Vernon L. Parrington: Main Currents in American Thought








THE American Revolution remains after a hundred and fifty years somewhat of a puzzle to historians. Much careful investigation has been done in the last two decades, but we still know too little to speak confidently or with a sense of finality. The appeal to arms would seem to have been brought about by a minority of the American people, directed by a small group of skillful leaders, who like Indian scouts, covered their tracks so cleverly that only the keenest trailers can now follow their course and understand their strategy. On the other hand, the philosophy of revolution is familiar to us. Revolutions are born of an abnormal state of mind, sensitized by an accumulated body of experience. They are psychological explosions, resulting from irritations commonly economic in origin, and they are conditioned in their programs by the stock of knowledge and aspiration peculiar to their time and place. Two determining facts, then, would seem to lie at the root of the American Revolution: the American psychology which shaped the colonial outlook, and the peculiar situation of the British Empire at the close of the French and Indian war.¹

In old age John Adams "hazarded an opinion, that the true history of the American revolution could not be recovered," for "the revolution was effected before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people." ² Accepting Adams's thesis of a change in American psychology, we may hazard a further opinion that the revolution resulted from the emergence [180] in the two countries of divergent interpretations of the theory and practice of sovereignty, which may be sufficiently distinguished by the terms local home rule and imperial centralization. In the beginning it was a clash of jurisdiction between colonial self-government and absentee paternalism; but later it developed into an open challenge of the monarchical principle. A popular will to self-rule had long been developing in America, and when the outbreak of hostilities clarified its latent objective, it speedily asserted a conscious republican purpose. To many of the early supporters of the colonial protest, this republican outcome was unforeseen and deeply regretted; but it was implicit in the whole history of colonial development, and must ultimately stand sharply revealed, once its aspirations were balked.

If the crisis was precipitated almost casually by the program of parliamentary regulation, the long drift towards alienation was far from casual. An American mind had been created by the silent pressure of environment. A large measure of economic freedom had developed an American liberalism, frankly and vigorously individualistic. It was not consciously democratic, or even republican. There were few avowed democrats in the stolid mass of colonial provincialism; a busy and commonplace routine offered little opportunity for revolutionary appeal to a people grown lethargic from economic abundance. Of social unrest, the common fuel of revolutionary fires, there was practically none; and but for a blundering ministerial imperialism that challenged this nascent liberalism, throwing over it the mantle of patriotism, the colonies would have written a very different history. Once the crisis was precipitated., however, and it became clear that imperial centralization was encroaching upon local rights, the liberal impulses in tie background of the American mind assumed a militant form and purpose.

The existence of this native liberalism had been stupidly overlooked and ignored by responsible statesmen. With the exception of Franklin, colonial spokesmen were commonly members of the aristocratic group, among whom the Tory philosophy was spreading fast. Gentlemen in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston fashioned their manners upon the polite world of St. James's and caught the Tory ways in politics as naturally as the London style in wigs. They associated with the royal officials, traveled in England, corresponded with members of Parliament, [181] advised in all matters of colonial policy, and proved themselves the most shortsighted of counselors. Upon their heads rest in part the blunders of the ministry. In failing to understand the native liberalism of America, they not only shared responsibility for an unwise policy, but they hastened their own destruction. Samuel Adams could not have played so effectively upon the popular prejudices if the Hutchinsons and Olivers had not brought the Tory ways into wide disrepute by their arrogance.

Colonial liberalism, on the other hand, was not so simple and homogeneous as we long believed. It was rather a somewhat value composite of the aspirations of three diverse geographical areas, with different economic interests, social ways, and political ideals. The middle and northern coast region, with its mercantile cities, was a distinct area; the tidewater region from Maryland to Georgia, with its plantation economy, constituted another; and the indefinite backcountry beyond the older settlements, stretching from Maine southward along the Alleghany watershed, constituted a third. The first was dominated by a merchant group--wholesale importers and exporters--wealthy and conservative, but with a great majority of the population--small tradesmen, mechanics and yeomen--far more democratic than the leaders. The second was controlled by the aristocratic planters, whose leadership during the crises of the dispute with England was rejected by an economically strong but socially inferior body of factors or alien middlemen. The third was composed of thousands of small freeholders, largely Scotch-Irish and German, who acknowledged no leadership, were unconsciously democratic in their ways, suspicious of the seacoast aristocracy, wedded to an agrarian philosophy. The merchant group was liberal only to the extent that liberalism meant profit: their commercial relations with England constituted them the closest tie between the two countries, and their timid love of established ways made them naturally conservative rather than revolutionary. The planter group possessed the traditional independence of English gentlemen: they would tolerate no outside dictation in matters concerning their own parishes, and their burdensome debts to English merchants cooled the ardor of their loyalty to Great Britain. The frontier agrarians, on the other hand, were pronounced liberals by environment and training to whom English ties were at the strongest only sentimental. They were republican in temper, and [182] becoming class conscious during the ten years of debate, they grew rapidly in power and finally turned America against England. A recent historian has thus characterized the change of temper which brought these agrarians to the front as the fighting strength of the republicans:

