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IV. The Enlightenment and the American
The Enlightenment
Seventeenth century influences on the Enlightenment: rationalist
philosophers Ren Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, political
philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, skeptic thinker
Pierre Bayle, scientist Isaac Newton;

Basic assumptions of the Enlightenment:

Faith in the power of human reason (Newtons scientific
Optimism for the future of humanity;

Social betterment as a result of individual freedom and

Truth can only be discovered through scientific exploits
and the observation of nature rather than through the study
of authoritative sources (the Bible, Aristotle, and the Church
Rejection of religious dogmatism deism.
Features of the American
Main outcome of the Enlightenment in America: the
realization of the political right of self-determination;
American Enlightenment not a unitary movement; some
Enlightenment revolutionaries were more progressive,
others more conservative;
Sense of urgency and impending crisis distinguishes the
American Enlightenment from its European counterpart;
focus on action and the present (Paines Common Sense);
American revolutionaries share the international, universal
scope of other Enlightenment intellectuals (they believe in
the republic of letters and in the universal promise of
republicanism) while being involved in the making of a
new nation (see the Declaration of Independence).
Towards the Revolution
A lot of initial reluctance for revolution main aim
having been to have colonies treated as equals even
in Jan. 1776, i.e. granted seats in British parliament.
3 political ideas dominant on the continent prior to
revolution: Tory (heredity rights), Whig (economic
benefit), Patriots (radical social change, democracy)
During revolution: 37 + 35 new newspapers with
unbridled partisanship (mainly patriot), the new main
propaganda instruments instead of pamphlet and
sermon, with enormous impact esp. after Boston
Massacre; revolution portrayed as result of
intolerable abuses on downtrodden colonists.
Thomas Paines Best-Selling
Common Sense (1775)
Initiator of catch-phrases Age of Reason; Rights of Men;
that gvmt is best which governs least; United States of
America; positive use of republic
Secession from G.B. as only reasonable course for
American colonies, fol. British tyranny and unfairness; time
of discovery, geographical distance, American size in
comparison to the island of G.B. used as divine and natural
signs; creating a government made of one Assembly only,
without kingunicameral democracy
John Adams critique of Paines ideas: populist discourse
that could become utopian faith and tyrannical vs. rational,
sober republican discourse of representational assembly
he sustained
The American Revolution
Consequences of the French and Indian War (1756-1763), esp. after
British victory in Quebec (1759); British announcing Appalachian
Mnts as limit of British colonies (1763), territory to the West =
natives possession
Navigation Laws; The Sugar Law of 1764; The Stamp Act of 1765:
taxation without representation; Americans from various colonies
understood they had common interests; public protests; Sons of
Liberty organization; Stamp Act Congress;
Boston Massacre (1770) the real events / propaganda;
Boston Tea Party (1773) response to Townshend Law (1767
tariffs on tea, paper, etc.); The Intolerable Acts (1774, Boston Harbor
closed); First and Second Continental Congresses (1774, 1775);
Quebec Act (1774)
The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783); 50,000 British
soldiers vs. 20,000 colonists; notable battles: Lexington and
Concord (19 April 1775 Yankee Doodle song), Bunker Hill (Breeds
Hill), Bennington, Saratoga, Monmouth; Treaty of Paris (1783).
Bloody Boston (1770) by Paul Revere
Boston Massacre (1868) by Alonso Chappel
Unite or Die political cartoon created by Benjamin Franklin (NE=New England;
Delaware and Georgia are missing)
The Boston Tea Party
Title: The able doctor, or, America swallowing the bitter draught
Date Created/Published: [London : 1774 May 1]
Medium: 1 print : etching.
Summary: Cartoon shows Lord North, with the "Boston Port Bill" extending from a pocket, forcing tea
(the Intolerable Acts) down the throat of a partially draped Native female figure representing "America"
whose arms are restrained by Lord Mansfield, while Lord Sandwich, a notorious womanizer, restrains
her feet and peeks up her skirt. Britannia, standing behind "America", turns away and shields her face
with her left hand. Source:
Founding Fathers Political
Ancient English liberties: people freely chose to constitute

themselves together into one body politic; kings, lords, and

commons acted as representatives of the people and legislators
for the commonwealth; at first, the American patriots regarded
themselves as British subjects deprived of their rights;
Lockean philosophy (Second Treatise on Government)
Mistrust of democracy (mobocracy); they considered
themselves republicans, not democrats; anarchy and corruption
of foreign influence were the Founders greatest fears;
Classical liberalism the origin of American political culture
(commitment to limited gvmt and laissez faire politics); todays
meaning of liberalism in U.S. (associated with the welfare-state
policies of F.D. Roosevelts New Deal program)
Drafting the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of
Independence (4 July 1776)
- adopted by the Second Continental Congress;
drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin
Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and
Roger Sherman; E pluribus unum.
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.
The Declaration of
Independence Key Features
Part 1: Rationale principles of natural rights.
Inspiration: Lockes ideas about life, liberty and property
and that peaceful governments are established by the
consent of the governed (Treatises of Government, 1690)
Part 2: specific grievances of colonists fol. their practical
experience: kings tyranny and unfairness [He-centered
Part 3: only reasonable consequence of above contexts of
colonial life: independence in political, economic, foreign
relations terms, defined as break, discontinuity with G.B.
(dissolved connection) and end of allegiance (i.e. end of
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all
having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts
be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended
in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to
attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those
people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and
formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the
depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on
the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the
Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the
State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for
Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the
conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing
Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and
payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people
and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and
unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
The Declaration of Independence Limitations and
Gender-wise (complete exclusion of women, sanctioned by Abigail Adams in a letter

