A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837

A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837

Paul E. Johnson

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0809016354

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A quarter-century after its first publication, A Shopkeeper's Millennium remains a landmark work--brilliant both as a new interpretation of the intimate connections among politics, economy, and religion during the Second Great Awakening, and as a surprising portrait of a rapidly growing frontier city. The religious revival that transformed America in the 1820s, making it the most militantly Protestant nation on earth and spawning reform movements dedicated to temperance and to the abolition of slavery, had an especially powerful effect in Rochester, New York. Paul E. Johnson explores the reasons for the revival's spectacular success there, suggesting important links between its moral accounting and the city's new industrial world. In a new preface, he reassesses his evidence and his conclusions in this major work.

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kinship. At the conclusion of the bank fight Colonel Rochester explained what from his standpoint was the central issue in village politics: “ … some hotheaded politicians such as Brown, Strong, and others have frequently said that my family had too much influence and must be put down. They have always considered me in their way.”10 This was faction politics, centering on jealousy and competition for honor between a few wealthy gentlemen and their families and friends. Underneath that competition

England. But in 1831, with the revival exploding all around him, he invited Finney into his own Boston church.4 Within a few years free agency, perfectionism, and millennialism were middle-class orthodoxy. They were powerful ideas, and in the 1830s they underlay a missionary crusade that transformed society and politics in the United States. It was Gilbert Barnes, a historian of the antislavery movement writing in the 1930s, who “discovered” the revival of 1831. Barnes wanted to explain why, in

entry into the town’s church-bounded community of respectability. Alvah Strong wanted to be a newspaperman. He served an apprenticeship on one Rochester weekly and worked as foreman on another in the 1820s. Then he traveled through the state working as a journeyman. In 1831 Erastus Shepard, a former employer, moved to Rochester and bought the AntiMasonic Enquirer. He offered Alvah Strong a partnership, largely because Strong’s “knowledge of the place, and familiarity with the people would

town, having to sell its building in 1834. The church had over 500 members in 1831, 402 in 1832, and 247 in 1834.2 Much of the membership and most of the energy of this church transferred into Free Presbyterian. Free Presbyterian. Founded by an interdenominational committee, but staffed at the beginning by former members of Third Presbyterian, this congregation was a mission to Rochester’s unchurched poor. It disbanded in 1838, and the session minutes were lost. The only membership record of

included twenty-seven members at its founding and ninety in 1837. Elders and trustees in that year included four men who appear in city directories: two day laborers, a cooper, and a distiller. The last occupation, along with the fact that this church refused to maintain a Sunday school, suggests that the Covenanters represented immigrant revulsion at some of the excesses of Yankee evangelicals.4 Records of the church are lost, contributing again to the underestimate of the number of workingmen

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