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Second Great Awakening Essay

The Second Great Awakening was a powerful religious revival that swept the nation during the mid 1800s. While it was potent in every region of the country, it had a particular effect on three social areas of the North: abolitionism, temperance, and the development of utopian communities. All three rose from the ideas of the Second Great Awakening, which held that the individual was responsible for their own salvation through moral righteousness and rejected the idea of predestination. There was an emphasis on the power of the individual, yet there was also heavy pressure to aid in the well-being of others. Abolitionism became increasingly popular during the Second Great Awakening, as northerners began to reject the injustices committed against southern slaves. Newspapers such as The Liberator and special interest groups such as the American Colonization Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society began to flourish under the new religious climate of equality and moral righteousness.

William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe published especially influential abolitionist literature and rejected the less-radical and less-just idea of gradualism. Northern preachers took up the call, and began condemning slavery from the pulpit. Southern preachers had a very different interpretation on this issue, but their voices were quickly drowned out in the North. The temperance movement also benefitted from the Second Great Awakening. Many of the same aspects that played into the abolition movement (such as the desire for morality and to aid in the well-being of others) also influenced the temperance movement.

Temperance leaders cursed alcohol as being “from the devil” and pointed to the conflict and dereliction of duty that was correlated with drinking. Factory owners quickly jumped onto this bandwagon, as they had a vested interest in maintaining a sober (and therefore, efficient and safe) workforce. Charismatic leaders such as Neal S. Dow and Timothy Shay Arthur made significant progress in gaining public support for the cause, and even succeeded in passing a Maine law that outlawed the sale and manufacture of alcohol.

Ultimately, the temperance movement failed and sunk into obscurity until it was revived in the early 1900s. As these two examples prove, the Second Great Awakening had far-reaching effects that drove movements that weren’t even connected to religion. These examples focus on effects of the Awakening in the North, but as it was a broad revival that enveloped the entire country, it drove many more important events than the two mentioned above.

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