's First Age of Reform

Objective: clarify your understanding of: 

A) conditions of society and private life that existed in antebellum America, 

B) the origins of social consciousness in American life and thought, 

C) the nature and objectives of the reform spirit that emerged during the era, and

D) the immediate and long-term effects of reform on American society and private life.

"Ar'nt I a Woman?"

On which issues did Sojourner Truth speak out?

1. Why did the slave Isabell change her name?

The slave "Isabella," born into slavery around 1797 in New York State  took on the name Sojourner Truth, convinced that God had called on her to wander the country and boldly speak out the truth. Her fame as a preacher, singer, and orator for abolition and women's rights spread quickly and three incidents became the stuff of legend. During the late 1840s, when the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass expressed doubt about the possibility of ending slavery peacefully, she replied forcefully: "Frederick, is God dead?" Several years later, in a speech before a woman's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851, she demanded that Americans recognize that impoverished African American women were women too, reportedly saying: "I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash as well! And a'n't I a woman?"

2. When did the American reform tradition begin?

the first decades of the nineteenth century up until the Civil War


Sources of the Reform Impulse

What factors gave rise to the reform impulse and why was it unleashed with such vigor in pre-Civil War America?

3. Why did reformers want to change American society?

Reformers had many different reasons for wanting to change American society. Some hoped to remedy the distresses created by social disorder, violence, and widening class divisions. Others found motivation in a religious vision of a godly society on earth.

Social Problems on the Rise

During the early nineteenth century, poverty, lawlessness, violence, and vice appeared to be increasing at an alarming rate. Give examples

4. What crimes were on the rise in the early 19th century?

  • In New York, the nation's largest city, crime rose far faster than in the overall population. Between 1814 and 1834, the city's population doubled, but reports of crime quadrupled. Gangs, bearing such names as Plug Uglies and Bowery B'hoys, prowled the streets, stealing from warehouses and private residences. Public drunkenness was a common sight. By 1835, there were nearly 3000 drinking places in New York—one for every 50 persons over the age of 15. Prostitution also generated concern. By 1850, a reported 6000 "fallen women" strolled the city streets. Mob violence evoked particular fear. In a single decade, 1834-1844, 200 incidents of mob violence occurred in New York. Adding to the sense of alarm were scenes of heart-wrenching poverty, such as children standing barefoot outside hotels, selling matches.

    Social problems were not confined to large cities like New York. During the decades before the Civil War, newspapers reported hundreds of incidences of duels, lynchings, and mob violence. In the slave states and southwestern territories men frequently resolved quarrels by dueling. In one 1818 duel between two cousins, the combatants faced off with shotguns at four paces! Lynchings too were widely reported. In 1835, the citizens of Vicksburg, Mississippi, attempted to rid the city of gambling and prostitution by raiding gaming houses and brothels and lynching five gamblers. In urban areas, mob violence increased in frequency and destructiveness. Between 1810 and 1819 there were 7 major riots; in the 1830s there were 115.

    A nation in which the vice president had to carry a gun while presiding over the Senate—lest senators attack each other with knives or pistols—seemed to confirm criticism by Europeans that democracy inevitably led to anarchy. Incidents of crime and violence led many Americans to ask how a free society could maintain stability and moral order.


    A New Moral Sensibility

    What was the Enlightenment?

    A broadly influential philosophical and intellectual movement that began in Europe during the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment unleashed a tidal wave of new learning, especially in the sciences and mathematics, that helped promote the notion that human beings, through the use of their reason, could solve society's problems. The Enlightenment era, as such, has also been called the "Age of Reason." Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were leading proponents of Enlightenment thinking in America.

    5. What trends in religious thought strengthened reformers zeal?

    Religion further strengthened the reform impulse. Almost all the leading reformers were devoutly religious men and women who wanted to deepen the nation's commitment to Christian principles. Two trends in religious thought—religious liberalism and evangelical revivalism—strengthened reformers' zeal. 

    What was Religious Liberalism. Define it.

    Religious liberalism was an emerging form of humanitarianism that rejected the harsh Calvinist doctrines of original sin and predestination. Its preachers stressed the basic goodness of human nature and each individual's capacity to follow the example of Christ.

    William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was America's leading exponent of religious liberalism, and his beliefs, proclaimed in a sermon he delivered in Baltimore in 1819, became the basis for American Unitarianism. The new religious denomination stressed individual freedom of belief, a united world under a single God, and the mortal nature of Jesus Christ, whom individuals should strive to emulate. Channing's beliefs stimulated many reformers to work toward improving the conditions of the physically handicapped, the criminal, the impoverished, and the enslaved.

    7. Where was the gouging capital of America?

    Gouging centered in the region of rivers and largely untamed backcountry south of the Ohio River.

    What ethical values were held in high esteem by participants in gouging matches?

    The goal of a gouging match was the disfigurement of one's opponent. This could be accomplished in any number of ways, but the most popular was eye gouging. Fighters manicured their fingernails hard and sharp so that they could use them as a fulcrum to pry out their adversary's eye.

    Who would engage in such activities? And why? Were the contests considered sports or manifestations of blood feuds? And what of the spectators and the law—did they enjoy and allow and condone such barbarities? Finally, what do the contests tell us about the society in which they flourished?

    Gouging centered in the region of rivers and largely untamed backcountry south of the Ohio River. It was a land of dangers and violence and early deaths. Organized groups of Native Americans threatened settlers. Wild animals roamed the heavily wooded forests. Outlaws practiced their professions almost unchecked by the law. High infant mortality rates, short life expectancies, dangerous occupations, and random violence stood as grim reminders that life in this region of nature was, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes once noted, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

    The men who disfigured each other in gouging matches had been hardened by their environment and their occupations. Many worked on the rivers as roustabouts, rivermen, or gamblers. Others were hunters, herders, or subsistence farmers. No plantations dotted their world; no landed aristocrats dominated them. As a leading historian of the subject commented, "the upland folk lived in an intensely local, kin-based society. Rural hamlets, impassable roads, and provincial isolations—not growing towns, internal improvements, or international commerce—characterized the backcountry."

    The work these men performed was physically demanding and dangerous. Working on a Mississippi barge or trapping game in the backcountry exposed men to all the forces of nature and did not foster a gentle view of life. Death and pain were everywhere to be seen. Mark Twain remembered such men from his boyhood experiences in a raw river town: "Rude, uneducated, brave, suffering terrific hardships with sailorlike stoicism; heavy drinkers, coarse frolickers. . . , heavy fighters, reckless fellows, every one, elephantinely jolly, foul witted, profane, prodigal of their money, bankrupt at the end of the trip, fond of barbaric finery, prodigious braggarts." They were not Jacksonian men on the make or respectable churchgoers. Rather they were men who worked hard, played hard, and drank hard.

    Since they spent most of their lives in the company of other men, much of their sense of self-worth came from how their companions viewed them. They did not use money or piety as yardsticks for measuring the worth of a man. Bravery, strength, conviviality, and a jealous sense of personal honor determined the cut of a man. The ability to drink, boast, and fight with equal ability marked a backcountry Renaissance man.

    Gouging matches provide an important clue to the values of the southern backcountry. How men fought—just as how they worked or played—indicates much about their lives. The men who gouged led strenuous, often violent lives. They were not the sort of men to turn pale at the sight of blood or even at the sight of an eyeless eye socket. They admired toughness, fearlessness, and even meanness—not piety, gentleness, and sensitivity.

    During an earlier time, it was considered an unmanly sign of fear for a person to carry a weapon. But more refined sensibilities reversed this notion. By the mid-nineteenth century weapon carrying had become an indication of manliness.

    The Second Great Awakening

    Describe the second great awakening and the evangelical revivals.

