New Republic Literature
The American Revolution
Causes and Early Troubles
By the middle of the 18th century, differences in life, thought, and interests had developed between the mother country and the growing colonies. Local political institutions and practice diverged significantly from British ways, while social customs, religious beliefs, and economic interests added to the potential sources of conflict.
The colonies were by and large allowed to develop freely with little interference from England.
Yet, conditions changed abruptly in 1763. The Treaty of Paris in that year ended the French and Indian Wars and removed a long-standing threat to the colonies. At the same time, a new colonial policy intended to tighten political control over the colonies and to make them pay for their defense and return revenue to the mother country (http://www.americanrevolution.com/).
On the morning of April 19, 1775, shots had been exchanged by colonials and British soldiers, men had been killed, and a revolution had begun.
On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, together with a force under Benedict Arnold, took Fort Ticonderoga from the British. Boston was under British siege, and before that siege was climaxed by the costly British victory usually called the battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775) the Congress had chosen George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Armed Forces (http://www.americanrevolution.com/).
The British gave up Boston in March, 1776, but the prospects were not good for the ill-trained, poorly armed volunteer soldiers of the Continental Army when the Congress decided finally to declare the independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
The Declaration of Independence is conventionally dated July 4, 1776. Drawn up by Thomas Jefferson (with slight revisions), it was to be one of the great historical documents of all time. It did not, however, have any immediate positive effect.
The Treaty of Paris formally recognized the new nation in 1783.
The American Revolution had a great influence on liberal thought throughout Europe. The struggles and successes of the youthful democracy were much in the minds of those who brought about the French Revolution, and most assuredly later helped to inspire revolutionists in Spain’s American colonies (http://www.americanrevolution.com/)
* Along with the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence came the question: What is an American?
* The search began for a distinct American Literature. Yet, the new republic hardly supported the full time writer.
* Persuasive writings trying to sway popular culture to support the Revolution, dominated the market. Newspapers and magazines were very popular.
* Not until after 1807, did printing presses finally have the technology to print books at a price that the poor could afford. Up until then, “literature” was dominated by British authors, and only the rich Americans could afford books.
* Most literary critics dismiss the years between 1776 and 1836 as not productive, but this is the era that greatly defined the literature that was to come.
* Values, such as the respect for individuality outside of government, society, tradition, and religion, as well as an admiration of the “powerful presence of the American landscape” began to emerge (McQuade, 1999).
* Yet, at this time in America, there were many opposing political tendencies, regional interests, and philosophical and religious tensions (McQuade, 1999).
Thomas Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States — voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era.
“All men are created equal” – Jefferson inherited slaves from both his father and father-in-law. In a typical year, he owned about 200, almost half of them under the age of sixteen.
Jefferson freed two slaves in his lifetime and five in his will and chose not to pursue two others who ran away. All were members of the Hemings family; the seven he eventually freed were skilled tradesmen.
Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United
Jackson’s record regarding Native Americans was not good. He led troops against them in both the Creek War and the First Seminole War and during his first administration the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. The act offered the Indians land west of the Mississippi in return for evacuation of their tribal homes in the east. About 100 million acres of traditional Indian lands were cleared under this law.
In 1838-1839 Georgia evicted the Cherokees and forced them to march west. About twenty-five percent of the Indians were dead before they reached their new lands in Oklahoma. The Indians refer to this march as the “Trail of Tears” and even though it took place after Jackson’s presidency, the roots of the march can be found in Jackson’s failure to uphold the legal rights of Native Americans during his administration.
As a “man of science,” Benjamin Franklin is best known for his experiments with electricity, but his lifelong curiosity also led him to explore an amazing range of scientific topics. From the common cold to ocean currents, from medicine to music, and from agriculture to the aurora borealis, he believed that human logic could unlock the mysteries of the natural world. More interested in practical applications than in theory, Franklin put his ideas to work through such useful inventions as a smokeless fireplace, bifocal glasses, and the lightning rod.
Ben Franklin believed that people volunteering together in a spirit of cooperation could accomplish great things. Driven by a strong sense of civic duty, he involved himself in his community and his nation. Always mindful of the “greater good,” Franklin helped establish or improve institutions such as circulating libraries, public hospitals, mutual insurance companies, volunteer fire departments, agricultural colleges, and intellectual societies.
He was also an abolitionist
Colonial women had been discriminated against since childhood, and “the Revolution did little to improve their lot” (McQuade, 1999).
* The slave trade was growing at an alarming rate. Slaves were mainly stolen away from highly developed cultures in West Africa with “mythology, folk tales, proverbs, and sculpture” (McQuade, 1999).
* During this time, more stringent laws were enforced to govern the growing slave population.; African Americans remained in bondage for more than 160 years (McQuade, 1999).
* The novelty of settling a new frontier played a big role in defining an American Literature; American heroes, like Davy Crockett, became important, as well as stories of frontiersmen battling American Indians.
* America was constantly in search of more land and resources, which lead to westward expansion.
American Indians were continually being exterminated or forced into assimilation.
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