While America was undergoing an "era of good feeling" there were many problems lying under the surface. These social ills were attacked many social reformers. This reform movement was led by people who believed that America could do anything if she put her mind to it. One writer called America, "The Israel of our time."
Major reform movements existed in the following areas:
A. Women's Rights:
1. This movement led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a women's rights conference at the Seneca Fall Convention. At the convention they wrote a Declaration of Women's Rights.
1. The temperance movement was an attempt to eliminate the evils of alcohol. Mostly the same women involved in the women's rights movement . Led by the American Christian Temperance Union they sought to save the American family by trying to get alcohol declared illegal.
2. They were successful in getting some states to adopt state constitutional amendments banning alcohol.
3. This movement continued until the passage of the 18th amendment in 1920.
1. Led by Horace Mann, the great educational reformer, a movement was led to create mandatory public education in America. It was eventually successful.
D. Treatment of the insane
1. Reformers led by Dorothea Dix led the way to more modern treatment of the mentally ill.
2. The first mental hospital was built in the state of Massachustetts as a result of her efforts.
Few areas escaped the notice of reformers in the 1830's and 1840's. Here are some examples of their writings. For each selection note their goals, methods used to convince their leaders, your opinion of their effectiveness and a judgment as to what extent their goals have been reached today.
1. Dorothea Dix was an extremely influential reformer of the period. Her work led to prison reform and improved treatment of the insane. In 1843 Dix sent the following report to the Massachusetts legislature:
If I inflict pain upon you, and move you to horror, it is to acquaint you with the sufferings which you have the power to alleviate (cure), and to make you hasten to the relief of the victims of legalized barbarity.
Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medford. One idiotic subject chained, and one in a closed stall for seventeen years. Pepperell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another violent; several peaceable now. Brookfield. One man caged, comfortable. Granville. One often closely confined; now losing the use of his limbs from lack of exercise. Charlemont. One man caged. Savoy. One man caged. Lenox. Two in the jail, against whose unfit condition there the jailer protests.
Dedham. The insane disadvantageously placed in jail. In the (charity ward), two females in stalls, situated in the main building; lie in wooden bunks filled with straw; always shut up. One of these subjects is supposed curable. The overseers of the poor have declined giving her a trial at the hospital, as I was informed, on account of expense.
2. Some who worked for equal rights for blacks also fought to win equality for women. Denied admission to the World Antislavery Convention in London in 1840, abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the nations first women's rights convention. The convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It issued the following "Declaration of Women's Rights":
We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. . . Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government. . .
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward women, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this let the following facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise (the vote).
He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she has had no voice. . .
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. . .
He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. . .
He has endeavored, ion every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject (submissive) life.
3. Alcoholism was a serious problem in the United States, particularly in an era when women had no right to control their own earnings and an entire family could starve because of a drunken father. Organizations like the American Temperance Union and the American Christian Temperance Union worked to eliminate excessive drinking (and eventually to pass a prohibition amendment). Songs like the following were sung in parades, at meetings, and during rallies:
Father, dear father, come home with me now!
The clock in the steeple strikes one.-
You said you were coming home from the shop,
As soon as your day's work was done.-
Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,
And mother's been watching since tea,
With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms,
And no one to help her but me.-
Come home father, come home, come home!-
Please ,- father, dear father, come home!
4. Horace Mann was an educational reformer. He helped improve schools, curricula, and instructional methods throughout the Northeast. As secretary to the Massachusetts Board of Education, he argued for reforms in reports submitted to the state legislature. The following is his twelfth and last report (1848):
According to European theory, men are divided into classes, some to toil and earn, others to seize and enjoy. . . Our ambition as a state should trace itself to a different origin and propose to itself a different object. . .
Education. . . beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery. . . I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. . .
. . . To all doubters, disbelievers, or despairers in human progress, it may still be said there is one experiment which has never yet been tried. It is an experiment, which, even before its beginning, offers the highest authority for its ultimate success. . . It is expressed in these few and simple words: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old he will not depart from it."
But this experiment has never been tried. Education has never been brought to bear with one-hundredth part of its potentialforce upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race.
