Settlers, Liberty, and Empire

Settlers, Liberty, and Empire : The Roots of Early American Political Theory, 1675-1775

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Traces the emergence of a revolutionary conception of political authority on the far shores of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Based on the equal natural right of English subjects to leave the realm, claim indigenous territory and establish new governments by consent, this radical set of ideas culminated in revolution and republicanism. But unlike most scholarship on early American political theory, Craig Yirush does not focus solely on the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century. Instead, he examines how the political ideas of settler elites in British North America emerged in the often-forgotten years between the Glorious Revolution in America and the American Revolution against Britain. By taking seriously an imperial world characterized by constitutional uncertainty, geo-political rivalry and the ongoing presence of powerful Native American peoples, Yirush provides a long-term explanation for the distinctive ideas of the American Revolution.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139007408
  • 9781139007405

Review quote

'Craig Yirush's important and timely book on the political ideas of eighteenth-century white settlers in North America reorients and reinvigorates the study of colonial British American political thought in exciting new directions, adding an imperial and Atlantic perspective to debates over republicanism and liberalism. The resulting analysis adds depth and sophistication to our understanding of British settlers' intellectual world before the American Revolution.' Trevor Burnard, University of Warwick 'Settlers, Liberty, and Empire persuasively argues that the political ideas associated with the American Revolution already had a long genealogy by 1776. Craig Yirush demonstrates that the American commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property did not spring forth suddenly out of an imperial crisis. Instead, he shows that these ideas, which took shape in the complex and confusing world of Britain's Atlantic empire, with its overlapping jurisdictions and contested claims to power, were nurtured by generations of settlers living with the ambiguities of Britain's imperial constitution. This is a wide-ranging and powerfully illuminating work of scholarship.' Eric Hinderaker, University of Utah 'Craig Yirush's bold analysis finally provides a persuasive explanation for the distinctive amalgam of common law and natural law arguments that colonists deployed over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Settlers, Liberty, and Empire establishes a new foundation for understanding American political thought, and historians, political scientists, legal theorists, and political philosophers will need to rethink their work in light of Yirush's argument.' Elizabeth Mancke, University of Akron 'In this sophisticated intellectual history, Craig Yirush explores the great constitutional and legal debates that shaped a trans-Atlantic British empire. Yirush reveals the emergence of a colonial elite eager to remain in the empire but on their own terms, which meant having a free hand to make private property by dispossessing Indians. Deeply researched and carefully argued, Settlers, Liberty, and Empire probes the origins of American political thought.' Alan Taylor, University of California, Davis 'In Settlers, Liberty, and Empire, Craig Yirush offers a bracing picture of pre-Revolutionary British North Americans as laborers, rights-bearers, and pamphlet-writers ... Yirush's book is a valuable contribution to Atlantic history, the legal history of settlement, and early American constitutional history.' Alison LaCroix, Common-Place (common-place.org) 'The discovery at the heart of Settlers, Liberty, and Empire - and the achievement that centers the book securely between past and present - is its re-dating of the pre-Revolutionary tipping point backward in time from 1760-76 to the early and mid-eighteenth century (the 1720s to the 1750s). During the quarter century leading up to ... the pre-Revolutionary era, Yirush demonstrates, a deposit of political ideas generated by Restoration politics and by the Revolution of 1688 acquired critical mass.' Robert M. Calhoon, H-Albion (h-net.org/~albion)show more

Table of contents

Introduction: Jasper Maudit's 'instructions': the imperial roots of early American political theory; Part I. Restoration and Rebellion: 1. English rights in an Atlantic world; 2. The Glorious Revolution in America; Part II. Empire: 3. Jeremiah Dummer and the defense of chartered government; 4. John Bulkley and the Mohegans; 5. Daniel Dulany and the natural right to English law; 6. Richard Bland and the prerogative in pre-revolutionary Virginia; Part III. Revolution: 7. In search of a unitary empire; 8. The final imperial crisis; Conclusion.show more