Article abstract: A wave of religious and philanthropic movements work for humanitarian and democratic reforms, including abolition, temperance, woman suffrage, and access to education.
Summary of Event
“In the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as at the present hour,” declared Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1841. The wave of reform that swept over much of the United States from the 1820’s to the 1850’s seemed to prove Emerson’s theory that the human being is “born . . . to be a Reformer, a Remaker of what man has made; a renouncer of lies; a restorer of truth and good, imitating that great Nature which embosoms us all, and which sleeps no moment on an old past, but every hour repairs herself.” In those decades, people enlisted in a variety of causes and crusades, some of which were of a conservative nature, while others challenged basic institutions and beliefs.
The antebellum reform movement was partly a response to economic, social, and political changes following the War of 1812. Such changes provoked feelings of anxiety in the United States, generating anti-Mason, anti-Catholic, and anti-Mormon crusades. However, change also generated a feeling of optimism and confirmed the almost universal faith in progress that characterized early nineteenth century Americans. Reformers came from two groups: religious reformers and the wealthy who felt obligated to help the less...
(The entire section is 1229 words.)
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