American and Cultural Transition The eighteenth century came with many different cultural transitions since it was a period of great change and development. These changes not only came to the governments and social structures of the time but also in the ideas and concepts that were long held as sacred before the 18th century. The work of the writers of the time reflects this transition quite clearly as the revolutionary inspired writings of Thomas Paine and the calm suggestions of Benjamin Franklin both represent how the world was changing (Branham, 1998). However, the process of the change clearly lasted only during the revolution since the writers who came after them were more focused on creating order in society rather than brining about change to a given system (Brinkley et. al., 2006).
For example, Thomas Paine talks in a passionate manner about seeking freedom and looking for ways for the American people to overthrow the authority of the king by offering people a viewpoint which comes from Common Sense. However, he does not condone the overthrow of all forms of government which could lead to simple anarchy since some manner of order and protection of the people remains a requirement of him as well as many other writers. Helping the weak and the needy is a given dictate of Benjamin Franklin, however, he does not condone that people should seek out help but rather that they should stand on their own feet to help themselves (Brinkley et. al., 2006).
This was indeed a cultural transition
since before the revolution American interests and the interests of the colonies were the same as British interests (Larkin, 2005). After the revolution, America had to seek its own identity and establish itself as a willing partner who wanted peace amongst the brotherhood of nations. As noted by Brinkley et. al. (2006) the prominent leaders of the country such as Washington had written about their desire and recommendation that America stay out of the affairs of the Old World, but it was clearly unlikely since American wealth and American power would eventually pull America to play an active role in international politics.
In this context, the writings of the revolutionaries and the writings of the American founding fathers often stand in stark contrast to what America actually became in the 19th century. Whereas they wanted a free nation, slavery continued to be a point of hot debate. Whereas they wanted a nation which was free of foreign influences, foreign trade and warfare with the powers of the Old World continued for many years after the revolution was over (Larkin, 2005). Therefore, when we examine the American literature coming from the end of the 18th century, we often find words which are heavily influenced by political and social change that were taking place at the time. However, the historical records and the actions taken by various governments in America are more realist than the idealistic writers since they seem to be more connected with the ground realities of the time than the writers who were seeking a utopia in America.
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Branham, A. 1998, ‘Enlightenment in American Literature: Shedding Light on Faith and Reason’, The English Journal, vol. 87, no. 3, pp. 54-59.
Brinkley, A. et. al. 2006. The American Journey. McGraw-Hill.
Larkin, E. 2005. Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution. Cambridge University Press