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The American Revolution introduced the reality, not just the theory, of democratic government to the world. The Revolution challenged the old order in Europe and South America by opposing inherited political power with the democratic idea that government rests on the consent of the governed. The example of the first successful revolution against a European empire provided a model for many other colonial peoples, who realized that they, too, could become self-governing nations. In the 20th century, revolutionaries sometimes even quoted Thomas Jefferson as they fought against American economic interests.

America won its independence with the help of the endless fights between European countries; it provided the model for what would become, 200 years later, the European Union. The United States remains a leading example of the extent to which a country with people from all around the world can become and remain a workable society.

Before America could become a practical reality, however, it had to figure out exactly what would change following independence. In their enthusiasm for new-found freedom, some lawmakers got ahead of the times.

After the Revolution, with 1 out of 30 American people (the most conservative Loyalist residents) leaving permanently for Canada or Britain, the new United States had a distinctly progressive bent. In the old days, for example, the titles Mr. and Mrs. were reserved only for the upper classes; now everybody got called that. Even more social changes were to come.

Separation of church and state

Church and state were separated. Although the Congregationalist denomination hung on for a few years as the official religion of Massachusetts, one by one, the states dropped any affiliation with a particular denomination. One of Jefferson's proudest accomplishments was the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786), which separated religion from government in what was then the largest state. It served as a model for other states.

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