I had just finished reading David McCullough’s John Adams when I began my Jane Austen journey and was always a bit intrigued by the fact the biographies of the iconic author and the history of Adams began the same way. December 1775.
John Adams left his home in that month and year to attend the second continental congress in Philadelphia. It may not have been the actual shot heard round the world (that being the musket fire at Concord) but the result of that convention was most definitely heard round the world.
At the same time across the Atlantic in the English countryside a baby girl was born at Steventon Rectory. Her cry may have only been heard by those in the house but in the years to come her pen would have an impact on the world to match Thomas Jefferson’s.
It may seem a stretch and some may even consider it a trivialization of Jefferson’s words but I believe that Austen’s impact on the world is no less important than Jefferson’s. The effect of Jane’s writing maybe more subtle than that of the Virginian and Thomas Paine but it is no less influential.
Jefferson’s and Paine’s words instigated and promoted a revolution, a war of independence. Jane’s words had no such excessive consequence. Still in her own, quiet, genteel yet powerful way she declared and promoted the same principles of freedom and self-regulation as our American forefathers.
In all her novels Jane advocates independence of person and thought, the rights of all and acceptance of responsibility of those rights and actions.
Jane Austen may not have incited military actions as Jefferson did but even as an avowed royalist I doubt not that Jane Austen firmly believed in his declaration of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.