Chapter 12   THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION
 
The Rise of Evangelicalism
Separation of church and state gave all churches the chance to compete for converts
Pious Protestants formed voluntary associations to combat sin, “infidelity
 
The Second Great Awakening: The Frontier Phase
Camp meetings contributed to frontier life
–Provided emotional religion
–Offer opportunity for social life
Camp meeting revivals conveyed intensely personal religious message
Camp meetings rarely led to social reform
 
The Second Great Awakening in the North
New England reformers led by Timothy Dwight defended Calvinism against the Enlightenment
Nathaniel Taylor: Individuals are free agents and can overcome natural inclination to sin
Lyman Beecher and evangelical Calvinism
Charles G. Finney
–Departed radically from Calvinist doctrine
–Appeal is based in emotion not reason
–Finney preached in upstate New York and stressed revival techniques
Beecher and others disturbed by emotionalism of Finney’s methods
Revivals led to organization of more churches
 
From Revivalism to Reform
Northern revivals stimulated reform
Middle-class participants adapted evangelical religion to preserve traditional values
"The benevolent empire" of evangelical reform movements altered American life
–For example, temperance movement cut alcohol consumption by more than 50%
 
Domesticity and Changes in the American Family
New conception of family’s role in society
Child rearing seen as essential preparation for self-disciplined Christian life
Women confined to domestic sphere
Women assumed crucial role within home
 
Marriage for Love
Mutual love must characterize marriage
Wives became more of a companion to their husbands and less of a servant
Legally, the husband was the unchallenged head of the household
 
The Cult of Domesticity
"The Cult of True Womanhood"
–Placed women in the home
–Glorified home as center of all efforts to civilize and “Christianize” society
Middle- and upper-class women increasingly dedicated to the home as mothers
Women of leisure entered reform movements
 
The Discovery of Childhood
Domesticity informed public institutions
Schools continued what family began
Asylums, prisons mended family’s failures
 
The Extension of Education
Public schools expanded rapidly from 1820 to 1850
Means of advancement for working class
Means of inculcating values of hard work, responsibility to middle-class reformers
Horace Mann argued schools saved immigrants, poor children from parents’ bad influence
Many parents believed public schools alienated children from their parents
 
Discovering the Asylum
Poor, criminal, insane seen as lacking self-discipline
Harsh measures to promote rehabilitation
–Solitary confinement of prisoners
–Strict daily schedule
Public support for rehabilitation skimpy
Prisons, asylums, poorhouses became warehouses for the unwanted
 
Reform Turns Radical
Most reform aimed to improve society
Some radical reformers sought destruction of old society, creation of perfect social order
 
Divisions in the
Benevolent Empire
Radical perfectionists impatient by 1830s, split from moderate reform
–Temperance movement 
–Peace movement
–Antislavery movement
Moderates sought gradual end to slavery and colonization of freed slaves to its colony of Liberia
Radicals like William Lloyd Garrison demanded immediate emancipation
–1831: Garrison founded The Liberator
1833: American Anti-Slavery Society
 
The Abolitionist Enterprise:  
Theodore Dwight Weld
Weld an itinerant minister converted by Finney
Adapted his revivalist techniques to abolition
Successful mass meetings in Ohio, New York
 
The Abolitionist Enterprise:  Public Reception
Appealed to hard-working small town folk
Opposition in cities & near Mason-Dixon line
Opposition from the working class
–Disliked blacks
–Feared black economic and social competition
Solid citizens saw abolitionists as anarchists
 
The Abolitionist Enterprise:  Obstacles
Abolitionists hampered by in-fighting
William Lloyd Garrison disrupted movement by associating with radical reform efforts
–Urged abolitionists to abstain from participating in the political process
–Also involved in women’s rights movement
Some abolitionists helped form the Liberty Party in 1840
 
Black Abolitionists
Former slaves related the horrible realities of bondage
–Prominent figures included Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth
Black newspapers, books, and pamphlets publicized abolitionism to a wider audience
Blacks were also active in the Underground Railroad
 
From Abolitionism to
Women's Rights
Abolitionism opened to women’s participation
Involvement raised awareness of women’s inequality
Seneca Falls Convention in 1848
–Organized by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
–Prompted by experience of inequality in abolition movement
Began movement for women’s rights
 
Radical Ideas & Experiments:  Utopian Communities
Utopian socialism
–Inspired by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier
–New Harmony, Indiana—Owenite
–Fourierite phalanxes
Religious utopianism
–Shakers

–Oneida Community

Utopian Communities Before the Civil War
 
Radical Ideas & Experiments:  Transcendentalism
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Margaret Fuller
George Ripley
–Founded cooperative community at Brook Farm
Henry David Thoreau and Walden
 
Counterpoint on Reform
Reform encountered perceptive critics
–Nathaniel Hawthorne allegorically refuted perfectionist movements suggesting the world was inherently an imperfect place
Reform prompted necessary changes in American life