The American Republic to 1877 Video

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The Age of Reform


Why It Matters

The idea of reform—the drive to improve society and the lives of Americans­--during the mid-1800s. Reformers set out to improve the lives of the disadvantage especially enslaved people and the urban poor.

The Impact Today

The spirit of reform is alive and well in the modern world. Individual freedom beca, a key goal during the last half of the twentieth century. Civil rights movements have advanced racial equality. In many countries the women's movement has altered tra­ditional female roles and opportunities.

The American Republic to 1877 Video The chapter 14 video, "Women and Reform," chronicles the role of women in the reform movements of the 1800s.

1821 • Mexico becomes independent nation

1825 • New Harmony, Indiana, established

1827 • New York bans slavery

1830 • Book of Mormon published

1836 • Texas gains independence

1837 • Victoria becomes queen of England


1848 • Seneca Falls Convention

1847 • Liberia claims independence

1850 • Taiping Rebellion begins in China

1851 • Maine bans sale of alcohol

1853 • Crimean War begins

1859 • Lenoir builds first practical internal-combustion engine

1862 • Mary Jane Patterson is first African American woman to earn a college degree


Chapter Overview

Visit and click on Chapter 14—Chapter Overviews to pre­view chapter information.

The Country School by Winslow Homer By the mid-1800s, the number of public elementary schools was growing.


Study Organizer

Identifying Main Ideas Study Foldable Make and use this foldable to identify and describe major topics about the Age of Reform.

Step 1 Fold the paper from the top right corner down so the edges line up. Cut off the leftover piece.

---Fold a triangle. Cut off the extra edge.

Step 2 Fold the triangle in half. Unfold.

---The folds will form an X dividing four equal sections.

Step 3 Cut up one fold and stop at the middle. Draw an X on one tab and label the other three as shown.

Step 4 Fold the X flap under the other flap and glue together.

---This makes a three-sided pyramid.

Reading and Writing As you read, write what you learn about social reform, the antislavery movement, and the women's rights movement under each appropriate pyramid wall.



Social Reform

Guide to Reading

Main Idea

During the early 1800s, many reli­gious and social reformers attempted to improve American life and educa­tion and help people with disabilities.

Key Terms

utopia, revival, temperance, normal school, transcendentalist

Reading Strategy

Taking Notes As you read section 1, re-create the diagram below and iden­tify these reformers' contributions.

Read to Learn

• how religious and philosophical ideas inspired various reform movements.

• why educational reformers thought all citizens should go to school.

Section Theme

Civic Rights and Responsibilities Many reformers worked for change during this era.

Preview of Events

1825 Robert Owen establishes New Harmony, Indiana

1835 Oberlin College admits African Americans

1837 Horace Mann initiates education reform

1843 Dorothea Dix reveals abuses of mentally ill

AN American Story

According to folklore, Henry David Thoreau sat on the hard, wooden bench in the jail cell, but he did not complain about its stiffness. He felt proud that he had stood up for his beliefs. Thoreau had refused to pay a one-dollar tax to vote, not wanting his money to support the Mexican War. As he looked through the cell bars, he heard a voice. "Why are you here?" asked his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau replied, "Why are you not here?" He would later write, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

The Reforming Spirit

Thoreau represented a new spirit of reform in America. The men and women who led the reform movement wanted to extend the nation's ideals of liberty and equality to all Americans. They believed the nation should live up to the noble goals stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The spirit of reform brought changes to American religion, politics, educa­tion, art, and literature. Some reformers sought to improve society by forming utopias, communities based on a vision of a perfect society. In 1825 Robert Owen established New Harmony, Indiana, a village dedicated to cooperation rather than competition among its members.


Founded on high hopes and sometimes impractical ideas, few of the utopian communi­ties lasted more than a few years. The Shakers, the Mormons, and other religious groups also built their own communities. Only the Mor­mons established a stable, enduring community.

The Religious Influence

In the early 1800s, a wave of religious fervor—known as the Second Great Awakening—stirred the nation. The first Great Awakening had spread through the colonies in the mid-1700s.

The new religious movement began with frontier camp meetings called revivals. People came from miles around to hear eloquent preachers, such as Charles Finney, and to pray, sing, weep, and shout. The experience often made men and women eager to reform both their own lives and the world. The Second Great Awakening increased church membership. It also inspired people to become involved in missionary work and social reform movements. (See page 601 of the Appendix for a primary source account of a revival meeting.)

