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A discussion of the motivation of the social reformers of the antebellum period can be found at the start of the section of Chapter 13 that is entitled “Social Reform Movements.”
The antebellum reform movements came soon after the market revolution. The market revolution had changed American society in many ways. Mainly, it had drastically weakened the ties that bound society together. It took people out of situations in which they were controlled (but also taken care of) by social networks in their small communities. These social changes were the major motive for the social reformers.
The social reformers wanted to fix the problems that had arisen from the changes of the market revolution. They wanted to do things such as pushing for temperance, for improved education, for better prisons, and for the spread of religion. They felt that, by doing these sorts of things, they could make up for the loss of the social networks that had previously existed.
Thus, the major motivation for these reformers was the desire to repair the damage to society that had been done by the market revolution.
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