Vox populi vox dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God. The slogan was useful for those who first attempted to substitute the people for God as the source of political authority. Their attempt was ultimately so successful that God no longer seems to be needed in government.
Americans, perhaps more than most people, have pondered the question of who they are and what their country is.
Liberty had many friends in the eighteenth century.
No one escapes from the past without bearing some of its burdens.
The preoccupation of American historical and literary scholars with the New England Puritans must seem to outsiders like an obsession.
Why consider debates in the English House of Commons in 1628 along with documents on American developments in the late eighteenth century? The juxtaposition is not capricious, because the Commons during this period generated many of the ideas that were later embodied in the government of the United States.
When Landon Carter, a Virginia plantation owner, read the Declaration of Independence two days after it was issued, he wondered whether its ringing affirmation of equality meant that slaves must be freed. If so, he confided to his diary, 'You must send them out of the country, or they must steal for their support.'
When historians of early America turned from the pursuit of past politics, they devised a category known in the academy as 'social and intellectual history.' In it, they stuffed nearly everything except politics on the assumption, which the anthropologists assured them was correct, that it would all fit together. Somehow it did not.
Thomas Paine, so celebrated and so despised as he traveled through the critical events of his time, has long appealed to biographers. Paine was present at the creation both of the United States and of the French Republic. His eloquence, in the pamphlet 'Common Sense,' propelled the American colonists toward independence.