War Against Alcohol

Religious leaders stood at the forefront of the war against alcohol. Public drunkenness was common in the early 1800s. Alcohol abuse was widespread, especially in the West and among urban workers. Lyman Beecher, a Connecticut minister and crusader against the use of alcohol, wanted to protect society against "rum-selling, tippling folk, infidels, and ruff-scruff."

Reformers blamed alcohol for poverty, the breakup of families, crime, and even insanity. They called for temperance, drinking little or no alcohol. The movement gathered momentum in 1826 when the American Society for the Promo­tion of Temperance was formed.

Beecher and other temperance crusaders used lectures, pamphlets, and revival-style rallies to warn people of the dangers of liquor. The tem­perance movement gained a major victory in 1851, when Maine passed a law banning the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Other states passed similar laws. Many Ameri­cans resented these laws, however, and most were repealed, or canceled, within several years.

The temperance movement would reemerge in the early 1900s and lead to a constitutional amendment banning alcohol.

Reading Check Analyzing What were the effects of the Second Great Awakening?

Reforming Education

In the early 1800s, only New England pro­vided free elementary education. In other areas parents had to pay fees or send their children to schools for the poor—a choice some parents refused out of pride. Some communities had no schools at all.

The leader of educational reform was Horace Mann, a lawyer who became the head of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837. Dur­ing his term Mann lengthened the school year to six months, made improvements in the school curriculum, doubled teachers' salaries, and developed better ways of training teachers.

Partly due to Mann's efforts, Massachusetts in 1839 founded the nation's first state-supported normal school, a school for training high-school graduates as teachers. Other states soon adopted the reforms that Mann had pioneered.

Education for Some

By the 1850s most states had accepted three basic principles of public education: that schools should be free and supported by taxes, that teachers should be trained, and that children should be required to attend school.

These principles did not immediately go into effect. Schools were poorly funded, and many teachers lacked training. In addition, some peo­ple opposed compulsory, or required, education. Most females received a limited education. Parents often kept their daughters from school because of the belief that a woman's role was to become a wife and mother and that this role did not require an education. When girls did go to school, they often studied music or needlework rather than science, mathematics, and history, which were considered "men's" subjects.

In the West, where settlers lived far apart, many children had no school to attend. African Americans in all parts of the country had few opportunities to go to school.


What Life Was Like…

One-Room Schoolhouse

Until education became widespread, many children learned to read and write in one-room schoolhouses. Students of all ages learned mostly by rote—one group recited while the rest studied their lessons. The popular McGuffey Readers provided moral lessons as well as lessons in reading and grammar.

---Lunch pail, left Hornbook, center Page from McGuffey's, right

Higher Education

Dozens of new colleges and universities were created during the age of reform. Most admitted only men. Religious groups founded many col­leges between 1820 and 1850, including Amherst and Holy Cross in Massachusetts and Trinity and Wesleyan in Connecticut.

Slowly, higher education became available to groups who were previously denied the oppor­tunity. Oberlin College of Ohio, founded in 1833, admitted both women and African Americans to the student body. In 1837 a teacher named Mary Lyon in Massachusetts opened Mount Holyoke, the first permanent women's college in America. The first college for African Americans—Ash­mun Institute, which later became Lincoln Uni­versity—opened in Pennsylvania in 1854.

People With Special Needs

Some reformers focused on the problem of teaching people with disabilities. Thomas Gallaudet (ga •luh• DEHT), who developed a method to educate people who were hearing impaired, opened the Hartford School for the Deaf in Connecticut in 1817.

At about the same time, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe advanced the cause of those who were visually impaired. He developed books with large raised letters that people with sight impairments could "read" with their fingers. Howe headed the Perkins Institute, a school for the blind, in Boston.

When schoolteacher Dorothea Dix began vis­iting prisons in 1841, she found the prisoners were often living in inhumane conditions 


chained to the walls with little or no clothing,

often in unheated cells. To her further horror, she learned that some of the inmates were guilty of no crime—they were mentally ill persons. Dix made it her life's work to educate the public as to the poor conditions for both the mentally ill and for prisoners.

Reading Check Identifying How did Dr. Samuel Howe help the visually impaired?

Cultural Trends

The changes in American society influenced art and literature. Earlier generations of Ameri­can painters and writers looked to Europe for their inspiration and models. Beginning in the 1820s American artists developed their own style and explored American themes.

