During the Revolutionary era, American political theory underwent a fundamental transformation that carried the nation out of a basically classical and medieval world of political discussion into a milieu that was recognizably modern. The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787 is essentially a study of that transformation. The author describes in rich detail the evolution of political thought from the Declaration of Independence to the ratification of the Constitution and in doing so, illuminates the origins of the present American political system. As the American Revolution drew to a close, Revolutionary leaders sought to carve out a new, distinct national identity from the existing, repressive European powers—and an experiment began. The experiment was not one performed by scientists in the laboratory but rather one that took place in the crucible of American life. Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 opens at the signing of the Constitution and traces this republican experiment through the conclusion of the War of 1812. Wood posits, “By 1815 Americans had experienced a transformation in the way they related to one another and in the way they perceived themselves and the world around them.”
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