|DBQ – the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening: ideas of the American Revolution
Question: The following question requires you to construct a coherent essay that integrates your interpretation of Documents A – G and your knowledge of the period referred to in the question.
The Great Awakening is often characterized as a reaction to the ideas of the European Enlightenment; yet, both were a part of the ideas that influenced the American Revolution. To what extent did these two major movements of the eighteenth century help the people of the colonies develop a common “American” identity and establish arguments for their independence from Great Britain.
Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1690 – 1780 to construct your essay.
Excerpt from Common Sense by Thomas Paine, 1776
In short, independence is the only bond that can tie and keep us together. WE shall then see our object, and our ears will be legally shut against the schemes of an intriguing, as well as a cruel enemy. We shall then too be on a proper footing to treat with Britain; for there is reason to conclude, that the pride of that court will be less hurt be treating with the American states for terms of peace, then with those she denominates “rebellious subjects,” for terms of accommodation. It is our delaying it that encourages her to hope for conquest, and our backwardness tends only to prolong the war. As we have, without any good effect therefrom, withheld our trade to obtain a redress of our grievances, let us now try to the alternative, by independently redressing them ourselves, and then offering to pen the trade. The mercantile and reasonable part of England will be still with us; because, peace and trade, is preferable to war without it.
Excerpt from “’I saw the book talk’: slave readings of the first great awakening” by Frank Lambert.
For most eighteenth-century slave converts, worship meant settings controlled by their white masters. Charles Woodmason, an Anglican itinerant, noted the unusual degree of racial intermixture in churches of the Carolina backcountry in the 1760s. Of a congregation at Flatt Creek, Woodmason remarked: “Here I found a vast Body of People assemble – Such a Medley! such a mixed Multitude of all Classes and Complexions I never saw.” To the Methodist circuit rider Thomas Rankin, the sight of blacks and whites in the same church was commonplace. He observed in the 1770s that “hundreds of negroes” crowded in and around Piedmont Virginia’s evangelical chapels; “in general, the white people were within the chapel and the black people without.”
Editorial in The Independent Reflector, by the New York “Triumvirate,” William Livingston, John Morin Scott and William Smith (1753)
A Printer ought not to publish every Thing that is offered to him; but what is conducive of general Utility, she should not refuse, be the Author a Christian, Jew, Turk or Infidel. Such Refusal is an immediate abridgement of the Freedom of the Press. When on the other Hand, he prostitutes his Art by the Publication of any Thing injurious to his Country, it is criminal… It is high Treason against the State. The usual Alarm rung in such Cases, the common Cry of an Attack upon the LIBERTY OF THE PRESS, is groundless and trifling. The Press neither has, nor can have such a Liberty, and whenever it is assumed, the Printer should be punished.
A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black, (Now Going to Preach the Gospel in Nova-Scotia), Born in New York, in North America.
I John Marrant, born June 15th, 1755, in New York, in North American, with these gracious dealings of the Lord with me to be published, in hopes they may be useful to others, to encourage the fearful, to confirm the wavering, and to refresh the hearts of true believers. (…) So we went, and with much difficulty got within the doors. I was pushing the people to make room, to get the horn off my shoulder to blow it, just as Mr. Whitefield was naming his text and looking round, as I thought, directly upon me, and pointing with his finer, he uttered these words, “Prepare to meet the God O Israel.” The Lord accompanied the word with such power, that I was struck to the ground, and lay both speechless and senseless near half an hour. (…) When the people were dismissed Mr. Whitefiled came into the vestry, and being told of my condition he came immediately, and the first word he said to me was, “Jesus Christ has got thee at last.” (…) I used to spend my time in reading God’s Word, singing Watts’s Hymns and in Prayer, the little negro children would often come round the door with their pretty wishful looks, and finding my heart much drawn out in Love to their souls, I one evening called several of them in, and asked them if they could say the Lord’s Prayer, etc. finding they were very ignorant, I told them, if they would come every evening I would teach them, which they did, and learned very fast, some of them in about four weeks could say the Lord’s Prayer, and good part of the Catechism, after teachings, I used to go to prayer with them before we parted; this continued without interruption for three of four months, in which time, by the children acquainting their parents with it, I soon had my society increased to about thirty persons;
Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, 1776
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Power of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack, by Benjamin Franklin
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.
Great talkers, little doers.
God helps them that help themselves.
In the affairs of the this world, men are saved not by faith but by the want of it.
Philip Freneau, “The Rising Glory of America”, 1771
(…) This is the land of every joyous sound, /
Of liberty and life, sweet liberty! /
Without whose aid the noblest genius /
And science irretrievably must die.