Why did the time period between the Civil War and the Progressive Era call for drastic changes in society.?
- Anonymous1 decade agoFavorite Answer
At the same time that slavery became highly profitable in the South, a wave of democratic reform swept the North and West. There were demands for political equality and social and economic advances. The goals were free public education, rights for women, better wages and working conditions for laborers, and humane treatment for criminals and the insane.
This crusading ardor soon led to an all-out attack on the slavery system in the South, coupled with a strong opposition to its spread into new territories. It charged that such an institution nullified the greatest human right—that of being a free person. Reformers now called for the complete abolition of slavery.
The first abolitionist to gain national attention was William Lloyd Garrison of Boston, in 1831. Within a few years abolitionist newspapers, orators, and societies sprang up throughout the North. Some of the abolitionists even denounced the federal Constitution because it legalized and condoned slavery. Such a radical was Wendell Phillips, one of New England's ablest orators. In 1836 he gave up his law practice because his conscience would not allow him to take the oath to support the Constitution.
About the same time, James G. Birney of Ohio, a former slaveholder in Kentucky, began gathering all antislavery forces into one political unit, the Liberty party. Under this label he ran for president in 1840 and again in 1844. Other notable abolitionists were Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and black editor; John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker poet; Theodore Parker, a Unitarian preacher from Boston, Mass.; and James Russell Lowell, who denounced slavery in prose and verse.
Despite their noisy campaign the abolitionists remained a small minority. They were generally condemned by their neighbors and were often the victims of ruthless persecution. Some antislavery printing offices were mobbed and burned. One abolitionist editor, Elijah Lovejoy of Alton, Ill., was murdered.
White abolitionists, especially, had no firsthand knowledge of slavery, and their criticisms were often wide of the mark. Southerners who might have doubted the wisdom of slavery now began to defend it with great earnestness. They said it was not a necessary evil but a righteous and benevolent institution. They compared it with the “wage-slave” system of the North and claimed that the slaves were better cared for than the free factory workers. Southern preachers proclaimed that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible. Differences over the slavery issue prompted some Southern churches to break away from the parent group and form sectional denominations.
In the House of Representatives Southerners fought back in 1836 by requiring all antislavery petitions to be tabled without reading or discussion. John Quincy Adams, the ex-president and now a member of the House, finally won repeal of the rule in 1844. (See also abolitionist movement.)