Defiance to constituted authority leaped like a spark from one flammable area to another, growing in heat as it went.
In no obvious sense was the American Revolution undertaken as a social revolution.
The categories within which the colonists thought about the social foundations of politics were inheritances from classical antiquity, reshaped by seventeenth century English thought.
At first the relevance of chattel slavery to libertarian ideals was noted only in individual passages of isolated pamphlets.
Up and down the the still sparsely settled coast of British North America, groups of men-intellectuals and farmers, scholars and merchants, the learned and the ignorant-gathered for the purpose of constructing enlightened governments.
What Americans were really objecting to had nothing to do with constitutional principles. their objection was not to Parliament's constitutional right to levy certain kinds of taxes as opposed to others, but to its effort to collect any.
Never had Parliament or the crown, or both together, operated in actuality as theory indicated sovereign powers should.
The primary function of a constitution was to mark out the boundaries of governmental powers-hence in England, where there was no constitution , there were no limits (save for the effect of trail by jury) to what the legislature might do.
In England the practice of "virtual" representation provided reasonably well for the actual representation of the major interests of the society, and it raised no widespread objection.
It was an elevating, transforming vision: a new, fresh, vigorous, and above all morally regenerate people rising from the obscurity to defend the battlements of liberty and then in triumph standing forth, heartening and sustaining the cause of freedom everywhere.
The fact that the ministerial conspiracy against liberty had risen from corruption was of the utmost importance to the colonists.
The wielders of power did not speak for it, nor did they naturally serve it. Their interest was to use and develop power, no less natural and necessary than liberty but more dangerous.
What gave transcendent importance to the aggressiveness of power was the fact that its natural prey, its necessary victim, was liberty, or law, or right.
The classics of the ancient world are everywhere in the literature of the Revolution, but thet are everywhere illustrative, not determinative, of thought.
Whatever deficiencies the leaders of the American Revolution may have had, reticence, fortunately, was not one of them.