Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXX
The Problems of Peace

NO DOUBT the impoverishment and exile of large numbers of Loyalists, the natural conservatives of the country, markedly weakened the forces opposed to democracy in the United States. The confiscation of Loyalist property and the passing of large estates into the possession of hundreds of small owners tended further to advance the cause of economic equality. Likewise, the abolition of the restrictions on the acquisition of land formerly exercised by the King and proprietors; the seizure of Crown lands by the states; the abolition of quitrents, primogeniture, and entail; the granting of bounty lands to soldiers; and the large-scale sale of lands by the states to pay debts incurred during the war materially aided toward creating a system of democratic land tenure. And lastly, by opening the trans-Appalachian West the American Revolution guaranteed that the republic would remain for generations a land of independent farmers and that democracy would be firmly rooted in the soil that had given it birth.1

Nevertheless, the aristocratic tradition did not fall at the mere blast of the democrats' trumpets: proclamations of the sovereignty of the people and the equality of all men made little impression upon its battlements. The radicals were obliged to reduce it by slow siege, and at the end of the Revolutionary War its citadel still stood. In Philadelphia, for example, its was evident that equality -- social and economic -- was not brought appreciably nearer by the Revolution: the constitution of 1776 did not succeed in forcing democracy down the throats of unwilling citizens. It was observed in 1782 that the citizens who were able to "trace back their

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1
By the end of the war, there were about twenty-five thousand settlers west of the Alleghenies, Kentucky containing the largest number. A more detailed study of this population movement and its consequences will be made m the next volume of this history.

-650-

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