Reform Movements DBQ

Table of Content

During the period of 1825-1850, numerous Reform Movements embodied democratic ideals by expanding democracy, extending freedom and rights to all individuals, granting the right to a second chance, and bringing about necessary societal changes. However, certain movements that aimed to carry out these ideals ultimately undermined their foundations. Nevertheless, some reform movements did succeed in expanding democratic ideals through their transformative efforts.

Several reform movements aimed to further democratic ideals, yet in reality, they did not seek to expand democracy or enact societal change. In the era of Jacksonian Democracy, strict guidelines dictated how certain groups, such as criminals, immigrants, slaves, women, drunkards, and the mentally unstable, should be treated. However, during the age of reform, these issues were addressed and transformed through democratic principles. The reformation of how the insane and juvenile offenders were treated received support from democratic beliefs.

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During the asylum reform movement, there was a prominent belief in the idea of giving people a second chance. As a strong country, it was believed that we should make an effort to change individuals and provide them with an opportunity for redemption. Dorthea Dix, a leading activist for the rights of the delinquents and the mentally ill, played a significant role in this movement. She established the first mental institute and advocated for giving these individuals a second chance to become valuable members of society (Doc. A). Dix emphasized the need to counteract their negative behaviors and habits in order to integrate them into society.

The asylum reformation movement served as an exemplification of democratic ideals, showcasing how to appropriately treat individuals who were deemed insane or delinquent. Additionally, these democratic ideals were further cemented during the Second Great Awakening, which emphasized the concept of providing individuals with a second chance and the belief that everyone could achieve salvation. This was achieved through the processes of conviction, repentance, and reformation, allowing those who were lost in sin and debt to join the ranks of the saved and holy. It is noteworthy that this idea marked a significant departure from Calvinism, which previously held that only a select few were destined for salvation while excluding all others. (Doc. B)

Democratic ideals offered sinners a chance at redemption, with various reform movements such as asylum and social reform advancing quickly. Additionally, abolitionism and women’s rights served as examples of democratic ideals. The rise of democratic values, which encompassed the widening of liberty and the promotion of moral principles in individuals’ lives, played a role in fueling the momentum behind abolitionism, despite its initial unpopularity in the northern states. Nevertheless, its lack of popularity endured due to the potential threat it posed to national unity.

Despite the presence of thoughts on emancipation, freedom, and the leadership of abolitionists like Fredrick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, slavery would ultimately be resolved through the civil war. Similarly, although the woman suffrage movement did not immediately achieve its goals, it existed and was mostly supported by democratic ideals similar to those expressed in abolitionism. Women considered their treatment disgraceful and aspired to equality with men (Doc. I). Suffragists firmly believed that the government had a responsibility and advocated for change.

Both the abolition and suffrage movements were inspired by democratic ideals. Some movements aimed to hinder the spread of these ideals, particularly in terms of voting rights. Certain individuals believed that immigration was becoming problematic. These individuals, known as Nativists, believed that America should be governed by native-born Americans and that immigrants should not be granted the same democratic rights. This exposes the negative aspect of democratic ideals, as figures like Samuel Morse, a prominent leader of the anti-immigrant Nativist party, believed that they were safeguarding democracy (Doc. D). Nativists harbored a particular animosity towards Irish Catholics, who were gaining political influence through increasing Catholic immigration. Morse and other Nativists argued that Catholics held loyalty only to the pope and would undermine democracy. The anti-immigrant parties such as the Know Nothing Party and the Nativist Party held views that contradicted democratic ideals; they resisted any expansion of these principles despite seeking to uphold them. The reformation of children’s education played a significant role in the emergence of democratic ideals.

During the mid 1800s, education underwent a reform that introduced new books like the McGuffey Reader. Prior to this, schools did not focus on teaching moral virtues to children. However, with the efforts of educational reformers Horace Mann and William McGuffey, schools started aiming to instill morality in children. The McGuffey Readers became a tool for teaching life lessons and virtues that were previously neglected. This reform was driven by democratic ideals and a desire for social change. However, the emergence of utopian communities led to the abandonment of democratic principles.

While some individuals believed that society was irreparably damaged and incapable of change, others acknowledged societal problems and opted to create their own self-sufficient community. These people believed it was better for themselves and their children to be a part of an ideal society. By isolating themselves from the mainstream society, these individuals rejected the democratic principles that provide opportunities for progress to both individuals and society. Furthermore, there were those who saw social and economic reforms as harmful to the nation.

Despite some individuals perceiving the changes as disrespectful and an effort to distance themselves from the past, there was a clear need for reform in various aspects of society. Document G demonstrates that not everyone supported the growth of democracy and its principles. Numerous social reforms showcased democratic ideals, including the increasing concern over alcohol consumption in America. The perception of drinking underwent a transformation during the Second Great Awakening in America, shifting from being accepted to being acknowledged as a hazardous habit that required elimination.

Leader Benjamin Rush regarded alcohol as a harmful flaw within society and utilized it as the basis for Prohibition during the Great Depression. This movement aimed to spread democratic principles throughout the nation and unite people against alcohol’s dangers. Most reform movements were guided by democratic ideals and facilitated significant societal changes.

However, there were also factions that resisted progress towards democracy and mistakenly attempted to expand democratic principles.

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