American Literature/Enlightenment Period (1760s-1820s)
THE EMERGENCE OF A NATION[edit | edit source]
PROGRESS TOWARD NATIONALITY[edit | edit source]
The French and Indian War, which began in 1754, served its purpose in making the colonists feel that they were one people. At this time most of them were living on the seacoast from Georgia to Maine, and had not yet even crossed the great Appalachian range of mountains. The chief men of one colony knew little of the leaders in the other colonies. This war made George Washington known outside of Virginia. There was not much interchange of literature between the two leading colonies, Virginia and Massachusetts. Prior to this time, the other colonies had not produced much that had literary value. No national literature could be written until the colonists were welded together.
The French and Indian War, which decided whether France or England was to be supreme in America, exposed the colonists to a common danger. They fought side by side against the French and Indians, and learned that the defeat of one was the defeat of all. After a desperate struggle France lost, and the Anglo-Saxon race was dominant on the new continent. By the treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, England became the possessor of Canada and the land east of the Mississippi river
THE REVOLUTION[edit | edit source]
All of the colonies had been under English rule, although they had in large part managed in one way or another to govern themselves. At the close of the French and Indian War, the colonists had not thought of breaking away from England, although they had learned the lesson of union against a common foe. George III. came to the throne in 1760. By temperament he was unusually adapted to play his part in changing the New World's history. He was determined to rule according to his own personal inclinations. He dominated his cabinet and controlled Parliament by bribery. He decided that the American colonies should feel the weight of his authority, and in 1763 his prime minister, George Grenville, undertook to execute measures in restraint of colonial trade. Numbers of commodities, like tobacco, for instance, could not be traded with France or Spain or Holland, but must be sent to England. If there was any profit to be made in selling goods to foreign nations, England would make that profit. He also planned to tax the colonists and to quarter British troops among them. These measures aroused the colonies to armed resistance and led to the Revolutionary War, which began in 1775.
Freneau, a poet of the Revolution, thus expresses in verse some of these events:
"When a certain great king, whose initial is G, Shall force stamps upon paper and folks to drink tea; When these folks burn his tea and stampt paper like stubble, You may guess that this king is then coming to trouble."
THE ESSAYISTS[edit | edit source]
The pen helped to prepare the way for the sword and to arouse and prolong the enthusiasm of those who had taken arms. Before the battle of Lexington (1775), writers were busy on both sides of the dispute, for no great movement begins without opposition. Many colonists did not favor resistance to England. Even at the time of the first battle, comparatively few wished absolute separation from the mother country.
THOMAS PAINE (1737-1809)[edit | edit source]
He was an Englishman who came to America in 1774 and speedily made himself master of colonial thought and feeling. Early in 1776 he published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense, which advocated complete political independence of England. The sledge hammer blows which he struck hastened the Declaration of Independence._ Note the energy, the directness, and the employment of the concrete method in the following:
"But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore, the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach.... This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still."
In the latter part of 1776 Washington wrote, "If every nerve is not strained to recruit the new army with all possible expedition, I think the game is pretty nearly up." In those gloomy days, sharing the privations of the army, Thomas Paine wrote the first number of an irregularly issued periodical, known as the Crisis, beginning:
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Some have said that the pen of Thomas Paine was worth more to the cause of liberty than twenty thousand men. In the darkest hours he inspired the colonists with hope and enthusiasm. Whenever the times seemed to demand another number of the Crisis, it was forthcoming. Sixteen of these appeared during the progress of the struggle for liberty. He had an almost Shakespearean intuition of what would appeal to the exigencies of each case. After the Americans had triumphed, he went abroad to aid the French, saying, "Where Liberty is not, there is my home." He died in America in 1809. He is unfortunately more remembered for his skeptical Age of Reason than for his splendid services to the cause of liberty.
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1826)[edit | edit source]
He was the third President of the United States, but a literary figure in his own right as well. He wrote much political prose and many letters, which have been gathered into ten large volumes. Ignoring these, he left directions that the words, "Author of the Declaration of American Independence," should immediately follow his name on his monument. No other American prose writer has, in an equal number of words, yet surpassed this Declaration of Independence. Its influence has encircled the world and modified the opinions of nations as widely separated as the French and the Japanese.
Jefferson may have borrowed some of his ideas from Magna Charta (1215) and the Petition of Right (1628); he may have incorporated in this Declaration the yearnings that thousands of human souls had already felt, but he voiced those yearnings so well that his utterances have become classic. It has been said that he "poured the soul of the continent" into that Declaration, but he did more than that. He poured into it the soul of all freedom-loving humanity, and he was accepted as the spokesman of the dweller on the Seine as enthusiastically as of the revolutionists in America. Those who have misconstrued the meaning of his famous expression, "All men are created equal" have been met with the adequate reply, "No intelligent man has ever misconstrued it except intentionally."
America has no Beowulf celebrating the slaying of land-devastating monsters, but she has in this Declaration a deathless battle song against the monsters that would throttle Liberty. Outside of Holy Writ, what words are more familiar to our ears than these?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Every student will find his comprehension of American literature aided by a careful study of this Declaration. This trumpet-tongued declaration of the fact that every man has an equal right with every other man to his own life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has served as an ideal to inspire some of the best things in our literature. This ideal has not yet been completely reached, but it is finding expression in every effort for the social and moral improvements of our population. Jefferson went a step beyond the old Puritans in maintaining that happiness is a worthy object of pursuit. Modern altruists are also working on this line, demanding a fuller moral and industrial liberty, and endeavoring to develop a more widespread capacity for happiness.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1757-1804)[edit | edit source]
Because of his wonderful youthful precocity, he reminds us of Jonathan Edwards (p. 50). In 1774, at the age of seventeen, Hamilton wrote in answer to a Tory who maintained that England had given New York no charter of rights, and that she could not complain that her rights had been taken away:
"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
A student of American constitutional history says of Hamilton's pamphlets: "They show great maturity, a more remarkable maturity than has ever been exhibited by any other person, at so early an age, in the same department of thought."
