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The Rise and Growth of American Politics

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Pages: 244

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/4/2009 - General Books LLC

By: Henry Jones Ford

Excerpt from book: CHAPTER II THE POLITICAL IDEAS OF THE FATHERS The writings of the statesmen of the Revolutionary period show that they regarded political institutions with prepossessions of another character than those which now influence men's minds. The world was very different then, and a different set of traditions guided opinion. Such conceptions as self-government, the sovereignty of the people, the rights of nationality, whose validity is now generally regarded as obvious, were then innovating ideas which had yet to make their way. Rousseau's " Social Contract," which developed the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people to extreme lengths, exerted marked influence upon French thought in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, but it had no visible effect upon English or American politics. The colonists did not trouble themselves about speculative conceptions of popular rights. It took practical grievances to move them, and in their remonstrances they had recourse to the laws and constitution of the realm. Only when they came to actual separation did they fall back upon the abstract principles of liberty which are set forth in the Declaration of Independence. That was a manifesto for a particular occasion, and history shows that only slowly and by degrees did it come to be regarded as an embodiment of principles of government. Among the things which make Mr. Bryce's great work on " The Holy Roman Empire " a good preparation for the study of American history, is the fact that it brings vividly to the mind the recent origin of the cardinal ideas of our times. It exhibits to us a period when the ideas of nationality, which gradually emerged in Europe after the migrations of peoples had ceased, were opposed by venerable traditions of legality and civilization. To the jurists and...  


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