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An Outline of American Literature. Chapter Two : The Birth of a Nation

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An Outline of American Literature. Chapter Two : The Birth of a Nation

Post by Write Smart Club on Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:50 am

An Outline of American Literature
written by Peter B. High
abridge by Write Smart Club


In this chapter : The Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams,Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John De Crèvecoeur, Timothy Dwight IV,John Trumbull, Joel Barlow, ... and more ;-D




The most memorable writing in the eightteenth century was done by the Founding Fathers - * who were the political leaders who signed the Declaration of Independence or otherwise participated in the American Revolution as leaders of the Patriots, or who participated in drafting the United States Constitution * . They were mainly practical philosophers. Unlike the Puritans, who thought man was creation of failure, the Founding Fathers believed that man, himself, can improve. They wanted to create a society based on happiness and justice

*_______* : from Wikipedia



Benjamin Franklin


The Founding Fathers spirit could be shown in its best and positive side in Benjamin Franklin' s writing. Franklin felt that writing always had to have practical purposes, there fore, in all of his modern, plain-style and easy-to-read work, we can see many 'advices" - which are known by almost the American today

Lost time is never found again
God helps them who help themselves


His great works included : "The Way to Wealth" ( best seller ) ; "Almanac" ; his "Autobiography" - in which he told us about his like up to early manhood ; ... He was also a scientist who wrote many great essays about electricity. With his popularity as a writer, diplomatic activity in support of the American Revolution, he played a big part in American History as well as became a world-famous at his time.




John Adams - the 2nd president of the US


At this time, we also saw a flood of political journalism, which were mainly published as pamphlets. James Otis, John Dickinson and John Adams ( later became the 2nd president of the US ) used their words to attack the British policies. In contrast, there were pro-British side pamphlet-writer such as Samuel Seabury and Daniel Leonard. They, later, had to escaped from the US after the American Revolution




Thomas Paine


The greatest pamphlets-writer in American history is Thomas Paine. His "Common Sense" is the most historically important pamphlet in American history. With clear thinking and exciting language, Pain united American feelings
against England
"There is something absurd in supposing a continent ( American ) to perpetually governed by an island ( Britain )

He later published a series of 13 pamphlets called The Crisis. The Crisis I, which appeared the day after George Washington was defeated in the Battle of Long Island, contained the most famous paragraph in all of his writing

"These are times that try men' s souls. The Summer soldier and the sunshine patriotwill, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country ... Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered"


Only Thomas Jefferson was as important pamphlets writer cause as Paine. Thanks to his beautiful style, "The Declaration of Independence" - the most important documents in the American history - is also a fine work of literature. Later, he wrote "Notes on the State of Virginia", which was the best descriptions of early America. Although he, himself was a Southerner, he attacked slavery system

"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free"

He was also influenced by the Founding Fathers. He belived that human
didn't have to depend on God to improve the world, and should stand on their feet to do all the improving himself

"Nature has implanted in out breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct"

He also saw a danger from the Federalists to the American Republic. The Federalists wanted to creat a stable form of government while Jefferson, in contrast, felt that people had the rights to change the form of society whener they thought it necessary . He even accepted a New Revoluntion happened someday :

" A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as neccessary, in the political world as storms in the physical"



Philip Freneau


In Revolution area, both poetry and prose had a political or "practical
purpose". Philip Freneau - the best best poet in time, wrote many poet with patriotic feelings such as Pictures of Columbus and British Prison Ship. He later wrote several poems supporting Jefferson against the Federalists.


We also see a neoclassical style of writing, which was itself took inspiration from Greek and Roman writers. However, several of them were good and none of them were great


The "Connecticut Wits"were more conservation. They supported the American side in the Revolution but hated the democratic philosophy made by Paine and Jefferson




John Trumbull


John Trumbull was the best satire writer of the "Wits". His most famous work was "The Progress of Dulness" - a story about Tom Brainless, who entered the university because he was "too dull for vice" . Another his great work, called M'Fingal, told us a story about M'Fingal who first support British, finally came to believe that the Americans would win in their war to be independent

Fun fact : Trumbull was also an artist. He draw many portraits for many famous people such as Timothy Dwight ( the portrait of Timothy below is Trumbull's. He was also famous for his historical paintings including his Declaration of Independence, which appears on the reverse of the $ 2 dollar bill




Timothy Dwight IV


Timothy Dwight IV , another famous "Wits" writer. He used neoclassical style of Alexander Pope. In his Greenfield Hill, he described that New World ( America ) is way much better than the Old ( Euro ). For him, American is a land of happiness while the Europeans was land of poverty and war

Fun fact : Timothy Dwight IV, and his son Timothy Dwight V were president of Yale University. There is also a college called "Timothy Dwight" in Yale nowadays



Joel Barlow



Joel Barlow, the third famous "Wits". His Columbiad,in which compares civilization of the Incas with that of English colonies, is considered as the worst long poems in history by most of the modern American critics. However, his best-loved poem, "Hasty Pudding" had nothing to do with politics. In that poem, he used a humorous realistic description of the making of a favorite new England dessert


There were some changes in drama also. Before, drama had only been used as religious education to the Indians. The Puritans even thought that it was "an invention of the devil". In south, far away from the Puritans colonies, there were few theaters. Thomas Godfrey's "Prince of Parthia" perhaps was the first professional production . It wasn't until later Independence that American theater became interesting.


William Dunlap was the most active playwright. Some of his plays are "The Father", "André". "The Contrast", by Royal Tyler was probaly the first play that used characters from the country ( an American character ! really ! ). The contrast is between the silly British manners of Dimple and the American manners of Colonel Manly. Their rivalry for the love of a young lady, and for sure, won by the American man.



John De Crèvecoeur


The development in personalities of American can been seen clearly in "Letters from an American Farmer" of John De Crèvecoeur. Though several of his important works were written in Frend, he considered himself as an American. Therefore, he wrote

"What is this American, this new man. Leaving behin dhim all his ancient prejudices, and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new ranks he hold"

Hedidn't describe America as a utopia nor did he expect it to become one. He saw more hope and health in a society where "individuals of all nations are melted into new race of men". The ideal of an American ream to him is a social man who co-operates with his neighbors while earning his own living from farming

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