After the Americans were victorious in the war, Hamilton suggested that a constitutional convention be called. For seven years this suggestion was not followed, but in 1787 delegates met from various states and framed a federal constitution to be submitted to the states for ratification. Hamilton was one of the leading delegates. After the convention had completed its work, it seemed probable that the states would reject the proposed constitution. To win its acceptance, Hamilton, in collaboration with JAMES MADISON (1751–1836) and JOHN JAY (1745–1829), wrote the famous Federalist papers. There were eighty-five of these, but Hamilton wrote more than both of his associates together. These papers have been collected into a volume, and to this day they form a standard commentary on our Constitution. This work and Hamilton's eloquence before the New York convention for ratification helped to carry the day for the Constitution and to terminate a period of dissension which was tending toward anarchy.
THE ORATORS[edit | edit source]
There are times in the history of a nation when there is unusual need for the orator to persuade, to arouse, and to encourage his countrymen. Many influential colonists disapproved of the Revolution; they wrote against it and talked against it. When the war progressed slowly, entailing not only severe pecuniary loss but also actual suffering to the revolutionists, many lost their former enthusiasm and were willing to have peace at any price. At this period in our history the orator was as necessary as the soldier. Orators helped to launch the Revolution, to continue the war, and, after it was finished, to give the country united constitutional government. It will be instructive to make the acquaintance of some of these orators and to learn the secret of their power.
JAMES OTIS (1725-1783)[edit | edit source]
Born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard., he studied literature for two years after he graduated and then became a lawyer. He was appointed to the position of king's advocate-general, a high-salaried office. There came an order from England, allowing the king's officers to search the houses of Americans at any time on mere suspicion of the concealment of smuggled goods. Otis resigned his office and took the side of the colonists, attacking the constitutionality of a law that allowed the right of unlimited search and that was really designed to curtail the trade of the colonies. He had the advantage of many modern orators in having something to say on his subject, in feeling deeply interested in it, and in talking to people who were also interested in the same thing. Without these three essentials, there cannot be oratory of the highest kind. We can imagine the voice of Otis trembling with feeling as he said in 1761:
"Now one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses, when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court, can inquire."
We may to-day be more interested in other things than in the homes and unrestricted trade of our colonial ancestors, but Otis was willing to give up a lucrative office to speak for the rights of the humblest cottager. He, like the majority of the orators of the Revolution, also possessed another quality, often foreign to the modern orator. What this quality is will appear in this quotation from his speech:
"Let the consequences be what they will, I am determined to proceed. The only principles of public conduct that are worthy of a gentleman or a man are to sacrifice estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of his country. These manly sentiments, in private life, make the good citizen; in public life, the patriot and the hero."
John Adams, who became the second President of the United States, listened to this speech for five hours, and called Otis "a flame of fire." "Then and there," said Adams, with pardonable exaggeration, "the child Independence was born."
PATRICK HENRY (1736-1799)[edit | edit source]
A young Virginia lawyer, he stood before the First Continental Congress, in 1774, saying:
"Where are your landmarks, your boundaries of Colonies? The distinctions between Virginians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."
These words had electrical effect on the minds of his listeners, and helped to weld the colonies together. In 1775 we can hear him again speaking before a Virginian Convention of Delegates:
"Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts....
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? ...
"Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
It is hardly too much to say that these words have communicated to the entire American nation an intenser desire for liberty, that their effect has not yet passed away, and that they may during the coming centuries serve to awaken Americans in many a crisis.
SAMUEL ADAMS (1722-1803)[edit | edit source]
He was a Bostonian and graduate of Harvard, probably gave his time in fuller measure to the cause of independence than any other writer or speaker. For nine years he was a member of the Continental Congress. When there was talk of peace between the colonies and the mother country, he had the distinction of being one of two Americans for whom England proclaimed in advance that there would be no amnesty granted. We can seem to hear him in 1776 in the Philadelphia State House, replying to the argument that the colonists should obey England, since they were her children:
"Who among you, my countrymen, that is a father, would claim authority to make your child a slave because you had nourished him in his infancy?"
After he had signed the _Declaration of Independence,_ he spoke to the Pennsylvanians like a Puritan of old:
"We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have bowed down to has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayer, and a heart like the nether millstone. We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds His subjects assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them."
These sentences plainly show the influence of biblical thought and diction. A century before, this compound of patriot, politician, orator, and statesman would also have been a clergyman.
An examination of these three typical orators of the Revolution will show that they gained their power (1) from intense interest in their subject matter, (2) from masterful knowledge of that matter, due either to first-hand acquaintance with it or to liberal culture or to both, (3) from the fact that the subject of their orations appealed forcibly to the interest of that special time, (4) from their character and personality. Most of what they said makes dry reading to-day, but we shall occasionally find passages, like Patrick Henry's apotheosis of liberty, which speak to the ear of all time and which have in them something of a Homeric or Miltonic ring.
INCREASING INFLUENCE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION[edit | edit source]
Not one of the great orators of the Revolution was a clergyman. The power of the clergy in political affairs was declining, while the legal profession was becoming more and more influential. James Otis, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay (p. 71) were lawyers. Life was becoming more diversified, and there were avenues other than theology attractive to the educated man. At the same time, we must remember that the clergy have never ceased to be a mighty power in American life. They were not silent or uninfluential during the Revolution. Soon after the battle of Bunker Hill, John Adams wrote from Philadelphia to his wife in Boston, asking, "Does Mr. Wibird preach against oppression and other cardinal vices of the time? Tell him the clergy here of every denomination, not excepting the Episcopalian, thunder and lighten every Sabbath."
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 1706-1790[edit | edit source]
Franklin's Autobiography stands first among works of its kind in American literature. The young person who does not read it misses both profit and entertainment. Some critics have called it "the equal of Robinson Crusoe, one of the few everlasting books in the English language." In this small volume, begun in 1771, Franklin tells us that he was born in Boston in 1706, one of the seventeen children of a poor tallow chandler, that his branch of the Franklin family had lived for three hundred years or more in the village of Ecton, Northamptonshire, where the head of the family, in Queen Mary's reign, read from an English Bible concealed under a stool, while a child watched for the coming of the officers. He relates how he attended school from the age of eight to ten, when he had to leave to help his father mold and wick candles. His meager schooling was in striking contrast to the Harvard education of Cotton Mather and the Yale training of Jonathan Edwards, who was only three years Franklin's senior. But no man reaches Franklin's fame without an education. His early efforts to secure this are worth giving in his own language:
"From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased with the _Pilgrim's Progress_, my first collection was of John Bunyan's works in separate little volumes.... Plutarch's _Lives_ there was in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De Foe's, called an _Essay on Projects_, and another of Dr. Mather's, called _Essays to do Good_, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.... Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night."
