Half a dozen major causes and several minor ones
brought on the American War of Independence,
the Revolutionary War, it is often called,
or else the American Revolution.
If a cause is major enough, it becomes effectively a war of its own.
So it is with the American Revolution, in which at least
seven major causes are to be recognized, mingled in struggle.
More of this later.
The successful termination of the Revolution,
from the standpoint of American leadership generally,
boosted the useful art of constitution-making
that had already attained sophistication in the individual States,
and would now go through a trial by one constitution,
the Articles of Confederation,
before culminating in 1791, with promised Amendments,
in the Constitution of the United States of America.
The significance of a political generation lies largely in this,
that a group of men of political age
- usually in their thirties and forties -
command power and policy in such a way as to
turn the bend of the river of history, shaping events, then
steering along the changed course. A new historical
generation, a new period, will arrive and be named, but it is uncertain
and even unusual that 33 years later a new group of men will grasp
the helm and straighten the course, or bend it backwards, or even more
in the direction toward which it has been
swung by the older generation.
There is in every culture, and sub-culture -
indeed, in the processes of every group over time -
the phenomenon of the agglutination of traits and behaviors.
When there is a large change, a quantavolution, all changes.
For example, in fifteenth century Florence, the parts of
every institution were changing rather in the same way under the
same impulses, including the character of people. When the
Renaissance, as this concatenation of events is called,
spread North to Germany and France, new practices moved
in concert, except of course that Italy and most Italians and most
Renaissance culture remained more or less in place. When the
Renaissance arrived in England, it lent its traits, ideas and conduct to
the last Tudor monarchs, especially to the
Age of Queen Elizabeth I, and thereafter.
When examining the events of American history, we define a period,
in contrast with the three types of generation,
by the noticeable change in the total agglutinate of culture.
We speak, for instance, of the Revolutionary Period
and of the Constitutional (or Federal) Period.
This latter Period can be cut off with the advent of a
Jeffersonian Period, mainly because of a change of governing
political parties in Washington, D.C. But if most
other significant areas of life changed little, the
Constitutional Period could be seen to end only with
the second term of President James Monroe, by which time,
around 1821, many indications of a new Period were consolidating
amidst the sealing of the effects of the old Period.
This shall be our way of dividing the material, but,
be assured, it makes little difference. Coincidentally,
two geniuses of the Revolutionary and Constitutional Periods,
John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia,
allies, then foes, reconciled in old age,
veterans of four biological generations,
two political generations,
and a single memorial generation,
died during the same hours of 1826.