The Ante-bellum Period and The Reforms
The overwhelming number of reforms in the ante-bellum period was a result the rapid change that was occurring around the country. These changes were seen in economics, politics and society. Americans reacted in a nationwide panic which created doubts of the goodness of the changes America was going through. The institution and then rise of the market economy and the Second Great Awakening had the greatest effect on America. The effect of these two things brought on many reforms by many different people in various aspects of America.
Market economy had a significant change in all politics, economics, and society. The market economy is where men and women grew crops and produced goods for sale at home or abroad… The money that individuals received from market transactions…..purchased items from produced by other people.1 This system was a devised so each person following could produce goods for a profit. America’s economy was probably the most effected out of the three country functions. Market economy started many improvements in America through industrialization. New interventions in transportation and technology had a major effect on the pace in which America functioned. Transportation flourished with the building of railroads, canals, and a National road. Technology also significantly throve with inventions as the steamboat and the telegraph. There was a definite rise in cities as population rapidly increased. These cities were mostly industrial cities and contained a large immigrant population. Immigrants created a lot of competition in the economic world because as population grew, it became more and more difficult to get a job, and the immigrants were willing to work for low wages unlike many Americans. Market economy encouraged wage labor which was a form of specialization. Many people were incorporated in this system being paid so much for parts. This resulted in factories which brought the individual parts under one roof. One of the last things coming out of all these rapid changes was the constant boom and bust cycles. There were many times that production would exceed the demand and then prices would go decrease going resulting in a depression because of people who relied on these items profits.
Politics and society also got effected by the market economy. In politics, the rise of the market economy was supported by American government. Government encouraged individual enterprises and corporations as well as the new forms of technology and transportation. The government also wants the expansion which comes along with these new transformations. As these changes increased, so did a significant party split. The Nationalist split creating the Democrats and the Whigs. The Democrats represented a wide range of views and looked down upon the Whigs idea of reformation. The Whigs were involved in many kinds of reform, especially in government reform. Society was effected by the market economy as Americans were torn between tradition and the new ideas. The working for profit ideology notably brought attention to the diversified country. This recognition of each groups distinctions created tensions among many groups. There was an obvious class gap between the upper class and the lower class. The new changes helped the wealthier get wealthier and increased the class gap. The middle class is growing very rapidly as this distinguished group consisted of the majority of business men. The competition for jobs in the industrialized cities resulted in ethnic tensions because of the hostility towards immigrants who were taking the jobs needed by Americans. As the North became prosperous through industrialization, the South still had the establishment of slavery. Sectionalism grew as people, in addition to others, started to question slavery. This created tension between slaves and whites as well as North and South. Another tension was between women and men. Woman, because of market economy, received new opportunities in the work fields and were receiving much lower waged than men were. Therefore, woman started to see that they were not considered equal.
Besides the market economy, the Second Great Awakening had a great effect on how people viewed America. The Second Great Awakening was an events that concentrated on self-improvement and reformation. Even though this event was mostly religious, it brought many people to realizations about America and about themselves. Because it encouraged reformation, many people got involved and started to see that there were many improvements to be made in politics, society, and economics. Many different types of people took on major roles in this movement especially Evangelists and women. The establishment of reform groups came about on everything from school reforms to abolitionist groups.
One reform that mainly concentrated on politics was the Civil Government Reform. Henry David Thoreau called America’s government of this period a machine. This reform was brought about by people who believed that government did not display a clear goal for the future. These reformers preached the resistance of injustice on ideas of taxing and slavery. Slavery was a rising controversy in America and these reformers looked as it as a form of injustice by the civil government who were not banning slavery in the south. These reformers also felt unrepresented. The market economy was a time when most of America concentrated on the economic growth of the country. Even though this was a positive thing, is created a lack of individualism as everyone was working in the industrialized form of America. People in cities, especially those in the factories, craved a feeling of autonomy from the strict market economy. The Second Great Awakening encouraged improvement and that is the general idea of the reform; To have a improved government who can foresee the future. Also, the new split in the parties, create a loss of unity and a loss of power. Each part was in competition for the control of America’s changes. The reformers are seeing a weak government with flaws and imperfections.
The Labor Reform was a reform of both economics and society. The market economy largely increased the class gap leaving the working class suffering. As the managers of the newly risen factories are being highly paid, this working class is not being fairly paid for the long hours in which they work. These emancipated workers are being exploited to a point were supporting industry sets them further and further back. The boom and bust cycles, which were a consistency through this time, caused the Depression of 1837, and it mainly targeted the lower journeymen. This Depression consisted of many people’s salaries being decreased, as well as people being laid off from their jobs. These extremities of wealth created the social tensions between the upper class and the lower class individuals. People wanted to change the working system by requesting an increase in pay, and a decrease in work hours.
In the ante-bellum period, there was an increasing number of feminism. Woman’s roles during this time period largely changed and this is what caused the Woman’s Right Movement. Woman used to have one role in society which was that of the housewife. With the market economy, there were more opportunities for women. Women were allowed to work and it became increasingly easier for women to support themselves. Women were allowed to own property with new laws that were passed, in addition to being allowed to divorce their husbands. The average number of children dropped and woman were given more time. They were also given more respect as they were essential to America’s future. They were thought to be self-sacrificing republicans if they could raise their children in an environment of education, religion, and arts. Since the respect of women and the their leisure time was rising, women craved more and more social equality. They played a significant role in the Second Great Awakening. They took the idea of self-improvement and used their time to create a bond amongst their sex. The wanted to feel a sense of equality in politics, economics, and society. They wanted to have a say in government and to receive similar wages to men in their pursuit for happiness. The movement attracted many women as the reform took on a earnest face.
The ante-bellum period was filled with too much change for the American’s to ignore. The constant reforms came out of all different results of different changes. Each reform had a root from the people who were most greatly effected from the new America. Political, social, and economic aspects took on new identities as the market economy and the Second Great Awakening occurred. As America kept changing, people started to reform it into a way of their liking.