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A good way to understand the men and women who created America’s reform tradition and carried it across the Mississippi in the years before the Civil War is to look at the political heritage their parents and grandparents left to them. The very idea of generations resonated with new meaning after independence. The conveyance of social responsibility from one generation to another is always a fascinating interplay of the inherited and the novel, but the American Revolution was a social and political rupture that clouded the future for young Americans. Together they faced a new way of life in a new nation.
While this attachment within the generation that inherited the Revolution weakened traditional loyalties, it also held out the promise of creating a new political will that would extend across the continent. The Revolutionary leader Gouverneur Morris expressed this hope when he wrote that a “national spirit is the natural result of national existence; and although some of the present generation may feel colonial oppositions of opinion, that generation will die away, and give place to a race of Americans.”
Fighting a war for independence had not unified Americans. Rather it created the problem of unity—an imperative to hang together once the actual fighting ended and peace had been secured. The states were held together by a loose confederation. Much of the land Americans claimed still remained part of the ancestral domain of American Indians. The commonalities that did exist among the states—those of language, law, and institutional history—pointed in the wrong direction, back to the past when they were still part of the British Empire.
The Declaration of Independence with its charged statements about equality and “certain unalienable rights” proved far more divisive than unifying. The flagrant contradiction between slavery and the principle of equality led to the first emancipation movement as one after another of the northern states abolished slavery in the waning years of the eighteenth century. With these remarkable acts, the Mason-Dixon boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania became the symbolic division between freedom and slavery, an ominous development at a time when Americans were working to strengthen their union.
The Constitution created a national government along with the new responsibility of being an American citizen for white men. Most of those who George Washington invited to serve in his administration were social conservatives who believed that the world was divided between the talented few and the ordinary many. They endorsed individual freedom and equality before the law, but believed that members of the upper class should govern, restricting the common man to voting. Thomas Jefferson, chafing at this elitist doctrine, organized an opposition to the Federalists based on the contentious issues of popular participation, free speech, and equal opportunity. Two raucous presidential campaigns permanently disrupted the electoral decorum that the Federalists had hoped to impose with the new constitutional order. Jefferson’s presidential victory in 1800 opened the way for the next generation to fashion the world’s first liberal society.
The embrace of personal liberty as a defining feature of American politics gave concrete grounds for the hope that slavery would end. The number of free blacks, swollen by northern emancipation, southern manumissions, and greater scope for self-liberation, led to the formation of African American communities. Their success gave the lie to slaveholders’ dismissive claims about the abilities of African Americans. After the Revolution, whites and blacks mingled in churches and shops, on the frontier and in the cities of the Upper South and the North, along with persistent racial prejudice. Despite the campaigns to abolish slavery in the northern states, African Americans figured on the margins of political life, and the existence of slavery in the “land of the free” continued to exacerbate sectional tensions.
During this time a French countess planted the seeds of a powerful idea—American exceptionalism—in a letter to Jefferson on the eve of the French Revolution: “The characteristic difference between your revolution and ours,” she wrote, “is that having nothing to destroy, you had nothing to injure, and labouring for a people, few in number, incorrupted, and extended over a large tract of country, you have avoided all the inconvenience of a situation, contrary in every respect.” Then she added, “Every step in your revolution was perhaps the effect of virtue, while ours are often faults, and sometimes crimes.”
This view of the United States as exceptional was echoed among reform-minded Europeans. “They are the hope of the human race, they may well become its model,” Anne Robert Turgot told the pro-American English minister Richard Price. The famed editor of the Encyclopedie, Denis Diderot, proclaimed the new United States an asylum from fanaticism and tyranny “for all the peoples of Europe.”
The new nation appeared exceptional to such Europeans because, in their view, its healthy, young, hard-working population had won a revolutionary prize—what was seen as an empty continent upon which to settle its free-born progeny. America was exceptional because the familiar predators of ordinary folk—the extorting tax collector, the overbearing nobleman, the persecuting priest, the extravagant ruler—had failed to make the voyage across the Atlantic. Natural abundance, tolerance, exemption from Old World social evils—these were among the materials from which the European reform imagination created the exceptional United States. This view ignored the new nation’s reliance on slavery and its displacement of Native peoples, who did not figure in the romanticized view of a New World, where the evils of the Old World could be eradicated.
