the making of middle class america
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THE MAKING OF MIDDLE-CLASS AMERICA. Tocqueville and Beaumont in America two French aristocrats, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont, were among the many foreign visitors who came to observe and record American manners, institutions, and society in first half of nineteenth century.

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the making of middle class america
  • Tocqueville and Beaumont in America
    • two French aristocrats, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont, were among the many foreign visitors who came to observe and record American manners, institutions, and society in first half of nineteenth century
Tocqueville and Beaumont believed that Europe was passing from its aristocratic past to a democratic future and that the best way to prepare for this change was to study American society and its republican government
  • Tocqueville’s observations provided the material for his Democracy in America, published in 1835
Tocqueville in Judgment
    • nothing struck Tocqueville more than the equality he observed among Americans
    • although Americans did not live in total equality, inequalities that existed among white males were not enforced by institutions or supported by public opinion
    • many of Tocqueville’s observations represented oversimplifications
    • had little interest in industrialization and urbanization or how they affected the country
    • failed to recognize the substantial poverty that existed in Jacksonian America
A Restless People
    • European observers often commented on the restlessness of Americans and their tendency to pack up and move in search of land, work, or other opportunity
    • Americans migrated both toward the unsettled frontier and toward established urban areas
    • Boston, New York, and Philadelphia expanded rapidly in first half of 19th century
    • emergence and growth of new towns were even more significant than growth of large cities
urbanization transformed Northeast and Old Northwest but had little impact on South
  • despite the growth of America’s population, much of the country remained sparsely settled
The Family Recast
    • factory system and growth of cities undermined importance of home and family as unit of economic production
    • husbands spent more time away from home; wives exercised more power
    • married women assumed more responsibility for household affairs
    • this trend widened gap between middle and lower classes
    • many considered it a dereliction of duty for a middle-class wife to take a job
such an attitude could not develop in lower-class families where everyone had to work
  • the middle class “cult of true womanhood” placed women on a pedestal for their selfless devotion to home and family
  • women, particularly in urban areas, married later than the previous generation and had fewer children
  • smaller families led parents to value children more highly and to lavish more time and affection on them
The Second Great Awakening
    • in New England, evangelists who rejected both orthodox Calvinism and deistic thought led the Second Great Awakening
    • they stressed the mercy and love of God and the importance of personal salvation
    • Charles Grandison Finney led revival meetings in New York that combined sermons, personal testimonials of salvation, and hymn singing
    • Finney’s theology dismissed Calvinism as a “theological fiction”
salvation was available to anyone
  • revivalism of Second Great Awakening appealed to uprooted workers who sought employment in towns along Erie Canal and to middle-class women who felt responsible for the spiritual well-being of their families
The Era of Associations
    • voluntary associations served as a pillar of emerging middle class
    • associations promoted various philanthropic and religious causes
    • leaders came from upper class, but middle class formed bulk of membership
Backwoods Utopias
    • some reformers sought to achieve social reorganization and personal reform by establishing small-scale communities outside of American society
    • two millennial groups, the Rappites and the Shakers, practiced celibacy
    • Shakers held their property in common and made a virtue of living simply
    • Other religious colonies included the Amana and Oneida communities, which prospered by developing manufacturing skills
members of Oneida community practiced “complex marriage,” which held that every man in community was married to every woman
  • Joseph Smith founded the Mormon faith in western New York in the 1820s
  • their unorthodox religious views and exclusivism caused resentment among non-Mormons
  • hostility and violence in Ohio and Illinois forced them to move westward; they eventually settled at Salt Lake City
The Age of Reform
    • other efforts at reform included rehabilitation of criminals and better care for the physically and mentally disabled
    • reformers demanded that deviant and dependent members of community be taken from their present corrupting surroundings and placed in institutions where they could be trained, educated, or rehabilitated
    • however humane the motivations of reformers might have been, the institutions they created seem inhumane by modern standards
“Demon Rum”
    • temperance movement, most widely supported and successful reform movement, addressed a real problem; Americans in 1820s consumed prodigious quantities of alcohol
    • the formation of American Temperance Union in 1826 marked beginning of a national crusade against drunkenness
    • temperance movement aroused opposition, particularly from German and Irish immigrants, when it moved beyond calls for restraint to demands for total prohibition of alcohol
by the 1840s, reformers had secured legislation imposing licensing systems and taxes on alcohol
  • by 1855, a dozen states had followed Maine’s example and prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor
  • the nation’s per capita consumption of alcohol plummeted
The Abolitionist Crusade
    • abolitionism attracted few followers until 1820s
    • antislavery northerners considered slavery wrong, but believed that Constitution obliged them to tolerate it in states where it existed
    • advocates of forced abolition were regarded as irresponsible extremists
    • most critics of slavery confined themselves to urging colonization or persuading slaveholders to treat their slaves humanely
Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker newspaper editor, was one of the few to go further, and even he advocated persuasion rather than the use of federal power to end slavery
  • his assistant, William Lloyd Garrison, demanded immediate emancipation of slaves and full racial equality
  • Garrison’s unyielding position, his refusal to engage in politics, and his support for female abolitionist lecturers divided the movement
many blacks advocated abolition long before white abolitionists began to attract attention
  • the most prominent black abolitionist was Frederick Douglass, a former slave, who insisted on emancipation as well as full social and political equality
Women’s Rights
    • women who opposed slavery confronted the opposition of men who objected to the participation of women in political affairs
    • many female abolitionists also became advocates for women’s rights
    • some equated women’s position in society with that of blacks
    • advocates of rights for women who began their careers as abolitionists included Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Stanton, Mott, and others organized a meeting at Seneca Falls in 1848 and drafted a Declaration of Principles patterned on the Declaration of Independence
  • Susan B. Anthony became a leading campaigner for women’s rights in the 1850s
  • She recognized the need for effective organization to bring pressure on male-dominated society