American Enlightenment

The American Enlightenment was a period of intellectual ferment in the thirteen American colonies in the 17th to 18th century, which led to the American Revolution, and the creation of the United States of America. The American Enlightenment was influenced by the 17th-century European Enlightenment and its own native American philosophy. According to James MacGregor Burns, the spirit of the American Enlightenment was to give Enlightenment ideals a practical, useful form in the life of the nation and its people.[1]

The Enlightenment applied scientific reasoning to politics, science, and religion. It promoted religious tolerance and restored literature, arts, and music as important disciplines worthy of study in colleges. "New-model" American style colleges were founded such as King's College New York (now Columbia University), and the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania). Yale College and the College of William & Mary were reformed. A non-denominational moral philosophy replaced theology in many college curricula. Even Puritan colleges such as the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Harvard University reformed their curricula to include natural philosophy (science), modern astronomy, and mathematics.

Among the foremost representatives of the American Enlightenment were presidents of colleges, including Puritan religious leaders Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Clap, and Ezra Stiles, and Anglican moral philosophers Samuel Johnson and William Smith. The leading political thinkers were John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Paine, George Mason, James Wilson, Ethan Allen, and Alexander Hamilton, and polymaths Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Leading scientists included Benjamin Franklin for his work on electricity, William Smith for his organization and observations of the Transit of Venus, Jared Eliot for his work in metallurgy and agriculture, the astronomer David Rittenhouse in astronomy, math, and instruments, Benjamin Rush in medical science, Charles Willson Peale in natural history, and Cadwallader Colden for his work in botany and town sanitation. Colden's daughter, Jane Colden, was the first female botanist working in America. Count Rumford was a leading scientist, especially in the field of heat.

American Enlightenment
1732–1845
Thomas Paine
IncludingAmerican philosophy
Preceded byEuropean Enlightenment
Followed byAmerican Revolution
Leader(s)Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington

Terminology

The term "American Enlightenment" was coined in the post-World War II era. It was not used in the eighteenth century when English speakers commonly referred to a process of becoming "enlightened."[2][3]

Dates

Various dates for the American Enlightenment have been proposed, including the dates 1750–1820,[4] 1765–1815,[5] and 1688–1815.[6] One more precise start date proposed[7] is the date a collection of Enlightenment books by Colonial Agent Jeremiah Dummer were donated into the library of the small college of Yale at Saybrook Point, Connecticut on or just after October 15, 1714. They were received by a young post-graduate student Samuel Johnson, of Guilford, Connecticut, who studied them. He found that they contradicted all his hard-learned Puritan learning. He wrote that, "All this was like a flood of day to his low state of mind",[8] and that "he found himself like one at once emerging out of the glimmer of twilight into the full sunshine of open day". Two years later in 1716 as a Yale Tutor, Johnson introduced a new curriculum into Yale using the donated Dummer books. He offered what he called "The New Learning",[9] which included the works and ideas of Francis Bacon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Boyle, Copernicus, and literary works by Shakespeare, Milton, and Addison. Enlightenment ideas were introduced to the colonists and diffused through Puritan educational and religious networks especially through Yale College in 1718.[10]

Religious tolerance

Enlightened Founding Fathers, especially Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, fought for and eventually attained religious freedom for minority denominations. According to the founding fathers, the United States should be a country where peoples of all faiths could live in peace and mutual benefit. James Madison summed up this ideal in 1792 saying, "Conscience is the most sacred of all property."[11]

A switch away from established religion to religious tolerance was one of the distinguishing features of the era from 1775 to 1818. The passage of the new Connecticut Constitution on October 5, 1818, overturned the 180-year-old "Standing Order" and The Connecticut Charter of 1662, whose provisions dated back to the founding of the state in 1638 and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut; it has been proposed as a date for the triumph if not the end of the American Enlightenment:).[12] The new constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, and disestablished the Congregational church.

Intellectual currents

Between 1714 and 1818 a great intellectual change took place that changed the British Colonies of America from a distant backwater into a leader in the fields of moral philosophy, educational reform, religious revival, industrial technology, science, and, most notably, political philosophy. It saw a consensus on a "pursuit of happiness" based political philosophy.

Architecture

After 1780, the Federal-style of American Architecture began to diverge from the Georgian style and became a uniquely American genre; in 1813, the American architect Ithiel Town designed and in 1814–1816 built the first Gothic Style church in North America, Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, predating the English Gothic revival by a decade. In the fields of literature, poetry, music, and drama some nascent artistic attempts were made, particularly in pre-war Philadelphia, but American (non-popular) culture in these fields was largely imitative of British culture for most of the period and is generally considered not very distinguished.

