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Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy$
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Kyle G. Volk

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199371914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371914.001.0001

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Making America’s First Moral Majority

Making America’s First Moral Majority

Chapter:
(p.11) 1 Making America’s First Moral Majority
Source:
Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy
Author(s):

Kyle G. Volk

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371914.003.0002

This chapter describes the rise of moral reform movements in the early nineteenth century, focusing especially on the political ideology and grass-roots tactics of leading movements. It argues that Protestant evangelicals and middle-class reformers were driven by a fundamental desire to ensure that the American republic and its widening electorate had the proper moral foundations that popular self-government required. Moreover, it shows that reformers not only sought to reform individuals but also set their sights on reforming the immoral practices of American government. From Sunday mail delivery and liquor licensing to the existence of slavery in Washington, DC, reformers saw government promoting immorality and ultimately contributing to the demise of American society. As temperance activists, Sabbath reformers, and radical abolitionists pressed their cases for reform, they incited critical moments of dissent and resistance that foreshadowed the later struggles that would bring issues of minority rights to the fore.

Keywords:   moral reform, moral majority, Protestant evangelicals, democracy, Sabbath, temperance, abolitionists, slavery, liquor licensing, Sunday mail

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