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character and mode of warfare were wholly new, was to be kept at bay even to enable the Pilgrims to barely preserve their lives, and to secure the exercise of that inestimable right they had periled all to maintain, the right to worship God with an untrammeled conscience. It is not surprising, then, that the minds of the early colonists were so largely occupied with material cares, and that they were content simply to live and worship.
As the colonists increased in numbers, and in their earlier settlements began to enjoy something of security and social ease, their minds, naturally alert and active, now that the excitement of war and hunting had subsided, began to demand entertainment of a more natural sort, and, being thoroughly imbued with the original Puritan piety, realized such entertainment in Theology. In this way, sermons and doctrinal treatises came to constitute the first development of American literature.
Foremost in importance among the pioneers of this movement was Jonathan Edwards, author of the celebrated Treatise on the Will. "This remarkable man, the metaphysician of America, was formed among the Calvinists of New England when their stern doctrine retained its vigorous authority. His power of subtle argument, perhaps unmatched, certainly unsurpassed, among men, was joined, as in some of the ancient mystics, with a character which raised his piety to fervor."* Among others of this epoch may be named Roger Williams, the Mathers,† Cooper, Dwight, and Eliot; but of most of their writings it may be said they have become obsolete.
A New Era.-The event of the Revolution brought about a new era in the history of our literature. Indeed, American
*Sir James Mackintosh.
+ Cotton Mather (1663–1728), a man remarkable for profound learning, indefatigable industry, and great zeal in the advancement of the public interests, both religious and secular. Three hundred and eightytwo of his publications have been enumerated, but this does not com plete the list.
Literature, strictly speaking, may be said to have been born. at the same time with American Independence. / The independence of nature, which, in the Puritans, contented itself with maintaining freedom of the conscience and religious utterance, in the people of the United Colonies de2manded freedom of political conscience and conduct. And as the struggle for the former eventuated in the development of a theological literature, so the struggle for the latter evolved a political literature,-one original-and national too-in its principles, eloquence, and patriotic sentiment.
2/ Early Oratory.-Among the number of those who, in their advocacy of Independence, distinguished themselves for the boldness of their sentiments, the purity of their principles, and the fervor of their oratory, may be named Alexander Hamilton, Joseph Warren, John Adams, James Otis, Patrick Henry, Gouverneur Morris, Pinckney, Jay, and Rutledge. Others, like Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, Quincy, and Samuel Adams, through the public press, wrought in the national cause quite as effectively and zealously, if not as eloquently. With such an origin, and nurtured ever since by great historic events, oratory of a national type has continued to flourish in America, affording not a few most eminent examples.
3 Early History.-Not only were noble men busy projecting and shaping great national movements; some also assumed the duty of recording these events, thus originating the department of History. In the names of Belknap, Sullivan, Morton, Trumbull, Smith, Watson, Williams, Stephens, Minot, Stith, Gayerre, and Young we recognize the annalists of the original colonies; in Moultrie, Winthrop, Thatcher, Cheever, Frothingham, and Upham, the chronielers of colonial and revolutionary warfare; and in Weems, Marshall, Tudor, Wirt, Wheaton, and others, the biographera of the prominent political actors of the times.
One of the earliest and most laborious of the workers in
this field was Dr. David Ramsay, a native of Pennsylvania His works were-Historical View of the World, from the earliest Record to the Nineteenth Century, with a particular Reference to the State of Society, Literature, Religion, and Form of Govern ment of the United States of America; History of the Revolution in South Carolina; History of the American Revolution; Life of Washington; History of South Carolina; History of the United States.
Most of the writings of these early historians were mere accumulations of facts and dry recitals of events, and though some of them were marked with accuracy and scholarly ability, yet all have either passed into literary oblivion or are referred to by the antiquary only.
Early Poetry. Still another sort of literary product, arising out of the stirring events of our early struggle, was Poetry. Our fathers were not satisfied merely with giving eloquent utterance to political truths in their legislative halls and before the assembled people, nor yet with having the noble deeds inspired thereby coldly jotted down as memoranda; there were found among them some who sought to incite, cheer, and reward patriotic ardor and endeavor by the heart-thrill of song and by poetic visions of a future national glory.