Republicanism

Politically, the age is distinguished by an emphasis upon economic liberty, republicanism and religious tolerance, as clearly expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence. Attempts to reconcile science and religion resulted in a rejection of prophecy, miracle, and revealed religion, resulting in an inclination toward deism among some major political leaders of the age. American republicanism emphasized consent of the governed, riddance of the aristocracy, and fear of corruption. It represented the convergence of classical republicanism and English republicanism (of 17th century Commonwealthmen and 18th century English Country Whigs).[13]

J.G.A. Pocock explained the intellectual sources in America:[14]

The Whig canon and the neo-Harringtonians, John Milton, James Harrington and Sidney, Trenchard, Gordon and Bolingbroke, together with the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance masters of the tradition as far as Montesquieu, formed the authoritative literature of this culture; and its values and concepts were those with which we have grown familiar: a civic and patriot ideal in which the personality was founded on property, perfected in citizenship but perpetually threatened by corruption; government figuring paradoxically as the principal source of corruption and operating through such means as patronage, faction, standing armies (opposed to the ideal of the militia); established churches (opposed to the Puritan and deist modes of American religion); and the promotion of a monied interest—though the formulation of this last concept was somewhat hindered by the keen desire for readily available paper credit common in colonies of settlement.

European sources

Sources of the American Enlightenment are many and vary according to time and place. As a result of an extensive book trade with Great Britain, the colonies were well acquainted with European literature almost contemporaneously. Early influences were English writers, including James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, the Viscount Bolingbroke, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (especially the two's Cato's Letters), and Joseph Addison (whose tragedy Cato was extremely popular). A particularly important English legal writer was Sir William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England served as a major influence on the American Founders and is a key source in the development Anglo-American common law. Although John Locke's Two Treatises of Government has long been cited as a major influence on American thinkers, historians David Lundberg and Henry F. May demonstrate that Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding was far more widely read than were his political Treatises.[15]

The Scottish Enlightenment also influenced American thinkers. David Hume's Essays and his History of England were widely read in the colonies,[16] and Hume's political thought had a particular influence on James Madison and the Constitution.[17] Another important Scottish writer was Francis Hutcheson. Hutcheson's ideas of ethics, along with notions of civility and politeness developed by the Earl of Shaftesbury, and Addison and Richard Steele in their Spectator, were a major influence on upper-class American colonists who sought to emulate European manners and learning.

By far the most important French sources to the American Enlightenment, however, were Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws and Emer de Vattel's Law of Nations. Both informed early American ideas of government and were major influences on the Constitution. Voltaire's histories were widely read but seldom cited. Rousseau's influence was marginal. Noah Webster used Rousseau's educational ideas of child development to structure his famous Speller. A German influence includes Samuel Pufendorf, whose writings were also commonly cited by American writers.

Liberalism and republicanism

Since the 1960s, historians have debated the Enlightenment's role in the American Revolution. Before 1960 the consensus was that liberalism, especially that of John Locke, was paramount; republicanism was largely ignored.[18] The new interpretations were pioneered by J.G.A. Pocock who argued in The Machiavellian Moment (1975) that, at least in the early eighteenth-century, republican ideas were just as important as liberal ones. Pocock's view is now widely accepted.[19] Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood pioneered the argument that the Founding Fathers of the United States were more influenced by republicanism than they were by liberalism. Cornell University Professor Isaac Kramnick, on the other hand, argues that Americans have always been highly individualistic and therefore Lockean.[20]

In the decades before the American Revolution (1776), the intellectual and political leaders of the colonies studied history intently, looking for guides or models for good (and bad) government. They especially followed the development of republican ideas in England.[21] Pocock explained the intellectual sources in the United States:

The Whig canon and the neo-Harringtonians, John Milton, James Harrington and Sidney, Trenchard, Gordon and Bolingbroke, together with the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance masters of the tradition as far as Montesquieu, formed the authoritative literature of this culture; and its values and concepts were those with which we have grown familiar: a civic and patriot ideal in which the personality was founded on property, perfected in citizenship but perpetually threatened by corruption; government figuring paradoxically as the principal source of corruption and operating through such means as patronage, faction, standing armies (opposed to the ideal of the militia), established churches (opposed to the Puritan and deist modes of American religion) and the promotion of a monied interest—though the formulation of this last concept was somewhat hindered by the keen desire for readily available paper credit common in colonies of settlement. A neoclassical politics provided both the ethos of the elites and the rhetoric of the upwardly mobile, and accounts for the singular cultural and intellectual homogeneity of the Founding Fathers and their generation.[22]

The commitment of most Americans to these republican values made inevitable the American Revolution, for Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt and hostile to republicanism, and a threat to the established liberties the Americans enjoyed.[23]

Leopold von Ranke, a leading German historian, in 1848 claims that American republicanism played a crucial role in the development of European liberalism:

By abandoning English constitutionalism and creating a new republic based on the rights of the individual, the North Americans introduced a new force in the world. Ideas spread most rapidly when they have found adequate concrete expression. Thus republicanism entered our Romanic/Germanic world... Up to this point, the conviction had prevailed in Europe that monarchy best served the interests of the nation. Now the idea spread that the nation should govern itself. But only after a state had actually been formed on the basis of the theory of representation did the full significance of this idea become clear. All later revolutionary movements have this same goal... This was the complete reversal of a principle. Until then, a king who ruled by the grace of God had been the center around which everything turned. Now the idea emerged that power should come from below... These two principles are like two opposite poles, and it is the conflict between them that determines the course of the modern world. In Europe the conflict between them had not yet taken on concrete form; with the French Revolution it did.[24]

