Paul R Dienstberger
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Nation of Christians

by Paul R Dienstberger
Copyright 2000 Paul R. Dienstberger


Table of Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter 5 The Search for Reform 1835-58

  • I. The State of the Church, 1835
  • II. The Religious Racket
  • III Utopian Societies
  • IV National Expansion
  • V. Humanitarian Reforms
  • VI The Abolition Movement
  • During the last quarter century of antebellum America the optimism and the desire for reform and improvement reached every corner of the United States. The spirit of individualism and freedom was fostered in every movement whether it was religion, politics, manifest destiny, popular culture, immigration, literature, and especially reform. Alexis de Tocqueville analyzed it best by writing, "The ideas of progress and of the indefinite perfectibility of the human race belong to democratic ages. Democratic nations care but little for what has been, but they are haunted by visions of what will be."

    By 1835 the American church was firmly entrenched along the traditional lines of the Protestant denominations and doctrines. Where the spirit of nationalism and federalism had prevailed during America's first half century, now sectionalism dominated. The same was true in the church. With the disestablishment of all churches they now enjoyed an independence from state control. As one author put it, "what God had put asunder, let no man join together." Moreover, while divisions continued within the Protestant churches, every denomination began calling for a greater loyalty among their members.

    Revivalism was now a widely accepted practice. The anxious bench, protracted meetings, and the prayer of faith for salvation were standard procedures. The great evangelists Finney and Beecher withdrew to Ohio colleges in Oberlin and Cincinnati. Old-time religion from the days of camp meetings and the earlier awakenings no longer supplied a major social attraction as they did earlier in the century. Now, excitement and enthusiasm could be found in the hustle and bustle of any growing urban center or from the next torchlight political campaign. Religion was not the center stage attraction like it was in the heyday of the Second Great Awakening.

    Nevertheless, a new revolutionary racket over religion was reaching for the nation's attention. It was the supernatural. The Second Great Awakening had extented Christianity to an accent on personal experience and divine intervention. Some of the new and disruptive movements went beyond the Bible and the Christian church in the name of religious sects and even to the periphery as cults. The most widespread attention was given to Spiritualism. It claimed two million believers by 1855.

    The young nation was experiencing tremendous growth and expansion. The East was leading the USA into the industrial age. Factories, canals, railroads, cotton and textile production, the corporation and industry were all fueling American confidence and prosperity. The West with its Paul Bunyan mentality and Manifest Destiny purpose further motivated the expansion from sea to shining sea. However, an economic enemy was appearing almost every decade, it was called a "panic." It happened in 1819 and again in 1837, and in neither case was there any interest in religion.

    As Europeans viewed America from the other side of the Atlantic, the opportunities looked even more enticing than in previous generations. Immigrants from the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848 particularly the Germans, and from the Irish potato famine were attracted to the freedoms and opportunities in the US. Their chances in a laissez-faire economy and a squatters rights land policy offered a hope to everyone except slaves and Indians. The US population was almost doubling every 20 years.

    Another cultural movement influencing America was the optimism of Romanticism. Like revivalism in religion its placed a high value on emotion, imagination, and the supernatural. The two both dreamed of improving people and making a better society. Consequently, as was true in the nation and the church, the leading reform issue was slavery. While the nation was racing to stretch from East to West, it was being pulled apart from North to South by the abolition question.

         I. The State of the Church, 1835:

    During the first four decades of the century the Methodist church had increased seven-fold, the Presbyterians four-fold, and the Baptist church had tripled in church membership. The Methodists were now the largest body with over a million members. The time had been a golden age of heaven-sent expansion for the Protestant church in America. Their passion for evangelism was everywhere. Salvation was clearly understood that an experience of conversion or rebirth was needed to enter heaven. The prayer by the seekers or comers was for a "new heart" which came with the conversion.

    In previous generations concerns were always voiced that some church members were unconverted. They had grown up in the church, and their parents were active members. However, spiritual growth and discipleship was vague in their lives and in the life of the church body. Such was not the case after Wesley and Finney. They had emphasized sanctification, holiness, and perfection after a salvation experience. Converts were expected to show signs of growth in Christ and repentance away from sin. But with the rapid increase in church membership, a new plumb line was appearing and it was church attendance.

    Many converts were being won in the revival meetings outside the church or at protracted meetings outside of the Sunday morning service. Some Baptists revivalists like Jabez Swan made baptism a requirement for fulfilling the conversion experience. Now with a clear assurance of eternal life, the newly converted did not see regular, Sunday morning, church attendance as obligatory or even a necessity. The forsaking of the assembling of one another together was becoming a concern within the church.

    Edward McKendree Bounds, who was born in this generation and became a Methodist pastor and a Civil War chaplain, wrote that revivals "are to be expected, proceeding, as they do, from the right use of the appropriate means...that a revival was not a miracle was powerfully taught by Charles G. Finney." Bounds emphasized that, "All revivals are dependent on God, but in revivals, as in other things, he invites and requires the assistance of man, and the full result is obtained when there is cooperation between the divine and the human. In other words, to employ a familiar phrase, God alone can save the world, but God chooses not to save the world alone.....this cooperation (requires) first of all, and most important of all ...we must give ourselves to prayer."

