nbsp;From the Medieval to the Modern


Absolutists, the Enlightened, Puritans, Mercantilists, Theorists, Deists

Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history.
The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.

- Simone Weil

"Creation of Adam"  by Michaelangelo

The Modern Period started with the Renaissance.  At that point, artists emerged and found they could achieve individual fame and glory (Michelangelo and da Vinci were examples).  There was a celebration of what human ingenuity could accomplish.  Classical ideals were formed (though the Church dominated philosophy).  This was the Age of Exploration.  Sailing ships were now capable of traveling great distances in relative safety.  The Portuguese were master sailors and took their ships as far away as the tip of Africa.  Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies and thence America.  Exploration was an extension of the artist idea - explorers could achieve status and fame and be celebrated as heroes.

While Asia was equal to Western Europe in most respects and was technically superior in some, at this time Asians lacked the “forward thinking” impulse.  They did not explore and innovate as much – they were confident and arrogant, feeling foreigners had nothing to offer them because, they felt, they were lacking in nothing.

The Protestant Reformation shattered Christianity into a Protestant/Catholic divide.  This segregated several nations of Western Europe.  Spain became pre-eminent and a world leader, particularly in exploration, until the end of the 16th century.  She collected the financial rewards from her colonies and she colonized almost everywhere.  But by the end of the 16th century, she had run out of money and soldiers, being spread too thinly.  She was defeated by England and after that time became a second tier country after England and France.

From the late 17th to the end of the 18th century could be called the Age of Absolutism.  It was a time when countries were assuming control of their own destinies.  This period came about because of the Protestant Reformation.  Colonies and lower classes were asserting their independence.  The church was dying because they had become too powerful – royal absolutism came from the power that rulers were inheriting from the churches’ demise - kings were gaining more power than the church (after all, the king was led by god), and were no longer restrained by it.  Prior to this, if a king had wished to wage a war, he would have had to convince the church, keep the nobility happy, and make sure that he didn't make the tribal warlords too mad.  But this politicking ended in the Absolutist period.  To adequately preserve Law and Order had come to be thought best to have a single, ultimate, leader.

England did not take this path as much as the countries on the Continent, as England had a strong tradition of limiting royal authority due to the Magna Carta.  King John had been an inept ruler - he had levied too many taxes and there was a great deal of unrest among his subjects.  After he had alienated a few too many people, his barons banded together in 1215 and forced him to sign a document that became known as the Magna Carta.  (When the Magna Carta referred to "free men," it really meant landowners; nevertheless, it was still a strong limiting factor on royal power.)

Eventually, the British Parliament was formed to represent the "freemen" and to counterbalance the king.  In any other country, a king could pronounce himself emperor and behave accordingly – but in England, the king could only do what Parliament would allow.  If the king overstepped his bounds, it could spark a civil war (and in fact would soon do just that).  But in 16th and 17th century France and Spain, the monarchy was still absolute.

Henry VIII (1507 - 1547) married:

bulletCatherine of Aragon
bulletAnne Boleyn
bulletJane Seymour
bulletAnne of Cleaves
bulletCatherine Howard
bulletCatherine Parr

Henry VIII and his first wife were the parents of Mary Tudor (1553 - 1558).  Henry and Anne Boleyn were the parents of Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603).  Henry and Jane were the parents of Edward VI (1547 - 1553).

Martin Luther made his attack on the church in 1517.  In 1521, Henry VIII defended the Roman Catholic Church against Martin Luther's attack in a book he wrote called The Golden Book.  Because of this book, the Pope made Henry "Defender of the Faith" (a title which is - curiously - still true for the British monarchy today).  Cardinal Wolsey tried to get the Pope to give Henry an annulment for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (to whom he had been married more than 20 years) because Henry belatedly decided that he “should not have married his brother's wife” (Catherine had previously been married to Henry’s brother - for about three weeks - although she said her marriage had never been consummated) - this was considered incest in Henry’s day.  He used this as an excuse because he wanted to be free from Catherine.  Partly, it was because Henry wanted a male heir and Catherine was by then too old to have any more children (other than Mary, Catherine had had 6 children who were stillborn or else had died shortly after birth).  Henry was already fooling around with Anne (and she was pregnant at that point); another thing: Catherine was Spanish and Henry felt an alliance with France was more important at that juncture.  Besides, he was getting old and bored - he wanted something different.  But the Catholic church said no.  No?  Well, he would see about that.  Henry started the Church of England instead.  This had the added benefit of making Henry quite a wealthy man.

