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Freedom’s Ferment

Freedom’s Ferment: Phases of American Social History to 1860

Copyright Date: 1944
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 636
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  • Book Info
    Freedom’s Ferment
    Book Description:

    In this historical synthesis of men and movements, Alice Felt Tyler shows in action the democratic faith of the young American republic. She tells the stories of the reform movements and social and religious experiments characteristic of the early half of the nineteenth century. The early efforts toward social and economic equality -- later engulfed in the urgent issues of the Civil War -- are here depicted and interpreted in their relation to the history of American thought and action. Freedom’s Ferment divides the movements of the early 1800’s into two groups: the cults and utopias of varied origins and the humanitarian crusades. A wave of revivalistic religions swept the country. Here is the story of the Millerites, who believed the end of the world would come on October 22, 1844, of the Spiritualists, Rappites, the Mormons, the Shakers. Many experiments in communal living were instituted by religious groups, but others were entirely social in concept. Life at Brook Farm, in Robert Owen’s colony, in the Oneida Community, and a score of others, is interestingly reconstructed. Humanitarian reforms and crusades represent the other phase of the movements. Mrs. Tyler, “exasperated by all the silly twaddle being written about the eccentricities” of the early American republic, shows these movements and the leaders -- event the crackpots -- as manifestations of the American creed of perfectibility. Prison and educational reforms, work for delinquents and unfortunates, crusades for world peace, temperance, and women’s rights flourished. All to be overshadowed by the antislavery movement and submerged temporarily by the Civil War. Freedom’s Ferment pictures the days when the pattern for the American way of life and the fundamentals of the American faith were being set by crusaders who fought for righteousness. The changes in out social picture have altered the form of the humanitarian movements but not the purpose. Interpretative and critical, the book show the ferment of the period and the urge to reform, found in every phase of life, to be the result of the fusion of religious freedom and political democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6477-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Part One. The Faith of the Young Republic

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      The time has come when the experiment is to be made whether the world is to be emancipated and rendered happy, or whether the whole creation shall groan and travail together in pain. . . . If it had been the design of Heaven to establish a powerful nation in the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, where all the energies of man might find full scope and excitement, on purpose to show the world by one great successful experiment of what man is capable . . . where should such an experiment have been made but in this...

    • CHAPTER 1 Dynamic Democracy
      (pp. 5-22)

      It was a long process of democratization, begun before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, accelerated by the Revolution, and continued through the influence of the frontier, that made American society, in the words of the French traveler, Michel Chevalier, in 1834, “essentially and radically a democracy, not in name merely but in deed.” ¹ At least a brief review of this vigorous, dynamic democracy must precede the story of the manifold movements, theories, and crusades of the early nineteenth century, for which it provided the fundamental background.

      It is perhaps doubtful whether the self-exiled Europeans who peopled the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Evangelical Religion
      (pp. 23-45)

      The religious heritage of the young republic was as important in the development of nineteenth-century ideas as were the liberties won in the struggle with civil authorities. “When the common man has freed himself from political absolutism, he will become dissatisfied with theological absolutism.”¹ The cold and repressive doctrines of Calvinism could not win the hearts of those who escaped from its control when its dictatorial governmental power came to an end. Moreover, the rationalism of John Locke and the French philosophes had the same dislocating effect on religious thinking as on political ideas. Calvin’s doctrine of total depravity might...

  4. Part Two. Cults and Utopias

    • CHAPTER 3 Transcendentalism
      (pp. 47-67)

      Part of this movement and yet not of it, unleashed from the practical but not running a “mad chase” — unless it was touched with the divine madness of creative genius —the Transcendentalism of New England had a vital share in the vivification of the American spirit in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Through their sublime mysticism the Transcendentalists made the direct contact between the individual soul and its Creator that was demanded by every Western itinerant evangelist. For them perfection was an objective to be reached in God’s infinite time by a long road marked by milestones...

