Reform Movements & Democratic Ideals

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The reform movements in the United States of the years 1825-1850 were intended to expand democratic ideals – those of equality and justice for man. While many did accomplish this, such as the educational, disciplinary, educational, feminist and abolitionist movements, reforms revolving around governmentally-controlled religion and temperance, utopias, and nativism ultimately limited the overall democratic ideals of society.

The Second Great Awakening inspired many movements that truly did further establish some of the democratic ideals we hold to this day. Many of the moral concepts of social reforms go hand in hand with democratic ideals of equality. The education reform played a big role in this time period – common education became a growing need and more and more people were beginning to call for it, as expressed in Document E. Proper education for all would give everyone an opportunity to be a productive citizen. Also enhancing egalitarian principles were the social movement such as the asylum changes led by Dorothea Dix advocated for ethical treatment of all, including the insane, or the prison reform advocated in Document A. As expressed in Document A, the prison reform taken on by the Whigs advocated rehabilitation centers for delinquent rather than merely warehouses to isolate them. Just as the educational reform did, this reform aimed to give all the greatest chance to be a positive member of society. This push for equality was not limited to white people, as many abolitionist groups began to sprout and emancipation began to take root; the engraving by Patrick Reason in Document C of a black woman slave in chains is a clear representation of the blatant limitations of liberty that so many were burdened with. Not only is this document a representation of the abolitionist movement but also that of women’s rights; it’s a depiction for the overall push for suffrage for the minorities. Essentially all of these movements tie into the democratic ideal of...
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