The Revolution

Carrying Liberty to Excess

While there were perceptions that America was suffering from a malaise in the 1780s, the political theory at the time had an explanation: licentiousness.

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A Radical Political Experiment

Pennsylvania was the home of the “most radical ideas about politics and constitutional authority voiced in the Revolution.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 226. This resulted in a “comprehensive examination of assumptions about government that elsewhere were generally taken for granted” and it resulted in one of the greatest experiments in politics […]

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The Emergence of American Principles and Tempers

As the American Revolution approached “most Americans had become convinced that they were ‘aptly circumstanced to form the best republicks, upon the best terms that ever came to the lot of any people before us.’” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 98 quoting Phila. Pa. Packet, Feb. 12, 1776; Purdie’s Wmsbg. Va. Gazette, May 17, 1776.

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A Supreme Sovereign Power

Despite the fact that the Articles of Confederation loosely held the states together, there was still a remarkable union achieved. There were privileges and immunities granted, “reciprocity of extradition and judicial proceedings among the states,” no “travel and discriminatory trade restrictions between states, and the substantial grant of powers to the Congress in Article 9 […]

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Coalescing All the States

Americans had a keen understanding of the idea, popularized by Montesquieu, that “only a small homogeneous society whose interests were essentially similar could properly sustain a republican government.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 356. This idea created a fundamental problem for America: it was not a small homogeneous society, and it was rapidly […]

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