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The making of a new nation . The Enlightenment in America. The emergence of the notion of the American Dream. The great Enlighteners: Crèvecoeur, Jefferson , Paine , Franklin.
The American Enlightenment
is the intellectual thriving period in the United States in the mid-to- late 18th century (1715–1789), especially as it relates to American Revolution on the one hand and the European Enlightenment on the other . Influenced by the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the humanist period during the Renaissance , the Enlightenment took scientific reasoning and applied it to human nature , society, and religion . American Enlightenment - a gradual but powerful awakening that established the ideals of democracy , liberty , and religious tolerance in the people of America.
If there were just one development that directly caused the American Revolution and uplifted the intellectual culture of the continent while it was only a British colony , it would be the American Enlightenment. Broadly, the Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that changed the fundamental perspective of the masses, urging them to foster skepticism and apply scientific principles in matters of religion and morality . Its chief values were: Liberty, Democracy, Republicanism, Religious Tolerance. The movement gained momentum with the publication of landmark texts like Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason , and the Jefferson Bible , but the most influential thinker was undoubtedly John Locke , whose ideas spread to the colonies and across Europe . Main Ideas of the American Enlightenment: The Enlightenment caused a shift in the cultural and social attitudes of the people, bringing in some new and radical ideas. Republicanism: The doctrine of republicanism asserts a system of a government that is elected by the people of the nation. The roots of this ideology go back to ancient Greece, when the concept of a democratic government was examined by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Individual Liberty: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happinessdeveloped as the motto of this era, which forms the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution today . Since the colonies had very few individual rights , they declared certain fundamental rights that they deemed “inalienable.” Democracy: The colonies had no say in the formation of the government, and had no representation in the law-making process . Consequently, they were attracted to the idea of democracy, where the government is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Lincoln later expressed in his Gettysburg Address. Religious Tolerance: Much impetus for the ideas of religious tolerance came from the rule of King George II, who was a staunch Catholic and did not allow freedom of religion to Protestants in New England . Voltaire was among the first to denounce Christianity and other organized religions as mere ploys to support monarchy. What emerged was Deism, which was more or less a new religion that considered reason its foundation. In Deism, there is no interference by a deity, and man controls his own destiny .
These ideas stirred the masses into action , as the people dreamed of carving their own futures. Adopted by the Founding Fathers, Enlightenment ideals became the vision for modern-day America, where these ideologies are deeply rooted in the nation. The Enlightenment was important America because it provided the philosophical basis of the American Revolution. The Revolution was more than just a protest against English authority ; as it turned out, the American Revolution provided a blueprint for the organization of a democratic society. And while imperfectly done , for it did not address the terrible problem of slavery, the American Revolution was an enlightened concept of government whose most profound documents may have been the American Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. To feel the full impact of the Enlightenment on America one needs only to look at the first inaugural address of Thomas Jefferson, who, along with Benjamin Franklin, is considered to be the American most touched by the ideas of the Enlightenment.
Attempts to reconcile science and religion resulted in a widespread rejection of prophecy, miracle and revealed religion in preference for Deism - especially by Thomas Paine in "The Age of Reason" and by Thomas Jefferson in his short Jefferson Bible - from which all supernatural aspects were removed. Benjamin Franklin was influential in America, England, Scotland , and France , for his political activism and for his advances in physics.
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success , and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work . In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement " regardless of social class or circumstances of birth . The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Mark Twain 's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
De Crevecoeur, Hector St. John (1735- 1813 ): Franco-American Writer . With the publication of his Letters from an American Farmer ( 1782 ), Hector St. John de Crevecoeur became one of the eighteenth-century’s most influential commentators on American life and manners. While not born in America, Crevecoeur traded his French citizenship for an American one in 1765 , taking up residence in New York . He had traveled throughout New England and its coastal region before claiming his new identity , however , and before seriously embarking upon his life as a farmer in Orange County, New York, in 1778, Crevecoeur traveled extensively inland through the Ohio Valley and on to the banks of the Mississippi . Drawing upon his travel experiences and his life as a farmer, Crevecoeur was the first to seriously attempt a definition of American character with his Letters. The key word for Crevecoeur was “new,” which separated and distinguished Americans from things European. In Letters, Crevecoeur thus blended his collection of facts and observations into a fictional portrait of an industrious farmer, one whose natural response to the land became identified with the general character of a new American people. Yet while Crevecoeur echoed Jefferson, Thomas’s agrarian ideals, his letters also acknowledged the realities of frontier savagery and southern slavery. After taking a post as a French consul in 1783, Crevecoeur published little in English, though he did publish a French revision of Letters (1787) and a final book on his American experiences: Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l’état de New-York (1801).
