Chapter Eight, Section One

Chapter Eight, Section One
Religion Sparks Reform (pgs. 240 – 245)
Changes in American society (like industrial growth, immigration, and transportation) led
to social reform movements: women’s rights, religion, school improvement, and abolition
of slavery
The Second Great Awakening (1790+)
Second Great Awakening – revival of the broad religious movement (Charles Grandison
Finney – see p. 240)
 People from the 2nd Great Awakening rejected predestination
o Emphasized individual responsibility for seeking salvation
o People could improve themselves and society
o So religious beliefs reflected Jacksonian politics (emphasis on “common”
 Churches began to split over these “common man” ideas, as they started
competing for who could “sell” their religion as more appealing to ALL people
o Led to revivals
o Revival – large outdoor gathering of up to 20,000 people in which
religious topics were covered; an emotional meeting designed to awaken
religious faith through impassioned preaching & prayer
 4-5 days long
 Studied Bible/academics by day
 Personal testimonies & emotional preaching/conversion by night
o Western parts of NY – where some of most intense revivals took place
(“burned over” districts) Rochester, NY – Finney’s revivals
o 1800: 1 in 15 belonged to church
o 1850: 1 in 6 belonged to church
The African American Church
 Enslaved African Americans felt the impact of the revivals
 Democratic belief was widely circulated – black or white, all people belonged to
same God
 Though they sat in segregated pews reserved for blacks only, they all worshiped
in the same churches, which meant they heard the same sermons and songs
o But slaves interpreted their meanings differently
 Saw it as a promise of freedom for their people
 In the Northeast, free blacks organized their own churches (i.e. African Methodist
Episcopal Church)
o Political, cultural, & social center for African Americans
 Provided services that whites did not
 Led to a deeper faith and a strong sense of community
 Became that much more determined to oppose slavery
Transcendentalism and Reforms (mid 1800s)
Many people were affected/influenced by the Second Great Awakening, but felt
the revivals were too public and loud – needed something else
Americans took pride in their new culture
Transcendentalism – term introduced by writer Ralph Waldo Emerson; a
philosophical and literary movement that emphasized living a simple life and
celebrated the truth found in nature and in personal emotion and imagination
This concept & several transcendentalists sparked changes in literary themes as
well: optimism, freedom, & self-reliance
Henry David Thoreau – friend of R.W. Emerson
o Built a cabin (cost $28) for himself and his few possessions and then lived
in isolation for about two years (Why would he abandon community life?)
o Walden – name of the book because his cabin was on shore of Walden
Pond (Massachusetts)
Thoreau urged people to not follow laws that were unjust in their views
o Peacefully refuse
Civil Disobedience – form of protest in which people peacefully refuse to follow
o EX: Thoreau did not agree with slavery or the US’ war with Mexico, so he
did not pay taxes (because taxes helped fund the war) Result: He went to
 These people emphasized reason and one’s conscience as the tools to a better life
 But rather then getting “saved” one night in a tent (revival), Unitarians believed it
was a gradual process
 Both Unitarians and Transcendentalists felt individual and social reform were
both possible and important (p. 243)
Americans Form Ideal Communities
 Utopian communities – experimental groups who tried to create a “perfect
o Self sufficiency was key
 EX: New Harmony, Indiana
 EX: Brooks Farm in Boston, Massachusetts
o Usually didn’t last more than a couple years
 Though the utopias did not really latch on, religious reform was still strong
 Shaker Communities – be familiar (p. 244)
Schools and Prisons Undergo Reform
Reforming Asylums and Prisons
 American prisons were rough – solitary confinement and capital punishment were
 Outsiders (Tocqueville) exposed these unbecoming conditions
 Dorothea Dix – social reformer who took up the cause of creating rehabilitation
centers and mental hospitals
o Dix was visiting prisons trying to reform criminals, when she realized
many of the criminals were simply not all there mentally
o Not right to lock them up for being sick
Improving Education
 There were no national education standards in the mid 1800s
 Some states had great schools, while others did not even monitor attendance
 Students were not typically divided by grade or ability, so a 3rd grader and 10th
grader would be in same classroom, learning together
 By 1830s, taxes started funding public schools
o Wealthy Americans had a problem with this because their children weren’t
going to public schools, yet they had to help pay for them (Pennsylvania)
 As taxes came in, attendance was more regularly monitored
o Immigrants sometimes opposed because they didn’t want their kids to
forget their native culture
 Horace Mann – education reformer and 1st Board of Education president
o Established teacher training programs
o Doubled money Massachusetts spent on schools
 Pennsylvania and Massachusetts set good examples for other states to follow suit