    6. What happened at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in August 1801?

    Enthusiastic religious revivals swept the nation in the early nineteenth century, providing further religious motivation for the reform impulse. On August 6, 1801, some 25,000 men, women, and children gathered in the small frontier community of Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in search of religious salvation. Twenty-five thousand was a fantastically large number of people at a time when the population of the whole state of Kentucky was a quarter million, and the state's largest city, Lexington, had only 1795 residents. The Cane Ridge camp meeting went on for a week. Baptists, Methodists, and ministers of other denominations joined together to preach to the vast throng. Within three years, similar revivals occurred throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. This great wave of religious fervor became known as the Second Great Awakening.

    The revivals inspired a widespread sense that the nation was standing close to the millennium, a thousand years of peace and benevolence when sin, war, and tyranny would vanish from the earth. Evangelical leaders urged their followers to reject selfishness and materialism and repent their sins. To the revivalists, sin was no metaphysical abstraction. Luxury, high living, indifference to religion, preoccupation with worldly and commercial matters—all were denounced as sinful. If men and women did not seek God through Christ, the nation would face divine retribution. Evangelical revivals helped instill in Americans a belief that they had been chosen by God to lead the world toward "a millennium of republicanism."

    8. Where did revivals have their greatest appeal?

    Who was most strongly attracted to revivals?

    Revival meetings attracted both frontier settlers and city folk, slaves and masters, farmers and shopkeepers. The revivals had their greatest appeal among isolated farming families on the western and southern frontier and among upwardly mobile merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, skilled laborers in the expanding commercial and industrial towns of the North. They also drew support from social conservatives who feared that America would disintegrate into a state of anarchy without the influence of evangelical religion. Above all, revivals attracted large numbers of young women, who took an active role organizing meetings, establishing church societies, and editing religious publications.

    Religious Diversity

    What is Deism?

    During the late eighteenth century, church membership was low and falling. Deism—a movement that emphasized reason rather than revelation and denied that a divine creator interfered with the workings of the universe—and skepticism seemed to be spreading. A French immigrant claimed that "religious indifference is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of the continent to the other."

    What was partially responsible for triggering the religious revivals?

    9. What was instrumental in making the United States the most religious country in the world?

    Religious revivals played a critical role in this outpouring of religion. In part, revivalism represented a response to the growing separation of church and state that followed the American Revolution. When states deprived established churches of state support (as did Virginia in 1785, Connecticut in 1818, and Massachusetts in 1833), Protestant ministers held revivals to ensure that America would remain a God-fearing nation. The popularity of revivals also reflected the hunger of many Americans for an emotional religion that downplayed creeds and rituals and instead emphasized conversion.

    What was the largest and fastest growing Christian denomination during the pre-Civil War era?

    10. What was the nations largest denomination in 1860?

    From just 25,000 members and 6 priests in 1776, the Catholic church in America grew to 3 million members in 1860. With English, French, German, Irish, and Mexican members, it was not only the nation's largest denomination it was also the most ethnically diverse.

    What led to the formation of African American churches?

    Prejudice and discrimination led African Americans to create their own churches. The first were established in Philadelphia, after the city's black Methodists were ordered to sit in a segregated gallery. Between 1804 and 1815, African Americans formed their own Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in eastern cities. In 1816, the African Methodist Episcopal church, the first autonomous black denomination, was founded.

    11. Why was there less prejudice against American Jews than European Jews?

    Jews faced less discrimination and hostility than Catholics, in part because the Jewish community was scattered and in part because most Jews shed the distinctive dress, long sideburns, and other customs that set European Jews apart.


    Moral Reform

    What were the Magdalene societies?

    12. What reforms were undertaken by the Magdalene societies?

    One of the most dramatic attempts at moral reform involved Magdalene societies, which sought in the 1830s and 1840s to rehabilitate prostitutes and discourage male solicitation. The New York Moral Reform Society had 15,000 members in 1837 and had branches in New England and upstate New York. Members walked into brothels and prayed for the prostitutes, publicized in the newspapers the names of men who patronized prostitutes, visited prostitutes in jails, and lobbied for state laws that would make male solicitation of prostitutes a crime.

    13. What was the most extensive moral reform campaign?

    Describe the moral campaign against drinking.

    The most extensive moral reform campaign, however, was that against drinking, which was an integral part of American life. Many people believed that downing a glass of whiskey before breakfast was conducive to good health. Instead of taking coffee breaks, people took a dram of liquor at 11 and again at 4 o'clock as well as drinks after meals "to aid digestion" and a nightcap before going to sleep. Campaigning politicians offered voters generous amounts of liquor during campaigns and as rewards for "right voting" on election day. On the frontier, one evangelist noted, "a house could not be raised, a field of wheat cut down, nor could there be a log rolling, a husking, a quilting, a wedding, or a funeral without the aid of alcohol."

    Easily affordable to even the poorest Americans—a gallon of whiskey cost 25 cents in the 1820s—consumption had risen markedly since the beginning of the century. The supply of alcohol increased as farmers distilled growing amounts of corn into cheap whiskey, which could be transported more easily than bulk corn. By 1820 the typical adult American consumed more than 7 gallons of absolute alcohol a year (compared to 2.6 gallons today).

    Reformers sought to alter the cultural norms that encouraged alcohol consumption by identifying liquor as the cause of a wide range of social, family, and personal problems. Many middle-class women blamed alcohol for the abuse of wives and children and the squandering of family resources. Many businesspeople identified drinking with crime, poverty, and inefficient and unproductive employees.

    The stage was set for the appearance of an organized movement against liquor. In 1826 the nation's first formal national temperance organization—the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance—was born. Led by socially prominent clergy and laypeople, the new organization called for total abstinence from distilled liquor. Within 3 years, 222 state and local antiliquor groups were laboring to spread this message.

    By 1835 an estimated 2 million Americans had taken the "pledge" to abstain from hard liquor. Temperance reform drew support from many southerners and westerners who were otherwise indifferent or hostile to reform. Their efforts helped reduce annual per capita consumption of alcohol from 7 gallons in 1830 to 3 gallons a decade later, forcing 4000 distilleries to close.

    14. Whose arrival heightened the concerns of temperance reformers?

    The sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from "heavy drinking" cultures heightened the concerns of temperance reformers. Between 1830 and 1860, nearly 2 million Irish arrived in the United States along with an additional 893,000 Germans. In Ireland, land was in such short supply that many young men were unable to support a family by farming. The only solution was to delay marriage and socialize with other young men in "bachelor groups," a ritual that often involved heavy drinking. These immigrants probably drank no more than most native-born Americans before the 1830s, but increasingly heavy drinking was regarded as a problem demanding government action.

    15. What two new approaches to temperance took place in the 1840s?

    Two new approaches to the temperance movement arose during the 1840s. The first was the Washingtonian movement in which reformed alcoholics sought to reform other drinkers. As many as 600,000 drinkers took the Washingtonian pledge of total abstinence. The second approach was a campaign to restrict the manufacture and sale of alcohol, culminating in adoption of the nation's first statewide prohibition law in Maine in 1851, which led to prohibition laws often being referred to as "Maine laws." Convinced that moral suasion was ineffective, a minister argued strongly in behalf of prohibition laws: "You might almost as well persuade the chained maniac to leave off howling, as to persuade him to leave off drinking."

    Social Reform

    Toward what was social reform directed?

    The nation's first reformers tried to improve the nation's moral and spiritual values by distributing Bibles and religious tracts, promoting observance of the Sabbath, and curbing drinking. Beginning in the 1820s a new phase of reform—social reform—spread across the country, directed at crime, illiteracy, poverty, and disease. Reformers sought to solve these social problems by creating new institutions to deal with them—including prisons, public schools, and asylums for the deaf, the blind, and the mentally ill.

    The Problem of Crime in a Free Society

    16. How did reformers come to view crime?

    Compare the attitude toward crime in pre Revolution America with that of the reform period of pre Civil War America.