The American spirit of reform influenced transcendentalists. Transcendentalists stressed the relationship between humans and nature as well as the importance of the individual con­science. Writers such as Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau were leading transcendentalists. Through her writings, Fuller supported rights for women. In his poems and essays, Emerson urged people to listen to the inner voice of conscience and to break the bonds of prejudice. Thoreau put his beliefs into practice through civil disobedience —refusing to obey laws he thought were unjust. In 1846 Thoreau went to jail rather than pay a tax to support the Mexican War.

The transcendentalists were not the only important writers of the period. Many poets cre­ated impresive works during this period. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote narrative, or story, poems, such as the Song of Hiawatha. Poet Walt Whitman captured the new American spirit and confidence in his Leaves of Grass. Emily Dickinson wrote simple, deeply personal poems. In a poem called "Hope," written in 1861, she compares hope with a bird:

“'Hope' is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul--

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops—at”

Women writers of the period were generally not taken seriously, yet they were the authors of the most popular fiction. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the most successful best-seller of the mid-1800s, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe's novel explores the injustice of slavery—an issue that took on new urgency during the age of reform.

Reading Check Describing What was one of the subjects that Margaret Fuller wrote about?


Checking for Understanding

1. Key Terms Use each of these terms in a sentence that helps explain its mean­ing: utopia, revival, temperance, normal school, transcendentalist.

2. Reviewing Facts What were the three accepted principles of public education in the 1850s?

Reviewing Themes

3. Civic Rights and Responsibilities How did Thoreau act on his beliefs? What impact might such acts have had on the government?

Critical Thinking

4. Drawing Conclusions What did Thomas Jefferson mean when he said that the United States could not survive as a democracy without edu­cated and well-informed citizens?

5. Determining Cause and Effect Re-create the diagram below and describe two ways the religious movement influenced reform.

Analyzing Visuals

6. Picturing History Study the paint­ing of the school room on page 414. What is pictured that you still use in school today?

Interdisciplinary Activity

Research Interview your grand­parents or other adults who are over 50 years old to find out what they remember about their public school days. Before you do the interview, write six questions about the information that interests you.


TIME notebook

What were people's lives like in the past?

What—and who—were people talking about? What did they eat? What did they do for fun? These two pages will give you some clues to everyday life in the U.S. as you step back in time with TIME Notebook.


"My best friends solemnly regard me as a madman." That's what the artist JOHN JAMES AUDUBON (left) writes about himself in his journal. And he does seem to be a bit peculiar. After all, he put a band around a bird's foot so he could tell if it returned from the South in the spring. No one's ever done that before. Audubon is growing more famous thanks to his drawings. His love of the wild and his skill as an artist have awakened a new sense of appreciation for American animal life both here and in Europe. Here is what he wrote recently while on a trip to New Orleans:

"I TOOK A WALK WITH MY GUN THIS afternoon to see ... millions of Golden Plovers [medium-sized shorebirds] coming from the northeast and going nearly south —the destruction ... was really astonishing— the Sportsmen here are more numerous and at the same time more expert at shooting on the wing than anywhere in the United States."

Personalities Meet Some Concord Residents


was fought at Concord, Massachusetts. But now the sparks that fly are of a more intellectual variety. If you want to visit Concord, you should read some of the works of its residents.


Baseball for Beginners

Want to take up the new game of baseball? Keep your eye on the ball — because the rules keep changing!


canvas bases are set 90 feet apart in a diamond shape

only nine men play on each side

pitches are thrown underhanded

a ball caught on the first bounce is an "out"


at first base, a fielder can tag the bag before the runner reaches it and so make an out


players may no longer throw the ball at a runner to put him out


Americans Living on Farms

1790: 95% of Americans live on farms

1820: 93% live on farms

1850: 85% live on farms

Nathaniel Hawthorne

This writer's novel The Scarlet Letter moved some readers,

Henry Wadsworth

Writes poems about Paul Revere, Hiawatha, and a village blacksmith

Louisa May Alcott

Author of Little Women who published her first book at age 16.





EMIGRATED. In 1845, to England, FREDERICK DOUGLASS, former slave, author, and abolitionist leader, to escape danger in reaction to his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

MOVED. HENRY DAVID THOREAU, writer, to Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845. Thoreau intends to build his own house on the shore of the pond and earn his living by the labor of his hands only. "Many of the so-called comforts of life," writes Thoreau, "are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind:'

AILING. EDGAR ALLAN POE, in Baltimore, 1847, following the death of his wife, Virginia. Other than a poem on death, Poe has written little this year, devoting his dwindling energies to lawsuits against other authors he claims copied his work.

