Discuss the origins of the major social-reform movements in the early nineteenth century. In what ways did they influence American society and politics?
The social reform movements of the early 19th century arose in part from the Second Great Awakening. This movement emphasized good work and a more enthusiastic experience of religion. It strengthened religions such as Baptism and Methodism, was in part a reaction to the rationality of Enlightenment, and grew out of the Romantic movement and its emphasis on emotion over reason.
The social reform movements of the early 19th century included temperance, reform of prisons, women's rights, and abolitionism. The abolitionist movement in particular influenced American society as it grew in force in the antebellum period. After the Second Great Awakening, the moral imperative abolitionists felt to end slavery intensified, and there was a movement away from gradualism (the eventual end of slavery) to a sense that slavery had to end immediately. The fervor that abolitionists felt intensified the question of slavery in the country (particularly when new states were added to the union and had to decide between being slave or free states) and pushed the country toward the brink of war.