USA, 18th century Enlightenment and American revolution

Washington crossing the Delaware, by Leutze

By Charles Bogle:

A timely reminder of America’s Enlightenment origins

31 August 2006

Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer, 543 pages, Oxford University Press, 2004, $17.95

In Washington’s Crossing, published by Oxford University Press as part of its Pivotal Moments in American History series (series editors, David Hackett Fischer and James M. McPherson), Fischer describes how Enlightenment thinking informed the character and decision-making of George Washington at a critical point in the American Revolution.

Fisher argues that although this same Enlightenment thinking molded the outlook of the British commanding officers and their charges, the exigencies of an imperialist policy resulted in brutal treatment of the colonists and spoliation of their property.

The author concludes by calling on his American readers to remember and embrace their Enlightenment origins at the present critical point in their history.

The painting entitled “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, provides the inspiration for the title of Fischer’s book.

The masterpiece is itself evocative of the Enlightenment and the revolutions it engendered.

In the introduction to his book, Fischer writes that the artist, a German-American named Emanuel Leutze, undertook the painting to encourage the Europeans, who were engaged in the revolutions of 1848, to follow the example of the American Revolution.

See also here. And here.

American revolution and slavery: here.

Myths of the American Revolution: here.

Gordon Wood is a leading scholar of the American Revolution. His book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, and his Creation of the Republic, 1776-1787 won the Bancroft Prize in 1970. WSWS history writer Tom Mackaman recently spoke with Wood at Brown University, where he is professor emeritus of history: here. And here.

Today’s Enlightenment perceptions and imperialism: here.

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