    By 1835 revivalism had earned mainstream credibility as part of the American religious scene. W.T. Stead in his Americanization of the World about the 19th Century religious movements said, " The first and most persistent has been Revivalism. This was distinctly American in its origin." With the right man and the right means a revival could be produced in a local church or at a large urban crusade. However, critics maintained that true revival was unexpectedly and totally the sovereign work of God alone. Every denomination had their recognized and effective revival men. The Presbyterians had Albert Barnes, Jedediah Burchard, and of course the non-ordained Finney. A Southern Presbyterian Daniel Baker labored in Texas until he became president of Austin College. Edward Norris Kirk was the noted Congregationalists from 1826 to 1874. The Baptist had Jacob Knapp and Jabez Swan. Another Baptist Emerson Andrews held over 300 protracted meetings and won 40,000 converts in his 35 year career. Methodist revivalists were John Newland Maffitt, James Caughey, and John Inskip. The famous 1841-42 Boston revival was led by Knapp, Finney, Kirk, and others, and added over 4,000 members to the evangelical churches.

    The revivals were appearing to be man-made and well managed. Critics said that they lacked the spontaneity of the Kentucky days. The procedures and messages were becoming a standard operation. The urban crusades had an ecumenical staff. The event was well reported in the newspapers. The protracted meetings had the anxious bench, an alter call, and a prayer for a new birth or a new heart. The speaker wore a suit to avoid clerical formalism. Some laymen did the praying. Choirs were local members not professionals. The music gave listeners a chance to respond, and in the Watt's practice the final hymn applied to the sermon. An appeal was made for benevolent use of their money and property. Seekers were conditioned to make a public confession of faith.

    Even the professional revivalists could expect to be blessed with a prosperous income as a full-time evangelist in the urban crusades. Jacob Knapp conducted over 150 New York and New England meetings in his career and claimed 100,000 converts during his career until 1874. He was the first to gain fame for his annual income which was over $2000 a year from his meetings in the early 1840's. Evangelists could always defended their incomes by saying that, "they were only asking for free-will offerings." The average church pastor didn't earn a fourth of Knapp's figure. However, distressing public rumors and accusations were appearing about the sexual scandals of too many men in the religious field. Three of the western revivalists were involved in "free love" experiments and a fourth one was unfrocked for adultery. Theodore Weld reported in 1844 that "Within the last four years not less than thirty ministers of evangelical denominations have been guilty of the most flagrant licentiousness and been removed from the ministry." Their conduct undoubtedly contributed to the timing of Hawthorne's story of Hester Prynne and her scarlet A in 1850.

    Another liability over the "new measures" during the restless 40's and 50's was the qualifications of revival men. Where the local pastors mostly seemed divinely appointed there were no such credentials for some of the revivalists. Too many were fast talking showmen, who had little education and even less Christian experience. They emphasized a little Bible and too often they criticized the ministers and their churches as lukewarm and spiritually dead rather than relying on the churches to disciple those professing faith.

    The revivals of the First and Second Great Awakenings created a good deal of speculation over Millennial doctrines. The heavenly work in the two previous revivals caused Christians to think that its had been a preparation for the return of Christ and his thousand-year reign. A second principle of millenialism was the apocalypse or destruction of the world. Some had surmised that Napoleon might be the Antichrist.

    Nevertheless, the single most embarrassing event for the American Christian church was when William Miller, a Vermont Baptist minister predicted the Second Coming of Christ and the Day of Judgment in 1843. He had to re-calculate the end of the age to October 22, 1844. Estimates ran as high as 50,000 Americans dressed in white, "righteous" robes, who stood on the highest ground in their locale waiting for the Lord's return and the beginning of the millennium. People left their jobs and their responsibilities. When nothing happened disappointment and disillusionment followed, but the event just added to the religious commotion and chaos of the age. Eventually the followers of Miller became the Seventh-Day Adventist associations.

    Every denomination suffered dissension and division. The Presbyterians and Congregationalists had long cooperated with the Plan of Union and the Home Missionary Society. In 1837 a clear theological difference over Calvin's position on original sin split them into the Old School and the New School. The Episcopalians, also, traveled two roads: the high churchmen moved back toward the Catholics, and the low churchmen or evangelicals favored sending missionaries to the frontier. Lutheran groups, also, splintered in 1845: the Buffalo Synod, in 1846: the Missouri Synod, and in 1854: the Iowa Synod.

    Perhaps the biggest dissension came with the growth of Roman Catholicism, the traditional rival of the Protestant church. It was the oldest Christian church in America, and in the past its Western Hemisphere roots were Spanish and French. Now, a new wave of European immigrants came from Ireland and Germany and tensions grew.

    . In 1829 the First Provincial Council met in Baltimore. They called for a parochial school in every parish. They also adjured them not to teach from the King James Bible. The auspicious gathering established direction for six major Eastern cities and several Western diocese. It was a notable foundation for the nearly 600,000 American Catholics However, xenophobia raised its head on a rumor that guns were stored in the Catholic buildings and they intended to capture America for the Pope. In 1834 at the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, crowds attacked the successful girl's school. They shouted, "No papacy!" The mob broke into the building, and they demolished it and set it on fire. Rioting continued against the Catholics in Boston for several days. By 1837 the Native American political candidates began appearing in the elections. They called for limitations on immigration and for stronger naturalization requirements. Eventually, they became known as the Know Nothings or American Party. Their members were kept secret members in the 1850's, and they had a strong anti-Catholic platform. For the "new" Americans loyalty to the Red, White, and Blue would not come easy. The Irish were starved from the Potato Famine and settled mainly in the big cities, but hope and opportunity were met with the signs "No Irish need apply." They were a hundred percent Catholic.

    The Germans, who came from political oppression, moved to the Great Lakes states in the Midwest. Their road to assimilation was easier because of the large number of second and third generation ancestors from the fatherland. Also, two kinds of Germans immigrated: the Roman Catholics and the Lutheran Protestants. Some lived side by side and some got along because they were both strangers in a new land. But that old unchristian nemesis bigotry was always lurking in the shadows. When the Mexican War broke out in 1846 more strife was incited by a Roman Catholic enemy under Santa Anna. Although patriotism called for a memory of the Alamo, it was forgotten that the symbol was a Catholic mission. However, like everything else, the issue became pale compared to the larger struggle over slavery.

