American CreedPhilanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700–1865

American CreedPhilanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700–1865

Kathleen D. McCarthy

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226561981

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Since the dawn of the republic, faith in social equality, religious freedom, and the right to engage in civic activism have constituted the national creed of the United States. This book traces the evolution of these ideals, exploring the impact of philanthropy and volunteerism on America from 1700 to 1865. What results is a vital reevaluation of public life during the pivotal decades leading up to the Civil War. The market revolution, participatory democracy, and voluntary associations have all been closely linked since the birth of the United States. This book explores the relationships among these three institutions, showing how charities and reform associations forged partnerships with government, provided important safety valves for popular discontent, and sparked much-needed economic development. The book also demonstrates how the idea of philanthropy became crucially wedded to social activism during the Jacksonian era. It explores how acts of volunteerism and charity became involved with the abolitionist movement, educational patronage, the struggle against racism, and female social justice campaigns. What resulted, it contends, were heated political battles over the extent to which women and African Americans would occupy the public stage.