America’s ordinary citizens took up this view, celebrating what was distinctively American: its institutional innovations, its leveling spirit, above all, its expanded opportunities for common people. To them the idea of American exceptionalism had enormous appeal, for it played to their strengths. Taking up western land could become a movement for spreading democratic institutions across the continent. Being exceptional established a reciprocity between American abundance and high moral purposes. It infused the independence and hardiness of America’s farming families with civic value, generating patriotic images that could resonate widely without addressing the question of slavery.
The Fourth of July rhetoric of the hoi polloi made clear that American exceptionalism freed them from the elite’s embrace of European gentility. To be genteel, one had to accept the cultural domination of Europe. For ordinary Americans the country’s greatness emerged in a lustier set of ideals—open opportunity, an unfettered spirit of inquiry, destruction of privilege, personal independence.
During the nineteenth century, ordinary white Americans ignored the insignificance of their country on the world stage and propelled their republic discursively into the march of progress, a resonant new idea in Western culture. What might be construed elsewhere as uninterestingly plebian was elevated to a new goal for mankind. America was the only nation, Richard Hofstadter wryly commented, that began with perfection and aspired to progress. And American history was written to explain how this could be.
Three themes of American exceptionalism came into play: the clean slate with its implicit rejection of the past, the autonomy of the individual with its accompanying disparagement of dependency, and the commitment to natural rights with the corollary that democratic governance could best protect them. The metaphor of a clean slate helped create the illusion of a frontier emptied of human inhabitants—a virginal continent—an image that drew a veil over the violent encounters with the indigenous peoples that actually paced the westward trek of Americans. The autonomous man enjoyed the freedom to be the designer of his and his family’s life unaided or impeded by others, and the republic drew its worth from protecting individual rights. Democratic rhetoric likewise drew a veil over the severe limits that existed for those whose race or sex had already been assigned a value at birth.
This idea of being exceptional didn’t really become the core of national identity until those who fought for independence and wrote the Constitution had retired from public life—as the Virginia dynasty of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, gave way to men such as John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Then a new generation of Americans took possession of their legacy and wrapped their imagination around the idea of a special role in world history for their nation. The tensions between the ideal and reality generated the reform movements that flourished in antebellum America. Activists became agents of change in an era of change, brought about by the convergence of political revolutions, intellectual ferment, and social turbulence.
During these same years, America entered into a period of commercial expansion that promoted the construction of roads, the extension of postal services, and the founding of newspapers in country towns. A dense new communication network amplified the resonance of partisan disputes. The control over information and opinions once exercised exclusively by an elite had been wrested away by the articulate critics of that elite. A strong consensus quickly formed that American democracy required a broad base of educated people and literacy became widespread for both men and women, promoted by religious and commercial demands. Reading became a necessity, met by a thriving print culture. European visitors expressed astonishment that those who lived in the rural areas were as well informed as city dwellers.
Land lured men and women westward. By 1810 a third of the American population lived in a new settlement. The conclusion of the War of 1812 added another push towards the frontier as soldiers got paid in land bounties. The fertile lands of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys beckoned, giving ordinary men a chance to capitalize their family’s labor. All this movement thrust the nation into sustained warfare against the native inhabitants.
Urbanization grew apace; population in the older cities more than doubled, though three-quarters of Americans still lived on farms or rural towns on the eve of the Civil War. Within a decade, merchants, freed from British restrictions, sent ships across the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. Baltimore became the fastest growing city in the United States, benefitting from its access to both the Atlantic and the hinterland for the raw materials and customers for its flourishing flour-milling industry. Yankee ingenuity displayed itself in manufacturing and retailing. In the rural Northeast where there were plenty of rivers, entrepreneurs tapped into waterpower. Both men and women sought liberation from the drudgery of farm work in the hundreds of factories that sprang up along the waterways of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Enterprise moved out to the countryside and down the social ladder as a market emerged that matched the nation’s geographic and public reach.
Antebellum economic growth undulated through boom and bust cycles, the busts being remembered as the Panics of 1819, 1837, and 1857. The European demand for cotton created most of the booms—though the discovery of gold in the newly acquired California in 1848 was the most spectacular. Cotton, however, tied the American economy to slavery at the very time that the first emancipation movement created the portentous division between free and slave states. Profits from cotton coursed through the whole American economy. Southern specialization meant that plantation owners looked north for wood products, tools, and some foodstuffs, while they imported their luxury items from Europe.