    While antebellum America looked righteous in reform and social change, the nation of immigrants became dishonorable in their race relations. The reality of freedom and equality for each new group in the American "melting pot" was easier to write in words than perform in deeds.

    A final antebellum church was the African American or the "colored" people's church. Because it was illegal to teach the Blacks to read and write their pre-Civil War records are very limited. Nevertheless, a clear change took place from 1830 to 1835 because of Nat Turner's rebellion. With the death of 55 whites in Southampton County, Virginia most states made it illegal for Blacks to assemble for church or otherwise, unless whites were preaching or in charge of the meeting. During that period slaves were expected to worship in their master's church. Some believing slaves met in the seclusion of the woods or in hidden enclaves on the plantation, and it became known as the "invisible institution."

    Christianity for the Negro, slave and free, was influenced by both their African roots and the European traditions. The preacher or exhorter was usually from the itinerant mold and he, or even she, had the verbal skills to entertain and move the hearts of the listeners. The message was filled with the emotions of the revival-style about the God of deliverance and of freedom. Their music changed from European hymns like "Praise God from Whom All Blessing Flow" to the spirituals. The spirituals used Biblical words, but the themes were freedom, Moses, the Jordan, Jesus, the Lamb's blood, and a hope of a better future. Their worship became the highly-rhythmic singing, clapping, and dancing in part from the emotion of the Second Great Awakening and some from the pulsating pattern in their African heritage.

    In the large urban areas the Black Baptist or Methodist church was the largest one in town. Some of the best Black preachers attracted white visitors, although their services were usually longer and more emotional. The morality and behavioral expectations as Christians didn't differ much between the Negroes and the white. However, the whites liked to hear the Apostle Paul's verse "Slaves obey your masters" (Col 3:22) quoted. One vestige of African religions that followed the Blacks was voodoo. It had been imported through Haiti and was centered in New Orleans by the 19th Century. It also followed the Catholic calendar. The practitioners hoped for healing, or warding off evil, and perhaps good or bad fortune to someone.

         II. The Religious Racket

    Jon Butler in his Awash in a Sea of Faith wrote a great chapter on the spiritual activities during the antebellum period. He called the era a "spiritual hothouse." His very descriptive terms included religious enthusiasm and eclecticism, rambunctious religious enthusiasm, fascination with divine intervention, and popularity with the supernatural.

    The American belief in witches, dreams, astrology, fortune telling, phrenology, and even the use of divining rods increased during the 19th Century. The belief in ghosts and the attempts at contacting the dead through seances was not a rare phenomenon. Even Mary Todd Lincoln tried to contact her dead sons through spiritualists. Although there are claims that the President looked on, his private secretary's biography denies it. Many treasure seekers hoped that divining rods, peep stones, and even dreams would expose hidden wealth to them. Biographers say that Joseph Smith was beguiled by such attractions.

    The trust in supernatural healing practices through faith, alchemy, folk medicines, and especially the mysterious elixirs of a traveling medicine man enticed many Americans. At the same time medical schools were adding those successful practices and knowledge to the field of healing and health. The appearance of so many unconventional groups has drawn a great deal of the attention from secular and religious historians. Critics have accused them of excessive focus on fringe groups, who had marginally committed followers for short terms and small numbers of partisans. Perhaps their promiscuous sexual standards offered a fascination for many Americans, who avoided their deviant morals. Nevertheless, the curiosity, the romanticism, and the interest in the beyond was an increasing widespread reality.

    Sydney Ahlstrom called Mesmerism or animal magnetism the first harmonial religion. Adherents believed that correspondence or rapport with the cosmos or some universal force would give them health, wealth, and even wisdom.

    Swedenborgianism emphasized correspondence with God, the dead, and the world of animals, vegetables, and minerals. The founder wrote over thirty volumes on his interpretations from the Bible on doctrines and revelations. Although he was radical in his time, every major American city had congregations in the 19th Century. Even Johnny Appleseed had a passing interest in it.

    The secret and magical beliefs of the Freemasons did not attract much attention until 1826. The Masons were accused in the Morgan Trials of murdering a former member, who gave away their secrets. The Anti-Masons became the first political party to hold a national Presidential nominating convention. For awhile all the mainline denominations barred their members and especially their pastors from being Masons.

    The largest movement was Spiritualism. It originated in Hydesville, New York in 1848. The Fox sisters Margaret and Katherine experienced strange rappings, table turnings, and clairvoyant feats, when they moved into an old house in Hydesville. A rapid growth took place in America and Europe. Mediums and interpreters claimed all kinds of extra-terrestrial contacts. When P.T. Barnum signed up the Fox sisters, they became celebrities. The movement attracted mainly white, middle to upper-class, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. It was soundly denounced by the preachers. In the first half of the 19th Century there was an explosion of these non-Christian organizations that gleaned purpose and status from the earlier successes of evangelical Christianity. They appeared to be just more sects and subgroups just breaking away from mainline Christianity. However, there were doctrinal departures and non-religious dogmas that claimed many spiritual victims even into the 20th Century.

