The Foundations of American Nationality

By Evarts Boutell Greene | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIX
REVOLUTION, 1774 TO 1776

IN England a few friends of the colonies, including Chatham, were impressed by the ability and self-control shown in the published statements of the Continental Congress. Another group, made up largely of merchants and manufacturers, was anxious about the effect of the "Association" on business. During the summer there had even been some talk of a change in the ministry which might bring in a more liberal element and so make possible a different American policy, perhaps some "great constitutional charter to be confirmed by King, Lords, and Commons." Unfortunately the new parliamentary elections strengthened those elements which followed the ministry and had little sympathy for the American point of view.

English opinion.

Not only were the liberals in a minority; they were also unable to agree on a constructive policy. The "Old Whig" view, best expressed by Burke, was to put Anglo-American relations back where they were before 1763. This could be done by repealing the coercive acts and leaving the taxing power with the separate colonial assemblies; also there should be as little talk as possible about legal theories of Parliamentary sovereignty. Chatham favored a constitutional agreement defining both the rights of Parliament and those of the colonies. The colonies, he thought, should acknowledge their dependence on the "imperial crown of Great Britain" and the supreme legislative authority of Parliament. In return for this acknowledgment, Parliament should expressly renounce any authority to tax the colonies.

Conciliatory proposals. Burke and Chatham.

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