Kingdom of Matthias
The Kingdom Of Matthias’s Impact On Democratic Revolution, Market Revolution And The Second Great Awakening
In the Kingdom of Matthias, we uncover the experiences of two men, Elijah Pierson and Robert Matthews, who experienced Matthias first hand and how their lifestyles were displayed. Through these retellings of both men’s lives we can see how the Market Revolution, Democratic Revolution, and the Second Great Awakening all impacted these men’s lives. Elijah’s life was more persuaded by the Market revolution and Second Great Awakening than by the Democratic Revolution. Through Elijah’s retelling we do not see political changes as much as we see Elijah go through a culture shock as well as a social change when he moves to New York. Robert Matthews was more heavily influenced by the Market Revolution as well as the Second Great Awakening, though unlike Elijah there is a significant amount evidence of a Democratic Revolution. Matthews received a huge culture as well as social shock like Elijah, but instead of fear he was more prone towards anger than Elijah. Though Matthews, like Pierson, had no real involvement in any political stance due to an extreme disinterest in politics. Unfortunately, for both men as they grew older, their lives, families, and moral upstanding would be tested and tried again and again until Matthews would grow madder as well as Elijah would grow more corrupted by Matthias, Robert Matthews.
“At the forefront of that perfectionist community writing many of its manifestos and leading many of its crusades, was Elijah Pierson.” (1; pg28)
Elijah Pierson started off as a very simple man in fear of God, and of what was outside his town Morristown. All Elijah Pierson had ever known was a paratracheal system based on the fear of God (believing in God’s involvement in the world ‘s or person’s sins) and inheritance from passing parents. Elijah turned to be a successful businessman and preacher. Around 1800, he moved to New York City to work as a clerk and later a merchant. His life was dull until he met his faithful and devoted wife, Sarah Stanford, after he met Sarah, and after Sarah met Frances Folger, their life to God lead to became extreme with fasting for days as well as praying for days. Soon though, Sarah died from overworking herself and fasting too often, in which grieved Elijah so badly, he eventually turned mad. During her funeral, Elijah tried to raise Sarah from the dead, where his true insanity had set in. He would talk to God, and Jesus would come to talk to him in visions. Before the madness of Pierson had set in, Pierson faced challenges of social and cultural shock as well as political. Pierson was so used to his town that when he saw the prostitution and the slums of New York, he grew to know fear and anger, but eventually helped the needy of the slums soon with the help of his wife. The Market revolution as well as the Second Great Awakening helped Pierson strive well for his family in New York. The politics of his town, Morristown, were very patriarchal, though through the Democratic Revolution, women gained a voice even though they were to still obey the male roles in life. Women could use a “parental authority”, they were still to be “satisfied in being an assistant of man”.
“In 1834 and 1835 Matthias was one of the first penny-press sensations in American history—the main protagonist in a deeply disturbing scandal that received unprecedented national attention.” (Prologue, pg18)
Jesus Matthias, Matthias the Prophet, and Joshua the Jewish Minister were names to a man who was originally known as Robert Matthews, a man who was originally insane and be classified as a manipulative evil. Matthews was a carpenter and religious leader who put together a cult following in New York. Matthews manipulated wealthy businessmen who helped fund his Kingdom. The Kingdom somehow was tied up in adultery, bankruptcy, and murder of Elijah Pierson. Matthews was born in the farming village of Cambridge and was raised an Anti-Burgher Church, where Matthews feared God worse than Elijah’s community of Protestant or Calvinism. Soon after Matthews parents died, he moved to Manhattan where he was angered by the culture and the social normality of the slums, alcoholics, prostitution. After Matthews beat a female unknown due to an outburst of anger towards the slums of Manhattan, He moved back to Cambridge where he grew successful. Matthew’s business went bankrupt and he was forced to move his family back to New York. As we can see the market revolution, failed Matthews time and time again, as well as gave him money. Matthews grew more insane where he had a vision of a flood on Albany and left the city. He returned and succeeded in convincing wealthy merchants named Sylvester Mills, Benjamin Folger, and Elijah Pierson to give him money and two houses, in exchange for “promised abundance in the kingdom of heaven.” Folger went bankrupt and had Matthews arrested for basically stealing Folger’s money for false reasoning’s. Matthews and his slave Isabella (Sojourner Truth), was accused of murdering Pierson, but were let go.
Matthias’s Kingdom faced hardships before it had even started due to the madness that sadly ensued Matthews. The downfall of this cult-like gathering was going to happen since Matthias was unstable. The Market Revolution, the Second Awakening affected the Kingdom unlike the Democratic revolution did to Elijah in sense of the politics surrounding his town-life.
A General Review of Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz the Kingdom of Matthias
The encounter between the prophet Matthias and Joseph Smith ends in Smith banning Matthias from Kirtland, Ohio and the two men swearing the other is possessed by Satan. Smith clearly thought Matthias was deranged saying “his mind was evidently filled with darkness (5)” and fully acknowledges Matthias as a murderer on page six in Kingdom of Matthias. The two men shared the bond of being poor uneducated men who had fallen on hard times during the Market Revolution. They were products of a theological movement that relied less upon learned ministers and more on everyday people who had intense religious experiences. “Building on more than two centuries of occultism and Anglo-American millenarian speculation, the seers of the new republic set the pattern for later prophetic movements down to our own time” is a quote from page six that explains the impact both men and their followers had on American history. Another sect of religious fanatics from this period was the Finneyites who rejected the Calvinistic approach of determinism and predestination. They believed that “individuals could overcome inherited human selfishness and be saved through repentance and prayer (7)”. Though they advocated mobility along the religious hierarchy, the Finneyites sought to keep two spheres of society, an industrial side and a domestic side. The industrial and monetary side was to be dominated by men while women were allowed to lead in child rearing and home keeping activities associated with the domestic side.
