Massachusetts: Reform Movements and Civil War

Reform Movements and Civil War

In the 1830s and 40s the state became the center of religious and social reform movements, such as Unitarianism and transcendentalism. Of the transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau were quick to perceive and decry the evils of industrialization, while Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Emerson had some association with Brook Farm, an outgrowth of Utopian ideals. Horace Mann set about establishing an enduring system of public education in the 1830s. During this period Massachusetts gave to the nation the architect Charles Bulfinch; such writers and poets as Richard Henry Dana, Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and John Greenleaf Whittier; the historians George Bancroft, John Lothrop Motley, Francis Parkman, and William Hickling Prescott; and the scientist Louis Agassiz.

In the 1830s reformers began to devote energy to the antislavery crusade (see abolitionists). This was regarded with great displeasure by the mill tycoons, who feared that an offended South would cut off their cotton supply. The Whig party split on the slavery issue, and Massachusetts turned to the new Republican party, voting for John C. Frémont in 1856 and Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Massachusetts was the first state to answer Lincoln's call for troops after the firing on Fort Sumter. Massachusetts soldiers were the first to die for the Union cause when the 6th Massachusetts Regiment was fired on by a secessionist mob in Baltimore. In the course of the war over 130,000 men from the state served in the Union forces.

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