Topic 3

Political Traditions
and Structures




The Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768)

bulletCook, chap. 3
bulletSkemp, chaps. 2, 3
bullet Mass Assembly on Governor's salary, 1728
bullet Governor Burnet on salary, 1728
bullet Rev. John Maury to Rev. John Camm, 1759

Reading Notes & Questions

Sources & Links

OVERVIEW: By 1714 (the beginning of the Hanoverian dynasty) the First British Empire still had its characteristic contradictions. Its structure did not conform to the consolidated system suggested by the mercantilist theory of Empire and followed by Britain's imperial rivals. The British Empire in the 18th century --- driven by the forces of commerce in an expanding world market in which Britain would emerge as a dominant economic power and shaped by mercantilist theory and policy [see Topic 2] ---  was also shaped by:
bulletBritish politics and policies in the ages of Walpole and Newcastle
bulleta colonial policy of "salutary neglect" and decentralized government that accustomed colonists to considerable local autonomy
bulletpolitical structures and institutions in Britain and the colonies

THEME: During the first five decades of the Georgian Age there was a growing division between the theory of empire and the realities of politics both in the mother country and its colonies, a kind of discordance between English political and constitutional ideals and the realities of political life.


bulletThe Whig Supremacy & A Policy of Salutary Neglect, 1721-1748
bulletThe Age of Sir Robert Walpole as Prime Minister and the Duke of Newcastle as Secretary of State
bulletWhig Patronage Politics: administrative appointments, in England and the colonies, were used to maintain Parliamentary majorities. 
bulletColonial elites consolidated their positions using networks to politicians in London.
bullet Rise of colonial assemblies
bullet Institutions of Imperial Governance
bulletWalpole's policy of salutary neglect gave colonists considerable effective power. Even though England used a system of Mercantilism, Sir Robert Walpole espoused a view of "salutary neglect". This is a system whereby the actual enforcement of external trade relations was lax. He believed that this enhanced freedom for the colonists would stimulate commerce. Colonists came to see this arrangement as the true imperial constitutional structure
bulletLight interference from the Board of Trade, Secretary of State, and royal governors.
bulletWalpole's position begins to weaken
bulletExcise Crisis, 1733- provoked by Walpole's failed attempt to replace duties on tobacco and wine by internal duties (sales taxes) - weakened Walpole.  In maneuvering for support, he made concessions that affected the Empire [Note in the following examples the use of political brokering in England's parliamentary system to maintain power by doing favors for various group
bulletPowerful Irish lobby got the direct import of some colonial products
bulletEnglish hatters got the Hat Act, 1732, prohibiting the colonial export of hats
bullet Molasses Act, 1733: West India sugar lobby got a restriction of trade between the colonies and the French West Indies. It allowed the importation of French molasses but with a duty higher than on products of the British empire. The result was greatly increased smuggling. 
bulletTransition from Salutary Neglect to Unwelcome Attention, 1748-1760
bulletWalpole left office in 1742; Newcastle continued his policies while Newcastle's brother (Henry Pelham) served as Prime Minister
bulletBut in 1748 the Duke of Bedford (John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford  [1710-1771] became Secretary of State for the Southern Department (in charge of colonial affairs.) He was one of the political figures who had attacked Walpole . He was a leader of a faction of Whig politicians, known as the Bedford group, and had considerable electoral power.
bulletand the Earl of Halifax became President of the Board of Trade (1748-1761). A more vigorous attention to colonial affairs ensued. These new officials contested Newcastle's Walpole-like attitude to the colonies. They took a more aggressive stance towards the French in North America.
bulletThe Seven Years War (French & Indian War) or here
bullet William Pitt



Political Structures: Contradiction between theory and practice also marked political life in both Britain and America.
bulletTheory and Reality of Politics in Britain
bulletTheory and Reality of Politics in the Colonies
bulletColonists argued that their own colonial assemblies should regulate the internal affairs of the colonies, not Parliament in which they had no voice; the Parliament argued that it represented all the people of the empire [virtual representation].
bulletColonists in America:
bulletpushed against Governors' instructions
bulletasserted Assembly rights and powers
bulletcriticized royal vetoes of colonial laws and attempts to revoke colonial charters
bulletresisted the use of Writs of Assistance to search for smuggled goods

bulletThe Parsons' Cause, a focus for contradiction between theory and political experience
bulletEstablished Church in Virginia
bulletTwo-Penny Act of 1758 changes "tobacco currency". Bad harvests had raised price of tobacco, making it expensive for planters to pay debts expressed in poundage of tobacco. The Assembly passed law that all debts, contracts, and salary due in tobacco be paid with money instead at the rate of two cents per pound of tobacco. The market price of tobacco was six pence a pound, so this act devalued the currency. The governor approved the law though it did not contain the usual statement suspending its application until the Privy Council approved it.
bulletClergy were usually paid in fixed  rates of tobacco poundage. The new law would mean they get only about a third of their wages.  They petitioned London and the Privy Council disallowed the act.  Since the Council did not clarify whether the act was void from the start, clergy had to sue for back pay in county courts. There were five law suits and not one awarded back pay to the clergy because the juries consisted of hostile planters.
bulletThe Rev. James Maury of Fredericksville Parish was one of the plaintiffs.  Since his parish vestry were also judges of the county court, he sued instead in Hanover in April, 1762.
bulletMany dissenters in that location
bulletThe judge, Col. John Henry, found in favor of Maury, ruling that the act was void from the start. When the defense lawyer quit the vestry hired the judged son, Patrick Henry, a self-taught lawyer.
bulletSource: The Reverend James Maury to the Reverend John Camm, December 12, 1763


Reading Notes and Questions


Sources and Links

Magna Carta, 1215
Bill of Rights, 1689
Mass Assembly on Governor's salary, 1728 *
Governor Burnet on salary, 1728 *
Petition for Iron Making, c1750
Petition against Iron Making, c1750
Mayhew, A Discourse, 1750 *
Gov Glen on Indians in Imperial Rivalries,1761
Oconostota, Portrait by Francis Parsons, 1762
Otis, Speech on Writs of Assistance, 1761 *
Rev. John Maury to Rev. John Camm, 1759 *