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American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions

A Nation is Born, ---



1. What titles are often used to characterize the eighteenth century? What did thinkers of the period value above all else?
2. How were the American colonists different from their Puritan forefathers?
3. What series of events led towards a clash of arms between the American colonists and the British?
4. What nation assisted the American colonists in defeating the British?
5. In regards to the literature produced, how did the writing of the revolution differ from that of the Puritans?
6. How did America attempt to form a cultural identity of its own? Why was this important? Were they successful?
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American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
The Autobiography, Franklin

11. How did Benjamin Franklin go about getting his writing published? Why was this approach necessary? How did men of learning
receive his writing? What did he initially think of his first composition?
12. What events led to Benjamin Franklins becoming publisher of the New England Courante?
13. What was Benjamin Franklins relationship with his brother, James? How did this relationship result in Benjamins move to New
York? (How old was Franklin at when he left home?) Beyond his connection to his family, what additional reason led to
Benjamins move to New York? How does this show the lingering legacy of Puritanism?
14. Just prior to arriving in Philadelphia, what initiates Dr. Browns interest in Franklin? What can we infer about Franklin, as a
result? Why would this quality about Franklin have been an asset?
15. How does Franklin describe his journey to New York and Philadelphia, as well as his actions upon arriving in Philadelphia? What
does this reveal about
(1)
the difficulties that faced travelers during Franklins time, and
(2)
Franklins character and values?
16. Why does Franklin travel to Philadelphia? What detailed accounts does Franklin provide to describe his arriving in Philadelphia?
(What does Franklins willingness to join a group of strangers at worship reveal about Franklin and the people of Philadelphia?)
17. What bold and arduous project does Franklin embark? What did this project entail? Why did this project prove difficult?
(How does this perspective compare/contrast to that of Jonathan Edwards?)
18. What virtues did Franklin compile to establish a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct? What thought went into the ordering of
his virtues? In what manner was Franklin to approach, and assess his progress, toward achieving his projects goal? What does
this methodology reveal about his character? How does Franklins form represent a rationalistic approach?
19. How does Franklin ensure he adheres to his virtue of Order? Is his approach successful? Would it be successful today? As an
older man, what conclusion does he come to in regards to Order? Do you believe his reflections as an older man are accurate?
20. What hope does Franklin have in his composing The Autobiography? How does The Autobiography convey Franklin as a new
type of American hero? (Do think Franklin achieved the virtue of humility? Do you find any evidence of pride?)

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Poor Richards Almanack and The Way to Wealth, Franklin

21. According to Franklins aphorisms listed in his Almanack, what happens to a person who lives upon hope? Why might Franklin
see hope as impractical or even dangerous? What more reliable value would Franklin say person can successfully live upon?
22. Based on Franklins aphorisms, what generalizations can you make about the values of the merchant class in colonial America?
23. What values or virtues was Franklin attempting to impart to his fellow Americans?
24. Why do you suppose Franklin chose to have Richard Saunders be the author of the Almanack?
25. Why did Franklin choose to convey his message in an aphorism, rather than in an alternate form, such as a narrative or essay?
26. How does Franklin use metaphors to convey his message? Do you believe this method is more or less effective?
27. Which of Franklins aphorisms are still widely held today? Which do you agree with? Which do you disagree with?
28. Why do you suppose that Franklin decided to have Father Abraham be the protagonist of his essay, The Way to Wealth?
29. What commentary is provided following Father Abrahams sermon? Did the audience approve? Did they apply his advice?
30. Do you think if this sermon was preached to an audience today, it would generate a similar response?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
On Literary Style, Franklin

31. What does Franklin identify as more necessary to a Man of Sense that is generally neglected? Do you agree?
32. How advice does Franklin provide in ones attempting to improve their writing? How does he justify this claim? Do you agree?
What three things should one focus on when attempting to improve his or her writing?
What reasoning does he provide to justify this claim? What factors are to be considered when addressing each?
33. Literary Focus 1:
34. Literary Focus 2:
35. Literary Focus 3:
36. In regards to method, what advice does Franklin provide on persuasive writing?
37. In regards to method, what advice does Franklin provide on informative writing?
38. What commentary does Franklin provide on ones length of discourse, written or spoken?
39. What final maxim does Franklin offer? According to Franklin, how does the literature of his time measure up to this maxim?
40. How does Franklins closing sentence further persuade his reader via ethos?