    Before the American Revolution, punishment for crimes generally involved some form of corporal punishment, ranging from the death penalty for serious crimes to public whipping, confinement in stocks, and branding for lesser offenses. Jails were used as temporary confinement for criminal defendants awaiting trial or punishment. Conditions in these early jails were abominable. Cramped cells held large groups of offenders of both sexes and all ages; debtors were confined with hardened criminals. Prisoners customarily had to pay the expenses of food and lodging.

    During the pre-Civil War decades reformers began to view crime as a social problem—a product of environment and parental neglect—rather than the result of original sin or innate human depravity. Reformers believed it was the duty of a humane society to remove the underlying causes of crime, to sympathize and show patience toward criminals and to try to reform them, instead of whipping or confining them in stocks.

    17. What principal is the basis of the insanity defense?

    The legal principle that a criminal act should be legally punished only if the offender was fully capable of distinguishing between right and wrong

    The question arose dramatically in 1835 when a deranged Englishman named Richard Lawrence walked up to President Andrew Jackson and fired 2 pistols at him from a distance of 6 feet. Incredibly, both guns misfired, and Jackson was unhurt. Lawrence believed that Jackson's attack on the second Bank of the United States had prevented him from obtaining money that would have enabled him to claim the English throne. The court, ruling that Lawrence was clearly suffering from a mental delusion, found him insane and not subject to criminal prosecution; instead, he was confined to an asylum for treatment of his mental condition.

    18. What was the first state to outlaw the death penalty?

    In 1847 Michigan became the first modern jurisdiction to outlaw the death penalty

    19. How did reformers view the practice of imprisonment for debt?

    Imprisonment for debt also came under attack. As late as 1816, an average of 600 residents of New York City were in prison at any one time for failure to pay debts. More than half owed less than $50. New York's debtor prisons provided no food, furniture, or fuel for their inmates, who would have starved without the assistance of relatives or the charity of humane societies. In a Vermont case, state courts imprisoned a man for a debt of just 54 cents, and in Boston a woman was taken from her three children as a result of a $3 debt.

    Increasingly, reformers regarded imprisonment for debt as irrational, since imprisoned debtors were unable to work and pay off their debts. Piecemeal reform led to the abolition of debtor prisons, as states eliminated the practice of jailing people for trifling debts, and then forbade the jailing of women and veterans.

    The Struggle for Public Schools

    20. What was the most original idea of the antebellum reformers?

    Of all the ideas advanced by antebellum reformers, none was more original than the principle that all American children should be educated to their full capacity at public expense. Reformers viewed education as the key to individual opportunity and the creation of an enlightened and responsible citizenry. Reformers also believed that public schooling could be an effective weapon in the fight against juvenile crime and an essential ingredient in the education and assimilation of immigrants.

    21. Who first established tax-supported tuition-free public schools?

    During the seventeenth century, the New England Puritans required every town to establish a public school supported by fees from all but the very poorest families

    22. Who led the fight for government support for public schools?

    Horace Mann

    23. What controversy did Prudence Crandall provoke?

    Describe the reaction to Quaker school- teacher Prudence Crandall's attempts to teach free black children in her school in Canterbury, Connecticut, in 1832. 

    In 1832, Prudence Crandall, a Quaker school- teacher in Canterbury, Connecticut, sparked a major controversy by admitting Sarah Harris, the daughter of a free black farmer, into her school. After white parents withdrew their children from the school, the young schoolteacher tried to turn her school into an institution for the education of free blacks. Hostile neighbors broke the school's windows, contaminated its well with manure, and denied its students seats on stagecoaches and in pews in church. In 1833, after the state adopted a law making it a crime to teach black students who were not residents of Connecticut, state authorities arrested Crandall. She was tried twice, convicted, and jailed. After her release, a local mob attacked Crandall's school building with crowbars and attempted to burn the structure. It never opened again.

    Describe the discrimination in education against women and religious minorities in pre Civil War America.

    Women and religious minorities also experienced discrimination. For women, education beyond the level of handicrafts and basic reading and writing was largely confined to separate female academies and seminaries for the affluent. Emma Hart Willard opened one of the first academies offering an advanced education to women in Philadelphia in 1814. Many public school teachers showed an anti-Catholic bias by using texts that portrayed the Catholic church as a threat to republican values and reading passages from a Protestant version of the Bible. Beginning in New York City in 1840, Catholics decided to establish their own system of schools in which children would receive a religious education as well as training in the arts and sciences.

    24. What was the nation’s first co-ed college?

    In higher education a few institutions opened their doors to African Americans and women. In 1833 Oberlin College, where Charles G. Finney taught, became the nation's first co-educational college. 

    25. What was unique about Mount Holyoke College?

    Four years later, Mary Lyon established the first women's college, Mount Holyoke, to train teachers and missionaries. A number of western state universities also admitted women. 

    In addition, three colleges for African Americans were founded before the Civil War, and a few other colleges, including Oberlin, Harvard, Bowdoin, and Dartmouth, admitted small numbers of black students.

    Asylums for Society's Outcasts

    26. What was Dorthea Dix noted for?

    On whose behalf did Dorothea Dix campaign in the 1840s?

    A number of reformers devoted their attention to the problems of the mentally ill, the deaf, and the blind. In 1841, Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), a 39-year-old former schoolteacher, volunteered to give religious instruction to women incarcerated in the East Cambridge, Massachusetts, House of Correction. Inside the House of Correction, she was horrified to find mentally ill inmates dressed in rags and confined to a single dreary, unheated room. Shocked by what she saw, she embarked on a lifelong crusade to reform the treatment of the mentally ill.

    After a two-year secret investigation of every jail and almshouse in Massachusetts, Dix issued a report to the state legislature. The mentally ill, she found, were mixed indiscriminately with paupers and hardened criminals. Many were confined "in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods and lashed into obedience." Dix then carried her campaign for state-supported asylums nationwide, persuading more than a dozen state legislatures to improve institutional care for the insane.

    Radical Reform

    What were three major thrusts of the reform movement?

    The initial thrust of reform—moral reform—was to rescue the nation from infidelity and intemperance. A second line of reform, social or humanitarian reform, attempted to alleviate such sources of human misery as crime, cruelty, disease, and ignorance. Additionally, a third line of reform, radical reform, sought national regeneration by eliminating slavery and racial and sexual discrimination.

    Early Antislavery Efforts

    27. When was the African slave trade outlawed?

    Both the United States and Britain in 1808 outlawed the African slave trade.

    28. What led to the formation of the American colonization Society?

    A widespread belief that blacks and whites could not coexist and that racial separation was necessary encouraged futile efforts at deportation and overseas colonization. In 1817 a group of prominent ministers and politicians formed the American Colonization Society to resettle free blacks in West Africa, encourage planters voluntarily to emancipate their slaves, and create a group of black missionaries who would spread Christianity in Africa. During the 1820s, Congress helped fund the cost of transporting free blacks to Africa.

    A few blacks supported African colonization in the belief that it provided the only alternative to continued degradation and discrimination. Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), a Quaker sea captain who was the son of a former slave and an Indian woman, led the first experiment in colonization. In 1815 he transported 38 free blacks to the British colony of Sierra Leone, on the western coast of Africa, and devoted thousands of his own dollars to the cause of colonization. In 1822 the American Colonization Society established the colony of Liberia, in west Africa, for resettlement of free American blacks.

    It soon became apparent that colonization was a wholly impractical solution to the nation's slavery problem. Each year the nation's slave population rose by roughly 50,000, but in 1830 the American Colonization Society succeeded in persuading only 259 free blacks to migrate to Liberia, bringing the total number of blacks colonized in Africa to a mere 1400.

    The Rise of Abolitionist Sentiment in the North

    Initially, free blacks led the movement condemning colonization and northern discrimination against African Americans. As early as 1817, more than 3000 members of Philadelphia's black community staged a protest against colonization, at which they denounced the policy as "little more merciful than death." In 1829 David Walker (1785-1830), the free black owner of a second-hand clothing store in Boston, issued the militant Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. The appeal threatened insurrection and violence if calls for the abolition of slavery and improved conditions for free blacks were ignored. The next year, some 40 black delegates from 8 states held the first of a series of annual conventions denouncing slavery and calling for an end to discriminatory laws in the northern states.