Henry’s only (legitimate) son, Edward VI, became king at 10 and died at 16.  During this time, the Protector (the Regent) actually ran things.  That person was, in fact, Jane Seymour's brother.  Mary Tudor took over when Edward died and made it her primary aim to restore Catholicism.  The officials of the Church of England resisted, so she killed 300 of them (and was soon known as "Bloody Mary" with good reason).  After she died (most probably of cancer), her younger half-sister, Elizabeth I, came into power.

Lowly people wanted even more reforms in the church than those the Church of England had brought about (like to get rid of the expensive archbishops and cardinals) but the bishops and other church officials (understandably) didn't want that.  Some people decided to form their own churches.  In retaliation, those who would not sign a paper saying they were members of the Church of England were arrested by the bishops.  So many people started leaving England to find more religious freedom elsewhere that the emigration had to be stopped - unless you signed a paper swearing you were a member of the Church of England, you were not allowed to leave.

The majority of Puritans were Presbyterians (who believed the Church should be a national church - with membership and attendance enforced by the state).  The minority were Congregationalists (who thought you either belonged to their church or to no church at all).  John Knox in Scotland and John Calvin in Geneva were responsible for the structure of the church.  They foresaw that a National Assembly would replace archbishops.

Congregationalists believed each church was a covenant formally entered into by each individual who confessed his faith and swore to the beliefs of that particular church.  Visible saints were the individuals who joined the Congregational Church - everyone else was a Stranger.  Churches, they felt, would be entirely self-governing.  The unchurched would be under subjection - they didn't have to join the Congregationalist Church - but if they didn't, they could join no other.

The Covenanted churches began around the 1580s.  The Separatists felt a national church was wrong.  The Separatists were alarming to both the Presbyterians and Congregationalists because both claimed that no official break with the Church of England was intended.  The Separatists made no such claim.

In common: all believed the teachings of John Calvin, that the omnipotent God created Adam in his own image - that is, without sin.  Adam broke the Covenant by sinning.  “In Adam's fall we sinned all.”  Grace and predestination separated the Lutherans - they believed you could earn grace. Calvinists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists all believe God elects whom to save (called “the Elect”).  Further, they believed there is predestination because “God knows everything.” (God knows what will happen before it does.)

The Calvinists consisted of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Separatists.  (There were some differences among them, however.)  All believed that God created man in his own image - without sin.  But Adam in his willfulness disobeyed God so God owed man nothing.  They believed in Limited Atonement - that Christ died only to save the souls of those whom God had already chosen to be saved (the Elect), but not all souls.  The Calvinists used the Geneva Bible as their reference.  This bible was translated in 1560 and was the joint work of English Protestant exiles - but though they were exiles, they still dedicated their Bible to Queen Elizabeth.  It became the great Bible of the Puritans.  Nevertheless, between 1560 and 1611, this “perfect document” went through 60 revisions.

In 1568 the Bishop's Bible was produced by the Church of England.

Mary Queen of Scots was soon put to death for treason (due to her Catholicism) and her son James became king.  Saint George was the patron saint of England; Saint Andrew was the patron saint of Scotland, and Saint Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland.  Their 3 flags were combined to make the Union Jack.  James became King of England in 1603.  In 1611 the King James Bible came out - it was a revision of the Bishop's Bible.  Today, the King James Bible is considered the “most poetic”.

