This week, you have examined the growth of American identity. One expression of the unity was a colonial-wide revival known as the Great Awakening. The “Great Awakening” historical readings for this week revealed that people had diverse opinions about the Awakening. Drawing evidence from the historical readings for this week, compose an initial post focused on one major theme of the Great Awakening. There are a number of themes you could choose to focus on. Compose the initial post based on a thesis statement. A thesis is a focused argument based on your reading of the historical documents.
You are expected to pull evidence from multiple documents to support your argument. NO OUTSIDE SOURCES ARE ALLOWED. You may draw from the lectures and the textbook reading to help provide context BUT your post should draw evidence primarily from the historical readings for evidence.
In your post, be sure to:
- State a clear thesis
- Use evidence from the historical documents to support your claims
Boyer. America: A Very Short Introduction. 2012. 9780195389142
*Read Boyer, pp. 8-14*
Holton. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. 1999. 9780807847848
Holt. The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and Coming of the Civil War. 9780809044399
In this brief lecture, we will focus chiefly on one of those principles, namely e pluribus Unum, although additional principles will appear in what follows. Few periods of American history made possible the bringing together of different kinds of people into one nation as did the decades prior to the American Revolution. During the colonial period of the first half of the 18th century, the American people began to become just that – the American people. Most historians agree that the events of the decades preceding the American Revolution created an American identity upon which the American Revolution depended. Let us consider three of the most important events that contributed to the American identity during this period.
One of the most important events that contributed to a growing sense of American identity was the First Great Awakening. Prior to the Great Awakening, many in the colonies viewed themselves as residents of particular colonies, and differences between those colonies consisted not merely of varying polities and geographic locations but also of different ecclesiastical commitments. These differing colonial and ecclesiastical identities included different conceptions of what it meant to be a virtuous citizen and what the relation of church and state ought to be. While differences in the political cultures of the various states persisted long after the American Revolution, the British colonies of America took a large step in the direction a collective identity as a result of the First Great Awakening. Americans in all colonies (and British subjects in Great Britain for that matter) read of the work that God was doing in Northampton, Massachusetts, for example, in the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards’ A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. Similarly, Christians travelled for miles to hear itinerant preachers such as the famous Methodist evangelist George Whitefield. Such religious phenomena bound together people of disparate ecclesiastical and colonial identities. Secondly, pre-revolutionary military conflicts in which American colonists contributed to imperial British actions also solidified American identity. Particularly important in this respect were King George’s War (1744-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), both of which contributed to a sense that Americans of all colonies were fighting for Protestant Great Britain against the Roman Catholic forces of monarchist France. Third, although Americans in the decades preceding the American Revolution remained loyal British subjects, many began to share a sense that some form of republican government was ideal. This followed partly from the aforementioned wars against France; many Americans were Protestants who, because of fighting against absolutist France began to associate evil not only with Roman Catholicism but also with absolutely monarchy. (An exception to this were influential Anglican ministers who, as part of their ordination, were required to confess allegiance to the British crown; partly for this reason, most Anglican ministers were loyalists during the later revolution.) Moreover, colonial American charters had long included an element of the consent of the people, and colonial governments were habituating Americans of all colonies for republican governments long before the American Revolution. For each of these three reasons, the American people were becoming, out of many, one people in the decades preceding the revolution.