"The first metrical compositions in this country, recognized by popular sympathy, were the effusions of Philip Freneau, a political writer befriended by Jefferson. He wrote many songs and ballads in a patriotic and historical vein, which attracted and somewhat reflected the feelings of his contemporaries, and were not destitute of merit. Their success was owing, in part, to the immediate interest of the subjects, and in part to musical versification and pathetic sentiment."*
The most memorable constellation of the times was what has been styled the "Pleiades of Connecticut." The stars of this cluster were John Trumbull, Timothy Dwight, * H. T. Tuckerman.
David Humphreys, Joel Barlow, Lemuel Hopkins, Theodore Dwight, and Richard Alsop. Timothy Dwight's great work was The Conquest of Canaan; Trumbull's, McFingal ; and Barlow's, The Vision of Columbus, or, The Columbiad. Although these writers were men of sound understanding and liberal scholarship, and though their pretentious poems attained a temporary and local notoriety, yet posterity has long since refused to recognize the inspiration of the Muse in either. Their peculiarities have been summed up by a recent critic in the following language:
"There was not a spark of genuine poetic fire in the seven. They sang without an ear for music; they strewed their pages with faded artificial flowers, which they mistook for Nature, and endeavored to overcome sterility of imagination and want of passion by veneering with magniloquent epithets. They padded their ill-favored Muse, belaced and beruffled her, and covered her with garments stiffened with tawdry embroidery to hide her leanness; they over-powdered and over-rouged to give her the beauty Providence had refused. I say their Muse, but they had no Muse of their own; they imported an inferior one from England, and tried her in every style-Pope's and Dryden's, Goldsmith's and Gray's-and never rose above a poor imitation, producing something which looked like a model, but lacked its flavor-wooden poetry, in short."*
With the setting of the "Pleiades " closed the first quarter of the present century, and their setting, far from diminishing the light of American literature, only ushered in the dawn of a fairer day.
Later Theology.—Theological controversy, which had raged through two centuries, now culminated in the recognition of two leading parties-the Orthodox and the Liberal. Among both these have arisen divines no less renowned for their general culture and literary tastes than or their theological acumen and lore. With these, ser*Atlantic Monthly, vol. xv., p. 197.
mons, from being cold, formal, argumentative, and dog. matic, put on a new livery of beautiful and apt figure and sensuous diction, and discoursed more of the practical duties of life and of the aesthetic and moral teachings of Nature. There was less of terror in them and more of love, less of condemnation and more of sympathy, less of argument and more of eloquence, less of imposing logic and more of winning rhetoric.
These divines, moreover, have labored, to some extent, in the field of pure literature, as lecturers on moral, social, political, and æsthetic questions. Of such of the Orthodox we may name Payson, Abbott, Bedell, Todd, Sprague, Barnes, Tyng, Bushnell, George B. Cheever, and the Beechers. Of the Liberal party, Dewey, Whitman, the Channings, Frothingham, Furness, Clarke, Parker, Wasson, Thos. Starr King, and Chapin. (See Supplement A.)
Later Oratory.-Oratory in America did not expire with the Revolutionary fires which kindled it, but in the questions of tariff, domestic industries, territorial acquisition, and government, national finance, slavery, and other momentous issues involved in the administration of a great republican government, has found combustible and ample fuel. And not only have extraordinary occasions for oratory occurred, but also extraordinary opportunities for it; for in our country there has always existed, as there has in no other, perfect freedom of speech. No despotic ruler or law exists to awe, compel, or subsidize to its purposes the opinion of the citizen, but, himself a partner in the national firm, his utterance may be as free as his thought. Under influences so favorable it could scarcely be otherwise than that America should be prolific in her race of orators.
Prominent among these may be enumerated the Adamses, Fisher Ames, William Wirt, Chief-Justice Story, Chancellor Kent, Daniel Webster, Rufus Choate, Edward Everett, Clay, Randolph, Crittenden, Preston, Hayne, Calhoun, Benton, Cass, Cushing, Johnson, Prentiss, Sprague, Sumner, Phillips,