What were once felt to be defects-isolation, institutional simplicity, primitiveness of manners, multiplicity of religions, weaknesses in the authority of the state-could now be seen as virtues, not only by Americans themselves but by enlightened spokesmen of reform, renewal and hope wherever they may be-in London coffeehouses, in Parisian salons, in the courts of German princes.
The theory of politics that emerges from the political literature of the pre-Revolutionary years rests on the belief that what lay behind every political scene, the ultimate explanation of every political controversy, was the disposition of power.
In effect the people were present through their representatives, and were themselves, step by step and point by point, acting in the conduct of public affairs. No longer merely an ultimate check on government, they were in some sense the government.
Incorporating in their colorful, slashing, superbly readable pages, the major themes of the "left" opposition under Walpole, these libertarian tracts, emerging first in the form of denunciations of standing armies in the reign of William III, left an indelible imprint on the "country" mind everywhere in the English-speaking world.
The primary function of a constitution was to mark out the boundaries of governmental powers-hence in England, where there was no constitution , there were no limits (save for the effect of trail by jury) to what the legislature might do.
Up and down the the still sparsely settled coast of British North America, groups of men-intellectuals and farmers, scholars and merchants, the learned and the ignorant-gathered for the purpose of constructing enlightened governments.