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Home  arrow America Past and Present  arrow Chapter 12:
The Pursuit of Perfection

Chapter 12:
The Pursuit of Perfection

The Pursuit of PerfectionSocial and economic upheaval in the early nineteenth century resulted in religious fervor, moral reform, and sometimes confusion that divided communities and undermined established institutions. Abolitionism, one of the most prominent reform movements of the era, challenged the central facet of southern society and contributed to political conflict and eventually civil war. (Image: Will Brown, Philadelphia, PA/The Dietrich American Foundation)

Review the Chapter


Each primary source document listed below has its own introduction and review questions.

Catharine E. Beecher, from A Treatise on Domestic Economy

Catholic School protest 1840

Charles Finney, Lecture to Converts

Charles G. Finney, "What a Revival of Religion Is" (1835)

"Early Habits of Industry," The Mother's Magazine (1834)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments (1848)

Henry Clay Work, "Come Home Father!" (1864)

Horace Mann, Report of the Massachusetts Board of Ed

Ja Norcom, Letter to His Daughter Mary Matilda Norcom

John H. Noyes on Free Love (1865)

John Humphrey Noyes and Bible Communism (1845 and 1849)

Joshua and Sally Wilson Letters to George Wilson (1823)

Journal Entry of Francis Parkman (1846)

Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s

Lyman Beecher, "Six Sermons on Intemperance" (1828)

Marcus Whitman to Rev. David Greene (1844)

Mariah and Stephen King to their family (April 1, 1846)

Mathew Carey, Rules for Husbands and Wives (1830)
From Mathew Carey, Miscellaneous Essays

Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Letter from Brook Farm (1841)

National Convention of Colored People, "Report on Abolition" (1847)

O. A. Brownson, "Brook Farm," United States Magazine and Democratic Review, 11 (November 1842)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (1841)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Superstitions of our Age (August 1847)

Richard McNemar, The Kentucky Revival, or a Short History of the Late Extraordinary Out-Pouring of the Spirit of God, in the Western States of America (1808)

Sojourner Truth, Address to Woman's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio (1851)

Visit to the Shakers, Lowell Offering (1841)

Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass, (1855)

William Lloyd Garrison, First issue of The Liberator (1831)


Click on a link below to view the image and read a detailed caption.

Illustrations From the American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1840

Shaker Village at Alfred, Maine, 1845

Methodist Camp Meeting, 1819

Woman’s Sphere

Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest - Lithograph

Shaker Dance

Philadelphia Almshouse, House of Employment, and Prison


Thomas Gallaudet - Portrait

The Drunkard's Progress - Cartoon, 1846

Robert Owen's Harmony Community

Marriage Certificate, 1848

Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Select a audio clip to hear. You will need the latest Quicktime Player plug-in to listen to the audio. To determine if you have the latest Quicktime Player Plug-in and to download it if you do not, go to the Browser Tune-up.

Song of the Open Road - Calamus


These maps and their captions illustrate and describe important historical aspects of this period.

Interactive Map: Utopian Communities Before the Civil War

America Past and Present, Take Notes and Answer Analysis Questions

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