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19th Century Reformism

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Part A

During the period of 1825-1850, reformism swept through the nation as it never had before. The twenty five year sentence saw the invention of the modern day penitentiary system, a temperance movement swept over the nation, an educational reform, as well as an abolitionist movement to stop the spread of slavery. Americans were becoming more and more conscious of self improvement and were finally taking charge of building a better society.

In the early 1820's America became the first country to ever adopt a penitentiary system of prison discipline. These facilities focused on moral and religious education to prevent the recurrence of crimes rather than having the prisoners waste away for the rest of their lives. The prisoners were being saved "By imparting to them useful knowledge, and by giving them industrious and orderly habits, rescuing them from vice and rendering them valuable members of society(Fourth Annual report)." Through the efforts of a single woman, Dorthea Dix, more than a dozen states enacted sweeping prison reforms and created special institutions for the mentally ill.

In the late 1820's, another movement began to sweep over the nation known as The Temperance Movement. Alcoholism was widespread during the early 1800's. In small towns throughout the Western territories, alcohol eased the isolation and loneliness of life on the plains. While in Eastern cities, drinking alcohol became to be the main leisure activity for many workers. Even though the idea of temperance had been around since the late 1700's, the new reformers reenergized the campaign to finally limit the consumption of alcohol. Temperance groups traveled the country spreading the evils of alcohol and its consequences such as Nathaniel Curriers lithograph depicting the path to degradation beginning with a glass with a friend and ultimately ending with death and suicide.

In the 1830's, a new idea began to take shape. An idea called abolition called for the immediate release of enslaved African Americans without gradual measures or compensation to former slaveholders. This new idea began to gain ground in the 1830's for several reasons. Like most reform movements that occurred in this time period, the idea of abolitionism drew its strength from the Second Great Awakening, with its focus on sin and repentance. To the Americans, slavery was an enormous evil of which the country needed to repent. However the strength of The Abolitionist Movement was due mainly in part to the efforts of William Lloyd Garrison. With the help of Isaac Knapp, they founded Boston's antislavery newspaper The Liberator. He soon attracted enough people to start the American Antislavery Society in 1833.

With the arrival of millions of new Irish and



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