Republicanism and the Law of Inheritance in the American Revolutionary Era

This Article deals with the history of the law of inheritance during the era of the American Revolution, but its focus is actually more general, for it ultimately seeks to determine what sort of revolution we experienced. For the historian the problem is quite familiar, but a few observations seem pertinent. It is at least possible to argue that our colonial forefathers were not waging a revolution at all. Rather, one might say they were fighting what we should now call a colonial war of independence in which the overriding issue was “home rule.” On this hypothesis, the main slogan of the 1760’s, “No taxation without representation,” captures the basic issue, and the Battle of Yorktown (and the Treaty of Paris) define an end point for “the Rebellion.” To most historians this seems an excessively narrow interpretation, but it ill-behooves those who have witnessed the violent progress of recent history to minimize the desire for national self-definition and self-government.