As northern states used their impressive communications network to spread their values, southerners—that is, the planter elite—began to perceive themselves standing against the nation, straining at the bonds of union as they drew closer to one another through shared political goals and intense sociability. Enslaved men and women, whose numbers ranged from 30 percent to 60 percent of each slave state’s population, formed ties with slaves on neighboring plantations, though they all lived in fear of being sent to the southern frontier of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Poorer whites clustered in the small communities of the hill country.
The Bill of Rights and the steady, if slow, expansion of the suffrage for white men and a few free black men kept the democratic torch burning. Equally significant was the disestablishment of colonial churches. Between 1786 and 1833, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts replaced their established churches with religious freedom, like those of the other states. Their leaders could have approved multiple established churches, but they opted to disentangle religious and political institutions, mirroring at the state level that “wall of separation between church and state” which Jefferson wrote about in 1802. This move particularly benefitted Baptists and Methodists, which were the fastest-growing denominations in the nation. Neither had enjoyed state support and both had suffered discrimination from the established churches.
Although the majority of Americans were nominally Christians, many of them lived without places of worship, especially those who had moved to the frontier. Paying for clergy, church buildings, and seminaries now depended upon voluntary contributions, and without state support, many churches struggled to survive. Yet the separation of church and state paradoxically strengthened religion in America, for it permitted a hundred spiritual flowers to bloom, and bloom they did. Ministers began experimenting with new methods designed explicitly to revive Christianity in America.
In the early 1800s revivals passed in waves over the country’s villages, towns, and cities. They could be scheduled or impromptu, held in church buildings or out in the open at great camp meetings lasting many days. Charismatic preachers exhorted men and women to confess their sins and accept the grace extended to them through Christ. Many achieved fame for their persuasive ability. The astute French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville commented wryly that every time he was told he was going to meet a priest, he met a politician. To be born again became the core religious experience. While some churches continued to accept the doctrine of predestination associated with Calvin, an increasing number believed that good works contributed to a Christian’s claim on heaven.
These revivals transformed American culture and the nature of Protestant Christianity in the United States. Ministers, responding to the “call to do the Lord’s work,” would pack their Bibles in their saddle bags and set off to find a field of souls to harvest. The Methodist Church organized circuits for their ministers to ride to extend their reach. The revivalists’ stress on personal salvation led to the neglect of other elements of Christian dogma and of the learned clergy to explicate them. They also encouraged personal commitments that went far beyond conventional service attendance. Critics within America’s older churches—Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Episcopal—found much to find fault with in this new movement. They considered its theology shallow and disliked what they saw as manipulative appeals to the emotions, but the evangelicals were astoundingly popular.
Reliance upon the Bible led to differing interpretations and new denominations. Every contested meaning had the potential of inspiring a new group of worshippers. Upstate New York was called “the burned over district” in reference to the intense passions aroused by the revivals as well as their frequency. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sprang from this soil, while the Disciples of Christ began as an effort to bring all the denominations together and ended by adding to the proliferating array. Without a formal hierarchy, the Baptists were particularly prone to splintering over doctrinal differences.
After a long period during which many Christians had drifted toward a more rationalist understanding of divinity and others had been set adrift by the turmoil of two wars, the disestablishment campaigns, and westward movement, the revivals successfully re-pietized America. While Evangelicals may have constituted a minority, they successfully imposed their mores upon the public.
The new denominations educated members in democratic practices as well. Forming new churches required volunteers to raise funds, build organizations, and participate in decision-making. Women, blacks, and the poor, often excluded from voting, learned about democratic governance in their churches. With a strong wind at their back, Evangelical Protestants sought to fill in the empty canvas of the American continent, assured by their success and their confidence in the fresh footings of the US Constitution.
The zeal generated by the revivals fueled an extensive missionary movement, at home among the American Indian tribes and abroad. In the early nineteenth century, the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missionaries sent young missionary couples to Asia, a field opened up by American commerce to Ceylon and India. Evangelical associations like the Bible Society, the Peace Society, and the Sunday School Union followed in quick succession.
The General Union for Promoting the Observance of the Sabbath was organized to ensure the sanctity of Sundays. They exerted pressure on storekeepers to show respect for the day of rest and worship, but lost the battle to close post offices or stop the flow of water into the Erie Canal where rowdy boatman shattered Sabbath tranquility. The network of Evangelical organizations became known as the Benevolent Empire, a term that captures their proponent’s aspiration to rise above denominational differences to join forces for proselytizing and educating, wherever needed. Scarcely a social ill escaped the attention of these men and women.
