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Thomas Paine and Benjamin Rush were ardent supporters of independence. For both Paine and Rush, the struggle with Britain was more than a war of indepen- dence-it was a revolution destined to change society. Paine posed the question, “Can America be happy?” and answered by stating, “As happy as she wishes. She hath a clean slate to write upon.” Rush, in a letter to a colleague, makes it clear that the revolution will not end until there has been a change in society.

. . . Should an independency be brought about by [the legal voice of the people in Congress] . . . we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest, purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present has not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few months. . . .

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, January 1776

Source: Eric Foner, ed., Thomas Paine, CollectedWritings (New York:The Library of America, 1995), pp. 52–53.

. . . Most of the distresses of our country, and of the mistakes which Europeans have formed of us have risen from a belief that the American Revolution is over. This is so far from being the case that w e h a v e o n l y f i n i s h e d t h e f i r s t a c t o f t h e g r e a t d r a m a . W e h a v e c h a n g e d o u r f o r m s o f g o v e r n m e n t , b u t

i t r e m a i n s y e t t o e f f e c t a r e v o l u t i o n i n o u r p r i n c i p l e s , o p i n i o n s , a n d m a n n e r s s o a s t o a c c o m m o d a t e

them to the forms of government we have adopted. This is the most difficult part of the business of the patriots and legislators of our country. It requires more wisdom and fortitude than to expel or to reduce armies into captivity. . . .

Benjamin Rush to Richard Price May 25, 1786

Source: L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. I, p. 388.


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