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THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT. The 18th-century American Enlightenment was a movement marked by an emphasis on rationality rather than tradition, scientific.

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Presentation on theme: "THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT. The 18th-century American Enlightenment was a movement marked by an emphasis on rationality rather than tradition, scientific."— Presentation transcript:



3 The 18th-century American Enlightenment was a movement marked by an emphasis on rationality rather than tradition, scientific inquiry instead of unquestioning religious dogma, and representative government in place of monarchy. Enlightenment thinkers and writers were devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the natural rights of man.


5 Illuminating the Enlightenment Age of Reason: began in 17th Century England, spread to France and Europe, and then colonies Philosophy of Rene Descartes (1596-1650): rejection of medieval authoritarianism Writings of Voltaire (1694-1778) attack on dogma Founding of Royal Society of London in 1662 for the “improvement of natural knowledge” Discoveries of Isaac Newton (1642-1727): natural universe can be understood by any person; offered a single mathematical law that accounted for movement of tides, earth, stars; beginning of modern science, which also weakened faith in miracles, holy books, idea of divinity of kings


7 Enlightenment John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher - morality is capable of demonstration as well as mathematics Benjamin Franklin - advocated reasonable “science of virtue” Thomas Paine -wrote The Age of Reason - attacked irrationality of traditional Christianity Theology became rational; religion became deistic Deism - informal, unorganized religious movement among upper classes and intellectuals Humanitarianism, natural philosophy, scientific observation Progress became dominant concept of the age Movements arose for social betterment, prison reform, sympathy for Native Americans, slaves, poor and oppressed


9 Enlightenment John Locke wrote Treatises of Civil Government (1690) = governments resulted from agreements between people, not divinely ordained from God to kings to men Enlightenment was an age of dissent, revolution Human mind is a tabula rasa: blank slate, thus man is born neither good nor bad, but the result of experiences By end of 18th Century:faith in human perfectability at its apogee with writings of Jean- Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) - “man is not merely free of evil—he is naturally good.”


11 Enlightenment Thomas Paine wrote and spoke of the rights of man (and woman) Thomas Jefferson - “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” Writers used the idea of a new Rome/new Athens— neoclassicism—in their works, with ideals of clarity, decorum, regularity; exhibited “ clear sense” and “ mathematical plainness” Prose: rhythm of cultivated speech; poetry: measured cadence of heroic couplet; drama: unities of time, place, action John Dryden (1631-1700) glorious founder of neoclassicism Alexander Pope (1688-1744) splendid high priest of neoclassicism By mid-18th Century, neoclassicism gave way to romanticism - sentimentalism, extravagant feelings, emotionalism Idea of “noble savage” permeated writings of the wilderness, of primitive man


13 An Emerging American Literature Beginning of the 18th Century, colonies had one newspaper; by 1800 there were 200 Benjamin Franklin began first American magazine - General Magazine, in Philadelphia in 1741; by 1800, 91 magazines Franklin exemplified and wrote secular ideals, humanist concepts, scientific ideas, master of diplomacy; he was instrumental in starting libraries, schools, hospitals, urban fire stations, post office American writing patterned on 18th Century English writing, but lagged behind slightly First American novel -The Power of Sympathy, by William Hill Brown in 1789


15 Emerging American Literature Penn law in 1700 prohibited stage plays; early colonists thought plays were indecent and corrupting, actors immoral and spread disease First play in America - Thomas Godfrey’s The Prince of Parthia, in 1767; Not performed again until 1915 First comedic play in America - Royall Tyler’s The Contrast American literature in 18th Century dominated by pamphlets, essay, journal articles, newspapers, and the political documents we use still


17 Enlightenment Contradictions American Revolution was an upper-class rebellion Not everyone benefited from “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness” Forcible removal of Native Americans became U.S. policy after the revolution “Science” and “reason” used to justify slavery and “inferiority of darker races” Slavery was the most divisive issue at Constitutional Convention - led to compromises that ultimately helped create the Civil War Nevertheless, founding documents have been interpreted in modern times to support freedoms and liberties for minorities, poor and women