A new class, formed within a decade, growing rapidly in numbers, was rising to power. In Pennsylvania, as in a number of other colonies, it consisted of small farmers in the back country, Scotch-Irish and German immigrants, re-enforced by the voteless laborers and artisans of Philadelphia or other seaboard cities . . . . For over a decade this rising democracy had struggled for power against the little seaboard aristocracy of wealth and accepted social leadership . . . . The colonial masses could no longer be controlled by reverence for the high-born. The Quaker merchants of Philadelphia, the holders of manors on the Hudson, the tobacco and rice planters of Virginia and South Carolina, and even the great merchants, clergy, and professional men of New England, could no longer rule without question their social inferiors . . . . Thus, in 1774, came the climax in the struggle between rich and poor, East and West, those with a vote and those who were voteless, between privilege and the welfare of the common man. The two classes might work in harmony or might clash on the question of resistance to Great Britain, but they were pretty sure to be in opposition on the issue of individual rights. A merchant . . . might welcome the support of the mechanics and small shopkeepers against a grievous tax by the British Government, but the price, a right to vote and to hold office, he was sure to resent, and he grew more and more alarmed as the pressure became more insistent. ³

From the imperial point of view there were the soundest reasons why, following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Parliament should have desired to set about reorganizing the far-spread British Empire. Within a few years vast territories had been added to the crown, and if the scattered parts were to be gathered into a cohesive and powerful whole there was need of a definite policy of coordination and integration. The American colonies were only a small part of the total empire, and it was generally agreed among English statesmen that the old policy of "salutary neglect" could no longer serve imperial interests. If the Whig imperialists under the leadership of Pitt had been put in charge of imperial reconstruction, the outcome very likely would have been peaceful. But unfortunately for the empire the colonial problem became embroiled with English domestic politics. The purpose of the King was to set up a personal autocracy with Tory help, over [183] throw the rule of the Whig families, eliminate from the ministry the more intelligent Old Whig leaders--Pitt, Camden, Barre, Burke, Shelburne--and bring in a narrow-minded group who held to the obsolete mercantilist theory of colonial dependency. The immediate outcome was the inauguration of a policy that ran counter to the economic interests of the three major colonial regions and aroused the hostility of important colonial groups. Every successive enactment was a greater blunder, until the crowning stupidity of the tea monopoly--which used colonial interests as a pawn in a game of the East India Company--threw the colonial fat into the fire.

The grievances of the merchants resulting from the regulatory trade acts were real and serious. However the ministry might justify those acts before Parliament, their effects were disastrous to substantial colonial interests, and to American eyes seemed designed to bring colonial trade into further subjection to English merchants. The attempt to suppress the widespread practice of smuggling was ill advised even though logical, for it aroused the consuming public as well as the middlemen, and gave popular backing to the protests of the merchants. The total political result was to align against Parliament the most influential groups in the trading towns--the wealthy importers and the professional classes--and provided opportunity to the radicals to spread their propaganda under cover of respectable leadership. The movement of resistance thus set on foot by the class-conscious merchants eventually slipped from their control and passed into the hands of the Sons of Liberty, who drove faster and farther than conservative business men would willingly follow; yet these latter soon found themselves coerced by tumultuous forces which they had unwittingly loosed. In consequence there came a time of divided counsels, and when independence was finally declared large numbers of the wealthiest and most dignified merchants turned Loyalist and threw in their lot with the King. More than two hundred quitted Boston on its evacuation by General Gage. Others stood apart as neutrals till the war was over, and then drew together in a compact organization to stem the tide of postwar agrarianism and assist in setting up a federal government after their liking. 4 [184]