    In the 1830's in New England, America's spiritual breeding ground, another earnest interest attempted to produce moral and spiritual reforms. It was transcendentalism. Ralph Waldo Emerson was their spokesman. Out of a Unitarian background and a dissatisfaction with religion Emerson created his theories of "Self Reliance" and his mystical "Over-Soul" theology. The lyceum movement increased the contact between small town people and "celebrity" speakers, and Emerson was in the greatest demand. His concepts on the individual, nature, and moral law were affirmed by some prominent names of the day like: Henry David Thoreau, George Ripley, Bronson Alcott, Oretes Brownson, Theodore Parker, and Margaret Fuller. In retrospect historian Sydney Ahlstrom called Ralph Waldo Emerson America's first "death-of-God" theologian. Another non-Christian sect that developed along the Unitarian lines was the Universalists. In 1803 the Winchester Platform emphasized the perfectibility of man, the ultimate salvation of all souls, the varied character of divine revelation, and the humanness of Christ. Basically, they believed that God was too good to damn people forever. By 1855 they grew to a quarter of a million adherents.

    Meanwhile in New York's burnt-over district, Joseph Smith claimed to have received some golden plates from an angel Maroni in 1827. The inscriptions were written in a "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics which he translated by using two "seer" stones. The document became known as The Book of Mormons. Rev. Solomon Spaulding claimed that Smith had plagiarized his unpublished 1814 novel. His document is still at Oberlin College today. Smith's revelation involved the Nephites, an American Indian tribe that descended from the lost tribes of Israel, and had been destroyed in a war. Smith claimed that Jesus had appeared to them and that they were the "true church." He alleged that an apostasy had occurred after the Apostolic Age, and for seventeen centuries the true church was lost. He said that the Bible had become corrupted and the churches were in darkness and sin. He claimed that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to him to restore the priesthood, the gospel, and the true church. His organization was called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or the Mormons. Immediately several LDS doctrines were questioned. The obvious one was the preeminence of the Book of Mormons over The Bible. Many were infuriated when Smith proclaimed "I will be a Second Mohammed." The practice of polygamy was in direct disobedience to the laws of the government. Another issue was baptizing pictures or stand-in people for the dead and for their salvation. The convert's property and assets were to be held in common by the church. When Smith's bank failed in Ohio, he was accused of violating the state banking laws and he fled.

    Smith and the Mormon's began a trek for the earthly "City of Holiness." In 1831 they moved from Fayette, New York to Kirtland, Ohio. Smith and Sidney Rigdon set up a church and several businesses. In 1837 the Mormons went to Jackson County, Missouri. They bought up the entire county and the 15,000 Mormons lived in peace for several years. Again economic woes occurred and tithing (which Smith and Rigdon were exempt) was introduced. But mob violence drove them out of the state to Nauvoo, Illinois which would became the largest city in the state.

    The "New Jerusalem" in Nauvoo became a prosperous community and converts came from as far as England. Smith organized a militia, a university, and another temple. When he revealed his revelation on polygamy and his over 20 "spiritual" wives, newspaper editors of the Expositor opposed the new doctrine. The editors were arrested and their printing press was destroyed. In June 1844 the Illinois militia arrested Smith and his brother for treason, and jailed them in Carthage, Illinois. Some say that the two were killed trying to shoot their way out in a jailbreak, but the devotees claim a mob broke into the Carthage jail and murdered them.

    With Smith's death his widow and son moved some of the Mormons to Independence, Missouri and started the "reorganized" church. They denied Smith's polygamy. Under the leadership of Brigham Young the other Mormons reached their final destination outside the United States in the Mexican territory of "Deseret" at Salt Lake City in 1848. The industrious "saints" and their irrigation projects made the community an economic success. In 1890 when the practice of polygamy was retracted, Utah was granted statehood. Their worldwide missionary endeavors continued to win millions of proselytes. The Christian community still labels the Mormons a cult because of Smith's claims of private revelations and his new sacred books superior to the Holy Scriptures. His accusation that the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Protestant churches were all apostate for 1700 years does not fair well with the Mormon's claim of being another Christian church. Their salvation is based on "good works" according to Smith's gospel rather than the unique and complete atonement by Jesus Christ alone.

    Ahlstrom's summary on the Mormons was, "One can not even be sure if the object of our consideration is a sect, a mystery cult, a new religion, a church, a people, a nation, or an American subculture; indeed, at different times and places it is all of these." Leonard Woolsey Bacon called Mormonism, "a system of gross, palpable imposture contrived by a disreputable adventurer, Joseph Smith, with the aid of three confederates, who afterward confessed the fraud and perjury which they had been guilty."

         III. The Utopian Societies:

    The lofty revival goals of individual perfection and social reform led to many experiments in utopian communities. Most felt they could best achieve their purpose by leaving the present corrupt society. The idea of communal living in an agricultural environment was attractive in the growing industrial societies of Britain and America. By returning to the simpler, good old days they hoped to develop an ideal social structure. The utopian societies were all voluntary and most felt that money and selfishness were the causes of evil, so the members were expected to turnover all their worldly possessions to the communal order. Generally they had economic goals like socialism and communism, and many had religious convictions of establishing a heaven on earth or a perfect society.

    The Shakers were the earliest sect in America and laid the groundwork for the other utopian societies. Their leader Anna Lee claimed to be the female version of Jesus Christ. Their missionaries came to America during the Kentucky Revivals and they gained many members. The notable beliefs included celibacy and a program of twelve virtues. Their dancing and leaping in worship received much attention. They were nearly 6,000 members in 20 communities during their zenith years from 1830 to 1850. Because they did not produce any children they died out, however their simple and practical furniture designs still remain today.

    The Rappites were a group of German Pietists led by George Rapp, who refused to stay in the state church. They had similar beliefs on celibacy and community property. Like the Shakers open confession of all sin was the norm. Their thriving agricultural community in New Harmony, Indiana was described as a garden in the wilderness, and they became noted for their Ohio River flatboats. They lasted from 1814 to 1824, when Robert Owens, an English social reformer, bought out the commune. He set up a two- year "free love" experiment. It was branded "one great brothel" and quickly failed. Frances Wright had a similar free sex community for Blacks at Nashoba in Tennessee.

