Lecture #12: The British Empire in the 18th Century

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Mark Peterson

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Lecture #12: The British Empire in the 18 Century The Making of the Warfare State I. Remaking Government in British America A. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688: Remaking British Government » Key Elements of the Glorious Revolution – Limited monarchy and Protestant succession – Regular parliaments – Bill of Rights – Limited religions toleration – Rule by ‘king in parliament’ – Ascendancy of the Whig party B. The Colonies and the Glorious Revolution » James’ assault on the colonial charters, and the creation of the ‘Dominion of New England’ – Combined Massachusetts with New Hampshire, etc. into one single unit that would be governed by his own appointed governor ∆ Wanted the entire government to be led by two military appointments ∆ Did something very different, because these places had for a long time been self-governing ∆ Dominion of New England completely undermined this – Also tried to eradicate poorer land owners – Undermined the religious freedom and the freedom of the people to give taxes to whichever church they wanted » Rebellions in several colonies (MA, NY, MD) – Angry with James’ Dominion of New England – Leaders of these colonies supported people coming in to arrest the appointed governors » Restoration and reorganization of colonial charters – William (James’ successor) was aware that pushing too hard against colonial liberties may continue the process of rebellion – Wanted a solid colonial backing for his precarious position on the throne – William (Dutch) had already been engaged in warfare with Louis XIV of France – Wanted to drive back Catholicism of Louis XIV – First to think about a role for the colonies – New colonial charter with a compromise ∆ Royal governor appointed by William ∆ Agreed there should be a representative of the people ∆ Allowed restoration of assemblies ∆ Beginning of greater organization in the ways colonies were run » Colonial ambiguity: crown or parliament? – There was an agreement within Britain itself that they would be ruling the colonies – However, this issue was never addressed: does parliament have over the colonies too ∆ King had been involved in the creation of the colonies, but parliament had not ∆ English now transformed to be conducted in agreement with king and parliament, so now it’s confused in the colonies ∆ Plagued the colonies all through the American revolution – Starting in about 1650, Parliament had created a system of regulating navigational trade (Navigation Acts) ∆ Fine for the colonies to trade with one another ∆ Fine for the colonies to trade directly with England ∆ Prohibit trade of the most valuable commodities between colonies and foreign empires  Economic theory ruled this idea: Mercantilism ≈ Limited amount of wealth in the world ≈ Various empires in nations of world competed with each other for that wealth ≈ Therefore, if you have a source of wealth you should keep it within your own empire and away from the hands of the enemy o Wealth can be used for military might o Military might can be used to gain control of enemy’s colonies ∆ This was kind of the only role of parliament in the colonies, nothing overseeing the everyday activities of colonies » Fundamental ambiguity in the system C. The structure of colonial governments: imperfect replicas of English government » King in England has a lot of power (power to appoint aristocrats and nobles) but this power is checked by the parliament (House of Lords and House of Commons) – Because the parliament can approve any kind of taxation the King wants, this gives parliament a lot of power as well » In the colonies, the leader of the colonies is like a king – Appointed by king/elected (most powerful figure in colony) – Under the leader is a council – Assembly elected by common people – Structural similarity that no one had planned » An excess of ‘democracy’ – ‘Democracy’: ruled by everyone – USA doesn’t have a direct democracy – people elect representatives who get to say something, but the common people cannot really give their opinions – Excess of democracy – lower houses in structure of government were actually quite strong. ∆ Better at representing the people than the parliament could for the people in England ∆ Assemblies quite large, and very vocal; contrasts with Britain’s House of Commons – only small number of people were allowed to vote by 18 century ∆ Quite easy for the crown to control parliament (bribery, etc.) so House of Commons relatively weak compared to Assembly in colonies » A missing aristocracy – In England, the aristocracy had the right to be in the parliament, and th
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