The grievances of the plantation group were less obvious but none the less real. Probably more critical than taxation or the debts owed to English merchants, was the question of the western lands. The Quebec Act stirred the South as the tea monopoly stirred Boston and New York and Philadelphia. Involved in that act were certain long accepted colonial rights of domain, on the strength of which vast speculation in backcountry lands had been engaged in by English and colonial land companies and individuals. 5 The question was extraordinarily complicated, involving the rights of the Indians, the ambition of the Hudson Bay Company to retain the western wilderness as a vast fur preserve, the rights of Catholics in the French settlements, the rights of the imperial treasury to income from the sale of the lands, the rights of soldiers of the French wars to lands granted by colonial legislatures, the rights of frontiersmen to free settlement and exploitation, as well as specific grants to several colonies, in particular Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia. From this mass of conflicting interests, all eager to exploit an incalculably rich domain, little hope of satisfactory solution offered, and a wiser ministry would have kept hands off. But an illconsidered Parliamentary enactment cut the knot in a way to arouse the quick and keen resentment of America. Whatever may be said for the solution, one thing is clear; it set aside by arbitrary statute cherished rights which Virginian gentlemen, with their eyes on rich plantations to the West, deeply resented. It was a matter of vital concern to colonies like Virginia that they should control their wilderness frontier. The Quebec Act not only alienated thousands of western colonials, but it provided them with influential leaders like Washington and Robert Morris. It was more fuel to the radical bonfire.

In the end the fortunes of the revolutionary movement rested with the yeomanry, and this yeomanry with its agrarian outlook and republican sympathies, was in a mood to respond to radical appeal. That the farmer was induced to take down his squirrel rifle and fight King George was made possible by a number of irritations-his deep-rooted prejudice against aristocracy, his instinctive dislike of crown officials, his inveterate localism that [185] resented alien interference--as well as by substantial class interests. In every colony the party of incipient populism had been checked and thwarted by royal officials; and it was this mass of populistic discontent, seeing itself in danger of being totally crushed, and its interests ignored, that provided the rank and file of armed opposition to the King. Already Parliament had brought acute financial distress to the colonies by forbidding the emission of bills of credit; and other attacks on popular policies followed. The strength of the popular opposition to royal programs had lain heretofore in the legislative control of the purse; by threatening to withhold salaries, the democratic legislatures had been able to coerce the royal governor and the judges, and keep them somewhat responsive to the popular will. To the Tories such coercion was proof that the democratic claws needed cutting, and one of the purposes of the Stamp Act was the providing of a fund to pay the royal officials out of the royal chest. It was a skillful plan, but it overreached itself. Party alignment had become too sharp, agrarian suspicions had grown too sensitive, for the plan to succeed. The immediate, fatal result was the accession of a numerous body of fighting men to the other malcontents.

The American Revolution was one of the first fruits of a shortsighted imperialism. A generous policy of imperial federation would have returned incredible revenues to Great Britain; but the Tory ministry was not intelligent enough to let sleeping dogs lie. A sentimental attachment had kept America loyal. So long as his customary and traditional rights remained undisturbed, the colonial would throw up his cap for King George; but if he were driven to choose between loyalty and self-interest, between sentiment and profit, the choice was certain. If the heavy debts which the foolish wars of Pitt had bequeathed to the Empire had not seemed to offer a justification, the Tory blunderers would not have forced the issue; but once it was joined, vast numbers of Americans came to believe that the development of their country had reached a point where it would be hampered by further overseas regulation; that America must be free to exploit her resources to her exclusive advantage; and that such economic freedom would be possible only with political independence. It was the ill luck of the ministry to present the question so concretely that the colonial radicals were given an opportunity to awaken the latent forces of American liberalism and turn them against English sovereignty. [186]

A militant nationalistic psychology resulted from a widespread propaganda, and the last ties with England were broken.



We understand the ways of propaganda today better than our fathers understood them, and the official pronouncements of diplomats and statesmen we have grown somewhat skeptical of. Historians of the American Revolution have paid rather too exclusive attention to formal speeches and state papers, forgetting that those speeches and papers too often served the purpose of obscuring and evading the real issues. The ten years of dreary debate preceding the clash of arms, during which theory and precedent were examined by partisan lawyers, did little more than serve party purposes on both sides of the Atlantic, investing immediate interests with nationalistic or imperialistic idealism. Honest men talked themselves into a passion, but they took good care that their cause should appear dressed to advantage.

