A Merchants Millenium By Paul E. Johnson Essay

A Merchants Millenium By Paul E. Johnson Essay

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In his book A Shopkeepers Millenium, Paul E. Johnson tells of a settlement in early 1800s Western New York called Rochester, an inland, water-powered town which thrived by dint of mercantilism, trade, and supplying manufacturing goods for nearby towns and travelers passing through. Rochester’s mills made it famous, and commerce thrived in Rochester because it had goods that were in high demand. Rochester’s settlers were wealthy men, and maintained this by carefully courting wealthy women or having their family members marry into wealth. In the late 1820’s, Rochester succumbed to public drunkenness, debauchery, and an uncontrolled lower class. Johnson argues that the evangelical revival during the winter of 1931 was a reaction to dissolution within rochesters working class, who made up the majority of Rochesters population. This dissolution, according to Johnson, was the result of many complex factors: the separation of master from worker, the close proximity of upper and working class living spaces, the increasing abuse of “ardent” spirits at the turn of the decade, partisan conflict within municipal government, and the tie between a booming economy and religion. Johnson makes it very clear that the revival of 1831, which spread far outside of Rochesters boundaries, was not intended as a form of social control; it was a true religious revival which, due to the newfound dissolution in Rochester, was seen as a benevolent force – the social control was just an added bonus for the upper class.
Even land speculators knew that the land Rochester was built on was invaluable. Split in half by the Genesssee River, Rochester was an ideal location for water-powered manufacturing, shops, and groceries. The river was a popular route for trave...

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...millers. Arguments originally over the murder turned into arguments about village government, which soon turned into political conflicts. Their political squabbles overshadowed the growing problem of drunkenness and misbehavior in Rochester for some time, but ultimately led to the unification of both parties. Finally, government became stable – it is interesting to note that both parties had much in common, and little to lose. (76) Around 1828, those in political power were making great deals of money from “sin”, such as selling liquor licenses. (78) Government officials were representing the majority, and the majority wanted alcohol. This trend was deemed sin by temperance advocates, religious men who had tried to run Rochesters government a few years earlier and failed. Unfortunately for them, only one in five of both party activists actually belonged to a church.

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