    Another German Pietist community that came to the US for religious freedom was the Amana Society or the Community of True Inspiration. In 1843 they migrated from New York to central Iowa and set up several prosperous agricultural villages. Their remnant remains a successful appliance and furniture cooperative today.

    John Humphrey Noyes, a Finney convert and a divinity student, founded the infamous Oneida, New York commune in 1847. It was famous for the "love-in" philosophy that all men and women were married to each other. They also produced the quality knives and silverware that still bears the name today. Outside pressure caused their "complex marriage" system to collapse. In 1879 the community incorporated into the successful Oneida Community Plate business.

    The least successful and probably most famous community was the Transcendentalist's Brook Farm in eastern Massachusetts. George Ripley founded the religious experiment so each individual would have the freedom to realize his or her powers and gifts. Their education system emphasized discussion, learn by doing, and personal tutoring. It was well financed and some famous New England families joined the cause from 1841-1847. When they adopted ideas of French socialism, the community failed at farming and financially. Then the farm was sold.

    The American democracy with its guarantees of religious freedom and its designs on separation of church and state was producing an atmosphere of opportunity for diversity, individualism, even nonconformity, and especially change. The vast stretches of land enabled any strange and peculiar group to develop with nominal interference. But, to most groups even the constitutional freedoms or their fervor and optimism did not impose a change on the moral direction of other individuals or the nation. They do however remain famous today because some writers of history like to over glorify the different and fringe movements regardless of how small or short-lived their existence.

         IV. Expansion from Sea to Shining Sea:

    In 1838 John L. O'Sullivan wrote of America's optimism and expansion, "The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the obedience of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High - the Sacred and True." He coined the term "Manifest Destiny." In 1845 he wrote, "the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment in liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us." Timothy Smith in his Preface on Revivalism and Social Reform said of the age, "The Calvinist idea of foreordination, rejected as far as it concerned individuals, was now transferred to a grander object - the manifest destiny of a Christianized America." It was now believed that the United States had a God-given responsibility or a God-ordained purpose to extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and even carry Christianity around the globe.

    Justified by such a high spiritual calling "expansion" became the American term for what others called imperialism, or colonization, or even an empire. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were fragile words when combined with the desire to conquer someone else's land. "Sea to shining sea" sounds nice in song, but others were in the way. The land was occupied by Indians and Mexicans, and claimed the by the Spanish, British, and Russians.

    John Quincy Adams' boundary arrangements were disrupted, when the American migrants took over Texas, and then they asked for statehood in 1836. Annexation would be a troubling discussion, since the House of Representatives had just imposed the "gag rule" on any slavery proposals. The Jackson administration recognized the Lone Star state's independence, but refused to expand the issue and annex Texas into the USA. Seldom mentioned is that "the father of Texas," the great Sam Houston gave his life to Christ through a frontier evangelist, who was the great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson. In Texas fashion both Houston and LBJ bragged of that occasion. In the meantime Oregon fever was growing, too. In 1823 a schoolteacher Hall Jackson Kelley had challenged New England farmers "to promote the propagation Christianity... on the shores of the Pacific." In 1832 Nat Wyeth made it to Oregon in eight months. Others followed a Methodist Jason Lee, who set up a school in the Willamette Valley in 1834. Presbyterians Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman with Henry Spalding and his wife were the first missionary couples to cross the Rockies. The Whitman's transcontinental return and their furlough report on their friendship with the legendary Jim Bridger, their ministry among the Indians at Walla Walla, Washington, and their 1847 death during a Cayuse Indian raid became the classic missionary story of The West.

    Another outstanding story of the Northwest was Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, a Jesuit priest, known as the "Apostle to the Flatheads." His 1842 mission in the Bitter Root Valley of western Montana claimed 6,000 converts. His praise and trust of the Indians was characterized by his stand against the offensive term for them as "savages."

    The reality of the nation's vision for The West came to pass when the darkhorse Presidential candidate James K. Polk won the1844 campaign with the slogan "54-40 or fight." Because of his election Congress annexed Texas. During his Presidency he added Oregon and provoked war with Mexico by sending Fremont to California and Taylor to the Rio Grande River. After winning every battle but one, and settling the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, James K. Polk's administration had been responsible for adding more territory to the US than the entire Louisiana Purchase. It included parts of a dozen states, and "sea to shining sea" was accomplished by 1848.

    The American military victory over Mexico, also, preserved the finest spiritual heritage west of the Mississippi. In the 18th Century the great Franciscan friar Junipero Serra founded a chain of twenty-one missions from San Diego to San Francisco. When Mexico won their independence from Spain in 1821, the government began the secularization of the missions and the removal of the Spanish missionaries. The funds and lands of the missions were confiscated by the Mexican government and the missionaries returned to Spain.

    When the US took over California in 1847 under military governor Stephen Kearney, he made this promise, "The undersigned is instructed by the President of the United States to respect and protect the religious institutions of California, to take care that the religious rights of the its inhabitants are secured in the most ample manner, since the Constitution of the United States allows to every individual the privilege of worshipping his Creator in whatever manner his conscience may dictate." Unfortunately Father Serra's mission system had been shattered, but Eastern missionaries would follow the gold rush to California

    During the days of Samuel Mills and John Schermerhorn the West was seen as "home missions" by the eastern churches and mission's boards. The Bible societies and the denominations produced many books, Bibles, tracts, and magazines for the West. The frontier missionaries served as schoolteachers first, and then they started Sunday Schools rather than being church planters. As the immigrants and emigrants were further inspired by every rumor of wealth from furs to California gold, the Eastern benevolent organizations invested their money in the spiritual welfare of the West by sending pastors and sometimes entire congregations.