On the American side the argument fell into two broad divisions: an attempt to justify the colonial position by appeal to the British constitution, and when that failed by an appeal to the extra-legal doctrine of natural right. To understand the obscure constitutional wrangle, it must be recalled that important changes in English, constitutional practice had taken place since the colonies were founded. Parliamentary sovereignty had superseded royal sovereignty, or in other words, the sovereignty of property had superseded divine right autocracy; and this in turn was undergoing change in the second half of the eighteenth century--the sovereignty of landed property was challenged by the rising capitalism. The Revolution of 1688 had established the general principle that the state can take no property in the form of taxes or levies without the consent of the owner, given by himself or by his representative sitting in Parliament. But in current practice the system of representation had become so misshapen that a new theory had arisen to give constitutional sanction to existing methods. Refusal to reapportion representation had resulted in the notorious rotten-borough system, control of which boroughs was too valuable an asset to the ruling oligarchy to be surrendered. To justify the scandal a new theory of virtual [187] representation was developed--a theory upon which turned much of the early revolutionary debate. In brief the theory asserted that as Parliament speaks for the total body of Englishmen, it makes no practical difference who elects them, where they live, who they are, or what interests they represent. Within the halls of Parliament they can be trusted to think and legislate for the nation as a whole. The essential constitutional principle requires only that there shall be a respectable body chosen from among the commons of England, in whose hands shall rest the custody of the purse, and who shall serve as a check upon the royal prerogative. Such was the parliamentary situation in 1763, and when appeal was made by the colonials to the principle of no taxation without representation, it was answered by appeal to the theory' of virtual representation.

American constitutional practice, on the other hand, had developed in a contrary direction. Quite as consciously as Parliament, the several colonial legislatures rested on the principle of property rights, but a different system of representation had developed. By easy logic a geographical theory had emerged, by the terms of which a legislator must be a freeman of the district rather than of the realm, that he should hold power for a short period and frequently submit his conduct to the scrutiny of the electors, and that a district should bear a just per capita relation to the total population. The doctrine of virtual representation was alien to colonial theory, although in fact it might be applied to the large body of disfranchised non-property-holders. The broad difference, then, in the legislative practice of the two countries lay in the important distinction between local, numerical representation, and a grotesque system of borough jobbing. Both systems rested on a narrow suffrage, although the colonial basis was very much broader. The difference was without significance so long as the traditional relations between America and England continued; but when Parliament proposed to extend the theory of virtual representation to the colonies, and treat Massachusetts and Virginia as on a constitutional footing with Birmingham and Manchester, the difference became acute. No American colony was willing to become the pawn of parliamentary placemen, at the mercy of parliamentary jobbery.

The debate over this vital question was involved in obscurities by reason of the vagueness of the British constitution. If an [188] unwritten constitution be no other than established practice and it is true of the English constitution in spite of the body of principles existing in such pronouncements as Magna Charta, the settlement of 1689, and the Common Law-then the current practice of Parliament--must be accepted as constitutional. This was the fatal weakness of the colonial argument, as it was the weakness of Pitt and other defenders of America in Parliament. When Pitt exclaimed with characteristic grandiloquence, "I come not here armed at all points with law cases and acts of Parliament, with the statute-book doubled down in dog-ears, to defend the cause of liberty," he abandoned the legal ground to appeal to the sense of justice and right of Englishmen. But the question could not so easily be transferred from the domain of constitutional law. For upwards of a hundred years Parliament had been sovereign, and for the colonials now to deny its sovereignty meant one of two things: either to go back to the obsolete principle of divine right, or to postulate an extra-parliamentary body of constitutional law, unknown to English practice. A sovereignty inhering neither in King nor Parliament, but in a super-constitution, was a conception that had been played with by Coke in an endeavor to exalt the Common Law, and hinted at by later Whig statesmen, but which had never established itself in practice. The colonials recognized the dilemma and made half-hearted attempts to evade it. John Adams and Franklin endeavored to argue that as the colonial charters were from the crown, and antedated the rise of Parliament, Americans owed allegiance to the King and not to Parliament, and hence parliamentary pretentions to sovereignty over America were only a new form of unconstitutional prerogative. But the argument was taken seriously by neither side, and was soon put away. 6

