Era of American
Revolution (1700s)
Trattner chapter 3
Need for assistance
Widespread poverty
May have contributed to wish to break from British
Changes in religious expression, along with increasing
need among the people, led to discord
Who needed help?
Disabled veterans, their widows and orphans
Survivors of those lost at sea
Seasonally unemployed
Children born out of wedlock
Needy immigrants
Refugees (Acadians)
Victims of economic downturns
Fire victims
Survivors of diseases and epidemics (dysentery,
measles, smallpox, typhoid, malaria, scarlet fever)
Substantial public response
Boston spent 500 pounds in 1700 and 4000 by 1725
on poor relief
Estimated 25% of NYC population poor or near poor
Growing private response
“Doing good” became important for wealthy
Noblesse oblige characteristic of southern landholders
Churches helped disease and disaster victims (Established
state religion, headed by the Crown of England)
Quakers important –may have used humanitarianism to
counter opposition from established state church and
majority religious oppression
Voluntary help groups: nationality, fraternal, social
(e.g., Scots, Irish, Germans, French)
Complementary roles of public and private aid
characteristic of this period
Social Phenomena Contributing to
Social Welfare Interest
Great Awakening
American Revolution
Great Awakening
Evangelical movement beginning in late 1720s
Focused on “born again” experience
Open air revivals, itinerant preachers, weakened
authority of established church
Characteristic of Presbyterians, Baptists and
Great Awakening
Stressed possibility of salvation for all (not just the
People became concerned with the salvation of others
Encouraged humane attitudes and “doing good”
among all social classes
George Whitefield
English preacher who made 7 visits to US
Greatest impact during 1739-41
30,000 heard him speak in Boston
Extraordinary fund raiser (Franklin)
Assisted slaves by encouraging their learning to read to
save their souls
Grew out of writings of Newton and Locke
Belief that progress always possible
Every human can use reason, has the potential to
be good and can improve society
Poverty and other injustices can be eliminated–
social reform a consequence
Religious freedom
Enlightenment & Great Awakening movements fueled
the Revolution as much as political issues
Freedom of conscience in all matters
Established churches in many colonies placed severe
restrictions on members of other faiths, including not
only worship but also aid to the needy
Struggles across the colonies to disestablish the state
church and allow others to flourish met great
Roger Williams and Rhode Island
Isaac Backus
Baptist clergyman and church historian
Mayflower descendent, born in CT
Served as a parish clergy in MA
Faced severe discrimination from the established (non-Baptist) church
of the state
Lobbied strongly and repeatedly for freedom of religion, as a protection
from the state
“Nothing is more evident, in reason and the Holy Scriptures, than that
religion is ever a matter between God and individuals, and, therefore,
no man or men can impose any religious test without invading the
essential prerogatives of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
American Revolution
Declaration of Independence implies improving
the lot of the common person
New nation can overcome faults of European
Democracy inconsistent with illiteracy and poverty
Separation of church and state, banning of slavery
in north, attacks on debtors’ prisons
Problems and Issues in the New Nation
Displacement of people led to state responsibility
(New York) for “state poor”
In hard times localities can’t handle
responsibilities to poor
Poor laws implemented in new territories
With separation of church and state county (not
town) took over welfare in south
Welfare not handled on a national basis (states’
rights and limited central government)
Frontier emphasized individual responsibility,
personal achievement, and self help
As wealth grew, charity and philanthropy
increasingly associated with social recognition and

Era of American Revolution (1700s)