Prompt:Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals. Assess the validity of this statement with specific reference to the years 1825-1850.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, American society began to focus on the welfare of minority groups. Women’s suffrage and abolition were rooted as deeply as the history of America, but asylum and prison reform sprouted with the Second Great Awakening, a movement that occurred in the early 1800s. The Second Great Awakening was led by religious leaders who advocated for changes in American society through the unity of the American people (Doc. B). Due to the Second Great Awakening, reform movements were established between 1825 and 1850 in order to represent the changes the people sought for in the issues of slavery, suffrage, and asylum and prison reform.
In 1831, Nat Turner’s rebellion changed the dynamics of slavery in America. The dissension among Americans over the issue of slavery began to be more prevalent. Nat Turner’s rebellion created a renewed spark in the abolition movement, which led to social awareness through anti-slavery literature. The Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper which was founded by William Lloyd Garrison, was in production from 1831 to 1866 and was focused specifically on the freeing of slaves in America. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an anti-slavery book that caused a surge of sectionalism, which proved that the democratic views of Americans were differing. Political cartoons began to focus on the issue of slavery and its resulting effects on society (Doc. C.). Discord proved to grow worse with the growing power of the abolition movement; anyone suspected of having anti-slavery sentiments were expelled from the fifteen states that made up the south. The social aspect of the abolition movement led to the visible democratic changes in society and politics.
The Wilmot Proviso, which was proposed and written in 1846, provided an example of an opposing view in this controversial topic. The document was intended to prevent the legalization of slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico after the Mexican-America War. Although it was not passed in congress, the proposed legislation was a precedent for future amendments focused on slavery. The demand for abolition in America opened the doors for women to fight for their rights, too.
Similarly, the women’s suffrage movement gained prominence during the Second Great Awakening. This movement fought for the right for women to vote because women were denied the democratic rights that were given to men and were forced to focus on the cult of domesticity. The movement started in the late eighteenth century however it was renewed during the Second Great Awakening when reform movements started gaining popularity. The suffrage movement was aided by the abolition movement because slavery gave women a reason to unite for a separate cause. However they began to experience oppression from male abolitionists even though they both fought for the same cause. This prompted women to fight for their own democratic ideals leading to the rise of many prominent suffragists such as the Grimke Sisters, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The second blow to the suffrage movement came in 1840 with the World Anti-Slavery Convention which the female abolitionists were barred from attending. This proved the impetus for the Seneca Falls Convention, a women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 to raise awareness for women’s rights. It was at this convention Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which called for the establishment of democratic rights for women like the Declaration of Independence did for Americans. Stanton believed that the United States was a government that was not formed by the consent of the governed (Doc. I).
A growing number of people began demanding better care for those with mental illness and for changes in the penitentiary system. This was a new reform movement, unlike women’s suffrage and abolition, which both had roots that were as deep as those of the country’s, and was unique because of the unusually undemocratic responses that society and its people reacted with. Dorothea Dix was a prominent figure in the asylum and penitentiary movement. She advocated for state-supported care and helped with the establishment of five hospitals in America. In 1841, Dr. John Galt became the superintendent of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, Virginia. As superintendent of the first publicly supported asylum in America, he implemented revolutionary ideas, including talk therapy, which all focused on caring for those with mental illnesses rather than warehousing them. He believed in outplacing the patients rather than having them live in the asylums and believed that those with mental illnesses still had dignity.
Along with asylum reform came the desire for changes in the penitentiary system. Actions were implemented to prevent juveniles from being included in the system (Doc. A). Dorothea Dix, Francis Lieber, and Samuel Gridley Howe were individuals who fought for reform in the penitentiary system for both juveniles and adults. They demanded prison libraries, the separation of women, children, and the sick, and a reduction in whippings and beatings. The Pennsylvania system, which was based on the idea of solitary confinement, became a popular method for penalization during the early-1800s. Unlike abolition and women’s suffrage, the asylum and penitentiary reform movement did not gather popularity nation-wide.
