The government of empire and its implications for the “metropolis”

The Government of Empire and Its Implications for the “Metropolis”

A perennial theme running throughout Britain’s imperial experience has been the relationship between the ideas about the ordering of society at home and ideas about the ordering of the empire overseas.1

In Chapter 1, I referred to the psychoanalytic idea, originating perhaps in Freud, and developed in Lacan’s writings, of the subject’s yearning for a certainty s/he has not been able to achieve. Empire, and the manifold phenomena of Absolutist rule, even the genial Trumanian “the buck stops here”, exemplify this yearning in political terms. The men of the 1688 Convention decided not to pretend, as the Stuart monarchy had done, that their authority originated in some yet higher authority. There was no consensus about the legal nature of James II/VII’s departure, nor any urgency about finding one. The rulers of English society, for the most part large landowners, had had experience of purely legislative government. It had ended in Cromwell, the Lord Protector, a sovereign. The landlords had stared at purported certainty and did not much care for it. The conditional invitation to William and Mary, and the subsequent parliamentary provisions for the settlement, first upon Anne, the last of the Stuarts, but Protestant and firmly circumscribed in her authority, and then on the heirs of Sophia the Electress of Hanover, were designed to constitute an executive that was, at the same time, manageable. The men of the Convention gave, I have suggested, legitimate government to each other, but in order for this to succeed, they learned that it was necessary to do so politely, and two or three generations devoted themselves to this project.

In some ways it survived. Francophone Roman Catholic Quebecois, acquired by British conquest at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, and who were expected by the American colonists to the south to join their rebellion, preferred government by religiously unzealous people for whom, in the words of Paxman already quoted, God was the “ultimate good chap”. American Protestant zealotry which Hume had criticized when he detected it in relation to seventeenth century England remained (and perhaps remains) in the east coast colonies, would perhaps have been less uncaring about the religious beliefs in Quebec City and Montreal than the British. The East India Company was equally uncaring about the strange beliefs it found in India. But it found itself in a different position. The French were a spent power in North America – not, as La Fayette was to demonstrate in his intervention on behalf of the Thirteen Colonies against Great Britain, impotent, but without territorial ambitions. India, on the other hand, was different. Only the defeat by Nelson of Napoleon’s Egyptian adventure, an intended passage to India, at Aboukir Bay in 1798, prevented further French invasions there. And we are familiar from Kipling’s Kim, published in 1901, with the later perceived threat by Russia to British India which required, therefore, strong government. India was, as the above quotation suggests, and as Eric Stokes has argued, a social laboratory for British rulers attempting to deal with social and economic change at home. Strong government, then, yes, but a strange ambivalence from the beginning of British rule, one which I will trace through Great Britain itself.

From the “Temper of the People” to the Comforts of the Law

This chapter introduces the rival approaches to the management of both empire and metropolis during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is not possible to maintain a strictly chronological narrative, since two approaches toward government overlap, personified, insofar as it could be by Thomas Babbington Macaulay. So far as India was concerned, British presence did not originally take the form of government at all. The East India Company developed from a trading company into an authoritarian military and legislating power somewhat parasitically within the body of the Mogul Empire, maintaining the fiction that its authority was derived from the Mogul Emperor at Delhi, even when mid-eighteenth century conquests inclined Company servants increasingly to Hobbesian ideas of sovereignty. These were ideas which, as the narrative unfolds, can be seen as increasingly characteristic of both empire and metropolis, if in slightly different ways.