"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

Many historians[25] find that the origin of this famous phrase derives from Locke's position that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."[26] Others suggest that Jefferson took the phrase from Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.[27] Others note that William Wollaston's 1722 book The Religion of Nature Delineated describes the "truest definition" of "natural religion" as being "The pursuit of happiness by the practice of reason and truth."[28]

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was written by George Mason and adopted by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776, a few days before Jefferson's draft, in part, reads:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

The United States Declaration of Independence, which was primarily written by Jefferson, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The text of the second section of the Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Deism

Both the Moderate Enlightenment and a Radical or Revolutionary Enlightenment were reactions against the authoritarianism, irrationality, and obscurantism of the established churches. Philosophers such as Voltaire depicted organized Religion as hostile to the development of reason and the progress of science and incapable of verification.

An alternative religion was deism, the philosophical belief in a deity based on reason, rather than religious revelation or dogma. It was a popular perception among the philosophes, who adopted deistic attitudes to varying degrees. Deism greatly influenced the thought of intellectuals and Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, perhaps George Washington and, especially, Thomas Jefferson.[29] The most articulate exponent was Thomas Paine, whose The Age of Reason was written in France in the early 1790s, and soon reached the United States. Paine was highly controversial; when Jefferson was attacked for his deism in the 1800 election, Democratic-Republican politicians took pains to distance their candidate from Paine.[30] Unitarianism and Deism were strongly connected, the former being brought to America by Joseph Priestley, the oxygen scientist. Doctor Samuel Johnson called Lord Edward Herbert the "father of English Deism".

See also

References

  1. ^ Burns, James MacGregor (2013). Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World. Macmillan. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-250-02490-9.
  2. ^ Caroline Winterer, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason, Yale University Press, 2016
  3. ^ Winterer, What Was the American Enlightenment? in The Worlds of American Intellectual History, eds. Joel Isaac, James Kloppenberg, and Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, Oxford University Press, 2016
  4. ^ Ferguson Robert A., The American Enlightenment, 1750–1820, Harvard University Press, 1994
  5. ^ Adrienne Koch, referenced by Woodward, C. Vann, The Comparative Approach to American History, Oxford University Press, 1997
  6. ^ Henry F. May, referenced by Byrne, James M., Religion and the Enlightenment: From Descartes to Kant, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996, p. 50
  7. ^ Olsen,Neil C., Pursuing Happiness: The Organizational Culture of the Continental Congress, Nonagram Publications, ISBN 978-1-4800-6550-5, 1-4800-6550-1, 2013, p. 145
  8. ^ Johnson, Samuel, and Schneider, Herbert, Samuel Johnson, President of King's College; His Career and Writings, editors Herbert and Carol Schneider, New York: Columbia University Press, 1929, Volume 1, p. 7
  9. ^ Johnson and Schneider
  10. ^ Joseph J. Ellis, The New England Mind in Transition: Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, 1696–1772, Yale University Press, 1973, Chapter II and p. 45
  11. ^ Bryan-Paul Frost and Jeffrey Sikkenga, History of American political thought (2003) p. 152
  12. ^ Olsen, p. 16
  13. ^ Linda K. Kerber, "The Republican Ideology of the Revolutionary Generation," pp. 474–95 in JSTOR
  14. ^ J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment p. 507
  15. ^ See David Lundberg and Henry F. May, "The Enlightened Reader in America," American Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 2 (1976): 267.
  16. ^ See Mark G. Spencer, David Hume and Eighteenth-Century America (2005).
  17. ^ See Douglass Adair, "'That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science': David Hume, James Madison, and the Tenth Federalist," Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 4 (1957): 343–60; and Mark G. Spencer, "Hume and Madison on Faction," The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., vol. 59, no. 4 (2002): 869–96.
  18. ^ See for example, Vernon L. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought (1927) online at [1]
  19. ^ Shalhope (1982)
  20. ^ Isaac Kramnick, Ideological Background," in Jack. P. Greene and J.R. Pole, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (1994) ch. 9; Robert E. Shallhope, "Republicanism," ibid ch. 70.
  21. ^ Colbourn, H. Trevor (1974). The lamp of experience: Whig history and the intellectual origins of the American Revolution. New York: Norton; [published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Va. ISBN 9780393007145.
  22. ^ Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment p. 507
  23. ^ Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967)
  24. ^ Adams, Willi Paul (2001). The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of the State Constitutions in the Revolutionary Era. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 128–29.
  25. ^ J. R. Pole, The pursuit of equality in American history (1978) p. 9
  26. ^ Locke, John (1690). Two Treatises of Government (10th edition). Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  27. ^ Paul Sayre, ed., Interpretations of modern legal philosophies (1981) p. 189
  28. ^ James W. Ely, Main themes in the debate over property rights (1997) p. 28
  29. ^ Sanford, Charles B. The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-1131-1
  30. ^ Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (1977) p. 257

