HST 141                                                                                                                                  Dr. Kerns


The Unfinished Nation: Chapter 4: The Empire in Transition


Chapter 4 Main Themes:


  1. The growing enmity between the British and French in North America, culminating in the Seven Years' War.


  1. The consequences of the Seven Years' War in driving further wedges between England and the people of the colonies.


  1. The policies taken by Parliament in the 1760's and 1770's that served to incite resistance and rebellion in British North America.


  1. The varied responses to English policies made by colonial leaders, and the growing cooperation among the thirteen colonies.


  1. The outbreak of military hostilities between England and the colonies in Lexington and Concord, and the start of America's War of Independence.



A thorough study of Chapter 4 should enable the student to understand:


  • The primary reasons for the growth of the differences between colonial Americans and the British government in the years leading up to the Revolution.


  • The growing conflict between the English, the French, and the Iroquois Confederacy, culminating in the Seven Years' War.


  • The three distinct phases of the Seven Years' War, and their implications for the colonies of British North America.


  • The effects of the war on the American colonists and on the status of the colonies within the British Empire.


  • The options available to the British for dealing with the colonies in 1763, and the reasons for adopting the policies that they chose to implement.


  • The importance of the series of crises from the Sugar Act through the Coercive Acts, and how each crisis changed colonial attitudes toward the mother country.


  • The change in American attitudes toward Parliament, the English constitution, and the king that resulted from the policies of George Grenville, Charles Townshend, and Lord North.


  • The meaning and significance of such slogans as "No taxation without representation."


  • The significance and accomplishments of the First Continental Congress.


  • The events of Lexington and Concord and the beginnings of the American Revolution.





Commonwealth   A political body governed by its own elected representatives.


Democracy   A system of government in which the ultimate power to govern resides with the people, and they exercise that power directly. Although not the prevailing system in colonial America (it is actually viewed with horror by colonial elites), elements of democracy were found in such institutions as church covenants and town meetings.


Federation   A union of sovereign powers in which each unit retains the power to control its own local affairs.


Imperialism   The policy of extending a nation's sovereignty to include possessions beyond the boundaries of the nation (colonies). In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this was directly associated with mercantilism.


Loyalists (Tories)   Americans who, for many and varied reasons, remained loyal to the king and were called Tories by American Whigs. The name Tory came from the English political faction that supported the king and was less willing to see Parliament (especially the House of Commons) rise to power. American Tories rejected this classification, calling themselves Loyalists instead. In fact, some Loyalists argued that the real threat to liberty was not the king and Parliament, but groups, such as the Sons of Liberty, that carried out their programs through threats and violence. By opposing such people, the Loyalists contended, they were the ones who stood firm against arbitrary rule and for representative government--in short, that they were the true Whigs.


New Colonial System   The system that emerged after 1763 (although there is evidence that the change was taking place in the 1740s) when the British government decided to reorganize the colonial system on more efficient (and profitable) lines. What it did was to alter the relationship between colonies and the mother country, stressing the supremacy of the latter just at the time that most North American provinces were feeling more secure and self-confident than ever before. Characterized by a series of acts that not only taxed the colonies, but also attempted to enforce collection, this "new" system stood in stark contrast to the "old" and raised fears in the colonies that if these actions were not opposed, even worse would follow. From the British standpoint, however, the "new colonial system" was simply an effort to get the colonies to pay for their own administration and to discourage the illegal trade that had flourished during the period of salutary neglect--neither of which concept the mother country felt was unreasonable.


Old Colonial System   The period extending from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid- eighteenth century, characterized by the acts, regulations, and enforcement institutions used by Britain to govern its colonies. Influenced by the theory of mercantilism, England first tried to direct colonial commerce through the mother country and regulate it through the Board of Trade and Plantations. But finding that the colonies (and, as a result, the empire) prospered under a less restrictive system, England eased enforcement, and the policy of "salutary neglect" (neglect for the good of all) emerged. It has been argued that had the British not altered this policy during and after the Great War for the empire, the American Revolution might not have taken place as it did, so content were the colonists with the economic freedom and relative self-government that the "old colonial system" provided.


Republic   A government in which, as in a democracy, the power to govern lies with the people, but the people exercise this power through elected representatives. Colonial elites distrusted this form as well, especially when low qualifications to vote threatened to allow mass participation. Nevertheless, this system was more acceptable than direct democracy was. For example, examine the colonial legislatures.


Right Of Revolution   A concept found in the writings of John Locke which holds that if a government denies its people their natural rights, those people have the right--indeed, the duty--to rise up against the oppressive government, overthrow it (by force if necessary), and establish a more responsive government in its place. This, Locke contended, was what had taken place during the Glorious Revolution. It was also, Thomas Jefferson later contended, what brought about the American Revolution.


Seigneuries   Large French estates. Such seigneuries along the bank of the St. Lawrence river helped to create the boundary line of French settlement before the Seven Years’ War.


Sovereignty   Supreme power, independent of and unlimited by any other force, as in a sovereign state.


Whig   The name given the English political faction responsible for the Glorious Revolution. Basing its power in Parliament, it opposed arbitrary rule by the monarch, calling instead for the country to be governed by the representatives chosen by those people qualified to vote (essentially an electorate limited to the upper-class males). In America, many who protested against England's new colonial system adopted the name Whig, to indicate that they, too, opposed arbitrary rule and believed that government should rest in the hands of the people's representatives. Their point, however, was that the British government (specifically Parliament at first and later the king) was attempting to govern without legitimate authority and that the true representatives of the people in the colonies were the colonial assemblies. In this way, colonial opponents of British policies called attention to their belief that their protests were part of the tradition of opposition to tyranny on which the very government they protested claimed to have been founded.