King James called a meeting at the Hampton Court Palace to try and moderate the demands of the dissenters but they said they were unwilling to compromise so he cancelled the meeting and began his purges.  At a place in England called Scrooby many of these dissenters congregated.  Under a man named Brewster, they decided to leave the country and go to Amsterdam.  (Those are the ones who ultimately moved to America.)  Those who had left England earlier were called the Ancient Brethren.  When the later émigrés arrived, they found they didn't all mingle well.  So the Scroobies eventually moved on to a town called Leyden.  These were the Separatists because they “separated” themselves from the others. (These became the Pilgrims.)

These Separatists pooled their meagre funds and bought a ship called the Speedwell so that they could emigrate to the New World where they thought life would be a little less harsh (their children were turning against them because they'd had to work too much from an early age just to make ends meet in the difficult environment in Amsterdam).  The Separatists provisioned the ship and set sail along with the Mayflower for America.  The Speedwell had not been a very good purchase - it proved unseaworthy.  So at Plymouth, they all transferred to the Mayflower and set out again.  Forty one of the passengers were Separatists from Leyden.  There were more crewmembers than there were Pilgrims - 102 passengers plus 48 crewmembers equalled 150 total.  They set sail on 16 September 1620 (Georgian calendar time - the calendar changed from Julian to Georgian in 1594, though it was not until 1752 that the new calendar was accepted in England).  The Mayflower landed on 21 November 1620.  Massasoit was the local native chief.  He signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims on 22 March 1621.  It was an agreement that was never broken, and the two groups enjoyed a peaceful coexistence while he lived.

The next ship to come to that area, the Arbella, didn’t arrived until 10 years later but the Plymouth colony was not the first to be established in the New World.  That distinction fell to the colony established at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607.

The Puritans were so called because they wanted to keep reforming the Church of England - to "Purify" it.

Back in England, the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 essentially said, “Enough already!  The Church of England has changed all it’s going to.  This is what the church is going to be.”  England felt there had been sufficient compromise between the radical Lutherans and Calvinists and the Catholics.  From that point on, any religious rebels were considered enemies of the state.  So, from 1642 - 1649 a civil war was precipitated in England - the Monarchy represented the Church of England and Oliver Cromwell represented Parliament (who represented the Puritan reformers).

Had James I and Charles I been too sympathetic to Catholicism?  People worried that kindly Charles I would head back to Catholicism and this of course offended the Puritans.  Eventually, in 1649, kindly Charles I was executed (the only British monarch to ever be thus) and England became a commonwealth.  The Reformers were not united, however - they differed among themselves.  The new Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell (1649 - 1669), Charles' successor (who had the title Lord Protector), installed himself as an absolute military dictator (turning down the crown when it was offered to him - of course, critics say it’s because accepting it would have reduced his power).  Cromwell was a brilliant military leader and his political skills seemed adequate: on entering Ireland, for example, he issued orders that no supplies be seized from the inhabitants and no goods taken without being paid for.  The insanely vicious nature of politics at the time gave him problems, and his responses tended to be military.  He could fairly be called brutal (and the word tyrant seems tailor-made for him) but incompetent?  No.

After Cromwell died of malaria, his son Robert succeeded him as Lord Protector, but Robert was incompetent and abdicated.  Britain turned into a Commonwealth (she had been a Protectorate) and things got really messy.  It was because of this period (and not the actions of Charles, several years earlier) that when the governor of Scotland forced the Long Parliament to hold elections, most of the new MPs were royalists.

After a decade, the people felt they'd had enough.  Charles II was restored to the throne.  He was adequate, but James II was too Catholic, again.  This see-saw culminated in 1688 with the “Glorious Revolution” which established once and for all (with a resolution) that Parliament was more important than the monarch at all times, and that regardless of any king's wishes, England would never return to Catholicism.

Sir Isaac Newton was elected to parliament for a while because of his opposition to James II’s efforts to make Cambridge more Catholic.

The Gardens: The Palace of Versailles
Source: gif  from thp.uni-duisburg.de

France, however, had Louis XIV (1643 - 1714).

