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American Independence: Crèvecoeur,Paine, Jefferson. American Literature Cecilia H.C. Liu 10/25/2004. The Road to Independence. America and the Enlightenment The French and Indian War 1756-1763 Colonial Discontent 1768-1774. America and the Enlightenment. American Thinkers

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american independence cr vecoeur paine jefferson

American Independence:Crèvecoeur,Paine, Jefferson

American Literature

Cecilia H.C. Liu


the road to independence
The Road to Independence
  • America and the Enlightenment
  • The French and Indian War 1756-1763
  • Colonial Discontent
  • 1768-1774
america and the enlightenment
America and the Enlightenment
  • American Thinkers
  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826, 3d Pres.1801-1809)
the french and indian war 1756 1763

Benjamin West: Death of Wolfe at Quebec.

The French and Indian War 1756-1763
  • Part of the world wide "Seven Years War".
  • France vs. Britain.
  • Only after Britain won did the colonists start to make a fuss about taxation.
  • Death of Wolfe 1759

Immigrant Groups in Colonial America, 1770

colonial discontent
Colonial Discontent
  • Trade System/Navigation Acts
  • Extent of Regulation - Benign neglect no more
  • Relations with Parliament
1768 1774
  • Tea Acts
  • Quebec Act
  • Intolerable Acts
  • Newspaper Headline: The

Stamp Act

  • Paying the Exciseman
Crèvecoeur's life as a soldier, surveyor, farmer, and eventually writer and diplomat, and we will specifically consider the significance of his assumed identity as an "American farmer" in the context of colonial and revolutionary America.
Crèvecoeur's "American" and the "birth" of the United StatesCrèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer, Letter III
  • In Letter III, what are the main contrasts between Europe and America, as James sees them? By the same token, how does he contrast the settled culture of middle-America with that of the wilderness and its "back settlers"?
  • From where does the citizen derive that freedom which, James says, is essential to American culture?
cr vecoeur letters from an american farmer letter iii
Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer,Letter III
  • In what ways, according to James in Letter III, are men "like plants"; and what does he do with that metaphor in the subsequent Letters? Consider, in particular, how the citizen takes on characteristics of the geography he inhabits--Nantucket and Charlestown for example.
  • What specific contrasts does James develop, in Letter IX, between the culture of the slaveholding south, and that of his native Pennsylvania?
what then is the american this new man

"What then is the American, this new man?" asks Crèvecoeur 's speaker, James, a thriving Pennsylvania farmer of the pre-Revolutionary period, whose ancestors had escaped the oppression of European aristocracy and built the farm James works entirely on his own behalf. He pictures the American as one who, freed from "servile dependence, penury and useless labor," undergoes a total transformation. Beginning with the prospect of working for himself and owning land, the American sloughs off his European "prejudices and manners" and begins to think for himself, to act "upon new principles," and "entertain new ideas." In Europe, he says, men "were so many useless plants"; here, the "men are become men."

“What then is the American, this new man?”
Crèvecoeur's picture, although based on fact, idealizes American society in a way that excludes political struggle, making Crèvecoeur appear at once politically conservative and radically utopian.
  • From the very beginning of the conflict with England in the 1760s, the most insightful writers of columns, pamphlets and broadsides had moved well beyond the issues of taxation, legal rights, and abuses by English militiamen. Of much greater concern were questions such as the following:
paine the rights of man
Paine: the rights of man
  • Had America truly achieved the cohesion, and the independent wisdom, of a nation-state?
  • What were both the benefits, and the dangers, of Empire; and was the new nation destined to become imperial?
  • What were the rights of man? In particular, were there indeed universal rights guaranteed by Nature, rather than being merely the transient expressions of this or that culture?
establishing the new jerusalem
Establishing the New Jerusalem
  • In pursuing these issues, writers of the Revolutionary period completed the transformation of the colonies into a single, secular culture. It was as if the sermons and religious tracts of the Puritan period, with all their concern for establishing the New Jerusalem, had undergone this remarkable translation: the Puritan quest for spiritual salvation was rewritten to mean a quest for liberty.
the ideal
the ideal
  • The great writers of the Revolutionary period were concerned, like Franklin in The Autobiography, to find a via media, or "middle path": to balance reason with emotion, the rights of man with the needs of the state, the ideal of a central American government with the reality of thirteen distinct colonies, and the ideal of a literate and worldly civilization with the reality that 18th century America was still a predominantly rural and agrarian culture.
writings at this crucial stage
Writings at this crucial stage
  • All of these needs and potentials for balance and stability were on the minds of writers like Paine, Jefferson, and John and Abigail Adams.
  • Their writings are rationalistic, and steeped in the tradition of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke. Yet their writings are also filled with passionate exclamation. Paine's simple, declarative sentences are nevertheless given over to possibilities for stylistic excess, when appropriate. In such tendencies of style and thought we begin to see the structures and the dimensions of American culture at this crucial stage.
paine the crisis no 1
Paine, “The Crisis, No.1”

1. Aside from these rather more abstract, metaphorical reasons for Independence, covered above in #1, what are the concrete, practical reasons Paine advances on behalf of the cause, in both Common Sense and The Crisis?

paine the crisis no 120
Paine, “The Crisis, No.1”

2. In The Crisis, Paine claims: “There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one.” Certainly one of his goals was to ask his reader to let “his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves,” thus to synthesize intellect and passion. Now, looking back through his writings, ask: When does

Paine “overdo” the language somewhat, giving powerful expression of his feelings? That is, when and how does his style become most impassioned?

jefferson the autobiography of thomas jefferson
Jefferson: The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
  • In 1821, at the age of seventy-seven, Thomas Jefferson decided to "state some recollections of dates and facts concerning myself."
  • His ancestors came to America from Wales in the early seventeenth century and settled in the Virginia colony.
  • Jefferson's father, although uneducated, possessed a "strong mind and sound judgement" and raised his family in the far western frontier of the colony, an experience that contributed to his son's eventual staunch defense of individual and state rights.
jefferson the autobiography of thomas jefferson22
Jefferson: The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
  • Complementing the other major autobiography of the period, Benjamin Franklin's, The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson gives us a glimpse into the private life and associations of one of America's most influential personalities.
  • Alongside Jefferson's absorbing narrative of how compromises were achieved at the Continental Congress are comments about his own health and day-to-day life that allow the reader to picture him more fully as a human being.
It is in this rigorous environment that a group of intelligent and basically honorable men decided to take a stand. Though the foundation that they fought from was tenuous, there might never be a better opportunity. They would attempt to take a principle born of the Enlightenment, Natural Rights, and apply it to the real world.
phillis wheatley america s first black poet
Phillis Wheatley: America's first black poet

Phillis Wheatley's poem, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" makes effective use of irony to drive home a point about the potential for "redemption." Detail how that irony works, noting for instance the potential for ambiguous meaning in the word "refined," in line 8.

divine providence
Divine providence
  • Phillis Wheatley attributes to the

operations of Divine providence all the blessings of her life in captivity, bondage, and then limited freedom.

  • Wheatley also implicitly affirms the power of European culture by writing in the conventional forms of English verse (in heroic couplets, for example); and throughout her work she seems to insist on Christian orthodoxy as a key factor in uplifting the slave from bondage.
Only rarely does she express any resentment, seen for example in her "On Being Brought from Africa to America." Otherwise she pays homage to American institutions, and prays--naively, perhaps--that the Revolution will be an occasion for releasing all American slaves from their chains.
  • American Literature: Crèvecoeur & Madison
  • Paine:
  • The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
  • Account of a Declaration: Introduction
  • Olaudah Equiano & Phillis Wheatley