Ellen WhiteEllen White

Ellen's Political & Social Environment

The 1830s and 1840s witnessed many momentous events in America. The States became united from coast to coast with California’s inclusion in 1850. The war with Mexico ended, and the population of America soared from 5 million in 1800 to more than 20 million by 1850.

Increasing waves of immigrants changed the cultural landscape, often arousing the suspicion and hostility of established citizens. Roman Catholics from Ireland, Italy, and other European countries were especially resented because they flooded the labor market; in addition, their religious homogeneity threatened the previous uniformity of a Protestant America.

Race relations also affected political issues, which escalated through the first half of the century, culminating in the Civil War that shook the Union. As the country lurched toward conflict, Christian abolitionists began speaking out for the elimination of slavery.

Social Climate
The mid-19th century also rocked with the dynamics of social change, mainly driven by individualism. President Andrew Jackson opened the door to freeing the common man from the status quo, and it seemed that every conceivable reform issue was inaugurated.

Racial strife haunted most communities, as various ethnic groups, such as Asians, Hispanics, Africans, and Native Americans, had to face prejudice affecting the work place as well as the neighborhood.

The consumption of alcoholic beverages was also a national concern. One historian described the United States as an “alcoholic republic.” Annual per capita consumption of alcohol increased from three gallons in 1800 to four gallons in 1830.

Finally, the last half of Ellen's ministry coincided with the phenomenal rise of industrial cities. A nation born on the farm had moved to the cities. The change of pace from the time-honored natural pace of the farm to the artificial life of the city forced many new and difficult adjustments. For most Protestants, the city was a symbol of everything wrong.

Another factor that polarized the cities was class conflict — conspicuous rich being envied by those working the factories, most of them stereotyped as immigrants with narrow-minded ways. And for the first time America heard the term “organized labor.”

Ellen's ministry paralleled a turbulent time of great social changes. She wrote much about the dark years of the Civil War and the plight of the slave, the shakeup of the move from the farm to the city, the obvious implications of extravagant alcoholic consumption, and the class struggle between the rich and the poor.

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