A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents, British Politics, and the American Revolution

A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents, British Politics, and the American Revolution

A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents, British Politics, and the American Revolution

A Rope of Sand: The Colonial Agents, British Politics, and the American Revolution

Excerpt

For almost four decades historians have been intensely concerned with the unsettled circumstances of British politics during the age of the American Revolution. Yet no one has systematically related those unstable conditions to the difficulties of governing an extensive empire at a time of financial and administrative stress. What has been lacking is an account of the disruption of the first British Empire as an entity centered in London, a detailed understanding of the direct impact on colonial affairs made by the tumultuous changes that occurred in British public life during the third quarter of the eighteenth century.

As spokesmen for the colonies and as representatives of colonial concerns, the North American agents felt the effects of British politics personally and as paid lobbyists. They formed the core of the “American interest” in Britain. The deterioration of their institution after 1766 is an extraordinary manifestation of what helped to anticipate and precipitate the disruption of Anglo-American government—the decline of colonial influence “at home.” For several generations the American voice had been heard in London through the agents and their allies. Their history in the 1760’s and 1770’s indicates most clearly how “the hands and servants of power” became impervious to that voice. Consequently I have used the agents and their problematical relationships as a way of focusing on a dimension that has been particularly blurred in our perception of the origins of the American Revolution. Their experiences and observations disclose forcefully

See Edmund S. Morgan, ed., The American Revolution: Two Centuries of
Interpretation
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1965), p. 181; Esmond Wright, ed.,
Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution (Chicago, 1966), pp.
48, 208.

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