He relates how he taught himself to write by reading and reproducing in his own language the papers from Addison's Spectator. Franklin says that the "little ability" in writing, developed through his self-imposed tasks, was a principal means of his advancement in after life.
He learned the printer's trade in Boston, and ran away at the age of seventeen to Philadelphia, where he worked at the same trade. Keith, the proprietary governor, took satanic pleasure in offering to purchase a printing outfit for the eighteen-year-old boy, to make him independent. Keith sent the boy to London to purchase this outfit, assuring him that the proper letters to defray the cost would be sent on the same ship. No such letters were ever written, and the boy found himself without money three thousand miles from home. By working at the printer's trade he supported himself for eighteen months in London. He relates how his companions at the press drank six pints of strong beer a day, while he proved that the "Water-American," as he was called, was stronger than any of them. The workmen insisted that he should contribute to the general fund for drink. He refused, but so many things happened to his type whenever he left the room that he came to the following conclusion: "Notwithstanding the master's protection, I found myself oblig'd to comply and pay the money, convinc'd of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually." Such comments on the best ways of dealing with human nature are frequent in the _Autobiography_.
At the age of twenty, he returned to Philadelphia, much wiser for his experience. Here he soon had a printing establishment of his own. By remarkable industry he had at the age of forty-two made sufficient money to be able to retire from the active administration of this business. He defined leisure as "time for doing something useful." When he secured this leisure, he used it principally for the benefit of others. For this reason, he could write in his _Autobiography_ at the age of seventy-six:
"... were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition, to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable. But though this were denied, I should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life."
The twenty-first century shows an awakened sense of civic responsibility, and yet it would be difficult to name a man who has done more for his commonwealth than Franklin. He started the first subscription library, organized the first fire department, improved the postal service, helped to pave and clean the streets, invented the Franklin stove, for which he refused to take out a patent, took decided steps toward improving education and founding the University of Pennsylvania, and helped establish a needed public hospital. The _Autobiography_ shows his pleasure at being told that there was no such thing as carrying through a public-spirited project unless he was concerned in it.
His electrical discoveries, especially his identification of lightning with electricity, gained him world-wide fame. Harvard and Yale gave him honorary degrees. England made him a Fellow of the Royal Society and awarded him the Copley Medal. The foremost scientists in France gave him enthusiastic praise.
The _Autobiography_, ending with 1757, does not tell how he won his fame as a statesman. In 1764 he went to England as colonial agent to protest against the passage of the Stamp Act. All but two and one half of the next twenty years he spent abroad, in England and France. The report of his examination in the English House of Commons, relative to the repeal of the Stamp Act, impressed both Europe and America with his wonderful capacity.
Never before had an American given Europe such an exhibition of knowledge, powers of argument, and shrewdness, tempered with tact and good humor. In 1773 he increased his reputation as a writer and threw more light on English colonial affairs by publishing, in London, Rules for Reducing a Great Empire to a Small One, and An Edict by the King of Prussia.
In 1776, at the age of seventy, he became commissioner to the court of France, where he remained until 1785. Every student of American history knows the part he played there in popularizing the American Revolution, until France aided us with her money and her navy. It is doubtful if any man has ever been more popular away from home than Franklin was in France. The French regarded him as "the personification of the rights of man." They followed him on the streets, gave him almost frantic applause when he appeared in public, put his portrait in nearly every house and on almost every snuff box, and bought a Franklin stove for their houses.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1785, revered by his country. He was the only man who had signed four of the most famous documents in American history: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the treaty of peace with England at the close of the Revolution, and the Constitution of the United States. He had also become, as he remains to-day, America's most widely read colonial writer. When he died in 1790, the American Congress and the National Assembly of France went into mourning.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS AS AN AUTHOR[edit | edit source]
Franklin is best known for his philosophy of the practical and the useful. Jonathan Edwards turned his attention to the next world; Franklin, to this world. The gulf is as vast between these two men as if they had lived on different planets. To the end of his life, Franklin's energies were bent toward improving the conditions of this mundane existence. He advises honesty, not because an eternal spiritual law commands it, but because it is the best policy. He needs to be supplemented by the great spiritual teachers. He must not be despised for this reason, for the great spiritual forces fail when they neglect the material foundations imposed on mortals. Franklin was as necessary as Jonathan Edwards. Franklin knew the importance of those foundation habits, without which higher morality is not possible. He impressed on men the necessity of being regular, temperate, industrious, saving, of curbing desire, and of avoiding vice. The very foundations of character rest on regularity, on good habits so inflexibly formed that it is painful to break them. Franklin's success in laying these foundations was phenomenal. His Poor Richard's Almanac, begun in 1733, was one of his chief agencies in reaching the common people. They read, reread, and acted on such proverbs as the following, which he published in this Almanac from year to year. (The figures in parenthesis indicate the year of publication.)
"He has changed his one ey'd horse for a blind one" (1733).
"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead" (1735).
"Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it" (1736).
"Fly pleasures and they'll follow you" (1738).
"Have you somewhat to do to-morrow; do it to-day" (1742).
"Tart words make no friends: a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar" (1744).
In 1757 Franklin gathered together what seemed to him the most striking of these proverbs and published them as a preface to the _Almanac_ for 1758. This preface, the most widely read of all his writings, has since been known as _The Way to Wealth_. It had been translated into nearly all European languages before the end of the nineteenth century. It is still reprinted in whole or part almost every year by savings banks and societies in France and England, as well as in the United States. "Dost thou love life?" asks Poor Richard in _The Way to Wealth_. "Then," he continues, "do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of." Franklin modestly disclaimed much originality in the selection of these proverbs, but it is true that he made many of them more definite, incisive, and apt to lodge in the memory. He has influenced, and he still continues to influence, the industry and thrift of untold numbers. In one of our large cities, a branch library, frequented by the humble and unlearned, reports that in one year his _Autobiography_ was called for four hundred times, and a life of him, containing many of Poor Richard's sayings, was asked for more than one thousand times.