Elijah Pierson was shaped by his disapproval of the class system established in his home in Morristown, New Jersey. As a young man he was appalled by the assigning of seats at church with the more elite getting better seats. “By standards that Elijah Pierson would later adopt, the immutable inequality of this tight-knit patriarchy was a perfect model of injustice (17)” is evidence to how the intolerance shown in Morristown affected Pierson. This mentality made him want to spread the words of God to every caste of people imaginable, choosing to set up store fronts in the Five Points and Bowery Hill. He was able to become successful as a clerk on Wall Street in New York City, where he established his ties to Spring’s Brick Presbyterian Church. Through this church Pierson meets Sarah Stanford and they become married shortly after, and practice retrenchment which was “the ultra-evangelical movement to avoid luxury in diet, clothing, and home furnishings”. The ironic thing is that the fasts that were practices in retrenchment are almost certainly what led to Sarah’s death and Elijah’s madness. Also he remained a virgin until the age of 35 which disallowed him the opportunity to grow up as a normal person and he must have been socially awkward and incapable of keeping his sanity after the death of Sarah. The tale of Pierson can be referred to as a love story because he was a man who fell into a dark spell after the death of his one and only lover in Sarah Stanford.
Robert Matthews, the man who would become the prophet Matthias was born and raised in a Scottish Settlement in the Hudson valley. It was here that Matthias witnessed fire and broom stone sermons and people having visions of Jesus (56). It would have been common for Matthews to view visions with serious conviction and take action upon them. As a very young boy growing up in this area he lost both his parents and was viewed as being nervous growing up (57). This could have attributed to his sudden need to gain followers under the self-proclaimed child of Israel. The loss of his economic independence was the final straw that cast Matthews into full blown madness. His perceived abandonment by his parents probably made it easy for him to abandon his own family in pursuit of his prophet status. The fact that he had no means to provide for them must have been another incentive to leave them.
King Matthias’ Reign
Deception, greed, and manipulation would be acceptable terms to describe the avarice Prophet who rose amongst the people of New York City during the 1830â€™s. King Matthias, as he was self-proclaimed, shaped a society built upon â€œno market, no money, no buying and selling,â€¦no economic oppression of any kind (Johnson Wilentz 96). This creation was a foundation provided to poor men living in New York City during a period where economic stability, individual consistency, and the ability to accumulate wealth for ones family was necessary. Robert Matthews sought to transform this appearance of existence as he generated a new form of religion, one that people who despised and depicted of his ideology, would consider madness! It was ridicule, deviant, and profane for Matthias to sway the weak-minded people of New York City in the 1830s into becoming his disciples. During his reign, Matthias acculturated several followers, ones of which who were already in need of a â€œsavior and others who would be considered gullable to his cunning tongue. The cult that was created was infamous for the peculiar practices that they engaged in and doctrines that were discovered.
On the contrary, many citizens repelled from his teachings and ways of living, for it was blasphemous and irreligious based on the scriptures in the bible. Matthias appearance and self-assurance had now come into sight as his kingdom arose. Manipulation gave power to Matthias, for it gave him all the wealth and riches he desired. With the money from his followers, he made an appearance in Manhattan in which he wore a “black cap of japanned leather shaped like an inverted cone; a military frock coat … decorated with gold braid, frogs, and fancy buttons (Johnson Wilentz 98). Matthias was more vexed on looking like a King, rather than a God. His wardrobe, throne, and home was needless, and Christians who saw Matthias on the street or attended his sermons were appalled (Johnson Wilentz 99). Not only was Matthias attire unfit for a God, in Matthiass kingdom, women were considered to be suppressed to the power of men. Women had no say and “Every thing that has the smell of women,” as Matthias pronounced, “will be destroyed,” and only “real men will be saved; all mock men will be damned (Johnson Wilentz 93). According to Matthias, the women of the Kingdom were only to stay home, clean, cook, and carry out sexual favors for the patriarchal leaders of the homes.
Matthias made known that everything placed upon the earth, including the earth itself, was a possession of God, and due to him being alive with the spirit of God, it all belonged to him. Matthias teachings were becoming obscene and contradicted those of Christian preachers in regards to women of equality. Matthias expresses his un-acceptance of the female sex when he mentions that All women, not obedient, had better become so as soon ass possible and let the wicked spirit depart (Johnson Wilentz 93). Passing his own judgment, Matthias created a list in which he had condemned anyone that opposes the life of Jews, disobedient women, and Christian devils. This forced the Christian preachers to act upon his un-holy ways by systematically stealing women and children from fathersâ€¦and putting them into churches and prayer meetings (Johnson Wilentz 95). His teachings were corrupting the city of New York in the 1830s. Based on the people who entered his Kingdom, Matthias appeared to have had a particular attraction for other psychologically wounded men, and for needy women that were submissive to his preachingas. Matthias Kingdom was an example of reformation based on his own sexuality. He sought to create a religion in which he could re-incarnate the patriarchal life style that he was exposed to during his time of aging.
The Kingdom that he constructs conveys the time era in the 19th century during the Second Great Awakening, a time when the country was experiencing new religious revivals. For the duration of this time period, new religions cults were being founded and we notice a dramatic growth of existing spiritual denominations. Matthias perceptions were not accepted by everyone and it ruffled others feathers by his teachings and rituals. In spite of this, Matthias Truth did have an impact on several individuals, Elijah Pierson, who sought God and realized Christianity and prayer was non-beneficial, had become a strong follower to the words of Matthias. Furthermore, Matthias was a powerful king, versus a God, and the removal of his beard showed him that his power can be taken from him.
The Impacts of Market Revolution Had on the Lives of People in the Kingdom of Matthias and the American Yawp
In the time of the early nineteenth century, America was going through a time of economic, social, and religious turmoil that would shape the way they live. The book, The Kingdom of Matthias, tells a story of the nineteenth-century life between Robert Matthews and Elijah Pierson. Using this story to further understand the religious pressures of the time, as well as social pressures, will give a better understanding of what life was like during this time. Also, further analyzing, The American Yawp, for the market revolution, Second Great Awakening, and gender pressures will give a great background for the story of Robert Matthews and Elijah Pierson. When considering everything that happened to life at that time, it is clear that religion played the biggest role in shaping people’s lives. To begin to understand how religion and the Second Great Awakening had the most impact on nineteenth-century life, first analyze the social and economic issues of the time.