Further reading

Biographies

  • Aldridge, A. Owen, (1959). Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Lippincott.
  • Cunningham, Noble E. In Pursuit of Reason (1988) well-reviewed short biography of Jefferson.
  • Weinberger, Jerry Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (University Press of Kansas, 2008) ISBN 0-7006-1584-9

Academic studies

  • Allen, Brooke Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers (2007) Ivan R Dee, Inc, ISBN 1-56663-751-1
  • Bailyn, Bernard The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1992) Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-44302-0
  • Bedini, Silvio A Jefferson and Science (2002) The University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 1-882886-19-4
  • Cohen, I. Bernard Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Madison (1995) W.W. Norton & Co, ISBN 0-393-03501-8
  • Dray, Philip Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America (2005) Random House, ISBN 1-4000-6032-X
  • Ellis, Joseph. "Habits of Mind and an American Enlightenment," American Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 2, Special Issue: An American Enlightenment (Summer, 1976), pp. 150–14 in JSTOR
  • Ferguson, Robert A. The American Enlightenment, 1750–1820 (1997) Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-02322-6
  • Gay, Peter The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1995) W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-31302-6; The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (1996) W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-31366-2
  • Greeson, Jennifer "American Enlightenment: The New World and Modern Western Thought." American Literary History (2013) online
  • Israel, Jonathan A Revolution of the Mind – Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (2009) Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-14200-9
  • Jayne, Allen Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology (2000) The University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0-8131-9003-7; [traces TJ's sources and emphasizes his incorporation of Deist theology into the Declaration.]
  • Koch, Adrienne. "Pragmatic Wisdom and the American Enlightenment," William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 3 (July 1961), pp. 313–29 in JSTOR
  • May, Henry F. The Enlightenment in America (1978) Oxford University Press, US, ISBN 0-19-502367-6; the standard survey
  • May, Henry F. The Divided Heart: Essays on Protestantism and the Enlightenment in America (Oxford UP 1991) online
  • McDonald, Forrest Novus Ordo Seclorum: Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (1986) University Press of Kansas, ISBN 0-7006-0311-5
  • Meyer D.H. "The Uniqueness of the American Enlightenment," American Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 2, Special Issue: An American Enlightenment (Summer, 1976), pp. 165–86 in JSTOR
  • Nelson, Craig Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (2007) Penguin, ISBN 0-14-311238-4
  • Ralston, Shane "American Enlightenment Thought" (2011), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Reid-Maroney, Nina Philadelphia's Enlightenment, 1740–1800: Kingdom of Christ, Empire of Reason (2000)
  • Richard, C.J. Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment (1995) Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-31426-3
  • Sanford, Charles B. The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-1131-1
  • Sheridan, Eugene R. Jefferson and Religion, preface by Martin Marty, (2001) University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 1-882886-08-9
  • Staloff, Darren Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. (2005) Hill & Wang, ISBN 0-8090-7784-1
  • Winterer, Caroline American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (2016) Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-19257-6
  • Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1993) Vintage, ISBN 0-679-73688-3

Historiography

  • Winterer, Caroline. "What Was the American Enlightenment?" in The Worlds of American Intellectual History, eds. Joel Isaac, James Kloppenberg, Michael O'Brien, and Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016): 19–36.
  • Caron, Nathalie, and Naomi Wulf. "American Enlightenments: Continuity and Renewal." Journal of American History (2013) 99#4 pp: 1072–91. online
  • Dixon, John M. "Henry F. May and the Revival of the American Enlightenment: Problems and Possibilities for Intellectual and Social History." William & Mary Quarterly (2014) 71#2 pp. 255–80. in JSTOR

Primary sources

  • Torre, Jose, ed. Enlightenment in America, 1720–1825 (4 vol. Pickering & Chatto Publishers, 2008) 1360 pages; table of contents online at Pickering & Chatto website
  • Lemay, A. Leo, ed. Franklin: Writings (Library of America, 1987)
  • Jefferson, Thomas. Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999 online
  • Paine, Thomas. Thomas Paine: Collected Writings. Ed. Eric Foner. Library of America, 1995. ISBN 1-883011-03-5.
  • Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, 3 vols. (1995)
Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, "In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard's Almanack, which he authored under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders". After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.

He pioneered and was first president of Academy and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania. He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.

He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national communications network. During the revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the 1750s, he argued against slavery from an economic perspective and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored more than two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.

Cato's Letters

Cato's Letters were essays by British writers John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, first published from 1720 to 1723 under the pseudonym of Cato (95–46 BCE), the implacable foe of Julius Caesar and a famously stubborn champion of republican principles (mos maiorum).

Declaration of Rights and Grievances

The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was a document written by the Stamp Act Congress and passed on October 14, 1765. It declared that taxes imposed on British colonists without their formal consent were unconstitutional.

The Declaration of Rights raised fourteen points of colonial protest but was not directed exclusively at the Stamp Act of 1765, which required that documents, newspapers, and playing cards be printed on special stamped and taxed paper. In addition to the specific protests of the Stamp Act taxes, it made the assertions which follow:

Colonists owe to the crown "the same allegiance" owed by "subjects born within the realm".

