Its citizens and the experience –history- of one hundred years has formed the record from which the living present learns its lesson of the past.
Free government, a free people, was the talismanic charm which caused the emigrant to abandon the old world and hasten to the new.
The population of the colonies in 1776 was 3,500,000. Today (1886) the population of the United States is estimated 65,000,000. The controlling influence which impelled the emigrant to the United States was the belief in the inducement held out that a home for his loved one could be acquired. It is, therefore, a fact that the United States has been developed and populated because of economic rather than political influences. It has been and is still the belief of many that the comparative economic freedom which the poor have enjoyed in this country was owing to its political institutions, its republican form of government. Lord Macauley, whose prognostication is quoted at the opening of this chapter, foresaw what experience has since demonstrated, to-wit: That the Republic itself was the result, not the cause of the comparative economic liberty which prevailed in America.
The revolution of 1776 was precipitated when the British government sought to impose "taxation without representation" upon the colonies, but there was a long antecedent train of offenses which the colonists had endured. The British nobility, aristocrats and landlords had been for years past engaged in seizing upon the wild lands of America and subjecting its inhabitants to the servitude prevailing in the old world. A few noblemen held "patents" from George III, which covered vast regions of territory and embraced millions of acres. The revolution of 1776 was inspired by determination to escape the tyranny of British rule, from the oppressions of which most if the American colonists fled. The authors of the Declaration of Independence gave the key-note of that struggle when they proclaimed the inalienable Rights of man as the issue involved. During the seven year's war which followed, and for five years afterward (1787) the inhabitants of the colonies were practically without government or law. Thomas Paine, of whom it has been said he did as much with his pen as Washington had