Dbq Antebellum Reform Essay

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Historian John Buescher is an author and professor who formerly headed Tibetan language broadcasts at Voice of America.

In other words, you are expected to treat history and historical questions as a historian would.

The reformers were often nourished by Anabaptist roots—especially Baptist or Quaker—or by a form of faith that was essentially a moralizing Puritanism stood on its head, which is to say, Unitarianism, whose forebears were strict Puritans, but who had concluded to reform its doctrine of "endless misery," into an optimistic one of a progressively more joyful heaven on earth.

This introduced a utopian, millenialist, perfectionist strand into the reform movement, and was responsible for the innumerable small and large efforts to "come out" of the larger society and set up smaller enclaves or utopian communities, such as the well-known Brook Farm community in Massachusetts.

Farmers were upset at what they regarded as arbitrary and excessive railroad rates and abuses such as rebates to big business like Standard Oil.

These farmers were among the first and most outspoken advocates of reform in the late 19th century.

American reformers read this essentially as an effort to endow each person in an egalitarian society with a supreme autonomy over his or her own affairs.

They discovered, however, a paradox at the heart of this effort—autonomous people were wayward and often needed to be coerced into egalitarian reform, which meant that a larger authority, such as the State, needed to negate individual autonomy in order to bring about an egalitarian society.

Many of these "come outers" soon "came out," not only of religious sectarianism, but of theistic belief altogether, becoming explicit "Free Thinkers" or atheists.

Unsurprisingly, the center of the reform movement was New England (especially Boston) and areas further west, like Ohio and then Michigan, where New Englanders were resettling.


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