The Market Revolution
The market revolution is best known as the time between the end of the revolutionary war and civil war. During this time period, the American economy began to grow, and more and more Americans began to produce goods for more than to just maintain themselves. More people were beginning to sell their products and with improved transportation techniques as well as labor-saving technology, there was a sudden surge in the economy. With so many advances, people of skilled labor such as shoemakers and other craftsmen turned to a different way of life. Making readymade products in predetermined sizes or shapes that would be shipped out to centers rather than having custom made products. This would be a change in life because now shops would instead look to hire wage workers rather than the traditional master and apprentice craftsmanship style. This creates a new system replacing shops with factories and relationships such as employers and employees, capitalists and laborers, bosses and workers. With such advances in the market revolution, there were also many drawbacks and how people’s lives were affected negatively. With factories and wage workers becoming more and more common, there was no preparation for the safety and need for consistent wages. Workers faced long hours, low wages, and very dangerous working conditions. As seen in the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, the emergence of the penny press from this industrial age played a big part. With the spread of information now much faster, the penny press was able to turn Matthias scandal up to the national stage, helping shape the unfortunate outcome of his kingdom. With all these factors playing a role in shaping American’s lives, another factor to have an effect is social aspects such as gender.
Even before the nineteenth century, it seems as though women were forced into certain roles and classifications. Men were supposed to be the ones leaving every day to work while the women stayed home and took care of the house. Fortunately, during the market revolution, women began to experience a much different and changing role. Women were now earning wages for either working or for doing some of the familiar house jobs prior to this new revolution. As read in the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, Matthias is fanatic about the role women should play. Matthias is very adamant throughout the time of the kingdom about stopping women from being able to become such a profit as himself. He feared any idea of a woman trying to influence or instruct the way of his people. He even goes as far as to try to keep women from being taught. The only knowledge women could obtain in the kingdom, is that from their husbands. When a younger female shows up to Matthias, with the message that God had sent her, she is immediately beaten while being told by Matthias that God does not talk to females. All of this is happening, while outside the kingdom women begin to earn wages and find different roles in day to day life. One of the ways women began to find new roles was in the business field. Jobs such as a seamstress would open up the opportunity to combine clothing production to a management position at a boardinghouse. Another aspect of gender roles during the time period of the nineteenth century was the legal status associated with women. When a woman was married, the couple was then considered legally as one. This, in most states, would permanently change the life of a woman as divorce was very frowned upon or even illegal. Any wages, property, lawsuits, all were represented or owned by their husbands. Lastly, there was one more great movement happening in the nineteenth century, that would further shape everyone’s way of life.
The Second Great Awakening
The great movement is known as the Second Great Awakening, virtually remade America as a nation in its religious landscape. Preachers would travel on horseback, sharing their message of moral and spiritual revival. People from all different backgrounds, such as slaves, women, men, upper class, middle class, and lower class alike were greatly affected by this religious movement. When analyzing the book, The Kingdom of Matthias, Robert Matthews uses the Second Great Awakening to become the next Jewish profit. He uses this new power to change people’s lives by recruiting them to join his kingdom, which will forever alter their lives. People would join this religious group and follow orders blindly, without considering if anything was in their best interest. Only a belief as powerful as religion could influence people in a way such as this. Another religious event happening during the Second Great Awakening was The Cane Ridge Revival in Kentucky. This revival attracted thousands of people like never before, from Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian backgrounds. This and other movements would alter significant changes in all American’s connection with religion. You no longer would have a strict style of worship, but instead would contain different gestures of jumping and shouting. Further changing the way Americans expressed themselves and how they wanted to express their religion.
In conclusion, the nineteenth century was one of the biggest movements and reforms for the young United States in terms of social, economic, and religious reform. Analyzing the story of Matthias and the way he uses his religious faith to influence people and Elijah Pierson alike, gives a good sense of what Americans all over were going through. Studying such sources as the American Yawp gives another look at how gender and the market revolution also played a role in changing lives at the time. Even with all these factors influencing the way people conducted their lives, religion was the most powerful. No other movement could have such an impact on all classes of people from background to social worth.
Religious Fanaticism in the Kingdom of Matthias
The False Prophet
Religion is something that is strongly rooted in the American society. The Kingdom of Matthias is a story about the rise and fall of a religious cult; the Patriarchical Kingdom of Truth narrated by Sean Wilentz and Paul Johnson with the former being a don at the Princeton University and he later at the University of South Carolina. The story takes place in the period of the “Second Great Awakening” which saw spiritual fanaticism and even delusions take hold in America. A number of cults and sects inclusive of the Pentecostalism Adventism spread. At the beginning of the story, there is Elijah Pierson; an individual from a humble background who later relocated to New York. Being a staunch religious guy, he viewed the residents of New York as being immoral. For instance, many of the individuals were drunkards and prostitution was very rampant. Pierson viewed himself as an evangelist and as such, he began spreading spiritual messages in New York. His style and charismatic nature won him a lot of followers as many saw him as a prophet. His wife Sarah passed on and he tried to resurrect her all to no avail. As a result, he lost trust in God because he believed he had the power like the apostles of the Bible in raising the dead. The story revolves around the major character the self-proclaimed prophet of God Robert Matthews known as “Matthias” the Folgers; the young and handsome Benjamin and the seductive Ann, Isabella Van Wanegan, a renowned abolitionist and early defender of women’s rights, Margaret Mathews; wife of Matthias and Isabella Matthias the daughter of Matthias.
In writing Kingdom of Matthias, the two authors apply the approach of memoirs and stories from other authors such as Margaret Mathews and Gilbert Vale to come up with a raw narrative verve. Although they did acknowledge that the sources were biased because they involved individuals who were very closely related to the main characters in the book. The Kingdom of Matthias falls under the genre of religious history which covers the historical developments in religion. The book is a philosophical thriller that teases out the historical and cultural implications of the “Second Great Awakening” and narrates how the charismatic fraudulent religious hucksters such as Robert Matthews Matthias find their ways into the hearts and minds of the poor confused individuals by offering them something they can wholeheartedly believe in; false hope anchored in religious indoctrination. Not to mention, Matthias made his male followers believe that women are devils who are out to separate them from God.