Politeness and civility, as we saw, enabled the English and British governing classes of different persuasions to co-exist and even extend principles of tolerance to the governed. Tolerance and an admiration of Indian civilization characterized Anglo-Indian relations at the outset:

In Mughal India there was extensive commodity production together with a large volume of merchant capital. Roads were relatively secure and commerce included not only manufacture …2

Commerce also included agriculture and the transport of its surplus to the urban areas. Capital accumulation exceeded that familiar to Europeans:

Initially, the newcomers were amazed at what they saw … at the extent of cloth production and the riches of the country … On entering Murshidabad … Clive wrote: “the city is as extensive, populous and rich as … London” … Similar words were used of Agra, Fatechpore, Lahore and other Indian towns.3

The British were seduced, not merely by the material wealth and urban organization, but by the cultural and linguistic sophistication they saw around them. Attitudes of a more authoritarian kind came with the arrival, in the wake of Clive’s victories, of, mostly young men on the make whose subordination of the local population somehow justified their forcible acquisition of what they learned from Hindi to call loot. After that, the “native” in Anglophone discourse began a conceptual and practical descent into what we shall later see was increasingly rule by law rather than rule by subjects of the rule of law.

Not long after that, Pitt’s mooted reform of the franchise at Westminster was abandoned by virtue of the Tory opposition, and a sterner more paternalist legality rapidly eroded into reaction, as increasing hardships in the labor market created unrest and, after five years, the Revolution broke out in France, with widespread demand for political change in Britain a consequence. The Younger Pitt, whose first, “mince pie administration”, derided as unlikely to survive the Christmas recess, but which actually lasted from 1784 until 1801, mostly years of war. Soon after there was the even more reactionary Liverpool Administration, which ended in 1828. And then there were the puzzling policies of the Whigs, who passed the Reform Act of 1832, but who were clearly frightened by popular hopes for something far more radical than the Act and popular anger at the disappointment of those hopes, they fell under the utilitarian spell, implementing the workhouse legislation in England, for example in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and setting in train increasing codification of English law in India; or only feebly gesturing toward at producing loyalty through cultural assimilation. The two were seen as intimately connected. Neatly connecting law, education, class, colonialism and gender, Pennycook remarks in relation to the Straits Settlements in colonial Malaya:

The general idea of education for men (was that it) should make them more efficient, law-abiding and so on, so education for women was seen as playing a role in making them better wives and mothers.4

The immediate reaction to the 1857 Insurrection in India was, of course, a much more vicious repression than that which attended the political and industrial unrest in England decades before, going beyond the law in order to defend meta-legal sovereignty, as at Morant Bay in 1864. It was later blended with policies that delegated more power to local rulers and additionally laid more emphasis on policies of cultural assimilation to English, although, as Robert Scholes’ analysis of the etymology of the term “the canon” suggests, the difference may not always be as much as we would like. The canon was, in part of its origin, a cane, a disciplining device: “many a native in India had Shakespeare as well as other canonical texts caned into him by the curricular arm of the British Raj. The Empire was based on its cannon, its canon and its canes – to a startling degree”.5 Culture is notoriously fickle and subject to challenge, perspective and change.6 This is, as Scholes remarks, necessary: “we need disciplines in order to think productively. We also need to challenge them in order to think creatively”;7 but subsequently I argued at the beginning that one should not imagine “the law” as wheezing through history, the unchanged representative of European rationality amid the exotic, the changing and arcane landscapes of primordium, hope and ultimately disappointment and. its demise in on the shores of the poisonous ocean depicted by HG Wells – although Zizek has some acidly amusing remarks in this respect. Some Green politics seem, he suggests, to have foregone the campaign for the demise of capitalism and its replacement by something ultimately more humane, in favor of an end-of- the-world scenario in which the workings of capitalism will survive the end of human civilization.8

Law’s very conceptual being, too, changed. Macaulay, as we have seen, hoped to bequeath to India an empire of culture and law that would outlive the global dominance of British military might, but shared the common Victorian speculation of the New Zealander one day wandering wondering through the ruined streets of London, once the hub of empire.9 Eternity marched through the nineteenth century, linked to the inevitability of change and decline. Think of Shelley’s 1817 report “from a traveler in an antique land” whose discovery of a ruined statuary in the desert reveals beneath “a wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” the inscription, “‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my works, ye mighty and despair’”.10 Or of Kipling’s Recessional, eight decades later:

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.

