The King's Three Faces: The Rise & Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776

The King's Three Faces: The Rise & Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776

The King's Three Faces: The Rise & Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776

The King's Three Faces: The Rise & Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776

Synopsis

Reinterpreting the first century of American history, Brendan McConville argues that colonial society developed a political culture marked by strong attachment to Great Britain's monarchs. This intense allegiance continued almost until the moment of independence, an event defined by an emotional break with the king. By reading American history forward from the seventeenth century rather than backward from the Revolution, McConville shows that political conflicts long assumed to foreshadow the events of 1776 were in fact fought out by factions who invoked competing visions of the king and appropriated royal rites rather than used abstract republican rights or pro-democratic proclamations. The American Revolution, McConville contends, emerged out of the fissure caused by the unstable mix of affective attachments to the king and a weak imperial government. Sure to provoke debate, The King's Three Faces offers a powerful counterthesis to dominant American historiography.

Excerpt

On November 5, 1764, diarist John Rowe recorded that “a sorrowful accident” had happened in Boston’s North End. a giant “carriage” constructed by the neighborhood’s residents, carrying effigies of the pope and other figures, had “run over a Boy’s head” during a raucous procession, “and he died instantly.” in response to the tragedy, the authorities dismantled the effigies and sought to destroy a similar cart in the South End—the “North and South end Popes,” as they were known. However, when the magistrates “went to the So. End [they] could not Conquer upon which the South End people brought out their pope and went in Triumph to the Northward” to seek victory in the traditional battle between the neighborhoods that occurred on Boston Common every November 5. “At the Mill Bridge,” Rowe continued, “a Battle begun,” the North End people “having repaired their pope.” Neighborhood pride was on the line —the North End had always prevailed in these battles—but on this day, a repaired pope would not do, and “the South End people got the Battle…. Brought away the North End pope and burnt Both of them at the Gallows,” with “several thousand people following them” to see the spectacle on Boston Neck. So ended the annual celebration of the foiling of Guy Fawkes’s 1605 plot against James I and the English nation.

Certain images predominate in popular imagination when we think of colonial America. Somber Puritans, heads bowed in prayer when not hunting witches at Salem; broad-hatted Quakers, preaching peace in the City of Brotherly Love; yeoman farmers chopping wood and tending crops; dignified Indian chiefs negotiating with the ever-increasing number of white settlers; Virginia tobacco planters living in Georgian mansions on the Northern Neck, served by African slaves; and deerskin-clad frontiersmen opening new lands and fighting against the various Indian nations—all these come to mind. Scholars have refined these images and added new ones to their more specific conversations: visions of midwives and

1. John Rowe diary, Nov. 5, 1764, ms, mhs.

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