Thursday, April 18, 2019

Escaping to America - To Practice Enlightenment Ideals

Toward the end of the 17C, Enlightenment thought spread throughout Europe & into the British American colonies lasting well into the 18C.

Born by scientific advances , particularly those of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), the inductive method of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), and the empirical philosophy of John Locke (1632–1704), the Enlightenment movement emphasized the importance of individual human reason as well as the existence of natural law.

It encouraged literary critics & taste-makers Joseph Addison (1672-1719) & Richard Steele (1692-1729) to publish The Spectator; satirists Alexander Pope 1688-1744) & Jonathan Swift (1667-1745); plus economists (Adam Smith (1723-1790) & Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). In the 1st half of the 18C, their writings quickly spread to the British American colonies through enterprising publishers such as young Benjamin Franklin. And more people were learning to read in the 18C.

Artists inspired by its rationalism & order turned from the florid Rococo toward a more elegant simplicity. At the same time, the discovery of the ruins of the ancient cities Herculaneum (1709) & Pompeii (1748) renewed interest in the arts, literature, and architecture of classical cultures.

At the end of the 18C, revolutions in France & the British American colonies invited comparisons between classical & the freedom of emerging contemporary governments. These factors advanced the Neoclassical movement in the visual arts & architecture, and the study of literary classics in Latin & Greek. Young men, and even some women, were learning classical languages in 18C America. The freedom & equality offered by emerging revolutionary governments encouraged some to move across the Atlantic to the Early American republic.

Despite professed beliefs in enlightenment and reason, independence for most women in the British American colonies and the new republic was nearly impossible. Individualism and freedom were reserved for men in colonial society throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.