Andrew Jackson… What else can be said of this era? His boot is all over it, but there’s more. The nation was in a transition from the end of its beginning and the beginning of its end. Your book puts it this way:
In September 1835, the Niles Register commented on some 500 recent incidents of mob violence and social upheaval. “Society seems everywhere unhinged, and the demon of ‘blood and slaughter’ has been let loose upon us. . . . [The] character of our countrymen seems suddenly changed.” How did Americans adapt to these changes? In a world that seemed everywhere “unhinged” and out of control, in which old rules and patterns no longer provided guidance, how did people maintain some sense of control over their lives? How did they seek to shape their altered world? How could they both adopt the benefits of change and reduce the accompanying disruptions? One way was to embrace the changes fully. Thus, some Americans became entrepreneurs in new industries; invested in banks, canals, and railroads; bought more land and slaves; and invented new machines. Others went west or to the new textile mills, enrolled in Common Schools, joined trade unions, specialized their labor in both the workplace and the home, and celebrated modernization’s practical benefits. Many Americans were uncomfortable with the character of the new era. Some worried about the unrestrained power and selfish materialism symbolized by the slave master’s control over his slaves. Others feared that institutions such as the U.S. Bank represented a “monied aristocracy” capable of undermining the country’s honest producers. Seeking positions of leadership and authority, these critics of the new order tried to shape a nation that retained the benefits of economic change without sacrificing humane principles of liberty, equality of opportunity, and community virtue. This chapter examines four ways in which the American people responded to change by attempting to influence their country’s development: religious revivalism, party politics, utopian communitarianism, and social reform.
SIGNIFICANT THEMES AND HIGHLIGHTS
- The social and economic changes of the 1830s were both promising and unsettling. This chapter explores the question of how people (both ordinary and prominent) sought to maintain some sense of control over their lives in the 1830s and 1840s. Some, like the Robinsons, poured their energies into reform. Others turned to politics, religion, and new communal lifestyles in order to shape their changing world.
- Throughout the chapter, social, political, cultural, and economic topics are interrelated and seen as a whole. The chapter merges two major events—democratic Jacksonian politics and the many forms of perfectionist social reform. They began from distinctly different points of view but in fact shared more in common than has usually been recognized.
- The explanation of politics in the age of Jackson looks at the social and ethnocultural basis of politics, while the analysis of revivalism, religion, and utopian communitarianism stresses the socioeconomic basis of these cultural phenomena.
- The timeless dilemmas and problems of reformers, especially of temperance, abolitionist, and feminist reformers, are a sub-theme running through the chapter.
Familiarity with Basic Knowledge
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
- Explain the connection between religious revivalism and reform efforts to erase social evils.
- Describe three ways in which political culture changed between the early 1820s and 1840.
- Explain the key events and significance of the three major issues in Jackson’s presidency—the tariff, the war against the bank, and Indian removal.
- List and explain the leaders, principles, programs, and sources of support of the two major parties, Democrats and Whigs.
- List several evils that Americans wanted to reform in the 1830s and 1840s and the major influences that contributed to the reform impulse.
- Describe some of the purposes, patterns, and problems that most utopian communities shared.
- Describe the major goals, tactics, and problems in the antebellum reform movements for temperance, abolitionism, and women’s rights.
Practice in Historical Thinking Skills
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
- Analyze how Jacksonian politicians and social reformers both opposed one another and had much in common.
- Explain how the changing numbers and composition of voters affected the political structure.
- Explain the development of the second American party system, showing how it evolved from and differed from the first party system.
- Understand and explain why people turn to politics, or to religion and revivalism, or to utopian communitarianism, or to specific issue reforms in order to shape their world; and then explain how well these seemed to work.
IMPORTANT DATES AND NAMES TO KNOW
1824 New Harmony established (Indiana)
1825 John Quincy Adams elected president by the House of Representatives
1826 American Temperance Society founded
1828 Calhoun publishes “Exposition and Protest”, Andrew Jackson defeats John Quincy Adams for the presidency, Tariff of Abominations
1828-1832 Rise of workingmen’s parties
1830 Webster-Hayne debate and Jackson-Calhoun toast, The Book of Mormon published by Joseph Smith, Indian Removal Act
1830-1831 Charles Finney’s religious revivals
1831 William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator
1832 Jackson vetoes U.S. Bank charter, Jackson reelected, Worcester v. Georgia
1832-1833 Nullification Crisis
1832-1836 Removal of funds from U.S. Bank to state banks
1833 Force Bill, Compromise tariff, John Calhoun resigns as vice president, American Anti-Slavery Society founded
1834 New York Female Moral Reform Society founded, National Trades Union founded, Whig party established
1835-1836 Increasing incidents of mob violence
1836 Gag rule, Specie circular, Martin Van Buren elected president
1837 Financial panic and depression begin, Sarah Grimké’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, Emerson’s “American Scholar” address
1837-1838 Cherokee “Trail of Tears”
1840 William Henry Harrison elected president, American Anti-Slavery Society splits, World Anti-Slavery Convention, Ten-hour day for federal employees
1840-1841 Transcendentalists found Hopedale and Brook Farm in Massachusetts
1843 Dorothea Dix’s report on treatment of the insane, Henry Highland Garnet’s call for slave rebellion
1844 Joseph Smith murdered in Nauvoo, Illinois
1846-1848 Mormon migration to Great Basin under leadership of Brigham Young
1847 First issue of Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist newspaper North Star
1848 Oneida community (New York) founded, First women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York
1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter published
1851 Maine prohibition law, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick published
1853 Children’s Aid Society established in New York City
1854 Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is published
1855 Massachusetts bans segregated public schools