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Notes: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter 12

Updated on October 25, 2012
Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition
Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition


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Answer the Focus Questions and Review Questions and type your answers in the "Comment" Section below. I will post the best answers on here and credit you! Good luck!

Chapter 12: An age of Reform (1820-1840)

Focus questions

  1. What were the major expressions of the antebellum reform impulse?
  2. What were the sources and significance of abolitionism?
  3. How did abolitionism challenge barriers to racial equality and free speech?
  4. What were the sources and significance of the antebellum women’s rights movement?

Chapter 12: An age of Reform (1820-1840)

  1. Introduction
  1. Abby Kelly - selfless, courageous lady who devoted her life to against slavery
  1. She traveled throughout the North, speaking all the time
  2. Was an early pioneer for women’s rights; challenged the idea that the women’s “place” was in the home
Reform Impulse
  1. Introduction
  1. Tocqueville criticized the absence of a powerful national gov
  2. Nearly all reform groups worked to convert public opinion to their cause
  3. They adopted a variety of tactics to bring about social change: “moral suasion”, some used the power of gov to force sinners to change their ways, and some withdrew from society altogether
Utopian Communities
  1. Utopian = outline of a perfect society
  2. Some were vert strict discipline of a single leader, some were democratic
  3. Socialism and Communism arose from this b/c of the communities that tried to reorganize society on a cooperative basis
The Shakers
  1. Shakers were the most successful of the religious communities; had over 5k members at the peak of time
  2. Founded by Mother Ann Lee
  3. They believed that God has a “dual” personality, both male and female, and thus the two sexes were spiritually equal. They adopted children rather than having their own
  1. Another influential community: John Noyes made it: he preached that he and his followers had become so perfect that they had achieved a state of complete “purity of heart”, or sinlessness
  2. Complex marriages: anyone could have sex w/ anyone, it just had to be recorded in a book. This place was very dictatorial environment
Worldly communities
  1. It seemed like “voluntary slavery” to outsiders, but because of their member’s selfless devotion to the teachings of their leader, they lasted a long time
  2. 1841 - New Eng Transcendentalists est Brook Farm not far from Boston. Wanted to prove that manuel and intellectual labor could work together
  3. Many writers went here
The Owenites
  1. Most important secular communitarian was Robert Owen, a BR factory owner
  2. He est the Harmony community in Indiana to give people what they worked for
  3. Also defended women’s rights. Place was called New Harmony
  4. Only lasted a few yrs (lots of arguments), but it impacted other US places
Religion and Reform
  1. Most AM’s saw the ownership of property as the key to economic independence, and therefore to freedom. And marriage as foundation for social order
  2. Perfectionism arose: saw both individuals and society at large as capable of indefinite improvement (NY and Ohio = burned over districts b/c of intense revivals)...Temperance turned to complete turning away from alcohol
The Temperance movement
  1. North’s emerging middle class reform became one of respectability
  2. They got very serious about drinking, went from 7 gallons//person/yr to 2 gallons/person/yr from 1830-40
Critics of Reform
  1. Many saw the attack on drinking as an attack on their own freedom
  2. Taverns = popular meeting places and drinking places
  3. Catholics and Germans = problem. They viewed sin as an inescapable burden, perfectionist = ya that’s not cool
  1. Catholics had more emphasis on family and church
Reformers and Freedom
  1. Reformers had to reconcile their desire to create moral order and their quest to enhance personal freedom
  2. Some reformers insisted that self-fulfillment came though self-discipline
  3. Many religious groups in the East worried that settlers in the West and immigrants lacked self-control and led lives of vice
The Invention of the Asylum
  1. Asylums for insane people were invented.Prisons and asylums would eventually become overcrowded places where rehabilitating the inmates seemed less important that simply holding them at bay, away from society
The Common School
  1. This was the largest effort at institution building
  2. School reform reflected numerous purposes that came together in the era’s reform impulse
  3. Horace Mann: Mass lawyer who was the director of MAss board of edu: said that universal public edu could restore equality to a fractured society...he basically argued for schools
  1. Believed they were training free individuals, meaning ppl who internalized self-discipline
The Crusade Against Slavery
  1. Intro
  1. Greatest evil (compared w/ drinking, Sabbath breaking, and illiteracy) was slavery
  1. 1830s = white Americans were contemplating an end to bondage of slaves
  2. The idea was to send backs to another place (eg colonize them somewhere else), and that doing this would end slavery (in a sense)
Blacks and Colonization
  1. Most AF-Am’s adamantly opposed the idea of colonization; they didn’t want to leave their homes
Militant Abolitionism
  1. David Walker - free black in N Carolina operated a used-clothing store shop.
  1. He fought against colonization. Wrote the Appeal warning whites about black ppl getting together if whites tried to enforce colonization
The Emergence of Garrison
