Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700-1870

By Charles A. Kromkowski | Go to book overview

3
Our Emperors Have No Clothes: The Macro-Micro
Synthesis and the American Revolution

Like most relationships, the constitutional union between Great Britain and the American colonies was never a static relationship. Rather, as described in Chapter 2, over the course of the eighteenth century various economic, demographic, institutional, and ideological developments continuously redefined their relationship. Previous historical accounts typically agree that, despite these dynamic conditions, the constitutional union between Great Britain and the American colonies was generally stable and mutually beneficial as late as the early 1770s. Three questions therefore challenge every account of the American Revolution. First, why did British interests by 1774 commit to a reconfiguration of the terms of this union? Second, why were American interests generally unwilling to accept a reconfiguration? And third, why did this long-standing and valued relationship ultimately end in the civil war commonly known as the American Revolution?

The structural foundations of this constitutional union were not wholly immaterial to the sequence of decisions by which Great Britain and the American colonies committed themselves to civil war. For in addition to forming the context within which these historic decisions were made, this structure projected a future paradoxically constituted by relative American and absolute British gains. These crosscutting dynamics thus supported different (and often conflicting) perceptions of and expectations for the relationship between Great Britain and the American colonies. As a result, explanation of the subsequent constitutional crisis must extend beyond the structural context to the political actors and the decisional sequences that directly effected the final rupture of the British-colonial order.

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