Reform movements in the United States from 1825-1850 greatly benefited to expand democratic ideals that shape our nation today, but they also limited the expansion with some reforms. Reform movements took place in the North to fight off the forced labor and cruelty of slavery, and throughout the states, religious revivals and women rights movements arose. These reform movements expanded the democratic ideals by advocating an equal treatment for women and slaves while the religious revivals shaped moralities of men.
The Temperance Movement limited the expansion of democratic ideals by attempting to reduce and prohibit the use of alcohol in the country. Many other reforms took place as the society began to rise, adding reforms to criminal punishments and immigration. This time of social and religious reforms slowly became democratic ideas that set the base for our government standards that we follow today. The two main reform movements that took place during this time period were the beginning of the Women Rights’ movement and the Abolitionist Movement.
Document C shows a relation between the two movements as the engraving depicts a women slave who is tied up in shackles, kneeling for hope, pleading that she is indeed a woman too. This engraving was made to show that slaves are human beings and should be treated as one. The document encourages undecided citizens in the North to appeal to the abolitionists and bring an end to the cruel slavery in the South. Women slaves looked upon freed women as sisters and the slaves were stripped of their natural rights from society and this was the reason for abolitionists to fight.
This sets the pro democratic ideal that everyone is equal, no matter the race or color of your skin. Even freed white women were in seek of their rights, as shown in Document I when Elizabeth Stanton delivered her speech at the Seneca Falls Convention. Women felt it was their right to vote as well, not just the white males who were the only ones allowed to vote at the time. This reform movement alone was a great expansion on democratic ideals as many women began to participate in the movement towards woman rights.
The men in the country were also seeking a movement to reform in their churches and beliefs, leading to the 2nd Great Awakening. Document E, written by William H. McGuffey, shows that the morals of men began to become positive and they sought better values and views, shaping a democratic outlook in life that some are successful in their hard work even if they’re poor. This is the base for the set up of our nation’s three social classes, the rich class, the working class and the poor.
As society became more productive in many ways, the United States for the first time, were experiencing crimes that were committed by juveniles and the mentally ill. Document A talks about the punishments and treatment of these criminals that were in need of reform. Around this time, Dorothea Dix established the first generation of the mental asylums for the mentally ill, greatly expanding a democratic idea of fair treatment and punishments. However, there were also reform movements that countered the expansion of democratic ideals.
Document H shows the Drunkard’s Progress, a chart of a man who takes his first glass of alcohol and slowly drinks more often, leading a progression to his demise and leaving his family behind. The Temperance Movement was an initial step to the Prohibition time period, reducing and forbidding the use of alcohol, opposing the expansion of democratic ideals. Nativism, a belief that only promoted suffrage and rights for white male citizens and neglecting emigrants of these rights, was also a movement that didn’t help the expansion.
Document D, shows that a Naturalization Law that was passed to make it impossible for any immigrant to be granted suffrage. It has been stated that “Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals,” from 1825-1850 these reform movements indirectly set small democratic ideas that were the base for greater ideas expanding into the democratic ideals we live by today. Most of the reform movements were for the making of a socialist government and some movements had a completely opposite objective than expanding democratic ideas.