The Second Great Awakening led to an era of change for America and its minority groups. Women, children, slaves, and criminals were given an opportunity to have their opinions publically announced. Support for different movements was provided through social and political involvement, which offered the minority groups representation and democratic rights. Americans began to see equality as a human characteristic that had to be strived for (Doc F). With the help of prominent individuals, society began to demand change and equality for the minority groups in America. However, the changes that many had sought for were not the views of everyone in society. The democratic demands of the people were made through different groups and organizations, but were not the reactions of everyone in a single fight against issues that were nationally publicized (Doc G). Due to the democratic views and the demand for equality that were apparent during this time, sectionalism was later increasingly problematic for the union.
This document is an excerpt from a report by the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents in the City of New York. This excerpt states that the correction and reformation of juvenile delinquents would be more beneficial to the nation than their punishment. This supports the democratic ideals of equal opportunity for everyone instead of banishing outcasts from society.
Asylum and Penitentiary Movement
This document is part of a speech given by Charles G Finney in 1834 about religious reformation. This supports the democratic ideals of giving everyone equal opportunity because everyone has the ability to serve their society.
Used in introduction(democratic ideals)
This document is an engraving by Patrick Reason made in 1835 to support abolitionism. The engraving depicts a female slave in chains with a quote above that reads “am I not a woman and a sister?” This supports the democratic ideals of equality for everyone, regardless of race and gender.
This document is an excerpt from a book by Samuel F.B. Morse in which he describes the dangers faced by the United States. This argues against immigration because immigration could be a threat to American democracy if allowed to continue.
This document is from William H. McGuffey’s book Reader and it is a story of a poor boy that works very hard and is happy with his difficult life. This does not support the democratic ideals of equality because the boy is forced to live a difficult life while others around him receive education and go on to live better lives.
This document is an excerpt from the Constitution of the Brooks Farm Association. The excerpt describes the moral codes and principles that the members are to live by. This supports the democratic ideals of equality among everyone and denounces greed and selfishness because they are a threat to democracy.
Used in conclusion (democratic ideals)
This document is an excerpt from a speech given by Orestes A. Brownson. The excerpt talks about how reform movements are simply an unnecessary phase in time that will not be able to create a significant change. This does not support democratic ideals because it states that society is perfectly normal as it is even though it is heavily divided.
Used in conclusion (Anti-reform)
This document is a cartoon that depicts the different phases of drinking and how a man changes during each of these phases. The first phase is a simple drink with a friend and the last phase is death and suicide with each phase in between getting progressively worse. This does not support any democratic ideals, instead it shows drinking as a threat to democracy. It also illustrates that temperance gave women a reason to unite.
This document is an excerpt from an address given at the Seneca Falls Convention by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton describes the unfairness of the American government and the inequality of women. This supports the democratic ideals of the consent of the governed by arguing that women are being governed unfairly although they have important roles in society. It argues that women’s rights are an important part of democracy and withholding them can be dangerous to the existence of a democracy.
Women’s suffrage movement
“Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals.” Assess the validity of this statement with specific reference to the years 1825-1850.
Thesis: Due to the Second Great Awakening, reform movements were established between 1825 and 1850 in order to represent the changes the people sought for in the issues of slavery, suffrage, and juvenile delinquency.
Due to the Second Great Awakening, people began demanding equality for different races in America. Social and political changes were made between the years of 1825 and 1850.
A growing number of people began demanding better care for those with mental illness and for changes in the penitentiary system. This was a new reform movement, unlike women’s suffrage and abolition, which both had roots that were as deep as those of the country’s, and was unique because of the unusually undemocratic responses that society and its people reacted with.
• Dorothea Dix
o Advocated for the rights of individuals with mental illnesses
o Traveled down the Eastern seaboard in order to help create laws in many of the states to transform the asylum system.