    Abolitionist Arguments and Public Reaction

    29. What individual provided impetus for the abolitionist movement circa 1830?

    The idea of abolition received impetus from William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879). In 1829 the 25-year-old white Bostonian added his voice to the outcry against colonization, denouncing it as a cruel hoax designed to promote the racial purity of the northern population while doing nothing to end slavery in the South. Instead, he called for "immediate emancipation." By immediate emancipation, he meant the immediate and unconditional release of slaves from bondage without compensation to slaveowners.

    30. What was The Liberator?

    In 1831, Garrison founded The Liberator, a militant abolitionist newspaper that was the country's first publication to demand an immediate end to slavery. On the front page of the first issue, he defiantly declared: "I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD." Incensed by Garrison's proclamation, the state of Georgia offered a $5000 reward to anyone who brought him to the state for trial.

    31. On what grounds did abolitionists attack slavery?

    Within 4 years, 200 antislavery societies had appeared in the North. In a massive propaganda campaign to proclaim the sinfulness of slavery, they distributed a million pieces of abolitionist literature and sent 20,000 tracts directly to the South.

    Abolitionists attacked slavery on several grounds. Slavery was illegal because it violated the principles of natural rights to life and liberty embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Justice, said Garrison, required that the nation "secure to the colored population . . . all the rights and privileges that belong to them as men and as Americans." Slavery was sinful because slaveholders, in the words of abolitionist Theodore Weld, had usurped "the prerogative of God." Masters reduced a "God-like being" to a manipulable "THING." Slavery also encouraged sexual immorality and undermined the institutions of marriage and the family. Not only did slave masters sexually abuse and exploit slave women, abolitionists charged, but in some older southern states, such as Virginia and Maryland, they bred slaves for sale to the more recently settled parts of the Deep South.

    Slavery was economically retrogressive, abolitionists argued, because slaves, motivated only by fear, did not exert themselves willingly. By depriving their labor force of any incentive for performing careful and diligent work, by barring slaves from acquiring and developing productive skills, planters hindered improvements in crop and soil management. Abolitionists also charged that slavery impeded the development of towns, canals, railroads, and schools.

    32. What was the House of Representatives reaction to the abolition sentiments in the 1830s and 1840s

    Antislavery agitation provoked a harsh public reaction in both the North and the South. The U.S. postmaster general refused to deliver antislavery tracts to the South. In each session of Congress between 1836 and 1844 the House of Representatives adopted gag rules allowing that body automatically to table resolutions or petitions concerning the abolition of slavery.

    33. Who was the first martyr for the cause of abolition?

    In 1837, the abolitionist movement acquired its first martyr when an anti-abolitionist mob in Alton, Illinois, murdered Reverend Elijah Lovejoy, editor of a militant abolitionist newspaper. Three times mobs destroyed Lovejoy's printing presses and attacked his house. When a fourth press arrived, Lovejoy armed himself and guarded the new press at the warehouse. The anti-abolitionist mob set fire to the warehouse, shot Lovejoy as he fled the building, and dragged his mutilated body through the town.

    Division Within the Antislavery Movement

    34. What was the Free Soil Party?

    In 1848 antislavery Democrats and Whigs merged with the Liberty party to form the Free Soil party. Unlike the Liberty party, which was dedicated to the abolition of slavery and equal rights for African Americans, the Free Soil party narrowed its demands to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the exclusion of slavery from the federal territories. The Free Soilers also wanted a homestead law to provide free land for western settlers, high tariffs to protect American industry, and federally sponsored internal improvements. Campaigning under the slogan "free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men," the new party polled 300,000 votes (or 10 percent) in the presidential election of 1848 and helped elect Whig candidate Zachary Taylor.

    35. What was the Underground Railroad?

    Northern blacks also had a pivotal role in the "underground railroad," which provided escape routes for southern slaves through the northern states and into Canada. African-American churches offered sanctuary to runaways

    36. How did people like Harriet Tubman advance the cause of abolition?

    Harriet Tubman, advanced abolitionism by publicizing the horrors of slavery. Their firsthand tales of whippings and separation from spouses and children combated the notion that slaves were contented under slavery and undermined belief in racial inferiority. Tubman risked her life by making 19 trips into slave territory to free as many as 300 slaves. Slaveholders posted a reward of $40,000 for the capture of the "Black Moses."

    37. Who was the most famous black abolitionist?

    Frederick Douglass was the most famous fugitive slave and black abolitionist. The son of a Maryland slave woman and an unknown white father, Douglass was separated from his mother and sent to work on a plantation when he was 6 years old. At the age of 20, in 1838, he escaped to the North using the papers of a free black sailor. In the North, Douglass became the first runaway slave to speak out against slavery. When many Northerners refused to believe that this eloquent orator could possibly have been a slave, he responded by writing an autobiography that identified his previous owners by name. Although he initially allied himself with William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass later started his own newspaper, The North Star, and supported political action against slavery.

    38. How did fragmentation of the anti-slavery movement work to its advantage?

    Over the long run, the fragmentation of the antislavery movement worked to the advantage of the cause. Henceforth, Northerners could support whichever form of antislavery best reflected their views. Moderates could vote for political candidates with abolitionist sentiments without being accused of radical Garrisonian views or of advocating violence for redress of grievances.


    The Birth of Feminism

    The women's rights movement was a major legacy of radical reform. At the outset of the century, women could not vote or hold office in any state, they had no access to higher education, and they were excluded from professional occupations. American law accepted the principle that a wife had no legal identity apart from her husband. She could not be sued, nor could she bring a legal suit; she could not make a contract, nor could she own property. She was not permitted to control her own wages or gain custody of her children in case of separation or divorce. Under many circumstances she was even deemed incapable of committing crimes.

    Broad social and economic changes, such as the development of a market economy and a decline in the birthrate, opened employment opportunities for women. Instead of bearing children at two-year intervals after marriage, as was the general case throughout the colonial era, during the early nineteenth century women bore fewer children and ceased childbearing at younger ages. During these decades the first women's college was established, and some men's colleges first opened their doors to women students. More women were postponing marriage or not marrying at all; unmarried women gained new employment opportunities as "mill girls" and elementary school teachers; and a growing number of women achieved prominence as novelists, editors, teachers, and leaders of church and philanthropic societies.

    Although there were many improvements in the status of women during the first half of the century, women still lacked political and economic status when compared with men. As the franchise was extended to larger and larger numbers of white males, including large groups of recent immigrants, the gap in political power between women and men widened. Even though women made up a core of supporters for many reform movements, men excluded them from positions of decision making and relegated them to separate female auxiliaries. Additionally, women lost economic status as production shifted away from the household to the factory and workshop. During the late eighteenth century, the need for a cash income led women and older children to engage in a variety of household industries, such as weaving and spinning. Increasingly, in the nineteenth century, these tasks were performed in factories and mills, where the workforce was largely male.

    The fact that changes in the economy tended to confine women to a sphere separate from men had important implications for reform. Since women were believed to be uncontaminated by the competitive struggle for wealth and power, many argued that they had a duty—and the capacity—to exert an uplifting moral influence on American society.

    39. Name several women who began to forge new opportunities for women.

    Catharine Beecher (1800-1878) and Sarah J. Hale (1788-1879) helped lead the effort to expand women's roles through moral influence.  Frances Wright (1795-1852), a Scottish-born reformer and lecturer, received the nickname "The Great Red Harlot of Infidelity" because of her radical ideas about birth control, liberalized divorce laws, and legal rights for married women. In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first American woman to receive a degree in medicine.  Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), a Methodist preacher who ignited religious fervor among thousands of Americans and Canadians.