Judge of the nations, spare us yet

Lest we forget – lest we forget.11

Gikandi12 and others have reminded us that the solidity of empire and the ultimate unity of a progressive Britain are a nostalgic retrospect reinforced in part by World War II: Victorians sought to comfort themselves from the external catastrophes of Indian rebellion and the internal demands from a by no means unified struggle of class and gender with a mixture of illusions. One attempted comfort was rule by law, by the apparent certainty of law, its sovereign source throughout the empire, anchored in the writings of Bentham and his disciples, by John Austin, James Fitzjames Stephen and Albert Venn Dicey. The second was by cultural assimilation, the form of civility advocated so successfully for the upper and middling classes after the 1688 Revolution. Writers such as Coleridge, Macaulay and Matthew Arnold assumed that for both the lower middling and working classes both were important.

In earlier chapters it was suggested that late seventeenth and early eighteenth century social thought constituting the English subject in Britain was under a certain debt, acknowledged or not, to ideas circulating in northern Europe, at a slightly earlier date – in particular to Dutch and north German writing. These ideas were concerned, I suggested, first with limited or divided sovereignty, and with the significance of “private” forms of civility for “public” stability. Second and relatedly, they emphasized the importance of investigating the social, historical and political conditions of specific social orders for understanding their practices of sovereignty and legality.13 This multi-faceted approach to legality, to the basis of legal authority, in its contrast with the approach adopted in the European Absolutisms,14 and later by the legal positivist work stimulated by Hobbes, will remind modern Anglophone legal educators of the twentieth and twenty-first century pedagogical distinction made by the positivists between the emotional and the rational, the sometimes vague world of the socio-legal, and the contrasting world of doctrine, where more certainty can apparently be discovered – between “soft” and “hard” law, as the distinction is often labeled by the modern positivists, with all the gendered implications of that form of binary representation.15

I suggested in Chapter 2 that both experience of the Stuarts and their associations with the major Catholic Absolutisms – principally France and Spain – induced in the England of the immediate postrevolutionary era, a suspicion of the practice of authoritarian sovereignty preferred by those monarchs, and by the Stuarts, whose pretensions to the English throne Spain and France continued to support whilst James III, the “Old Pretender” and his son, the “Young Pretender”, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, remained in exile at St Germains, pensioners of the French monarchy or removed to Rome.

Consistently with the Whig view that largely prevailed in the years after 1688, constitutional writing concerning England/Britain was even until the nineteenth century set principally in an historical register,16 descriptions of the growth of liberty and the protection of property, their dynamics and the conditions of their continued existence being thus preferred, for the most part to lawyers’ largely technical accounts, in which Burke, for one, as we saw, had little faith. Where practical analysis met political practice, lawyers and legality were far from ignored – hence Blackstone’s reference to the judges as “oracles” of law. But the significance of the common law and equity and of executive and legislative performances and interactions were evaluated by commentators as to their propriety in much wider contexts in the post-Revolutionary period. Whilst Hale was a reformer in spirit, and had more faith in legislation as a vehicle for reform than did Blackstone, the conformity of law with the habits and “temper” of the people subject to it was for him an important criterion of its quality as law. Blackstone’s study of the principles of English law in 1756 led to his appointment as Vinerian professor at Oxford, where he gave the first university lectures in English law to young gentlemen, most of whom would not become professional lawyers. His attempt to set up an Oxford college devoted to the study of law on liberal principles failed, but his interest in framing legal studies in a context wider than the dry technicalities, by then the stuff of the Inns of Court, remained. His conviction, evinced in the Commentaries’ focus on the principles relating to a particular jurisdiction after a quite hasty discussion “of laws in general” was, as we have seen, echoed in Burke’s insistence that “nations are not primarily ruled by laws: less by violence … the temper of the people amongst whom he presides ought therefore to be the first study of the statesman”.17

