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Pre-Civil War Reform


Reformers’ Agenda

- Includes, but not limited to: Education of deaf and blind, rehabilitation of criminals, equal rights

for women, abolish slavery, etc.

- In response to rise in gangs, thievery, prostitution, mob violence, poverty, lynching

o NYC population doubled in 20 years, crime quadrupled

- How to maintain order and stability in a totally free society?

o Commit to Christian values, education, social reform

 Equal rights for women

 Liquor caused social, family, personal problems

Alcohol Reform

- Alcohol consumption led to spousal and child abuse, crime, poverty, unproductive employees

- By 1826, the world’s first society calling for complete abstinence for distilled liquor: American

Society for the Promotion of Temperance

o By 1829, 222 anti-liquor groups

o By 1845, 2 million Americans took a pledge to abstain from hard liquor

o 4,000 distilleries closed

- two approaches to the temperance movement

o Washingtonian movement: reformed alcoholics to reform other drinkers

o Maine Laws: restrict manufacture and sale of alcohol, Maine, 1851

Crime as a Social Problem

- Crime as a “disease” that can be cured

- No more public punishments

- Showing patience towards criminals, what’s the underlying cause?

- Rehabilitation efforts

o Auburn Prison, New York

 Inmates worked and slept in separate cells at night

 Very disciplined

o Eastern State Penitentiary, PA, 1829

 Every prison cell had its own yard, own workspace, prisoners were completely


 Lived and worked in complete isolation

 Physical hard labor, and isolation might cause introspection in the hopes of


- Insanity Defense: criminal act should be legally punished only if the offender is capable of

distinguishing between right and wrong

o 1835, Richard Lawrence, attempted to assassinate president Jackson

 Lawrence believed that Jackson’s attack on Second Bank of US prevented him

from obtaining money to claim the English throne

 Court ruled Lawrence suffered from mental delusions

 Confined to an asylum, not subject to criminal prosecution

- Attempts to outlaw capital punishment