Discuss the extent to which the American reform movements of 1825-1850 sought to expand democratic ideals in America.

Essay by bills217High School, 11th grade March 2003

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In the period from 1825-1850, a majority of the reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals. However, some did so indirectly and unintentionally.

The reform movements were spurred by the Second Great Awakening, which began in New England in the late 1790's, and would eventually spread throughout the country. The Second GA differed from the First in that people were now believed to be able to choose whether or not to believe in God, as opposed to previous ideals based on calvinism and predestination.

According to Charles G. Finney, the role of the church is to reform society. In 1834, he said, "When the churches are...awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow." Finney had been influenced by Second Great Awakening ideals. He goes on to say that "drunkards, harlots, and infidels" would also be converted do to reform by the church.

In this sense, the Second Great Awakening helped expand democratic ideals by bettering the moral standards of the common man.

In 1835, Patrick Reason created an engraving depicting a black female slave in chains. Above her is the quote, "Am I not a woman and a sister??" This reflects how the abolition and women's movements often tied into one another. Both of these movements helped expand democratic ideals in that they desired increased rights (specifically suffrage) for minorities. However, women and blacks were simply trying to increase their own influence in society, and were not otherwise looking to expand democratic ideals for the benefit of everyone (Native Americans, Irish immigrants, etc.).

The Grimke sisters (Angelina & Sarah) were southern abolitionists who also played a role in the Women's Movement. Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker, and therefore opposed to slavery on moral grounds, also played a role in both movements. Anthony...