Letters from an American Farmer is an excellent example of how a New World American thinks about the many changes occurring and that have occurred during the era of Enlightenment. Crevecoeur’s essay is an enlightened perspective that shows how the people of that time are feeling about being a part of the new world and its current workings. Although the writer is originally from Normandy, and later Canada, he seems to truly grasp the changes in American society and how vastly different it is from Europe . Crevecoeur explains that America is a literal melting pot for people of all religions. He states that “the Americans become as to religion what they are as a country , allied to all”. When Crevecoeur describes the religions of the nation he makes note of the fact that even if the people of a certain “sect” do not practice the same religion as the newcomers, that “neither the government nor any other power interferes”, showing the great tolerance that America has for all. The “indifference” of America is quite different from the way society is in Europe during the 1700-1800’s. During the Enlightenment the people of America appear to come to the realization that although religions may be different in some ways , they are also similar in others . The social class divisions in America during the Enlightenment are also quite different than that of Europe. “It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who posses everything, and of a herd of people who have nothing ”. During the period of enlightenment the people of America came to realize that if they work hard enough that what they earn is for them to keep . There are no Kings or Dictators ruling the lower class. There is a huge amount of personal and financial freedom to be gained in American during this time. Crevecoeur states that “each person works for himself ”. American became a class-less society during the Enlightenment period where each individual was allowed as much room to grow as needed.
The Age of Romanticism . The early romantic writers . Washington Irving as a transitional figure from the traditions of the Enlightenment to those of Romanticism.
Romanticism (or the Romantic era/Period) was an artistic , literary , and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1840. Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts , music, and literature , but had a major impact on historiography, education and the natural sciences. Its effect on politics was considerable and complex ; while for much of the peak Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, in the long term its effect on the growth of nationalism was probably more significant. In the U.S, romantic Gothic literature made an early appearance with Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) and Rip Van Winkle (1819), followed from 1823 onwards by the Leatherstocking Tales of James Fenimore Cooper , with their emphasis on heroic simplicity and their fervent landscape descriptions of an already- exotic mythicized frontier peopled by " noble savages", similar to the philosophical theory of Rousseau , exemplified by Uncas, from The Last of the Mohicans. There are picturesque " local color " elements in Washington Irving's essays and especially his travel books . Edgar Allan Poe's tales of the macabre and his balladic poetry were more influential in France than at home, but the romantic American novel developed fully with the atmosphere and melodrama of Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter (1850). Later Transcendentalist writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson still show elements of its influence and imagination, as does the romantic realism of Walt Whitman . The poetry of Emily Dickinsonnearly unread in her own time—and Herman Melville 's novel Moby- Dick can be taken as epitomes of American Romantic literature. By the 1880s, however, psychological and social realism was competing with romanticism in the novel.
The first great American writer of this period was Washington Irving, whose Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, first published in 1819, was a sensation in England and helped build the United States' reputation for creative literature. Over the remainder of his career , which included Tales of the Alhambra and many other books, Irving was the most famous and most widely respected literary figure in America. Thanks in part to developments in publishing technology , Irving also was one of the few Americans to make substantial money from writing. By 1829, he had made more than $23,000 from his writing, and he eventually bought the plates from which his works were published in order to protect his own rights to proceeds from them. A transitional figure, Irving somewhat ironically contributed to America's literary independence while producing work that was distinctively European in content and style. Like his contemporary James Fenimore Cooper, Irving proved that Americans could write European literature as well as Europeans could . His masterful use of personae, stylized prose , and use of European legend all demonstrate the strong influence of the Old World on his work. Indeed, the sketches and tales in The Sketch Book show Irving's affection for the antiquity of Europe and for the past in general. This attention to the past, as Irving scholar William P. Kelly has noted, was one reason for Irving's success with his American audience . Kelly points out that Americans, recently severed from their European heritage , were struggling with an identity crisis at the time they were reading Irving's work, which itself looks both forward and backward. (xii). Irving is a major figure in the history of the short story in America. Indeed, Fred Lewis Pattee begins his book The Development of the American Short Story with Irving and identifies The Sketch Book, which contains "Rip Van Winkle" and the "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," as the starting point for this literary form in the United States. Pattee notes that the short story suited Irving, who tended to write in "spurts and dashes": "He did not deliberately choose the shortened form: he fell into it automatically because of his temperament , his natural indolence that forbade long-continued efforts, his powerful yet volatile emotions , and his early literary training in the school of Addison and Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson " (6). Another striking characteristic of Irving's writing is the preponderance of visual imagery . A painter himself, Irving often drew verbal pictures in his essays and stories , and the title of his most famous work makes a double reference to visual art: The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.
