|Map of the US in 1783|
‘The American war is over, but this I far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new form of government, and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.'
The future president, John Quincy Adams, was to describe this period as a ‘critical’ – a time when the country was ‘groaning under the intolerable burden… of accumulated evils’. Yet is was also the time when the nation was created.
The Americans were faced with the task of devising new political institutions within a republican framework, which was in itself a radical departure in an age when monarchical government was the norm. They engaged in a spate of state constitution-making that remains unique in human history and built a constitution based on four pillars:
- the contract theory of government,
- the sovereignty of the people,
- the separation of powers,
- natural rights.