It finally became clear to American leaders that if their cause were to make headway, appeal must be made to broader principles. Their case must rest on philosophical rather than on legal grounds. This suffices to explain the shift from constitutionalism to abstract rights, which marked the middle period of the debate. By 1773 it had become evident to thoughtful observers that the cause of American liberalism must fall, or become revolutionary in purpose and intent, and to become such it must seek justification in [189] extra-constitutional principles. And this justification it discovered in the writings of English liberals of the seventeenth century--in Sidney and Milton, and above all in Locke. The influence of Locke had long been paramount in English political speculation. He had been the apologist and defender of the settlement of 1689; the principles which he expounded lay at the base of the dynastic rights of the reigning house, and were nominally accepted by all the parliamentary leaders. The relations between natural rights and parliamentary sovereignty had not wholly clarified, and in the background of English constitutional thought still lingered a vague notion of certain natural rights above the constitution, and limiting parliamentary statutes. Thinkers as different as Blackstone and Camden subscribed to such doctrine, but it daily became more tenuous in the face of a growing acceptance of unlimited parliamentary sovereienty.7

In turning to Locke, therefore, the colonial debaters went back a century and picked up the argument of liberalism as it existed before it had been nullified by later English practice. They occupied a position similar to that defended by him a hundred years before; they were combating the same arbitrary rule that had brought on the Revolution of 1688. He had laid down the basic principle of revolution in the doctrine of certain natural rights of the subject which no state may subvert without peril to the original compact; he had asserted that taxation without representation constituted such subversive tyranny; and he gave high sanction to the right and duty of resistance to an encroaching sovereignty. The noble words, "Chains are but an ill wearing how much soever we gild or polish them, "uttered a note of defiance to arbitrary power which struck a responsive chord in the breast of the colonial liberal. In short, Locke's two Treatises on Civil Government, aimed at Sir Robert Filmer's absurd Patriarcha, were turned against Parliament and became the textbook of the American Revolution.

The ground had been well prepared. The argument of Locke went home with such convincing force to the colonial liberal because it embodied conclusions towards which America had long been moving. It was an eloquent confirmation of native experience, a sober justification of the psychology of individualism. The self-governing statehad so long been an established fact in colonial life as to have assumed the complexion of a natural [190] right. The political compact had taken form in American political thought, a generation before Locke gave currency to the theory, and Jefferson was expressing native conclusions drawn from American experience when he argued that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, "and that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is not true to assert that Jefferson was only reciting Locke, with modifications derived from the French humanitarians. It is nearer the truth to say that he made use of old-world philosophy to express and justify certain native tendencies then seeking adequate statement.

To such an experience, armed with such a philosophy, there must come eventually the conviction that both monarchy and aristocracy were irrational; that the ambitions of a coercive alien sovereignty were fraught with danger to the rights of the American citizen. The resurgent absolutism of Stuart times, with its doctrine of the omnicompetent state, which the King was reviving through the instrumentality of Parliament, was broken by the stubborn colonial resistance. Absolutism under whatever form was doomed in America, however slowly it might linger out its life. Jonathan Boucher might seek to revive Sir Robert Filmer, and preach to Americans the dogma of divine right through royal primogeniture from Adam, and other colonial Tories might applaud; but they were fast becoming anachronisms. The Revolution was to overthrow for Americans the principle of the absolutist state, and substitute a modified sovereignty, circumscribed by the utilitarian test of its relation to the common well-being of its citizens. For the first time in modern history it was discovered that "the true meaning of sovereignty," as a recent student has put it, is to be sought "not in the coercive power possessed by its instrument [the state,] but in the fused good-will for which it stands." 8



The swift crystallization of colonial sentiment in favor of republicanism, as the crisis developed, produced the American revolution of which John Adam's wrote. The long leveling process [191] of a hundred and forty years, with its psychology of decentralization, fruited naturally in a new political philosophy fitted to new-world conditions. Monarchy, with its social appanage of aristocracy, was a caste institution wholly unsuited to an unregimented America. The war brought this revolutionary fact home to the consciousness of thousands of colonials; and the liberalism that before had been vaguely instinctive quickly became eager and militant. The old order was passing; the day of the Tory in America was over for the present; the republican was henceforth to be master of the new world. Out of this primary revolution were to come other revolutions, social and economic, made possible by the new republican freedom.

