Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
The American Revolution of the «Thirteen United Colonies» against Great Britain (1775-1783) was based on the classical republican ideal par excellence, i.e. that of the virtuous citizen who sacrifices his private interest for the achievement of public freedom.
The Declaration of Independence of the United States, whose primary author is considered to be Thomas Jefferson, echoed the ideas of the Enlightenment. The final draft of the Declaration was approved by Congress on 4 July 1776 and is regarded as the act of founding of the United States of America. Based on the formulation of the doctrine of rights of John Locke, this major revolutionary text influenced the ideas and spirit of the French Declaration of Human and Citizen’s Rights (1789). Consequently, it also played an important role in the ideology of the Greek Revolution.
The Land of Liberty in Grecian Cloak
The American Revolution ushered a keen interest in Greek Antiquity in the letters and the arts and an impetus for the discovery of Greece through travel. A new trend in classical learning turned the cities of Philadelphia and Boston into proud versions of Athens. In the decades after American independence, the atmosphere of liberty in Philadelphia spawned an artistic spirit that earned this city its reputation as the Athens of America, while among the educated elite of Boston at Harvard, a movement was born to upgrade the study of Greek and produce accurately printed Greek texts. The interest in Athens and Grecian art furnished America the new identity that it desired showcasing a break from Europe and Neoclassicism. America’s Greek Revival style (1820-1860) opted for the revival of an ancient culture with similar interests and functions rather than a new and modern invention. Architects Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820) and William Strickland (1788-1854) were pioneers of the Greek Revival style, whose “Temple design” offered the new nation of the United States the desired trappings of monumentality and dignity during the period when many of the foundational public buildings of the United States government were constructed.
Edward Everett: The foremost American Hellenist
Best known as an inspired orator, Edward Everett (1794–1865) was a classicist who became a passionate supporter of the Greek War of Independence. After 1824, he held a number of political offices, including Governor of Massachusetts, and senator.
In 1815, Everett was appointed the first Eliot Professor of Greek Literature at Harvard. He went to Europe to study at the University of Göttingen, and also stayed in Paris, where he met Adamantios Korais and learned modern Greek. He finally spent time in Greece in 1819. Upon his return to Harvard in 1820, he taught Greek language and literature to university students in accordance with European standards, and offered public lectures on the antiquities of Greece — the first ones to be delivered to a public audience in America. In the 1820s, he mounted a concerted campaign in America to tilt classical studies to Greek and Hellenism.