Today in my United States history survey course we talked about democracy in early 19th-century America. When I lecture on this topic I try to show my students how the process of democratization influenced virtually every dimension of American life in this period.
After I talk about the Second Great Awakening and its free-will approach to salvation (drawing heavily from Nathan Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity), I show the students this image from the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801:
Then we talk about democratic political reforms such as the caucus system, universal manhood suffrage, and the rise of popular political campaigning.
I then show them George Bingham 1854 painting “Stump Speaking”
When we look at these pictures together sometimes it is hard to tell which speaker is trying to win souls and which speaker is trying to win votes. Whatever the case, both men are appealing to the democratic sensibilities of the American people. The people have the choice to accept or reject the Gospel and/or accept or reject a particular candidate. This is democracy.