to her husband, John Adams, from March 31, 1776, stating Remember the ladies):
All men are created equal
Ethnicity (inferiority of Indians acc. to Declaration): merciless Indian Savages
later used as justification for land stripping, Indian decimation
Race: Deletion of Jeffersons long paragraph criticizing colonial slavery and
replacement with a more ambiguous passage about King George's incitement of
"domestic insurrections among us.
[He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of
life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him,
captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable
death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel
powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep
open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative
for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable
commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished
die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to
purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people
on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against
the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the
lives of another.]
The Making of a Nation
Articles of Confederation (1777, enacted 1781); Congress of 13 colonies had full
power over foreign affairs, war, peace, coinage, Indian affairs; The Confederation had
neither an executive nor a judicial branch; there was no administrative head of
government (only the president of Congress, chosen annually) and no federal courts.
The Constitutional Convention (May 1787) James Madison; representational
republic vs. pure democracy (The Federalist Papers = 85 essays by Alexander
Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, published mostly in The Independent
Journal, defending the Constitution);
Principles of the U.S. Constitution: popular sovereignty, limited government,
separation of powers (checks and balances system), federalism, and judicial
the Connecticut compromise (1787) proportional state representation in lower
house+ bicameral legislature expressed in the Constitution (1787): Congress:
Senate (2 senators from each state for up to 6 years; 1/3 of seats up for election
every 2 yrs / every 4 yrs.) + House of Representatives (2-year appointments/number
of representatives function of state population); Bill of Rights (1791)
Louisiana Purchase (1803) and Constitutional Debate (strict vs. loose interpretation
broached by Federalists, pres.s right to purchase new territ.)
Missouri compromise (1820) functioning of S. or N. new states in relation to 36 0
30 North parallel
Constitution Main
Limitations and Biases
Race (Art. 5 S.2 granting the continuation of African Americans
enslavement at leat for 20 more years; Art.1 S. 2 counting no of
representatives/taxes per state by 1 non-free individual = 3/5 of a free
citizens vote inferiority marker)
Art. 5 S.2 [No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or
Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall
be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour
may be due.] changed by 13th Amendment of 1865
Art.1 S.2 Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the
several States [which may be included within this Union, according to their
respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole
Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of
Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.]
changed by S. 2 of 14th Amendment of 1865
Slavery in New England/Mid-
Atlantic States
The Vermont Constitution of 1777 specifically forbade slavery.
The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 proclaimed the inherent
liberty of all.
In 1780 Pennsylvania declared that all children born thereafter to slave
mothers would become free at age twentyeight,after enabling their
owners to recover their initial cost.
In 1784 Rhode Island provided freedom to all children of slaves born
thereafter, at age twenty-one for males, eighteen for females.
New York lagged until 1799 in granting freedom to mature slaves born
after enactment of its constitution, but an act of 1817 set July 4, 1827,
as the date for emancipation of all remaining slaves.
George Washington (1789-1797)
John Adams (1797-1801)
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
The Federalist Party was the first American political
party, from the early 1790s to 1816. Formed by
Alexander Hamilton//bankers and business people. John
Adams = the only Federalist president of the US. George
Washington = an independent
Their political opponents, the Republicans (or
Democratic-Republicans), led by Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison, were in favor of state rights, and
opposed the interests of the moneyed few. The
The present-day Republican Party founded in 1854
The Democrats vs. The Republicans
Culture in the Early Republic
Literature of the Revolution & Early Republic:
poetry (Philip Freneau), plays (Royall Tyler),
gothic fiction (Charles Brockden Brown);
Political cartoons; pamphlets; power of the
written word;
From Georgian to Federalist style in
architecture (classic Greek and Roman
Images of America in Early
Republic Period
In the national pride and aspiration of this era [after the Treaty of
Paris], there was continuous need to refer to the new nation as a
living entity with a palpable spirit. Following an ancient impulse,
Americans personified their country for a hundred purposes and
occasions[including] a nation interested in the arts and sciences
on frontispieces of national magazines, a noble, attractive nation
in prints to be placed on the walls of homes The United States
was actively and continuously represented by symbolic figures
giving it a needed public image during the years from 1783 to
1815. (McClung Fleming, From Indian Princess to Greek
Goddess. The American Image, 1783-1815, Winterthur Portfolio
III, 1967, 37)
Four prototypical ways to symbolize America in the first
few decades of the nation's history acc. to Fleming: as an
Indian princess, a plumed Greek goddess, as Liberty, and as
America as Indian Princess
America as Greek Goddess
America as Liberty
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
(w. 1883, in 1903 engraved on a bronze plaque,
mounted on a lower pedestal of Statue of Liberty)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
America as Columbia after Minerva,
engraving by Samuel Harris (1804); "Peace
Uncle Sam from 1812-1815, based on
Samuel Wilson then used for WW1 posters
by J.M. Flagg (1917)