It is impossible, of course, to provide precise dates, a cut-off point of transition from one approach to rulership, authority and law, emphasizing custom and consent, the “temper of the people” whose laws were the object of study, to another, one more concerned with the etiology of law in the will of the sovereign, with precision. Hobbes’ model, as I pointed out in Chapter 1, had been comprehensively rejected by the men of the Revolution and their immediate successors. Then, in the 1770s, Jeremy Bentham “was at pains to stress that the authority of a law is not tied in any way to an assessment of its content or the ends to which it is directed”,18 although it is not clear how long that idea took to become hegemonic. (Again, as I remarked in Chapter 1, the metaphysical underpinnings of Bentham’s in-specter are in marked contrast to his insistence on the possibility of objectivity.) Paine certainly believed that the authoritarian conduct of the British in India, where “the wretched inhabitants are glad to … purchase … the privilege to breathe while he, the sole lord of their fortunes and lives, disposes of either as he pleases and prepares for Europe”, traveled home and infected the remainder of the empire.19 A transition there undoubtedly was, but Whiggery of the old kind persisted; there was a good deal of overlap. Burke was firmly in the older tradition, the ground of his support for the American cause and of his opposition to the French Revolution. And even into the nineteenth century, when Benthamite ideas about sovereignty were well known and conscientiously applied by John Austin in his subsequently published lectures at University College, London, it was possible for Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to write to Charles Greville that Benthamites “were all fools and Austin a damned fool”. Greville later wrote that Melbourne had read all of Austin’s jurisprudence and found The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, a jurisprudential application of Benthamite principles, to be “the dullest book he had ever read …”.20 It seems equally impossible to rule out the role of empire in producing that transition, something we shall return to.

The Nature of the British Empire

A central question for the mid to late eighteenth century was:

Were the British to be part of a predominantly Atlantic empire in which they would be primus inter pares, or were they to rule over a polyglot worldwide empire, most of whose peoples were clearly subject peoples?21

The ideological picture of the free and “seaborne empire”, one incompatible with a simple notion, or practice of sovereignty, from one perspective primarily commercial, in contrast to the territorial expansions which began, roughly, with Clive’s, Munro’s and Eyre Coote’s conquests in north-east India following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, has been quite properly questioned by later historians.22 Did the Thirteen Colonies, after all, not represent “territorial conquests” from first nations people; did not British North America as a whole involve the coercion of, perhaps two and a half million African slaves, transported, largely by the British, during two centuries to work as slaves in the plantation economies of the Chesapeake, and of the Caribbean, where the indigenous population, the Caribs, had been largely eliminated? And what, Wilson asks, about the Irish and before them, the Welsh in the British Isles themselves?

The “cultural imperialist” enterprise I understand similarly to Phillip Darby, although we are writing of different eras and to some extent different areas.23 Imperial procedures applied to “native” peoples overseas and to those conceptually assimilated by Britain’s rulers to the natives “at home”. With a great deal of reluctance, Lord Mansfield decided that there was no basis in common law for slavery in England; reluctance, since he was concerned about the implications for the law of property. James Somerset, an African, had been bought in the Americas, where slavery was legal, and was valuable. Somerset, often celebrated as a case marking the commitment of English common law to freedom was, Mansfield insisted, merely a case that forbad the coercive removal of a person from the realm. The case is, of course, an admission that Somerset, once in England, was a “free-born Englishman”, ironically, of course, the status White male Americans were to engage in war to secure for themselves. And in another irony, despite his caution anent Somerset, the Governor of Massachusetts was intrigued to discover an African woman, a relation of Mansfield’s, at Mansfield’s home, who joined the ladies for coffee and walked arm in arm with a European relative.24

