The second great awakening in the 19th century led to the development of reforms and also contributed to the abolition of slavery. During the 19th century, there was religious experimentation where many churches and democracy in the church emerged (Harrold, 2015). The religious reform took place between 1790 and 1850 and promoted the development of religious reform movements as well as the call for the abolition of slavery in the South (Hui, 2018). The Southern of the United States was significantly shaped and influenced by religion, and the Anglican Church was the main church in the southern colonies. The rise of protestant evangelism in the 19th century presented a significant alternative to the already established Anglican Church. Out of the religion, reformation led to the development of the Arminianism doctrine, which called for freedom to all God's human creatures, and in this case, the Southern slaves (Harrold, 2015). This paper will assess the causes and elements of religious reform in the South and how they shaped the calls for the abolition of slavery in the southern colonies.
The Era of Religious Reform
In America, between 1820 and 1865, it was a period of reform where the desire to purify the society and individuals took center stage (Hui, 2018). The religious reforms that ensued during the antebellum period focused abolishing imprisonment, changing the prison conditions to rehabilitation from punishment, the abolishment of slavery, the establishment of welfare institutions, women rights and abolishing capital punishment (Mathews, 2015). Religious revivals played a significant role in religious reformation where moral and spiritual renewal was preached through high physical and emotional enthusiasm in the evangelical conversion meetings. Whereas at the time the South had influential religious diversity the great awakening led to the religious culture that was led by the Baptists, Methodists, and the Presbyterians becoming a period of significant revivals that swept Southern America. Methodist and Baptist played a significant role as defenders of slavery in the South (Mathews, 2015). Despite the view of Africans as second class humans the Methodist and Baptist religious factions promoted the evangelization to the slaves which further increased Protestantism amongst the slaves in the Southern areas increasing the proliferation of the congregations to form biracial churches as well as independent churches made by blacks (Harrold, 2015). The debate over slavery significantly affected the church and led to the split of the church between Northern and the Southern congregations.
Abolitionism and Antislavery in the South
During the second great awakening, the ensuing revivalist doctrines significantly influenced perfectionism, salvation, and disinterested benevolence which led to the evangelical reformations and the view that slavery was a God-defying sin that was against the newfound moral virtue maintained in the United States (Hui, 2018). The reform of the church significantly influenced the cultural outlook of the Southern United States, which influenced the development of anti-slavery sentiments. Between 1831 and 1837, the abolitionist in the South had further developed, but there was significant opposition since most did not share the abolitionist (Harrold, 2015). The Abolitionists in the South used the US Postal Service to force the Southern slaveholders to emancipate their slaves to be able to save their souls (Mathews, 2015).
The evangelism played a significant role in the abolition of slavery in the South by motivating people to change their views towards slavery in which most viewed it as a sin and an immoral practice (Hui, 2018). Evangelism brought about the desired by the slave holders in the South to seek God and lead a life of example by valuing the lives of the slaves. Through evangelism efforts, many people in the South started sharing churches with the slaves and viewed them as humans who made them question their behavior of holding slaves (Richards, 1996). The anti-slavery campaign in the South significantly relied on the argument that all beings are created by God (Mathews, 2015). The abolitionists in the South believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. God, as the father of all humankind, played a significant role in convincing the Southerners to change their perception towards slavery and played a vital role in convincing people to end a century-old practice. Calvinist Baptist Abraham Booth preached in support of people who not Christians were arguing that they were created by God which significantly influenced the Southerners towards abolishing slavery and recognizing them as their equals (Richards, 1996).
The abolitionists believed that due to the common source of humans from a single creator even the slaves deserved to be given equal rights and significantly influenced the development of the idea of universal liberty (Harrold, 2015). During evangelism, Christians were taught that benevolence demanded to share of the love of God as shown by Christ which influenced the Christians participation in the abolition movement intending to win the souls of African slaves to God (Hui, 2018). By 1800, there were already African Americans in the American Methodist church, which ushered a period of biracial church congregations (Harrold, 2015). Therefore, through evangelicals, many Americans in the South made peace with slavery, which led to the social changes and acceptance of more liberal Christian values that ultimately led to the abolition of slaves.
The change of the religious attitudes of the Southerners through the evangelism movements in the 19th century played a significant role in the abolition of slavery in the South. Religion reform led to the changing of the people believes in which slaves were allowed to participate in churches and slowly even allowed to open their churches. The reform of the church initiated new ideals of morality in which slavery was viewed as an immoral act. Therefore, moral convictions played a significant role in the abolition of slavery by convincing the majority of Christian slaveholders that it was not right to deny a fellow God's creation of equal rights and freedom.
Harrold, S. (2015). The rise of aggressive abolitionism: Addresses to the slaves. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=droeBgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Religious+reform+role+in+abolition+of+slavery+in+the+south+&ots=_nw8C4Ze56&sig=l-GxOGHmgQwViymRDmmsImG4IZ0
Hui, Y. C. (2018). Women's Rights, Abolition, and Moral Reforms in Second Great Awakening Movement: Women's Roles and Sphere. Retrieved from https://repository.hkbu.edu.hk/lib_ugaward/18/
Mathews, D. G. (2015). Slavery and Methodism: A Chapter in American Morality, 1780-1845 (Vol. 2352). Princeton University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=KUjWCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=Morality+conviction+role+in+the+abolition+of+slavery+in+the+south+&ots=SBaZvH3kG6&sig=Rar2aNKc1K8mFgs9u0q7Lc5Qtak
Richards, D. A. (1996). Abolitionist Feminism, Moral Slavery, and the Constitution: On the Same Platform of Human Rights. Cardozo L. Rev., 18, 767. Retrieved from https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/cdozo18§ion=40
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