    • CHAPTER 4 Millennialism and Spiritualism
      (pp. 68-85)

      Through the western part of upstate Vermont and westward across New York from Albany to Buffalo ran one of the main routes from New England to the Great Lakes and the Middle West, and over it poured thousands of settlers from the hill towns of the East toward the new lands beyond the horizon. Untouched by foreign immigration in the first half of the nineteenth century, this strip was entirely American. it was without large cities except for Albany, the capital of New York, and Buffalo, the entrepôt of the Great Lakes trade. Few factory towns had sprung up in...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 5 The Stake in Zion
      (pp. 86-107)

      Neither so dramatic in its appeal as Spiritualism nor so immediate in pledge of a more glorious day as Millerism, but yet filled with millennialism and utopian prophecy, was the religious faith of Joseph Smith and his Latter Day Saints. The founder and almost all the early leaders of this new church were born on American soil and were, to a marked degree, men from the same old New England stock. Through the first decade its membership came almost entirely from the same class of people: the poor, restless, and dissatisfied, those who succumbed eagerly to religious emotionalism and those...

    • CHAPTER 6 Religious Communism in America
      (pp. 108-139)

      Freedom to practice the articles of their faith, no matter how peculiar they might be, coupled with the possibility of economic security in a country where land was cheap and plentiful, turned the leaders of many European cults to America. Believing they had discovered a new, exclusive, and unique pathway to salvation and to the world’s redemption, the adherents of many of these sects wished to build new homes away from the contaminating influence of older faiths where there could be no contact with the corrupting and diverting aspects of modern civilization. The frontier offered land, livelihood, and solitude to...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 7 The Shaker Communities
      (pp. 140-165)

      In 1774 there landed in New York an unassuming and unprepossessing woman and eight persons who had left England with her to establish their faith in a new and freer world. The woman was Ann Lee Stanley, who as Mother Ann was to build in America a church called officially the Millennial Church or the United Society of Believers but commonly called, by its members as well as the outside world, the Shaker Society. The Shakers were to be the largest, the most permanent, and in many ways the most interesting and significant of the religious communistic settlements in the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 8 American Utopias of Religious Origin
      (pp. 166-195)

      Alongside the transplanted European cults for which community of property and enterprise was, at least in its inception, only an expedient circumstance, developed a number of utopian experiments in which some form of socialism or communism was voluntarily established as a cardinal article of faith. The chief reason for their existence was the urgent desire of their founders to create for themselves a utopia that might serve as nucleus or model for a new and better social order. These experiments were a protest against the evils found in a world where modern industrialization and mechanization were beginning to have effect;...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 9 Utopian Socialism in America
      (pp. 196-224)

      Often the ideas and aspirations out of which American utopias developed were of foreign origin, and many of them owed little or nothing to religious emotionalism or religious creeds. The rapid advance in mechanization that was altering every aspect of economic life was also causing profound dislocation in the social structure. Complicated and expensive machinery made the factory the industrial unit, and the factory system necessitated concentrations of population to satisfy the demands of the machines for labor. Old towns became larger and new towns were built, and men, women, and children were crowded into them without regard for comfort,...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  5. Part Three. Humanitarian Crusades

    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 225-226)

      William Lloyd Garrison was expressing the spirit of his day when he exclaimed, “I shall assume, as self-evident truths, that the liberty of a people is a gift of God and nature . . . that the right to be free is a truth planted in the hearts of men, and acknowledged so to be by all that have hearkened to the voice of nature.”¹ This right to be free, rooted deep in democracy and evangelical religion, needed only to be coupled to nineteenth-century faith in progress to produce a crusading zeal that swept men into all sorts of reform...

    • CHAPTER 10 Education and the American Faith
      (pp. 227-264)

      The very close connection between education and religious faith in early America, and one important reason for it, are well expressed in the phrases inscribed on the west gateway of Harvard Yard:












    • CHAPTER 11 Reform for the Criminal
      (pp. 265-285)

      With the revolutions that marked the end of the eighteenth century the old manner of treating the delinquent and the defective was rejected as an anachronism in a world that had recognized the importance of the individual. Beccaria’sCrime and Punishmenthad been as widely read as Rousseau’sEmile, and Montesquieu was known for his doctrines on the reform of criminal law and procedure as well as for his theories of government. It was early recognized that there was a fundamental incompatibility between the social forces of the American Revolution and the criminal codes of the colonial era. If the...