In 1827 a perceptive observer was struck by the constant churning of people in the United States. He concluded that if “movement and the quick succession of sensations and ideas constitute life, here one lives a hundred fold more than elsewhere; here, all is circulation, motion, and boiling agitation.” He continued, “Experiment follows experiment; enterprise follows enterprise.” A British naval officer more laconically commented that “the Americans are a restless, locomotive people: whether for business or pleasure, they are ever on the move in their own country, and they move in masses. . . . Wandering about seems engrafted in their Nature,” he added; they “forever imagine that the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled.” These observers saw the novelty of a society directed almost entirely by the ambitious dreams that had been unleashed by their exceptional situation.
In all this mobility lay the seeds of the many social problems Evangelicals addressed. The decline of traditional ordering mechanisms had led to deteriorating standards of personal behavior. Anyone who wasn’t a reformer usually needed reforming. In 1820, Americans fifteen years and older drank more liquor than ever before or since. Artisans in most shops took a whiskey break every morning and afternoon. Children could easily encounter alcoholic teachers; heavy drinking punctuated most public celebrations. Gambling and ritualized violence figured prominently in public life as well, and mobs formed easily. The lightly governed, newly settled communities in the West had their urban equivalent in the older cities where the decadal doubling of population created entirely new neighborhoods.
Efforts to stop alcohol consumption were largely a top-down affair until Lyman Beecher, one of the stars of the revival movement, launched the American Temperance Society in 1826. He shifted the focus from the hopeless drunkard to the social drinker and made abstinence, not moderation, the goal. Fanning out to the West and the South, Beecher’s group swept up Methodists and Baptists who had long deplored the pervasive drinking. His temperance tracts reached 100,000 readers at a time when the biggest paper in the country had a circulation of 4,500.
In the 1840s, a new group, the Washington Temperance Society, garnered a membership of half a million in three years. Formed by working-class men in Baltimore, the Washingtonians campaigned to secure local-option prohibition laws. Harking back to the Revolutionary heritage, temperance workers claimed that they had liberated themselves from a tyranny worse than Britain’s. Changes in American drinking habits came swiftly; consumption was cut in half in the ten years between 1835 and 1845, but the campaign to make the sale of alcoholic beverages illegal persisted through the century.
Many Catholics immigrated to the United States during the Irish potato famines of the 1840s and 1850s. Less censorious about drinking—they picnicked with beer in public parks—Catholics drew the ire of temperance leaders. They also suffered persecution from nativist groups who feared and defamed their religion. Joined by emigrating Germans, the Catholics soon built their own churches, parochial schools, and seminaries. When John Hughes became Archbishop of New York in 1842, Catholics acquired a forceful champion who publicly exposed every insult and injury that Catholics sustained. Americans slowly came to realize that their respect for religious freedom meant more than tolerating diversity within the Protestant fold.
The two most significant reform causes of the antebellum period called for the end of slavery and full citizenship for women. In the afterglow of the Revolution, anti-slavery societies agitated for cures for this poisonous thorn in the body politic. State legislatures, including Virginia’s, debated schemes for emancipation. Free African Americans were particularly active in keeping the issue alive with petitions to legislatures, legal suits, pamphlets, newspapers, and acts of self-liberation. They were particularly eager to undermine colonization societies, which attempted to solve the problem of racial prejudice by sending freed slaves to Africa. The Quakers, first in the anti-slavery field, helped establish the so-called underground railroad to ease southern slaves’ flight from captivity. The fear of slave revolts, after the successful one in Haiti, haunted white southerners. The 1820 census showed that the slave population had almost doubled in twenty years.
The increasing profitability of cotton gradually stilled anti-slavery voices in the South, and it took some dramatic developments to stir much concern about southern slavery in the North. Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a slave state—the first state carved from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. New York Congressman James Talmadge, railing against the extension of such “a monstrous scourge,” tried to tack on a gradual emancipation provision to the enabling act. Finally, under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Missouri came in as a slave state with the promise of no further extension of slavery, in essence pushing the problem off to an uncertain future and energizing some new opponents to slavery.