France was well on her way to absolutism: during the previous reign of Louis XIII, the king’s chief advisor was Cardinal Richelieu, who advocated the total power of the king – why not? – since he felt that he could control Louis XIII and thus get the power for himself.  Over time, the Estates General (equivalent to England’s Parliament) that enforced the rule that the king needed the consent of the Church to act was dissolved (it did not meet again for another 175 years).  This, of course, made the way easy for the establishment of Absolutism.

All impediments to royal power were systematically removed.  Louie XIV, the “Sun King”, reaped the benefit.  In fact, one of Louis's tutors publishes an article using the Bible as authority which stated that Monarchy was best in its absolute form - it was the oldest, most common, most natural form of government.  It said that the power of the king comes form god and this places him on a level with cardinals - only (being a monarch as well) that actually made him higher.  As the Law, the Monarch required lots of advisors to lean on (who, of course, also had power).  It was ironic that this argument depended on the Bible since God had not wanted to give the Israelites a king because he feared it would lead them away from godliness.  The defenders of absolutism had to get around this.  One counterargument was that, since God was not coming right away, a monarchy was needed until he got there.

One of Louie XIV’s famous utterances was, "I am the state."  This illustrates how important he felt himself to be.  To maintain his mystique, he kept himself isolated at his lavish Palace of Versailles.  Most of the artwork at that time was to “add glory to the reign of the king.”  As such, the king spent all his time away from the people, surrounded by his greatness.  This impressed a lot of courtiers.  Eminent visitors took Louis’ ideas back home with them, figuring that if it worked for France, it would work for them.  Louis dispensed with his rivals, the nobles by bribing them to indulge themselves there.  They spent so much time at the palace, on hunting trips and at banquets and such, that they didn’t have time to cook up any schemes.  They amused themselves by developing elaborate, slightly bizarre, rules of behaviour among themselves.  This fatuous nonsense was encouraged by Louis so that he could keep them under his control.  Louis punished breaches of the peace - but encouraged hunting as an outlet for nobles' excess energy.

Louis XIV appears to have been a fairly effective monarch.  (The state of Louisiana was named in his honour.)  During this time, France got a much larger, better-trained standing army, paved the streets of Paris and made it cleaner and safer, established the Louvre, and many other notable achievements.  This all made the people feel safer, so they liked it – and tolerated Louis’ indulgences.

Louis's most important advisor during the first part of his reign was Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who came up with the theory of Mercantilism – this could perhaps best be described as royally regulated capitalism.  This allowed the state to interfere with industries to cause them to do what was considered best to advance the interests of the state.  During this time, there was a push to export as much as possible and import as little as possible, to make France feel self-sufficient.  (In reality, she was merely trading her raw assets for inedible money.)  Even in the best of times, mercantilism cannot keep the economy running as most income (transformed into wealth) ultimately comes from the peasants who work the land.

There were two key ideas to Mercantilism – that nations were in a zero sum game competing against each other, and that the only “true” wealth was gold and silver bullion.  From this it followed that the obvious course of action was to do whatever it took to increase the supply of gold within your country, and to decrease it outside.  The key way that Adam Smith differed from Mercantilism was that he (correctly) recognised that commerce was not a zero sum game.  Rather than argue over how to divide a pie, countries and individuals would be better spent by trying to make the pie larger.

Further, it can be argued that not all wealth came from the peasants – that wasn’t true in general and even in places where it was true (heavily agrarian feudal societies) it wasn’t the reason why Mercantilism did not and does not work.  In particular, the heavily-Mercantilist-influenced policies followed by Japan in the 70s and 80s were probably a major factor in her decline and stagnation in the 90s.

Unfortunately, due to the weakening and spoiling of the nobility, there was a much heavier tax burden that had to be placed on the peasants, (Louis’ government was expensive to run!) and they got more and more discontented.  This planted the seed for the French Revolution.

