Revolutionary Literature: Let's Be Rational NOW!

The majority of revolutionary literature is propaganda ranging from "Hey, we're not paying no stinkin' taxes"  and "Give me liberty or give me death," to "Vote for this form of government for it is the best." 

Sifting Through Revolutionary Literature Writers

This time period covers about from the Revolutionary War to the early 1800s when short stories were starting to be published.

The philosophy of Rationalism was a strong influence over all these writers and is also known as the Age of Enlightenment (1650-1800). Ideas about the supremacy of reason over feelings, unsubstantiated beliefs, and divine revelation took precedence in their writings. In fact, most of these Founding Fathers were Deists. It also has been called the Age of Reason.

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Jeffersion

Alexander Hamilton

photo courtesy of WPClipart

Revolutionary Literature Your Teen Should Read

This period in American literature dealt with either persuasive material advocating independence or constiutional arguments. Its main importance is that it gives a student a sense of the philosophies and tenets from which the founding fathers worked. 

And while this literature is worth reading, especially today when many have forgotten the ideals established by these men, it overlaps with American history.

Given that American literature is rich with thousands of authors to choose from, I think it's a waste to focus too much time on these primary source documents. Instead, read excerpts from these pieces and work your way toward the exciting Romantic literature that follows just a couple of decades after the Revolutionary War.

  • Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Franklin - This will give the student a solid idea of where American ingenuity and the "Can Do" spirit came from. 
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin -  Depending on how much one chooses to read, this book could serve as a science and history book or a  nonfiction adventure novel. Be sure to read the part of how he wriggled himself out of his brother's indentured contract in Boston and made his way to freedom in Philadelphia. 

So where was the term "Yankee Ingenuity" derived? It's defined as the idea that one will use their talent to make do with the materials available to accomplish a task.

It refers to the resourcefullness of early colonial settlers who invented or built tools and other implements to get the job done. 


Jefferson's Inaugural Address of March 4, 1801 - This is a good read as it expresses many of Jefferson's philosophies of government including the one to avoid entangling alliances with other nations. 

affliate disclosure

The Old Farmer's Almanac has been in publication since 1792. 

Patrick Henry's Speech to the Virginia Convention

The photo to the right is the same one that can be found in the public school literature books. Henry's speech is famous for its final heroic statement: "Give me Liberty or Give Me Death." 

To get a sense of the prevailing philosophies of the time period, print a copy and have your teen underline the arguments Henry uses in this piece of revolutionary literature. 

No study of literature is complete without reading Patrick Henry's speech. His rhetoric and persuasive techniques are unsurpassed. In fact, with a bit of study, anyone can write a persuasive essay as skill as this speech. 

Other famous documents written during this time are The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton (known as the Father of the Constitution), Thomas Paine's Common Sense, and the Declaration of Independence, which was mostly written by Thomas Jefferson. 

Reader: Forgive me for not linking to these documents here, but these are free on your Kindle through Amazon. In case you missed it above, I do have an Amazon affiliation, but I don't make money on free items. However, if you haven't bought a Kindle yet, I highly recommend it, and please go to Amazon through my link on this page. Thank you. 

Return to American literature (11th grade English.


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