The situation was fluid. Lawrence and Jeanne Stone have argued that English gentry and aristocracy were unusually permeable by those with means.25 So, consistently with my argument throughout the thesis, empire was for the English/British, an enterprise of continuity. Subject positions, as they were performed by individual human beings as part of a larger social order, and as they were perceived by spectators, changed as social tectonics changed and offered different opportunities or changed fates. Paul Gilroy wrote some time ago about the international culture consequent on slavery.26 For the transatlantic rulers, and most of all, for the rulers of India and Great Britain, the lower orders, black, brown or white, were a source of exploitation, troublesome, but also admissible – to Eton, Oxford and Cambridge, the City and the Bar – an attitude that did not rule out vicious reprisals against those who were not admitted or did not accept the price or worth of acceptance.

Since, at least, the Elizabethan era, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Indians and others have lived in England, have served in the Royal Navy or the merchant marine, and have interacted culturally or more intimately with the European community of the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Liverpool was an Anglo-Indian. They were, as travelers or residents, imperial subjects very much not “out there”, but “as Gretchen Gerzina has noted, they were ‘a continual and very English presence from the Elizabethan settlement onward’, a fundamental and constitutive part of English culture …”.27

My concern is principally with the effect on the British metropole of the practices its rulers and administrators attempted with varying degrees of success in the management of its colonies, India specifically; and in particular with the changing nature of the conceptions of government, sovereignty and legality and then of empire produced there. But if one does not accept that a flourishing civilization of South Asia, its commerce, culture and ideas did not reciprocally influence English/British culture, one is missing much of the picture of cultural interaction. If the representation, “empire of the seas”, the empire of trade and of the spread of freeborn Englishmen28 and its antithesis, the autocratic government of brown people, was in part an illusion, in part a self-serving hypocrisy, it did reflect certain beliefs about government and law in Britain; and it did involve policies of restraint that benefited at least some local and colonial subjects. In the eras immediately before, and then during Victoria’s reign, the ruling classes, landowners, City men and, increasingly manufacturing capitalists did not, outright, ask themselves whether the working class “at home” were like Americans, with whom political accommodation had been and could have continued to be, shared, or like brown people, but that is what they were actually debating. And when, later, the British confronted assertive Indians, they did not ask whether these people were like the British working class; but that is, on some occasions, I suspect, what they asked themselves. The British working class resembled the Americans of the 1760s and early 1770s: the tradition of the “free-born Englishman” has deep roots. They saw themselves as loyal subjects, but not subjects fit for oppression. Indians, of at least of the upper nationalist class, saw themselves as the white male Americans of the later 1770s and later eighteenth century saw themselves: pragmatic heirs of an enlightenment culture of abstract rights and common law remedies entitled to an independent future. The difference was, of course, and we must never overlook the contingencies of history, America faced a global titan, deluded by its joyous glance into Lacan’s mirror of the identity of the image with the reality of its capacity. India, by the 1940s faced a “weary titan”, victorious against some oppression, but eager to abandon its commitment to the sub-continent.29 We run ahead of ourselves.

As to restraint in eighteenth century Whig Britain, in his speeches on America, Burke was eventually to compare Westminster’s claims over the American colonies with the monarch’s legal right to veto legislation passed in the Houses of Commons and Lords – best left to the fantasies of those who believe that governments are based on quill and parchment. If restraint did not in the end prevail in Britain’s dealings with the Americans, it had done so for some time; and there were constitutional lessons to be drawn from the debate over the practical and prudential qualifications which ought to be included in discussions of sovereignty, a concept which later legal writers such as Bentham, Austin and Dicey, were to see as purely technical in nature. Although, of the Scots, perhaps one of the less sympathetic to the American cause, Adam Ferguson foresaw disaster in the imperial belief “that the grandeur of a nation is to be estimated from the extent of its territory; or that the interest of any particular people consists in reducing their neighbors to servitude”30 – in other words, the indiscriminate claim to sovereignty attempted under George III’s ministries. Ferguson was, after all, a member of the belatedly conciliatory Carlisle Committee, which attempted to address the model of federal empire originally favored by the Americans. Liberty is secured, not by grand schemes but by “continued differences and oppositions of numbers”, “monarchy mixed with republic” (rejected, as we shall see, by Wellesley as Governor-General of India between 1797 and 1805). Independence is associated by Ferguson with the securing to the workman of “the fruits of his labor”, leaving the chief virtue of the statesman as abstaining from mischievous interference.31