    Catalyst for Women's Rights

    40. What were the Grimké sisters the first to do?

    A public debate over the proper role of women in the antislavery movement, especially their right to lecture to audiences composed of both sexes, led to the first organized movement for women's rights. By the mid-1830s more than a hundred female antislavery societies had been created, and women abolitionists were circulating petitions, editing abolitionist tracts, and organizing antislavery conventions. A key question was whether women abolitionists would be permitted to lecture to "mixed" audiences of men and women. In 1837 a national women's antislavery convention resolved that women should overcome this taboo: "The time has come for women to move in that sphere which providence has assigned her, and no longer remain satisfied with the circumscribed limits which corrupt custom and a perverted application of Scripture have encircled her."

    Angelina Grimké (1805-1879) and her sister Sarah (1792-1873)—two sisters from a wealthy Charleston, South Carolina, slaveholding family—were the first women to break the restrictions and widen women's sphere through their writings and lectures before mixed audiences. In 1837 Angelina gained national notoriety by lecturing against slavery to audiences that included men as well as women. Shocked by this breach of the separate sexual spheres ordained by God, ministers in Massachusetts called on their fellow clergy to forbid women the right to speak from church pulpits. Sarah Grimké in 1840 responded with a pamphlet entitled Letters on the Condition of Women and the Equality of the Sexes, one of the first modern statements of feminist principles. She denounced the injustice of lower pay and denial of equal educational opportunities for women. Her pamphlet expressed outrage that women were "regarded by men, as pretty toys or as mere instruments of pleasure" and were taught to believe that marriage is "the sine qua non [indispensable element] of human happiness and human existence." Men and women, she concluded, should not be treated differently, since both were endowed with innate natural rights.

    41. Who organized the first women’s rights convention in history?

    Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), who earlier had been denied the right to serve as a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) organized the first women's rights convention in history. Held in July 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, the convention drew up a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, which opened with the phrase "All men and women are created equal." It named 15 specific inequities suffered by women, and after detailing "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of men toward woman," the document concluded that "he has endeavored, in 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 life."

    Among the resolutions adopted by the convention, only one was not ratified unanimously—that women be granted the right to vote.

    Women's Rights: Seneca Falls Declaration and Resolutions (1848)

    At the first convention in history dedicated to equal rights for women, held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, the delegates adopted a "Declaration of Sentiments." Drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and modeled on the Declaration of Independence, it listed a series of injuries that women had suffered at the hands of men and declared that women and men shared the same inalienable rights.

    Declaration of Sentiments

    We hold these truth to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal. . . .

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

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

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

    He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

    Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has opposed her on all sides.

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

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

    He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.

    He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going into a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.

    After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

    He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. . . .

    He has endeavored, in 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 life. 

    Source: Seneca Falls Declaration and Resolutions, 1848, in Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage (Rochester, 1889), 1: 75-80.

    42. What successes could the women’s movement claim by 1860?

    By midcentury women's rights conventions had been held in every northern state. Despite ridicule from the public press—the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegraph denounced women's rights advocates as "Amazons"—female reformers contributed to important, if limited, advances against discrimination. They succeeded in gaining adoption of Married Women's Property Laws in a number of states, granting married women full control over their own income and property. A New York law passed in 1860 gave women joint custody over children and the right to sue and be sued, and in several states women's rights reformers secured adoption of permissive divorce laws. A Connecticut law, for example, granted divorce for any "misconduct" that "permanently destroys the happiness of the petitioner and defeats the purposes of the marriage relationship."


    Utopian Communities

    Between the 1820s and 1840s, individuals who believed in the perfectibility of the social and political order founded hundreds of "utopian communities." These experimental communal societies were called utopian communities because they provided blueprints for an ideal society.

    127bJohn Minter Morgan Hampden in the Nineteenth Century; or, Colloquies on the Errors and Improvement of Society,vol. 2 London: Edward Moxon, 1834 NYPL,

    In 1799, Robert Owen purchased the cotton spinning mills of New Lanark, Scotland, and shortly thereafter began his first experiment in instituting his ideas of social and labor reform. The mills are shown here. 

    Although Owen paid lower wages than most of the surrounding factories, his employees, whose number fluctuated between 1,400 and 1,500, enjoyed low-rent housing, free medical care, low-cost education, reduced prices on food and other household supplies, and free access to social and recreational facilities, gardens, and parks. 

    text1-20a.gif (4872 bytes)Owen’s efforts at social reform also included a steady reduction in the number of working hours (from twelve to ten and a half per day) and his refusal to employ any children under the age of ten. New Lanark’s guest book reveals that the model factory community received almost 20,000 visitors between 1815 and 1825.Click here for Owen's biography


    While Owen’s experiment at New Lanark was a success on many levels, he did not believe it was the ideal community in which to establish his "New Moral World." In 1824, he purchased the community of Harmony, Indiana, and 900 of his followers moved there the following year to start over as New Harmony.


    Nathaniel Currier Shakers Near Lebanon Lithograph, n.d. NYPL

    Dancing, whirling, singing, clapping, marching, and other physically expressive means of worship were central to the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, and such activities led to their being popularly called Shakers. 

    The ecstatic state induced by their dancing encouraged direct communication from the spirits of ancestors, especially Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers, who died in 1784. An eyewitness account by Charles Nordhoff in 1875 described the type of dance shown here: "In their marching and dancing they hold their hands before them, and make a motion as of gathering something to themselves: this is called gathering a blessing. In like manner, when any brother or sister asks for their prayers and sympathy, they, reversing their hands, push towards him that which he asks." The Shakers, a millennial sect who believed that they could set an example of the perfect life, were not entirely closed off from the outside world: they hired laborers to work their fields, they sold their seeds and other products in local towns, and they allowed outsiders to visit and stay in their communities. Here, the woman in the red dress, on the left, is clearly a visitor to the Shaker community.

    43. What led to the demise of the Shakers?

    They are a millennial organization. Viewing sexual intercourse as the basic cause of human sin, the Shakers also adopted strict rules concerning celibacy. They attempted to replenish their membership by admitting volunteers and taking in orphans. Today, the Shakers have all but died out. Fewer than 20 members survived in the 1990s.

    44. What characterized the Fourier societies?

    fourier.gif (18125 bytes)Some 40 utopian communities based their organization on the ideas of the French theorist Charles Fourier, who hoped to eliminate poverty through the establishment of scientifically organized cooperative communities called "phalanxes." Each phalanx was to be set up as a "joint-stock company," in which profits were divided according to the amount of money members had invested, their skill, and their labor. Fourier coined the term feminism, and in the phalanxes, women received equal job opportunities and equal pay, equal participation in decision making, and the right to speak in public assemblies. Although one Fourier community lasted for 18 years, most were unsuccessful. Greeley was founded as a Fourier community

    Charles Fourier had very strange ideas  For a scholarly account try this link

    It was Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, who coined the famous phrase, "Go West young man, go West," but it was his visionary agricultural editor, Nathan C. Meeker, who spearheaded one of the most successful colonization experiments ever attempted in the "Great American Desert."

    Meeker called for ambitious individuals with high moral standards and money to join him in establishing a community based on cooperation, irrigation, agriculture, temperance, religion, and education. The call elicited 3,000 Historic Meeker Home responses and 59 individuals who ultimately formed a joint stock company called Union Colony in December, 1869.

    On October 12th of the following year, Horace Greeley paid his only visit to the town which bore his name. By that time colonists had erected houses on town lots close to the confluence of the South Platte and Cache la Poudre rivers, established a newspaper, built irrigation canals, and designed streets 100 feet wide and lined with trees.

    A reading room opened in 1870 followed by the first school in 1872, a court house in 1883, and a college in 1889. Greeley's concern for the financial well-being of the community led him to require the original settlers to be wealthy enough to allow the community a good start. 


