In some ways, the American Revolution was the initial trigger of the "revolutionary" process which gained further momentum in the France of 1789, and which went on to sweep the world from that time up to the present day. Certainly the American revolutionary and democratizing experience had its impact on prerevolutionary Enlightment France, and revolutionists have continued to borrow from both the rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson and from the statecreating work of the framers of the Constitution.
In other respects, however, the American Revolution was the most exceptional of revolutions. It did not trigger the sort of social upheaval associated with revolutions since 1789. While sweeping social change did occur in the wake of the Revolution, shifting the political and social landscape swiftly from the world of the Colonial era, still very conservative, with its general (and oftenhigh) propertyqualifications for the franchise, towards the world of Jeffersonian republicanism and ultimately of Jacksonian democracy, this process of change itself was thoroughly evolutionary in nature (though swiftpaced), and did not constitute a further revolution. There was no American Thermidor period, to be followed by an American Terror, and least of all an American Napoleon.
It is, perhaps, both symbolic and characteristic of the American revolution that it was in substantial a revolution of lawyers. It is not simply the superficial fact that about half the signers of the Declaration were lawyers, nor even that lawyers like John Adams were leading figures in the revolutionary movement.
Lawyers often figure in the early stages of a revolution. They are most intimately acquainted with both the abuses and the daybyday operation of government. They are trained in systematic argument, on questions which (unlike, say, questions of science or philosophy) come, even in the most routine law case, very close to politi...