Saturday, July 14, 2018

The American Enlightenment

The Material Basis of The American Enlightenment

The American Enlightenment, by the early 1700s two distinct economic worlds had taken shape in the colonies, generally north and south of Pennsylvania's southern border. One exported two crops, rice and tobacco, to Europe, and was in the process of constructing all its ways of living and thinking around a unique institution: chattel slavery. The other consisted overwhelmingly of, not the big planters such as those who owned the tobacco and rice plantations but, of small farmers free of feudal obligations to anyone superior to them. These two societies were unlike anything in the British Isles or in Europe as a whole.
The distinction between the southern and the northern colonies gradually began to be erased with the expansion of agricultural activities in the north to the extent that the colonies there started exporting their produce, contrary to their earlier practice, to the colonies in the south and beyond, to the West Indies. To facilitate this emerging commerce, by the 1720s a common-paper currency was floated, bringing with it prospects of profit and riches. Soon, the placid colonies were living through a boom period. At the hub of this boom was the new-look colonial city, no longer an extension of the countryside that it once used to be. Immigrants were beginning to pour in from Germany and Ireland in the 1720s, and thousands of slaves were being purchased in Literature the South.
A high-rate of survival among American-born white children, who were reared in far healthier surroundings than children in Europe--eight live children in a family, as against four in Europe, was common--accelerated the rise of population, as did a relatively low death rate. In 1700 there had been approximately 250,000 people in the colonies. By 1775 there would be about 2,250,000 (and 5,300,000 by 1800) including people belonging to the indigenous tribes. A modem, multicultural America was in the making.
Transatlantic trade flourished, and settlement slowly but surely stretched beyond the limited coastal beach lands of the seventeenth century into the fertile back country, soon reaching the Appalachian Mountains and entering their long interior valleys. With mounting affluence and influence, people, books and ideas moved back and forth across the Atlantic in rising volume.

The American Enlightenment

American Enlightenment , One of the many fascinating imports flowing into America from Europe after 1700 was a new way of thinking about God, nature, and humanity: the American Enlightenment. Founded in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and especially in the work of towering English thinkers, like the physicist Isaac Newton (1642-1727), American Enlightenment thought was consciously scientific, rational and this-worldly. As such, Enlightenment thinking became for a small minority of educated Americans a critique as well as a counter to classic, traditional Protestantism. Henceforth, these two ways of thinking would inter-mingle in the American mind, producing a curious and contradictory blend of theistic belief and sceptical humanism.

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In the American Enlightenment The New Learning arrived with a dramatic suddenness in 1714, when Yale received a gift of books on Newtonian physics and Lockean philosophy Newton simply wiped away the traditional view of the universe, brilliantly demonstrating how a few laws of physics could explain the motions of all heavenly bodies. The marvelous order and harmony, he believed, was the dearest possible demonstration of God's existence and authenticity, and of His real intentions for humans as well as natural life. Educated people who read Newton no longer saw the universe as controlled by an infinite number of spirits, each with its own planet, star, or comet to supervise. The sky seemed swept clean. All was geometry, calculation and predictability.

In The American Enlightenment, The universe was not a space of mysteries and uncertainties. It was, above all, a reasonable universe. John Locke applied this way of thinking so pervasively in political and social and human affairs that he became the preeminent philosophical influence in the eighteenth century thought, especially in America. He was fascinated by the power of reason, though he did not think it all-powerful. A moderate man in everything, he held that some things could never be explained by humanity's reasoning powers, that there were limits to what we could know on our own. About God, for example, he said we could know little, other than that He is the author of the universe and a pervasive influence in human life. People therefore need the Bible, Locke said, for only in revelation from God could they learn essential truths about the divine that reason, unaided, could never reveal. However, he believed true Christianity consisted of only a few essentials, and therefore he not only urged, but exemplified, a wide toleration of all Protestant beliefs. An archetypal product of the American Enlightenment was the figure of Benjamin Franklin (1706- 1790). Franklin represented the essence of the Enlightenment--in his celebration of rationality, practical conduct and materialism. A self-made man and a man of science, Franklin characteristically expressed a preference for what his contemporaries called "natural religion" or deism.

