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Eutaw (Alabama, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
d an adequate poet. The prose-men, such as Jefferson, rose nearer the height of the great argument than did the men of rhyme. Here and there the struggle inspired a brisk ballad like Francis Hopkinson's Battle of the Kegs, a Hudibrastic satire like Trumbull's McFingal, or a patriotic song like Timothy Dwight's Columbia. Freneau painted from his own experience the horrors of the British prison-ship, and celebrated, in cadences learned from Gray and Collins, the valor of the men who fell at Eutaw Springs. There was patriotic verse in extraordinary profusion, but its literary value is slight, and it reveals few moods of the American mind that are not more perfectly conveyed through oratory, the pamphlet, and the political essay. The immediate models of this Revolutionary verse were the minor British bards of the eighteenth century, a century greatly given to verse-writing, but endowed by Heaven with the prose-reason mainly. The reader of Burton E. Stevenson's collection of Poems o
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
her than aesthetic, a sort of writing which has been incidental to the accomplishing of some political, social, or moral purpose, and which scarcely regards itself as literature at all. James Otis's argument against the Writs of Assistance in Massachusetts in 1761, and Patrick Henry's speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765, mark epochs in the emotional life of these communities. They were reported imperfectly or not at all, but they can no more be ignored in an assessment of our nating the liberal air of the town-meeting: everything is as plainly obvious as a good citizen can make it. He has, too, the large utterance of the European liberalism of his day. Resolved, read his Resolutions of the Houseof Representatives of Massachusetts in 1765, that there are certain essential rights of the British constitution of government which are founded in the law of God and nature and are the common rights of mankind. In his statement of the Rights of the Colonists (1772) we are ass
Jefferson City (Missouri, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
with consummate rhetorical skill, but facts, undeniably. The Anglo-Saxon in Jefferson is basal, racial; the turn for academic philosophizing after the French fashithe teaching has increased during the last decades — to minimize the value of Jefferson's self-evident truths. Rufus Choate, himself a consummate rhetorician, sneere highest positions, have echoed the sneer. The essence of the objection to Jefferson's platform lies of course in his phrase, all men are created equal, with the d unable even to understand them. These objectors belong partly, I think, in Jefferson's category of nervous persons --anti-republicans, as he goes on to define the for refusing assent to the proposition. But no intelligent man, says one of Jefferson's biographers, has ever misconstrued it [the Declaration] except intentionalle standard maxims of free society which no democracy can safely disregard. Jefferson's long life, so varied, so flexible, so responsive to the touch of popular fo
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
Tom Paine would have been no match for Sam Adams in a town-meeting, but he was an even greater pamphleteer. He had arrived from England in 1774, at the age of thirty-eight, having hitherto failed in most of his endeavors for a livelihood. Rebellious Staymaker; unkempt, says Carlyle; but General Charles Lee noted that there was genius in his eyes, and he bore a letter of introduction from Franklin commending him as an ingenious, worthy young man, which obtained for him a position on the Pennsylvania magazine. Before he had been a year on American soil, Paine was writing the most famous pamphlet of our political literature, Common sense, which appeared in January, 1776. A style hitherto unknown on this side of the Atlantic, wrote Edmund Randolph. Yet this style of familiar talk to the crowd had been used seventy years earlier by Defoe and Swift, and it was to be employed again by a gaunt American frontiersman who was born in 1809, the year of Thomas Paine's death. The crisis, a se
Monticello (Alabama, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
t he saw that all the roots of generous power come from thepeople. On his father's side Jefferson came from sound yeoman stock, in which Welsh blood ran. His mother was a Virginia Randolph. Born in Albemarle County, near the little mountain --Monticello -where he built a mansion for his bride and where he lies buried, the tall, strong, red-haired, grayeyed, gifted boy was reputed the best shot, the best rider, the best fiddle-player in the county. He studied hard at William and Mary over his eartedness in disaster, his scorn of money, his love for the intellectual life. I have no ambition to govern men, he wrote to Edward Rutledge. He was far happier talking about Greek and Anglo-Saxon with Daniel Webster before the fire-place of Monticello than he ever was in the presidential chair. His correspondence was enormous. His writings fill twenty volumes. In his theories of education he was fifty years ahead of his time; in his absolute trust in humanity he was generations ahead of i
