The Revolutionary Era
Congress Governs • The Articles of Confederation • New
State Governments • Conservatives and Radicals • State
Constitutions • Religious Freedom • Slavery • Judicial Review
and the Success and Failure of State Constitutions in the Rev-
olutionary Era • The Common Law Survives • Blackstone's
Influence • Conclusion • For Further Reading
WITH INDEPENDENCE PROCLAIMED, a new chapter in American history began. People who for more than a century and a half had considered themselves primarily English citizens in imperial outposts now proudly declared themselves “Americans.” However, although they continued to treasure much of their English heritage, they were also determined to discard those aspects they believed detrimental to their liberty. Even while fighting the Revolution, Americans began their first experiments in molding new governments, both in state constitutions and in the Articles of Confederation. They did not, however, write on an empty slate, and these initial forays clearly reflected the ideas of the Enlightenment as well as the American's experience with partial self-government in the colonial period. The founders of the new state governments, as well as of the new national government, also drew on their English heritage, especially the tumultuous events of the seventeenth century that led to the English Civil War, the beheading of King Charles I, and the Glorious Revolution.
Before creating a new constitutional order, the Americans first had to secure their independence and provide legitimacy to their government.
Although residents of the thirteen rebelling colonies called themselves Americans, there were nearly as many factors dividing as uniting them. The New England farmer had little in common with the Tidewater planter or the Philadelphia merchant. Different religious, economic, and social systems, as well as intellectual patterns, could easily have