The Revolutionary Literature

There are two great revolutions take place in the eighteenth century American; one was American Revolution ;it ended with the independence of America as an achievement. The other was Enlightenment, an intellectual campaign which affected the American with rationalist and enabled them abandoned Puritanism. It focus on replace tradition with rationality, get rid of the unquestioning religious dogma and found scientific inquiry, set up representative government instead of monarchy. Most of the important writers of the 18th century belonged to the enlightenment. The enlightenment considered the chief means for the betterment of the society was the “enlightenment” or “education” of the people. They believed in the power of reason. Most of the enlightenment thinkers believed that social problem could not be solved by church doctrine or by the power of God, but should be solved with human intelligence. In this period, there are a series of eminent notables in the politics and literature field, such as Ben­jamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, whose prominent contributions and self-capability enabled them to become successful, and accelerant the development of the literature in that time.


Benjamin Franklin(1709-1790), in the words of biographer Carl Van Doren, was a "harmonious human multitude." His writing show the Enlightenment ideal of rationality and spirit in America at its best and most optimistic. His style is very modern, so even today his works are worthy to read. Although he is disagree with the opinions of the Puritans, his works wrote in the “plain style”. Meanwhile, there is something "anti-literary" about Franklin. He don’t like poetry and consider that writers should have a purpose in writing.


From his work, we can see these ideas. Almanacs, containing much useful informations for farmers and sailors (about the next year\'s weather, sea tides, etc.), is a popular form of practical literature. It is widespread in most Colonial households at that time. Poor Richard\'s Almanac (1732— 1757) wrote by Franklin made him well-known among the colonies. Readers can get many useful encouragements, advices, real informations from the book, and enjoyed in amusing characters such as old Father Abraham and Poor Richard persuade the reader with concise but memorable sayings. Some of them are also well-known today:


“Lost time is never found again.”


“Up sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.”


“God helps them who help themselves.”


“A small leak will sink a great Ship.”




Franklin’s another famous work is his Autobiography. Franklin wrote the first five chapters of it in England in 1771, and continued thirteen years later (1784-85) in Paris and later in 1788 when he returned to the United States. It concerned to his various contribution including: printing, science, literature, and politics. In each of these fields, he was a leader. “He was the most famous and respected figure of his time”. In Franklin\'s life, his lived as an gifted individual under the influence of the Enlightenment .He had read many Enlightenment writers works and have good understanding. Franklin learned from them, and then apply conclusion to his own life and to break with old Puritan tradition.


Franklin wrote the Autobiography in order to advise his son, it covers only his early years. Franklin lists 13 virtues which is the important section about his plan of self-improvement, that is: “temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility”. He use maxim to illustrate each virtue, for example, the temperance maxim is "Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation." As a pragmatic scientist, Franklin using himself as the experimental subject to put the idea into the practice.


Although he was successful then, Franklin never lost his democratic sensibility, and he was an important member at the 1787 convention at which the U.S. Constitution drafted. He was president of an antislavery association in his later year.


Thomas Paine(1737-1809) is the greatest pamphlet-writer of the American Revolution, he was born in England. Because of an unimportant and not wholly respectable career in England, he came to America in 1774,in his thirty-seven, after he met Benjamin Franklin in London , and settled at Philadelphia. Two years later, he wrote a series of sixteen pamphlets (1776-1783) entitled “American Crisis” and signed Common Sense it published in January, 1776, seized the psychological moment. The pamphlets is the most historically