The Lesson of the American Revolution

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Washington Crossing the Delaware. By: Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

The American Revolution changed political theory and government. At the heart of that change was the empowerment of the people, which continues to present day America.

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A Compound of Aristocracy and Monarchy

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Etching of Jonathan Jackson. By: Max Rosenthal.

In the 1780s, Americans, like John Dickinson, observed that “[p]eople once respected their governors, their senators, their judges and their clergy; they reposed confidence in them; their laws were obeyed, and the states were happy in tranquility.” Dickinson, Letters of Fabius, Ford, ed., Pamphlets, 188. The authority of the government was declining. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 507. Read more

The Social Debate

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Melancton Smith. By: Granger.

The debate surrounding the Constitution was as much a political and governmental debate as it was a social debate. The individuals who debated the Constitution, both for and against the Constitution, focused on the social aspect, making the disagreement “fundamentally one between aristocracy and democracy.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 485. Read more

Storms of Sedition

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David Hume. By: Allan Ramsay. 1766.

Because the American Revolution was leading to a breakdown of the traditional social distinctions of the Eighteenth Century, groups of individuals were becoming increasingly empowered. Groups, based on “social, economic, and religious interests” were emerging. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 501.

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The Scum Will Rise

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James Otis Jr. By: Joseph Blackburn.

The social structure of America was being turned upside down during the Revolution. As James Otis warned in 1776: “When the pot boils, the scum will rise.” John Eliot to Jeremy Belknap, Jan. 12, 1777, Belknap Papers, 104.

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The Inadequacy of the Confederation

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John Jay. By: John Trumbull.

By 1787, the strength and stability of the states was under scrutiny. Shays’ Rebellion had erupted, citizens had become more licentious, and state legislatures appeared to be running rampant, doing significant damage to the health of the country as a whole. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 465.

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