         V. The Reforms:

    The Second Great Awakening and Jacksonian Democracy proved that society could be changed by the common man. By the 1830's a major age of moral reform was underway. Most of the humanitarian movements had been inspired by evangelical Christianity and clearly on Christian principles. Nevertheless, the reformers were from every kind of background and for every kind of humane cause. They attempted it with a religious zeal. The reforms were joined by men and women. The importance of the individual and the opportunity of voluntary service provided the energy for many campaigns to purify and perfect society.

    The first successful cause was temperance. Many believed that alcohol was the cause of poverty, crime, and other social ills. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the first to speak out against its use. In 1826 because of the preaching of Lyman Beecher, sixteen Boston clergymen and laymen formed the American Temperance Society. By 1836 a national organization was meeting. However, their cause was hindered by adding other issues like slavery. But in the 1840's Father Theobald Mathew won national acclaim with his pledges for abstinence, and his famous followers were called the "Cold Water Army." Finally, 1846 Portland merchant Neal Dow led the State of Maine in passing the first prohibition law.

    Another early notable reform was for the physically impaired. Rev. Thomas Gallaudet, who graduated from Yale College and Andover Seminary, united some Connecticut minister for prayer about an institution for the deaf and dumb. The Connecticut legislature appropriated $5,000 for an asylum at Hartford, the first of its kind in the United States. Samuel Gridley Howe soon became the noted leader of the campaign for educating the blind and the Perkins School was founded in Boston.

    A similar cause was a call for kindness to those in confinement in prisons and hospitals. Rev. Louis Dwight, an agent of the American Bible Society, was shocked by conditions that he saw while visiting prisoners. He innovated the Auburn System of rehabilitation through cell blocks and labor groups for work, Bible study, and meditation that replaced the isolated, solitary confinement. Dorothea Dix, a Sunday School teacher, was appalled by the treatment of the mentally ill. Her vivid reports to the Massachusetts legislature resulted in some compassionate changes. She earned an international platform to reform the hospitals for the insane, and had institutions established in over 30 states. In the New York City Sarah Doremus, a godly Presbyterian woman of numerous urban ministries, started a rehabilitation home for discharged female prisoners from the city prison. For more than 30 years she served to restore these woman to society.

    The movement for world peace began in 1815 with the New York Peace Society. The leaders were David Low Dodge, a merchant and progenitor of a long line of Christian philanthropists, and his father-in-law, who was a clergyman and convert of George Whitefield's ministry. The two clergymen started the Massachusetts Peace Society. The Quaker's peace position became the basis for the American Peace Society in 1836. By 1840 their President William Ladd, an earnest Congregationalist, was calling for a Congress of Nations.

    Although America had the highest literary rate in the world, reformers still cried for more and better education. Some wanted it more secular, and Christians wanted it more Christian. It was estimated that 90 percent of the pre-Civil War college Presidents were clergymen. The great textbook with Protestant virtues was William H. McGuffey's Eclectic Readers. Over 120 million copies influenced the 19th Century education system. However, the leadership of Horace Mann and the secular crusaders made the biggest changes in teacher training, normal schools, and free public schools.

    A spin-off reform of education was the increase of women's rights. In 1821 Emma Hart Willard founded the first seminary for women in Troy, New York. Mary Lyon, the best known female educator, established Mount Holyoke College for women with a goal that "every student would be brought to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ." Oberlin College admitted the first female in 1837 and graduated the first woman in 1850 with a theological degree. Soon women were teachers, schoolmistresses, and missionaries.

    The first great women's convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton with a Quaker Lucretia Mott. The two-day gathering had 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiment and a list of 18 grievances. The Women's movement gained support by including other causes in their platform like temperance, suffrage, property rights, and especially abolition. They soon made progress in the professions like law and medicine, and legislatures passed laws to improve their opportunities.

    The industrial revolution was considered a major cause of the social ills in the 19th Century. The employment of children, women, and immigrants for low wages and long hours were targets of the reformers and the labor unions. The 10-hours work day and the right to form a union and strike were all goals of the labor reformers.

    It was not just the Christians, who endeavored to improve society. Many Transcendentalists and Unitarians, who graduated from Harvard, were influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Ellery Channing. They added their zeal to the cause of many reforms, too.

    In the pursuit of honorable reforms and the ideal of Jacksonian democracy one cause failed. The Indians not only lost ground, but they were removed. Under President Jackson, who became famous as an Indian fighter, Congress adopted the Indian removal policy. Although Chief Justice Marshall tried to protect Indian lands, the Cherokees were evicted and marched away in the infamous Trail of Tears. One-fourth died on the trek to Oklahoma, and their funds were stolen by government officials. Their lands were occupied by whites. Every Indian tribe was forced beyond Mississippi, except the Seminoles, who survived by hiding in the Okefenokee swamp.

         VI. The Abolition Movement:

    Of all the reform movements the "fire bell in the night" became the greatest moral crusade of the era. The other campaigns dissipated while free soil and free men intensified. It was the great irony of history that a nation founded on liberty and freedom with Christian principles would continue the Constitutional guarantee of slavery with its cruelties, mutilations, immoralities, and degradation's to the Africans. So many honorable and principled people owned slaves like the founding fathers: Washington, Jefferson, Randolph, and Pinckney. The issue split families, the churches, and the states.

