Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Quote of the Day (Bernard Bailyn, on the Realism and Innovations of Revolutionary War Leaders)

“It is difficult to convey the energy and imagination that went into the constitutional creations of the Revolutionary generation— the freshness of the Revolutionary leaders' minds, their capacity to re-imagine the political world. Yet these were not intellectuals devoted to ideas as such; they were not scholars engaged in the systematic study of political and constitutional thought, or philosophers debating the details of formal discourses. They were intelligent, well-educated provincials—merchants, planters, lawyers, and politicians—coping with the manifest problems of public authority that faced them, referring back for guidance to their own experience and the traditions they knew, rejecting some ideas and institutions and modifying others to suit their needs, and propelled into new ways of thinking and new forms of public organization not by the desire for innovation but by logical necessity, by the attraction of the possibilities they could see, and by the sheer momentum of their efforts. The result, in these provincial states and in the American nation, was a new configuration of public authority and a new set of constitutional procedures which in a short period of years resonated throughout the Atlantic world.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Bernard Bailyn (1922-2020), “Atlantic Dimensions,” in To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (2003)

The image accompanying this post, Declaration of Independence, was painted in 1819 by American artist John Trumbull. 

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