Chapter 12-Antebellum Culture and Reform

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An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th Century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.

James Fenimore Cooper

American novelist who is best remembered for his novels of frontier life, such as The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

Walt Whitman

American poet and transcendentalist who was famous for his beliefs on nature, as demonstrated in his book, Leaves of Grass. He was therefore an important part for the buildup of American literature and breaking the traditional rhyme method in writing poetry.

Herman Melville

An American writer in the 1800s who drew on his experiences at sea and living on South Pacific islands for material and also wrote "Moby Dick". In addition, he rejected the optimism of the transcendentalists and felt that man faced a tragic destiny.

Edgar Allen Poe

(1809-1849). Orphaned at young age. Was an American poet, short-story writer, editor and literary critic, and is considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Failing at suicide, began drinking. Died in Baltimore shortly after being found drunk in a gutter.


Followers of a belief which stressed self-reliance, self- culture, self-discipline, and that knowledge transcends instead of coming by reason. They promoted the belief of individualism and caused an array of humanitarian reforms.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leading American transcendentalist. An essayist and poet. Unitarian preacher. Wrote and lectured on ideas that encouraged life to be simple and natural. Some of his major works include "Nature", "The American Scholar", and "Self Reliance". He also wrote "The Concord Hymn" ("...where once the embattled farmer stood and fired the shot heard 'round the world.")

Henry David Thoreau

American transcendentalist who was against a government that supported slavery. He wrote down his beliefs in Walden. He started the movement of civil-disobedience when he refused to pay the toll-tax to support him Mexican War.

Utopian Societies

Group of small societies that appeared during the 1800s in an effort to reform American society and create a "perfect" environment. (ex. Shakers, Oneidas, Brook Farm, etc.)

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Originally a transcendentalist; later rejected them and became a leading anti-transcendentalist. He was a descendant of Puritan settlers. The "Scarlet Letter" shows the hypocrisy and insensitivity of New England Puritans by showing their cruelty to a woman who has committed adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet "A."

Margaret Fuller

Social reformer, leader in women's movement and a transcendentalist. Edited "The Dial" which was the publication of the transcendentalists. It appealed to people who wanted "perfect freedom" and "progress in philosophy and theology and hope that the future will not always be as the past". (She lived at Brook Farm at one point).


Utopian group that splintered from the Quakers, believed that they and all other churches had grown too interested in this world and neglectful of their afterlives; celibacy.


Founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, the sect (officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) was a product of the intense revivalism of the "Burned Over District" of New York. Smith claimed to have found The Book Of Mormon engraved on Golden tables in 'reformed Egyptian' and thought it was a lost section of the bible. Smith's successor Bringham Young led 15,000 followers to Utah in 1847 to escape persecution.

Protestant Revivalism

The movement that had begun with the Second Great Awakening early on the 18th century, and had evolved into a powerful force for social reform by the 1820s.

Charles Grandison Finney

The greatest revival preacher; trained as a lawyer, stopped drinking and became an evangelist after a deeply moving conversion experience as a young man; held audiences spellbound; tall and athletic; led massive revivals in Rochester and New York City in 1830-31; preached old-time religion and was an innovator; devised the "anxious bench" where sinners stood and repented in front of the congregation; encouraged woman to pray aloud in public; promised a perfect Christian kingdom on earth and condemned alcohol and slavery; served as president of Oberlin College in Ohio which became a center for revivalist activity and abolitionism

Temperance Crusade

Many people, mostly women and also factory workers, wanted to get rid of alcohol because they thought it caused many problems. Many progressives involved in politics wanted to get rid of it as well because they saw saloons as the workplace of the urban machines. In the 1870s the movement experienced a resurgence.


The idea that there exists a relationship between people's head shape and their mental capacities/deficiencies. This theory was widely used for both intelligence determination and personality assessment in the 1800's.

Contagion Theory

In 1834, Oliver Wendell Holmes published his findings from a large number of cases of "puerperal fever" and concluded that the disease could be transmitted from one person o another. This theory was met with criticism until Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, came to a similar conclusion.

