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acted cabin of the Mayflower. The sifted wheat was by no means all of the same variety. For Old England was never more torn by divergent thought and subversive act than in the period between the death of Elizabeth in 1603 and the Revolution of 1688. In this distracted time who could say what was really English ? Was it James the First or Raleigh? Archbishop Laud or John Cotton? Charles the First or Cromwell? Charles the Second or William Penn? Was it Churchman, Presbyterian, Independent will be aware of the firmness with which the conservative forces held on this side of the Atlantic. It was only one hundred years from the Great Armada of 1588 to the flight of James Second, the last of the Stuart Kings. With that Revolution of 1688 the struggles characteristic of the seventeenth century in England came to an end. A new working basis is found for thought, politics, society, literature. But while those vast changes had been shaking England, two generations of American coloni
Bliss Perry, The American spirit in lierature: a chronicle of great interpreters, Chapter 2: the first colonial literature (search)
. History, biography, eulogy, are flourishing. The reader is reminded of that epoch, one hundred and fifty years later, when the deaths of John Adams and of Thomas Jefferson, falling upon the same anniversary day, the Fourth of July, 1826, stirred all Americans to a fresh recognition of the services wrought by the Fathers of the Republic. So it was in the colonies at the close of the seventeenth century. Old England, in one final paroxysm of political disgust, cast out the last Stuart in 1688. That Revolution marks, as we have seen, the close of a long and tragic struggle which began in the autocratic theories of James the First and in the absolutism of Charles. Almost every phase of that momentous conflict had its reverberation across the Atlantic, as the history of the granting and withdrawal of colonial charters witnesses abundantly. The American pioneers were quite aware of what was going on in England, and they praised God or grumbled, thriftily profited by the results or
Bliss Perry, The American spirit in lierature: a chronicle of great interpreters, Chapter 3: the third and fourth generation (search)
traveled. But Franklin faced the other way. He would have endorsed his friend Jefferson's scornful sentence, The dead have no rights. He joined himself wholly to that eighteenth century in which his own lot was cast, and, alike in his qualities and in his defects, he became one of its most perfect representatives. To catch the full spirit of that age, turn for an instant to the London of 1724--the year of Franklin's arrival. Thirty-six years have elapsed since the glorious Revolution of 1688; the Whig principles, then triumphant, have been tacitly accepted by both political parties; the Jacobite revolt of 1715 has proved a fiasco; the country has accepted the House of Hanover and a government by party leadership of the House of Commons, and it does not care whether Sir Robert Walpole buys a few rotten boroughs, so long as he maintains peace with Europe and prosperity at home. England is weary of seventeenth century enthusiasm, weary of conflict, sick of idealism. She has found
Bliss Perry, The American spirit in lierature: a chronicle of great interpreters, Chapter 7: romance, poetry, and history (search)
much resembled Cooper's LeatherStocking. Whittier knew that his friend Longfellow was a better artist than himself, and he also knew, by intimate experience as a maker of public opinion, how variable are its judgments. Whittier represents a stock different from that of the Longfellows, but equally American, equally thoroughbred: the Essex County Quaker farmer of Massachusetts. The homestead in which he was born in 1807, at East Haverhill, had been built by his great-great-grandfather in 1688. Mount Vernon in Virginia and the Craigie House in Cambridge are newer than this by two generations. The house has been restored to the precise aspect it had in Whittier's boyhood: and the garden, lawn, and brook, even the door-stone and bridlepost and the barn across the road are witnesses to the fidelity of the descriptions in Snow-bound. The neighborhood is still a lonely one. The youth grew up in seclusion, yet in contact with a few great ideas, chief among them Liberty. My father, he