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How was the American Revolution radical?

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What was radical about the American Revolution was that it challenged and overthrew an established government on the basis of abstract rights. Those rights, as set forth with such eloquence in the Declaration of Independence, were believed by the American colonists to be natural, possessed by men simply by virtue of their basic humanity. In making a break with the British, the colonists believed they were lighting a beacon for the whole of humankind, showing the world that if the innate rights of the people were being violated, then they were entitled to get rid of their government and build a new one from scratch, a government that would protect those rights.

This was a radical notion indeed. In previous ages, government had been sanctified, widely venerated as an institution established by God to maintain order on the earth that he had created. Yet now, the American revolutionaries came along and posited wholly secular ends for government: to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of...

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