  1. Some states put a price on Walker’s head, then William Lloyd Garrison (black guy) published the weekly journal The Liberator
Spreading the Abolitionist message
  1. Antislavery leaders took advantage of new print technology to spread their message (along with greater literacy!)
  2. Abolitionists viewed slavery as a sin
Slavery and Moral Suasion
  1. Almost all abolitionists, despite their militant language, rejected violence as a means of ending slavery
  2. Idea that slaveholders must be convinced of the sinfulness of their ways
  3. Abolitionists adopted the role of radical social critics
Abolitionists and the Idea of Freedom
  1. Said that freedom derived not from the ownership of productive property such as land but from ownership of one’s self and the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor
  2. however, slavery was so much a part of AM life that not much could be done w/out fundamental changes in the South and North
A New Vision of America
  1. Started the idea of freedom as universal; idea that slaves, once freed, should be empowered to participate fully in the public life of the US
  2. Abolitionists argued that the Dec of Ind didn’t reinforce slavery at all, rather it condemned it
Black and White Abolitionism
  1. Black Abolitionists
  1. Blacks played a leading role in the antislavery movement
  2. Frederick Douglass = published an account of his life in bondage
  3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was the most effective piece of antislavery literature
Abolitionism and Race
  1. Whites and blacks fought against slavery
  2. The extent is which the white abolitionists managed to rise above the prejudices of their society
Slavery and American freedom
  1. Blacks rejected AM’s idea that it was a land of liberty... “freedom celebrations” when the Atlantic slave trade became illegal
  2. US was looking more like a land of tyranny
Gentlemen of prosperity and Standing
  1. At first, it aroused violent hostility from northerners who feared that the movement threatened to disrupt the Union, interfere w/ profits from slave labor, and overturn white supremacy
  2. Gentlemen of property and standing = often merchants w/ close commercial ties to the South - disrupted abolitionist meetings
  3. When abolitionists began to flood Washington w/ petitions calling for emancipation in the nation’s capital, the H of Reps adopted the notorious “gag rule” , which prohibited their consideration
  4. Elijah P Love-joy was killed by a mob (black man): first martyr
Slavery and Civil Liberties
  1. Mob attacks and attempts to limit abolitionists freedom kept happening
  2. Love-joy's death lead to Wendell Phillips to associate himself w/ the abolitionist cause became one of the nation’s leading orators
The Origins of Feminism
  1. The rise of the public Woman
  1. Lucy Colman - abolitionist lecturer, and a teacher at a school for blacks in upstate NY: advocate for women’s rights and an opponent of capital punishment
  2. 1834 = middle class women in NYC organized the Female Moral Reform Society = wanted to redeem prostitutes from lives of sin and to protect the morality of single women
Women and Free speech
  1. The Grimke sisters = used the controversy over their speeches as a springboard fora vigorous argument against the idea that taking part in assemblies, lectures, and demonstrations was unfeminine
  1. Brought up the issue of why men were paid more than women
Women’s Rights
  1. Seneca Falls Convention: Brought up the issue of women’s suffrage for the first time
  1. It marked the beginning of the 70 yr struggle for women’s suffrage
Feminism and Freedom
  1. Women’s rights was an international movement
  2. Said that women, whether married or not, deserve the range of individual choices that constituted the essence of freedom
Women and Work
  1. Black abolitionist Sojourner Truth: insisted that the movement devote attention to the plight of poor working=class women and repudiate the idea that women were too delicate to engage in work outside the home
  2. Feminism demanded an expansion of the boundaries of freedom rather than a redefinition of the idea
The Slavery of Sex
  1. Basically means women were slaves b/c of their sex
  2. Marriage was not, literally speaking, equivalent to slavery
  3. However, the married women didn’t enjoy the fruits of her own labor, a central element of freedom
“Social Freedom”
  1. Women’s rights advocates took self ownership, or control over one’s person, in an entirely new direction
  2. Changed the previous thing that men could have sex with their wives whenever they wanted, just so long as it wasn’t “intolerable”
  3. Susan B Anthony observed that Social Freedom lied at the bottom of all
The Abolitionist Schism
  1. Howe pioneered humane treatment of the blind and educational reform, and he was an ardent abolitionistGarrison’s radicalism on issues like women’s rights, as well as his refusal to support the idea of abolitionists voting or running for public office, impeded the movement’s growth.
  2. Formed the Liberty Party w/ James G Birney as it’s president
  3. Ralph Waldo Emerson declared that the “great duty of freedom was to open out halls to discussion of this question (slavery)”
  4. The greatest achievement was shattering the conspiracy of silence that had sought to preserve national unity by suppressing public debate over slavery

Review Questions

  1. Explore why AM’s had an impulse to improve AM society in the first half of the 19th century
  2. Explain the significance of the abolitionist movement to the idea of AM freedom
  3. Analyze the pros and cons of the colonization movement and why many blacks were opposed to it
  4. Why was this a period of institution building?
  5. How did the abolitionist movement and the women’s movement influence each other?


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