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Paine, Jefferson, Crevecoeur…. Influence Of Writings Essay, Research Paper

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. These freedoms we hold so dear came from a long English tradition. However, Americans shaped this history into their own philosophy by creating a recipe with humanitarian and Enlightenment ideas as the essential ingredients. The new mix called for a revolution. As leaders, Paine, Jefferson, and Crevecoeur shaped the age of liberty and revolution for the American people. Their literary works and motivating speeches illustrate their feelings on equality and freedom that would shape their future and our past. According to their convictions, self-determination and freedom of belief would lead to human equality and a productive society.

According to Paine, Jefferson, and Crevecoeur, self-determination guarantees the right for all people to have a voice in their government. This voice theoretically eliminates infractions of freedom that restrict the individual’s ability to contribute economically and socially to their country. Thus, self-determination benefits both the citizen and the nation. In Common Sense, Paine envisions the manifestation of this self-determination in a representative democracy while he encourages Americans to form a government that speaks with an American, not a British, accent. Paine asserts the right of a people “to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body , who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would were they present” (Paine 503). Crevecoeur agrees that a government should be overthrown when it fails to represent the people. He advises Americans to arm themselves against British oppressions and form a self-determined government. In Letters from an American Farmer, Crevecoeur exclaims, “Farewell to Britain, to that renowned country? Alas, she herself, that once indulgent parent, forces me to take up my arms against her” (Crevecoeur 464). Thomas Jefferson wrote persuasive letters to political leaders across the country in defense of self-determination. In a letter to James Madison (December 20, 1787), Jefferson expresses his interest and approval of a representative system. “I like the power given the legislature to levy taxes; and for that reason solely approve the of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For tho’ I think a house chosen by them will be very illy qualified to legislate for the union” (Jefferson 531). But self-determination goes beyond government.

The power to define your own beliefs also contributes to self-determination, paving the way for equality and equal opportunity. Religion dominates issues concerning belief. In Query XVII of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson states, “in their declaration of rights, declared it to be the truth, and a natural light, that the exercise of religion should be free” (Jefferson 527); thus the government loses the power to dictate a person’s beliefs. Paine also believed that individuals have the right to define their own spirituality. Paine asks how an outside force can invade a person’s mind to constrict or construct human thought and belief. Paine expresses in The Age of Reason one’s belief is his/hers and not another’s. “It is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe” (Paine 510). People have the right to believe or disbelieve any creed they wish. Crevecoeur contributes to this idea by claiming that uniformity of belief can detract or add to economic or personal happiness. Crevecoeur illustrates a picture in which people of different creeds may work together for the benefit of America. In his depiction, a Catholic, a German Lutheran, and a seceder can contribute equally because they are equal. In the end, religion becomes less important than the economical contributions of farming. America flourishes because each person contributes his or her part to citizenship, patriotism, industry, and farming. Crevecoeur sees this trait inherent to Americans. “Religious indifference is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of the continent to the other, which is at present one of the strongest characteristics of the Americans.” (Crevecoeur 453). Whether it is uniformity in indifference or religious diversity, religious freedom helps both the individual and the country.

How faithful were these leaders to their own beliefs? While no doubt exists that their works contributed greatly to American history and world revolutions, Paine, Jefferson, and Creveceur could not overcome the racism and sexism of their time. However , their words live on. Whenever an oppressed people, even within American borders, feel the need to speak out against inequality and infringements against their rights, they turn to these and other American forefathers to assert that all men and women are created equal. While historians and political scientists can argue over America’s adherence to our own principles, none can contest the might of the written word. While idealistic, these words inspired millions for over two centuries.

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