The American Revolution created the dynamic making explorations of American national character of crucial relevance. Without the separation from Britain and their establishment as an independent nation, who the Americans might be, or who they might claim to be, would have been a very different question. But the Revolution also provided the stage for the fi rst clash about that identity, which is the central theme of this narrative. Even as the Patriots evolved their visions of American national character, centred on the severing of ties with Britain, other writers, who considered themselves equally American, were questioning these developments and advancing visions of their own. This confl ict is vital, not only because the Patriot vision became the dominant identity of the new nation, but also because the response to this challenge created a critical fi ssure in its own self-image. The American republic, without which the question would have had little relevance, was born in a vicious clash of rival visions concerning its nature. The treatment of the visions which lost had profound implications for the victors.