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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 18

others whose fame or infamy (as in the case of Benedict Arnold) depended less specifically upon books. As all these heroes were consistently whitened by their biographers, so was the cause for which they fought; until the second generation after the Revolution had hardly a chance to suspect—at least so far as popular literature was concerned—that the Revolution had been anything but a melodrama victoriously waged by stainless Continental heroes against atrocious villains in British scarlet, followed by a victory without ugly revenges and crowned by a reconstruction culminating in the divinely-inspired Constitution. George Bancroft himself, a scholar of large attainments, could write as late as 1860 such words as these concerning the Declaration of Independence: “This immortal state paper, which for its composer was the aurora of enduring fame, was ‘the genuine effusion of the soul of the country at that time,’ the revelation of its mind, when in its youth, its enthusiasm, its sublime confronting of danger, it rose to the highest creative powers of which man is capable. The bill of rights which it promulgates, is of rights that are older than human institutions, and spring from the eternal justice that is anterior to the state. Two political theories divided the world; one founded the commonwealth on the reason of state, the policy of expediency; the other on the immutable principles of morals: the new republic, as it took its place among the powers of the world, proclaimed its faith in the truth and reality and unchangeableness of freedom, virtue, and right. The heart of Jefferson in writing the declaration, and of congress in adopting it, beat for all humanity; the assertion of right was made for the entire



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