American History and American Historians: A Review of Recent Contributions to the Interpretation of the History of the United States

By Hugh H. L. Bellot | Go to book overview
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III
The Revolution and the Constitution

I. The Revolution

M UCH fresh light has been cast upon the history of the American Revolution by the recent study not only of the Revolution itself but of what went before and what came after. The social and political origins of the Revolution have been illuminated by the fuller examination of the constitutional and commercial history of the mainland colonies in the eighteenth century and by the attention called to the importance of the influence of the frontier in the colonial period; and a more critical analysis of the political ideas of the American Revolution has been stimulated by the work of Beard and others on the origins of the American Constitution. But no full examination has yet been made of the extent to which the Revolution was an adjustment by violence of an intolerable economic disequilibrium, a more rational treatment of which had been neglected.

By these studies, the traditional explanation of the Revolution has been not so much altered as deepened and broadened. The story as narrated by Lecky, Trevelyan and Egerton, and in the volumes in the American Nation, has not been substantially changed, but its significance is more fully appreciated, its background is seen to be more complex, and political terms are used in regard to it with more careful discrimination, than was formerly the case. This transformation has been almost wholly the work of American scholars, performed during the last forty years. By it, British policy during the Revolutionary years is revealed as an attempt to regulate the problems of

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