Accounts of the American Revolution often sound like tales from the Legion of Nerdy Superheroes with Wigs. Thomas Jefferson writes the Declaration. John Hancock signs it. John Adams grumbles. Then, James Madison theorizes about the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton implements the ideas, and George Washington presides beatifically over it all.
Today, remembering the acerbic first lady Abigail Adams and the martyred African-American from the Boston Massacre, Crispus Attucks, injects multicultural touches into the white boys club. A fuller story would also include the Wonder Woman of the Revolution, Catharine Macaulay. Hailed as “the Amazon leading charge after charge on behalf of a Great New Cause,” this bold British thinker helped shape the Anglo-American love of liberty that freed us from England and launched our democratic era.
Catharine Macaulay released her eight-volume, 3,500-page A History of England from 1763 through 1783—critical years in American life. Her version of British history, along with her other writings, celebrated liberty and mocked monarchy. Her works reflect the broader blossoming of republican thought in the 1700s. This democratic ideology triggered the American Revolution, valuing the consent of the governed over the brute force of those who govern.