    45. What was the Oneida community?

    Ranger & Austen [View of the Oneida Community] Syracuse, N.Y., [1865?—75?] Stereoscopic view, albumen print NYPL, Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views

    Like many utopian groups, the Perfectionists believed that their social ideals should be reflected and supported by the architecture of their community. When John Noyes and his followers arrived in Oneida from Vermont, they lived in wooden buildings that were included in their land purchase. Initially, the Oneidans hoped to make their living from horticulture, and they built numerous frame buildings and designed orchards and gardens that reflected this pastoral ideal. By 1859, they had abandoned their hope for agricultural self-sufficiency and begun to look to their manufacturing enterprises for income; they had also abandoned their ideas about creating an Eden-like garden and begun to construct a series of brick buildings around a central courtyard. The interiors of the buildings were designed to house a growing population and reflected the dual needs of communal and solitary activities. Private bedrooms were grouped around or near public parlors, and the central building housed a large hall with a stage for community meetings and entertainment. While satellite communities of Perfectionists existed in Wallingford, Connecticut, Newark, New Jersey, Putney and Cambridge, Vermont; and Manlius, New York, Oneida remained the central community.

    This view shows the front lawn of the "Mansion House," the central building of the Oneida community. In the early 1870s, the community was experiencing a peak in population, in part because of stirpicultural (or selective breeding) experiments and in part because of the prosperity that resulted from successful enterprises in the production of steel traps, silk thread, and fruit preserves. This prosperity would continue throughout the decade. By 1881, disagreements over leadership and widespread criticism from the outside world over the practice of Complex Marriage–in which all members were married to each other–led to the dissolution of the community and the formation of a joint stock corporation to manage the businesses. One of their enterprises, the manufacture of silver and stainless steel dinnerware, remains a successful company today.

    Perhaps the most successful—and notorious—experimental colony was John Humphrey Noyes's Oneida Community. A lawyer who was converted in one of Charles Finney's revivals, Noyes believed that the millennium would occur only when people strove to become perfect through an "immediate and total cessation from sin."

    In Putney, Vermont, in 1835 and in Oneida, New York, in 1848, Noyes established perfectionist communities that practiced communal ownership of property and "complex marriage." Complex marriage involved the marriage of each member of the community to every member of the opposite sex. Exclusive emotional or sexual attachments were forbidden, and sexual relations were arranged through an intermediary in order to protect a woman's individuality and give her a choice in the matter. Men were required to practice coitus interruptus (withdrawal) as a method of birth control, unless the group had approved of the couple's conceiving offspring. After the Civil War, the community conducted experiments in eugenics, the selective control of mating to improve the hereditary qualities of children. Other notable features of the community were mutual criticism sessions and communal child rearing. Noyes left the community in 1879 and fled to Canada to escape prosecution for adultery. As late as the early 1990s descendants of the original community could be found working at the Oneida silverworks, which became a corporation after Noyes's departure.


    Artistic and Cultural Ferment

    46. What led James Fenimore Cooper to begin his literary career?

    James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was another successful mythmaker. His works gave us such staples of western fiction as the lone frontiersman, the faithful Indian companion, and the kidnap, chase, and rescue. He also made such words and phrases as "paleface," "on the warpath," and "war paint" part of the American vocabulary.

    Born in Burlington, New Jersey, the son of a land speculator, Cooper grew up in the frontier community of Cooperstown in central New York. At 13, he enrolled at Yale but was expelled for blowing open a classmate's door with a charge of gunpowder and roping a donkey onto a professor's chair. He then went to sea as a common sailor. In 1819, following his return to Cooperstown, Cooper was reading a popular novel of the day aloud to his wife. He tossed the book aside and claimed that he could write a better one. His wife dared him to try, and during the remaining 32 years of his life he wrote 34 books.

    47. Who was Natty Bumppo?

    In his second and third novels, The Spy (1821) and The Pioneers (1823), Cooper created one of the most enduring archetypes in American culture. His hero, the frontiersman Natty Bumppo (also known as Hawkeye, Leatherstocking, and Pathfinder) was an American knight errant at home in the wilderness. He became the prototype not only for future trappers and scouts, but also for countless cowboys, detectives, and superheroes found in popular American fiction and film. Part of Natty Bumppo's appeal was that he gave expression to many of the misgivings early nineteenth-century Americans had about the cost of progress (his last words were "Let me sleep where I have lived—beyond the din of settlements"). An acute social critic, Cooper railed against the destruction of the natural environment, the violence directed at Native Americans, and the rapaciousness and materialism of an expansive American society.

    He was also a remarkably bad writer. see  Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses by Mark Twain

    Here is the full text of

    Cooper, James Fenimore . The Deerslayer; or, The First Warpath . . . Volume 1
    Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

    American Transcendentalism

    48. What was the common outlook of the transcendentalists?

    The transcendentalists were a group of young New Englanders, mostly of Unitarian background, who found liberal religion too formal and rationalistic to meet their spiritual and emotional needs. Logic and reason, they believed, were incapable of explaining the fundamental mysteries of human existence. Where, then, could people find answers to life's fundamental problems? The deepest insights, the transcendentalists believed, were to be found within the human individual, through intuition.

    The transcendentalists shared a common outlook: a belief that each person contains infinite and godlike potentialities; an emphasis on emotion and the senses over reason and intellect; and a glorification of nature as a creative, dynamic force in which people could discover their true selves and commune with the supernatural. Like the romantic artists and poets of Europe, they emphasized the individual, the subjective, the imaginative, the personal, the emotional, and the visionary.


    49. Who was the transcendentalist’s central figure?

    The central figure in transcendentalism was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Trained, like his father, to be a liberal Unitarian minister, Emerson found his parents' faith unsatisfying. Unitarian theology and ritual, he wrote, was "corpse cold"; it was the "thin porridge or cold tea" of genteel Bostonians. Emerson's life was marked by personal tragedy and illness—his father died when he was a boy; his first wife died after less than two years of marriage; his firstborn son died at the age of five; a brother went insane. Consequently, Emerson could never believe that logic and reason offered answers to life's mysteries.

    Appalled by the complacency, provinciality, and materialism of Boston's elite, the 29-year-old Emerson resigned as minister of the prestigious Second Church of Boston in 1832. Convinced that no external answers existed to the fundamental problems of life, he decided to look inward and "spin my thread from my own bowels." In his essays and public lectures, Emerson distilled the essence of the new philosophy: All people contain seeds of divinity, but society, traditionalism, and lifeless religious institutions thwart the fulfillment of these potentialities. In his essay "Nature" (1836), Emerson asserted that God's presence is inherent in both humanity and nature and can best be sensed through intuition rather than through reason. In his essay "Self-Reliance" (1841), he called on his readers to strive for true individuality in the face of intense social pressures for conformity: "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. . . . The virtue in most request is conformity. . . . Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."

    Although Emerson himself was not an active reformer (he once wrote that whenever he saw a reformer, he felt like asking, "What right, Sir, do you have to your one virtue?"), his philosophy inspired many reformers far more radical than he. His stress on the individual, his defense of nonconformity, and his vocal critique of the alienation and social fragmentation that had accompanied the growth of cities and industry led others to try to apply the principles of transcendentalism to their personal lives and to society at large.


    50. What was Henry David Thoreau’s aim in moving to the cabin at Walden Pond?

    Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was one of the transcendentalists who strove to realize Emersonian ideals in his personal life. A pencilmaker, surveyor, and poet, Thoreau, like Emerson, was educated at Harvard. He felt nothing but contempt for social conventions and wore a green coat to chapel because Harvard's rules required black. After college, he taught school and worked at his father's pencil factory, but these jobs brought him no fulfillment.

    In March 1845, the 28-year-old Thoreau, convinced that his life was being frittered away by details, walked into the woods near Concord, Massachusetts, to live alone. He put up a cabin near Walden Pond as an experiment—to see if it was possible for a person to live truly free and uncommitted: "I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." The aim of his experiment was to break free from the distractions and artificialities of life, to shed himself of needless obligations and possessions, and to establish an original relationship with nature. His motto was "simplify, simplify."

