The United States entered the middle decades of the 19th century in
a mood of exuberance. Nothing seemed impossible. By 1840, the number of states
had doubled from the original 13; the population had quadrupled. The economic
depression that had followed the financial panic of 1837 was easing. Growth
was in the air; the appetite for expansion was keen. Political debate was
robust. The Whigs elected their first president, defeating Democratic incumbent
Martin Van Buren, and took a majority in Congress. The newly formed Liberty
Party also ran a candidate. On the other hand, there were serious problems
to be addressed, and the middle of the century saw renewed efforts at reform.
The abolitionist movement took on new life. Paralleling it, the women's rights
movement also came alive. Even medicine saw attempts at reform, as a national
organization was formed to ensure standards of education and ethical practice.
Southgate MT. Anti-Slavery Picnic at Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts. JAMA. 1999;282(1):7. doi:10.1001/jama.282.1.7