The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 1. The Pre-eminence of American Political Literature
Such a time of storm and stress, of revolution and evolution, is pretty certain, especially in a new country, if it bring forth literature at all, to bring forth such as is predominantly political in content, style, and purpose. The Revolutionary leaders who have left a large and permanent impress upon American literature were concerned chiefly with such weighty matters as the nature of the British constitution, the formulation of colonial rights, and the elaboration of schemes of government and administration; and it was of these things that they chiefly wrote. It is a striking tribute to the classical education of the age, to the moulding power of closely-reasoned theological and legal treatises on which ministers and lawyers fed,and to the subtle, pervasive influence of the English Bible, that the best political writing of the Revolutionary period attained a dignity and impressiveness of style, a noble power of rhetorical form, and a telling incisiveness of phrase which won the instant admiration of English critics, and which stamp the political literature of American national beginnings as superior to the similar literature of any other people anywhere.