American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
The Declaration of Independence, Jefferson

41. What points about human rights does Jefferson make at the beginning of the Declaration? Why does he begin with these
observations before addressing the colonists situation?
42. What is the purpose of government? What does he state should be done if the government fails in fulfilling its purpose? Why does
Jefferson introduce the idea that one does not change a government for light causes?
43. What does the statement about submitting facts to a candid world suggest about the intended audience?
44. What grievances are listed in the Declaration? Why does he list so many? Why do you suppose he organized (and introduced) his
list in the way presented within the Declaration?
45. Why does Jefferson focus on attacking King George III rather than on the British Parliament?
46. What does Jefferson claim has happened at every stage of these oppressions? How has the king responded to the colonists
actions? What is Jeffersons purpose in presenting this information?
47. What words actually declare the colonists independence? What rights and powers do they state that they now have?
Why did they feel it was necessary to state this in the Declaration?
48. How does Jeffersons writing reflect an emphasis on logic and a faith in reason?
49. How does Jeffersons religious outlook compare with that of the Puritans?
50. After reading the following Fugitive Slave Advertisement, what contradictions are present in Jeffersons two documents?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
The Crisis, Number 1, Paine

51. According to Paines introduction, why is freedom so highly valued? Do you believe his reasoning applies to all things of value?
52. What charged words are used in the introduction? What do these words suggest about his audience?
53. How does Paine attempt to persuade his reader? Reference
a. the power of God:
b. the nature of panic:
c. the wishes of the troops:
d. the future generations
e. the manner in which he speaks to the reader:
54. In what ways might the word foreign help Paine inspire the colonist to fight? What other charged words does Paine use?
55. How does aphorisms add to his persuasive style? (Identify an aphorism, and its meaning and purpose.)
56. How does his aphorisms subject matter and tone compare to that of Franklins aphorism?
57. Why is Paines style suitable for his audience?
58. In his conclusion, how does Paine appeal to emotion and to reason? Why is this an effective approach?
59. How does Paines religious outlook compare with that of the Puritans?
60. Is America facing times that try men's souls? What might be done to solve this crisis? What might Paine say to todays America?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Poems on Various Subjects, Wheatley
Preface
61. According to the judges commentary in the Preface, why were Wheatleys poems published? What hope do the judges express to the
readers of Wheatleys poetry? Why do judges compose the Preface to Wheatleys poetry, rather than Wheatley herself?
62. How old was Wheatley when she arrived from Africa as a slave in America? (How do the judges describe Wheatleys condition
when arriving in America? Is this accurate? What does the diction suggest?) How long did it take for her to attain the English
language? How did she learn the English language?
On Virtue
63. What metaphors, images, and names or titles does Wheatley use in reference to Virtue?
64. What will Wheatley no more attempt? Why? Why should she sing not into despair? What does she request of Virtue?
65. According to Wheatleys poem, is virtue attainable? If so, how?
On Being Brought from Africa to America
66. How does Wheatley use punctuation (i.e., commas, quotations, colon) to emphasize racial tension, and become a tool for her to
express her views on racial equality? (Is Wheatley criticizing or supporting "being brought from Africa to America"?)
67. How does the poet use images of darkness on both a figurative and a literal level to embody conflicting ideas of racism, beauty, and
spiritual emptiness?
68. How does this poem show tension in regards to the speakers racial and religious identity? Which conflicting identities, if any, does the
speaker embrace, and which does she need to be saved from?
69. What effect does the allusion to Cain have on the poem? How does the character known for murdering his brother and being cast
out of his homeland relate to Wheatley's message of equality and redemption? To whom is this allusion directed? (How does she
use her faith in God as an argument against prejudice? Why does she mention racism toward the end rather than the beginning?)
70. How does Wheatley use form in this poem to earn credibility in the poetry world, but also as a method to deliver her argument
against slavery and for racial equality? Would the message of the poem change if it were written in free verse?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Poems on Various Subjects, Wheatley

