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TAP Chapter 15: Religion and Reform in the 1830s-1840s Essential Questions: What motivated the reform movements of the 1830s and 1840s? How does the reform sentiment of this era relate to the new notions of the American hero? Where do you see connections between the themes of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, and the developments of the 1840s and 1850s? Religious Revivalism and the Growth of Mormonism Many Americans of the Revolutionary Era had subscribed to Deism and Unitarianism, but by 1800, a new wave of religious revivalism reacted to the liberalism of the Rationalists with the Second Great Awakening. This revival spread through camp meetings and often took place on the frontier and in rural areas and emphasized the participation and leadership of women more than ever before. The movement led to widening divisions between the older denominations, which tended to include more wealthy congregants, and new denominations such as Methodists and Baptists, which were less prosperous. The moral impulse of the Second Great Awakening would motivate many of the reform movements of the era. In 1830, the nation’s only distinctly American religion was born when Joseph Smith reported receiving golden plates from an angel that held instructions that became the Book of Mormon. The Mormons grew in population but gained adversaries (including the federal government) because of their extreme beliefs and adherence to polygamous practices. After the murder of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young seized the mantel of leadership and settled the Mormons in Utah, where he led a frontier theocracy and the community prospered. Reform Movements Education: During the Revolution, there were few public, tax-supported schools and those that existed served mostly poor children. Eventually elites began to see the benefit of education all classes, but early schools emphasized corporal education and many teachers were under- educated and unprepared for the classroom. Horace Mann, an education visionary, advocated better schools, longer school terms, higher paid teachers, and an expanded curriculum. Southern states began to establish state universities and a number of women’s colleges were founded. Interesting Fact: At the same time that Horace Mann was advocating for higher quality public education, Southern states were passing slave codes making it a crime to teach a slave to read. Prisons and Asylums – Reformers advocated prisons and human rehabilitation centers as opposed to punishment in filthy squalor. Other reformers, including the famous Dorothy Dix, demanded better conditions in insane asylums. Temperance – Americans had long had a taste for alcohol, but reformers argued that the immoral and un-Christian practice led to domestic abuse and hurt American virtue. They started the American Temperance Society in 1826 to discourage alcohol consumption. The Maine Law of 1851 went to far as to prohibit the manufacture and consumption of alcohol. Abolition – The Quakers had first advocated for the abolition of slavery before the Constitution was written, and the movement had grown since the Revolution. In 1817, a group of reformers founded the American Colonization Society, whose purpose was to transport people of African descent back to West Africa. In 1822, Liberia was founded as a nation of former slaves. By the 1830s, William Lloyd Garrison had begun publication of the Liberator, the most famous abolitionist newspaper and the inspiration for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and Frederick Douglass would later publish the North Star. Women’s Rights - Fascinatingly, the women’s rights movement grew out of a weakness of the Abolition Movement. When female anti-slavery advocates were barred from participating in an anti-slavery convention in London, they shifted their focus to advocating for women’s rights and opportunities for women outside the cult of domesticity. A group of women and men met at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, where leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led them in creating the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. Utopian Communities and the Blossoming of American Literature Influenced by the Romantic perception of nature and community and the reform impulses of these decades, a number of Americans envisioned a new way of life within communal utopias, including the short-lived New Harmony commune in India, ambitiously intellectual Brook Farm in Massachusetts, and the radical and experimental Oneida Community in New York. At the same time that the reform movements of the mid 1800s were gathering steam, American writers were beginning to craft a brand of literature that was distinctly “American.” Where do you see connections between the themes of the literature of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, and the social and industrial developments of the 1840s and 1850s?
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