February 6: Crisis of Empire (1763-1776)

[FrontPage Image Map Component] A symbol of the renewed British imperial control, a tax stamp required by the Stamp Act

We covered a lot of ground last time--perhaps too much--and don't worry if all of it wasn't clear. But there were a couple of major points to get down. First, as came through, I thought, very well in discussion, the real system of government that existed in the colonies by the 1740s was fundamentally unstable, a result not of sound decisions but short-term expediency on the part of the British government--i.e., be cheap, get rid of a few troublemakers, etc. Second, and something I should have stressed more clearly, this system, in which power was divided and in which the ultimate sovereignty was in question, was literally unthinkable to British politicians of the era. The combination of these two patterns, obviously, was bound to cause trouble at some stage.



sourcebook: Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

In the secondary reading, we will continue along with Bailyn's work. By now, though, you should recognize the thrust of Bailyn's argument, which focuses very much on the intellectual currents of the time. You might know the events of this period from other courses that you have taken. If not, though, you can link to this timeline.


The Declaratory Act (1766)
Continental Congress: Articles of Association (1774)
Common Sense [excerpt] (1776)


1.) Bailyn argues that British intellectual debates profoundly influenced developments in the colonies. Based on the documents, do you agree?

2.) What type of imperial order did the Declaratory Act envision? Were the views of the British as expressed in that document and the colonists in the Resolutions of the Stamp Act necessary irreconcilable?

3.) Of what precisely were the colonists afraid in the years before 1775?

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