American Enlightenment

American Enlightenment

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The American Enlightenment is the intellectual thriving period in America in the mid-to-late 18th century, especially as it relates to American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 on the one hand and the European Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 on the other. Influenced by the scientific revolution
Scientific revolution
The Scientific Revolution is an era associated primarily with the 16th and 17th centuries during which new ideas and knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and laid the foundations for modern science...

 of the 17th century and the humanist period during the Renaissance, the Enlightenment took scientific reasoning and applied it to human nature, society and religion. Politically the age is distinguished by an emphasis upon liberty
Liberalism in the United States
Liberalism in the United States is a broad political philosophy centered on the unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion for all belief systems, and the separation of church and state, right to due process...

, democracy, republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

 and religious tolerance
Freedom of religion in the United States
In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson....

 – culminating in the drafting of the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 and Constitution. Attempts to reconcile science and religion resulted in a rejection of prophecy, miracle and revealed religion, often in preference for Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

. Historians have considered how the ideas of John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 and Republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 merged together to form Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

. The most important leaders of the American Enlightenment include Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 and Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

.

Sources


The Americans closely followed English and Scottish political ideas, as well as some French thinkers such as Montesquieu. They paid little attention to Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 or Rousseau or to German theorists. John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 was especially influential. In addition the Americans paid very close attention to the ideas of the "country party" in England, which attacked the Court party that was in power. From the Country Party the Americans picked up republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

, which became a major component of American political values.

Liberalism and Republicanism: Government of the People, by the People, for the People


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
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, was paramount and that republicanism had a distinctly secondary role. The new interpretations were pioneered by J.G.A. Pocock
J.G.A. Pocock
John Greville Agard Pocock , as a writer known as J. G. A. Pocock, is a historian noted for his trenchant studies of republicanism in the early modern period , for his treatment of Edward Gibbon and his contemporaries as historians of Enlightenment, and, in historical method, for his contributions...

 who argued in The Machiavellian Moment
The Machiavellian Moment
The Machiavellian Moment is a work of intellectual history by J. G. A. Pocock . In the book, Pocock posits a connection between republican thought in early 16th century Florence, English-Civil War Britain, and the American Revolution.A "Machiavellian moment" is that moment when a new republic first...

(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. Bernard Bailyn
Bernard Bailyn
Bernard Bailyn is an American historian, author, and professor specializing in U.S. Colonial and Revolutionary-era History. He has been a professor at Harvard University since 1953. Bailyn has won the Pulitzer Prize for History twice . In 1998 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected...

 and Gordon Wood
Gordon Wood
Gordon Wood may refer to:* Gordon S. Wood , American historian* Gordon Wood , high school football coach in Texas* Gordon Wood , Australian...

 pioneered the argument that the Founding Fathers of the United States
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

 were more influenced by republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 than they were by liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

. Cornell University Professor Isaac Kramnick, on the other hand, argues that Americans have always been highly individualistic and therefore Lockean.

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. Pocock explained the intellectual sources in America:
"The Whig canon and the neo-Harringtonians, John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

, James Harrington
James Harrington
James Harrington was an English political theorist of classical republicanism, best known for his controversial work, The Commonwealth of Oceana .-Early life:...

 and Sidney
Algernon Sydney
Algernon Sidney or Sydney was an English politician, republican political theorist, colonel, and opponent of King Charles II of England, who became involved in a plot against the King and was executed for treason.-Early life:Sidney's father was Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, a direct...

, Trenchard
John Trenchard (writer)
John Trenchard , English writer and Commonwealthman, belonged to the same Dorset family as the Secretary of State Sir John Trenchard.Trenchard was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a lawyer...

, Gordon
Thomas Gordon (writer)
Thomas Gordon was a Scottish writer and Commonwealthman.Along with John Trenchard, he published The Independent Whig, which was a weekly periodical. From 1720 to 1723, Trenchard and Gordon, wrote a series of 144 essays entitled Cato's Letters, condemning corruption and lack of morality within the...

 and Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

, together with the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance masters of the tradition as far as Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

, 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 in 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."


