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The New Democracy

Thus the American people were the next to follow the Dutch and English in the struggle for freedom.

In their famous Declaration of Independence the Americans set forth the new gospel of Democracy, of the Divine Right of the Peoples according to the Law of Nature: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.

Similar doctrines had been taught by the Frenchman, Rousseau, in his Social Contract, published a few years before the American document.

But the old regime continued for a time longer in the Old World of Europe. There the Grand Monarchs still ruled from above. The mass of peasants were crushed with taxes, with no schools for education, and no share whatever in the government. Serfdom still prevailed, although in France the peasants were more prosperous and more intelligent.

And the French were the first of the peoples of Europe to respond to the clarion call of the American Revolution. While America was winning its freedom, Louis XVI and his beautiful queen, Marie Antoinette, were enjoying life at Versailles. Their court was very extravagant; the king's household numbered 4,000; the queen's, 500. Louis XVI hoped that the storm would not burst in his time. But "apres moi, le deluge," had said one of the ladies of Louis XV's court.

The American Revolution had also raised the difficult problems of how, with the new ideas of liberty, an empire is to be governed, and how the expenses of empire are to be shared. The British Empire later solved the former problem by adopting the Federal idea -- new in the modern world -- as the Dutch for a small area, and the American for a large area, had done before them.