Charlotte Temple

Charlotte Temple Britain and America After the Revolutionary War

Like many early Americans, Susanna Rowson identified with both Britain and America, a dual allegiance that led to trouble for her Loyalist family during the Revolutionary War. After American independence, though, she traveled between the two countries before finally settling in America. The author's dual national identity is paralleled in Charlotte Temple, whose main character also travels from Great Britain to the United States, although she is decidedly less successful there than Susanna Rowson was. To understand the novel, it is important to comprehend the political and cultural relationship between Great Britain and America following the Revolutionary War.

The long and bloody American Revolution soured relations between the United States and Great Britain; many colonists continued to resent British imperialism after they had achieved independence, while in the United Kingdom, Americans were viewed as insolent country people. Despite this generalization, though, there was great cultural and economic exchange between Britain and the colonies before and after the Revolutionary War, and many individuals did not conform to these attitudes. For example, many British nationals sympathized with the Americans, including several who would go on to become the country's Founding Fathers. Similarly, many colonists, including Susanna Rowson's family, remained loyal to the crown, and a significant portion of them immigrated to Canada or England after America achieved independence in 1783.

Although the countries were "officially" enemies, Americans often perceived European culture as superior, and British authors were often more popular in the United States than their American counterparts. Both British and American critics brushed off colonial literature as inferior, and this created a great demand for British fiction. (Baym) Susanna Rowson is considered an early American writer because despite her British ancestry, her book takes place partially in the United States and includes astute descriptions of life in the colonies, contributing to the development of a uniquely American literary voice.

Although traces of nationalistic attitudes are apparent in Charlotte Temple, the novel itself (to say nothing of the life of its author) demonstrates conciliation and cultural exchange between Britain and America. Rowson's novel was prescient—in 1794, the same year the novel was published in America, the two countries signed the Jay Treaty, which ensured peace and trade between them for more than a decade.