The American Revolution: A History in Documents

The American Revolution: A History in Documents

The American Revolution: A History in Documents

The American Revolution: A History in Documents

Synopsis

The American Revolution vividly illustrates through a collection of fascinating primary documents how, in the space of a few hundred years, contented colonists would form an independent country that could challenge the greatest world power of the time -- and win. Steven C. Bullock turns to such documents as Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, diaries, newspaper debates, slave petitions, and a pictorial essay on Paul Revere, showingthat the words and actions of common men as well as great men played important roles in making the Revolution not just a coup d'Etat, but a genuine change that shook the foundations of authority and dramatically changed American society.

Excerpt

Benjamin Rush was the first pro
fessor of chemistry in America and
the new nation's most important
physician. Rush's many articles
and pamphlets helped encourage
the adoption of the American
Constitution, the expansion of
education for women, and the end
of slavery in Pennsylvania and
the northern United States
.

Benjamin Rush, perhaps the most influential American physician of the late eighteenth-century, held an unusual view of the American Revolution. He thought that it caused mental illness. In an essay published in 1789, he argued that some supporters of the American side had become so obsessed with liberty during the war with Great Britain that they could not accept any form of government afterward. As a result, they developed a [species of insanity] that he called Anarchia, referring to [anarchy,] a society without government. Loyalists, people who had opposed independence, often suffered from another type of mental sickness caused by defeat, what he called Revolutiania.

Rush, a signer of Declaration of Independence and a professor of chemistry, did not believe that Americans were unusually unbalanced. On the contrary, people who had supported the Revolution had been especially healthy. Inspired by [the love of liberty and their country,] American soldiers had been able to endure [hunger, cold, and nakedness,] with [patience] and [firmness.] Patriotic civilians received similar benefits. They experienced [uncommon cheerfulness] and even increased fertility. Some formerly childless couples had even been able to conceive for the first time during the war. Rush believed that such unusual developments were not surprising, since the Revolution had naturally led to [effects … both upon the mind and body, which have seldom occurred.]

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