Resonances Historical Essays On Continuity And Change

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[1] The direct implication of such a situation was that American men were objectively inferior (i.e. This, according to Weir, led to the development of what may be called an “inferiority complex” among Americans, and made them initially hesitant to push for outright secession from the British Empire.

The decisive turning point, however, came when American elites underwent a paradigm shift whereby they came to regard themselves as a unique nation, and not merely an offshoot of a larger (and superior) British nation.

This realization can be seen in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, one of the pivotal publications leading up to the American Declaration of Independence, where Paine characterizes America as a child of “Europe” as a whole rather than of Britain in particular, thus laying the foundation for a new American self-conception that diverges from the old conception of America being a mere derivative of Britain.

Weir compares this American self-realization of uniqueness to the coming-of-age of a child, and the subsequent conflict between adolescent and parent as the adolescent (in this case, America) seeks to forge his own path separate from the parent (in this case, Britain).

By allowing every society of Christians to enjoy “full, equal, and impartial liberty,” as advocated by the anonymous author of The Freeman’s Remonstrance against an Ecclesiastical Establishment, the young American republic could guarantee its stability and avoid internal “war, bloodshed, and slaughter.” [3] Following Virginia’s formal abolition of state religion in 1786, other states soon followed suit, so that by the early 19th century most of America was secularized.

Virginia played a pioneering role not only in the movement to abolish ecclesiastical establishments and equalize religions, but also in the advocacy of equality in general.

As a result of the American Revolution, the idea of equality was manifested in several ways, one of which was the equalization of religion before the state.

Prior to the American Revolution, many states had their own officially established religions, which were favored over other, non-established religions.

The idea of equality was essential to the changing dynamic of the American-British relationship.

By propounding the idea that “all men are created equal,” American elites could directly attack the British treatment of colonials as their social inferiors, while at the same eliminating their own inferiority complex vis-à-vis British elites.

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