In the four decades prior the Civil War known as the antebellum period American's fought to reform society in order to perfect America and its people. There were many forces and ideas that motivated this effort to reform America. The Second Great Awakening brought religion to the forefront of American society and influenced people's behavior and beliefs. Many in the society began to fight for the under privileged such as slaves, women, the mentally ill, and the handicapped. They also fought to improve institutions and develop educational systems. They believe by completing these reforms it would make America better and stronger and ultimately make people more divine.
The Second Great Awakening in the early 1800's was one of the greatest religious revivals which lead people to believe that god was merciful and benevolent, and promised salvation for sinner. This was in direct conflicted with other religious beliefs of the time such as the Calvinist Doctrine on infant damnation. As evangelist such as Charles G. Finney traveled to a series of revivals and preached salvation for everyone. In 1831 the church membership grew by a hundred thousand, which was unparallel in church history. Under Timothy Dwight presidency, Yale University experienced a revival of Biblical Christianity. This revival caused at least half of the student body to convert to Christianity. France Grund a nobleman who visited the United States in the 1830's saw religion as the origin and inspiration of the antebellum reform spirit. Grund said "The American look upon religion as a promoter of civil and political liberty." Religion became the catalyst for many other social reforms.
American's began to work tirelessly to reform society by establishing public schools, and schools for the deaf and blind, and providing better care for the mentally ill. Horace Mann of Massachusetts promoted public education. He believed if children weren't prepared to become good citizens, to develop their capacities, and to enrich their mind with knowledge, then our republic would be destroyed.