Ferguson’s recommendation of executive abstinence from mischievous interference is, of course part of the theme that runs throughout the writings of the Scottish literati, one which we find also in those who are in large measure, their predecessors, Locke and Shaftesbury, as we have already noticed. It is worth exploring the complex web from which restraint is constructed as guided by the integration of various publics with various private mores and expectations, if only partly because, from the early political economists down to the present, it has been subject to simplistic and paradoxical interpretations, sometimes with dangerous implications. The underlying assumption, which may be articulated in its most developed form in the passages from which the above quotations from Ferguson were drawn, is that social cohesion has a fragile basis. If it is not to be secured by the despotic means rejected by the Revolution, then, for the early writers down to Hutcheson, it must be secured by the learning of sociability or the moral virtue of mutual respect. Whilst suggesting quite explicit limitations on the exercise of sovereign power and the limitations of any concept of law regarded as the will of the sovereign, it did not imply the rampant individualism sometimes attributed by shallow thought to Adam Smith. Our being assured of the services of the butcher, the baker and the maker of other goods takes place within the same co-operating order of trust as the securing to the worker of the fruits of his labor so central to the thought of Millar and Ferguson. Smith’s famous “hidden hand” is merely a reflection of a theme common throughout Scottish thought, that events conclude themselves behind human backs and cannot be predicted by reason. Smith’s antidote to the “moral corruption” threatened by the division and consequent intensification of labor was a broad general education, an improvement not merely in one’s material condition, but, as he saw it, in one’s moral improvement.32

Smith’s model of sociability relies on the subject’s internalization of his spectator’s Lacanian gaze, which is, of course a procedure that presupposes but also helps stabilize and reproduce society; the scientists who, in order to continue with their work, treat their laws as part of the universe, are using a provisional shorthand within a community of researchers, as are the members of Hume’s community who develop and share fictions that enable them socially to negotiate the melancholy terror of uncertainty. Both are to be contrasted with Althusser’s notion of Ideological State Apparatuses, which fix the subject as merely a support (trager) of a social technology over which they have no control.33 When the social basis of the illusions necessary for our existence are taken too literally, absolutely, disaster is at hand because it is always necessary to be prepared to abandon them when they no longer seem useful. The shorthand account of “law as the will of the sovereign” may save us from melancholy when some immediately pressing task is at hand, but it disguises or marginalizes more complex understandings, the secession of the thirteen colonies being one of the most spectacular consequences.

The Effects of Britain’s Experience of the Raj

Royal legal authority was readily appropriated and the English common law nursed anti-authoritarian views … ([I]t rested upon community values and was remembered and applied variously in Puritan, Quaker and Anglican colonies i.e. in America). Its seventeenth century champions had made the rights of Englishmen into a bulwark against Royal power … However hegemonic the legal system may have been in structure, it functioned primarily as a local vehicle of negotiated dispute settlement.34