James Fenimore Cooper as the creator of the American historical novel. The depiction of the struggle of Native Americans against white colonisers in his Leather Stocking Tales (lecture). The creation of the American national epic in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.
James Fenimore Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. His historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days created a unique form of American literature. He lived most of his life in Cooperstown, New York, established by his father William. Cooper was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and in his later years contributed generously to it. He attended Yale University for three years but was expelled for misbehavior. Before embarking on his career as a writer he served in the U.S. Navy as a Midshipman which greatly influenced many of his novels and other writings. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales. Among naval historians his works on early U.S. naval history have been widely received but were sometimes criticized by Cooper's contemporaries. Among his most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans, often regarded as his masterpiece .
Cooper's portrayal of Native Americans and the white settlers in The Leatherstocking Tales shows us a prime example of how acculturation operates in various types, steps, and on various levels. It is so comprehensive and credible that many see it as what had charmed the reading public at home and abroad and " determined how the world was to regard the American Indian" for a long time. By the time Cooper started writing The Leatherstocking Tales, the native population had been virtually eliminated from the upstate New York area, and "the frontier had been pushed across the Missouri ." Cooper himself had little or no personal contact with Native Americans, just like the vast majority of his contemporary readers, who, to borrow Randall C. Davis 's words , "accepted without hesitation the distinction between 'savagism' and 'civilization' as an explanation for Native Americans' perceived inabilities to assimilate neatly into Euro-American society." Though widely viewed as a sympathizer, if not a staunch advocate, for Native Americans, "Cooper was ambivalent about the westering advance of the society to which he belonged." Perhaps that is the reason why he did not clearly reveal in The Leatherstocking Tales his stand on the cultural clashes between the whites and the natives, especially the removal of the native from their lands. He seems to be more concerned with the ways of acculturating the native into the white society. While believing in the superiority of the Western civilization and the justification for dispossessing the "uncivilized" Native Americans, the typical mentality in the 19th century America, Cooper did not advocate a total elimination of the Native American way of life. But his solution to the cultural clashes between the two is the Native American appropriation to the Western culture through "acculturation," rather than " assimilation ." The former calls for a voluntary or forced acquisition of the culture of the dominant group, a kind of cultural modification from one group of people to another, or more specifically, a process of cultural adaptation by the subordinate people toward the dominant people's culture within the context of social advancement in American society at that time. The latter indicates the disappearance of group identity through nondifferential association and exogamy, which requires a mutual effort of both dominant and ethnic groups. Cooper was keenly aware that, to his contemporaries, that was something to be wished for but entirely non-feasible. His perception of the encounters between the European colonizers and their colonized natives convinced him that the acculturation occurring during the process of the Western overseas expansion was basically a confrontation between two different racial and cultural identities, or rather a unidirectional imposition upon the " host " but conquered society. Disgusted with attempts to justify colonialization by creating stereotypical images of the " savage ," Cooper was more interested in the encounter and contrast between the static man of primeval nature and the representative of an [103] advancing civilization. Even though he used some clichés of the time in portraying the "uncivilized" traits of his Native American characters , Cooper became the first American novelist who featured Native Americans and their culture prominently but credibly in his work. At least , Cooper tried to declare that the acculturation that took place in the White-Native American encounters was a two-way appropriation, even in a limited sense . He wanted to show that while acculturation mostly occurred in the form of Native Americans gradually conforming to white cultural standards, the white colonists could and did appropriate certain elements of native culture, particularly those practical elements which proved useful under colonial conditions . Such an acculturation was a conscious move on the part of the white colonists because, as David Murray observes, " Given the context of radical inequality of power between the two cultures , representation and comprehension of Indians by whites involves an appropriation, even an expropriation, parallel to the economic expropriation which is its context." They believed that it would lead to a greater knowledge of the natives by the colonists, which in turn would lead to a greater ability to exploit the natives and eventually to a complete appropriation of them. It is widely documented that Cooper admitted his support for what the white settlers did in their westward expansion-he actually acknowledges in The Pioneers, the first of the Leatherstocking Tales to be written but the next to last in the sequence of events , that "the Europeans, or, to use a more significant term, the Christians , dispossessed the original owners of the soil " - and justified it by saying that it was part of the noble mission of Christianity and therefore "part of a universal moral progress which it was the special destiny of American to manifest." However, it is equally undeniable that he appreciated some aspects of the native culture. On the one hand, Cooper saw acculturation as ultimately desirable and encouraged it in his fiction , but he revealed the distinct limits to its potential
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