Reform Movements DBQ

Most Reform Movements during the period of 1825-1850 embodied democratic ideals, while others sought to carry out those ideals but ended up undermining the basis of the ideals. Democratic ideals can best be described as the expansion of democracy, extension of freedom and rights to all, the right to a second chance, and the fulfillment of necessary changes in society. Some reform movements expanded democratic ideals through change and reform.

Other reform movements sought to expand democratic ideals, but were actually opting not to expand democracy or change for the will of society. During the period of the Jacksonian Democracy, there were strict rules on how people such as, criminals, Immigrants, slaves, woman, drunkards, and the insane should be treated. However, during the age of reform, all of these would be addressed and through democratic ideals, changed. The reform of the treatment of the insane and juvenile delinquents was backed by democratic ideals.

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The idea that people should be given a second chance and that we, as a strong country should make an effort to change people were prominent ideas during the asylum reform movement. Dorthea Dix, one of the leading activists on the side of the delinquents and the insane, created the first mental institute. She and many others thought that we should give these people a second chance to be valuable members of society (Doc. A). She advocated that we should should learn how to counteract their ways and habits to make them part of society.

Democratic ideals were exemplified through the asylum reformation movement and were used to demonstrate how to treat people that are insane or delinquent. During the Second Great Awakening, democratic ideals were established. Again there was a thought of giving people a second chance, and that everybody could be saved. Through conviction, repentance, and reformation, people who were lost in sin and debt could now become part of the saved and holy. (Doc. B) This was a revolutionary thought because previously for Calvinism, only a select few were to be saved and nobody else.

With the help of democratic ideals, sinners could now have a second chance at salvation. Reform movements such as abolitionism and woman’s rights were not as quick to develop as others such as asylum or social reform, but both exhibited democratic ideals. Abolitionism, although not extremely popular in the north, started to gain momentum with the spread of democratic ideals such as the extension of freedom and increasing moral standing in people’s lives. Abolitionism would remain unpopular because of the threat it posed to the union.

However, while thoughts of emancipation and freedom and leadership of some abolitionists like Fredrick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, the slavery issue would ultimately be resolved through the civil war. The woman suffrage movement would also not unravel immediately; nonetheless, it existed and was largely reinforced by democratic ideals much like the ones conveyed for abolitionism. Woman deemed the treatment of them disgraceful and they sought to be equal to a man. (Doc. I) Suffragists was convinced the government was at fault and demanded change.

Both the abolition and suffrage movements were sparked by democratic ideals. Some Movements were trying to prevent the expansion of democratic ideals, such as voting rights. Some believed that emigration was getting to be a bad thing. These Nativists believed that America should be run by Americans, and democracy should not be extended to immigrants. Here we see the dark side of democratic ideals because these people such as Samuel Morse, a leading anti-immigrant Nativist party leader, thought that they were protecting democracy. (Doc. D) These Nativists were particularly against Irish Catholics who were gaining political power with each Catholic Immigrant that came to America. Nativists, like Morse, believed that Catholics were only loyal to the pope and would destroy democracy. The views of anti-immigrant parties like the Know nothing Party and the Nativist Party stood against democratic ideals because they thought things were fine just the way they were, and did not expand these ideals even though they sought to. Democratic ideals emerged with the reformation of education of children.

Before the reform of education during the mid 1800s, with the evolution of new books like the McGuffey Reader, a child wouldn’t learn any moral virtues at school. Under the lead of Horace Mann and William McGuffey, educational reformers, schools were now trying to raise up moral children. Through the McGuffey Readers, a child would learn life lessons and virtues that he/she would not have gotten before. Educational reform occurred by means of democratic ideals and the need for social change. Democratic ideals are disposed of with the emergence of utopian communities.

Some people thought that society was too broken and that it could not change. They saw the problems in society and decided to break from it and form their own community of independently supported people. They thought it was better for themselves and their children to be part of a utopian community. (Doc. F) By separating themselves from the rest of society these people dismissed the democratic ideals of giving not only people, but society another chance. Some people thought that the social and economic reforms were a bad thing for the nation.

These people identified the changes as disrespectful and as an effort to cut loose from the past. Although, not entirely wrong, there was a clear need for reformation in many areas of society. Document G shows that not everyone believed in the expansion of democracy and democratic ideals. Democratic ideals were shown in many social reforms, including the growing drinking problem in America. There was a growing negative connotation towards alcohol during the Second Great Awakening in America. The moral outlook on drinking changed from acceptable to a Deathly habit that must be ousted. Doc. H) Leaders like Benjamin Rush saw alcohol as a detrimental mark on society. These thoughts were the origin of the Prohibition during the great depression. This reform movement sought to expand democratic ideals throughout the nation. And unite the people against the wrongs of alcohol. Most reform movements carried out democratic ideals and brought about the necessary changes to society. Others stood against the evolution of democracy and democratic ideals, and sought to expand democratic ideals in the wrong way.

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Reform Movements DBQ. (2017, Mar 06). Retrieved from