He is the first American writer to show a keen sense of humor. There may be traces of humor in _The Simple Cobbler of Agawam_ (p. 41) and in Cotton Mather (p. 46), but Franklin has a rich vein. He used this with fine effect when he was colonial agent in England. He determined to make England see herself from the American point of view, and so he published anonymously in a newspaper _An Edict of the King of Prussia_. This _Edict_ proclaimed that it was a matter of common knowledge that Britain had been settled by Hengist and Horsa and other German colonists, and that, in consequence of this fact, the King of Prussia had the right to regulate the commerce, manufactures, taxes, and laws of the English. Franklin gave in this _Edict_ the same reasons and embodied the same restrictions, which seemed so sensible to George III. and the Tories. Franklin was the guest of an English Lord, when a man burst into the room with the newspaper containing the _Edict_, saying, "Here's news for ye! Here's the King of Prussia claiming a right to this kingdom!"
In writing English prose, Franklin was fortunate in receiving instruction from Bunyan and Addison. The pleasure of reading Franklin's _Autobiography_ is increased by his simple, easy, natural way of relating events. Simplicity, practicality, suggestiveness, common sense, were his leading attributes. His sense of humor kept him from being tiresome and made him realize that the half may be greater than the whole. The two people most useful to the age in which they lived were George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
JOHN WOOLMAN, 1720-1772[edit | edit source]
A great altruist, this Quaker supplements Franklin in teaching that the great aim in life should be to grow more capable of seeing those spiritual realities which were before invisible. Life's most beautiful realities can never be seen with the physical eye. The _Journal_ of John Woolman will help one to increase his range of vision for what is best worth seeing. It will broaden the reader's sympathies and develop a keener sense of responsibility for lessening the misery of the world and for protecting even the sparrow from falling. It will cultivate precisely that side of human nature which stands most in need of development. To emphasize these points, Charles Lamb said, "Get the writings of John Woolman by heart," and Whittier wrote of Woolman's _Journal_, which he edited and made easily accessible, "I have been awed and solemnized by the presence of a serene and beautiful spirit redeemed of the Lord from all selfishness, and I have been made thankful for the ability to recognize and the disposition to love him."
John Woolman was born of Quaker parentage in Northampton, New Jersey. He never received much education. Early in life he became a shopkeeper's clerk and then a tailor. This lack of early training and broad experience affects his writings, which are not remarkable for ease of expression or for imaginative reach; but their moral beauty and intensity more than counterbalance such deficiencies.
A part of his time he spent traveling as an itinerant preacher. He tried to get Quakers to give up their slaves, and he refused to write wills that bequeathed slaves. He pleaded for compassion for overworked oxen and horses. He journeyed among the Indians, and endeavored to improve their condition. It cut him to the quick to see traders try to intoxicate them so as to get their skins and furs for almost nothing. He took passage for England in the steerage, and learned the troubles of the sailors. From this voyage he never returned, but died in York in 1772.
In the year of his death, he made in his _Journal_ the following entry, which is typical of his gentle, loving spirit:
"So great is the hurry in the spirit of this world, that in aiming to do business quickly and to gain wealth, the creation at this day doth loudly groan."
When a former president of Harvard issued a list of books for actual reading, he put Franklin's _Autobiography_ first and John Woolman's _Journal_ second. Franklin looked steadily at this world, Woolman at the next. Each record is supplementary to the other.
EARLY AMERICAN FICTION: THE FIRST ATTEMPTS[edit | edit source]
MRS. SARAH MORTON[edit | edit source]
She published in Boston in 1789 a novel entitled The Power of Sympathy. This is probably the first American novel to appear in print. The reason for such a late appearance of native fiction may be ascribed to the religious character of the early colonists and to the ascendency of the clergy, who would not have tolerated novel reading by members of their flocks. Jonathan Edwards complained that some of his congregation were reading forbidden books, and he gave from the pulpit the names of the guilty parties. These books were probably English novels. Sir Leslie Stephen thinks that Richardson's _Pamela_ (1740) may have been one of the books under the ban. There is little doubt that a Puritan church member would have been disciplined if he had been known to be a reader of some of Fielding's works, like Joseph Andrews (1742). The Puritan clergy, even at a later period, would not sanction the reading of novels unless they were of the dry, vapid type, like the earliest Sunday school books. Jonathan Edwards wrote the story of one of his youthful experiences, but it was "the story of a spiritual experience so little involved with the earth, that one might fancy it the story of a soul that had missed being born."
Timothy Dwight became president of Yale in 1795, said that there is a great gulf fixed between novels and the Bible. Even later than 1800 there was a widespread feeling that the reading of novels imperiled the salvation of the soul. To-day we know that certain novels are as dangerous to the soul as leprosy to the body, but we have become more discriminating. We have learned that the right type of fiction, read in moderation, cultivates the imagination, broadens the sympathetic powers, and opens up a new, interesting, and easily accessible land of enjoyment.
A quarter of a century before the _Declaration of Independence_, the great eighteenth-century English writers of fiction had given a new creation to the literature of England. Samuel Richardson (1689–1761) had published _Pamela_ in 1740 and _Clarissa Harlowe_ in 1748. Henry Fielding (1707–1754) had given his immortal _Tom Jones_ to the world in 1749.
Mrs. Morton's _Power of Sympathy_, a novel written with a moral purpose, is a poorly constructed story of characters whom we fortunately do not meet outside of books. One of these characters, looking at some flowers embroidered by the absent object of his affections, says, "It shall yield more fragrance to my soul than all the bouquets in the universe."
The majority of the early novels, in aiming to teach some lesson, show the influence of Samuel Richardson, the father of English fiction. This didactic spirit appears in sober statement of the most self-evident truths. "Death, my dear Maria, is a serious event," says the heroine of one of these novels. Another characteristic is tepid or exaggerated sentimentality. The heroine of _The Power of Sympathy_ dies of a broken heart "in a lingering graceful manner."
At least twenty-two American novels had been published between 1789 and the appearance of Charles Brockden Brown's _Wieland_ 1798. Only an antiquary need linger over these. We must next study the causes that led to a pronounced change in fiction.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CLASSIC AND THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL[edit | edit source]
The next step in fiction will show a breaking away from the classic or didactic school of Samuel Richardson and a turning toward the new Gothic or romantic school. To understand these terms, we must know something of the English influences that led to this change.
For the first two thirds of the eighteenth century, English literature shows the dominating influence of the classic school. Alexander Pope (1688–1744) in poetry and Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) in prose were the most influential of this school. They are called _classicists_ because they looked to the old classic authors for their guiding rules. Horace, more than any other classic writer, set the standard for poetry. Pope and his followers cared more for the excellence of form than for the worth of the thought. Their keynote was:
"True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd, What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed."
