Constitutional Development in the South Atlantic States. 1776-1860

By Fletcher M. Green | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE REFORM MOVEMENT OF "THE FIFTIES"

THE INFLUENCE of the constitutional changes noted in the preceding chapter was far reaching. Evidence of this is to be seen in the more alert and vigorous social, industrial, political, and intellectual life of the people. The changes ushered in a period of progress both material and social. The reduction of the membership of the legislatures and the greatly reduced expense of government added to the greater harmony of the sections, and enabled the states to use their resources in advancing the general well-being of the people. The greater interest in internal improvements -- roads, canals, and railroads -- was matched by the chartering of banks, efforts at soil reclamation, agricultural improvement, and the extension of domestic and foreign commerce. Hand in hand with this development went the building of colleges, the increase of state literary funds, the beginning of public school systems, the building of asylums for the insane, schools for the deaf and blind, and penitentiaries for the criminal.

In the political world just as noticeable a transformation took place. The extension of the suffrage added to the number of participants in government, and the popular election of governors and minor officials meant a much extended participation on the part of those who had the suffrage. The mere fact that the people for the first time were called upon to ratify these changes was evidence of greater popular control. Popular elections brought better organization of state political parties. State and local committees were organized and state conventions held.

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