Craig White's Literature Courses

Historical Backgrounds

two sets of historical "fathers"
for the USA

Atlantic colonies / states

U.S. popular culture often collapses or flattens two distinct generations of our nation's founders, who are in fact separated by a century and a half.

artist's conception of Bradford (1590-1657),
governor of Plymouth colony

The "Pilgrim Fathers"
painting of John Winthrop (1588-1649),
governor of Massachusetts Bay colony (Boston)

time period: early-mid 1600s

historical-cultural movement: Protestant Reformation (1500-1600s)

location: Massachusetts or New England

type of government: "covenant" between people and God; near-theocracy balancing civil society and religious guidance. (Pilgrims and Puritans were associated with Parliament, not with royalty or aristocracy; therefore they were committed to elective governments with input from citizenry. The church was separate from government but close relations.)

social relations: homogeneous community, nearly all descended from English stock; sense of community restrained wealth and protected poor;


George Washington (1732-99)

The "Founding Fathers"

Benjamin Franklin (1704-94)

time period: mid-late 1700s

historical-cultural movement: the Enlightenment (a.k.a. Age of Reason; reaction against religious wars of Reformation and Counter-Reformation)

location: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts

type of government: Republic; First Amendment to U.S. Constitution stipulates no establishment of religion by government. Religion, freed from government interference, enters "freemarket of ideas" and thrives more than in other developing countries.

social relations: larger community with looser bonds; freemarket capitalism increasingly governs daily activity.