Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Historians categorize the “Age of Jackson” as a period in American history marked by progress. In many respects, this was true. By the 1840s, Americans had loosened the property requirements on the franchise and created universal white male suffrage. The Second Great Awakening spread evangelical religious denominations across the United States, as Americans embraced Christianity in a manner unseen in the young nation’s history. American during this time also began to undergo an economic transformation in regards to how Americans worked; this was the result of technological innovations that created a shift away from the artisanal industries that dominated much of the American economy.

These changes created a great deal of anxiety amongst the population. The Anti-Masonic movement exploited these anxieties to facilitate their own rise. Anti-Masons argued that older forms of American culture like Freemasonry contradicted the new cultural norms of this time period. According to Anti-Masons, Freemasons represented the antithesis of democracy because they cultivated secrecy in a country that was becoming open and democratic. Anti-Masons also accused Masons of not adhering to new evangelical standards for Christianity that the Second Great Awakening presented to the public. Masons believed in deistic principles, which evangelicals and Anti-Masons regarded as sacrilege. Because Freemasons violated central tenets of American democracy and American Christianity, its members could not be good citizens. The disappearance and likely murder of William Morgan by a group of Masonic brothers in upstate New York ignited this powder keg of American anxiety in 1826. The Anti-Masonic movement and political party advanced a new interpretation of what an American citizen should be: a person who embraced a robust and open politics and evangelical Christianity.

Date

10-28-2020

Committee Chair

Sheehan-Dean, Aaron Charles

Available for download on Tuesday, October 26, 2027

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