Colonists owe to Parliament "all due subordination".

Colonists possessed all the rights of Englishmen.

Trial by jury is a right.

The use of Admiralty Courts was abusive.

Without voting rights, Parliament could not represent the colonists.

There should be no taxation without representation.

Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies.

George Washington

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who also served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. He led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War of Independence, and he presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the new federal government. He has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

Washington received his initial military training and command with the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. He was later elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and was named a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he was appointed Commanding General of the nation's Continental Army. Washington led American forces, allied with France, in the defeat and surrender of the British at Yorktown, and resigned his commission in 1783.

Washington played a key role in the adoption and ratification of the Constitution and was then elected president by the Electoral College in the first two elections. He implemented a strong, well-financed national government while remaining impartial in a fierce rivalry between cabinet members Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. During the French Revolution, he proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty. He set enduring precedents for the office of president, including the title "President of the United States", and his Farewell Address is widely regarded as a pre-eminent statement on republicanism.

Washington owned slaves for labor and trading, and supported measures passed by Congress protecting slavery, in order to preserve national unity. He later became troubled with the institution of slavery and freed his slaves in a 1799 will. He endeavored to assimilate Native Americans into Western culture, but responded to their hostility in times of war. He was a member of the Anglican Church and the Freemasons, and he urged tolerance for all religions in his roles as general and president. Upon his death, he was eulogized as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." He has been memorialized by monuments, art, geographical locations, stamps, and currency, and many scholars and polls rank him among the top American presidents.

History of science and technology in Mexico

The history of science and technology in Mexico spans many years. Ancient Mexican civilizations developed mathematics, astronomy, and calendrics, and solved technological problems of water management for agriculture and flood control in Central Mexico. Following the Spanish conquest in 1521, New Spain (colonial Mexico) was brought into the European sphere of science and technology. The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, established in 1551, was a hub of intellectual and religious development in colonial Mexico for over a century. During the Spanish American Enlightenment in Mexico, the colony made considerable progress in science, but following the war of independence and political instability in the early nineteenth century, progress stalled. During late 19th century under the regime of Porfirio Díaz, the process of industrialization began in Mexico. Following the Mexican Revolution, a ten-year civil war, Mexico made significant progress in science and technology. During the 20th century, new universities, such as the National Polytecnical Institute, Monterrey Institute of Technology and research institutes, such as those at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, were established in Mexico.

According to the World Bank, Mexico is Latin America's largest exporter of high-technology goods (High-technology exports are manufactured goods that involve high R&D intensity, such as in aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals, scientific instruments, and electrical machinery) with $40.7 billion worth of high-technology goods exports in 2012. Mexican high-technology exports accounted for 17% of all manufactured goods in the country in 2012 according to the World Bank.

James Madison

James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights. He also co-wrote The Federalist Papers, co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, and served as the fifth United States secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.

Born into a prominent Virginia planter family, Madison served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Continental Congress during and after the American Revolutionary War. He became dissatisfied with the weak national government established by the Articles of Confederation and helped organize the Constitutional Convention, which produced a new constitution to supplant the Articles of Confederation. Madison's Virginia Plan served as the basis for the Constitutional Convention's deliberations, and he was one of the most influential individuals at the convention. Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify the Constitution, and he joined with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in writing The Federalist Papers, a series of pro-ratification essays that is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of political science in American history.

After the ratification of the Constitution, Madison emerged as an important leader in the United States House of Representatives and served as a close adviser to President George Washington. He was the main force behind the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights, which enshrines guarantees of personal freedoms and rights within the Constitution. During the early 1790s, Madison came to oppose the economic program and accompanying centralization of power favored by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party, which was, alongside Hamilton's Federalist Party, one of the nation's first major political parties. After Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election, Madison served as secretary of State from 1801 to 1809. In that position, he supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States.

Madison succeeded Jefferson with a victory in the 1808 presidential election. After diplomatic protests and a trade embargo failed to end British attacks against American shipping, he led the United States into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass and ended inconclusively, but many Americans saw it as a successful "second war of independence" against Britain. The war convinced Madison of the necessity of a stronger federal government, and he presided over the creation of the Second Bank of the United States and the enactment of the protective Tariff of 1816. He retired from public office in 1817 and died in 1836. Madison is considered to be one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States, and historians have generally ranked him as an above-average president.

James Wilson

James Wilson (September 14, 1742 – August 21, 1798) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Wilson was elected twice to the Continental Congress, where he represented Pennsylvania, and was a major force in drafting the United States Constitution. A leading legal theorist, he was one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Born near Leven, Fife, Scotland, Wilson immigrated to Philadelphia in 1766, becoming a teacher at the College of Philadelphia. After studying under John Dickinson, he set up a legal practice in Reading, Pennsylvania. He wrote a well received pamphlet arguing that Parliament's taxation of the Thirteen Colonies was illegitimate due to the colonies' lack of representation in Parliament. He was elected to the Continental Congress and served as president of the Illinois-Wabash Company, a land speculation company.

