Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian), Washington, DC.
Benjamin Franklin, c. 1785
The Americans ... revolted not to create but to maintain their freedom. American society had developed differently from that of the Old World. From the time of the first settlements in the seventeenth century, wrote Samuel Williams in 1794,
every thing tended to produce, and to establish the spirit of freedom. While the speculative philosophers of Europe were laboriously searching their minds in an effort to decide the first principles of liberty, the Americans had come to experience vividly that liberty in their everyday lives.