The Hatred of Women
It is interesting to note that one of the major subjects advanced in the book is the hatred of women. The authors implicitly and explicitly narrate Matthews’ bizarre theology of the foundation of women prejudice. The authors present a historical arguement that the Strict Scottish Calvinist community shaped the patriarchal nature of Matthias. In the community, Patriarchy was highly favored with all the church elders being men and fathers having an unprecedented right of leading families in prayer and had absolute authority in their homes. However, the evangelical movement started de-constructing the role of the father while in the process accentuating the mother as both a teacher and household leader. Matthew together with his male followers felt threatened by this movement and they responded by physically asserting their authorities. This can be evidenced from the fact that Mathews frequently whipped his wife Margaret and he even got a jail term of 30 days for beating his daughter Isabella. Mathews created a delusion of the women being temptresses and devils who led good men astray. Not to mention, Matthias believed that men had the power to define how women should dress, what they should eat and even their sexual life. Moreover, he strongly believed in the subjugation of women and for him and his male followers, women only existed as sexual objects for the men and to cook, clean and take of the children.
Additionally, throughout the story, the authors also cover the subject of women subjugation. Since the story is based in the US and it is in the early 1800s, it reflects the struggles of the women especially black women in the American society. Many of the black American women served as slaves and sexual objects for men in the United States and the situation was further worsened by the spread of spiritual fanaticism that viewed them man as the unprecedented head of the family. The woman was live at the “mercy” of the man. The self-proclaimed prophet of God ruled with an iron fist and he physically abused the women around him as he pleased. For instance, he physically abused his wife and daughter and robbed Benjamin of his wife Anne. As such, the conditions for women in the patriarchal society were cruel and distressing; women knew no better than their husbands and fathers. The history of Pierson and Matthias is quite different that even though Pierson had his own following he believed that relatively women had the same rights as men. Though not mentioned, this is likely to be the major reason why he wanted to raise his spouse from the dead. This story captures the moment when people especially women turned to religion evangelism to save them from the oppression in the society.
On the other hand, it is ironical that Matthias preached to his followers that women had the power to lead men astray from God. First, Matthias was successfully seduced by Anne Folger a wife to Benjamin Folger. Instead of d refusing the attempts of Anne, Matthias even proclaimed that Anne was his match spirit and as such her marriage to Benjamin was nullified. This reveals the egocentric and selfish nature of Matthias; he only cares about himself and his needs. The position taken by Matthias is contrary to his nature at the start where he frequently whips his wife Margaret and later jailed for beating up his daughter Isabella. Even more, this iron fist rule of Matthias led to Benjamin sleeping with Isabella as a payback for what Matthias had done to him. Matthias forced to marry arguing that they were “match spirits” despite the fact that Isabella was already married to Charles Laisdell.
In Conclusion, the book is a narrative of religious fanaticism and how the church has propagated the patriarchal model that states that a woman’s function is to take care of her home and submit to her husband. Infidelity, especially from the woman’s side, was not tolerated at all and the increasing power that religious leaders have on their followers. For instance, Matthias had the power to dissolve marriages as he pleased. Even more, the book explores the issue of sex among followers considering the fact Matthias and his male followers had various sexual encounters with young female followers. The story also indicates how sex encounters have brought down great leaders who have to deal with sexual accusations leveled against them.
The Kingdom of Matthias: a False Prophet
Feelinf Separated From God
The Country was facing a time when spiritual values, morals, and judgments were lost in many American trust. Complete strangers from around the nation would claim to see the light and announce to their small group of followers that they were the chosen ones and for all America. Convincing church leaders were making Utopia Community all across the united states mainly in a place where people where physically and mentally vulnerable. America was introduced to a Holy revolution, a revival movement in which in many ways was affected by other movements such as the salvation, personal religion, greed, and slavery.
The salvation movement played a big role in Matthias’ new religion people felt guilty and blamed their problems on other church organizations and Satin! Many Americans felt separated from God and there weak soul in which they felt was being invaded by the devil’s evil deeds. According to Johnson & Wilentz states ” While the revivals reshape the landscape of mainstream American Protestantism, smaller groups went beyond evangelical orthodoxy into direct and often heretical experience of the supernatural”(6). This was a huge advantage for a false religious teacher like Matthias and many people took the bait and followed him.
In addition, Religious Utopian communities were spreading across the nation which was a new tread that helped Matthias travel all across the country looking for the holy site where he would claim that he was the chosen one and all who shall follow him would be saved. As a result, religion and spiritual faith in Matthias’ opinion were only awarded to a hand full of a spiritual leader who disapproved of other communities of faith accusing them of the problems the nation is facing and implementing the devil into their spiritual life. According to Johnson & Wilentz “Against the Finneyites’ feminized spirituality of restraint, Smith and Matthias (each in his own way) resurrected an ethos of fixed social relations and paternal power” (9).
The Spiritual Journey of Matthias
Matthias’ background wasn’t peaches and cream he wasn’t rich he was an orphan whose parents died at an early age and he was taken under the guidance of the local church where he learned the word of god in which later in his life received the word of god in voices. According to Johnson & Wilentz ” In 1835, an enterprising Manhattan journalist disclosed that, as a boy, Robert Matthews had his conversation with supernatural spirit and impressed his friends with feats of clairvoyance” (56).
Matthias’ strong belief in the holy spirit was changing his confidence and self-esteem he felt he was getting strong vibes from the holy spirit which was leading him to the promised land believed he was sent to solve the problem of a weak nation. According to Johnson & Wilentz ” The United States, he said, had promised union, freedom, and equal rights but in fact produced political and religious confusion-a nightmare world where the wicked spirit separated what God had joined and joined what God had split apart” (5). This was Matthias’ way of telling his followers that he was the chosen one and he could forgive their sins, not the government.