Benjamin Franklin

The West's Benjamin Franklin experimenting of American Enlightenment with electricity has look of wizardry. "Reasonable" method in religion, therefore, according to them, called for a simple procedure: discover what things all people (that is, all "civilized" people) believe in, American Enlightenment wherever they are. By this means, true religion could be found. This came down to a belief in a supreme deity, God; in a code of ethics divinely established, which tells us how to live; and a belief that there is an afterlife in which people will receive their rewards and punishments for their deeds in this world. Church, rituals and miracles were simply local superstitions and wholly unnecessary. Some people were not ready to go so far. They believed that Christ, the ultimate miracle, was an expression, in some inexplicable way, of God's desires in this world. But they rejected the concept of the Trinity ("God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost") as not only mathematically paradoxical, but also contrary to natural law. Christ was a man, perhaps a divinely inspired one, but not God Himself The American Enlightenment.

There was only one God, they said: thus, these people were called Unitarians. The Bible remained important to them as a book of divine teachings about how we should live b with each other. Unitarians believed each person must rely upon his or her own reasoning powers, keeping in mind that there was little that could be certain in religious matters. They believed that the individual is fundamentally good, and that if all persons listened to the voice of conscience they would be listening to the voice of God. Unitarianism circulated as a kind of underground faith in England in the mid eighteenth century, prominent among scientists and intellectuals. It came to America in the century's late years; most of America's Founding Fathers, including Franklin, would have called themselves Unitarians. Another notable figure of the American Enlightenment was S.t. Jean de Crevecouer (1735- 1813). A friend of Benjamin Franklin and a truly Franklinian character, this French-born emerge used his classic Letters From  An American Farmer (1782) to celebrate the "enlightened" practice of democracy in America. The Franklinian aspect of Crevecouer's work is most readily apparent in the "American Farmer's" enthusiastic approbation of the values of individualism and industriousness which formed the basis of the existence of a freeholder such as himself.
As the revival progressed, all colonials awaited New England's reaction, for that region had long been recognised as America's foremost "plantation of religion." It was the emergence of Jonathan Edwards (1 703- 1748) at Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1734 and 1735 that seemed too many to be the real beginning of the American revival. In New England, where there was much anxiety about rising affluence, individualism, and the breakup of old ways, the underlying tension exploded with especial violence. Enthusiasm achieved unmatched heights, reaching near delirium in its early stages.

Edwards Calvinism

Edwards utilized this enthusiasm and recast Calvinism to align with revivalism, thus becoming the most important Puritan theologian since John Calvin himself the joy of the Great Awakening, he said, was good and proper. It was a delight that rushed in on people as their entire beings reacted to the love of God and to the beauties He had created in this world. But Edwards was a true Calvinist. God, in his mind, was still the blazing awesome, all-powerful, and wholly majestic Being who willed all things and was the centre of faith. Considering the perfection of God, Edwards said, people could see in contrast how prideful, lustful, and selfish they were in their self-centred, petty lives. Consider the universe that God had made, how harmonious and perfect it was; consider the beauties of the natural creation, of all that was of God. Astonished and overwhelmed by all this people would be drawn to God, as in nature all things were drawn by gravitation to a common centre.

The American Woman of The 18th  Century

The American Enlightenment, The irrationality of blatant race-oppression was matched by the irrationality of subtle gender-discrimination in eighteenth century America. The codes of gender discrimination, in fact, were inbuilt into the structure of the colonial American family. The form of family which the colonials brought with them from Britain was much like that familiar to modem Americans: nuclear family, in which husband and wife and their children formed a household. Land was generally granted to the head of the household--the father. As the generations passed and the original tight village communities of the early colonial phase broke apart, families tended to live in separate, isolated homesteads.
By the 1750s, intermarriage between households in thousands of small towns and villages in the northern colonies had built a strong network of relationships which helped to make community life stronger than it had been. Nonetheless, nuclear families remained the basic social units in colonial life. Within the family, the need to be almost entirely self-sufficient made for a close interdependence between husbands and wives. There was no question which of the two was legally and morally superior. Male supremacy was the rule (which is not the same as saying it was a law of nature).
This was expressed most dramatically in the possession of land by men, not by women (unless they became widowed), since land was the economic basis of almost all life. Women and men usually worked separately, the one in the house and the kitchen garden, the other in the fields and with the livestock, but the two activities flowed into a single economic unit. Broadly, men's work centred around farming while women's work centred around manufacturing, The American Enlightenment.

Women preserved the vegetables and salted the meats, brewed the beer and pressed the cider. In addition they wove cloth, made wool and sewed dresses. They also dipped candles, and cared for family health by preparing home remedies and soap. Preparing meals was but the last stage in the manufacturing process, and this was done in addition to the routine tasks of bearing and rearing children.

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