Inventing an American Language and Literature

Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


In the afternoon of September 25, 1771, two young graduates of the College of New Jersey (later called Princeton) delivered a stirring commencement poem titled “On the Rising Glory of America.” The authors were Philip Freneau (soon to win fame as the “Poet of the Revolution” and later a central figure in the Jeffersonian Republican Party) and Hugh Henry Brackenridge (a lawyer, legislator, justice of Pennsylvania’s supreme court, and author in later years). Their appreciative audience included John Witherspoon, the president of the college and a future signer of the Declaration of Independence; their classmate James Madison missed commencement due to poor health. The poem was so well received that it was published the following year in Philadelphia.1 Its bold prediction that an American culture would soon arise to eclipse past European glories resonated with listeners at the commencement and readers at other colleges and in other colonies.


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Selected Bibliography

  1. Bloch, Ruth. Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought, 1756–1800. Cambridge, Mass., 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cmiel, Kenneth. “‘A Broad Fluid Language of Democracy’: Discovering the American Idiom.” Journal of American History, 79, no. 3 (1992): 913–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Elliott, Emory. Revolutionary Writers: Literature and Authority in the New Republic, 1725–1810. New York, 1982.Google Scholar
  4. Silverman, Kenneth. A Cultural History of the American Revolution. New York, 1976.Google Scholar
  5. Tuveson, Ernest Lee. Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role. Chicago, 1968.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversityUSA

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