His Excellency, General Washington
71. What tone does the first stanza of the poem establish?
72. How does Wheatley personify America? What physical details are used to describe Columbia? Why are these details significant?
(How does Wheatleys use of personification make us sympathize more readily wit the American cause?)
73. Analyze lines 13-20. How are heaven, the ocean, and autumn personified and portrayed? What does Wheatley suggest about
American forces? Why does she cut short her praise of Columbias armies in the following lines?
74. What hope does the poet express in lines 31-32? What are the scales Wheatley refers to in line 33? Why are eyes fixed on them?
75. According to the closing stanza, who is the great chief and what two factors will ensure a crown, a mansion, and a throne that
shine? What do these lines indicate about the influence of the British political systems on American thinking? What do these
lines suggest about the role Washington is expected to fulfill?
76. What examples can you identify to show a relationship between God and the American cause? What is the nature of this
relationship? How do these lines, as well as other lines in the poem, reflect Puritan influences?
Liberty and Peace
77. What evidence is present implying that this poem is meant to supplement Wheatleys earlier poem, His Excellency, General
Washington
78. How does Wheatley describe the British? How does she describe Americas treatment of the British in their victory? What factor
led to an American victory?
79. What meaning can be seen in Wheatleys describing America as a new-born Rome? How are they, or how will they, be similar?
80. What examples show a relationship between God and the American cause? What is the nature of this relationship? Why does
Wheatley go on to list the lands in which Britain has colonial power? What is she alluding to as Americas role on the global stage?


American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Speech in the Virginia Convention, Henry

81. How does Henry apply the rhetorical devise (i.e. concession, parallelism) to begin his speech? How is it effective?
82. What image or concept does Henry reduce the argument to? How does this further persuade his audience?
83. In the second paragraph, identify Henrys use of rhetorical devices (i.e., rhetorical questions, restatements, repetition, parallelism).
84. How does Henry say that he judges the future?
85. In the third paragraph, identify Henrys use of allusion to utilize the rhetorical device of comparison/contrast.
What figures Henry chooses to compare/contrast. How is this effective?
86. In the 5th and 6th paragraphs, identify Henrys use of rhetorical devices (rhetorical questions, restatements, repetition, parallelism).
87. What does Henry say in regards to hope? (Compare this with Franklins.) How does this reflect the growing American attitudes?
88. Why does Henry believe compromise with the British is not a workable solution? What measures have the colonists tried?
89. What rhetorical strategy does Henry apply in the paragraph beginning: They tell us?
Who are they and what are they telling us? How does Henry counter these remarks?
90. What final comparison does Henry make in his closing remarks? What emotional appeal does Henry use to end his speech? Why
does he end his oration in this way?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Speech in the Convention, Franklin

91. What confession does Franklin make in the opening paragraph? What effect does Franklin achieve with this confession?
92. Despite the fact that Franklin did not entirely approve of the constitution, why did he feel that unanimity among the delegates is
essential to the success of the United States?
93. What is Franklins purpose in suppressing his opinions for the public good?
94. Why would any document created by a committee be faulty? What is Franklin implying about human nature?
95. Why is Franklin so astonished by the high quality of the Constitution?
96. What three reasons does Franklin give for finally agreeing to accept the Constitution? How effective does he convey the thought
process that brought him from doubt about the Constitution to a decision to accept it?
97. Franklin says that government depends in part on the wisdom and integrity of its leaders. Do you agree?
98. How does Franklin use concession, as well as restatement, repetition, and parallelism, to advance his opinion?
99. What logical and emotional appeals are made by Franklin?
100. In analyzing Franklins diction, what charged words are used and how do they help convey the message?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Letter to Her Daughter from the New White House, Adams

101. What details does Adams use to describe the area surrounding the White House? (Are they based on fact or opinion?) What does
Adams letters suggest about the difficulties facing those who were setting up a centralized national government?
102. In 1800, the Washington area had a population of only about 8,000. How might this city, which is only so in name, have
compared to a city like Boston?
103. Why are the Adams obliged to keep a fire burning in the fireplace? Why is there very little firewood?
104. How would you describe the living quarters in the White House?
105. What is Adams attitude toward living in the White House? How is this attitude conveyed?
106. What does Adams instruct her daughter to tell those who ask about the White House? Why might she make this request?
107. What regional prejudices are evident in her comments concerning the location of the countrys capital?
108. What are two character traits that Adams exhibits as she faces the difficulties of life in her new home Adams is often referred to
as a remarkable figure in our nations history. Do the character traits exhibited in this letter contribute to that assessment?
109. How does constructing a home for its Presidents help a nation establish its identity on the world stage, symbolism, and tradition?
110. Is the continuity of the Presidential residence valuable?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Letters from an American Farmer, Crvecoeur

