AP US: American Culture and Reform (c. 1800 - 1860)

Religion

  • Deism
    • clockwork universe
    • God created the world and the laws that govern it
    • allows events to happen without His interference
    • the use of reason helps man to find these laws
    • Jefferson, Franklin, and other like them were Deists
    • Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason
    • not very popular, as it attacks organised religions, especially Calvinism
    • says that churches are set up to terrify and enslave man, monopolising power and profit
    • states that human nature is good and that salvation is attainable through faith and good works
  • Calvinism
    • infant damnation
    • the "elected" are the select few chosen to be saved
  • Unitarianism
    • philosophy of Deism
    • believe in supreme being, free will, salvation through good works, and the morally good nature of man
    • appeals to intellectuals
    • optimistic
  • Episcopal
    • associated with the Church of England
  • Presbyterian
    • Irish and Scots
  • Congregationalist
    • often merge with Presbyterians in small communities
  • the religious landscape is changing throughout the nation

Romantic Movement

  • started at the turn of the 19th century
  • expresses the European and American idea that there's more to life than material things
  • they wanted "balanced reason", as a reaction to the Age of Reason's strict focus on only reason
  • Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, 1781, was one important source
  • poets, authors, and other writers took his ideas, giving importance to the soul as well as reason
  • revered nature, believing that contemplation of natural scenes can lead to the discovery of fundamental truths

Transcendentalism

  • formalise Romanticism
  • becomes almost a faith for some
  • fuses Romanticism and mysticism
  • fueled by the newly translated Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic texts
  • it also incorporated some Quaker doctrine, that the "inner light" is the gift of God's grace
  • they believe that all people have this "inner light", and that this inner light can illuminate and put each person in touch with God, the "oversoul"
  • it's about self, with little regard for dogma or authority
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    • he was studying to become a Unitarian minister, but stopped
    • went to Europe to travel and learn
    • he returned to America and began developing an American literature and artistic tradition
    • he is an inspiration for a truly American literature
    • no longer does American literature rely on Europe
    • preaches the philosophy of the "Oversoul" and an everchanging universe
    • he preaches individualism, optimism, and freedom
    • his beliefs lead him to become an ardent abolitionist and women's rights supporter
  • Henry David Thoreau
    • a student of Emerson
    • writes essays that profoundly effected modern thought
    • he preaches individualism and non-conformity
    • "Walden: A Life in the Woods" and "Duty of Civil Disobedience" are two of his works
    • he was against the war with Mexico and Texas joining as a slave state
    • his idea of passive resistance will be emulated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Birth of American Literature

  • Romanticism encourages writing with emotions, not just reason
  • Irving, Poe, Cooper, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman are some examples
  • America is now looked upon, for the first time, as a source of ideas and literary inspiration

Second Great Awakening

  • Timothy Dwight
    • President of Yale College
    • calls Yale a "hotbed of infidelity", saying that the "secular trend" is causing him concern
    • sponsors religious revivals to fight the "collective soul" of the Yale student body
  • the revivals spread throughout New England
  • in the First Great Awakening, the theme was damnation, fire and brimstone
  • in the Second Great Awakening, the theme is more about the goodness of God, and how all can share in His glory
    • one needs only to believe to be saved
    • these ideas spread across America
  • camp meetings
    • large numbers of people gather to sing, praise, etc.; they are happy and optimistic gatherings
    • they are held after the harvest
    • 25,000 people are at some of these - they are intense and involved
  • segregated companion revivals
    • blacks go to different meetings
    • begins a long tradition of enthusiastic, shouting, singing, etc. gatherings
    • spiritual, social and political cohesion is difficult for blacks to achieve in the time leading up to the Civil War
  • role of women
    • this events give them a more active role outside of the house
    • they gain an increased involvement in the spiritual parts of their communities
  • William Miller and the Millerite Movement
    • 100,000 followers
    • he predicted the Second Coming of Christ to be on 2 Oct, 1844; even when it didn't happen, his movement continued
    • they become known as Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Finney
    • master of showmanship and participatory psychology
    • he told people to gather as a community

