Sunday, July 05, 2015

Gordon s. Wood “the Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787:" An Experiment in Christian Personalism

“The American Revolution was not a common event,” John Adams wrote to the newspaper editor Hezekiah Niles in 1818. “Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe.” Adams then inquired: “But what do we mean by the American Revolution?” For Adams, the revolution was not just the Revolutionary War. The war had accelerated the revolution, to be sure, and the break with Britain enabled it to develop more freely. But the revolution itself involved a change in thought—new ideas about who “the people” were, how they interacted with each other and how they related to their government. “This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people,” Adams claimed, “was the real American Revolution.”
How did that radical change occur? By what means had the people of thirteen separate colonies come together “in the same principles in theory and the same system of action”? …
The most obvious change involved the elimination of monarchy and the establishment of a republic, which turned dependent subjects into independent citizens.

May I (blogger) add: They emerged from being rational individuals (animals) to self-transcending persons as God is Person, and this because of seeking the freedom to worship God as He was calling them to, and pursuing a life of work and prayer for150 years on this land. It was this inner experience of self-transcendence in the immanence of the created world that drove them.

                Gordon Wood wrote: “The American Revolution has always seemed to be an extraordinary kind of revolution, and no more so than to the Revolutionaries themselves… Because it did not seem to have  been a usual revolution, the sources of its force and it momentum appeared strangely unaccountable. ‘In other revolutions, the sword has been drawn by the arm of offended freedom, under an oppression that threatened the vital powers of society.’ But this seemd hardly true of the American Revolution. There was none of the legendary tyranny of history that had so often driven desperate people into rebellion. The Americans were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing imperial shackles to throw off. In fact, the Americans knew they were probably freer ande less burdened with the cumbersome feudal and hierarchical restraints than any part of mankind in the eighteenth century. To its victims, the Tories, the Revolution was truly incomprehensible. Never in history, said Daniel Loenard, had t here been so much rebellion with so ‘little real cause.’ It was, wrote Peter Oliver, ‘the most wanton and unnatural rebellion that ever existed.’  The Americans’ response was out of all propor tion to the stimuli…As early as 1775 Edmund Burke had noted in the House of Commons that the colonists’ intensive study of law and politics had made them acutely inquisitive and sensitive about their liberties. Where the people of other countries had invoked principles only after they had endured ‘an actual grievance,’ the Americans, said Burke, were anticipating their grievances and resorting to principles even before they actually suffered. ‘They augur misgovernment at a distance and snuff the approach of tyranny in very tainted breeze.’ The crucial question in the colonists’ minds, wrote John Dickinson in 1768, was ‘not, what evil has actually attended particular measures – but, what evil, in the nature of things, is likely to attend them.’ Because ‘nations , in general, are not apt to think until they feel… therefore nations in general have lost their liberty.’ But not the Americans, as the Abbe Ranal observed. They were an ‘enlightened people’ who knew their rights and the limits of power and who, unlike any people before them, aimed to think before they felt.” (Edmund Burke: “Speech on Moving His Resolution for Conciliation with the Colonies,’ Mar. 22, 1775.

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