The dispersals and the increasingly provisional nature of sovereign truths, dependent on sociable compromise, that I have associated with the post-Glorious Revolutionary decades, in particular with the Scots,35 was matched by the “salutary neglect” which Steele associates with “benign Whiggery” in the empire.36 Hume, we saw, was unmoved by the potentially tyrannical power of the House of Commons in Great Britain, since, as he observed, in practice its power was, precisely, compromised with benign effect by the desire of its members for office under the Crown. If they wanted Crown offices, they had to support Crown ministries – but only for the most part. This “old corruption” did not guarantee a government, but it worked to produce a degree of stability. Gould sees this as a mark of the liberty often claimed for the “matchless constitution”. Consent that might be coerced in a despotism had to be bought under a “free constitution”.37 Sometimes the king’s ministries prevailed and sometimes they failed and fell, succumbing to country (or backbench) revolts, or, occasionally extra-parliamentary pressure, a state of affairs that Hume found not at all unsatisfactory, even though he had grave reservations about anything resembling democracy. In the same way, Steele writes, imperial trade policies, far from proceeding unproblematically from an imperial center to implementation in a colonial periphery, emerged from a similar process.38 Colonial agents from America actively recruited the support of Westminster MPs. If lobbying, or the more vigorous process of corruption and patronage of competing interests failed of reconciliation at Westminster, “a law could be passed to placate one interest and remain unenforced to placate another”. At the same time, colonial assemblies in both the island and mainland American colonies gained increasing financial control over colonial governors, whose role as vice regal officers was thereby diminished, allowing, John Shy suggests, colonial elites to enhance their own power as mediating “between London, provincial capitals and the American grassroots”.39 British merchants in India were heavily dependent on local capital.

Marshall discusses the strands connecting American elites with Britain following the Seven Years War of 1756–63: “Models of British refinement” and taste were becoming more popular as more books were imported into America from Britain, and travelers crossed the Atlantic in both directions. In particular, as we saw in Chapter 3, Scottish academics were in particular demand in America for their breadth of scholarship. Even the conservative Scot, John Witherspoon, founding member of Princeton, whilst disagreeing with many of his compatriots anent specifics, was nevertheless a Scot, sufficiently committed to scholarly principles to recommend Hutcheson and Hume, as well as Millar and Smith, as readings for his courses.40 Americans were able to enhance their claims to represent traditions of attachment to property and liberty in political and intellectual matters generally through these cultural contacts.41 However, the, in the end, “more pervasive view of colonies and colonists” began to prevail in Britain, that colonies were strategic and commercial resources to be subordinated to British global struggles with Spain and France. This lack of reciprocity between American beliefs concerning the legitimate forms of government over the colonies and those of the British can be explained in a number of ways that relate to our theme, that of sovereignty and, in particular, the supposed uniquely sovereign origin of law.

Briefly, one explanation is the British rulers’ fear of losing British possessions, and even the Isles themselves, to the Catholic powers, principally France. This is scarcely surprising. There had been major risings in favor of the exiled Stuart dynasty in 1715 and 1745, which were encouraged by Spain and France. The Jacobite Highland army reached Derby, in the English midlands in 1745 before retreating. They were not an unformidable foe, possessed of adequate and tactically generally well-placed artillery if lacking a supply of skilled gunners, backed by the feared Highland charge.42 But they were massacred by an outnumbering army of British regulars under the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden Moor in 1746, commemorated in one of the most poignant of British memorials to lost causes, its viciousness witness to the nervousness of the Hanoverian government. Neither the evaporation of Spanish and French support for the rebellions, nor the relative indifference of those English who might have risen to support the Young Pretender could have been predicted before the event. The burden of Lenman’s and Gibson’s collection is that, despite the defeat in 1746, the Jacobite threat, with overseas catholic support, could not at the time have been safely perceived as a paper tiger.43 Peter Marshall writes of the “dismay” among political leaders as “tension rose in the early 1750s”, prior to what then became the first of a half century of global war among the European powers, the comprehensive victory of Britain in which could not have been anticipated with any confidence at the beginning of the period.44 Given this context, there was, in the view of these rulers, he suggests, no room for a loosely confederated Atlantic empire of the kind the Americans in effect favored. The example of the Dutch Republic seemed at the time relevant. “No longer a nation” but a weak “disabled company of merchants”, sunk into “insignificancy” because their myopic pursuit of wealth had led them to overlook the need for centralized political authority, the United Provinces appeared to be in severe decline.45

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