Utopian Movements

  • an early form of socialism
  • cooperative 1800s communities that were experiments in alternate community organisation along Christian Scriptural guidelines
  • not a new idea - the Puritans had tried this, too
  • failed to thrive in America's capitalistic climate
  • for most, they collapse after the loss of the founder and the original driving spirit
  • New Harmony, Indiana 1855
    • founded by Robert Owen
    • perished early, because of a "lack of harmony among the participants"
  • Brook Farm, Massachusetts
    • a Transcendental literary haven
    • suffered from indebtedness, lack of incentive to work, and a disastrous fire
    • wealth was shared equally, resulting in that lack of incentive to work
    • Hawthorne's Bilthedale Romance was written about Brook Farm
  • Shaker Communities
    • started by Anne Lee, English, arrived in America in 1774 and died the same year
    • they advocated strict sexual abstinence, as they saw no reason to perpetuate the human race given the imminent end of the Christian millennium
    • they had an admitted simplicity, as seen in designs on art and furniture
    • there were 20 by 1830, 6000 by 1840
    • these groups will exist for 100 years, dwindling slowly
    • their rule of celibacy and communal property discouraged converts
    • they had high ideals and lacked controversial practises, allowing them to live in harmony with their neighbours, unlike, for example, the Mormons' practise of polygamy
    • created a product and engaged in commerce, helping them to survive
  • Oneida
    • manufacturers of silverware
    • they practised free love, birth control, and eugenic selection of parents, causing problems with neighbouring groups
    • founded in New York by Noyes, with several smaller communities in surrounding states
    • Bible Communism
      • selfishness is the root of unhappiness
      • property and exclusive relationships breed selfishness
      • so, they share property
      • "complex marriage" - every woman is married to every man
      • share work equally
    • they support their community with the production of silverware
    • in 1879 they gave up complex marriage and became a joint stock company
    • thus, a communist utopia became a huge capitalistic corporation
  • Mormonism
    • founded by Joseph Smith in New York in 1830
    • today it is known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
    • because of their beliefs, they were forced to move from New York, though various states, and eventually to Utah
    • founded Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839, and it became the largest city in that state for a while
    • rumours of polygamy led to Smith and his brother's arrests; they were killed by a mob while in jail
    • Brigham Young led them to Salt Lake City, where they developed and grew
    • they became a major, but not understood, religion
    • Utah became a state in 1896; their admittance had been delayed by the issue of polygamy

Reform

  • reform was the touchstone of the 19th century
  • the first reforms were religious and philosophical; social and political reform would follow from the change in people's minds

Humanitarian Reform

  • a defining characteristic of this era was that women played leading roles in reforming society
    • they are starting to step out of the house
    • they were especially involved with humanitarian reforms, among others
  • schools for the deaf
    • first one was opened in Paris, France by a Yale graduate
    • his son founds one in Connecticut in 1817
    • a school for the blind and deaf was also opened
    • previously, these disabled people were put in penitentiaries/reformatories which were essentially jails; they were not cared for at all
  • prison reform
    • criminals, debtors, and the insane had all been locked together in one room
    • now, efforts are made to change the situation
    • leads to experimenting in solitary confinement, strict rules of silence; the idea is to give time to think over mistakes and become penitent
    • 1821 - Kentucky becomes first state to abolish imprisonment for debt - you can't pay off debt while in jail
  • hospitals are established for the mentally and physically impaired
    • Dorothea Dix abandoned her successful teacher career in 1841 to begin a lifelong campaign to improve conditions in mental institutions
    • St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C. was built on state lands, showing her influence in public policy

Social Reforms

  • Education
    • Horace Mann, the "Father of Education"
      • introduced public education, requiring that children attend school through 6th grade
      • initially, it was only mandatory for boys
    • Thomas Jefferson's vision was that all could and should be educated to make society better
    • see also notes on Women and Minorities

Temperance

  • greatest religiously inspired reform
  • in the 1800s, the per capita alcohol was 2-3 times that of now
  • argued that crime at all levels was rooted in alcohol
  • Dr. Benjamin Rush published a book in 1784 that detailed the effects of alcohol on the human body
  • in 1826, the assault on the "demon rum" became a national movement, the American Temperance Union
    • they gained 1.5 millions members in one year
    • their members took a "cold-water pledge" to forsake all alcohol
  • the state of Maine was the first to prohibit the sale of alcohol, in 1851
    • Neal Dow, a Quaker businessman who became the mayor of Portland, led the prohibition campaign
    • about a dozen other states followed this lead and passed "Maine Laws"
    • most of these states didn't enforce the laws, or quickly repealed them

Women's Rights

Abolition

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