Teaching American Philosophy Mobile

This timeline establishes the intellectual and cultural contexts in which these American philosophers wrote and lived.

1831: Death of Emerson's wife

Emerson's first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker Emerson, dies of tuberculosis at age 19. Shortly thereafter, Emerson resigns from the ministry.

1703: Jonathan Edwards is born

Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in the village of East Windsor, Connecticut, in the Connecticut River Valley, an area that at the time was considered the western edge of America.

1703: Puritan home and hearth

Edwards's homes were built in standard Puritan design.

1803: Ralph Waldo Emerson born

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 5, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts.

1817: Emerson enters Harvard College

Emerson enters Harvard College in 1817 at the age of 14.

1716: Edwards enters Yale College

Edwards enters Yale College in 1716 at the age of 13

1720: Edwards writes "Of Insects"

When he was a 16-year -old student at Yale University, Edwards wrote this brilliant short set of observations on the behavior of spiders.

1721: Edwards has a religious conversion

Edwards had a religious conversion--an experience of receiving God's grace--in Enfield Woods in 1721.

1726: Edwards becomes a minister

Edwards becomes minister of Northampton Church, working under his famous grandfather, Solomon Stoddard.

1728: Edwards marries

Edwards marries Sarah Pierpont in Northampton in 1728.

1729: Solomon Stoddard dies

Solomon Stoddard dies after serving as pastor of Northampton Church for over fifty years.

1729: Edwards's study

When Stoddard dies, Edwards became full minister of Northampton Church.

1734: Divine & Supernatural Light

In the sermon "A Divine and Supernatural Light," Edwards reflects on his conversion experience to develop a formal account of the nature of religious knowledge as a kind of personal feeling that burns in one's soul.

1734-1743: The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening was a period of intense religious revivals that began in Northampton in 1734 and spread through much of western New England in the mid-1740s.

1737: Edwards on the Great Awakening

Edwards writes "A Faithful Narrative of the Surprizing Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton," a description of the religious revivals in western Connecticut that insists that knowing God means feeling his presence, or having a sense of what Edwards calls "inward sweetness."

1741: George Whitefield preaches revivalism

George Whitefield, a revivalist minister from England, preached in western New England and much of the Northeast throughout the 1740s.

1741: A frightening sermon

Edwards preaches "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God."

1743: Chauncy rejects Edwards

Charles Chauncy (1705–1787), the very influential minister of the First Church of Boston for 60 years, writes "Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England" (1743), a treatise that rejects Edwards's belief that religious insight is a personal experience of God and mocks his notion of the "religious affections."

1750: Edwards dismissed as pastor

Edwards is dismissed as pastor of Northampton for his perceived inability to understand and tolerate human failings and for his repeated attempts to persuade his congregation to return to and follow the Puritan terms for church membership that Stoddard had overturned.

1751: Edwards and the Mohawks

Edwards moves to Stockbridge, in western Massachusetts, where he serves as pastor and missionary to the Housatonic native people living there.

1758: Death of Edwards

Edwards died from a small pox inoculation just months after he was installed as President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

1765: A prayer in Mohawk

May 27, 1765, Edwards's son writes a prayer in the Mohawk language, Mahican. Edwards and his son had studied this Algonquin language spoken by the Housatonic people.

1743: Thomas Jefferson is born

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in rural Shadwell, Virginia.

1760: Jefferson in college

Jefferson attends the College of William and Mary in 1760, studying the liberal arts and sciences and music.

1776: Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776, Jefferson's final version of the Declaration of Independence is adopted by the U.S. Congress in Philadelphia, PA.

1768: Jefferson builds Monticello

In 1764 at the age of 21, Jefferson inherited 2,750 acres of his father's land in and around Shadwell, Virginia. In 1768, he began building Monticello, his permanent home, on a mountain near Shadwell.

1770: Slavery at Monticello

Monticello is also a testament to Jefferson's participation in slavery.

1762: Jefferson and the Enlightenment

At William and Mary, Jefferson reads John Locke (1632-1704), Francis Bacon (1561-1626), and Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the Enlightenment thinkers who would shape his lifelong commitment to rational inquiry into nature, morality, and politics.

1777: Religious Freedom Bill

By the late 1770s, Jefferson was convinced that religion must be a private and not a public matter.

1779: Jefferson as governor

In 1779 Jefferson becomes Governor of Virginia.

1779: The Virginia Religious Freedom Act

The "Virginia Religious Freedom Act," a revision of Jefferson's earlier "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" (1777), is adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1779.

1785: Notes on the State of Virginia

Jefferson wrote this book as a response to questions put to him in 1780 by Francois Barbe-Marbois, the French delegate to United States during the Revolutionary War.

1787: The American Constitution

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was signed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

1787: Jefferson argues for a Bill of Rights

Concerned that the recently passed Constitution needed a separate section outlining the rights of individuals, Jefferson urged James Madison to add a Bill of Rights.

1788: James Madison considers Bill of Rights

Madison has misgivings about adding a bill of rights to the Constitution.

1789: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is passed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

1800: Rush opposes Jefferson

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), scientist, doctor, former Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, and also a New Light in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards, writes in a letter to Jefferson that "Christianity [is] the strong ground of Republicanism."

1797: Jefferson and the Philosophical Society

From 1797-1815, Jefferson served as President of the American Philosophical Society, an organization begun by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 that still exists today.

1801: Jefferson becomes President

Jefferson becomes third President of the United States, serving two terms through 1809. He rejects pleas to serve a third term and retires to Monticello.

1818: The University of Virginia

In a 1787 letter to Madison, Jefferson wrote: "I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."

1820: The Jefferson Bible

Begun in 1800 in response to Benjamin Rush's request that he describe his private religious views, Jefferson compiled his own bible, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French, and English.

July 4, 1826: Death of Jefferson

Jefferson dies at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.

1772: Jefferson marries

Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton (1748-1782), the daughter of a fellow plantation owner, on January 1, 1772.

1802: Sally Hemings

In 1802, a Richmond, Virginia, newspaper alleged that Jefferson had several children with Sally Hemings, a slave he had inherited from his father-in-law, John Wayles, in 1774. 

1804: Lewis & Clark Expedition

Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark to lead a group of army volunteers on an expedition through the territories newly acquired in the Louisiana Purchase (1803).

1820: Minister Channing

At Harvard, Emerson is influenced by William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), a leading spokesman in the Unitarian Controversy.

1824: Emerson's Aunt Mary

Emerson corresponded frequently with his aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, whom he called "a force on his mind greater than the thinkers of Greece and Rome."

1832: Emerson resigns as minister

Emergson preached "The Lord's Supper" as his final sermon as minister of Boston's Second Church. He explains his reasons for no longer being able to perform the sacrament of "The Lord's Supper," one of his primary ecclesiastical duties.

1833: Emerson's conversion experience

In a spiritual and vocational crisis, Emerson travels through Europe for nearly a year.

1835: Emerson remarries

Emerson marries Lydia Jackson, whom he renames "Lidian."

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