The reform era was between the early 1800s to the mid 1800s. In 1814, The Treaty of Ghent was signed which ended the War of 1812. The “Era of Good Feelings “began and it was a time where the people became a bit more unified due to the ending of the war and concentrated on the economic status of the country. The protective tariff of 1816 helped domestic goods to be sold to consumers rather than foreign goods. Clay’s American System helps to built infrastructure and improves the economy by keeping a national bank. There was a gradual shift to an industrial country than an agricultural country.
In the 1800s, those who have sinned believed they had a chance to redeem themselves. Furthermore, after Adams’s presidency, Andrew Jackson, a common man, was elected president in 1828. These developments led to a series of reforms in education, prisons, rights of women, and slavery. A change in religion, economics, and politics motivated a person to improve which then inspired to remake and reform American society during the antebellum years. A key factor that stimulated reform was the change in America’s economical system.
With the American system that helped industrialization to happen in America, many people moved to cities and worked in factories. From this, the temperance movement began to arise. Workers were good when they avoided alcohol because they were being productive and diligent. Workers who drank made the process of making the product less efficient. As a result, the idea that those who drank alcohol were bad and they went to Hell while those who were abstinence from it were good and went to Heaven. This could also lead to better factory conditions.
As more factories were built, the pay was not always what the men wanted. Soon they rebelled, however, the person who owned the factory decided to advertise for a cheaper labor of the time which was women. Some young women worked in Lowell Mills in Massachusetts. They also became a bit more educated from this than if they were working in their family farm. The treatment and condition were better than other factories. However, by the 1840s, more immigrants especially from Ireland and Germany came and worked in factories. Most factories had unsafe conditions, poor lightning and air circulation, and long hours.
There was a reform in the conditions of factories. The change in the belief of predestination spurs many reform movements that were to improve society or the individual. Before the 1800s, most American believed in the idea of predestination, a Calvinist concept. This is where the fate of one’s soul is already determined. Acting good or bad in life cannot change where one will go when they die. However, in the early 1800s, some ministers rejected this idea and believed that one’s own actions in life determine where one will go after death. This was part of the Great Awakening.
Charles Finney and other preachers held religious revivals to convert others to become better people. He came up with the idea of “utility of benevolence” which was where sinners could improve themselves because they now determined their salvation. They had free will which helps their opinions to influence actions that they want. (Document 3)Transcendentalist and Unitarians advocated this concept. Sinner would educate themselves. The concept of improving oneself evolved into the belief that they could have a perfect society which Robert Owen attempted to create in Indiana.
A social reform spurred by the idea of improving society was prisons. Dorthea Dix was finding out the conditions of prisons and found that they were unsanitary, crowded, and some of the people were those in debt or with mental illnesses. She sent a report to the state and they eventually made asylums for those with mental illnesses. Prisoner could redeem themselves by going to “reform schools” or “houses of refuge”. They could make money from group labor. They were given a second chance. Another factor to the cause of reform was the government.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected president and he won mostly all the electoral votes. Most of the sections of the United States liked him. He was born in a log cabin and was not born wealthy. Seeing how successful and extraordinary a common man became, it motivated others to become better than they thought they could be. It signaled how far the idea of democracy has spread. He was also influenced by the Second Great Awakening and the idea that man could improve himself or “elevate”. (Document 1) He allowed all white male to vote even if they did not own property.
He made other common men to believe they could hold government positions. Andrew Jackson becoming a president inspired others to become better people. The reform in education can be traced to the government, economic state, and the Second Great Awakening. Massachusetts was the only state to have public education due to the Puritans belief that everyone should be able to read the Bible. However, by the 1850s public education spread in the Northeast. Before, only wealthy kids could become educated.
A key figure who fought for public education is Horace Mann which the argument that it will make knowledgeable, students with moral values. (Document 4)McGuffey’s Reader consists of math, reading, morals, and religion to be learned to children in the public schools. Educated people would be able to work for the government. Furthermore, it was believed that education would cause economic growth. It was also seen as a way to become a better person and make a perfect government. The women rights movement was influenced by the government under Jackson and to improve society.
At the time, women began to take action against the inequality around. Some women did not like the difference in treatment between genders. From Jackson’s presidency, mostly all white males were able to vote. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were two women who decided to speak out about this inequality. They did not like that they could not vote, get higher education, own property, or get paid the same amount as men. The held the first meeting for women’s right in Seneca Falls in 1848.
In this meeting, they made the “Declaration of Sentiments” which argues that men and women should have the same right because they are created equal. (Document 6)This movement would continue to become stronger and be dealt with after the idea of slavery was resolved. To form a better society, some people began to believe that they should get rid of slavery. By 1800s, there were hardly any slaves in the North. William Lloyd Garrison created the newspaper called “The Liberator”, in 1832 to help persuade others to become abolitionist.
He also formed the New England Anti-Slavery Society whose goal was to get equal right for blacks. (Document 2) Even free black men could not vote. Charles Finney, who convinced others that they can decide their faith, would also preach that slavery was evil. Even those who were enslaved were trying to get freedom for others. Frederick Douglas, a former slave who knew how to read, would give out lectures to persuade others to become an abolitionist. He also had how own newspaper called the North Star. Uncle Tom’s Cabin also helped this reform to spread because it described how a slave was treated.
This movement would use the phrase, “All men are created equal.. ” to prove why slavery should be abolished. That phrase does not apply to the society at the time, thus that society had flaws. The change in religion and the government with the influence of the flourishing economy motivated reforms in American in the antebellum years. The rapidly changing economic growth led to the temperance movement and a reform in education. The Second Great Awakening changed Americans’ actions in life. The government would motivate equality between gender and race.