INVENTED. Samuel F.B. Morse has evolutionized communications with series of dots and dashes in 1844.


Letter From a Mill Worker

Mary Paul is a worker in her teens at a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. Mary works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. She sent this letter to her father:

Dear Father,

I am well which is one comfort. My life and health are spared while others are cut off. Last Thursday one girl fell down and broke her neck which caused instant death. Last Tuesday we were paid. In all I had six dollars sixty cents, paid 4.68 for board [rent and food]....At 5 o'clock in the morning the bell rings for the folks to get up and get breakfast. At half past six it rings for the girls to get up and at seven they are called into the mill. At half past 12 we have dinner, are called back again at one and stay till half past seven.... If any girl wants employment, I advise them to come to Lowell.



9,022 Miles of railways operating in 1850

3 Number of U.S. Presidents in 1841—Van Buren's term ended, Harrison died, and Tyler took his place

29 Number of medical schools Elizabeth Blackwell, a woman, applied to before being accepted at one in 1847

700 Number of New England whaling ships at sea in 1846

$8 Approximate yearly cost for a newspaper subscription in 1830

50% Approximate percentage of the American workforce in 1820 under the age of 10



The Abolitionists

Guide to Reading

Main Idea

Many reformers turned their attention to eliminating slavery.

Key Terms

abolitionist, Underground Railroad

Reading Strategy

Organizing Information As you read Section 2, identify five abolitionists. Below each name, write a sentence describing his or her role in the movement.

Read to Learn

• how some Americans worked to eliminate slavery.

• why many Americans feared the end of slavery.

Section Theme

Individual Action Leaders such as Harriet Tubman and William Lloyd Garrison strengthened the abolitionist movement.

Preview of Events

1816 American Colonization Society is formed

1822 First African Americans settle in Liberia

1831 William Lloyd Garrison founds The Liberator

1847 Liberia becomes an independent country

AN American Story

William Lloyd Garrison, a dramatic and spirited man, fought strongly for the right of African Americans to be free. On one occasion Garrison was present when Frederick Douglass, an African American who had escaped from slavery, spoke to a white audi­ence about life as a slave. Douglass electrified his listeners with a powerful speech. Suddenly Garrison leaped to his feet. "Is this a man," he demanded of the audience, "or a thing?" Garrison shared Douglass's outrage at the notion that people could be bought and sold like objects.

Early Efforts to End Slavery

The spirit of reform that swept the United States in the early 1800s was not limited to improving education and expanding the arts. It also included the efforts of abolitionists like Garrison and Douglass—members of the growing band of reformers who worked to abolish, or end, slavery.

Even before the American Revolution, some Americans had tried to limit or end slavery. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the delegates had reached a compromise on the difficult issue, agreeing to let each state decide whether to allow slavery. By the early 1800s, Northern states had ended slavery, but it continued in the South.


The religious revival and the reform move­ment of the early and mid-1800s gave new life to the antislavery movement. Many Americans came to believe that slavery was wrong. Yet not all Northerners shared this view. The conflict over slavery continued to build.

Many of the men and women who led the antislavery movement came from the Quaker faith. One Quaker, Benjamin Lundy, wrote:

“I heard the wail of the captive. I felt his pang of distress, and the iron entered my soul.”

Lundy founded a newspaper in 1821 to spread the abolitionist message.

American Colonization Society

The first large-scale antislavery effort was not aimed at abolishing slavery but at resettling African Americans in Africa or the Caribbean. The American Colonization Society, formed in 1816 by a group of white Virginians, worked to free enslaved workers gradually by buying them from slaveholders and sending them abroad to start new lives.

The society raised enough money from private donors, Congress, and a few state legislatures to send several groups of African Americans out of the country. Some went to the west coast of Africa, where the society had acquired land for a colony. In 1822 the first African American settlers arrived in this colony, called Liberia, Latin for "place of freedom."

In 1847 Liberia became an inde­pendent country. American emigra­tion to Liberia continued until the Civil War. Some 12,000 to 20,000 African Americans settled in the new country between 1822 and 1865.

The American Colonization Soci­ety did not halt the growth of slavery. The number of enslaved people con­tinued to increase at a steady pace, and the society could only resettle a small number of African Americans. Furthermore, most African Ameri­cans did not want to go to Africa. Many were from families that had lived in America for several generations. They simply wanted to be free in American society. African Americans feared that the society aimed to strengthen slavery.

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