The commitment of most Americans to these republican values made inevitable the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, for Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt and hostile to republicanism, and a threat to the established liberties the Americans enjoyed.

Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources , an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics .-...

 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.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness


Many historians find the origins of the famous phrase derives from Locke's position that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." Others suggest that Jefferson took the phrase comes from Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. Others note that William Wollaston
William Wollaston
William Wollaston was an English philosophical writer. He is remembered today for one book, which he completed only two years before his death: ....

'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."

The Virginia Declaration of Rights
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 rebel against "inadequate" government...

 adopted by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776, adopted a few days before Jefferson's draft but written earlier, and written by George Mason
George Mason
George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

, is:

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
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, which was primarily written by Jefferson, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 on July 4, 1776. The text of the second section of the Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident
Self-evidence
In epistemology , a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof....

, that all Men are created equal
All men are created equal
The quotation "All men are created equal" has been called an "immortal declaration", and "perhaps" the single phrase of the United States Revolutionary period with the greatest "continuing importance". Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as a rebuttal to the...

, that they are endowed by their Creator
Creator deity
A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

 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. Philosophes such as Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 depicted organized Christianity as a tool of tyrants and oppressors and as being used to defend monarchism, it was seen as hostile to the development of reason and the progress of science and incapable of verification. An alternative religion was Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, 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
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, [and George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and, especially, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

. The most articulate exponent was Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

, whose The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a deistic pamphlet, written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible, the central sacred text of...

 was written in France in the early 1790s, and soon reached America. Paine was highly controversial; when Jefferson was attacked for his Deism in the 1800 election, Republican politicians took pains to distance their candidate from him.

Religious Tolerance


Enlightened Founding Fathers, especially Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 and George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, fought for and eventually attained religious freedom for minority denominations. According to the founding fathers, America should be a country where peoples of all faiths, including Catholics, could live in peace and mutual benefit. James Madison summed up this ideal in 1792 saying, "Conscience is the most sacred of all property."

See also


  • Age of Enlightenment
    Age of Enlightenment
    The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

  • American Revolution
    American Revolution
    The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

  • Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin
    Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

  • Common Sense (pamphlet)
    Common Sense (pamphlet)
    Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed "Written by an Englishman", became an immediate success. In relation to the population of the Colonies at that time, it had the largest...

     – by Thomas Paine
  • Deism
    Deism
    Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

  • Jefferson Bible
    Jefferson Bible
    The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson's effort to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by...

  • Liberal democracy
    Liberal democracy
    Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

  • Liberalism
    Liberalism
    Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

  • Republicanism
    Republicanism
    Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

  • Secular state
    Secular state
    A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential...

  • Separation of Church and State
    Separation of church and state
    The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

  • The Age of Reason
    The Age of Reason
    The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a deistic pamphlet, written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible, the central sacred text of...

     – by Thomas Paine
  • Thomas Jefferson
    Thomas Jefferson
    Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

  • Thomas Paine
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

  • United States Declaration of Independence
    United States Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...


Primary sources

  • Franklin, Benjamin "Essays of Benjamin Franklin: Moral, Social and Scientific" (2001) University Press of the Pacific, ISBN 0-89875-162-4
  • The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (2006) Dover Publications paperback: ISBN 0-486-44921-1
  • The Jefferson Bible, (2006) Applewood Books hardcover: ISBN 1-55709-184-6
  • The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Cyrus Adler
    Cyrus Adler
    Cyrus Adler was a U.S. educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar.-Biography:Adler was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and gained a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1887, where he taught Semitic languages from 1884 to 1893...

    , (2005) Digireads.com paperback: ISBN 1-4209-2492-3
  • The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Percival Everett
    Percival Everett
    Percival Everett is an American writer and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.-Life:Everett lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, novelist Danzy Senna and their two sons....

