Theory During the Revolutionary Period
Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways.
-- George Washington, 1790
The American Revolution 1 was a result of developments that had been taking place since the Renaissance. The leaders of the Revolution, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and many others, were the product of these developments. 2 These men lived during a period of time known as the Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment, 3 when man glorified the acquisition and application of reason as the most important mental skill they needed not just to lead a successful life, but also to influence society. The renewed interest in intellectual activity that came with the Renaissance gave people an opportunity to plan their own development. This development was evident in the literature that began to appear with the Renaissance and carried on into the Age of Reason.
The Age of Reason was different from the Renaissance in one important respect--it produced a group of thinkers, artists, writers, and scholars who modeled their works after those of ancient Greek masters. In the process they attained a new level of clarity of both perception and articulation unknown in the past. 4 The literature that came out of the Age of Reason was far more powerful than that of earlier times in addressing critical issues. These neoclassicists totally rejected the notion that there was only one way of assessing the impact of religion, social events, and the political thought process. They even rejected the traditional authority that the church had exerted over many years. They rejected the thinking that a government in Europe can continue to impose its own wishes on an unwilling people who were struggling for a new identity. They turned to the application of logic