In a masterpiece of research and historical synthesis, Robert zalmer attempted to describe the dawning of a new age, and felt that the American Revolution should be regarded as the opening chapter; that, indeed, the shots fired at Lexington and Concord were heard, if not 'round the world, at least by an influential segment of the entire "Atlantic community.* Although Palmer would be the first to admit that one has to search with imaginatiion for similarities of revolutionary expression, there is no doubt that it is in the realm of ideas that the American and French revolutions are bound together.
For Palmer the flurry of writing about the events in America produced a considerable degree of mythologizing, but this mythmaking resulted from the fact that for the Europeans (as well as the Americans) the New World signified a novus ordo seclorum. A consequence was the so-called "mirage" in the West as the European was forced to grope with a growing despair, and the mounting criticism of European institutions brought a renewed emphasis on the meaning of liberty, equality, constitutional rights, and sovereignty. The "Atlantic" community (i.e., western civilization) consequently found itself searching for new foundations, and the American Revolution took on a special significance by being the first major event to present a model for social transformation; that is, by showing the world that certain abstract doctrines could, in the words of John Adams, "be reduced to practice."
Both the American and French revolutions produced an inversion-that is, sympathizers in America tended to be agrarian, while in France the following tended to come from the urban sectors, especially the business community. Yet Palmer notes that in spite of this inversion, notably with respect to the French Revolution, the differences should not lead us to deny that there was any similarity at all. Indeed, what made for the democratic revolutionary movement was the demand of the "excluded" for membership in bodies already____________________