10 September 2010
Democratization in Mid-19th Century America
Democracy in the United States became prominent in the early to mid-19th century. Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, was inaugurated in 1829 and was best known as the pioneer who mainstreamed democracy in America. While market economy grew in the early 1800s, by 1820 U.S, “political life grew more democratic than ever before” (Schaller et al.377). Democratization spread political power to a new class of individuals, expanding future opportunities mostly to poor white males who now had the ability to debate and influence political life in an emerging United States. Democratization, which is a time-bound process to make a group more democratic, subsequently affected American culture, religion, politics, and overall governmental reform during the first half of the 19th century. American culture benefited from steam power and industrialization, in addition to improved manufacturing, which lowered prices of leisure and recreational materials. The increasingly secular culture expressed through novels, newspapers, and the work of mass political parties matched the spiritual movements of the day (466). Traditionalists became frustrated due to the popular rise and social reach of these new media forms, but America was successfully building its national cultural identity. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work pushed for change in the American lifestyle, and encouraged readers to reject tradition. Henry David Thoreau on the other hand published work attempting to live in solitude and removing himself from the modernizing world. Although Thoreau’s attempt at solitude was foiled, both Thoreau and Waldo were associated with the philosophy of transcendentalism, this philosophy would compute with trends toward democratization in American society. Early 19th century Americans’ religious outlooks embodied a similar correlation to the same ideas of “Jacksonian Democracy” which emphasized the influence and importance of American citizens. The Second Great Awakening unified Christians on both sides of the Atlantic as religious changes permeated into the other changes that occurred during the period. The increasing rapid industrialization and urbanization of America, the rise of a commercial economy, and a tenacious middle class all spurred both celebration and anxiety (444). American’s thrived on Jackson's equal political policy, which became known as "Jacksonian Democracy,” this was defined as a government in which the supreme power is given to the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. This brought reform to a broken system, by the mid-19th century life greatly improved for Americans by uniting society with the revival of religious faith, allowing women to play a bigger role, and bringing about opposition and an end to slavery. America as a society would respond expeditiously to reform movements in the mid-19th century, however supporting them required Americans to abandon deeply held beliefs about themselves, society, and proper relations among human beings. The reform of American society did contain certain contradictions. Many antislavery activists, were drawn to the negative effects of slavery on democracy without much regard for slaves as people. Large amounts of literature circulated regarding antislavery reform. David Walker, an exile from the South, published work “flatly denying the legitimacy of slavery,” asserting universal rights of all human beings to freedom. Reform movements by women greatly improved American Society, advocates played a crucial role in the abolition movement. Women participated actively in temperance and abolition movements by raising money, distributing...
Cited: Schaller, Michael. American Horizons, Volume I Concise Edition, U.S. History in a Global Context, 2013, Print
“Encyclopedia Britannica” WEB 17 September 2013
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