The nature of the social, political and intellectual platform from which the Revolution was launched did much to mould its character. Contemporary Europeans were mistaken in believing that American society was more or less homogeneous. Within a common underlying pattern, social mores varied considerably. Unquestionably there was no counterpart for whites to the stark contrast between the degradation of the poor and the gross wealth, privileges and power of the aristocracy that disfigured many parts of the Old World. Yet substantial differences in wealth and income were clearly visible in every part of the colonies, and the existence of social hierarchy was generally acknowledged by all, if frequently resented by the less fortunate. In some areas the social fault-lines were blurred, in others sharp and steep; the rivalries they provoked contributed substantially to the outcome of the Revolution. Ironically, it can be argued that American society was becoming more, not less differentiated, and in some ways closer to, not further from, the character of English society as it moved towards independence. In contrast, the formal political structure of American life was remarkably, though not totally, uniform — though the colonial practice of politics was increasingly divergent from traditional British behaviour. But social relationships and political structures by themselves were insufficient to dictate the process of change. The colonial mind was a distinctive component of a much wider North Atlantic culture system and also played an important part in shaping the Revolution, especially as Americans began to seek justification for their resistance to British policy and later to reflect on the nature of their republic.
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