Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reforms from the 1820s through the 1860s

In the early 1800s, the United States was going through a great change and was experiencing a rise in industrialization. This was the Industrial Revolution, which is known for its rise of factories and urbanization, the rise of new inventions meant to improve the lives of others, and the first wave of immigration. However, the Industrialization was also known for an increase in the wealth gap and a rising number of urban poor. It was because of these reasons that groups, both religious and not, began reform movements to help those who were in need.

Economic Reforms
·         Panic of 1837
o   Van Buren comes to office just as economic crisis hits the fan—he has pledged to continue deregulation, but several issues converge:
§  After destruction of the National Bank, currency is destabilized and loses value
§  State banks increase currency supply by printing paper money; they float risky loans and everyone goes into debt
§  British investors got rid of their paper money and demanded hard currency
§  Speculation in stocks and land—markets collapsed and financial ruin was widespread
o   Effects of the Panic
§  343 out of 865 banks in the U.S. close down permanently
§  $100 million lost in NY alone
§  5-year economic depression
§  Damages Van Buren’s reputation 

·         Cultural Impact of Industrialization
o   Lots of poor people, “middling”, fell back into poverty despite their best efforts—creates the conditions where a sustained critique of market capitalism is possible
o   Political independence eroded by economic collapse

The Reform Impulse
·         Voluntary Associations
o   Long important to American civic life
o   Three basis methods:
§  Persuasion
§  Use of power of the government
§  Withdraw from corruption of society and set a good example worth imitating

The Utopian Impulse
·         In the economic upheaval of the Market Revolution, other models of social and political organization appear worth investigating
·         Bucolic, pastoral communal life was seen as an antidote to relentless urban material competition—a spiritual retreat and maybe a safe harbor for people battered by successive Panics
·         The new communities that spring up (Owenites, Shakers, Mormons, Oneida, Transcendentalists, etc.) all challenged the tenants of Christianity, family, and marriage.

Social Activism

·        Social activism began with a strong religious propulsion with emphasis on perfecting human institutions to make a more perfect society. 
·        Benevolent societies (charitable organizations)

·         Education reform
o   Branson Alcott
§  Learning by doing; conversations between equals; learning interactive and creation of critical abilities; deduce values and ethics rather than instill them
o   Elizabeth Peabody
§  Established U.S. kindergarten; led early education movement
o   Horace Mann
§  Public should pay for education with tax dollars; everyone should have access to public classrooms; strict training standards for teacher competency; equal pay for male and female teachers; broad curriculum; schools should be non-sectarian
·         Prison Reform
o   Improved facilities; better security
o   Shift in emphasis to productive labor
o   Separate out the mentally ill, elderly, poor, and developmentally disabled from criminals
o   Create separate asylums for non-criminal social dependents 

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