The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 by Gordon S. Wood

By Gordon S. Wood

Through the decade among 1776 and 1787, American political considering underwent a basic transformation. during this perceptive examine of the an important progressive period, Gordon S. wooden indicates how the founders of the Republic rethought the essentially classical political attitudes that had led them into the Revolution and the way they got here to grips with the elemental problems with executive.

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56 The ultimate sanction for the protection of the people’s lib­ erty, in the case of the ruler’s breach of the mutual contract be­ tween them, was the people’s right of resistance; but revolution was hardly a sanction that could be commonly used, for, as de­ vout W'higs often said, the remedy must not be worse than the disease. “ The Injury suffered ought to be so very notorious, that 54. Oliver Noble, Some Strictures upon the Sacred Story Recorded in the Book of Esther . . (Newburyport, 1775), 5» Phila.

24, 1779. See Stow Persons, “The Cyclical Theory of History in Eighteenth-Century Ameri­ ca,” American Quarterly, 6 (1954), 147— 63. [SO] Creation o f the American Republic However much American W higs were convinced that men were “ just beginning to emerge from Egyptian darkness, with respect to the rights of human nature,” they well knew that in comparison with the past “ the present age shews equal absurdi­ ties and vices upon the theatre of politicks . . ” 72 In those troublesome years approaching the Revolution countless American writings, steeped in radical W hig pessimism, sought to expose the regressive ten­ dencies in politics that lay beneath the promising progress in theo­ retical science.

Economic and so­ cial inequalities among the people seemed slight and insignificant when compared to the differences of power that flowed from the institution of government. For in opposition to the magistracy the people were one. Although some writers were beginning to stress the overriding importance of class distinctions among the people, the only meaningful kind of power in most eighteenth-century thinking was still political. 53 “ Such is the accursed nature of lawless ambition” that the great amount of power held by the political rulers—legitimized as no other power ever was—necessarily corrupted the “ men of abili­ ties, and influence” who commanded it.

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