United States Reform Movements Essay

785 words - 3 pages

In the years following the Second Great Awakening of the United States, numerous reform factions began to spring up around the country, fueled by recent evangelical ideals. Seeking to improve and expand democratic ideals, many of these factions undertook drastic measures to achieve what they believed to be a proper aspiration. Nevertheless, it would be farfetched to claim that such reform movements within the US resulted in any positive outcomes, and it would be much more logical to claim that many of the so-called reformers were in fact trying to further their own ambitions. By keeping penitentiary, church, and alcohol reforms as a pretense for egotistical purposes, they were able to attract an elite following of people that that acted with virtues that were anything but democratic.On of the first reform movements to become advocated was the penitentiary system. It had become a brutal institution, becoming known for excessively cruel punishments for criminal offenses. Extreme cases included imprisonment for insignificant amounts of debt, and asylums were common practices for what was believed to be insanity, following medieval practices. The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, in 1829, reported that they were "proud" to have "rescued" the youthful from temptation and turning them into "valuable members of society". Yet by allowing the Society, and other institutions like it, to determine which of the youths were undisciplined and under the influence of temptation, the United States government was effectively allowing these organizations to diminish democracy. When these institutions were allowed to decide who was or was not "orderly", power shifted away from the people and into their hands.A similar transfer of control occurred during the Second Great Awakening, when a fresh wave of spiritual fervor empowered numerous factions of the church. By gaining control over a culture dedicated to a religion, the church managed to dictate an entire society towards its own values. Charles G. Finney, in 1843 remarked that "all sorts of abandoned characters are awakened and converted" by the church, failing to mention whether or not any of the "profligates" actually wished to be converted. By forcing "infidels" to follow their ethics, supporters of the church had secured themselves within a throne of power, with the ability to enforce what they believed was moral, desecrating the principles of free...

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