In poetry the favorite form was a couplet, that is, two lines which rhymed and usually made complete sense. This was aptly termed "rocking horse meter." The prose writers loved the balanced antithetical sentences used by Dr. Johnson in his comparison of Pope and Dryden:
"If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing.... Dryden is read with frequent astonishment and Pope with perpetual delight."
Such overemphasis placed on mere form tended to draw the attention of the writer away from the matter. The American poetry of this period suffered more than the prose from this formal influence.
Since the motto of the classicists was polished regularity, they avoided the romantic, irregular, and improbable, and condemned the _Arabian Nights_, _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, _The Tempest_, and other "monstrous irregularities of Shakespeare." This school loved to teach and to point out shortcomings, hence the terms "didactic" and "satiric" are often applied to it.
The last part of the eighteenth century showed a revolt against the classicists. Victory came to the new romantic school, which included authors like Wordsworth (1770–1850), Coleridge (1772–1834), Shelley (1792–1822), and Keats (1795-1821). The terms "romantic" and "imaginative" were at first in great measure synonymous. The romanticists maintained that a reality of the imagination might be as satisfying and as important as a reality of the prosaic reason, since the human mind had the power of imagining as well as of thinking.
The term "Gothic" was first applied to fiction by Horace Walpole (1717–1797), who gave to his famous romance the title of "_The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Romance_" (1764). "Gothic" is here used in the same sense as "romantic." Gothic architecture seemed highly imaginative and overwrought in comparison with the severe classic order. In attempting to avoid the old classic monotony, the Gothic school of fiction was soon noted for its lavish use of the unusual, the mysterious, and the terrible. Improbability, or the necessity for calling in the supernatural to untie some knot, did not seriously disturb this school. The standard definition of "Gothic" in fiction soon came to include an element of strangeness added to terror. When the taste for the extreme Gothic declined, there ensued a period of modified romanticism, which demanded the unusual and occasionally the impossible. This influence persisted in the fiction of the greatest writers, until the coming of the realistic school (p. 367). We are now better prepared to understand the work of Charles Brockden Brown, the first great American writer of romance, and to pass from him to Cooper, Hawthorne, and Poe.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN, 1771-1810[edit | edit source]
Philadelphia has the honor of being the birthplace of Brown, who was the first professional man of letters in America. Franklin is a more famous writer than Brown, but, unlike Brown, he did not make literature the business of his life. Descended from ancestors who came over on the ship with William Penn, Brown at the age of ten had read, with Quaker seriousness, every book that he could find. He did not go to college, but studied law, which he soon gave up for literature as a profession.
Depression from ill health and the consciousness that he would probably die young colored all his romances. He has the hero of one of his tales say, "We are exposed, in common with the rest of mankind, to innumerable casualties; but, if these be shunned, we are unalterably fated to die of consumption." In 1810, before he had reached forty, he fell a victim to that disease. Near the end of his days, he told his wife that he had not known what health was longer than a half hour at a time.
Brown deserves a place in the history of American literature for his four romances: _Wieland_, _Ormond_, _Arthur Mervyn_, and _Edgar Huntly_. These were all published within the space of three years from 1798, the date of the publication of _Wieland_. These romances show a striking change from the American fiction which had preceded them. They are no longer didactic and sentimental, but Gothic or romantic. Working under English influence, Brown gave to America her first great Gothic romances. The English romance which influenced him the most was _Caleb Williams_ (1794), the work of William Godwin (1756–1836), the father-in-law of the poet Shelley.
_Wieland_ is considered the strongest of Brown's Gothic romances, but it does not use as distinctively American materials as his three other stories of this type, _Ormond_, _Arthur Mervyn_, or _Memoirs of the Year 1793_, and _Edgar Huntly_. The results of his own experience with the yellow fever plague in Philadelphia give an American touch to _Ormond_ and _Arthur Mervyn_, and at the same time add the Gothic element of weirdness and horror. _Arthur Mervyn_ is far the better of the two.
_Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleep Walker_, shows a Gothic characteristic in its very title. This book is noteworthy in the evolution of American fiction, not because of the strange actions of the sleep walker, but for the reason that Brown here deliberately determines, as he states in his prefatory note _To the Public_ to give the romance an American flavor, by using "the incidents of Indian hostility and the perils of the Western wilderness." If we assume that John Smith's story of Pocahontas is not fiction, then to Brown belongs the honor of first recognizing in the Indian a valuable literary asset from the Gothic romancer's point of view. In Chapter XVI., he reverses Captain Smith's story and has Edgar Huntly rescue a young girl from torture and kill an Indian. In the next two chapters, the hero kills four Indians. The English recognized this introduction of a new element of strangeness added to terror and gave Brown the credit of developing an "Americanized" Gothic. He disclosed to future writers of fiction, like James Fenimore Cooper (p. 125), a new mine of American materials. This romance has a second distinguishing characteristic, for Brown surpassed contemporary British novelists in taking his readers into the open air, which forms the stage setting for the adventures of _Edgar Huntly_. The hero of that story loves to observe the birds, the squirrels, and the old Indian woman "plucking the weeds from among her corn, bruising the grain between two stones, and setting her snares for rabbits and opossums." He takes us where we can feel the exhilaration from "a wild heath, whistled over by October blasts meagerly adorned with the dry stalks of scented shrubs and the bald heads of the sapless mullein."
Brown's place in the history of fiction is due to the fact that he introduced the Gothic romance to American literature. He loved to subject the weird, the morbid, the terrible, to a psychological analysis. In this respect he suggests Hawthorne, although there are more points of difference than of likeness between him and the great New England romancer. In weird subject matter, but not in artistic ability, he reminds us of Poe. Brown could devise striking incidents, but he lacked the power to weave them together in a well-constructed plot. He sometimes forgot that important incidents needed further elaboration or reference, and he occasionally left them suspended in mid-air. His lack of humor was too often responsible for his imposing too much analysis and explanation on his readers. Although he did not hesitate to use the marvelous in his plots, his realistic mind frequently impelled him to try to explain the wonderful occurrences. He thus attempted to bring in ventriloquism to account for the mysterious voices which drove Wieland to kill his wife and children.
It is, however, not difficult for a modern reader to become so much interested in the first volume of _Arthur Mervyn_ as to be unwilling to leave it unfinished. Brown will probably be longest remembered for his strong pictures of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, his use of the Indian in romance, and his introduction of the outdoor world of the wilderness and the forest.
