AP US - Pd. 5
3 January, 2011
Antebellum Culture and Reform
Brinkley Chapter 12 Outline
By the 1820s, America was caught up in the spirit of a new age, and Americans, who had never
been shy in proclaiming their nation's promise and potential, concluded that the time for action
had come. Excited by the nation's technological advances and territorial expansion, many set as
their goal the creation of a society worthy to be part of it all. What resulted was an outpouring of
reform movements, the like of which had not been seen before and has not been seen since.
Unrestrained by entrenched conservative institutions and attitudes, these reformers attacked
society's ills wherever they found them, producing in the process a list of evils so long that many
were convinced that a complete reorganization of society was necessary. Most, however, were
content to concentrate on their own particular cause; thus, at least at first, the movements were
many and varied. But in time, most reformers seemed to focus on one evil that stood out above
the rest. The "peculiar institution," slavery, denied all the Enlightenment ideals for which they
equality, opportunity, and, above all, freedom. With world opinion on their side, Slavery
became the supreme cause.
Points for Discussion
During this period, how did American intellectuals create a national culture committed to
the liberation of the human spirit? How did their efforts relate to the efforts of social
How did the spirit of romanticism influence American culture from the 1820s through the
1850s? How might a "realist" respond to the philosophy of the transcendentalists?
What role did religion and religious leaders play in the reform movement described in this
What goals prompted the founding of experimental communities in nineteenth-century
America? Why did some communities, such as Brook Farm and New Harmony, fail and
others, especially the Mormons, succeed?
Who were the major critics of slavery? On what grounds did they attack the institution and
what means to end it did they propose?
How did the reform movement affect the status of women? What role did women play in
these efforts to change society and what were they able to accomplish?
What role did education play in the creation of a national culture committed to the liberation
of the human spirit?
Discuss how and why the antislavery movement in America changed during the course of the
nineteenth century. Analyze the reasons for and the results of the internal strains and
divisions that characterized abolitionism.
Explain how sentimental novels of the era "gave voice to both female hopes and female
Identify the significance of the following Terms and Concepts:
Hudson River School
Brook Farm, New Harmony, Oneida
Second Great Awakening/Revivalism
10. “Burned-over district”