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Liberty and Empire

Liberty and Empire: British Radical Solutions to the American Problem, 1774--1776

Robert E. Toohey
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Liberty and Empire
    Book Description:

    Though little known to most students of the American Revolution, the British Radicals of the 1770s championed the rights of Americans while advocating parliamentary reform and denouncing British colonial policies. Outspoken, eloquent, and innovative, the Radicals encouraged the American cause. They voiced ideas on liberty and empire that would echo through American revolutionary documents.

    Liberty and Empire focuses on five British Radicals. The farsighted John Cartwright's ideas of reformation anticipated the Commonwealth of Nations. James Burgh's treatise on parliamentary reform became a classic text for both English and American reformers and an influence on the thinking of successive generations. The venerable Dr. Richard Price wrote one of the era's most eloquent statements on human liberty and the meaning of the American Revolution. Granville Sharp's advocacy of legislative rights for Ireland and America prophesied later principles of responsible government and home rule. Catharine Macaulay, fervent and notorious, urged the people of Great Britain to side with America.

    In this first comprehensive study of the British Radicals, Robert Toohey provides an overview of their political milieu and a synthesis of their ideas about the American crisis and related issues. Toohey outlines the ideological relationships among Radicals of diverse background and character. He discusses their impact on American thinking through their writings and their associations with Benjamin Franklin and others. And he reveals that Americans held no monopoly on enlightened concepts of human liberty, empire, and reformation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6480-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Perface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. One The Crisis of Empire
    (pp. 1-7)

    AS the Seven Years’ War came to an end in 1763 Great Britain’s position in the world reached unprecedented heights. Under the magnificent leadership of William Pitt, she was victorious in North America, India, and at sea. Her position among the imperial powers of Western Europe was dramatically strengthened at the expense of her traditional French and Spanish rivals. British pride and confidence were echoed in the imperial nationalism of the great Pitt. Under their new king, George III, Englishmen looked forward to a grand era of peace, prosperity, and imperial greatness. Despite burdensome taxes at home and displeasure toward...

  5. Two On the Eve of the American Revolution
    (pp. 8-23)

    WHAT is described as Radicalism in the England of the American revolutionary period formed only a secondary and divergent expression of British opinion at the time. The possibilities of organized parties were as remote to Radicals as they were to the men who sat in Parliament. Radicalism was concentrated mainly in London and Middlesex and represented the views of very few people out in the country. Lack of unity and common objectives among Radicals made it difficult to develop broad, firm agreement on the great issues of the period, including the American question. It will be the purpose of this...

  6. Three Radical Spokesmen on Imperial Crisis, 1774-1776
    (pp. 24-35)

    THE materials which shed light on extraordinary figures like John Cartwright, Granville Sharp, James Burgh, Catharine Macaulay, and Richard Price are not nearly as extensive as those which tell historians about the great men of the Whig Opposition in Parliament who opposed the government’s American policy. Yet there are sufficient sources of information available to us upon which we can form some concrete judgments about their roles in the imperial drama. Some of them were quite prominent in their day and their opinions were known on both sides of the Atlantic. Much information about them can be found in contemporary...

  7. Four A Commonwealth of Nations: John Cartwright
    (pp. 36-52)

    JOHN CARTWRIGHT, at the time a first lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was residing in London during the winter of 1773-74 when news about the Boston Tea Party was raising a furor among Englishmen. He probably thought intently about the American problem long before his recognition that Parliament, once it was reconvened at Westminster, was likely to vote for reprisals against the city of Boston. His decision to address himself to Parliament was probably prompted by that body’s initiation of the historic Coercion Acts and the appearance of a remarkable pamphlet written by the anti-American Josiah Tucker, dean of Gloucester...

  8. Five “Home Rule” for Ireland and America: Granville Sharp
    (pp. 53-63)

    GRANVILLE SHARP completely agreed with Cartwright’s ideas. HisA Declaration of the People’s Natural Right to a Share in the Legislaturefirst appeared during the spring of 1774, only a short time after the initial appearances of the Tucker and Cartwright publications. His principles of social justice and activities as a reformer, along with his familiarity withThe True Interest of BritainandAmerican Independence the Interest and Glory of Great Britain,stirred him to express his own ideas about the imperial situation. He combined the American problem with the even more ancient one of Ireland. Sharp drew upon his...