POETRY--THE HARTFORD WITS[edit | edit source]
The Americans were slow to learn that political independence could be far more quickly gained than literary independence. A group of poets, sometimes known as the Hartford Wits, determined to take the kingdom of poetry by violence. The chief of these were three Yale graduates, Timothy Dwight, Joel Barlow, and John Trumbull.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT (1752-1817)[edit | edit source]
Before he became president of Yale, Dwight determined to immortalize himself by an epic poem. He accordingly wrote the _Conquest of Canaan_ in 9671 lines, beginning:
"The Chief, whose arms to Israel's chosen band Gave the fair empire of the promis'd land, Ordain'd by Heaven to hold the sacred sway, Demands my voice, and animates the lay."
This poem is written in the rocking horse couplets of Pope, and it is well-nigh unreadable to-day. It is doubtful if twenty-five people in our times have ever read it through. Even where the author essays fine writing, as in the lines:
"On spicy shores, where beauteous morning reigns, Or Evening lingers o'er her favorite plains,"
there is nothing to awaken a single definite image, nothing but glittering generalities. Dwight's best known poetry is found in his song, _Columbia_, composed while he was a chaplain in the Revolutionary War:
"Columbia, Columbia, to glory arise, The queen of the world, and the child of the skies."
JOEL BARLOW (1755-1812)[edit | edit source]
He was, like Dwight, a chaplain in the war, but he became later a financier and diplomat, as well as a poet. He determined in _The Vision of Columbus_ (1787), afterwards expanded into the ponderous _Columbiad_, to surpass Homer and all preceding epics. Barlow's classical couplets thus present a general in the Revolution, ordering a cannonade:
"When at his word the carbon cloud shall rise, And well-aim'd thunders rock the shores and skies."
Hawthorne ironically suggested that the _Columbiad_ should be dramatized and set to the accompaniment of cannon and thunder and lightning. Barlow, like many others, certainly did not understand that bigness is not necessarily greatness. He is best known by some lines from his less ambitious _Hasty Pudding_:
"E'en in thy native regions, how I blush To hear the Pennsylvanians call thee _Mush!_"
JOHN TRUMBULL (1750-1831)[edit | edit source]
The greatest of the Hartford wits was John Trumbull. His father, a Congregational clergyman living at Waterbury, Connecticut, prepared boys for college. In 1757 he sent two candidates to Yale to be examined, one pupil of nineteen, the other of seven. Commenting on this, the _Connecticut Gazette_ of September 24, 1757, says, "the Son of Rev'd. Mr. Trumble of Waterbury ... passed a good Examination, although but little more than seven years of age; but on account of his Youth his father does not intend he shall at present continue at College." This boy waited until he was thirteen to enter Yale, where he graduated in due course. After teaching for two years in that college, he became a lawyer by profession. Although he did not die until 1831, the literary work by which he is known was finished early.
Trumbull occupied the front rank of the satiric writers of that age. Early in his twenties he satirized in classical couplets the education of the day, telling how the students:--
"Read ancient authors o'er in vain, Nor taste one beauty they contain, And plodding on in one dull tone, Gain ancient tongues and lose their own."
His masterpiece was a satire on British sympathizers. He called this poem _M'Fingal_, after a Scotch Tory. The first part was published in 1775 and it gave a powerful impetus to the Continental cause. It has been said that the poem "is to be considered as one of the forces of the Revolution, because as a satire on the Tories it penetrated into every farmhouse, and sent the rustic volunteers laughing into the ranks of Washington and Greene."
One cannot help thinking of Butler's _Hudibras_ (1663), when reading _M'Fingal_. Of course the satiric aim is different in the two poems. Butler ridiculed the Puritans and upheld the Royalists, while Trumbull discharged his venomed shafts at the adherents of the king. In _M'Fingal_, a Tory bent on destroying a liberty pole drew his sword on a Whig, who had no arms except a spade. The Whig, however, employed his weapon with such good effect on the Tory that:
"His bent knee fail'd, and void of strength, Stretch'd on the ground his manly length. Like ancient oak, o'erturn'd, he lay, Or tower to tempests fall'n a prey, Or mountain sunk with all his pines, Or flow'r the plough to dust consigns, And more things else--but all men know 'em, If slightly versed in epic poem."
Some of the incisive lines from _M'Fingal_ have been wrongly ascribed to Butler's _Hudibras_. The following are instances:
"No man e'er felt the halter draw With good opinion of the law."
"For any man with half an eye What stands before him may espy; But optics sharp it needs, I ween, To see what is not to be seen."
Trumbull's _M'Fingal_ is a worthy predecessor of Lowell's _Biglow Papers_. Trumbull wrote his poem as a "weapon of warfare." The first part of _M'Fingal_ passed through some forty editions, many of them printed without the author's consent. This fact is said to have led Connecticut to pass a copyright law in 1783, and to have thus constituted a landmark in American literary history.
PHILIP FRENEAU, 1752-1832[edit | edit source]
New York City was the birthplace of Freneau, the greatest poet born in America before the Revolutionary War. He graduated at Princeton in 1771, and became a school teacher, sea captain, poet, and editor.
The Revolution broke out when he was a young man, and he was moved to write satiric poetry against the British. Tyler says that "a running commentary on his Revolutionary satires would be an almost complete commentary on the whole Revolutionary struggle; nearly every important emergency and phase of which are photographed in his keen, merciless, and often brilliant lines." In one of these satires Freneau represents Jove investigating the records of Fate:
"And first on the top of a column he read-- Of a king with a mighty soft place in his head, Who should join in his temper the ass and the mule, The Third of his name and by far the worst fool."
We can imagine the patriotic colonists singing as a refrain:
"... said Jove with a smile, Columbia shall never be ruled by an isle,"
"The face of the Lion shall then become pale, He shall yield fifteen teeth and be sheared of his tail,"
but Freneau's satiric verse is not his best, however important it may be to historians.
His best poems are a few short lyrics, remarkable for their simplicity, sincerity, and love of nature. His lines:
"A hermit's house beside a stream With forests planted round,"
are suggestive of the romantic school of Wordsworth and Coleridge, as is also _The Wild Honeysuckle_, which begins as follows:
"Fair flower, that dost so comely grow, Hid in this silent, dull retreat, Untouched thy honied blossoms blow, Unseen thy little branches greet.
"By Nature's self in white arrayed, She bade thee shun the vulgar eye, And planted here the guardian shade, And sent soft waters murmuring by."
