There is a tendency to consider any particular historical consideration as a static or isolated event. Why that is so can be a tough call: I suspect it's related to the way we learned history in the K-12 educational system.
But, Gordon S. Wood’s focus on American history helps us have a better grasp on the present. His work puts shoes on our feet, easing our journey into the minds of Americans during the early days of the republic. He deserves our praise.
“…contractual imagery between two equal parties, not to mention the familial imagery of a patriarchal king and the mother country, suggests that for many eighteenth century Anglo-Americans the public and private realms were still largely indistinguishable. Indeed, the colonists never regarded the struggle between the rights of the Crown and the rights of the people as one between public and private rights. For even as late as the eve of the Revolution, the modern distinction between public and private was still not clear. “
This eye-opener is an important foundation on which we can begin building a more clearly understood concept of American history as a stage in what—-hopefully—-is an unending process.
If we accept that our colonial ancestors thought of their relationship with the king in the context of a father and his children, we might better understand the pre-republic era. To be frank, that relationship bespeaks an immaturity--children on their way to adolescence. It's common in that relationship that rights come from agreements forged between parent and child. Depending on the child's behavior and the parent's nature, the agreements can be adjusted.
But, a time comes in the child's development whey they want to be on their own. The parent might be helicoptering, abusive, or maybe hardly ever around. Or, it might just be time for the child to be off on their own. That's the story of the relationship between the King and the Colonists--it's pretty much detailed right in the Declaration of Independence.
Once the republic was set in motion, the strings between the parent and child were cut. Think a little about the analogy. No need for any further contracts with any parents--all deals had to be made with the self. And, in that case, it was We the People. Now, our ancestors would take responsibility for their own actions.
[Longtime commenter and friend-of-the-blog Phil Johnson (Pinky) makes his first appearance on our mainpage here. AC thanks him for this post and his continuing elevation of the discussion hereabouts. Keep it coming, Pinky.]