From: Chris McAtee
Time: 2:54:59 AM
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
Chris McAtee Prof. Cutler History
Text Assignment for Week 10: Why is the period between 1830 and 1860 known as an era of reform? Were the reforms intended to increase or decrease personal freedom?
Starting in the 1820ís and 30ís and continuing for several decades thereafter, a great number of social reforms came to light. Some of these reforms came as a result of religious motivations; others came as a result of a need for more and better personal freedoms. Clearly most of the reforms that came about in this period were intended to increase the freedoms of citizens, but one in particular was aimed at limiting areas of personal freedom and choice. As a result of the revival of Calvinism and other Christian religions in New England, great numbers of people made it their mission to morally cleanse their communities. Their primary target was alcohol and the temperance movement that resulted regarded alcohol abuse as one of the largest threats to the republic at that time. During these decades, the nation also saw a significant increase in the number of free public schools. Even though public education was increasing in many areas, New England stood out as having the most advanced and progressive public education systems. Institutional reforms of all sorts also began to receive more public attention and support during this period. More people began to agree that the humane way to deal with the criminal, destitute, and mentally ill segments of society was through incarceration and rehabilitation. Many state funded prisons and asylums were erected, but ultimately their attempts at personal reform were a failure. As inmate populations continued to grow throughout this period, public support for these causes declined as it became apparent that the systems were ineffective. Although no real reforms regarding slavery were put into practice yet, a number of people began fighting for the abolitionist cause. Freed slaves and morally concerned New Englanders spread their influence and arguments against slavery through much of the North, having had the greatest effect in small to mid-sized towns in the far North. Abolitionists rarely brought their message to Southern communities for fears of threats or violence. Ultimately, the anti-slavery movement of this period did not change the opinions of most Americans on the issue, but it started dialogues that would ultimately lead to emancipation. The abolitionist movement also at this time inadvertently led to the beginnings of the womenís rights movement as well. A great number of women who were attempting to take active roles in anti-slavery groups and societies found them to be male dominated and oppressive towards women. These women wanted the emancipation movement to also include emancipation of women from the restrictions that white-male society imposed on them at that time.