3 The Idea of Revolution: Conspiracy and Counterrevolution

Every republic at all times has it[s] Catalines and its Caesars.

—Alexander Hamilton, 1792

THE ROLE OF CONSPIRACY AS THE BREEDING GROUND FOR RESIStance and revolution is known to every student of early American history. For conspiracy, as a latent behavioral trait and characteristic of the American mind, was a part of the birthing of the new nation. But the literature of American history dealing with conspiracy antedates even that founding act.

The 1770s, for example, were filled with constant charges by English and American pamphleteers of the British ministry “having formed a conspiracy against the liberties of their country.”1

The wide belief in the idea of conspiracy, which gained ...

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