    The first call for manumission was by a Quaker preacher John Woolman in an 1754 document. The Quakers began expelling members, who owned slaves, and they organized perhaps the world's first anti-slavery society in 1775. Although slavery was permitted in the Constitution, few were told about the devastating conditions on the middle passage. Some were appalled and embarrassed by the public slave trade in cities like Baltimore. In 1808 Congress closed slave trade, but the traffic still continued. A Quaker editor Benjamin Lundy organized an anti-slavery society in 1815, and he worked for emancipation and African colonization. By 1822 Liberia was established as a colony for ex-slaves, but the attempt was ineffective. During the decade abolition societies began dwindling. Lundy recruited a 22-year old reformer to his newspaper work. His name was William Lloyd Garrison. By 1831 Garrison was publishing The Liberator and strongly attacking slavery as sinful and criticizing the slaveowners as criminals. Southerners were infuriated and offered a bounty for Garrison. Another influential publication in Boston was the pamphlet Appeal in Four Letters by an ex-slave and a Baptist David Walker. He warned that if slavery continued the nation was doomed "For God will tear up the very face of the Earth!"

    The abolitionists received an immense impetus in 1833 when the British Empire emancipated their slaves and compensated the slave owners with not more than 20 million pounds. British actress Fanny Kemble on her American tours included a condemnation of slavery. Before the year ended the American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in Philadelphia with Arthur Tappan as President. Manumission agencies began to spring up again.

    However, two acts of violence transformed the decade and polarized the two sides even more. The first was the 1831 slave insurrection led by the Rev. Nat Turner, a Baptist preacher in Virginia. After a Bible study and prayer he proclaimed a divine calling to kill his master Joseph Travis and the family. Nearly sixty whites died and more than a hundred Negroes were killed in this Southampton uprising. The South immediately tighten their Black Codes, and the previous conspiracies of Denmark Vessey in 1800 and Gabriel Prosser in 1822 were rehearsed.

    Secondly, the first white martyr of the abolition movement Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy was killed in Alton, Illinois in 1837. The newspaper editor and ordained Presbyterian minister had his press mobbed for the fourth time. His murder was called "a shock as of any earthquake." The heat on slavery increased, but still most of the Northerners were indifferent. The abolitionists were divided over the timetable for emancipation whether it should be immediate or gradual.

    While Garrison remained the staunch abolitionist in the North, he was joined by others during the decade of the 30's. Some joined like Lovejoy because of his spiritual conversion during the Second Great Awakening. He saw slavery as incompatible with Christianity. Others were enlisted by the Unitarians of Harvard from the influence of William Ellery Channing and the idealistic writers from Transcendentalism and Romanticism. Garrison's most famous disciple was Harvard grad Wendell Phillips, who was called "abolition's golden trumpet." He denounced the Constitution for slavery and called for a dissolution of the Union.

    Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the wealthy New York silk merchants, supplied money for Finney's crusades and the abolition societies. Both served as officers in the American and the American & Foreign Anti-Slavery societies. They also backed Garrison's effort in the early 1830's, and they added enormous influence to the campaign.

    Theodore Dwight Weld, a convert of Finney's preaching, used the revival preaching style to attract supporters to the crusade. He spoke in 40 Ohio cities during a three-year campaign. Weld was one of the most courageous abolition advocates. He suffered from verbal abuse, beatings, rocks, and he was nearly the first martyr for the cause. His wife Angelina and her sister Sarah were the famous Quaker Grimke sister's of the women's rights and abolition causes. Both had renounced their slave property. Another Quaker woman Lucretia Mott was spoke boldly for both causes.

    An ex-slave owner from Kentucky James G. Birney's argument against slavery was that all men were created in the image of God and that Jesus taught the universal brotherhood of man. In 1834 Birney wrote a Letter to the Ministers and Elders calling for an end of slavery because of the doctrines in Christianity. He moved to Cincinnati and joined the Weld, Garrison, Tappan, Lovejoy, and Mott activists.

    Meanwhile, other radical abolitionists had organized the Underground Railroad. The institution was unofficially incorporated in 1804, but the term was not coined until 1831. The escape route for runaway slaves linked "stations" or nightly rendezvous, which followed the North Star or in their secret lingo "the Drinking Gourd." Levi Coffin, an Indiana Quaker, was the so-called President; and Harriet Tubman, the Black Moses, was the most famous conductor. She personally led 300 slaves to freedom. Coffin became famous for a funeral procession which he used to march 28 slaves to freedom. By 1850 it was estimated that 100,000 slaves valued at thirty million dollars made it to the North or Canada. By the end of the decade the abolitionists had surrounded two camps. The Garrison faction criticized the churches for not taking a firm stand, and the New York coalition under Lewis Tappan tried to work with the churches for abolition. However, others determined that political action was needed against the Constitutional and the legislative protections on slavery, and they formed the Liberty Party.

    In the elections of 1840 and 1844 they ran James Birney as their Presidential candidate. Although they polled only 60,000 votes in 1844, the 15,812 votes in New York were enough to swing the crucial state to the Democrat candidate James Knox Polk, who was a descendent of the famous Scottish reformer John Knox. By the end of Polk's administration Texas was a state, Oregon was re-organized, and a vast territory had been won from Mexico. The anti-slavery people now hoped to contain slavery in the 15 slave states. They supported Martin Van Buren and the Free Soil party in the election of 1848. Van Buren drew 290,000 votes, and he beat the Democrat Lewis Cass in three states including New York.

    During the 1840's two prominent ex-slaves became powerful speakers for the anti-slavery cause. Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave and licensed preacher in the AME Zion Church, began speaking for a moderate abolition position in 1841. He was in great demand in America and Europe and was quickly the most, outstanding abolitionist orator. In 1845 he wrote his autobiography. From 1847 to1860 his newspaper the North Star was a moderate voice on abolition which opposed Garrison's more radical opinion. Eventually he was called to serve in the Lincoln government.

