The Second Great Awakening


Many ideas influenced this movement such as the ever changing relationships between social classes, men and woman, and racial groups. This religious enlightenment opened the door to a monumental social reform movement. The growing concern of hell-fire and spiritual motivation for domestic peace led to a temperance movement and the moral standards of religious revival led to an increase in the education system.


In the early mid 1800s excessive drinking put a disgraceful image on American society. Heavy drinking decrease the ability of laborers to do their jobs effectively, caused many dangerous accidents of drunken machine workers, and, importantly to a religious society, threatened the domestic lifestyle and safety of women and children. The National Temperance Union fought to ban and prohibit the drinking of alcohol and they argued that it made men corrupt, destroyed families, led to crime, and even led to death and suicide. Often alcohol would turn men into drunkards leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves.

Protestant religious leaders campaigned for drinkers to sign the temperance pledge using pictures, pamphlets, lectures, and songs. Very similar to the previous Enlightenment and First Great Awakening, novels such as “Ten Nights in a Barroom and What I saw There” were published speaking against the drunken fathers and how the drink affected families. By 1857, a dozen states had passed prohibition laws at the lead of Dow’s Maine Law in 1851. The continuous problems of the “demon rum” even after the laws were passed attracted even more dedicated reformers. The Second Great Awakening fueled the temperance movement with a large amount of crusaders that would continue to pursue this reform.

Education Reform

The Second Great Awakening led to a reform movement in education as well. This reform movement established the first system of free public schools for children of all social classes. Even more important than the basic literacy teaching was the teaching of moral principles. Educational reformers focused on instructing children in the ideal morals of a Protestant society.

William Holmes McGuffey created a series of textbooks that were the main teaching material of moral instruction. These elementary text books focused on religious virtues such as hard work, punctuality, and sobriety. Horace Man was one of the prominent leaders in the movement for educational reform. He believed that it was vital to make elementary school mandatory to develop good citizens for the republic. He also thought that every child should have the right to go to school free of cost. As a result of The Second Great Awakening, Horace Mann’s, and William McGuffey’s efforts education experienced a great increase as many denominational schools blanketed the United States.

With the Second Great Awakening came a religious revival that motivated a social reform movement. Moral principles and spiritual philosophy influenced the crusades for temperance as well as the growth of the education system in America.