Enlightenment And Romanticism Essay, Research Paper
The evolution of American thought through the Enlightenment and the Era of Romanticism was an ongoing process that began even before the American Revolution. It spanned well over one hundred years during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the contributors to the progression were many. The basic pattern of this time period was one of a constant quest for freedom, first from the bounds of England and Puritanism and eventually from even the limits of science and reason. America was founded on the doctrine of independence, and this subject was and still is a crucial issue in our country, no matter what it is in reference to.
The Enlightenment can be defined as the period of time when reason and science became the driving forces of life. Men began to rationalize that the contribution of inventions and other things of use to society was what would please God and was also the best way to live. Men realized that they could harness nature. Religion also evolved, and Deism, the belief that the universe is run by an intelligent and benevolent God, came into play. Americans yearned to break free from the narrow-mindedness of the Provincial era, and embraced this period of time to the fullest extent.
The first hint of the American Enlightenment can best be exemplified by John Wise and Jonathan Edwards and their attempts to reform the Church. Because he believed that all men were endowed with reason from God, Wise was a firm opponent to the concept of the “Elect.” Edwards felt that a moment of conversion in which one was enlightened through a personal confrontation with God, was needed in order to be saved. As soon as a person went through such a conversion, then and only then would he be a member of the “Elect.”
The inspiration for Edwards’ religious concepts came from the works of John Locke, who was most responsible for many of the most notable Enlightenment attributes. “Locke held that physical sensations interpreted by the mechanical faculties of reason, memory, and judgment, were the entire basis of knowledge and experience. “ In addition, he contributed the doctrines of self-reliance and the assumption of rights, which basically guaranteed the unalienable rights of life and freedom to all men.
Another vital man of the Enlightenment was Benjamin Franklin. Besides his many notable inventions and discoveries, Franklin contributed a great deal to American philosophy. He believed that the most honorable thing to do was to be of use to society. Franklin also conceived that the perfection of oneself was absolutely possible since the universe and therefore mankind was based entirely on reason and logic.
With the arrival of the American Revolution came a drastic increase in the desire of Americans to be cut loose from the English monarchy in every sense of the matter. Democracy came to be seen not just as an option, but as the only feasible option in running a government free of corruption. Thomas Paine incited a great deal of Americans against the British in his incendiary and rhetoric-filled essays.