Matthias’ spiritual journey started to come together with the support of an unlikely rival which had himself his own supernatural downfall. Elijah Pierson, a self-proclaimed prophet, which spiritual diminished his reputation when came to an end when he couldn’t bring the dead back to the living. Regardless of whether Pierson liked Mathis or not he decided to unite into his Matthias conjugation. According to Johnson & Wilentz “Matthias told Pierson that it was a big mistake to pray for the Son’s Kingdom, when it was the reign of the Father that was at hand. (92). Matthias believes that only his words of prayer connected to the heavenly father and there was one spiritual leader and it wasn’t Pierson.
Loyalty and Abuse
On the other hand, Matthias pocketbook look toward his economical backers for spiritual support in which no company or business could run right without money. In his case, his religion needs to be funded for personal and economic purposes. As a result, his utopian community was forming into what he saw as his own Holyland. According to Johnson & Wilentz “The neighbors later recalled that Mount Zion had looked like any other well-ordered house: the men and boys labored in the fields, and the women and girls worked in the house, all under the command of an authoritative father”. (105).
For that reason, a scenario of death and loyalty came in the picture in which an ex-slave name Isabella Van Wagenen which was also an employee of Elijah Pierson meet Matthias during a meeting for the first time. Isabella Van Wagenen was a great example of weakness in which Matthias believes the weaker they are spiritually the easily they would look for a savior to save them from evil. According to Johnson & Wilentz ” It was she who opened the door to Matthias the following spring, and she recognized him right away as the Jesus that she had always expected to meet ” (117). This was a big influence that Matthias had in which he probably realized that there a lot of weak religious African Americans who are slaves looking for a sign from God and Matthias was there answer to salvation.
Matthias couldn’t fool the American public anymore, many American were catching up to Matthias conniving, immoral and heartless spiritual scam which not only embezzled hard-working Americans money but was looked at as a womanizer and soon to be criminal.
According to Johnson & Wilentz ” As for women, Matthias kept them in the house” (105). This was a Utopia gender level in which secretly private communities were harming and abusing women.
Robert Matthews was committed to crime, in which murder was involved in just like every other secret community he was but on trial in which his spiritual values and lies were on trial. According to Johnson & Wilentz ” If men who keep about their business, maintain their characters, make bargains, make money, and give no other proof of an impaired intellect, can fall into the belief of so revolting, so amazing a fraud and lie, who is safe” (152)? Matthias knew that even he was found guilty of his scam as a spiritual leader was unfolded.
Furthermore, the only positive feedback which came throughout this whole spiritual soap opera was that of a slave woman which took part of Matthias spiritual organization, in which she campaigned for the right and freedom for African American. According to Johnson & Wilentz “Isabella Van Wagenen, who had taken the surname of the man who had bought her freedom, and who had learned how to crush her enemies with truth, also became a traveler, and God renamed her too (179).
In the end, America has always seen the rise of false prophet during good economic times and bad economic times in which evil is always looking to change the minds of the innocence of men, women, and children of all races or social standings from a world of wealth and everlasting life in which no preacher or human bean can guarantee life after death miracles.
Johnson, P. E., & Wilentz, S. (2012). The Kingdom of Matthias: a story of sex and salvation in 19th-century America. New York: Oxford University Press.
The Positives and Negatives of the Second Awakening in the Kingdom of Matthias
The Kingdom of Matthias, a book written on nineteenth century America by Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, depicts the shaping of American lives through economic, social, and religious aspects. Moving through the book we begin to understand two important people, Robert Matthews and Elijah Pierson. Robert Matthews, a businessman and religious figure, later known as Matthias the Prophet, created a religious cult centered around the domination of Matthias. Elijah Pierson, a childhood raised perfectionist Presbiterian, took great part in the making of Matthias’s Kingdom, known as “The Kingdom”, by being one of his first followers. Mitthias’s benefits and downfalls directly relate to aspects of the market revolution, gender, and religion. The reader can see Matthias’s downfalls through his religious mistakes and his discretion against women, but his benefits contribute to the market revolution through being a successful businessman and carpenter, which later became a downfall to him. These components addressed from Matthias are important and relate to the shaping of nineteenth century American lives. In the Kingdom of Matthias, the authors Johnson and Wilentz depict how the market revolution, gender, and religion contributed to the lives of American people. Through Matthias’s view on religion, spiritual authority or salvation, and transformation we can conclude how the book relates religion to lectures in class and the American Yawp.
The Market Revolution
The market revolution affected Amercian lives in multiple ways in the book. The most deminoshing way being that it affected the lower class. The laboring class would work for low wages and were then trapped by poverty. This is shown through both the book and lectures in class. The book states: ‘Gradually, he recouped his losses, and after three years of working as a journeyman, he set up a business of his own, as a master builder and house joiner. But the Mathewses knew no end to misery, of a kind that was increasingly common among families in New York’s poorer, crowded working-class neighborhoods.’
This quote relates to multiple people having the same issues with wages within the poor class. Even though there were many jobs being given out the wages for individuals were small and could barely stabilize families. From the lectures in class, an image was shown showing a man in a miserable state due to the economy stepping on the Bill of Rights. This image is called “The Panic of 1819.” This image relates to the issues of the impoverished class because people with low wages would be forced to borrow money to keep up with families and would then be stuck in a never ending cycle of the economy taking the families money. This kept people in a miserable state that was hard to get out of. Other then going into debt Americans would have no other choice than to move and start over in another place, like Matthews did with his family multiple times due to the market revolution. The book explains: ‘Like thousands of other American men, he had experienced the market revolution not as a liberating triumph, but as a faithful, agonizing descent into wage labor. Never again would he regain his economic independence.’
This shows that even though the market revolution changed multiple lives in a positive way, there were Americans who suffered in drastically and would never be able to regain back the stability that was there at one point. After having no money, his downfall started to happen. Matthews then started to become enraged and took it out on his family.
