The 18th Century began with a debate between the ancients and the moderns in which the proponents of classicism seemed to enjoy a temporary advantage, but it ended with two revolutions whose victors loudly proclaimed a radical disjunction with the past. The age obviously contains more than one site on which we might locate a discourse of modernism, but the differences between a battle of the books and guillotining a king suggest that we should expect to find more than one kind of modernism. Or better, we might expect to find a discourse of modernism rich with an unrecognized and unresolved problematics that has become somewhat clearer, both to the original speakers and to us, only in the light of subsequent texts and events. In the summer of 1776, for example, many Americans thought that the Declaration of Independence had resolved an ambiguous situation by breaking with the political conventions of the past, but scarcely a decade later they required another text to clarify and constitute relationships among themselves. That Constitution immediately called into play discourse about the possible futures it made possible, and the advent of the French Revolution two years later called for a total reevaluation of the American revolutionary project. Some participants in the national discourse thought the events in France exposed the fallacy of any revolution that sought to go beyond the limits of replacing an unjust regime and aspired to transform human nature and human culture, while others thought the French experience made more explicit and extended the genuine meaning of the American Revolution as a radical transformation of history. The discourse of the Declaration, that of the Constitution, and that of the response to the French Revolution suggest that the origination and establishment of the young United States might be helpfully understood as an exemplary episode of the modernism that transformed the postmedieval world.