Although Freneau's best poems are few and short, no preceding American poet had equaled them. The following will repay careful reading: _The Wild Honeysuckle_, _The Indian Burying Ground_, and _To a Honey Bee_.
He died in 1832, and was buried near his home at Mount Pleasant, Monmouth County, New Jersey.
ENGLISH LITERATURE OF THE PERIOD[edit | edit source]
The great prose representatives of the first half of the eighteenth century, Swift, Addison, Steele, and Defoe, had passed away before the middle of the century. The creators of the novel, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, had done their best work by 1750.
The prose writers of the last half of the century were OLIVER GOLDSMITH (1728–1774), who published the _Vicar of Wakefield_ in 1766; EDWARD GIBBON (1737-1794), who wrote _The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_; EDMUND BURKE (1729–1797), best known to-day for his _Speech on Conciliation with America_; and SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709–1784), whose _Lives of the Poets_ is the best specimen of eighteenth-century classical criticism.
The most noteworthy achievement of the century was the victory of romanticism (p. 88) over classicism. Pope's polished satiric and didactic verse, neglecting the primrose by the river's brim, lacking deep feeling, high ideals, and heaven-climbing imagination, had long been the model that inspired cold intellectual poetry. In the latter part of the century, romantic feeling and imagination won their battle and came into their own heritage in literature. ROBERT BURNS (1759–1796) wrote poetry that touched the heart. A classicist like Dr. Johnson preferred the town to the most beautiful country scenes, but WILLIAM COWPER (1731–1800) says:
"God made the country, and man made the town."
Romantic poetry culminated in the work of WILLIAM WORDSWORTH and SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, whose _Lyrical Ballads_ (1798) included the wonderful romantic poem of _The Ancient Mariner_, and poems by Wordsworth, which brought to thousands of human souls a new sense of companionship with nature, a new feeling
"... that every flower Enjoys the air it breathes,"
and that all nature is anxious to share its joy with man and to introduce him to a new world. The American poets of this age, save Freneau in a few short lyrics, felt but little of this great impulse; but in the next period we shall see that William Cullen Bryant heard the call and sang:--
"Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy Existence than the winged plunderer That sucks its sweets."
The romantic prose was not of as high an order as the poetry. Writers of romances like WALPOLE'S _Castle of Otranto_ and GODWIN'S _Caleb Williams_ did not allow their imaginations to be fettered by either the probable or the possible. In America the romances of Charles Brockden Brown show the direct influence of this school.
LEADING HISTORICAL FACTS[edit | edit source]
The French and Indian War accomplished two great results. In the first place, it made the Anglo-Saxon race dominant in North America. Had the French won, this book would have been chiefly a history of French literature. In the second place, the isolated colonies learned to know one another and their combined strength.
Soon after the conclusion of this war, the English began active interference with colonial imports and exports, laid taxes on certain commodities, passed the Stamp Act, and endeavored to make the colonists feel that they were henceforth to be governed in fact as well as in name by England. The most independent men that the world has ever produced came to America to escape tyranny at home. The descendants of these men started the American Revolution, signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and, led by George Washington (1732–1799), one of the greatest heroes of the ages, won their independence. They had the assistance of the French, and it was natural that the treaty of peace with England should be signed at Paris in 1783.
Then followed a period nearly as trying as that of the Revolution, an era called by John Fiske "The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789." Because of the jealousy of the separate states and the fear that tyranny at home might threaten liberty, there was no central government vested with adequate power. Sometimes there was a condition closely bordering on anarchy. The wisest men feared that the independence so dearly bought would be lost. Finally, the separate states adopted a Constitution which united them, and in 1789 they chose Washington as the president of this Union. His _Farewell Address_, issued to the American people toward the end of his administration, breathes the prayer "that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every part may be stamped with wisdom and virtue." A leading thought from this great _Address_ shows that the Virginian agreed with the New Englander in regard to the chief cornerstone of this Republic:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports."
The student of political rather than of literary history is interested in the administrations of John Adams (1797–1801), Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809), and James Madison (1809–1817). The acquisition in 1803 of the vast central territory, known as the Louisiana Purchase, affected the entire subsequent development of the country and its literature. Thomas Jefferson still exerts an influence on our literature and institutions; for he championed the democratic, as opposed to the aristocratic, principle of government. His belief in the capacity of the common people for progress and self-government still helps to mold public opinion. Next in importance to the victorious struggle of the Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution, is the wonderful pioneer movement toward the West. Francis A. Walker, in his _Making of the Nation, 1783-1817_, says:
"During the period of thirty-four years covered by this narrative, a movement had been in continuous progress for the westward extension of population, which far transcended the limits of any of the great migrations of mankind upon the older continents....From 1790 to 1800, the mean population of the period being about four and a half millions, sixty-five thousand square miles were brought within the limits of settlement; crossed with rude roads and bridges; built up with rude houses and barns; much of it, also, cleared of primeval forests. In the next ten years, the mean population of the decade being about six and a half millions, the people of the United States extended settlement over one hundred and two thousand square miles of absolutely new territory.... No other people could have done this. No: nor the half of it. Any other of the great migratory races--Tartar, Slav, or German--would have broken hopelessly down in an effort to compass such a field in such a term of years."
SUMMARY[edit | edit source]
The early essays of the period, Paine's _Common Sense_ and the _Crisis_, Jefferson's _Declaration of Independence_, Hamilton's pamphlets and papers, all champion human liberty and show the influence of the Revolution. The orators, James Otis, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams, were inspired by the same cause. The words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death," have in them the essence of immortality because they voice the supreme feeling of one of the critical ages in the world's history.
Benjamin Franklin was the greatest writer of the period. His _Autobiography_ has a value possessed by no other work of the kind. This and his _Poor Richard's Almanac_ have taught generations of Americans the duty of self-culture, self-reliance, thrift, and the value of practical common sense. He was the first of our writers to show a balanced sense of humor and to use it as an agent in impressing truth on unwilling listeners. He is an equally great apostle of the practical and the altruistic, although he lacked the higher spirituality of the old Puritans and of the Quaker, John Woolman. This age is marked by a comparative decline in the influence of the clergy. Not a single clerical name appears on the list of the most prominent writers.
