Question Israel Politics & International Relations

Evaluate the extent to which reform movements in the United States led to an expansion of democratic ideals from 1825 to 1855.

Evaluate the extent to which reform movements in the United States led to an expansion of democratic ideals from 1825 to 1855.

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As modern democracy’s evolution paralleled that in the United States, many individuals in the early nineteenth-century remained either ambivalent or unaware of the benefits of their democratic status (Berman, 1996, p.7). The political reform movements during this time were the first to herald in ideas of democratic potential, and helped to shape the American democratic ideals (Shudson, 1999, p.46). The political landscape deferred to the local and national leadership for its guidance and rules; as the leaders were often from the elite classes in society, this tended to remove agency from the ordinary citizens. In essence, until the reform movements gained traction in the mid-nineteenth century, individuals purchased their political power rather than it being earned through popular voice of the people (Shudson, 1999, p.46). The systems of corruption, present within the English Parliamentary system, permeated the atmosphere, and Americans wished for safeguards against the abuse of power from the wealthy (Meyers, 2010, p.16).

During this period of time, election reform began to emulate the reforms occurring throughout the nation. As individuals became more aware of their newfound freedoms, including the westward expansion allowing for lifestyle alterations, the citizens wished for politicians to be more representative of their constituents (Meyers, 2010, p.16). Significantly, the economic reforms, which allowed for individuals to obtain government loans for large financial burdens, such as their properties, provided individuals with the inspiration for political reforms allowing for more power in that realm (Benmelech & Moskowitz, 2010, p.1036).


Benmelech, E. and Moskowitz, T.J. (2010). “The political economy of financial regulation: Evidence from US state usury laws in the 19th century.” The journal of finance, 65(3), p.1029-1073.
Berman, L., Murphy, B. and Woshinsky, O. (1996). Approaching democracy. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
Meyers, W. (2010). 19th Century Election Reform. [online] Alliance for Democracy. Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].
Schudson, M. (1999). The good citizen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.