    , (2004) Akashic Books paperback: ISBN 1-888451-62-9
  • The Jefferson Bible, (2001) Beacon Press hardcover: ISBN 0-8070-7714-3
  • The Jefferson Bible, introduction by M.A. Sotelo, (2004) Promotional Sales Books, LLC paperback
  • Jefferson’s “Bible:” The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, introduction by Judd W. Patton, (1997) American Book Distributors paperback: ISBN 0-929205-02-2
  • Paine, Thomas. The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition World Union of Deists, 2009. ISBN 978-0-939040-35-3
  • Paine, Thomas
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

    . The Age of Reason. Ed. Philip Sheldon Foner. New York: Citadel Press, 1974. ISBN 0-8065-0549-4.
  • Paine, Thomas. Thomas Paine: Collected Writings. Ed. Eric Foner
    Eric Foner
    Eric Foner is an American historian. On the faculty of the Department of History at Columbia University since 1982, he writes extensively on political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography...

    . Library of America, 1995. ISBN 1-883011-03-5.
  • Paine, Thomas. Common Sense (1982) Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-039016-2
  • Paine, Thomas. The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine. Ed. Philip S. Foner. Replica Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7351-0077-2.
  • Paine, Thomas. The Thomas Paine Reader. Eds. Michael Foot
    Michael Foot
    Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

     and Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN 0-14-044496-3.
  • Paine, Thomas (Foner, Eric
    Eric Foner
    Eric Foner is an American historian. On the faculty of the Department of History at Columbia University since 1982, he writes extensively on political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography...

    , editor), 1993. Writings. Library of America. Authoritative and scholarly edition containing Common Sense, the essays comprising the American Crisis series, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, Agrarian Justice, and selected briefer writings, with authoritative texts and careful annotation.
  • Paine, Thomas (Foner, Philip S.
    Philip Foner
    Philip S. Foner was an American Marxist labor historian and teacher. The author and editor of more than 100 books, the prolific Foner wrote extensively on what were at the time academically unpopular themes, such as the role of radicals, blacks, and women in American history...

    , editor), 1944. The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 volumes. Citadel Press.
  • Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, 3 vols. (1995)

Biographies

  • Aldridge, A. Owen
    A. Owen Aldridge
    Alfred Owen Aldridge was a professor of French and comparative literature, founder-editor of the journal Comparative Literature Studies, and author of books on a wide range of literature studies.-Career:...

    , (1959). Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Lippincott.
  • Cunningham, Noble E. In Pursuit of Reason (1988) well-reviewed short biography of Jefferson.
  • Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999 online
  • Weinberger, Jerry "Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought" (2008) University Press of Kansas, 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
  • Cassirer, Ernst Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1932), [English translation 1951] Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-01963-0
  • Cohen, I. Bernard Benjamin Franklin's Science (1996) Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-06659-6
  • Cohen, I. Bernard Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Madison (1995) WW Norton & Co, ISBN 0-393-03501-8
  • Dray, Philip
    Philip Dray
    Philip Dray is an American writer and independent public historian, known for his comprehensive analyses of American scientific, racial, and labor history.-Awards:...

     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. 150–164 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
  • 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 (Jul., 1961), pp. 313–329 in JSTOR
  • May, Henry F. The Enlightenment in America (1978) Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN 0-19-502367-6
  • McDonald, Forrest Novus Ordo Seclorum: Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (1986) University Press of Kansas, ISBN 0700603115
  • Meyer D. H. "The Uniqueness of the American Enlightenment," American Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 2, Special Issue: An American Enlightenment (Summer, 1976), pp. 165–186 in JSTOR
  • Nelson, Craig Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (2007) Penguin, ISBN 0-14-311238-4
  • 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
    Martin E. Marty
    Martin Emil Marty is an American Lutheran religious scholar who has written extensively on 19th century and 20th century American religion. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1956, and served as a Lutheran pastor from 1952 to 1962 in the suburbs of Chicago...

    , (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
  • Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1993) Vintage, ISBN 0-679-73688-3