By the end of the reign of Louis XIV, he proved to be a not-very-successful military leader, and there were many costly unsuccessful wars.  This left a lot of problems, which he was able to weather due to his reputation and popularity.  But this meant that his successors must not only deal with equalling his reputation, they also had to deal with the legacy of accumulated problems.  To top matters off, Louis’ successors were incompetent.  This culminated in 1889 with a revolution under Louis XVI.

Catherine the Great

Russia was a country separated from the rest of Europe for most of history by her geography.  (By the way, the word Tsar is a diminutive of Caesar.)  In the 17th century Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) became Tsar.  He attempted to copy Louis XIV and reform Russia into a westernised country.  He gathered a strong standing army, and, at the cost of untold lives, built St Petersburg.  He was a bit heavy-handed - even instituting a beard tax – shave or pay - as he felt that beards were not "western".

Another notable Russian ruler was Catherine the Great (1762 - 1796).  She was a German who had married Peter's grandson.  She then had him killed and usurped his power.  She too westernised Russia as much as she could, and became an idol to some Europeans as a good example of an Enlightened Despot.  This is a bit of an exaggerated reputation as very few of her reforms actually benefitted the common people.  She circulated proposals which were devoured by devotees in the West – but she never got around to actually implementing them.  But she did have a decent standing army – an important key to a monarch’s success.

Running parallel to Absolutism during this period was the intellectual movement called The Enlightenment.  This movement helps to explain Catherine the Great's reputation as an enlightened Despot.  Philosophes (French philosophers who were essentially sociologists), were amassing more and more influence around this time.  The Enlightenment is often considered the most important phase following the Renaissance, in terms of secularising Western culture.  The Renaissance was a celebration of what a man could do, a stark contrast to the previous Middle Ages.  The Enlightenment was a furthering of this, in that it began to celebrate individual greatness, to focus on individuals of the time, and make idols and heroes of them.  This philosophy was built on scientific advances.  The microscope and the telescope had been invented and the scientific method developed.  Religion no longer had much to do with it - it was felt that man could be as god - perfect.

This New Age wanted producers, lawyers, bureaucrats.  Concern for order was a reaction to this chaotic time.  There was a symbolic quality to leadership – greatness required a degree of unbelievably.  Art was now a vehicle for new illusions on which these new paradigms could be based.  Rigourous purity and grandeur were required.  For example, French splendour was not really human, not really meant for comfort, but was designed by bureaucrats.

Diderot, Kant and Hume were 18th century philosophes.  They were free thinkers and social critics.  Men, they felt, were reasonable beings.  They wanted to encourage the growth of the middle class.  Taxes should be paid by all, not just the poor.  The philosophes wanted to do away with the nobles, the “privileged class.”  They sought a philosopher-king who would encourage these changes.  Voltaire maintained a correspondence with Frederick the Great and Diderot wrote regularly to Catherine the Great.  But privilege was not abolished as was hoped – instead, in both Prussia and Russia, it because stronger.  When people visited Russia to see the Utopia developed under Catherine the Great, instead they saw Potempkin Villages – perfect towns that were set up just for show.  Most philosophes let themselves be fooled because they wanted to believe in a “promised land.”

Germany fell under French influence at this time.

Nicolaus Copernicus, a Pole, had received a Renaissance education - a liberal arts education that covered many things.  In his works, he challenged the idea that the earth is the centre of the universe, and developed the heliocentric theory that posited that the earth in fact orbits the sun.  (Ptolemy had thought the universe was earth-centric.)  Copernicus’ views offended many people, especially in the church, even though the idea of the earth as the centre of the universe had been posited earlier by the Greeks.  However, the idea that the earth was the center of the universe had been such an established idea that it was almost unthinkable to challenge.  But Copernicus won followers - they were all condemned by the church though their intent had not at all been to undermine religion.