Horace Mann

(1796-1859) He was an idealistic graduate of Brown University, secretary of the Massachusetts board of education. He was involved in the reformation of public education (1825-1850). He campaigned for better school houses, longer school terms, higher pay for teachers, and an expanded curriculum. He caused a reformation of the public schools, many of the teachers were untrained for that position. Led to educational advances in text books by Noah Webster and Ohioan William H. McGuffey.

Public Education

In the 1830s interests in public education grew rapidly and was a reflection of the new belief in the innate capacity of every person and of society's obligation to tap that capacity.

Benevolent Empire

Movements of social reform that focused on the development of public schools, teachers, treatment of the mentally ill, limits on the sale of alcohol, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Convention in Seneca Falls to address women's rights.

Asylum Movement

Efforts to propose government legislation to improve treatment of the insane with larger institutions and proper environmental and educational conditions.

Indian Reservations

Indians were sent to reservations to "protect their culture". In reality, these reservations just pulled Indians off of lands the whites wanted and kept them separate from American society.


Sarah and Angelina Grimke were active and outspoken abolitionists that ignored attacks by men that said their acts were inappropriate for their sex. Women in the 1830s and 40s did not like the barriers that arose from the doctrine of "separate spheres."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A member of the women's right's movement in 1840. She was a mother of seven, and she shocked other feminists by advocating suffrage for women at the first Women's Right's Convention in Seneca, New York 1848. Stanton read a "Declaration of Sentiments" which declared "all men and women are created equal."

Lucretia Mott

Quaker activist in both the abolitionist and women's movements; with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she was a principal organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.

Susan B. Anthony

(1820-1906) An early leader of the women's suffrage (right to vote) movement, co-founded the National Women's Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stnaton in 1869.

Seneca Falls Convention

Took place in upperstate New York in 1848. Women of all ages and even some men went to discuss the rights and conditions of women. There, they wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, which among other things, tried to get women the right to vote.

Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions

Document signed in 1848 by 68 women and 32 men, delegates to the first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Declaration followed the form of the United States Declaration of Independence. According to many who attended the convention and support of the Declaration helped pass the resolutions put forward, the document was the grand basis for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women.


They had embraced the ideal of sexual equality. Not all of them advocated full sexual equality in American society, but enough women did to cause a separation during the annual meeting of the Society of Friends in 1848 in Genesee, New York.


The militant effort to do away with slavery. It began in the north in the 1700's. Becoming a major issue in the 1830's, it dominated politics by the 1840's. Congress became a battle ground between the pro and anti slavery forces.

American Colonization Society

A Society that thought slavery was bad. They would buy land in Africa and get free blacks to move there. One of these such colonies was made into what now is Liberia. Most sponsors just wanted to get blacks out of their country.

William Lloyd Garrison

(1805-1879) Prominent American abolitionist, journalist and social reformer. Editor of radical abolitionist newspaper "The Liberator", and one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

American Antislavery Society

Founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists. Garrison burned the Constitution as a proslavery document. Argued for "no Union with slaveholders" until they repented for their sins by freeing their slaves.

Frederick Douglas

Famous black abolitionist that escaped from slavery who would later right a narrative of his own life that described his life. He promoted the abolitionist cause and drew the line where evil must be denounced.

Worldwide Antislavery Movement

Frederick Douglass became a major figure in the international antislavery movement and was a popular speaker in England and Europe in the 1840s and 50s.

Anti-abolitionist Violence

Due to the spread of the abolitionist movement, violence arose from those in favor of slavery in the 1830s. (ex, a mob in Philly attacked the abolitionist headquarters, the "Temple fo Liberty," in 1834, burned it to the ground, and began a bloody race riot.

Amistad Supreme Court Case

On board the Amistad, African slaves bound for Cuba committed mutiny. They wanted to go back to Africa, but only made it to NY, where there was a big controversy and trial to decide if they should get their freedom or not. John Quincy Adams argued the case in front of the Supreme Court and the court ruled in favor of the slaves. They got freedom.

"Free Soil" Movement

Supported by Northern Democrats and Whigs who opposed slavery in the west because it created competition for white workers. Did not want to end slavery outright and met with opposition in the South

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1853 and highly influenced England's view of the American Deep South and slavery. A novel promoting abolition that intensified sectional conflict.

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