The First Reforms
Welcome back to my blog series on Reformation America. The last time we visited the Reformation Era we discussed the how eugenics played a large role in Progressive Era society. In the blog post before that I presented to you how the mentally ill were discriminated against and why it occurred during this period of American history. In that posting I also told you that Progressive Era was the second American attempt at societal reformations. The Progressive Era is also know as the Second Reform Movement. In order to understand the progressive movement we need to understand the the previous attempts at society reformations before, during and after the American Civil War.
The first reforms began soon after the United States won the War of 1812. After defeating the British for a second time there was a huge surge of nationalism and an independent spirit.
Territorial expansion had a large impact on the American political system. It was the first time interest groups had come to the forefront of many political discussions. These interest groups would reform the American political system into the modern day political structure we have today.
The Antebellum period in the United States lasted from 1820 to 1861. America continued to expand and settled out west yet back east there were many attempts to reform American society.
Specific attempts included:
- abolishing imprisonment for debt,
- abolishing capital punishment,
- amelioration of prison conditions (with prison's purpose reconceived as rehabilitation rather than punishment)
- the humane and just treatment of Native Americans
- the human treatment of animals
- the establishment of public institutions for the care of the destitute, orphans, blind, and mentally ill
- the abolition of tobacco use,
- the establishment of public schools
- homeopathic medicine
- health reform
- woman's rights (including, at first, especially the establishment of a woman's right to own property apart from her husband and her right to sue for divorce)
- and the amelioration of labor conditions (including higher pay, the right to form unions, the right to strike, and the demand for limits on the number of work hours, and safe working conditions).
The Civil War
The American Civil War lasted from April 12, 1861 – May 10, 1865 and is known as the Bloodiest War the United States has ever fought. Although it occurred in the beginning of the 19th century it has caused the most American lives in any war we have ever fought. The Civil War cost 1,030,000 casualties, including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians. According to a September 2011 New York Times article, "Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20% higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000." 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps while approximately 60,000 men lost a limb.
everything for the Civil War. At the beginning of the war slavery had been only one issue that the states were fighting against. With Abraham Lincoln's signature the war now became about only one thing - slavery. Abraham Lincoln had reformed the United States by stripping away one of the south's precious commodities, slavery. It wasn't an unheard of move at the time. The United Kingdom had outlawed slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. Before the war, many slaves had tried to escape from their masters via the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a secret, safe route from the south to Canada that was manned by abolitionists. Harriet Tubman, former slave and Union spy during the American Civil War, helped many former slaves navigate through the Underground Railroad. The Emancipation Proclamation was a major reform for African Americans but it was only a stepping stone towards complete freedom. After the proclamation was signed the United States government knew it would have to do something to ensure these newly freed slaves would have a place in our society. During the war, groups of Northern soldiers would experiment with localized reform efforts by granting the former slaves an education and teaching them how to manage their own farms.
After the Civil War, the United States had a new problem on their hands along with the integration of the former slaves into society. Entire cities, towns and personal property throughout the North and South lay in ruins with the Southern states receiving most of the damages. Most of the war was fought in the south. It was a common characteristic of the Union soldiers to burn any Southern farm and home they came across plus rob the locals. Life after the war had become an emotional, mental and physical ordeal for most people, especially for the Southern states.