20 The Historical Significance of American Revolution
The ways of history are so intricate and the motivations of human actions so complex that it is always hazardous to attempt to represent events covering a number of years, a multiplicity of persons, and distant localities as the expression of one intellectual or social movement; yet the historical process which culminated in the ascent of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency can be regarded as the outstanding example not only of the birth of a new way of life but of nationalism as a new way of life. The American Revolution represents the link between the seventeenth century, in which modern England became conscious of itself, and the awakening of modern Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. It may seem strange that the march of history should have had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but only in the North American colonies could a struggle for civic liberty lead also to the foundation of a new nation. Here, in the popular rising against a "tyrannical" government, the fruits were more than the securing of a freer constitution. They included the growth of a nation born in liberty by the will of the people, not from the roots of common descent, a geographic entity, or the ambitions of king or dynasty. With the American nation, for the first time, a nation was born, not in the dim past of history but before the eyes of the whole world.