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In the time of the early nineteenth century, America was going through a time of economic, social, and religious turmoil that would shape the way they live. The book, The Kingdom of Matthias, tells a story of the nineteenth-century life between Robert Matthews and Elijah Pierson. Using this story to further understand the religious pressures of the time, as well as social pressures, will give a better understanding of what life was like during this time. Also, further analyzing, The American Yawp, for the market revolution, Second Great Awakening, and gender pressures will give a great background for the story of Robert Matthews and Elijah Pierson. When considering everything that happened to life at that time, it is clear that religion played the biggest role in shaping people’s lives. To begin to understand how religion and the Second Great Awakening had the most impact on nineteenth-century life, first analyze the social and economic issues of the time.
The market revolution is best known as the time between the end of the revolutionary war and civil war. During this time period, the American economy began to grow, and more and more Americans began to produce goods for more than to just maintain themselves. More people were beginning to sell their products and with improved transportation techniques as well as labor-saving technology, there was a sudden surge in the economy. With so many advances, people of skilled labor such as shoemakers and other craftsmen turned to a different way of life. Making readymade products in predetermined sizes or shapes that would be shipped out to centers rather than having custom made products. This would be a change in life because now shops would instead look to hire wage workers rather than the traditional master and apprentice craftsmanship style. This creates a new system replacing shops with factories and relationships such as employers and employees, capitalists and laborers, bosses and workers. With such advances in the market revolution, there were also many drawbacks and how people’s lives were affected negatively. With factories and wage workers becoming more and more common, there was no preparation for the safety and need for consistent wages. Workers faced long hours, low wages, and very dangerous working conditions. As seen in the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, the emergence of the penny press from this industrial age played a big part. With the spread of information now much faster, the penny press was able to turn Matthias scandal up to the national stage, helping shape the unfortunate outcome of his kingdom. With all these factors playing a role in shaping American’s lives, another factor to have an effect is social aspects such as gender.
Even before the nineteenth century, it seems as though women were forced into certain roles and classifications. Men were supposed to be the ones leaving every day to work while the women stayed home and took care of the house. Fortunately, during the market revolution, women began to experience a much different and changing role. Women were now earning wages for either working or for doing some of the familiar house jobs prior to this new revolution. As read in the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, Matthias is fanatic about the role women should play. Matthias is very adamant throughout the time of the kingdom about stopping women from being able to become such a profit as himself. He feared any idea of a woman trying to influence or instruct the way of his people. He even goes as far as to try to keep women from being taught. The only knowledge women could obtain in the kingdom, is that from their husbands. When a younger female shows up to Matthias, with the message that God had sent her, she is immediately beaten while being told by Matthias that God does not talk to females. All of this is happening, while outside the kingdom women begin to earn wages and find different roles in day to day life. One of the ways women began to find new roles was in the business field. Jobs such as a seamstress would open up the opportunity to combine clothing production to a management position at a boardinghouse. Another aspect of gender roles during the time period of the nineteenth century was the legal status associated with women. When a woman was married, the couple was then considered legally as one. This, in most states, would permanently change the life of a woman as divorce was very frowned upon or even illegal. Any wages, property, lawsuits, all were represented or owned by their husbands. Lastly, there was one more great movement happening in the nineteenth century, that would further shape everyone’s way of life.
The great movement is known as the Second Great Awakening, virtually remade America as a nation in its religious landscape. Preachers would travel on horseback, sharing their message of moral and spiritual revival. People from all different backgrounds, such as slaves, women, men, upper class, middle class, and lower class alike were greatly affected by this religious movement. When analyzing the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, Robert Matthews uses the Second Great Awakening to become the next Jewish profit. He uses this new power to change people’s lives by recruiting them to join his kingdom, which will forever alter their lives. People would join this religious group and follow orders blindly, without considering if anything was in their best interest. Only a belief as powerful as religion could influence people in a way such as this. Another religious event happening during the Second Great Awakening was The Cane Ridge Revival in Kentucky. This revival attracted thousands of people like never before, from Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian backgrounds. This and other movements would alter significant changes in all American’s connection with religion. You no longer would have a strict style of worship, but instead would contain different gestures of jumping and shouting. Further changing the way Americans expressed themselves and how they wanted to express their religion.
In conclusion, the nineteenth century was one of the biggest movements and reforms for the young United States in terms of social, economic, and religious reform. Analyzing the story of Matthias and the way he uses his religious faith to influence people and Elijah Pierson alike, gives a good sense of what Americans all over were going through. Studying such sources as the American Yawp gives another look at how gender and the market revolution also played a role in changing lives at the time. Even with all these factors influencing the way people conducted their lives, religion was the most powerful. No other movement could have such an impact on all classes of people from background to social worth.