This period shows the beginning of American fiction, dominated by English writers, like Samuel Richardson. The early novels, like Mrs. Morton's _The Power of Sympathy_, were usually prosy, didactic, and as dull as the Sunday school books of three quarters of a century ago. The victory of the English school of romanticists influenced Charles Brockden Brown, the first professional American author, to throw off the yoke of classical didacticism and regularity and to write a group of Gothic romances, in which the imagination was given a freer rein than the intellect. While he freely employed the imported Gothic elements of "strangeness added to terror," he nevertheless managed to give a distinctively American coloring to his work by showing the romantic use to which the Indian and the forest could be put.
Authors struggled intensely to write poetry. "The Hartford Wits," Dwight, Barlow, and Trumbull, wrote a vast quantity of verse. The most of this is artificial, and reveals the influence of the classical school of Alexander Pope. Freneau wrote a few short lyrics which suggest the romantic school of Wordsworth.
The American literature of this period shows in the main the influence of the older English classical school. America produced no authors who can rank with the contemporary school of English writers, such as Burns, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. Of all the writers of this age, Franklin alone shows an undiminished popularity with readers of the twentieth century.
Three events in the history of the period are epoch-making in the world's history; (_a_) the securing of independence through the Revolutionary War, (_b_) the adoption of a constitution and the formation of a republic, and (_c_) the magnitude of the work of the pioneer settlers, who advanced steadily west from the coast, and founded commonwealths beyond the Alleghanies.
REFERENCES FOR FURTHER STUDY[edit | edit source]
HISTORICAL[edit | edit source]
The course of English events (reign of George III.) may be traced in any of the English histories mentioned on p. 60. For the English literature of the period; see the author's _History of English Literature_. Valuable works dealing with special periods of the American history of the time are:
Hart's _Formation of the Union_.
Parkman's _Half Century of Conflict_ and _Montcalm and Wolfe_, 2 vols. (French and Indian War.)
Fiske's _American Revolution_, 2 vols.
Fiske's _Critical Period of American History_.
Walker's _The Making of the Nation_.
Johnston's _History of American Politics_.
Schouler's _History of the United States of America under the Constitution_, 6 vols.
The works by Hart, Channing, and James and Sanford, referred to on p. 61, will give the leading events in brief compass. An account of much of the history of the period is given in the biographies of Washington by Lodge, of Franklin by Morse, of Hamilton by Lodge, and of Jefferson by Morse. (_American Statesmen Series_.)
LITERARY[edit | edit source]
Tyler's _The Literary History of the American Revolution_, 2 vols.
Richardson's _American Literature_, 2 vols.
Wendell's _Literary History of America_.
Trent's _A History of American Literature_.
McMaster's _Benjamin Franklin_.
Ford's _The Many-Sided Franklin_.
Erskine's _Leading American Novelists_, pp. 3–49, on Charles Brockden Brown.
Loshe's _The Early American Novel_.
SUGGESTED READINGS[edit | edit source]
The Essayists.--Selections from Thomas Paine's _Common Sense_,--Cairns, [Footnote: For full titles see p. 62.] 344-347; Carpenter, 66-70; S. & H., III., 219-221. From the _Crisis_,--Cairns, 347-352; Carpenter, 70, 71; S. & H., III., 222-225.
_Jefferson's Declaration of Independence_—which may be found in Carpenter, 79-83; S. & H., III, 286-289; and in almost all the histories of the United States—should be read several times until the very atmosphere or spirit of those days comes to the reader.
Selections from Alexander Hamilton, including a paper from the _Federalist_, may be found in Cairns, 363-369; S. & H., IV., 113-116.
THE ORATORS.--A short selection from Otis is given in this work, p. 72. A longer selection may be found in Vol. I. of Johnston's _American Orations_, 11-17. For Patrick Henry's most famous speech, see Cairns, 335-338; S. & H., III., 214-218; Johnston, I., 18-23. The speech of Samuel Adams on American Independence is given in Johnston, I., 24-38, and in Moore's _American Eloquence_, Vol. I.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.--Every one should read his _Autobiography_. Selections may be found in Carpenter, 31-36; Cairns, 322-332; T. & W., III., 192-201; S. & H., III., 3-13.
Read his _Way to Wealth_ either in the various editions of _Poor Richard's Almanac_ or in Cairns, 315-319; Carpenter, 36-43; T. & W., III., 202-213; S. & H., III., 17-21.
JOHN WOOLMAN.--Cairns, 307-313; S. & H., III., 78-80, 82-85.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN.--The first volume of _Arthur Mervyn_ with its account of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia is not uninteresting reading. Chaps. XVI., XVII., and XVIII. of _Edgar Huntly_ show the hero of that romance rescuing a girl from torture and killing Indians. These and the following chapters, especially XIX., XX., and XXI, give some vigorous out-of-door life.
Selections giving incidents of the yellow fever plague may be found in Cairns, 482-488; Carpenter, 97-100. For Indian adventures or out-of-door life in Edgar Huntly, see Cairns, 488-493; Carpenter, 89-97; S. & H., IV., 273-292.
POETRY.--Selections from Dwight, Barlow, and Trumbull may be found in Cairns, 395-430; S. & H., III., 403-413, 426-429, IV., 47-55. For Freneau's best lyrics, see Cairns, 440, 441, 447; S. & H., III., 452, 453, 456; Stedman, An American Anthology, 4, 7, 8.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS[edit | edit source]
PROSE[edit | edit source]
1. After reading some of the papers of Thomas Paine, state why they were unusually well suited to the occasion. 2. Why is the _Declaration of Independence_ likened to the old battle songs of the Anglo-Saxon race? What is remarkable about Jefferson's power of expression? 3. In the orations of Otis, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams, what do you find to account for their influence? To what must an orator owe his power? 4. Contrast the writings of Benjamin Franklin with those of Jonathan Edwards and John Woolman. What are some of the most useful suggestions and records of experience to be found in Franklin's _Autobiography_? In what ways are his writings still useful to humanity? 5. Select the best four maxims from The Way to Wealth. What are some of the qualities of Franklin's style? Compare it with Woolman's style. 6. Why are Brown's romances called "Gothic"? What was the general type of American fiction preceding him? Specify three strong or unusual incidents in the selections read from Brown. What does he introduce to give an American color to his work?
POETRY[edit | edit source]
1. In the selections read from Dwight, Barlow, and Trumbull, what general characteristics impress you? 2. Do these poets belong to the classic or the romantic school? 3. What English influences are manifest? 4. What qualities in Freneau's lyrics show a distinct advance in American poetry?