William Lloyd Garrison brought the full force of evangelical fervor to the abolition movement. A newspaperman by trade, he started the Liberator in 1831 and founded, with others, the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. His statement in the Liberator’s first issue gives a sense of his fierce determination: “I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.” Abolitionists followed his lead by abandoning gradual and ameliorative measures and demanding “immediate and complete emancipation.” This position provoked the wrath of southerners and the scorn of many in Garrison’s native New England.
Congress was intent on containing, not enflaming, the conflict over slavery. Despite the clear right of Americans to petition Congress, they adopted a gag rule to prevent anti-slavery petitions from being read. This issue rankled as no other, until abolitionists were able to persuade Congress to change it. Senator and former Vice-President John Calhoun said this repeal put the states on an irreversible path towards conflict over slavery. Not until the new Republican Party in 1854 articulated its opposition to any extension of slavery into the western territories did anti-slavery northerners find a unifying, rallying position.
Mobilizing people against slavery triggered a movement to secure greater political participation for women. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who championed both abolition and women’s rights, were forceful advocates from the South. With Garrison, they proved to be the fulcrum for the entwined efforts. Propertied women had voted in New Jersey for thirty-three years after the Revolution, but they lost that right as citizenship became less defined by property and more by independence, which the law denied women. At the same time American popular culture defined woman’s role as the presiding domestic presence and nurturer of male citizens. When the American Anti-Slavery Society encouraged women to take an active part in its outreach, some men broke away to form an anti-slavery society that did not admit women. This kind of response intensified the determination of a handful of pioneers—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Lucretia Mott—to pursue the struggle for equal rights for women. It would be hard to exaggerate how radical this movement was in the 1840s and 1850s, yet the work these women had done in anti-slavery work and the temperance movement made it seem quite natural to them that women should be active in the public sphere.
Stanton came from a prominent New York family. She not only received an excellent academy education, she also learned about the law from her father’s law clerks. Strong willed and talented, she studied and then rejected the legal system that so thoroughly subordinated women, especially wives, to men. She and her abolitionist husband honeymooned in London, where they attended the Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. Mott, a charismatic Quaker feminist, also attended. When the men voted to deny women participation in the conference, Stanton and Mott forged a bond. Mott, like two other women’s rights leaders, Lucy Stone and Susan Anthony, had awakened to the discrimination against women when she discovered that male colleagues where she was teaching earned four times more than she did.
Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree; she was also unique in refusing to take her husband’s name. Stanton said that Stone “was the first person by whom the heat of the American public was deeply stirred on the woman question.”
Through temperance and abolitionist work, many women learned the organizational skills that were to stand them in good stead when they turned their heads and hearts toward eradicating the laws and mores subjugating women because of their sex. In 1848, Stanton and Mott threw themselves into organizing the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Drawing 300 activists, among them forty men, the convention endorsed Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, which was based on the Declaration of Independence. Delegates at the convention passed a number of resolutions, including an audacious claim for the right to vote. Leading newspapers, in an attempt to ridicule the proceedings, published in full the Declaration of Sentiments with its description of an aristocracy of sex “exalting brute force above moral power, vice above virtue, ignorance above education, and the son above the mother who bore him.” The publicity was an attempt to scandalize the public, but Stanton shrewdly observed the widening of their of readership as a result.
Learning about the Seneca Falls convention drew Susan Anthony to active participation in the women’s rights movement. Her Quaker father was both a cotton manufacturer and an abolitionist who undertook her education after he discovered that her primary school limited the subjects it would teach girls. In 1851, Anthony met Stanton, and the two of them founded the first women’s temperance society. After that they traveled together on speaking tours, which became forays into hostile territory punctuated by insults and battery. Stone, who was also an indefatigable speaker, reported occasions when she was hit by ice, rotten fruit, eggs, and a hymnal.
Many women were turned into agitators for women’s rights because of negative reactions to their participation in the reform movements that were sweeping the North in the antebellum period. They felt compelled to seek the liberty, equality, and independence that Americans extolled as a national legacy and overcame any personal timidity to do so. After the Civil War, they continued to campaign for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery. But the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 giving newly freed African American men the voting privileges that the women had so long sought became a bitter pill to swallow.
