The federal concept of empire during the colonial period



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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was a major movement within the British Empire, particularly in the American Colonies, toward the development of a federal system of government in the period immediately before and during the American revolutionary crisis, and to determine what, if any, were the changes in the attitudes of the people toward the concept of sovereignty during the era covered. Methods: A study was made using (1) biographies of colonial leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, James Otis, and others; (2) collections of writings and letters by the most important colonial and British statesmen; (3) histories of the political attitudes of the period covered; and (4) a close scrutiny of the general histories of the period. Particular attention was paid to developments which indicated changes in the concept of sovereignty. The study of American attitudes is in much greater detail than those of the British due to the greater availability of American reference materials. Findings: From the evidence presented in this study the following conclusions appear to be in order:

  1. There did exist, in fact if not in statute, a division of sovereignty during the period which extended from the founding of the colonies until the end of the French and Indian War. 2.The Colonists rejected first, the right of the British Parliament to fix taxes within America, second, the right of the British Parliament to legislate for the colonies. 3.The idea of compete sovereignty within one governmental unit was too strongly implanted. Federal proposals which might have partially satisfied both British and Americans had little chance of success. 4.Following the pamphlet “Common Sense” the Americans renounced their loyalty to the King and declared their independence. 5.Federalism, which might have delayed the separation, was not really accepted by most Americans as basis for their own government until after adoption of the Constitution.



British Empire, American Colonies, Federal System of Government, biographies of colonial leaders, political attudies, sovereighty