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The Gospel of KindnessAnimal Welfare and the Making of Modern America$
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Janet M. Davis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199733156

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199733156.001.0001

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“A Righteous Man Regards the Life of His Beast”

“A Righteous Man Regards the Life of His Beast”

The Roots of the Gospel of Kindness in the Second Great Awakening and Antebellum Reform

(p.26) 1 “A Righteous Man Regards the Life of His Beast”
The Gospel of Kindness

Janet M. Davis

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the rise of American animal protectionism during the Second Great Awakening. Evangelical Protestant revivalism promoted a new proactive theology of free moral agency, which helped propel antebellum social reform movements stressing kindness toward “the least among us.” Timothy Dwight, Charles Grandison Finney, and other revivalists stressed biblical animal kindness as a moral imperative for building a civilized society, especially in regard to proper childrearing. Contemporary religious literature, children’s school readers, and popular novels collectively promoted animal mercy. Abolitionists and temperance leaders cultivated a shared movement language of cruelty, suffering bodies, and kindness to “our fellow creatures,” which helped define a nascent gospel of animal kindness. This theological and reformist milieu gave rise to dozens of new antebellum animal welfare laws. Moreover, this formative reformist environment directly influenced the rise of organized societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs) after the Civil War.

Keywords:   George Angell, Massachusetts SPCA, Second Great Awakening, antebellum reform, animal kindness, Timothy Dwight, Charles Grandison Finney, biblical animal kindness, animal protectionism

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