18 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Perfect example of “poor boy makes good” Born in Boston, fifteenth child of poor candlemaker Apprenticed to brother who was a printer – by 16 he was a master printer, writing for brother’s newspaper Used pen name Silence Dogood to write satirical commentary on Boston society, politics, religion At 17 he went to Philadelphia, set up a printing business In 1732 began publishing “Poor Richard’s Almanack” At 42, wealthy and famous, retired from business to devote his life to science and public service Organized American Philosophical Society, University of Penn, first charity hospital, invented bifocal spectacles and lightning rod, made discoveries about electricity

19 Benjamin Franklin Between 1757-1775, represented colonies in England Returned to Philadelphia, was named delegate to Second Constitutional Congress and member of committee to write the Declaration of Independence In 1776 Congress sent him to be Minister to France, to seek aid for faltering Revolution Played the noble rustic, wore fur cap Negotiated Treaty of Alliance in 1778 - joined France and America against England Returned to America in 1783, named as delegate to Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, worked to gain ratification of the Constitution

20 Benjamin Franklin Only American to sign all four documents that created the Republic: Declaration of Independence, Treaty of Alliance with France, Treaty of Peace with England, US Constitution At his death, he was considered the Father of the US Helped create cult of self-reliance - beginnings of transcendentalism and industrial society Europeans thought he was greater than Voltaire, wiser than Rousseau Master of satire and political journalism With his autobiography, he set the form for autobiography Remains most influential and most read of American writers

21 Thomas Paine (1737-1809) Born in Thetford, England, son of Quaker farmer and corset maker After attending grammar school, worked as staymaker for his father, than served as sailor, schoolteacher, government tax collector By 37, he had failed at variety of professions, declared a bankrupt Met Franklin in London; left for America with Letter of Introduction from Franklin In Philadelphia he wrote for Pennsylvania Magazine Published Common Sensein January 1776 - filled with rhetoric of revolution, called for independence from England Within 5 months 100,000 copies had been distributed in Colonies

22 Thomas Paine In 1776 he published first of Crisispapers = “These are the times that try men’s souls” Fifteen more Crisis papers over the next 7 years – argued for revolution, independence After Revolution, Paine devoted time to designing an iron bridge, returned to England in 1787 to find financial backing In England Paine wrote a reply to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution(1790), which supported monarchies and condemned revolutions - The Rights of Man(1791-2) -defended revolution and insisted man not bound to hereditary rulers

23 Thomas Paine British government charged Paine with sedition, order him to trail He fled to France, given French citizenship and seat in National Assembly Opposition to execution of Louis XVI angered Jacobins, he was arrested and imprisoned for ten months James Monroe, Ambassador to France, gained Paine’s release on grounds that Paine was American citizen Paine completed The Age of Reasonin Paris, 1794-6 attack on irrationality of religion and support of deism; vilified by clerics and journalists

24 Thomas Paine In 1802 Paine returned to America, poor and ill His illusions about man’s innate goodness were shattered He died in 1809 – request for burial in a Quaker cemetery was refused Buried on his farm in New Rochelle, New York Ten years later, his remains were exhumed and taken to England—and lost. Final resting place is unknown He preached doctrines of natural rights, equality of men, social contract

25 THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT Benjamin Franklin Thomas Paine

26 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.


28 Its chief values were: Liberty Democracy Republicanism Religious Tolerance

29 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.

30 John Locke (1632-1704) Widely regarded as the Father of Liberalism, John Locke published “Two Treatises of Government,” which helped shape Revolutionary thought. Despite being English, Locke summarily rejected the aristocratic form of government, and maintained that any governing body must grow out of the people and work for the common welfare. Much of the credit goes to Locke for rejecting the idea of original sin, and focusing instead on the self, which he believed was a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which experience writes by creating impressions. This idea of the individual creating his or her own destiny led Benjamin Franklin and others to adopt the ambition of freedom.

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