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Democratic Ideals 1820-1850

By BrianRAPUSH Mar 20, 2011 991 Words
Democratic Ideals
1820-1850

Between the 1820’s and the 1850’s, America went through drastic changes in its society. There were many reform movements going on at the same time while some people demanded for change and equality, the others believed change would come to ruin America. All of this turmoil between the people boiled up into the Civil War. There were many factors that split the North and the South from each other and influenced them to go to war. Slavery was probably the biggest influence, but it spread out through many other factors. From slavery, comes abolitionists. From slavery, comes sectionalism. From slavery, comes war. This era of time was the era focused on morality and individuality, and society protested the government until there were laws that satisfied these ideas. The three main reforms that expanded democratic ideals were the Second Great Awakening, Sectionalism, and Abolition.

The Second Great Awakening marked a shift in thinking to morality and sought to better society by bettering the individual. The Awakening was a call to bring “Harlots, drunkards, and infidels” back to piety, and to instill a regenerated belief in God. (Doc B) Churches everywhere took action to better the individual. On Sundays, it became illegal to sell alcohol because everyone was getting drunk on the Sabbath day. They had a strict opinion about drinking, and even had a nine step process to describe what happens. In this nine step process it begins with a simple glass with a friend, reaches a climax of confirmed drunkenness, and falls, ending with death or suicide. (Doc H) It was very radical depiction but it had to be to make an impact on the people. The Second Great Awakening enrolled millions of new members into the church system, and even produced new denominations. This reform movement “awakened and reformed” churches across the nation, especially in upper New York which earned the nickname the Burned Over District for all of it’s religious revivals. (Doc B) The Second Great Awakening appealed to democratic ideals like individuality, and morality.

Unlike the Second Great Awakening, which brought people together, Sectionalism tore them apart. The country was split into sections based on beliefs, values, and opinions. The main sections were the North and the South. This split happened for many reasons. One of those reasons is the fight over slavery. Abolitionists fought for the emancipation of the slaves. The North had banned slavery before 1800, even, and now demanded that the South follow them. The North argued that the Declaration of Independence stated that “All men are created equal.” The South interpreted this as “All (white men) are created equal” and argued more with the constitution by saying “Liberty is alienable.” The south also argued that the Economy would die if slavery did. They said that the North was profiting enormously from Industrial Cotton Production and if slavery failed, they would make significantly les money. The South argued that the North lived off slavery just as much as they did. The south believed they were the faithful ones to the founding fathers and remained true to historic republican values while the North was prone to an endless supply of “isms.” The country was torn to pieces by the opinions of either side.

The last movement that expanded democratic ideals was the Abolitionist Crusade. This movement was democratic in nature seeing that it was voluntary, professed equality and free will, and called for freedom. The movement also allowed free African Americans and women to participate. One of the Crusade’s goals was to emancipate the slaves and ship them back to Monrovia. This was far too radical of an idea and never happened, but it reflects their beliefs well. The North even tried sending the south Abolitionist literature, but they just burned it. The North protested slavery and the denial of women’s rights by saying these laws existed “without the consent of the governed” and the people are not “represented in the government which [they] are taxed to support. (Doc I) Document C expresses the views of female slaves who felt especially oppressed by the laws against both blacks and women. When the Abolitionists realized they would not be able to free the slaves they then argued for the non-expansion of slavery instead. Following the Nat Turner rebellion, the South was scared of more slaves rebelling so they enacted laws that prohibited teaching slaves to read, made moving slaves more difficult, and Georgia even offered a reward if the Abolitionist leader was brought to them. Their leader, William Lloyd Garrison believed abolishing slavery was the central and most important idea for creating a perfect society.

All of these reform movements expanded democratic ideals. In the years before the civil war, America made a shift to individualism and morality. People argued more fervently about equality and freedom. The North was willing to change to make the country stronger while the South thought strength came from traditional republican values and no change. The two sides fought back and forth constantly until the Civil War finally erupted. These changes mimicked the Market Revolution, also. In the Market Revolution politics had to change to suit the changes in the society. Here the same thing happened. Society demanded that the government change their ways because the people felt the need for change. People argued that these changes be made to promote equality and so that they “might feel a pride” in their country once again. (Doc A) Democratic ideals had to broaden immensely after this time period. Feelings of freedom and equality rang throughout the North and from the slaves. Slavery had become a political issue instead of just an economic or social one. America was changing fast and for the better. The Second Great Awakening, Sectionalism, and the Abolitionist’s Crusade all broadened democratic ideals and molded America into something brand new and different than it had ever been before.

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