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"Americans did not rebel from Great Britain because they wanted a different government. They rebelled because they believed that Parliament was violating constitutional precepts. Colonial Whigs did not fight for American rights. They fought for English rights."—from the Preface John Phillip Reid goes on to argue that it was generally the application, not the definition, of these rights that was disputed. The sole—and critical—exception concerned the right of representation. American perceptions of the responsibility of representatives to their constituents, the necessity of equal representation, and the constitutional function of consent had diverged gradually, but significantly, from British tradition. Drawing on his mastery of eighteenth-century legal thought, Reid explores the origins and shifting meanings of representation, consent, arbitrary rule, and constitution. He demonstrates that the controversy which led to the American Revolution had more to do with jurisprudential and constitutional principles than with democracy and equality. This book will interest legal historians, Constitutional scholars, and political theorists.
Designed for use in courses, this abridged edition of the four-volume Constitutional History of the American Revolution demonstrates how significant constitutional disputes were in instigating the American Revolution. John Phillip Reid addresses the central constitutional issues that divided the American colonists from their English legislators: the authority to tax, the authority to legislate, the security of rights, the nature of law, the foundation of constitutional government in custom and contractarian theory, and the search for a constitutional settlement. Reid's distinctive analysis discusses the irreconcilable nature of this conflict—irreconcilable not because leaders in politics on both sides did not desire a solution, but because the dynamics of constitutional law impeded a solution that permitted the colonies to remain part of the dominions of George III.
Using the British Empire as a case study, this succinct study argues that the establishment of overseas settlements in America created a problem of constitutional organization. The failure to resolve the resulting tensions led to the thirteen continental colonies seceding from the empire in 1776. Challenging those historians who have assumed that the British had the law on their side during the debates that led to the American Revolution, this volume argues that the empire had long exhibited a high degree of constitutional multiplicity, with each colony having its own discrete constitution. Contending that these constitutions cannot be conflated with the metropolitan British constitution, it argues that British refusal to accept the legitimacy of colonial understandings of the sanctity of the many colonial constitutions and the imperial constitution was the critical element leading to the American Revolution.
"Liberty was the most cherished right possessed by English-speaking people in the eighteenth century. It was both an ideal for the guidance of governors and a standard with which to measure the constitutionality of government; both a cause of the American Revolution and a purpose for drafting the United States Constitution; both an inheritance from Great Britain and a reason republican common lawyers continued to study the law of England." As John Philip Reid goes on to make clear, "liberty" did not mean to the eighteenth-century mind what it means today. In the twentieth century, we take for granted certain rights—such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press—with which the state is forbidden to interfere. To the revolutionary generation, liberty was preserved by curbing its excesses. The concept of liberty taught not what the individual was free to do but what the rule of law permitted. Ultimately, liberty was law—the rule of law and the legalism of custom. The British constitution was the charter of liberty because it provided for the rule of law. Drawing on an impressive command of the original materials, Reid traces the eighteenth-century notion of liberty to its source in the English common law. He goes on to show how previously problematic arguments involving the related concepts of licentiousness, slavery, arbitrary power, and property can also be fit into the common-law tradition. Throughout, he focuses on what liberty meant to the people who commented on and attempted to influence public affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. He shows the depth of pride in liberty—English liberty—that pervaded the age, and he also shows the extent—unmatched in any other era or among any other people—to which liberty both guided and motivated political and constitutional action.
English summary: The Federalist Papers are not only the intellectual underpinning of the US constitution but also its most important commentary. In it, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay combine democracy and representation, two concepts which had previously been regarded as mutually exclusive. Their ideas first made it possible to achieve democracy not only on a small scale but in a large continental state with a diverse population. Beatrice Brunhober however not only introduces the Federalist Papers into the academic discussion, a work on par with European classics of constitutional theory but for the most part overlooked in Germany, she analyzes the Federalist Papers and demonstrates how political decision-making by means of democratic representation are even possible in a pluralistic society. She furthermore establishes the foundations for an understanding of representation that neither requires the existence of a preceding entity, such as an ethnic people, nor is aimed at the incarnation of a specific concept, such as a presumed public benefit, and thus paves the way for the idea of democratic representation beyond the nation state. German description: Die Federalist Papers sind nicht nur das Credo der US-amerikanischen Verfassung, sondern auch ihr wichtigster Kommentar. In ihnen verknupften Alexander Hamilton, James Madison und John Jay die bis dahin als Gegensatze geltenden Ideen von Demokratie und Reprasentation. Damit wurde es moglich, Demokratie nicht nur im Kleinstaat, sondern auch in einem ausgedehnten Flachenstaat mit einer vielfaltigen Bevolkerung zu verwirklichen. Die Untersuchung von Beatrice Brunhober geht uber die Rezeption dieses Werkes, das den europaischen Klassikern der Verfassungstheorie ebenburtig ist, hinaus. So zeigt die Autorin in ihrer fundierten Analyse der Federalist Papers auf, wie demokratische Reprasentation einheitliche politische Entscheidungen in einer pluralistischen Gesellschaft uberhaupt erst ermoglicht. Sie ebnet mit ihren Grundlagenuberlegungen zudem den Weg fur eine Idee demokratischer Reprasentation jenseits des Nationalstaates.

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