Another factor that affected Americans is gender. The book has challenged the social status of women, authority that people of color and women could have, and women’s role in the family. Women during this time would have little to no rights in the family. Husbands could only spend the income, women had no say in what the money goes to. In the book it states: ‘Matthews bellowed that she didn’t understand him, that she was faithless. All she wanted was a new stove, or some new clothes, or a better apartment, or some other wordly comfort.’
This shows that women in a household had no control over buying things. Margaret, Matthews’s wife, only wanted necessary things, sometimes a new pair of clothes or something needed around the house. While she asked for these things her husband would be buying himself things that he did not necessarily need, for example extravagant shirts. Other than where the money went women also had no say over what happened inside of the house. Husbands would end up taking rage out on the wife or children.
At home following the funeral, Robert told Margaret that he would never forget her selfless care during the boy’s last days–but soon after he lost control as never before, and Margaret bore the brunt of his anguish. “I well recollect the night he first brought home the raw hide,” she later wrote. The usual penalty was five or six strokes, for any imagined slight. “I often told him he would kill me,” she recalled, “but he said he didn’t care, that the gallows had no terrors for him.”
This quote shows a situation where if men had nothing to take anger out on they would blame it on the people living in the household and did not care about who they hurt. People around them would here but did interfere with the situation, it seemed as if it was a regular occurring thing. The rage that Matthias encountered earlier with Margaret then contributed to the downfall of his kingdom. Women in his kingdom were swapped, abused, and had to be submissive to anything that Matthias wanted. On the positive side, women and people of color had some spiritual authority. The book, The American Yawp states: ‘In the early nineteenth century, the dominant understanding of gender claimed that women were the guardians of virtue and the spiritual heads of the home. Women were expected to be pious, pure, submissive, and domestic, and to pass these virtues on to their children.’
Women would teach the men how to pray, it was one thing that was controlled by them. Along with prayer, women rose to new educational opportunities, this allowed wives to get out of the house, instead of doing only things inside the house.
Matthias’s view on religion shifts throughout the book. At a young age Robert Matthews was taught religion through Calvinism. Calvinism is focuses on faith in predestination. Although Matthews family had other views that contributed to Calvinism. Matthews learned at a young age that women should be submissive to men. By learning this early Matthews never learned another way of treating women. As Matthias gained more followers his religion became more tethered around him. He thought that the only way was to only pay attention to him, so he made sure to get rid of all the other preachers. Religion also had positive effects on people. Before Americans had strong faith in predestination, now society has shifted onto a lighter way of looking at predestination. Americans believed that salvation is attainable through transformation. Society could now change whether heaven is attainable or not.
Calvinists believed that all of humankind was marred by sin, and God predestined only some for salvation. These attitudes began to seem too pessimistic for many American Christians. Worshippers increasingly began to take responsibility for their own spiritual fates by embracing theologies that emphasized human action in effecting salvation, and revivalist preachers were quick to recognize the importance of these cultural shifts. Radical revivalist preachers, such as Charles Grandison Finney, put theological issues aside and evangelized by appealing to worshippers’ hearts and emotions.
Religion’s role in The Second Great Awakening had huge effects on authority, positions, and created new positive ways amongst society. Matthias’s downfalls are the worst towards religion. He treated people like they were just servants to him, instead of living things. He used them for money by manipulating them into believing in him. If anyone got in the way of his work or fell out of line he felt that that person needed to be punished, just like Elijah Pierson. He was supposedly poisoned by Matthias for leaving him.
In conclusion, during the time of The Second Great Awakening, America had positives and negatives. Society was trying to find themselves through new ways of religion, inventions, goods, money, and through roles of each gender and race. Although the market revolution affected the lower class in a destructive way, there were positive effects in products being sold and alternating farming. Matthias’s relationship with gender stays persistent in the society around his time. There were some positive effects like, women being able to get educated and having the power to teach prayer, but women were also treated like they were nothing. The reader finds out that religion affected Matthias’s harshly, even though it was developing for the better amongst other areas in society. Society found a new life inside of religion, people could be saved and obtain salvation through transformation. The downfall of Matthias gave us a detailed idea of what contributed to The Second Great Awakening. Matthias’s or Robert Matthews powerful religious kingdom fell down because of the market revolution, gender, and religion combined being used or viewed in a negative way.
The Kingdom of Matthias and Its Religious Affect
In Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz’s The Kingdom of Matthias, the two authors analyze a cult-like religious prophet/con-artist and his community of followers who, together, help to illustrate the economic, social, and religious pressures that shaped Americans’ lives in the mid-nineteenth century. With ideals circulating such as the market revolution, inequalities and interactions between genders, as well as religious uncertainty, people were noticing the world’s values were changing directly in front of them. Mid-nineteenth century America was chaotic and fast paced, The Kingdom of Matthias discusses three main pressures that heavily impacted economics, gender roles, and religion. In order to understand the Matthias incident, it needs to be viewed through the social aspects of the community as it is the most revealing and influential.
The Market Revolution
Occurring approximately between 1800 and the 1840s, the market revolution was a set of continuous transitions and changes that started the movement and migration of the American population. Instead of the majority of people living in the countryside, the majority shifted to cities becoming the area with the highest percent of the population. Americans no longer lived on the countryside working as small farmers or artisan workers, but instead began living in cities and working inside factories. We can assume that the Market Revolution began due to a shift away from local and regional markets to larger areas for more trade like the national markets. In the South, the agricultural explosion allowed for food to be sold and grown at a higher rate. In the West, textile companies began to rake in money hand over hand. In the North, domestic manufacturing. By selling and trading with different American regions, this helped to strengthen the American economy in multiple ways. Not only did it expand the size of our economy, it diversified the areas of major trade. It resulted in a higher pay wage and a lower dependency on foreign imported goods. This quick development and westward expansion caused land speculation and eventually an economic boom for some. This is important because due to the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas, multiple cultures of people from a variety of separate cultures and backgrounds all came together into one place, their convergence leading to different interpretations on morality.
