Bicentennial Essay: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

The following Bicentennial Essay is the seventh in a series that has been appearing periodically, surveying how America has changed in its 200 years. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, many colonists—and not only Tories—feared that if rebellion came, "the bands of society would be dissolved, the harmony of the world confounded, and the order of nature subverted." Crime and lawlessness would surely accompany any challenge to authority, especially one involving a resort to arms.

It did not happen—not, at least, during the war. In retrospect, that is remarkable. In 1776 there were...

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