  9. Six Parliamentary Reform: James Burgh
    (pp. 64-80)

    JAMES BURGH’s ideas were permeated by a lofty moral tone which derived largely from his Presbyterian upbringing in Scotland. It was a quality often found among eighteenth-century Dissenters who were critical of English society and politics. He shared Catharine Macaulay’s scorn for aristocracy. He considered the Whig oligarchy of his day to be as morally iniquitous as it was politically corrupt. Radicals like Burgh often used the wordcorruptionwithin the context of contemporary Radical notions of personal morality, civic virtue, and political reform—an approach toward the existing political establishment which was far removed from Walpolian concern for its...

  10. Seven The Force of Public Opinion: Catharine Macaulay
    (pp. 81-89)

    FEW people in England received Burgh’sPolitical Disquisitionsas enthusiastically as did Catharine Macaulay. During the spring of 1775 she took up her own pen at her home in Bath and. entered the current pamphleteering fray withAn Address to the People of England, Scotland and Ireland on the Present Crisis of Affairs,a polemical appeal to all freedom-loving men in the British world to rally around the banner of American liberty. Her ideas carried the principles of James Burgh to their logical conclusion. If governments are negligent of their responsibilities to the citizenry, she wrote, then the people have...

  11. Eight A Question of Human Freedom: Richard Price
    (pp. 90-102)

    TO understand Richard Price the man is to understand a great deal about his ideas. Professor Carl B. Cone says,

    Those who knew him best called Richard Price good. . . . He was a good man in ideas, purpose, and conduct. . . . Unlike the eighteenth century philosophers whose heavenly city was nothing beyond a future earthly community to be built by enlightened secularist sophisticates, with deep humility he found the origin of everything and the destiny of everything in God, the wise and watchful and immediate ruler of the universe. He shared his century’s confidence in the...

  12. Nine Diverse Acquiescence in Radical Opinion
    (pp. 103-110)

    MOST British Radicals, for a variety of motives described in an earlier chapter, supported the ideas of Cartwright, Sharp, Burgh, Macaulay, and Price because of their antigovernment stands. The diversity of their antigovernment opinions, however, indicates that they could easily disagree on specific questions of imperial reformation just as they often disagreed on the extent of parliamentary reform and other issues directly related to home affairs. Nevertheless, this chapter will demonstrate how the pro-American Radical spokesmen of 1774-76 had a considerable influence on the manner in which English Radicalism reacted to the events of the American war until it came...

  13. Ten Whig Politicians on Radical Ideas
    (pp. 111-134)

    HOW did the great men of the Whig Opposition react to such novel ideas about the British Empire? To answer this question is not only to place Radical thinking within the perspective of contemporary British opinion as a whole but also to demonstrate some of the basic differences between English reformists and the politics of the old Whig ascendancy on the eve of the American Revolution.

    In the last weeks of 1773 before news of the Boston Tea Party reached London, many British politicians were more concerned about taxes at home and the dissolution of the present Parliament than about...

  14. Eleven British-American Radical Connections
    (pp. 135-155)

    THE American radicals whose decisions and actions set the stage for independence were aware of the sympathy given their cause by the British Radicals. Though the British Radicals’ American audience was largely confined to the remarkable group of patriot leaders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the ideas of Englishmen such as Burgh and Price were an encouragement, even inspiration, to the Founding Fathers of the Republic. American leaders in the Congress and the colonial assemblies appear to have overestimated the influence of the Radicals in England on the eve of the war, however. But the American patriots' principles—similar...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 156-174)

    JOSIAH TUCKER’s proposal for American independence was an idea more extreme than any of those urged by British Radical spokesmen in 1774-76 and, as the course of events proved, the dean of Gloucester found satisfaction in his accurate analysis of the American crisis. After the Continental Congress declared national independence to be America’s basic war aim in 1776, he could at least have agreed with the Radicals on several points. The bold enterprise of the Americans would, sooner or later, succeed. The British government’s resort to force in hopes of preserving the old colonial system in the rebellious colonies was...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 175-192)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-202)
  18. Index
    (pp. 203-210)