111. What images does Crvecoeur provide of the American landscape? Why does he assert that an American must necessarily feel a
share of national pride? (Are these images based on fact or opinion? Are they accurate or exaggerated?)
112. How does Crvecoeurs use of an analogythe withering plant transplanted into new soilhelp further his point?
113. How does Crvecoeur contrast America culture with that of the English? Do you believe that the points he makes in this
comparison were accurate? (Do you believe they are accurate today?)
114. How diverse has America become? What has led so many to come to America? Why is it so easy, according to Crvecoeur, for
these immigrants to leave their home? How has their social status changed as a result of their migration? (Do you think the
immigrants to America had the same goals as immigrants of today?)
115. What two factors have allowed for so many new immigrants to succeed in America? Do you think that these factors provide the
same opportunities to Americans today?
116. What character traits does Crvecoeur hold up as being both typically American and admirable? (Are these character traits
evident in Adams description?)
117. How would you summarize Crvecoeurs definition of an American? Does his definition still hold true today? Do you think that
there can be a single definition of an American? Why or why not?
118. Do you agree with Crvecoeur that self-interest is a valuable quality?
119. In analyzing the letters of Crvecoeur and Adams, which presents a more idealized view of America? a more realistic view?
120. How does Crvecoeur use rhetorical questions, restatement, repetition, or parallelism, to advance his opinion?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, Franklin

121. What incorrect expectations have many individuals in Europe established regarding life in America that Franklin hopes to correct?
122. According to Franklin, what is a more realistic description of the American people and way of life?
123. Why do some leave America for England?
124. What are the employment prospects available in America for an educated immigrant?
125. What are the employment prospects available in America for an individual with a reputable name?
126. Franklin stats that it is a Rule establish'd in some of the States, that no Office should be so profitable as to make it desirable.
Why would this rule be established? Does this apply today?
127. How does Franklins description of God support deist beliefs?
128. According to Franklin, what are the attitudes of the American government, as well as American natives, in regards to encouraging
individuals to immigrant to the United States?
129. What advice or expectations does he want potential immigrants to consider prior to moving to America?
130. In his closing, how does Franklin ultimately describe America?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America, Franklin

131. What commentary does Franklin provide on the justification of calling Native Americans savages?
132. How does his insight on the manners of different nations counter this notion?
133. How does Franklin describe the Native American way of life?
134. How does American society seem in comparison to that of the Native Americans?
135. What do Native Americans think of the American education system? How do they respond to a proposal that a number of their
children be educated in the Learning of the White People? What proposition do they offer in return?
136. How does Franklin describe the Native Americans manner of civility? What flaw does he find in this attribute? What reasoning
do the Natives provide to justify this custom?
137. What inference can be made about the Indians and the Americans upon reading the interaction regarding the origins of mankind?
138. What commentary do Native Indians have on the civility and manners?
139. What commentary do Native Indians have on hospitality?
140. How does Native American hospitality compare with that of the Americans?

American Enlightenment and Rationalism: Reading Questions
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano

141. How does Equiano describe his initial impressions upon arriving at the West African coast?
142. Equiano immediately admits that he wished to have exchanged his condition with that of the meanest slave in his own country.
Are there different kinds of slavery? Why would being a slave in Africa be preferable to being a slave in the Americas?
143. Upon entering the ship, why is Equiano unable to eat? How do the slave traders respond to Equianos fasting? Is this type of
treatment reserved only for slaves?
144. How does Equiano describe the slaves living conditions below the deck of the ship?
145. Why does Equiano blame the illness aboard the ship on the improvident avarice of the traders?
146. Equiano states, Often did I think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy than myself. Whom or what is he
referring to? How does this ambiguity enrich the passage?
147. Why do Africans jump off the ship into the ocean? What does stopping the ship that was under sail reveal about the value of slaves?
148. How does Equiano respond to his environment aboard the ship as well as the technology and methods associated with sailing?
149. What additional cruelties do the slaves experience upon arriving at the merchants yard in Barbados?
150. In the closing paragraph, what persuasive techniques are used by Equiano? What message is he hoping to convey? Is he effective?