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PART I

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I

COLONIAL ORIGINS OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS

on theories.

perience, not

THERE is a lingering tradition in the United States that the American men of the eighteenth century who laid the foundations of our institutions system of government broke violently from political experience based on exand sought their guidance in the abstract principles of the rights of man. As a matter of fact, however, the Revolutionary Fathers had no quarrel with the fundamental English institutions under which they lived; their revolt was against the colonial policy of the British government, - a protest against definite measures which affected them adversely, not a demand for the realization of the equalitarian notions enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, which served very well to justify the Revolution, but afforded no practical basis for the reconstruction of the political system after British dominion was thrown off. Neither in the creation of the state governments nor in the formation of the Union did the Fathers depart very radically from experience, and even their departures were reactions against concrete abuses rather than attempts at ideal creations. With governors, councils, legislatures, judicial systems, municipal and local governments, and their operations under American conditions, they were familiar; and as most of them were staid and conservative men, well schooled in the actual management of public business, they had neither interest nor desire to lead them into experiments in theoretical politics. The sources of American government, therefore, are to be sought not in the realms of political philosophy, but in the dry records which describe the institutional heritage with which the new nation began its career of independence.

On the eve of the Revolution, the American colonies fell into three general groups, according to the customary classification:

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