Late in the 16th century or early in the 17th century, approximately 100 years after Copernicus, came Johannes Kepler.  He was a royal mathematician and astronomer who had determined that the planets moved in elliptical, rather than circular, orbits.  Due to his royal connections, his theories were seen as more acceptable.  Galileo was a contemporary of Kepler and one of the first to use telescopes to observe the planets.  It was he who is credited with observing the craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn.  His observations got him into trouble with established religion and, late in his career, he was forced to recant some of his theories to avoid punishment or death.  This was partly due to his being irreverent to those in power.

In the wake of all this, Isaac Newton came along. He tried to revolutionise scientific observation and tie together all preceding theories.  He co-founded (along with Leibnitz, who was working independently but concurrently) calculus and formulated the Law of Universal Gravitation.  He theorised that everything can be analysed and explained through scientific observation.  This was the birth of the scientific approach, which was then applied to all human endeavours.

This rationalisation really built the groundwork for the Enlightenment, causing the philosophes to theorise that there existed an absolute truth apart from religion.  This had allowed them to separate themselves from the commonly-held views of god.  Deism was a good example of an Enlightenment thinker’s view.  It posited that god had created the universe and set it on its course, then stepped aside to let things run their natural course on their own.  This resembles modern theory only without the Big Bang.  God was no longer behind the scenes directly causing everything that seemed inexplicable.  Atheism had become a possible philosophy.

Most deists were based in France.  The foremost example of either an atheist or a deist (depending on when you read it) is Voltaire.  Voltaire used literature to advance his views.  He felt this was the best way to bring his theories to the masses.  He theorised (in Candide) that, since god was omnipotent, this world must be the best of all possible worlds – and therefore the currently-accepted idea of god was patently absurd.  Others writers produced journals saying similar things.  (The philosophes even produced an encyclopedia.)

However Enlightenment thinkers were not all just trying to unseat God - there were also economic reforms during the period.  Adam Smith (1723 – 1790), a free-market economist, was the most prominent economic reformist of the period.  He developed the idea of Laissez-Faire Capitalism.  He wrote in The Wealth of Nations of his idea of the Invisible Hand - the idea that everyone was working for his own benefit - let him alone and he would do what needed to be done to maximise his own income.  Every business worked to generate the most wealth possible, and if the State left them undisturbed, a rising tide would lift all boats - the entire nation would become wealthier and the state would of course benefit. Smith’s views led, of course, to government deregulation; he became the paragon of capitalism (and is cited in works even today).

Still another major Enlightenment thinker was John Locke in the field of political theories.  He was the founder of empiricism - the idea that knowledge only came from what one experience – what each individual was able to observe, process and analyse for himself.  Locke came up with the idea of Natural Law - that all are entitled to certain inalienable rights – namely, Life, Liberty, and Property.  He felt this superseded all monarchal power and if a monarch violated this precept, it was right that he or she be overthrown.  He concluded that an absolute monarch was just fine - so long as he observed Natural Law.

Enlightenment thinkers were NOT opposed to monarchies long as the monarch’s subjects were respected.  They felt that the ideal way of life was the idea of an Enlightened Despot - one that would rule, but be smart enough to see and accept that Enlightenment teachings were superior and allow them to stand, while subtly guiding the nation to prosperity.

In New England, the colonies' writing was not like the writing in the Europe they had left behind.  Instead, their writing was meant as a guide to daily living and to educate - not to entertain.  Shakespeare's writing was available, but the early religious settlers wanted none of that - no novels, no short stories, no drama - mostly just religious writings.  The Puritans did allow images to be used in their writing to make the tediously dull words a bit more interesting - as long as the images were not "dangerous" - that didn't apply, though, if the images came from the Bible (which, covering the spectrum of humanity as it did, even had some sexual imagery).  The Puritans avoided the expressions and flowing figurative language of the Catholics as they feared this would cause the reader’s mind to stray.  Puritan poets were allowed a teensy bit more leeway to keep their efforts from sinking into doggerel.

