Victory in the War of Independence was only part of the Revolution. Though literally essential, it was primarily an enabling act that permitted the simultaneous and more fundamental civil process of founding a republican system. Few Americans anticipated the need to establish new governments until the exigencies of war made it imperative, for unlike twentieth-century nationalists, the revolutionaries of 1776 had not spent decades preparing for the establishment of an independent regime. But once the necessity became evident, many immediately appreciated the exceptional chance that presented itself; as John Adams declared: ‘When, before the present epocha (sic), had three millions of people full power and a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive?’ 1 Transformation of the colonies from being subordinate members of a monarchic empire directed from the centre into an independent self-governing nation required both considerable, and quick, thought and long-term commitment. It was a complex task which had to be undertaken at two levels: individually by each of the 13 states, and collectively as a single union. The difficulty was compounded by the need to undertake it within the context of the War of Independence that impinged severely on it in several states, and whose outcome was uncertain until after it was complete. Each government faced three tasks. First, it would have to conform to a set of political values acceptable to its constituents; second, it would need to be compatible with the social structure of each state; and third, be sufficiently effective to prosecute the war, impose its authority on those who rejected its claim to legitimacy and implement whatever policies it chose to formulate.
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