The swift rise of a political philosophy traditionally regarded as' mean and traitorous was inexplicable to Tory gentlemen, and aroused a fierce retaliatory opposition. Asocial war of the classes, bitter, vindictive, followed upon hostilities against England. The arrogance of the gentry during those brisk days when the new, spirit was rising is scarcely comprehensible to later Americans unused to such frankness. The republicans were scorned by the superior lasses as unprincipled sedition-mongers, plotting treason against the King and society. If commoners flocked to town-: meetings and outvoted the gentlemen, the latter were outraged, at the presumption of the "mobsters" in flouting their betters. For the plain people to take things into their own hands was no other than anarchy. The familiar records of the day are filled with such aristocratic feats as this:

Down at night a bricklayer or carpenter lies,
Next sun a Lycurgus, a Solon doth rises 9

"The dirty mob was all about me as I drove into town," said Mistress Peggy Hutchinson, as she looked nut on turbulent Boston from her father's chariot; and her feminine contempt for the common people was an echo of the universal Tory contempt for republican mechanics and farmers. It was the duty of the vulgar, as loyal subjects, to pay taxes and not lay them; to obey the law and not make it. By far the most important consequence of the Revolution was the striking down of this mounting aristocratic spirit chat was making rapid headway with the increase of wealth. It sifted the American people as the migrations of the seventeenth [192] century had sifted the English people, keeping the republicans at home and sending forth the Tories, weakening the influence of the conservatives and increasing the influence of the liberals. Few experiences in our history have proved so momentous in results as this shift of power and change in personnel that resulted from the great schism. A middle-class America was to rise on the ruins of the colonial aristocracy.

The unfortunate Loyalists were victims of their own blindness. They did not rightly estimate the driving power of the liberal forces released by the struggle, and failing to understand, they staked everything on the issue, and lost, and were driven rudely out of the land by the plebeian republicans whom they despised. The disruption of colonial society resulting from the expulsion of the Loyalists was far graver than we commonly assume. Shiploads of excellent gentlemen, and among them the most cultivated minds in America, were driven from their firesides and sent forth to seek new homes, whether in "Hell, Hull or Halifax" mattered little to the victors. Upward of forty thousand sought refuge in Canada; thousands more went to " the Bahamas; and still other thousands returned to the old home. "There will scarcely be a village in England without some American dust in it, I believe, by the time we are all at rest," wrote the Loyalist Dutchman, Peter Van Schaak. Much suffering was endured and much bitterness engendered, and if for years the dominant temper in Canada was fiercely hostile to the United States, the mood is traceable to the expatriated gentlemen who transmitted to their children a grudge against the victorious republicans. It was an unhappy business, but it was scarcely avoidable once appeal was made to the sword. There was no longer place in America for the foolish dream of a colonial aristocracy.

The change of temper that came over American society with the loss of the Loyalists, was immense and far-reaching. For the first time the middle class was free to create a civilization after its own ideals. In rising to leadership it brought another spirit into every phase of life. Dignity and culture henceforth were to count for less and assertiveness for more. Ways became less leisurely, the social temper less urbane. The charm of the older aristocracy disappeared along with its indisputable evils. Although a few of the older wits like Mather Byles lingered on bitterly, and others like Gouverneur Morris accepted the situation phil- [193] osophically, they belonged to the past. A franker evaluation of success in terms of money began to obscure the older personal and family distinction. New men brought new ways and a vulgar clamor of politics went hand in hand with business expansion. The demagogue and the speculator discovered a fruitful field for their activities. The new capitalism lay on the horizon of republican America, and the middle class was eager to hasten its development. But a new economic order required a new political state, and as a necessary preliminary, the spirit of nationalism began that slow encroachment upon local frontiers which was to modify profoundly the common psychology. Americanism superseded colonialism, and with the new loyalty there developed a conception of federal sovereignty, overriding all local authorities, checking the movement of particularism, binding the separate commonwealths in a consolidating union. This marked the turning point in American development; the checking of the long movement of decentralization and the beginning of a counter movement of centralization-the most revolutionary change in three hundred years of American experience. The history of the rise of the coercive state in America, with the ultimate arrest of all centrifugal tendencies, was implicit in that momentous counter movement.


1 An excellent short statement of the causes of the American Revolution is given by A. M. Schlesinger in New Viewpoints in American History, Chapter VII Compare C. H. Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence.

2 Letter to Mr. Niles, January 14, 1818.

3 Van Tyne, Causes of the War of Independence, pp. 424-426.

4 For an admirable study, see A. M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution: 1763-1776.

5 This important subject has been examined by C. W. Alvord, The Mississippi Valley in British Policies; C. A. Beard, In Economic Interpretation of the Constitution; C. H. Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence.

6 For an excellent discussion of the constitutional questions involved, see C. H. Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence, Chapters VIII and IX.

7 For this see Van Tyne, ibid., pp. 234-238

8 H. J. Laski. The Problem of Sovereignty, p.12; see also Appendices A and B.

9 Moore, Diary of the Revolution, Vol. II, p. 22.