Developing the American Identity
Developing the American Identity In this essay I will discuss the development of an American Identity which Is evident in writing. Leading up to the American Revolution there were three periods. First exploration which led into colonialism, second the Puritan period, and last the Age of Reason which was actually responsible for the formation of a united America. Though each period was different, It wasn’t until the Age of Reason that America started to form its own identity. In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to what he thought would be a shortcut to India. In reality he landed on a Bohemian island in the Caribbean.
Europe was civilized living in cities and towns as well as having forms of writing. Natives of North and South America didn’t have an alphabet at this time. Their cultures were oral so they relied on speaking to preserve important things. Many of the first writings in America were letters from explorers back to their rulers. In these letters they speak of great beauty and praise their kings. In a letter to Emperor Charles V, Caber De Vacant says, “among all the princes who have reigned, I know of none who has enjoyed the universal esteem of your Majesty'(Caber De Vacant 30).Explorers had to report good things and try to please he rulers who were funding their expeditions.
Caber De Vacant seemed to give an accurate depiction of what went on. Thomas 2 Other explorers seemed to over exaggerate to please their kings and to make a name for thrillers. English explorer John Smith seemed to “spice up” his ordeal with the Indians. He speaks of them as savages when It seems they actually treated him very well. The next phase In American literature started In 1620 with the arrival of the Pilgrims. Unlike the Puritans, the Pilgrims wanted nothing to do with the English church. Like the explorers before them they make recordings of their Journeys and vents that happened.
Throughout the Puritan period most of their writings are Influenced by their religion. Anything that happens, be It good or bad, was caused by God. When William Bradford comes across Squanto he calls him “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation” (Bedford 87). Something as good as a friendly English speaking Indian had to be God’s doing.In Mary Railroading’s writing she blames herself for being taken captive by Indians. She thought that she hadn’t been a good Christian and that’s why she was taken. At this time the early Americans hadn’t become enlightened so the only thing they could hind of to answer things is that God had to cause it.
If bad things happened God must be testing you. If good things happened God was showing you good favor. Rowland said, “we must rely on God himself, and our whole dependence must be upon 151) The early Americans hadn’t yet gained an American identity.At this point they Just considered themselves Christians. They left England to escape religious persecution Thomas 3 1 OFF marked the end of Puritanism (AL 1700-1820 171). Matters and other clerical writers strove to maintain a world centered purely around religion. After his passing the 18th century saw huge changes.
Science took huge bounds forwards and offered answers to questions that until this time had been an act of God. Intellectuals now believed in the power of the human mind that had been forgotten since the Roman Empire.The Enlightenment also brought changes to politics that would make America into what it is today. Benjamin Franklin was one of the early men to start thinking critically in America. He wrote the “Poor Richards Almanac” in 1733 and it became hugely popular. He would later sign the Declaration of Independence and become considered as one of America’s most important forefathers. He was also one of the first to question things that had been considered the norm.
It is with Franklin that American writers started to develop similar identities.Too question everything and speak against things they didn’t believe in. Education became more important and a highly educated man looks at what is going on around him and tries to understand why. Benjamin Franklin is one of the first to acknowledge that Indians were not as savage as they were viewed. He said “Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think he same of Concerning the Savages 227). Until this point, Indians were considered uncivilized because their culture was different than European culture.After a Swedish minister told some Indian chiefs the Christian creation story they told him theirs.
The Thomas 4 minister responded “what I delivered to you were sacred truths; but what you tell me is mere fable, fiction, and falsehood. ” A chief answered ” My brother, it seems your friends have not done you Justice in your education; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You saw that we, who understand and practice hose rules believed all your stores; why do you refuse to believe ours? ” (229). Franklin understood that different doesn’t mean uncivil.Later Franklin wrote what he considered moral virtues “Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, Humility. ” (The Autobiography Part II 285). They tend to go along with thoughts of an educated man.
A Puritan would have simply said trust in God. Like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson was a highly educated man who wrote about things he believed. In his Notes on the State of Virginia he wrote his thoughts on religion. He said “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god” (Notes on the State of Virginia 343).During the Puritan period this would have been heresy, which was punishable by being burned alive. During the Great Awakening in America people became aware of things that made no sense. It was a common thread found in literature from this time.
Another writer from this time, Aloud Equation, even wrote about ending slavery (Aloud Equation 350). In his narrative of the life he speaks of a yard where slaves were sold and said “Learned you this from your God, ho says unto you, Do unto all mean as you would me should do unto you? (Narrative of the Life 360). Until people started Thomas 5 neighbor as thy love yourself”, it wasn’t considered wrong to treat humans like animals. Through the beginning of America the styles of writing changed. What started as letters to please rulers, changed into writing on how to be a good Christian. Then after the Enlightenment, American writers began to gain their identity, question everything and speak against things we don’t feel is right. These are still apparent in writings from today.