Growth of Democracy


U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as: «Government of the people, by the people, for the people» Form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law. The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means "rule by the (simple) people. A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them.
Another potential problem for members of the new government who prized order was the rapid growth and increasing democracy of American society. The revolutionary rhetoric of equality and natural rights seeped into every corner of American life. Even the poorest white men demanded the basic dignity that republics promised their citizens. Some women began to dream in that direction, as did slaves. In 1800 a slave named Gabriel led a slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia. His small army marched into the state capital under the banner “Death or Liberty.”



Religious change also contributed to the new democratic character of the republic. The established churches of colonial days (Congregationalists in New England, Anglicans—now renamed Episcopalians—further south) declined, in part because they were relatively cold and formal, and also because their status as established churches aroused democratic resentment. At the same time, a great revival among the common people made Baptists and Methodists the largest American churches. Baptists grew from 400 to 2,700 congregations between 1783 and 1820; Methodists grew from 50 to 2,700 churches in the same years. These churches emphasized preaching over ritual, stressed Bible–reading congregations over educated ministers, favored spiritual freedom over old forms of hierarchical discipline, and encouraged conversions. Of crucial importance to the revival was the conversion of slaves and, in turn, the slaves’ transformation of Christianity into a religion of their own. By the second decade of the 19th century, most American slaves were Christians—primarily Baptists and Methodists. Slaves and free blacks participated in the revival and were taken into white churches. But white prejudice and blacks’ desire for autonomy soon resulted in separate African American congregations. By the early 19th century black Methodist and Baptist congregations had become fundamental to a growing African American cultural identity.
Finally, at the western edges of this increasingly disorderly and democratic republic were Native American peoples who remained free and on their own land. The Shawnee, Delaware, and other peoples north of the Ohio River in particular had not been defeated in the Revolution and did not accept the jurisdiction of the United States over their land. These north western tribes could also rely on help from the British in Canada.
Summary: Thus at the edges of the republic in the forests of the interior and on the Atlantic Ocean the new government faced important problems of diplomacy, problems that sometimes degenerated into war. Within the republic, the government had to contend with a democratic citizenry, many of whom deeply distrusted law and authority that came from a distant capital.