The book a shopkeeper millennium main subject is explaining how societies were affected by the increased level of industrialization due to the emergence of the capitalist system in the region. Rochester as a society lost most of its traditional ways of doing things such as business and other transactions. In his book, Johnson believes that the primary drivers to the revivals in the city of Rochester were not due to the breakdown in families and rootlessness that were being witnessed during this period. In his view, the town of Rochester faced the changes that were brought by men who were practicing capitalism within the region. Johnson main argument in the book is that aside from the religious revival that swept the Rochester society in the 1820s brought b Charles Finney and his follower's other factors such as politics and economy also played a significant role in the transformation of Rochester into a modern society.
Johnson proves his point by discussing how before the emergence of evangelism brought by Charles Finney Rochester had good working societies where families were working, and parents easily associate with their children. Individuals were responsible and did not engage in activities such as excessive drinking of alcohol. However, with the emergence of capitalism, Johnson specifically suggest it brought with the destruction of the cordial relationship that worker had with their masters. Capitalism resulted in the development of industries that focused more on manufacturing at the expense of the poor workers of Rochester(Johnson). Many farmers, as a result, ventured into a business that resulted in the changes in the social structure between them and their employees.
With time the masters of Rochester became greedier as they sought to make a profit through productions of cheap products as quickly as possible. The aftermath of this greed by the owners of the factories in Rochester was the disregard o the wellbeing of the employees who produced these products. Soon worker was forced to move out of the areas where the masters lived and as such had to look for new homes as a result of this social isolation more workers settled in certain places and began engaging in heavy drinking due to being isolated by their masters. In their neighborhood workers had no one to control them and thus involved in excessive intake of alcohol. As more of the workers became drunkards, they stigmatized for being so by the society.
Alcoholism, as a result, affected the families, and many of workers experienced a lot of problems with their masters. The working class had become disobedient their masters, and at this point, they had no control over them because of according to Johnson the moral part of the community no longer had power. Many of the people who were angered by this problem in Rochester were the middle class who no longer had any ay of changing the bad habits of the lower class as most of them were now voters who could vote for a leader of their choice.
In 1830 Charles Finney an evangelist faced artisans, merchants and their families in the Third Presbyterian Church of Rochester. Many of the people were members of the middle class who had seen the society as being beyond their control. Finney message in the church, however, begins by telling the congregation that 'God has made the man a moral agent' (Johnson). According to the evangelist, the many evil being witnessed in Rochester was a result of selfish choices made by the inhabitants of rochetser.in his message Finney states that sin and other problems being experienced in Rochester would disappear only if people choose to do what is right by converting. Finney in his strong final message to the congregation told the Christians if they unite and dedicate their life towards converting people they would rich the millennium in three months(Johnson).
At the end of Finney's sermon, many were converted, and they chose to do away with evil and dedicate their life to Christ. This message touched thousands of the middle class, and they began working toward making a society that goes in line with God values. It is this massive movement that saw the working class view religion as a tool to mold the community that this era was considered the second awakening. It was referred to awakening because it attracted many people and the number of churches grew in Rochester and other parts of America as a result. Newly converted people took over the various organization and used religion as a justification for most of their actions to transform the drunkards and other disorderly people in Rochester to become Christians.
With the second awakening industrialist and masters saw this as an opportunity to use religion as a weapon to enforce specific rules that favored their factories. Masters had faced the problem of drunkards from their workers, and this had significantly affected their work. To solve this issues brought by their workers, they focused mainly on converting these individual and discouraging this vice in all areas of the society. Many people followed suit from politicians to businesspeople and missionaries and people who advocated for active families to change the Rochester society from the unrestrained passion and barbarism that had seen a lot of moral decay in the community (Johnson). Many people associated success with converting to Christianity, and this was seen the successful men who were converted by Charles Finney. Rochester soon became a city courtesy of the commercialization agriculture promoted by the society that upholds religious values.
The argument by Johnson in my view is reasonable given the many issues that the society in the 1820s. Rochester elite's were seeking ways to control society through coercive means which did not work leading to rising socials issues. Charles Finney message, on the other hand, was clear in calling for the reformation of Rochester. The message from the evangelist was able to reach many members of the society because it gave people the conviction that they and do something the problems in Rochester and this can be seen in shopkeepers pouring barrels of liquor as a way of showing they believe in the new revival. Many employers were forced to employ individuals who did not drink and who identified with the Christian faith in Rochester.
On the issue of the master and other members of the society, we could say the wanted a better community where they could easily engage with one another - however most of the people who advocated use to as an opportunity to advance control of society and chase away rebels especially drunkard workers. Johnson explanation is also narrow because the working class such as shopkeepers could not have focused on changing their society solely because of preserving their position in the society. Many people also were seeking to have a better society, and this cannot be associated with selfish capitalistic ideas of controlling the masses to work. This book is an eye opener especially oh how our society handles the moral issue through the use of religion. It further teaches me the way capitalism ruin a social relationship in society. This book also has helped understanding how capitalism in New York cities emerged and how issue within the society affected it.
A shopkeeper's millennium is a fascinating book that teaches us about the history of societies in the 1820s. Through reading this book, one learns of the struggles that society faced and how their religion came to save them from barbarism. The author has made a convincing argument based on how the economies and societies prospered as a result of the influence of religion and how the elite seized the opportunity to advance their business. The author has informed me of how religion can be manipulated for selfish needs and how it has been there for quite some time.
Studying these events that occurred two hundred years ago is important because it is through such events that our societies have advanced. These events also teach us the importance of a reformed society and how it can improve other aspects such as the economy. This book is relevant to contemporary America because the nations face such issue such lawlessness, theft, and terrorism that are quite difficult to control
Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. Hill and Wang, 2004.
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