Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Struggle For Power

I'm reading Theodore Draper's A Struggle For Power: The American Revolution.  Somebody recommended it to me.

A Struggle For Power is a 'startlingly original and magisterial account of the causes and nature of the American Revolution.'

Chapter One is the Seven Years War and what the implications were for 'the Colonies.'  After an unpromising beginning it began to become evident in 1760 that Great Britain would 'win' the American version of the Seven Years War.  A 'pamphlet war' then began as various pamphleteers attempted to make a case for what the spoils should be.  The French would cede Canada OR Guadalupe, their largest 'sugar island' in the West Indies.  Economically Guadalupe was probably worth more but Canada had economic benefits too and immense territory.  And was contiguous. 

Much of the debate revolved around which would keep the colonies 'in line.'  Leave the French in Canada to keep the colonies dependent on 'the mother country' for defense?  Franklin, living in England at the time, was among those arguing that there was no need to worry about the loyalties of the colonists.

Chapter Two looks back to the origins of the colonies, starting with Jamestown, and the fact that they were corporate, for-profit, expeditions.  Their charters granted them a great deal of autonomy and the fact that they were left to raise and spend revenues as needed and as they were able created self-sufficient political entities.

I'll begin Chapter Three tonight ...


  1. Chapter three describes how the colonies were governed, focusing on Virginia, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. All had 'Governors' appointed by the Crown, but these positions were essentially sinecures, rewards for previous service or connections, and mostly without any real governing power. Most of the governors never set foot in their respective colonies but rather appointed Lieutenant Governors, who were further crippled by being dependent on the Colonial Assemblies for their pay. It was these Assemblies that did all the actual governing.

  2. Chapter Four regards the discussion among the English thinkers of the fifty years prior to the Seven Years War as to how best to 'keep the Colonies dependent' on the 'Mother Country.' All recognized that thoughts of independence were natural and inevitable and the only way to keep the Colonies in the Empire was if there was a mutual dependence.

  3. Chapter Five highlights how the Mother Country was actually the dependent one ...

  4. Chapter Six reinforces Chapter Five, with a focus on the rapid population increase in the Colonies, which made them more and more valuable to the Mother Country ...

  5. Chapter Seven sets up the coming Seven Years War, especially the American part. Britain was trying to keep the colonies dependent, but also to safeguard them from the 'French threat.' A plan, The Albany Plan, was concocted to make the colonies more united and at the same time to strengthen the ties to the mother country and to reestablish de facto as well as de jure British rule, but for various reasons nobody liked the plan on either side of the Atlantic. The colonies thought they gave up too much sovereignty, the mother country thought their prerogatives were being usurped.

  6. Chapters eight, nine and ten show the colonies beginning to realize their common interest(s), a necessary precursor to independence, which no one was quite talking about yet. The Stamp Act was the bone of contention. Writers who were advancing the colonial cause tried to concede the supremacy of parliament in every other way, but not taxation. They expended great effort trying to square that circle; how could parliament be 'supreme' if they had only the authority which the colonies were willing to grant them?