Wilson was a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, and served on the Committee of Detail, which produced the first draft of the United States Constitution. Along with Roger Sherman, he proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of representation in the United States House of Representatives. He also proposed the Electoral College. After the convention, he campaigned for the ratification of the document, and his "speech in the statehouse yard" was reprinted in newspapers throughout the country. He also played a major role in drafting the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitution.

In 1789, Wilson became one of the first Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. He also became a professor of law at the College of Philadelphia (which later became the University of Pennsylvania). Wilson suffered financial ruin from the Panic of 1796–97 and was briefly imprisoned in a debtors' prison on two occasions. He suffered a stroke and died in August 1798, becoming the first U.S. Supreme Court justice to die.

José Celestino Mutis

José Celestino Mutis (6 April 1732 – 11 September 1808) was a Spanish priest, botanist and mathematician. He was a significant figure in the Spanish American Enlightenment, whom Alexander von Humboldt met with on his expedition to Spanish America.

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect.

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc.

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. is a short essay written in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin. It was circulated by Franklin in manuscript to his circle of friends, but in 1755 it was published as an addendum in a Boston pamphlet on another subject. It was reissued ten times during the next 15 years.The essay examines population growth and its limits. Writing as, at the time, a loyal subject of the British Empire, Franklin argues that the British should increase their population and power by expanding across the Americas, taking the view that Europe is too crowded.

Spanish American Enlightenment

The ideas of the Spanish Enlightenment, which emphasized reason, science, practicality, clarity rather than obscurantism, and secularism, were transmitted from France to the New World in the eighteenth century, following the establishment of the Bourbon monarchy in Spain. In Spanish America, the ideas of the Enlightenment affected educated elites in major urban centers, especially Mexico City, Lima, and Guatemala, where there were universities founded in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In these centers of learning, American-born Spanish intellectuals were already participants in intellectual and scientific discourse, with Spanish American universities increasingly anti-scholastic and opposed to “untested authority” even before the Spanish Bourbons came to power. The best studied is the University of San Carlos Guatemala, founded in 1676.In Spanish America just as in Spain, the Enlightenment had some aspects of anticlericalism, but many priests were in favor of science and scientific thinking and were practitioners themselves. Some clergy were proponents of the Enlightenment as well as independence. Enlightenment texts circulating in Spanish America have been linked to the intellectual underpinnings of Spanish American independence.

Works by Enlightenment philosophers were owned and read in Spanish America, despite restrictions on the book trade and their inclusion on the Inquisition’s list of forbidden books . The Jesuits were instrumental introducing new trends in philosophy to Spanish America, and following their expulsion in 1767, the Franciscans continued exploring this line of thought. Spanish American secular clergy owned such works, including Mexican priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, whose free-thinking lost him his position as rector of the seminary of San Nicolás and he was sent to the small parish of Dolores.

Priests pursued science, even in the seventeenth-century “baroque” era, most prominently Mexican creole intellectual Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, as well as the remarkable Mexican nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. In the eighteenth century, there were several Spanish-born as well as American-born priests practicing science. Prominent among them was Spanish-born José Celestino Mutis in New Granada, who headed the royal botanical expedition to New Granada. He was educated in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Mutis trained Francisco José de Caldas. In Peru, Hipólito Unanue, a secular cleric trained in medicine, contributed to a Peruvian publication, Mercurio Peruano. Similar to him was Mexican secular cleric José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez, who founded important newspapers that disseminated knowledge about scientific findings, including his own. Alexander von Humboldt met and consulted with Mutis, Caldas, and read the works of Alzate (who died just before Humboldt arrived in New Spain) during his scientific expedition to Spanish America at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Humboldt was impressed by the intellectual level of science in Spanish America.Two strains of philosophical thought were evident in Spanish America, one was enlightened despotism and the other variations on constitutionalism. Divisions among clerics in Spanish America were between those supporting regalism, that is, the supremacy of the crown over the Catholic Church, and those adhering to ultramontanism, supporting the power of the papacy over monarchs. The Spanish crown moved to consolidate its supremacy over the Catholic Church by suppressing the Society of Jesus in Spain and in its overseas empire in 1767. The Jesuits were “soldiers of the Pope”, taking a vow to serve the pontiff. They were successful in their missions to indigenous peoples on the frontiers of the Spanish empire, such as northern Mexico and most famously in Paraguay. Jesuit educational institutions had as pupils the sons of American born Spaniards, and were places where ideas of the Enlightenment were disseminated. The Jesuits held a considerable number of profitable landed estates, or haciendas, which were run efficiently by Jesuits trained in management. Their loyalty to the pope and their defiance of the crown authority as well as their clear success in important realms where the diocesan clergy or other religious orders might have excelled meant that their expulsion in 1767 was not opposed by the episcopal hierarchy or religious orders.