France (France) (search for this): chapter 4
ution of 1787: Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God. The whole personality of the great Virginian is back of that simple, perfect sentence. It brings us to our feet, like a national anthem. One American, no doubt our most gifted man of letters of that century, passed most of the Revolutionary period abroad, in the service of his country. Benjamin Franklin was fifty-nine in the year of the Stamp Act. When he returned from France in 1785 he was seventy-nine, but he was still writing as admirably as ever when he died at eighty-four. We cannot dismiss this singular, varied, and fascinating American better than by quoting the letter which George Washington wrote to him in September, 1789. It has the dignity and formality of the eighteenth century, but it is warm with tested friendship and it glows with deep human feeling: If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotis
Chambersburg (New Jersey, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
809, the year of Thomas Paine's death. The crisis, a series of thirteen pamphlets, of which the first was issued in December, 1776, seemed to justify the contemporary opinion that the American cause owed as much to the pen of Paine as to the sword of Washington. Paine, who was now serving in the army, might have heard his own words, These are the times that try men's souls, read aloud, by Washington's orders, to the ragged troops just before they crossed the Delaware to win the victory of Trenton. The best known productions of Paine's subsequent career, The Rights of man and The age of reason, were written in Europe, but they were read throughout America. The reputation of the rebellious Staymaker has suffered from certain grimy habits and from the ridiculous charge of atheism. He was no more an atheist than Franklin or Jefferson. In no sense an original thinker, he could impart to outworn shreds of deistic controversy and to shallow generalizations about democracy a personal f
Westchester (New York, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
he could impart to outworn shreds of deistic controversy and to shallow generalizations about democracy a personal fervor which transformed them and made his pages gay and bold and clear as a trumpet. Clear and bold and gay was Alexander Hamilton likewise; and his literary services to the Revolution are less likely to be underestimated than Thomas Paine's. They began with that boyish speech in the Fields of New York City in 1774 and with The farmer refuted, a reply to Samuel Seabury's Westchester farmer. They were continued in extraordinary letters, written during Hamilton's military career, upon the defects of the Articles of Confederation and of the finances of the Confederation. Hamilton contributed but little to the actual structure of the new Constitution, but as a debater he fought magnificently and triumphantly for its adoption by the Convention of the State of New York in 1788. Together with Jay and Madison he defended the fundamental principles of the Federal Union in
Fort James (Ghana) (search for this): chapter 4
rary gifts, but quite unsuited for the clash of controversy — members, in Crevecceur's touching words, of the secret communion among good men throughout the world. I am a lover of peace, what must I do? asks Crevecceur in his Letters from an American farmer. I was happy before this unfortunate Revolution. I feel that I am no longer so, therefore I regret the change. My heart sometimes seems tired with beating, it wants rest like my eyelids, which feel oppressed with so many watchings. Crevecoeur, an immigrant from Normandy, was certainly no weakling, but he felt that the great idyllic American adventure — which he described so captivatingly in his chapter entitled What is an American--was ending tragically in civil war. Another whitesouled itinerant of that day was John Woolman of New Jersey, whose Journal, praised by Charles Lamb and Channing and edited by Whittier, is finding more readers in the twentieth century than it won in the nineteenth. A man unlettered, said Whittier, b
New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (search for this): chapter 4
eakling, but he felt that the great idyllic American adventure — which he described so captivatingly in his chapter entitled What is an American--was ending tragically in civil war. Another whitesouled itinerant of that day was John Woolman of New Jersey, whose Journal, praised by Charles Lamb and Channing and edited by Whittier, is finding more readers in the twentieth century than it won in the nineteenth. A man unlettered, said Whittier, but with natural refinement and delicate sense of fitnn Philadelphia, he becomes involved in the bitter quarrel between his chief, Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. His attachment to the cause of the French Revolution makes him publish baseless attacks upon Washington. By and by he retires to a New Jersey farm, still toying with journalism, still composing verses. He turns patriotic poet once more in the War of 1812; but the public has now forgotten him. He lives on in poverty and seclusion, and in his eightieth year loses his way in a snowsto
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