    The second spokesperson was Isabella, who was known as Sojourner Truth. She was emancipated in 1828 when New York state ended slavery. As a member of the AME Zion church, she became a street preacher and an evangelist in New York City. Her deep voice and mystical messages were effective in the women's rights movement, too. Her famous lines at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention were, "And ain't I a woman?.. I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?" For the most part whites in the North appeared disinterested toward emancipation. Abolitionist speakers found it difficult to rent meeting places, and often mobs broke up their programs. The anti-slavery groups complained that the government was not protecting their right of free speech or defending them against the violence. By the middle of the decade the gag rule on slavery in the House of Representatives was ended through the efforts of John Quincy Adams and Joshua Giddings of Ohio.

    Nevertheless a larger impact was made by the general conferences of the churches in 1845. It is now regarded that the first ecclesiastical North-South separation began with the Presbyterians in 1837. They generally avoided an open discussion on the issue. However, their official position was that the government should deal with slavery through legislation. Such was not the case with the Methodist General Conference and the Baptist General Convention in 1845. Both split over the slavery issue into a Northern and a Southern organization. The other denominations did not suffer schisms because they tended to be governed on a regional basis.

    By 1850 almost 2,000 anti-slavery groups had a membership of nearly 200,000 and the list of prestigious names included Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Longfellow, Melville, and the "bard of abolition" John Greenleaf Whittier. The Underground Railroad could list over 3,000 active workers with many other anonymous operators. However, the fugitive slave laws were being enforced by the federal government. Also, the Wilmot Proviso was rejected in its attempt to stop slavery in the Mexican Cession territories. Since the anti-slavery people could not establish a free soil policy in the territories, the boundary between slavery and abolition remained the old Missouri Compromise 36-30 line and the Ohio River.

    In 1850 the Congress made a dramatic departure in their slavery policy with the Omnibus bill, when California made a sudden application for statehood because of the 49er's gold rush. The compromises included Stephen Douglas' popular sovereignty in the Mexican Cession territories and the dreaded fugitive slave laws were strengthened

    When Douglas' untested theory of choice was included in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it appeared that the door was now open for slavery in the North and above the 36-30 line of separation. The practical application of popular sovereignty became "Bleeding Kansas" with both sides emigrating and sending weapons. It was becoming obvious that increased violence and not a peaceful, legislative settlement would be the result. In 1852 the nation was confronted with the stark reality of slavery, when Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was printed. She was the wife of a Congregational professor of Old Testament and the daughter of the famous Presbyterian clergyman Lyman Beecher. Her novel immediately sold 300,000 copies and was a theater hit on Northern stages. It was called "the most influential novel ever published...a verbal ink-and-print tidal wave." Simon Legree, Elisa, Little Eva, and Tom all became familiar characters. The North was angered over the enforcement of the fugitive slave laws, and the South was angered for over dramatizing of slavery. Meanwhile the South defended the peculiar institution and their way of life. Biblical support was argued from the Old and New Testament on the position of slavery. The Baptists adopted Rev. Richard Furman's apologetics "the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both in precept and example."

    The 1844 Methodist General Conference agonized over their first slaveholding bishop, when Georgia Bishop James O. Andrew acquired slaves from his second wife. Southerners argued that bishops were beyond the conference's control. After an 11-day debate a Northern-led majority vote asked him to desist from episcopal labors until he got rid of his slaves.

    Politicians, educators, and churchmen asserted their defense of slavery. The leading pro-slavery argument was the inferiority of the African and the need to Christianize the slaves. George Fitzhugh argued that economically slaves were better off than Northern workers because they were given food, clothing, and shelter without competing for jobs. The Supreme Court even supported the position that a slave was property in the Dred Scott decision. Another Southerner Hinton Rowan Helper, who converted to the abolitionist cause, wrote The Impending Crisis of The South, which sensationalized the gap between of the rich planters and the poverty of the poor whites.

    The intersectional strife widened when a new major party The Republicans made free soil a key platform plank. Abraham Lincoln became their most famous candidate, when he shot holes in Stephen Douglas' popular sovereignty of letting the territories choose between free men or slavery. The differences were irreconcilable. The North could not afford to buy freedom for the slaves or give compensation to the owners, and the South could not afford to free the slaves and then pay them for their labor. There was no middleground between the two positions. Any limitations on slavery in the territories threatened the South, and the property rights for Dred Scott threatened the North. Their positions were on a collision course.

    After John Brown, who claimed to be divinely called, raided the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and the election of Lincoln, who held an anti-slavery position, seven Southern States led by South Carolina seceded from the Union. During the Civil War President Lincoln's 1863 proclamation emancipated only the slaves in the secession states. The four border states in the Union still had slavery. Finally, all slavery was ended with the 13th Amendment in 1865.

    E. D. Branch referred to the period 1836-1860 as the "Sentimental Years" because they were times when good works flourished as never before. There were societies to promote education, to reform prisons, to stop prostitution, to promote world peace, and even in case of war, to protect the prisoners and care for the wounded. In many cases Great Britain was the avant-garde for these social reforms, but to the credit of their colonial offspring America followed in their train. However, more than anything else, as the great writers Orr and Latourette have verified, in many cases the evangelical Christians spearheaded the reforms.

    One final reform that needs mentioned is the Evangelical Alliance. It was founded in London in 1846 as an ecumenical attempt to form a united voice on moral and religious concerns. This federation joined nearly fifty evangelical groups from both England and America with an ultimate goal to "promote the cause of Christ everywhere." As the ideas and principles of the organization expanded in America and into the 20th Century, it did express the major doctrinal points of unity in the Protestants churches of that time.

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