The exile of the Jesuits to Europe was a blow to elite American-born Spanish families, whose sons were educated by the Jesuits or themselves Jesuits and has been seen as contributing to creole alienation from the Bourbon monarchy. An important exiled Jesuit was Francisco Javier Clavijero, who wrote a major history of Mexico, seeing its origins in the achievements of indigenous civilizations and creating an idea of Mexico separate from peninsular Spain.The Spanish crown also moved against the clergy as a whole by attempted to limit the corporate privileges of the Catholic Church, the fuero eclesiástico, which gave clerics the right to be judged for all offenses in canonical rather than crown courts. The fuero had been an important factor in strengthening the prestige and power of the lower secular clergy. Parish priests were often the only person of European ethnicity in indigenous parishes, who exercised both political and sacred power.In late colonial Mexico, an important bishop-elect Manuel Abad y Queipo, considered liberal, and sought social, economic, and political reforms, but he firmly opposed Father Hidalgo’s 1810 uprising for independence. Abad y Queipo gave Humboldt some of his writings on conditions in New Spain and the need for reform to Humboldt, and his ideas found their way into Humboldt’s famous ‘’Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain’’.Another development in Spanish America was the formation of economic societies and “friends of the country,” by elite men to improve the local economy through science. They also functioned as discussion groups that considered political issues, particularly as crown policies increasingly favored the peninsula.The crown founded a number of institutions aimed at scientific and economic progress, as well as cultural advancement. In Mexico, the crown established of the College of Mines in 1792, directed by Spanish mineralogist Fausto Elhuyar. It was designed to train experts for the empire’s most lucrative industry, silver mining.

Art and architecture were cultural expressions that felt the impact of Enlightenment ideas. The Academy of San Carlos was founded in 1781 as the School for Engraving, and two years later renamed the(Real Academia de la Tres Nobles Artes de San Carlos. Miguel Cabrera was one of its most important members. The Palacio de Minería in Mexico City and the hospicio in Guadalajara, as well as the cathedral in Buenos Aires were designed in the neoclassical style, favoring clean lines and minimal decoration, in contrast to the more ornate baroque architecture. "Readily understandable and providing solace in its promise of heavenly glory, the Baroque is an art for the people. It was this very popularity that led to the anti-Baroque movement of the highbrow Neoclassical academies of the eighteenth century." The growth of scientific ideas and the development of different kinds of taxonomy, such as Carl Linnaeus’s, may well have been the impetus behind the emergence of secular paintings of racial mixture and racial hierarchy in late eighteenth-century Mexico, called casta paintings.The crown attempted to rein in popular aspects of “baroque” Catholicism, eliminating burials in the interior of churches and churchyards as a public health measure. It successfully suppressed Carnival in Mexico and sought to downsize popular pious practices such as religious processions. Secular entertainments such as bullfighting were no longer supported by the crown, and theatrical productions had didactic and secular themes rather than religious.

Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies, was a meeting held between October 7 and 25, 1765, in New York City, consisting of representatives from some of the British colonies in North America; it was the first gathering of elected representatives from several of the American colonies to devise a unified protest against new British taxation. Parliament had passed the Stamp Act, which required the use of specially stamped paper for legal documents, playing cards, calendars, newspapers and dice for virtually all business in the colonies, and was going into effect on November 1, 1765.

The Congress was organized in response to a circular letter distributed by the colonial legislature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and consisted of delegates from nine of the eighteen British colonies in North America. All nine of the attending delegations were from the Thirteen Colonies that eventually formed the United States of America. Although sentiment was strong in some of the other colonies to participate in the Congress, a number of royal governors took steps to prevent the colonial legislatures from meeting to select delegates.

The Congress met in the building now known as Federal Hall, and was held at a time of widespread protests in the colonies, some of which were violent, against the Stamp Act's implementation. The delegates discussed and united against the act, issuing a Declaration of Rights and Grievances in which they claimed that Parliament did not have the right to impose the tax because it did not include any representation from the colonies. Members of six of the nine delegations signed petitions addressed to Parliament and King George III objecting to the Act's provisions.

The extra-legal nature of the Congress caused alarm in Britain, but any discussion of the congress's propriety were overtaken by economic protests from British merchants whose business with the colonies suffered as a consequence of the protests and their associated non-importation of British products. These economic issues prompted the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act, but it passed the Declaratory Act the same day, to express its opinion on the basic constitutional issues raised by the colonists; it stated that Parliament could make laws binding the American colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation's first secretary of state under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversial Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.

As president, Jefferson pursued the nation's shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. He also organized the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubling the country's territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was reelected in 1804. Jefferson's second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act of 1807, responding to British threats to U.S. shipping. In 1803, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribe removal to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, and he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807. After retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.

