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History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard
» PART I. THE COLONIAL PERIOD
» Chapter III

«·Chapter III · The Leadership of the Churches·»


SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PROGRESS

Colonial life, crowded as it was with hard and unremitting toil, left scant leisure for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. There was little money in private purses or public treasuries to be dedicated to schools, libraries, and museums. Few there were with time to read long and widely, and fewer still who could devote their lives to things that delight the eye and the mind. And yet, poor and meager as the intellectual life of the colonists may seem by way of comparison, heroic efforts were made in every community to lift the people above the plane of mere existence. After the first clearings were opened in the forests those efforts were redoubled, and with lengthening years told upon the thought and spirit of the land. The appearance, during the struggle with England, of an extraordinary group of leaders familiar with history, political philosophy, and the arts of war, government, and diplomacy itself bore eloquent testimony to the high quality of the American intellect. No one, not even the most critical, can run through the writings of distinguished Americans scattered from Massachusetts to Georgia—the Adamses, Ellsworth, the Morrises, the Livingstons, Hamilton, Franklin, Washington, Madison, Marshall, Henry, the Randolphs, and the Pinckneys—without coming to the conclusion that there was something in American colonial life which fostered minds of depth and power. Women surmounted even greater difficulties than the men in the process of self-education, and their keen interest in public issues is evident in many a record like the Letters of Mrs. John Adams to her husband during the Revolution; the writings of Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren, the sister of James Otis, who measured her pen with the British propagandists; and the patriot newspapers founded and managed by women.


«·Chapter III · The Leadership of the Churches·»