    During his 26 months at Walden Pond, he constructed his own cabin, raised his own food ("seven miles of beans"), observed nature, explored his inner self, and kept a 6000-page journal. He served as "self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms," "surveyor of forest-paths," and protector of "wild-stock." He also spent a night in jail, for refusing to pay taxes as a protest against the Mexican-American War. This incident led him to write the classic defense of nonviolent direct action, "Civil Disobedience."


    51. What two communities tried to apply transcendentalism to everyday life?

    Two dramatic attempts to apply the ideas of transcendentalism to everyday life were Brook Farm, a community located near Boston, and Fruitlands, a utopian community near Harvard, Massachusetts. In 1841, George Ripley, like Emerson a former Unitarian clergyman, established Brook Farm in an attempt to substitute transcendentalist ideals of "brotherly cooperation," harmony, and spiritual fulfillment for the "selfish competition," class division, and alienation that increasingly characterized the larger society. "Our ulterior aim is nothing less than Heaven on Earth," declared one community member. Brook Farm's residents, who never numbered more than 200, supported themselves by farming, teaching, and manufacturing clothing. The most famous member of the community was Nathaniel Hawthorne, who based his 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance on his experiences there. The community lasted in its original form just three years.

    In 1843, Bronson Alcott and others attempted to form a "New Eden" at Fruitlands—a community where they could achieve human perfection through high thinking, manual labor, and dress and diet reform. Practices at Fruitlands included communal ownership of property, frequent cold water baths, and a diet based entirely on native grains, fruits, herbs, and roots. Residents wore canvas shoes and linen tunics, so as not to have to kill animals for leather or use slave-grown cotton. Division of labor by gender, however, remained traditional. Responsibility for housekeeping and food preparation fell on Alcott's wife Abba. Asked by a visitor if there were any beasts of burden at Fruitlands, Abba Alcott replied: "There is one woman."


    A Literary Renaissance

    52. Who were some of America’s first literary giants?

    Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman, like Emerson and Thoreau, produced literary works of the highest magnitude, yet in their own time many of their greatest works were greeted with derision, abuse, or indifference. It is a tragic fact that with the sole exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, none of pre-Civil War America's greatest writers was able to earn more than a modest income from his or her book

    53. What was the first “great American novel”?

    Moby Dick 1851

    54. Who was America’s first truly great poet?

    Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    Ethnic Voices

    55. What was one of the earliest forms of Afro-American literature?

    One of the earliest forms of African American literature was the slave narrative, graphic first-person accounts of life in bondage, written by former slaves, including William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglass, and Josiah Henson (he was Harriet Beecher Stowe's model for Uncle Tom). These volumes not only awoke readers to the hardships and cruelties of life under slavery, they also described the ingenious strategies that fugitive slaves used to escape from bondage. William and Ellen Craft, for example, disguised themselves as master and slave; Henry "Box" Brown had himself crated in a box and shipped north.

    56. What were the first four novels by afro-Americans?

    The 1850s saw the publication of the first four novels by African Americans. William Wells Brown's Clotel (1853), written by an abolitionist and escaped slave, offers a fictional reworking of the story that Thomas Jefferson fathered several children by a slave mistress. In The Garies and Their Friends (1857), Frank Webb, a Philadelphia free black, describes the destructive effects of prejudice, discrimination, and racial violence on two families, one lower class and the other, wealthier, with a white husband and a mulatto wife. In Blake (1859), one of the most militant novels produced during the nineteenth century, Martin R. Delany, a physician and a reform activist, tells the story of a black Cuban who repudiates organized religion and seeks to liberate blacks in Cuba and the United States. Harriet Jacobs, a poverty-stricken free black from Massachusetts, blends autobiography and fiction in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1859), which tells the story of an orphan who is indentured to an abusive white family, but who nevertheless achieves self-respect and self-reliance. Each of these novels draws on unique African American elements—including folklore and oral traditions—and gives expression to a distinctive "double consciousness," an awareness of being both African and American.

    57. What was the first novel published by a Native American?

    Native Americans, too, produced firsthand accounts of their lives. Among the most notable is the Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-she-kia-Kiak or Black Hawk (1833), a classic spiritual and secular biography, in which the Sauk warrior explains why he resisted white efforts to seize Indian land in northwestern Illinois during the Black Hawk War (1832) click here for an excerpt. William Apes, a Pequod, published one of the earliest histories from an Indian vantage point in 1836. John Rollin Ridge, a Cherokee journalist, published the first novel by an Indian in 1850, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, which recounts the heroic adventures of a Robin Hood-like bandit in California who protects Mexican Americans from white exploitation. Much more than a simple adventure story, this novel is also a thinly veiled protest of the treatment of Native Americans by someone who had personally experienced the removal of the Cherokees from their tribal homelands in Georgia.

    58. What literary forms did Mexican-Americans respond to the arrival of white Americans?

    Mexican Americans responded to the arrival into the Southwest of white Americans through a variety of literary forms, including corridos (ballads), chistes (jokes), and autobiographies. The earliest autobiographical narrative was published by Padre Antonio José Martínez in 1838. Martínez resisted Father Jean-Baptiste Lamy's efforts to Americanize Catholic religious practices in New Mexico, a subject later treated in Willa Cather's 1927 novel Death Comes to the Archbishop. Other notable early autobiographies, written by José Antonio Mechaca and Juan Séguin, chronicle the decline of the landed Tejano elite following the Texas Revolution.

    Links to corridos:

    Aztlán: el Corrido

    El Corrido de Jesús García, el Héroe de Nacozari (Máquina 501)

    Corridos de Texas

    Corridos de la Revolución

    Corridos de desastres

    Evarardo Perales" Los Forasteros del Norte Compositor: Julian Garza DLV 157

    59. Who was the most prolific and influential 19th century Irish-American novelist?

    The famine years of the late 1840s—a period of massive Irish Catholic immigration and intense anti-Catholic prejudice—inspired a number of Irish American immigrants to reflect on their experience through fiction. Such authors as John Boyce, Hugh Quigley, and Mary Anne Sadlier used fiction to chronicle the sufferings of famine-stricken Ireland, the wrenching transatlantic passage, the disorientation of rural immigrants resettling in American cities, and the need for religious faith to help immigrants adjust to a challenging new environment. Sadlier, an orphan who migrated from Ireland in 1844, was the most prolific and influential nineteenth-century Irish American novelist. Her 18 novels on Irish history and immigrant life offer a wealth of information about the famine generation and its religious beliefs and practices.

    American Art

    60. What characterized the art of the Hudson River school?

    Romantic landscape paintings also attracted a large popular audience. Portrayals of the American landscape by artists of the Hudson River school, such as Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederick Church, evoked a sense of the immensity, power, and grandeur of nature, which had not yet been completely tamed by an expansive American civilization.

    American Popular Culture

    The Popular Novel

    61. When did the first modern mass circulation newspaper appear?

    In the 1830s, when the development of the steam printing press dramatically cut printing costs and speeded production, the first mass-circulation newspapers began to appear. The first penny newspapers, Horatio David Sheppard's New York Morning Post and Benjamin H. Day's New York Sun, began publication in 1833.

    During the 1830s and 1840s, the modern mass-circulation newspaper emerged. Journalistic pioneers, such as James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, introduced features that we still associate with the daily newspaper, including crime stories, gossip columns, editorials, stock tables, and sports pages.

    62. What was the value of urban crime novels?

    In 1860 an Oswego, New York, printer named Erastus Beadle, issued his first dime novel, Malaeska, The Indian Wife. Critics attacked this book and others about heroes such as Daniel Boone as "devil-traps for the young," but within three years, Beadle had sold more than 2.5 million copies.

    Although not great works of literature, the urban crime novels, in particular, offered valuable social commentary, providing graphic details of aspects of pre-Civil War American life, such as teenage prostitution, urban poverty, class division, and social inequity, that were absent from the works of more respectable writers such as Washington Irving.

