The Second Great Awakening was an enormous religious revival that swept the American nation in the beginning of the 19th century. A revival is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the growth of something or an increase in the activity of something after a long period of no growth or activity.” This revival caused an unfathomable amount of permanent change to the United States. The Second Great Awakening converted millions of Americans, resulted in several new denominations of faith, changed the the way the American people viewed religion, caused a long period of reform, and connected democracy and religion. Between years 1765 and 1815, an era called the American Enlightenment emphasised reason, education, liberty, and tolerance over any divine power. This Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, brought the New World ideas from the Old World, such as John Locke’s social contract theory, ideas concerning democracy and liberty, and a vision of a strong government that protected its citizens; these radical new political ideas rejected monarchy and ultimately caused the American Revolution in 1776. The American Enlightenment also revolved around human control rather than spiritual control. For example Deism, a philosophy that God created the universe with set natural laws and then left it completely in humanity’s control, began to grow in the U.S. This caused the new nation to drift from religion. However, in the 1790’s The Second Great Awakening ignited in Connecticut in order to counter the dominance of reason by emphasising the importance of religion. The revival began with Congregationalists (Puritan descendants), Anglicans (Episcopalians), and Quakers. Revivals were dominated by the educated, such as Yale president Timothy Dwight. As the revival continued to counter the American Age of Reason, it spread to the frontier. When it arrived in states such as Tennessee and Kentucky, it quickly evolved into a much different movement. The most successful revivalists ceased to be educated intellectuals and scholars, rather normal
farmers, artisans, etc. who had been converted themselves, such as the eccentric Lorenzo Dow. The revival began to give way to camp meetings. These meetings were huge prolonged gatherings of hundreds of members of several denominations. Some meetings had attendance that reached five figures such as the popular camp meeting that occurred in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, which reached 20,000. The meetings were conducted in open air camps and could last days. People were housed in tents and heated with campfires. Crowds sang, shouted, praised God, and listened to revivalists proclaim that the Second Coming of Jesus was approaching and society must be improved immediately. The meetings encouraged moral and social order that discouraged inappropriate behavior. Sometimes strange conversion activities would occur such as men and women barking like a dog, rolling around, and contorting their bodies. Critics of the revivals attacked the meetings for advocating desire. Also preaching the gospel in the West were missionary groups such as the American Home
Missionary Society, created in 1826. Many denominations grew as a result of the revivalists, especially Baptists and Methodists.
Methodists were undoubtedly the most successful religion of the Second Great Awakening concerning sheer numbers and popularity. In 1800, Methodists possessed around 70,000 members, and in 1844 over 1,000,000. This is partly due to the utilization of circuit riders, such as Peter Cartwright, who preached of benevolence to all who would listen . Circuit riders were young men that rode around the nation spoke the word of the Methodist church. Another reason for Methodist success, was their appeal to the common man. Methodists emphasised the importance of emotion over intelligence, moral order, and a strong work ethic, which beguiled the common man with little education. The ...
Citations: Source: Boundless. “The Second Great Awakening.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 02
Jul. 2014. Retrieved 02 Jan. 2015 from
CrashCourse. (2013, May 1). 19th Century Reforms: Crash Course US History #15. Retrieved
January 3, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t62fUZJvjOs
Lutz, A. (2015, January 1). The American Enlightenment. Retrieved January 6, 2015, from
United States History. (2014, January 1). The Second Great Awakening. Retrieved January 6,
Please join StudyMode to read the full document