History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX.
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SEVERAL STATES OF AMEBICA.
1776–1783.

HAD the decision of the war hung on armies alone, America might not have gained the victory; but the spirit of the age assisted the young nation to own justice as older and higher than the state, and to found the rights of the citizen on the rights of man. And yet, in regenerating its institutions, it was not guided by any speculative theory. Its form of government grew naturally out of its traditions by the simple rejection of all personal hereditary authority, which in America had never had more than a representative existence. Its industrious and frugal people were accustomed to the cry of liberty and property; they harbored no dream of a community of goods; and their love of equality never degenerated into envy of the rich. No successors of the fifth-monarchy men proposed to substitute an unwritten higher law, interpreted by individual conscience, for the law of the land and the decrees of human tribunals. The people proceeded with moderation. Their large inheritance of English liberties saved them from the necessity and from the wish to uproot their old political institutions; and as, happily, the scaffold was not wet with the blood of their statesmen, there arose no desperate hatred of England, such as the Netherlands kept up for centuries against Spain. The wrongs inflicted or attempted by the British king were felt to have been avenged by independence; respect and affection remained for the parent land, from which the United States had derived trial by jury, the writ for personal liberty, the practice of representative government, and the separation

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