Jefferson, while primarily a planter, lawyer and politician, mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was an architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson's keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his presidency of the American Philosophical Society; he shunned organized religion but was influenced by both Christianity and deism. A philologist, Jefferson knew several languages. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent people. His only full-length book is Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), considered perhaps the most important American book published before 1800.Although regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy and republicanism in the era of the Enlightenment, Jefferson's historical legacy is mixed. Some modern scholarship has been critical of Jefferson's private life, pointing out the contradiction between his ownership of the large numbers of slaves that worked his plantations and his famous declaration that "all men are created equal". Another point of controversy stems from the evidence that after his wife Martha died in 1782, Jefferson fathered children with Martha's half-sister, Sally Hemings, who was his slave. Despite this, presidential scholars and historians generally praise his public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia. Jefferson continues to rank highly among U.S. presidents.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain) (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736] – June 8, 1809) was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights. Historian Saul K. Padover described him as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination".

Born in Thetford in the English county of Norfolk, Paine migrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read (or listened to a reading of) his powerful pamphlet Common Sense (1776), proportionally the all-time best-selling American title, which crystallized the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. His The American Crisis (1776–1783) was a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain". Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel.

The British government of William Pitt the Younger, worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to England, had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies. Paine's work, which advocated the right of the people to overthrow their government, was duly targeted, with a writ for his arrest issued in early 1792. Paine fled to France in September where, rather immediately and despite not being able to speak French, he was elected to the French National Convention. The Girondists regarded him as an ally. Consequently, the Montagnards, especially Maximilien Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy.

In December 1793, he was arrested and was taken to Luxembourg Prison in Paris. While in prison, he continued to work on The Age of Reason (1793–1794). Future President James Monroe used his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794. He became notorious because of his pamphlets. The Age of Reason, in which he advocated deism, promoted reason and free thought and argued against institutionalized religion in general and Christian doctrine in particular. He published the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1797), discussing the origins of property and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income. In 1802, he returned to the U.S. where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity.

United States Bill of Rights

The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over ratification of Constitution, and written to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The concepts codified in these amendments are built upon those found in earlier documents, especially the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), as well as the English Bill of Rights (1689) and the Magna Carta (1215).Due largely to the efforts of Representative James Madison, who studied the deficiencies of the constitution pointed out by anti-federalists and then crafted a series of corrective proposals, Congress approved twelve articles of amendment on September 25, 1789, and submitted them to the states for ratification. Contrary to Madison's proposal that the proposed amendments be incorporated into the main body of the Constitution (at the relevant articles and sections of the document), they were proposed as supplemental additions (codicils) to it. Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution. Article Two became part of the Constitution on May 5, 1992, as the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Article One is still pending before the states.

Although Madison's proposed amendments included a provision to extend the protection of some of the Bill of Rights to the states, the amendments that were finally submitted for ratification applied only to the federal government. The door for their application upon state governments was opened in the 1860s, following ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since the early 20th century both federal and state courts have used the Fourteenth Amendment to apply portions of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments. The process is known as incorporation.There are several original engrossed copies of the Bill of Rights still in existence. One of these is on permanent public display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

United States Declaration of Independence

The United States Declaration of Independence is the statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776. The Declaration announced that the Thirteen Colonies at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain would regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step toward forming the United States of America. The declaration was signed by representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

The Lee Resolution for independence was passed on July 2 with no opposing votes. The Committee of Five had drafted the Declaration to be ready when Congress voted on independence. John Adams, a leader in pushing for independence, had persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which Congress edited to produce the final version. The Declaration was a formal explanation of why Congress had voted to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America" – although Independence Day is actually celebrated on July 4, the date that the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved.

After ratifying the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as the printed Dunlap broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The source copy used for this printing has been lost and may have been a copy in Thomas Jefferson's hand. Jefferson's original draft is preserved at the Library of Congress, complete with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Jefferson's notes of changes made by Congress. The best-known version of the Declaration is a signed copy that is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and which is popularly regarded as the official document. This engrossed copy (finalized, calligraphic copy) was ordered by Congress on July 19 and signed primarily on August 2.The sources and interpretation of the Declaration have been the subject of much scholarly inquiry. The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing 27 colonial grievances against King George III and by asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right of revolution. Its original purpose was to announce independence, and references to the text of the Declaration were few in the following years. Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his policies and his rhetoric, as in the Gettysburg Address of 1863. Since then, it has become a well-known statement on human rights, particularly its second sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language", containing "the most potent and consequential words in American history". The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy and argued that it is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.The Declaration of Independence inspired many similar documents in other countries, the first being the 1789 Declaration of United Belgian States issued during the Brabant Revolution in the Austrian Netherlands. It also served as the primary model for numerous declarations of independence in Europe and Latin America, as well as Africa (Liberia) and Oceania (New Zealand) during the first half of the 19th century.

Virginia Association

The Virginia Association was a series of non-importation agreements adopted by Virginians in 1769 as a way of speeding economic recovery and opposing the Townshend Acts. Drafted by George Mason and passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses in May 1769, the Virginia Association was a way for Virginians to stand united against continued British taxation and trade control. The Virginia Association served as the framework and precursor to the larger more powerful Continental Association.

Virginia Declaration of Rights

The Virginia Declaration of Rights is a document drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent rights of men, including the right to reform or abolish "inadequate" government. It influenced a number of later documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and the United States Bill of Rights (1789).

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