    • CHAPTER 12 Wards of the State
      (pp. 286-307)

      As soon as men began to consider prison reform, they recognized a fundamental inconsistency in professing concern for the reformation of the criminal and ignoring the condition of those who had been placed in jail because of misdemeanors. Incarcerated in common rooms with hardened criminals, young boys, and older misdemeanants as well, were inevitably schooled in crime and were discharged only to appear again on more serious charges. And the removal of the criminal to the new prisons provided by the states did not solve the problem, for the jails remained a sordid and squalid catchall for the dregs of...

    • CHAPTER 13 The Temperance Crusade
      (pp. 308-350)

      The men and women who were interested in prison reform and in the problem of poverty sought to find the causes of the conditions that had aroused their humanitarian zeal. They came to believe that man was often the victim of circumstances, that his mistakes and misfortunes were in part, at least, the result of his environment, and that the removal of the causes for his antisocial conduct was the best protection for both individual and society. Many who thus analyzed the social conditions of their day came to consider excessive drinking an important factor in the problems of delinquency....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 14 Denials of Democratic Principles
      (pp. 351-395)

      Progress toward understanding the full meaning of the democratic faith was not always along the lines of positive assertion. There were in the first half of the nineteenth century some almost hysterical denials of the very foundations of American institutions, occasions when blind prejudice and mass hatred were used in refutation of liberal tenets repeatedly affirmed by statesmen and entrenched in the Constitution itself. And yet, even in their most violent expression, these denials of free speech, of freedom of association, and of freedom of religion were made in the name of the very liberties they attacked — and often...

    • CHAPTER 15 The Crusade for Peace
      (pp. 396-423)

      So complete were the surveys and so searching the analyses of the early nineteenth-century advocates of peace that, despite the failure of their efforts, their work as a whole was permanent and substantial. They laid the bases for the condemnation of war, explored the arguments in support of peace, and devised systems to provide for the pacific settlement of international disputes. Men of the twentieth century, treading in their footsteps, found use everywhere for the materials they had amassed and often could do no better than to reprint the plans they had evolved.

      The peace advocates were few in number,...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 16 The Rights of Women
      (pp. 424-462)

      In every phase of the American experiment much had depended upon the cooperation of the women. A biography of Mrs. Daniel Boone would be as thrilling an adventure tale as any of the accounts of her intrepid husband, for the frontier woman played no secondary role in the winning of the “dark and bloody ground” of Kentucky and of the newer lands farther West. Each woman who gave up her easier and more sheltered life in the seaboard communities and went with her husband to make a new home beyond the mountains, each woman who packed her household equipment into...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 17 Like a Fire-bell in the Night
      (pp. 463-512)

      With these words Jefferson expressed his alarm at the bitterness aroused by the question of admitting Missouri as a slave state. Never before had the clangor of that bell seemed so close or so ominous, but the aged statesman had heard it before when its note had merged with the triumphant peals of the Liberty Bell, which he had himself helped to set in motion. To men of the Age of Enlightenment slavery was both an anachronism and a denial of the natural rights they were so eagerly proclaiming. Every truth that Jefferson held to be self-evident was a repudiation...

    • CHAPTER 18 A House Divided
      (pp. 513-547)

      Southern defenders of slavery were at first unable to realize either the extent or the strength of the antislavery movement. It seemed to them that Northern reformers, with true Yankee shrewdness, were directing the humanitarian movement into channels where the expense and responsibility would be borne by someone else. Without attempting to solve their own economic and social problems, Northerners were presuming to urge impractical reforms upon the South. “To preach distant reform,” said one Southern writer, “is very cheap philanthropy — the cheaper in proportion to the distance. The feeling of self-satisfaction exists without the necessity of personal sacrifice.”¹...

  6. Epilogue
    (pp. 548-550)

    That is the story of how Americans, sometimes with high courage and deliberate design and sometimes by accident or through indifference, fulfilled the destiny decreed by their inheritance from the past, by the circumstances of space and resources, and by the spirit of the century in which they lived. There was room in America for seemingly limitless growth in population and an opportunity for incredible expansion of national wealth. There was room, also, for social experimentation; there was asylum for the oppressed of other lands; and there was an honest recognition of the worth of the individual and of his...

  7. Bibliography and Notes
    (pp. 551-589)
  8. Index
    (pp. 590-608)