Sources of Freedom Exercises

This chapter concentrates on two of the three historical processes unleashed by the Revolution and accelerated after the War of 1812—the spread of market relations and the westward movement of the population. American’s understandings of freedom were changing to include economic opportunity, physical mobility, and participation in the democratic system. The chapter chronicles the important advancements made in transportation and communication, the growth of western cities, and the expansion of the Cotton Kingdom and slavery.

The chapter then explores the market society. Commercial farmers were replacing the self-sufficient farmer. Factory workers, whose labor was divided, replaced the skilled artisan. Labor organizations were established and the workers demanded more rights and liberties. The loss of the artisan is contrasted with the growth of transcendentalist movement, which called for the triumph of the individual. Likewise, the materialism of the market revolution is contrasted with the religious ferment of the Second Great Awakening.

The chapter concludes with a look at the limits of prosperity, noting that women and blacks were excluded from the fruits of the market revolution. As liberty became increasingly identified with economic independence, free blacks were left to the lowest jobs and workingwomen were left with few opportunities. However, Voices of Freedom highlights that for one female factory worker, independence was the reason for working in the mills. A cult of domesticity was created by middle-class women and, for them, the ultimate badge of freedom was to be free from work.

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