Defending slavery through the decades placed the southern states in opposition to the experimental thrust of northern life. Increasingly northerners and southerners construed their differences as implicit challenges to one another. Emancipation had given those in the North a deceptive sense of their political convictions. The opening up of opportunities to move, to innovate, to express personal opinions defined for many what it meant to be an American. In making the ideal American a restless, ingenious, and accomplishment-centered person, northerners characterized the nation in a way that made southern differences ever more apparent. Over time southern states coalesced as the South, a separate society from that of the rest of the nation. Its leaders no longer apologized for slavery as they had in the Revolutionary area; instead they defended it as the basis of a truly genteel, American, civilization.
Conflict became inevitable when northern voters rallied around Abraham Lincoln and supported the Republican Party’s adamant opposition to the extension of slavery in the presidential election of 1860. Lincoln’s victory drove southern leaders to secede rather than accept the containment of slavery. With the firing of cannon on Fort Sumter, the federal redoubt in Charleston harbor, on April 12, 1861, they took up arms to defend their way of a life.
The ardent reform campaigns had given ordinary northerners a sense that their country was what Turgot had called the “hope of the human race.” As European countries retreated from democracy, the United States seemed more and more exceptional as a self-governing people dedicated to securing inalienable rights for all. Northern soldiers fought to save the union as described in the Declaration of Independence. Halting the extension of slavery had unified them; abolishing slavery came about through fighting the war. Evangelical Christians with their intense reforming zeal supplied the energy for the reform movements of the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. Fusing the social ideals of liberty and equality with the personal ones of seeking redemption, they had narrowed the scope for compromise. They had also fortified Northerners to fight for their values as keenly as those in the South fought for theirs.
 Gouverneur Morris to John Jay, Jan. 10, 1784 in The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnson (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), 3:104–105.
Les Amities Americaines de Madame d’Houdetot, d’apres sa correspondance
inedite avec Benjamin Franklin et Thomas Jefferson, ed. Gilbert Chinard (Paris: Daupeley-Gouverneur, 1924), 56.
 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), 15. I have borrowed Anderson’s phrase.
 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Phillips Bradley (New York: Vintage Books, 1954), 1:304–307.
 Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford, 2007), 187.
 Sidney Mead, “Denominationalism: The Shape of Protestantism in America,” Church History 23 (1954); Howe, What Hath God Wrought, 180-188.
 Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 13.
 Richard R. John, “Taking Sabbatarianism Seriously: The Postal System, the Sabbath and the Transformation of American Political Culture,” Journal of the Early Republic 10 (Winter 1990): 538.
 Michel Chevalier, Society, Manners, and Politics in the United States: Letters on North America, ed. John W. Ward (1839; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961), 299.
 Frederick Marryat, A Diary in America, with Remarks on Its Institutions, ed. Sydney Jackman (New York: Knopf, 1962), 366.
 Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution, 205-215. See also Merton M. Hyman et al, Drinkers, Drinking, and Alcohol-Related Mortality and Hospitalizations: A Statistical Compendium (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1980).
 W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 7-9, 40-46, 191-195; Joyce Appleby, “The Personal Roots of the First American Temperance Movement,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 14 (1997):141-159; Robert L. Hampel, Temperance and Prohibition in Massachusetts, 1813-1852 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982), 2-4; 183-185 offers a historiographical survey of the subject.
 Joseph Yannielli, “George Thompson among the Africans: Empathy, Authority, and Insanity in the Age of Abolition,” Journal of American History, 96 (March 2010):986ff.
 Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution, 247
 Henry Mayer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 225.
 Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 6.
 Robert Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Barbara Leslie Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middleton CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981).
 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences, 1815–1897 (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 1993), 1:5-6, 333, 48, 54. See also Ellen Carol Dubois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848-1869 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).
 Alice Stone Blackwell, Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Woman’s Rights (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 2001), 94. See also Jean H. Baker, Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
 Elinor Rice Hays, Morning Star: A Biography of Lucy Stone, 1818–1893 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1961), 72-73; Sally Gregory McMillen, Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 81. See also Rebecca J. Mead, How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868–1914. (New York: New York University Press, 2004).
 Ann D. Gordon, ed. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 2:567.
 Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, The Life and Writings of Turgot: Comptroller-General of France, 1774–6, ed. W. Walker Stephens (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1895), 303.
 Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War, (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).
Joyce Appleby is professor of history emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Inheriting the Revolution: the First Generation of Americans (2000). Her most recent book is The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism (2010).