In this synthesis of recent work on early America, Kenneth Lockridge portrays a society divided against itself and unable to arrive at a generally acceptable basis for political order. The special circumstances of American life eroded the foundations of social and political stability, and continued to do so until long after the Revolution. The original stream of emigration deposited in the New World a great many people unwilling to accept any person, principle, or institution as a legitimate source of authority. The claims of would-be American gentlemen were subjected to unyielding scrutiny. Rejecting all claims to higher social, political, and religious authority. A highly mobile populace kept its distance from putative hierarchs by venturing again and again beyond the perimeters of settled social institutions. This recurring process of settlement and unsettlement encouraged an active scepticism regarding all pretensions to hierarchy, and it reaffirmed a commitment to local authorities, locally legitimated.