The Miracle of Independence

Arnold Whitridge explains how a group of instinctively conservative, wealthy gentlemen led the American people to an unlikely victory in war and a miraculous nationhood.

The fifty-six gentlemen who signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia some 200 years ago were not starry-eyed idealists. Most of them were lawyers, merchants or well-to-do farmers, and being men of substance they were instinctively conservative.

A few of them, Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson among others, had lashed themselves into a fury against King George and all his works; but the majority of the delegates signed the document without any feeling of elation.

The zeal of the convert was noticeably lacking. Far from being headstrong and violent demagogues, as George III imagined, the leaders of the American Revolution were prudent, cautious men who carefully considered the consequences of what they were doing. Reluctantly they had come to the conclusion that since both Parliament and the King refused to pay any attention to their complaints, the connexion of the American colonies with Great Britain would have to be dissolved.

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