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3 Causes of the Revolution

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3. CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION. The political and constitutional relations be tween Great Britain and the English dominions in America in 1760 were ill-defined, and funda mental understanding between the English com munities on the two sides of the Atlantic as to the essential qualities of the connection was lacking. In England an act.of Parliament had come to be regarded as the highest expression of power within the Constitution and the range of subjects over which Parliament's power extended was unlimited. In America the full consequences of the omnipotence of Parlia ment were obscured by the fact that its power had been actually exercised over the colonies only for the purpose of establishing, protecting and maintaining a commercial system of im perial extent and character, and in a manner which left the internal concerns of each colony largely under the direction of its local govern ment. The superintendence of the colonial gov ernments was in the hands of the Crown, under whose administration a considerable degree of local autonomy had been attained. The situa tion was further obscured by the fact that within the very realm of commercial regulation, which constituted so large a part of the region of the exercise of Parliamentary power, the administration was notoriously inefficient. So that in the generation before George III, the system remained largely unexploited by Parlia ment and its true character and possibilities un appreciated by the Americans. Under these circumstances, it is evident that, if, after a long period of indeterminate relation, the issue as between Parliament and the colonies should be raised at all, much would depend upon the manner of its raising and on the circumstances prevailing on the two sides of the Atlantic at the time it was raised.

English political conditions at the beginning of the reign of George III were such as to afford peculiarly little promise that such a delicate relation would be handled with the req uisite skill. The vicissitudes of the party sys tem, the personal views and characteristics of the young king and the circumstances connected with his accession, all combined to make the question of the ultimate position of the sover eign in the Constitution the absorbing issue of the time. The Whigs sought a strong and per manent system of government in °the connec tion of agreeing politicians commanding parlia mentary influence"; the Tories, ((in the creation of a powerful parliamentary interest attached personally to the Sovereign, reinforced by dis connected politicians and by small groups drawn from the most various quarters and directed by a statesman who was personally pleasing to the king." Wide interpretation of the power of Parliament and Crown acting together was es sential to both parties and issues requiring mod eration and restraint together with firmness and steadiness in the use of this power by either party stood little chance of receiving attention on their merits. The demoralization of the

Whigs and the intractable attitude of Pitt made it possible for the king and his ((friends" to restore for a time the personal will of the sovereign to a position of power in the Constitution. But the price of this success was the utter demoralization of parties and the party system of government, which was the direct cause of the vacillation, the violent alternation between severity and indulgence toward the colonies in ministerial policy, which was itself largely responsible for the unnecessary degree of turbulent defiance of existing authority, par ticularly in Massachusetts.

Turning now to America, we find political conditions between 1688 and 1760, by influences outside of what was strictly the law of the situation developing the several colonies into a group of actual commonwealths in which the forces of democratic society had far greater sway than in England and in the long run predominated over the aristocratic forces di rected by the official classes. What the English government thought of as corporations emanat ing from the Crown but subject to ultimate Par liamentary regulation had grown into such an actual position that, whatever the technical law of the situation, it was inexpedient to treat them merely as corporations. The corporate provinces had governments almost entirely de veloped from native sources and the limited control over them for imperial purposes at tempted by the home government met with much obstruction. The same was true, though to a less degree, of the proprietary and royal prov inces, for, though the official opportunity for enforcement of control was much greater, the weakness of the support given from home to the provincial governors in their contests with the legislatures left the latter the practically dominant power in the realm of provincial de velopment. The modeling of each provincial government on the lines of the whole English Constitution, the wide range of interest taken into cognizance by each, extending to well-nigh everything but regulation of imperial com merce, the territorial scale on which provincial interests developed, the large degree of success which the representative legislature attained in controlling this development, often in defiance or evasion of directions from home, the isola tion from the rest of the colonies within which each of these developments was conducted, all contributed to a view of itself by each province as a constituent part of a federative empire.

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