A third revolution accompanied the reformation of American politics and the transformation of the American economy in the middle nineteenth century
As the young Republic grew, increasing numbers of Americans poured their considerable energies into an astonishing variety of religious revivals and reform movement
Societies were formed against alcohol, tobacco, profanity, and the transit of mail on the Sabbath
Beginning in the late 1790s and boiling over into the early nineteenth century, the Second Awakening swept through America’s Protestant churches, fundamentally reshaping the nation’s religious landscape, and powerfully reaffirming religion’s central role in American society, as a generation of believers embarked on their missions to perfect.
Church attendance was still a regular ritual for about three-fourths of the 23 million Americans.
The rationalist ideas of the French Revolutionary era had done much to soften the older orthodoxy
A key figure of the Second Great Awakening was the feminization of religion, in terms of both church membership and theology
Middle-class women, the wives and daughters of businessmen, were the first and most fervent enthusiasts of religious revivalism.
The more prosperous and conservative denominations in the East were somewhat less shaken by revivalism, and Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Unitarians continued to rise mostly from the wealthier, urbanized, better-educated levels of society
Religious diversity further reflected social cleavages when the churches faced up to the slavery issue
The secession of the southern churches foreshadowed the secession of the southern states
A Desert Zion in Utah
Overcoming pioneer hardships, the Mormons soon made the desert bloom like a new Eden by means of ingenious and cooperative methods of irrigation
Under the rigidly disciplined management of Brigham Young, the community became a prosperous frontier theocracy and a cooperative commonwealth
A federal army marched in 1857 against the Mormons, who harassed its lines of supply and rallied to die in their last dusty ditch.
Free Schools for Free People
Tax-supported primary schools were scarce in the early years of the Republic
Though miserably lagging in the slavery-cursed South, triumphed between 1825 and 1850
As late as 1860, the nation counted only about a hundred public secondary schools -- and nearly a million white adult illiterates.
Black slaves in the south were legally forbidden to receive instruction in reading or writing, and even free blacks, in the North as well as the South, were usually excluded from the schools
Educational advances were aided by improved textbooks, notably those of Noah Webster, a Yale-educated Connecticut Yankee who was known as the “School Master of the Republic”.
Higher Goals for Higher Learning
The first state-supported universities sprang up in the South, beginning with North Carolina in 1795
Women’s higher education was frowned upon in the early decades of the nineteenth century
Women’s place was believed to be in the home, and training in needlecraft seemed more important than training in algebra
Traveling lecturers helped to carry learning to the masses through the lyceum lecture associations, which numbered about three thousand by 1835
An Age of Reform
As the young Republic grew, reform campaigns of all types flourished in sometimes bewildering abundance as the driving forces of religious revival and the rapid growth of a market economy converged
Modern idealists dreamed anew the old Puritan vision of a perfected society: free from cruelty, war, intoxicating drink, discrimination, and -- ultimately -- slavery
Agitation for peace also gained momentum in the pre-Civil War years
In 1828, the American Peace Society was formed, with ringing declaration of war on war
Bolstered by the utopian spirit of the age, various reformers, ranging from the high minded to the “lunatic fringe,” set up more than forty communities of a cooperative, communistic, or “communitarian” nature
Various communistic experiments, mostly small in scale, have been attempted since the founding of Jamestown in 1607
The Shakers attained a membership of customs prohibited both marriage and sexual relations, they were virtually extinct by 1940
The Dawn of Scientific Achievement
Early Americans, confronted with pioneering problems, were more interested in practical gadgets than in pure science
People everywhere complained of ill health -- malaria, the “rheumatics,” the “miseries/” and the chills
Illness often resulted from improper diet, hurried eating, perspiring and cooling off too rapidly, and ignorance of germs and sanitation
The use of medicine by regular doctors was often harmful, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes declared in 1860 that if the medicines, as they employed, were thrown into the sea, humans would be better off and the fish worse off