Document Type


Publication Date



In the decades before the Civil War which began in 1861, the Second Great Awakening was the most powerful social movement in America. It inspired the conversion of millions of Americans to faith in Jesus Christ. And that faith motivated many of those people to attempt to transform the moral habits of the nation. Slavery was ended, consumption of alcohol reduced, women’s rights, though often opposed by people of faith, were set on a path that would result in woman’s suffrage in the early Twentieth century. A host of other reforms, too many to list, were instigated. It is not too much to say that in this era the American people - though far from morally perfect - were defined by their Christianity. As Timothy Smith, an historian of American Christianity in this period has said, “Common grace, not common sense [a reference to Enlightenment thought as personified in Thomas Paine] was the keynote of the age.”


Revised 11/19/2018 to correct minor errors.