This lecture discusses the ongoing political experimentation involved in creating new constitutions for the new American states. Having declared independence from Great Britain, Americans had to determine what kind of government best suited their individual states as well as the nation at large; to many, this was the "whole object" of their revolutionary turmoil. Different people had different ideas about what kind of republican government would work best for their state. Should there be a unicameral or a bicameral legislature? How should political representation be organized and effected? How far should the principle of popular sovereignty be taken?
Reading assignment: Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, pp. 341-74
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring then the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.