    63. Who wrote most American popular fiction before the Civil War?

    Much of the most popular American fiction produced before the Civil War was written by women. Although Nathaniel Hawthorne dismissed female novelists as "mere scribbling women," their works offered psychologically and sociologically insightful descriptions of drunken husbands brutalizing their wives, amoral men seducing and abandoning trusting young women, and callous employers exploiting ill-paid seamstresses and maids. The earliest woman-authored novel—Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple (1791), a story of a trusting heroine lured from her English home by a British officer and abandoned into poverty and premature death in New York—dealt with seduction and betrayal. At a time when the rate of illegitimate births was sharply rising (approaching 10 percent in New England), such stories offered a stark warning to young women.

    By the 1820s, the form of women's literature most in demand was the "domestic novel," which typically described the "trials and triumphs" of a young woman who encounters hardships in a hostile society and discovers the resources within herself to surmount these difficulties. Authors such as Maria Cummins, Catharine Sedgwick, and Susan Warner gave expression to an early feminist vision. Their books upheld "feminine" values—of duty, tenderness, and self-sacrifice—as an alternative to the acquisitive, pecuniary values of the dominant society and called on women to attain a sense of self-respect and self-worth.

    Forms of Popular Entertainment

    64. What is P. T. Barnum’s most famous saying?

    there is a sucker born every minute.

    A freewheeling, irreverent spirit pervaded American popular culture before the Civil War—a spirit typified by P. T. Barnum, 19th C America's most famous purveyor of popular entertainment. A Connecticut Yankee born in Bridgeport in 1810, Barnum is reputed to have said that "there is a sucker born every minute." A staunch advocate of temperance, antislavery, and women's rights, Barnum made a fortune through pioneering campaigns of advertising and self-promotion. A critic said that an appropriate motto for Barnum would be: "Lie and swindle as much as you please . . . but be sure you read your Bible and drink no brandy!"

    Throughout his life, the "prince of humbugs" never stopped believing that the public enjoyed having its wits tested. He got his start exhibiting a slave woman named Joice Heth, whom he claimed was 161 years old and had served as George Washington's nursemaid (an autopsy later revealed that she was 80 at her death). Barnum achieved fame and fortune from his 25-cent American Museum in New York, which contained the "Feejee mermaid," which had the head of a monkey and the body of a fish; a working model of Niagara Falls; the 25-inch-tall General Tom Thumb; and Jumbo, an immense white elephant. After the Civil War, Barnum closed his museum and opened "the greatest show on earth," a spectacular three-ring circus. With his hoaxes, humbugs, and shameless self-promotion, Barnum epitomized the buoyant, irreverence of antebellum popular culture—which taught Americans to pay gladly for entertainment.

    65. What was the most popular form of American popular humor?

    No form of humor was more popular than the tall tale, an incredibly exaggerated account of improbable events. The most famous comic hero was Davy Crockett, loosely based on the life of the frontier hero and Whig politician who died at the Alamo. More than 50 wildly popular Crockett almanacs and humor pamphlets described him as a high-spirited resourceful braggart, "half-man, half-alligator." He is depicted as an ardent opponent of corruption in business and politics, who spends his leisure time riding on streaks of lightning, and lighting his pipe with the sun.

    66. What was the first uniquely American entertainment form?

    Perhaps the most distinctive feature of pre-Civil War popular culture was the minstrel show. The first uniquely American entertainment form, the minstrel show provided comedy, music, dance, and novelty acts to audiences hungry for entertainment. Offering humor that ranged from comedy skits to slapstick and one-liners—often mocking pompous politicians and pretentious professionals—the minstrel shows also introduced many of America's most enduring popular songs, including "Turkey in the Straw" and "Dixie."

    The minstrel shows are difficult to interpret, in part because they relied on blackfaced humor that we find particularly abhorrent. Reflecting the racism of the broader society, minstrel shows presented a denigrating portrayal of African Americans. Racial stereotypes were the minstrel shows' stock in trade. Actors wore grotesque makeup, spoke in ludicrous dialects, and presented plantation life in a highly romanticized manner. Yet if the minstrel shows expressed the virulent racism of many white Americans, the blackfaced minstrel had another side. His humor frequently mocked whites and challenged traditional values. Moreover, the shows often incorporated elements of African-American folklore and showed black men and women outwitting white masters.

    67. Who most stimulated popular enthusiasm for American music?

    Minstrel shows popularized the songs of Stephen Foster (1826-1864), the most acclaimed American composer of the mid-nineteenth century. Foster wrote more than 200 songs during his lifetime, mainly sentimental ballads and love songs (such as "Old Folks at Home," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Beautiful Dreamer") and uptempo, rhythmic comic songs (such as "Camptown Races" and "Oh! Susanna"). At a time when the country was undergoing rapid urbanization and industrialization, Foster's music responded to a deep nostalgia for a simpler era. Although Foster died in utter poverty—at the age of 37 in the paupers' wing of New York's Bellevue Hospital, with just 37 cents in his pocket—he, more than any other composer stimulated popular enthusiasm for American music.

    68. What was the most popular of the “pseudosciences”?

    Pseudoscience also captured the popular fancy during the decades before the Civil War. During the early nineteenth century, science was advancing so rapidly that it was difficult to distinguish authentic scientific discoveries from hoaxes. Before the Civil War, Americans were fascinated by a variety of pseudosciences. Phrenology linked human character to the shape of and bumps on a person's skull. Animal magnetism was the belief in a universal electrical fluid influencing physics and even human psychology. Audiences flocked to see demonstrations of mesmerism (the control of a hypnotized person by a medium) and spiritualism (the direct communication with spirits of the deceased through trance visions or seances).

    Phrenology had particular appeal to pre-Civil War Americans. Discovered by a physician from Vienna named Franz Gall and imported into the United States in 1832, phrenology exerted an extraordinary impact on popular culture. One American phrenology journal claimed a circulation of 50,000, and many employers required prospective employees to have their heads read. One of the earliest examples of a "science" of human behavior, phrenology held that distinct portions of the brain were devoted to distinct impulses—such as combativeness, amativeness (sexual love), and adhesiveness (comradely affection)—and that peoples' mental attributes could be read through their facial features. Phrenology claimed to offer young men and women a way to evaluate potential spouses and employers a tool for judging potential employees.


    The American Mosaic: Gouging Fights and Backcountry Honor

    The People Speak: Women's Rights: Seneca Falls Declaration and Resolutions (1848)

    Chronology of Key Events:  Chapter 11 

    Reading Reaction Question:  Chapter 11

    Key terms

    Suggestions for Further Reading: 

    Robert Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (1994) shows how religious ideals and motives influenced the major reforms of the pre-Civil War era, including abolition, temperance, and woman's rights.

    Steven Mintz, Moralists and Modernizers: America's Pre-Civil War Reformers (1995) offers an overview and interpretation of America's first age of reform, combining portraits of leading reformers with discussions of religion and specific reform movements.

    Ronald G. Walters, American Reformers, 1815-1860 (1997) examines the beliefs, rhetoric, and tactics of leading reformers.

    Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (1990);

    Patricia Cline Cohen, The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York (1998);

    Paul A. Gilje, Rioting in America (1996);

    David Grimsted, American Mobbing (1998);

    Nathan O. Hatch, Democratization of American Christianity (1989);

    Curtis D. Johnson, Islands of Holiness: Rural Religion in Upstate New York, 1790-1860 (1989);

    Paul Johnson, A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 (1978);

    P. E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias (1994);

    John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (1990);

    Jama Lazerow, Religion and the Working Class in Antebellum America (1995);

    Perry Miller, The Life of the Mind in America from the Revolution to the Civil War (1965), Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform in Mid-19th Century America: From the Colonial Era to the Twentieth Century (1957);

    William R. Sutton, Journeymen for Jesus: Evangelical Artisans (1998);

    John Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity (1998);

    Forrest G. Wood, The Arrogance of Faith: Christianity and Race in America (1990).

    Internet Resources  Republic  Sectionalism  Reform


    Conquest Colonization Revolution


    Slavery Regions

    Civil War