The market revolution affected Matthias’s community because it brought people together. Matthias also had a job for everyone in his settlement. He was the ruler, and nobody was above him. After his endeavors into the market revolution fail miserably, he claims that all money, merchants, and society are for the damned, simply because they remind him of his failure. In reality, Matthias’s kingdom was a revolt from the advancement of society. Matthias was convinced that the market revolution was to blame for his misfortune, so he blasted it with false accusations. He began claiming society was the devil.
In the nineteenth century, the legal rights of women and men were extremely distressed by gender and race. Gender roles were an even larger part of normal life. Back then, it was widely believed that the man of the house was supposed to support the family by working and earning a decent wage. A husband was to provide for his wife just as a father was to provide for his children. During this same time period, women’s roles in American society were merely seen as a lady working at their residence.
The social norm was that women were to be supporting their husbands by cleaning the home, raising the children, and cooking the meals. The reality of motherhood has changed overtime. In the book, the authors helped to describe the lives of regular, as well as irregular, persons of the era. In particular, the authors chose to depict the lives of two females named Isabella Van Wagenen and Isabella Matthews Laisdell. These two women had not only been unfortunately touched personally by effects of slavery, but also by many influences of higher power originating from men. Altogether, Kingdom of Matthias explores many areas of society that are affected by people’s gender.
Isabella Matthews Laisdell was portrayed as a servant, and her husband was depicted more as her owner. Her position within society was very typical of the time period because the social-normal role of women in the United States was to tend to their family’s desires, wants, and needs, as well as support their husband. As a man, Matthias made the rules for his community, so he kept all the women in the houses. Isabella Matthews Laisdell was more-or-less allowed to live a normal married life. Unfortunately, normal for the nineteenth century is not very normal today. This was because she had an outstanding lawsuit against Matthias. Matthias was accused of beating Isabella Laisdell, and the evidence presented was that of bruises and contusions on her body, claimed to be from Matthias. Matthias was found guilty. Furthermore, a large amount of marriages in the nineteenth century were arranged. Matthias full heartedly believed that romantic courting led to complete despair for women in the afterlife. This is shown in the book when Matthias beat his own daughter because she didn’t receive his permission to marry her husband. The man she had married went by the name Charles Laisdell, and he was not who Matthias had wanted her to marry.
Seen as inferior to males, women were beaten by their dominating fathers and husbands, who’s rights were unjustly higher than their daughters and wives. In the 19th century, both marriage and motherhood were afflicted by gender and race due to the evident fact that females had unequal rights compared to males. Marriages during this time period were becoming based on “mutual affection.” This is the complete opposite of the book. Matthias believed relationships based and built upon desire and lust were unhealthy and unattainable. Men in Matthias’s community controlled basically all of everyone else’s rights, including full control of their daughters or wife. Women were forced to always support the family and the daughters and wife functioned in respect to their father or husband. The book makes out women as already “conquered” by men inside Matthias’s community. Women were supposed to live and serve, do household chores, and function as a housewife, as that was the social normal. Women today have more opportunities in pursuing, but a working woman during this time was “unheard of.” Men believed it could threaten their masculinity of a husband, which could “ruin” the marriage.
The timeline of American history places the story of Matthias directly in the center of the Second Great Awakening. This was a new religious movement that was based loosely on the rejection of European policies. More and more people disliked the rules regarding religion, desiring to respond by changing the social norms. The rejection of this rationalism, as well as the beginning of market capitalism, this partially caused one of the largest mass population religious conversions to evangelism in U.S. history.
The Second Great Awakening was at its height in the 1830s. It started in upstate New York and slowly moving South then West. It took root in Appalachian Mountains heavily before furthering on to the seemingly endless frontier. The Second Great Awakening had a populist point of view, one that more and more Americans started seeing within themselves. People began seeing each other as spiritual equivalents to those seen as “holy,” such as pastors and preachers. These clergymen were only really favored for their sermons. Some minority populations, such as women, slaves, and less wealthy Anglos, were extremely drawn toward this Second Great Awakening. Middle and upper-class white people began to align more with the views of Finneyism. The Second Great Awakening is responsible for the rise of revivalist cults and other groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Christ, the Mormons, the Disciples of Christ and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Evangelists saw the usual problems of the era, such as slavery, greed, and poverty, laying the groundwork for movements to change. This influence from the Second Great Awakening helped to create even greater secular movements within politics. American Christians started progressive movements which were definitely aimed at reform. Some examples include the Abolitionist Movement, the Temperance Society, and the Suffragette Movement. The awakening pulled popularity among women and slaves, due to the emphasizing of every member in society deserving to be treated equally. This was looking past gender, race, or economic status.
Matthias took advantage of this new idea of religion. Matthias flipped the people’s opinions directly upon them and said all other religions were scams. He then continued to match and pair spirits. The thing about the spirits he matched was that they were already married. Religion was whatever Matthias wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted it. Religion was his shield to coward behind when it all hit the fan. If something seemed off, it was because Matthias created a religion to allow him to break rules and laws. Matthias did this all by claiming it was ok based on freedom of religion, a main founding point of the United States. Those who disagreed left, but the rest abandoned their old ideals of religion and society by pledging loyalty to this cult and its leader, Matthias.
In the end, we see Robert Matthews as the man he truly is, a failed businessman who wholeheartedly resents women and any idea of change that isn’t his own. Like many other false prophets, Matthias declared that only his religion could help people actually achieve salvation, a salvation they only desired due to their search for perfection from the Second Great Awakening. All characters in this book are looking to fill voids in their lives. This allows Matthews to take advantage of religious inclinations among other people. He’d fully control their search for meaning and spirituality, simply because he believed their lives lacked purpose and direction. Matthews convinced these characters that he was the answer to their literal prayers.
Religion was the most influential and revealing aspect of life in Matthias’s kingdom. Due to its hold on all other facets of life, religion was the equivalent of a pair of white knuckles on the steering wheel. With such a firm grasp on Matthias’s community due to the constant propaganda, religious pressures effected the other pressures by building up upon them. Matthias led people to a life that was different, a life he claimed was the path to salvation. Combine this with the Second Great Awakening, a time when a large percent of the population was searching for a way to be perfect and achieve salvation, you get chaos.