The Day of Doom was one of the first books produced in the New World, written in 1662 by Michael Wigglesworth (It is so BORING, one wonders why it has survived).  Until 1760, very little was actually published - some writings were passed around, read by families and neighbours, however.  The ever-popular almanacs occasionally published a bit of poetry, but mostly the New Englander was cut off from the arts, from new ideas.  The people were not educated; they worked long and hard; religious writing loomed too large in their lives.  They seemed unaware of what their lives were missing.

William Bradford lived from 1590 to 1657.  Bradford’s diary - or perhaps journal would be a better term since there is no indication that he wrote of events as they happened - is a providential history (a litany of proof that God controls everything).  Bradford’s writing was orderly, logical, non-fiction, dry.

The Mayflower Compact was signed by those aboard the Mayflower soon after they arrived in the New World.  This Compact is important because it called for democracy: of the people by the people and for the people by consent for the common good.  It set a good precedent.

William Byrd lived from 1709 - 1712.  In 1660 women had appeared on the British stage for the first time when Charles II (the British king) had been restored to the throne.  Restoration drama covers that period when the monarchy was restored.  William Witchley and William Congreve were playrights of the time who were friends of William Byrd.  Plays were then for the rich and often made fun of the farmers.  Byrd wanted to be known for his writing.

Edward Taylor lived from 1642-1729.  He wrote a lot but nothing was published during his day (he had told his family he didn't want it published).  His writing was discovered more than 200 years later in Yale's library.  Taylor used a lot of imagery which was frowned on by the Puritans.  Taylor used everyday images to illustrate lofty ideas like twinkling lanterns for stars and a bowling ball sun.  Nothing mankind could do, he thought, was perfect unless God was behind it.

Jonathan Edwards entered Yale at 13 and received his undergraduate degree at 17.  He studied religion in graduate school and became a pastor.  At 47 he was asked to leave his church because he wanted to bring back the "old time religion".  In 1735, the Great Awakening of the born-again Christians swept the New World - but the Puritans disagreed - believing that if Christians read their Bibles, they would KNOW what was expected of them - ministers only periodically needed to remind people that they could still end up in hell.

If we give a name to this period in New England, it would be the Age of Enlightenment, which began in America in 1735.  Ben Franklin lived about the same time as Jonathan Edwards and HE was writing about how to choose a mistress.

Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) was originally from Boston where he worked as an apprentice printer.  By the time he was 21, he brought together a group of merchants called a junto (a small, usually secret group united for a common interest).  Next, he created the first circulation (subscription) library in America.  At 30, the first fire company.  Poor Richard's Almanack and a major newspaper by the time he was 27.  By 31, he was postmaster general and an elected representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly in his 40s.  He started a police force, helped get paved and lighted streets, proposed an Academy which is now the University of Pennsylvania.  Next, the Pennsylvania Hospital.  Then armed defense of the Quaker Province.  From 1747 - 1753, he did experiments.  In 1752, he flew his famous kite, then came up with the idea of a lightning rod.  Later, Franklin was the Minister to France.  He wrote his Poor Richard’s Almanack (surprised it wasn't called Tired Richard's Almanack!) for 25 years - 1733 to 1758.  Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Thomas Grey, provided the source for a lot of quotations - but when Franklin rewrote them, they became cleaner, more terse.

Paine was a deist who lived from 1737 - 1809.  Reason alone, he felt, can prove the existence of God - one doesn't need revelation or authority.  Born in England, he came from Quaker stock.  Quakers believe in universal brotherhood.  He published Common Sense 10 January 1776.  It called for independence from England.  Washington had Paine's "American Crisis" read to the troops to help morale.  In 1787 Paine went to France to help with her revolution.  He talked to them about the benefits of a republic over a monarchy.  (He tried the same in England, but they were going to jail him for it so he fled to France where he got into trouble for opposing the execution of Louis XVI - it was there that he wrote The Age of Reason.  Paine was against France killing Catholics - he felt there was no reason to turn away from God just because you didn't like what some religions did.  The Age of Reason attacked the irrationality of religion but did NOT contend there was no higher power.  Deism believed that people were basically good and that they should follow their consciences.

Thomas Paine

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