It was a time of great optimism with the possibilities of self-governance.
It was also a time of great conflict, as the benefits of industrialization and democratization began to accrue along stark lines of gender, race, and class.
Even as the technological innovations of industrialization--like the telegraph and railroads--offered exciting new ways to maintain communication, frontier expansion distanced urban dwellers from frontier settlers more than ever before.
The spread of democracy opened the franchise to nearly all white men, but it also increased social tensions and class divides.
Americans looked at the changes with a mixture of enthusiasm and suspicion, wondering how the moral fabric of the new nation would hold up.
Many turned to spiritual revivalism and social reform to understand and manage the various transformations.
The religious revivals of the Second Great Awakening revived Protestant spirituality in the early 19th century.
The revivals incorporated worshippers into an expansive religious community that spanned all regions of the United States and armed them with a potent evangelical mission.
The belief that human society could be changed to look more heavenly came from the religious revivals.
They joined their spiritual networks to quickly develop social reform networks that sought to alleviate social ills and eradicate moral vice.
Reformers worked hard to remake the world around them, tackling many issues, including alcoholism, slavery, and the inequality of women.
The zeal of reform and the spiritual rejuvenation that inspired it were key aspects of antebellum life and society.
The nation's religious landscape was changed in the early 19th century by a series of religious revivals known as the Second Great Awakening.
Revivalist preachers traveled on horseback, sharing their message of spiritual and moral renewal to as many people as possible.
Religious revivals and camp meetings were popular with residents of urban centers, rural farmlands, and frontier territories.
Powerful intel lectual and social currents led to the Second Great Awakening.
Revivals provided a new sense of spiritual community for Americans who were struggling with the changes of the day, but also provided a unifying moral order.
The market revolution, western expansion, and European immigration all challenged traditional bonds of authority, and evangelicalism promised equal measures of excitement and order.
Revivals spread like wildfire throughout the United States, swelling church membership, spawning new Christian denominations, and inspiring social reform.
Cane Ridge, Kentucky, was one of the earliest and largest revivals of the Second Great Awaken ing.
The Cane Ridge Revival drew thousands of people, and possibly as many as one of every ten residents of Kentucky.
Though large crowds had previously gathered in rural areas each late summer or fall to receive communion, this assembly was very different.
They preached from inside buildings, evangelized outdoors under the open sky, and even used tree stumps as makeshift pulpits to reach their enthusiastic audiences.
In a break with common practice, women were exhorted.
Attendees were moved by the preachers' fervor and responded by crying, jumping, speaking in tongues, or even fainting.
Many revivalists abandoned the more formal style of worship observed in the well-established Congregationalist and Episcopalian churches and instead embraced more passionate forms of worship that included the jumping, shouting, and gesturing found in new and alternative denominations.
Christian denominations such as the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians grew rapidly alongside new denominations such as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The Burned-Over District is a part of western and central New York state.
Historians call the American spiritual marketplace after removing the government support of churches.
Methodism enjoyed the most significant denominational increase in American history.
Methodism was the most popular American religion by 1850.
By the midnineteenth century, 34 percent of all American church membership was in the Methodist Episcopal Church, which broke away from the Church of England in 1784.
Methodists used circuit riders.
The expansion of the United States chapteR 10 over the Alleghenies and into the Ohio River Valley brought religion to new settlers who were hungry to have their spiritual needs attended.
Circuit riding took preachers into homes, meetinghouses, and churches, all mapped out at regular intervals that took about two weeks to complete.
There was a theological critique of orthodox Calvinism that had far-reaching consequences for religious individuals and society as a whole.
Calvinists believed that God predestined some for salvation and that all of humankind was marred by sin.
Many American Christians thought these attitudes were too pessimistic.
Worshippers began to take responsibility for their own spiritual fates by embracing theologies that emphasized human action in effecting salvation, and revivalist preachers were quick to recognize the importance of these cultural shifts.
Charles Grandison Finney was a radical revivalist preacher who appealed to worshippers' hearts and emotions.
Even more conservative spiritual leaders, such as Lyman Beecher of the Congregational Church, appealed to younger generations of Americans by adopting a less orthodox approach to Calvinist doctrine.
Out of the Second Great Awakening, the idea of spiritual egalitarianism was one of the most important changes.
The United States has become increasingly democratic.
The revolution weakened the power of long-standing social hierarchies and the codes of conduct that went along with them.
The democratizing ethos gave rise to a more equal approach to spiritual leadership.
A twenty-year-old man could go from working in a mill to being a full-time circuit-riding preacher for the Methodists in just a few days.
Methodists were able to beat spiritual competition because of their emphasis on spiritual egalitarianism.
The lack of formal training meant that individual preachers could be paid less than a Congregationalist preacher with a degree.
The revivals and subsequent evangelical growth revealed strains within the Methodist and Baptist churches.
During the 1820s and 1830s, reformers advocated for a return to the practices and policies of an earlier generation.
Others left mainstream Protestantism and formed their own churches.
Some, like Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, proposed a return to New Testament Christianity, stripped of centuries of additional teachings and practices.
Mormon founder Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision in a grove of trees near his boyhood home in upstate New York, and that he was told to join none of the existing churches.
Smith was told the location of a buried record, purportedly containing the writings and histories of an ancient Christian civilization on the American continent.
Smith organized the Church of Christ after publishing the Book of Mormon in 1830.
Smith took the message of the Book of Mormon from the United States, across the ocean to England and Ireland, and eventually even farther abroad by sending early converts as missionaries.
He commanded his followers on both sides of the Atlantic to gather to a center place where they anticipated the second coming of Christ.
The Mormons were forced to move from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Illinois due to the opposition of both Protestant ministers and neighbors who were suspicious of their potential political power.
Smith introduced secret rites to be performed in Mormon temples and continued to pronounce additional revelations as he moved even further beyond the bounds of the Christian orthodoxy.
Smith and a select group of his most loyal followers began taking additional wives.
Although Mormon polygamy was not publicly acknowledged and openly practiced until 1852 (when the Mormons had moved yet again, this time to the protective confines of the intermountain west on the shores of the Great Salt Lake), rumors of Smith's involvement began to circulate almost immediately after its quiet introduction.
Mormons were not the only religious community in antebellum Amer ica to challenge the domestic norm of the era through radical sexual experiments.
Other people challenged cultural customs in less radical ways.
For individual worshippers, spiritual egalitarianism in revivals and camp meetings could break down traditional social conventions.
Both men and women are admitted in revivals.
In an era when many American Protestants discouraged or completely forbade women from speaking in church meetings, some preachers provided women with new opportunities to openly express themselves and participate in spiritual communities.
Most of the opportunities in the Methodist and Baptist traditions would be limited by the mid-nineteenth century as the denominations moved away from radical revivalism and towards the status of respectable denominations.
Slaveholders and the enslaved were encouraged to attend the same meetings by some preachers who promoted racial integration in religious gatherings.
Historians believe that the extreme physical and vocal manifestations of conversion seen at camp meetings offered the ranks of worshippers a way to break the codes of self-restraint prescribed by upper-class elites.
The revivals did not always live up to the ideals of spiritual egalitarianism, but they did change how Protestant Americans thought about themselves, their God, and one another.