A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837: Divisions Today & Tomorrow

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Paul E. Johnson’s classic, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837, describes the city of Rochester, New York on the cusp of Charles Finney’s revival. Johnson sets out to “trace the social origins of revival religion”, by considering all levels of the Rochester society, including economy, domestic life and politics, the audience sees how the city functions in the face of modernization and social change (12). Toward the end of his text, Johnson depicts the revival itself and all the change it brought to Rochester. One particular consequence, as Johnson states, is the establishment of Evangelicalism in American societal structure and the eventual development of the Whig party. Johnson concludes his book having proven that there is a strong “relationship between religion and political behavior” (135). Through the Evangelical influence the Whig party developed, calling for temperance, observance of the Sabbath and overall moral reform. However, those untouched by revival began to stand at odds to such moral control. Soon differing ideologies evolved, those of the Protestants and workmen, eventually culminating into two distinct parties: the Whig and Democratic parties. This paper will look at examples from Rochester to suggest the foundations for the divisions between the parties: how they view moral concerns and their ways of governing these issues, finally, asserting that such divisions still affect American politics today.
Johnson, through the revival, shows a growing Protestant influence within Rochester, New York. Charles Finney came, Bible in hand, proclaiming that the Millennium was in reach, but only through the efforts of the willing: this was a revival for social ch...

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...ce, left to every man or women. The correlations prove to be undeniable. Just as Johnson turned to Rochester and its revival to make sense of the political complexities of that time, so can Americans, to further understand their nation, society and possibly even their personal beliefs. Then, perhaps, Americans can work to diminish this political divide for the generations yet to come.

Works Cited

Paine, Thomas. "Age of Reason." Independence Hall Association. (accessed February 11, 2012).

---------------------"Common Sense." Independence Hall Association. (accessed February 11, 2012).

Morris, Hal. "The American Whig Party (roughly from 1834-1856) ." The American Revolution - an .HTML project. (accessed February 11, 2012).

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