Historic Past in the Kingdom of Matthias
The Kingdom of Matthias
The Kingdom of Matthias be a fascinating window to the turbulent movements of the revival known as the Second Great Awakening. This movements swept up great evangelical Americans and gave rise to the Mormons. Matthias was born Robert Matthews in 1788 to a Scots immigrant family in the farming village of Cambridge, in Washington County, New York. The village had been originally founded as a permanent white settlement by New England squatters and become home to large numbers of Scottish immigrants like family of Robert Matthews. The Cambridge Scots kept mostly to themselves and clung to their uncompromising Calvinistisicm, nursing ecclesiastical grudges unknown to the rest of the world (Johnson and Wilentz 50).
Matthews family were strict believers and attended their villages Anti-Burgher Secession Church, a sectarian splinter of a militant faction from within Scots Presbyterianism.. As Anti-Burghers they done read their Bibles literally and regularly debated their scriptural understanding. They did imitations of the primitive Christians, guarded against government interference religious affairs, demanded strict observance of the Sabbath and enforced a personal code of righteous temperance every day of the week. They sustained an absolute belief in predestination, human sacrifice, free love, and the idea that Gods be studied in every twitch of daily life (Wilentz 52). Many of Mathiass later beliefs can thus be seen as being rooted in his religious experiences as a child.
After War of 1812, the United States was bursting with promises of material riches for anyone with the initiative and the funds to participate ( Wilentz 61). It was a time conducive to the explosion of both culture and religion. Into this teeming environment walked Robert Matthews, who announced himself as Matthias, prophet of the God of the Jews. As the prophet Matthias, Matthews drew in a cast of unforgettable charactersthe meekly devout businessman Elijah Pierson, who once tried to raise his late wife from the dead; the Mormon leader Joseph Smith; a young Karl Marx; the attractive Satanic couple of Ann and Benjamin Folger; and the shrewd ex-slave Isabella Van Wagenen, also known as Harriet Tubman.
Having recruited his members, Matthias lied the foundations of his new kingdom. He believed that the time for judgement was near and that all who were outside his kingdom would be tried and executed for their sins. Matthias loved Christian preachers who, through their sermons of equality between men and women spread deviltry and destroying Truth.Matthias believed that his mission was to establish the reign of Truth and bring the world devils, prophesying women, and beaten men (Johnson and Wilentz 92). He stated that women who lectured their husbands would be damned and that a woman was the capsheaf of the abomination of desolation, and was full of deviltry ( Johnson and Wilentz 93).
In Matthiass kingdom, women were subjugates of men and were to stay home, cook, clean, and perform sexual favors for the patriarchal leaders of the house- their husbands. Matthias believed that Christians stoled women and children from their fathers. Their preachers lured young and female spirits out of their houses and into their beds. Teachers put the older children into various schools; they even concocted devilish infant schools for the little ones. In all these places fathers lost their children to other teachers. Matthias thus reserved his anger for the Christian gentiles and clergymen who he believed were looking to uproot Gods Patriarchy.
While the clergy preached simplicity in manner and clothing, Matthias had plans of building a great golden city in western New York.. Matthias dressed in robes fit to be a king, and seated on a throne of gold. In keeping with these beliefs, he outfitted himself with expensive and outrageous attires. He insisted that the earth and everything on it belonged to God and since he was embodied with Gods spirit, it all belonged to him. Matthias had worn rags and lived handtomouth during the reign of the devils. Now the earth would be rid of gentiles and transformed into paradise, and it was time to start furnishing the New Jerusalem and its prophet (Johnson and Wilentz 97). Matthias ended religious meetings with extravagant meals and strict regulations on the way meals were to be prepared. He allowed and encouraged his followers to eat large quanitities of food, as it was something he enjoyed. Matthias beliefs with regard to lifestyle were thus in direct contrast to the lifestyle being preached by the Christian clergy.
Another aspect of the kingdom that Matthias sought to establish was the absence of a market. In the Kingdom of Matthias, there would be no market, no money, no buying or selling, no wage system with its insidious domination of one father over another, no economic oppression of any kind. Independent father-producers would keep what their households needed, then take the rest to the temple in the New Jerusalem- the golden city that Matthias would build in Western New York. (Johnson and Wilentz 97).
In addition to the clergymen, Matthias passed judgment on doctors. His disapproval of doctors was based in his belief that people became ill on account of having sinned and been disobedient. He insisted that sick people harbored detached spirits, or devils. On one occasion, Matthias whipped the ex-slave, Isabella Van Wagenen severely for getting sick. Thus the members of the Kingdom kept their illnesses to themselves. Matthias anger towards the sick only logically prompted him to damn doctors and is the reason for him not having allowed a doctor to see Elijah Pierson in his last days before his death. Matthias also rightfully passed judgement on lawyers and damned them to hell, but it is ironic that Matthias towards the end of the kingdom would willingly agree to a lawyer representing him in court.
Matthias also had strong feelings about marriage. He had always maintained that romantic love and free choice of marital partners led to unhappiness, particularly for women. In the kingdom, marriage would unite compatible spirits, just as harmony at Mount Zion. For example, Matthias believed in match spirits and arranged for himself and Ann Folger, one of the members of the Kingdom who was already married to at the time, to be married. Matthiass reasoning with regard to marriages was thus based completely on desire and lust.
The Kingdom of Matthias thus reveals the social, economic, racial, and sexual conditions that give rise to apocalyptic cults and their virile, charismatic leaders. Like the Kingdom of Matthias, A whole series of evangelical cults later appeared in the early decades of the 19th century. The ensuing lurid trial of Matthias for the murder of Elijah Pierson, dominated the new “penny” journalism, generating pamphlets and books alerting Christians against fanaticism. But to the slaves, the improvident, and the laboring classes Matthias and similar cults offered both refuge and inspiration.