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Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards: Two Approaches to American Identity

1. Introduction

In American history, Benjamin Franklin & Jonathan Edwards were seen to represent two different approaches to the creation of national identity in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Franklin was a proponent of what has come to be known as the “American Enlightenment.” Edwards, on the other hand, was a key figure in the First Great Awakening—a religious revival that swept across America in the early eighteenth century. Though both men made significant contributions to the development of American society, their differing worldviews meant that they approached the task of creating a new national identity in different ways.

2. Benjamin Franklin and His Contributions to the American Revolution

Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. He was educated at Boston Latin School and then at Philadelphia Academy (now the University of Pennsylvania). He began his working life as a printer and soon became involved in a number of business ventures. He also became active in politics and was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1736 to 1751. In 1748, he founded the Junto—a club for discussion and debate that is often seen as an important precursor to the American Enlightenment.

Franklin’s involvement in the Enlightenment is evident in his support for science and reason. He was an advocate for using experimentation to discover natural laws and he helped to establish institutions like libraries and academies to promote learning. He also believed that progress could be made through human effort and he put this belief into practice by inventing such things as the lightning rod and the Franklin stove. His most famous invention, however, was the printing press—an invention that he saw as key to spreading knowledge and promoting social reform.

In addition to his contributions to science and technology, Franklin also played an important role in the political development of America. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776 and he helped to draft both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He also served as Minister plenipotentiary to France from 1776 to 1785—a position that was instrumental in securing French support for the American Revolution.

3. Jonathan Edwards and His Contributions to the American Constitution

Edwards was born in Connecticut in 1703. He graduated from Yale College in 1720 and then went on to study theology at Princeton University. After being ordained as a minister, he held pastorates at several churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 1750, he published The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God—a work that would become central to the religious revival known as the First Great Awakening.

The First Great Awakening was a period of intense religious activity that began in New England in the early eighteenth century and quickly spread across America. It was characterized by emotional preaching, mass conversions, and an emphasis on personal experience over doctrine. Edwards played a key role in this revival—a role that is evident in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This sermon sought to shock people into realizing their need for salvation and it had a profound impact on those who heard it.

Though Edwards is best known for his involvement in the Great Awakening, he also made significant contributions to American political thought. In particular, he argued for religious toleration and separation of church and state—two principles that would find their way into the Constitution. He also helped to draftthe Articles of Confederation—the predecessor to the Constitution.

4. Conclusion

Franklin and Edwards were two very different men who made important contributions to the development of America. Franklin was a proponent of the Enlightenment, while Edwards was a key figure in the Great Awakening. Though their worldviews differed, both men played a role in shaping the American identity. Franklin helped to draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, while Edwards helped to draft the Articles of Confederation. Both men helped to create a new national identity—an identity that would be shaped by their differing approaches to the task at hand.

FAQ

Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards were both important figures in American history. They both contributed to the development of the United States in different ways.

Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father of the United States. He was a diplomat, inventor, printer, and writer. Jonathan Edwards was a theologian and minister.

Benjamin Franklin is considered important because of his many accomplishments, including helping to draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Jonathan Edwards is considered important because he was a key figure in the Great Awakening, a religious revival movement in the 18th century.

The impact of Benjamin Franklin's work can still be seen today in many aspects of American life, such as our system of government and our reliance on technology. The impact of Jonathan Edwards' work can be seen in the way that religion is practiced in America today.

Their ideas compare and contrast in many ways. For example, Benjamin Franklin believed in reason and science, while Jonathan Edwards believed in faith and God's will.

We can learn from their contributions to American history by understanding the importance of both reason and faith in our country's development.

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