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American Enlightenment/ The Age of Reason

1776-1820

American Enlightenment
Movement to rationality rather than tradition. Movement to scientific inquiry instead of religious dogma. Movement of representative government in place of monarchy. Thinkers and writers devoted to ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the rights of man.

Printing
Until 1825, most American authors paid printers to publish their work. Only the wealthy, like Washington Irving and the New York Knickerbocker group, or the group of Connecticut poets known as the Hartford Wits, could afford to indulge their interest in writing. The exception, Benjamin Franklin, though from a poor family, was a printer by trade and could publish his own work.

Problems
Piracy starved the first generation of revolutionary American writers The generation after them produced even less notable work. The high point of piracy, in 1815, corresponds with the low point of American writing. But, the cheap and plentiful supply of pirated foreign books and classics in the first 50 years of the new country did educate Americans, including the first great writers, who began to make their appearance around 1825.

The Political Pamphlet


Over 2,000 pamphlets published during the Revolution. Used to excite audiences for war. Most popular form of political literature of the day. Often read aloud in public. British Loyalists threw them into bonfires.

Famous Authors Patrick Henry


Second Virginia Convention met March 20, 1775 Henry was a founding father and opposed to the Stamp Act of 1765 (Colonies could only print things on paper made in London) Patrick Henry wanted to raise a militia and put Virginia in a position of defending itself. His opponents wanted caution and patience while waiting for the crown to reply to the Congress latest proposal for a settlement.

Famous Authors Thomas Paine (1737 -1809)


Published from 1776 to 1783 Provided a boost to the colonists and inspired them to revolt. Written in a language the common person could understand. Clarified the issues at stake in the war. Read aloud to the Continental Army on Dec. 23, 1776 before the Battle of Trenton (Washingtons only victory) to inspire the troops.

Famous Authors Thomas Jefferson


Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Announced 13 colonies were independent states and no longer British colonies. Formal explanation of why Congress had voted to declare independence from Great Britain. By the time the Declaration was adopted, the colonies had been at war for more than a year.