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3 Am. Pol. Thought 1 (2014)

handle is hein.journals/ampolth3 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Political Theory in Institutional

Context: The Case of

Patriot Royalism


In the aftermath of the Stamp Act, prominent American thinkers of otherwise unques-
tioned Whiggish affiliation adopted an expansive view of the king's prerogative powers
while simultaneously denying Parliament's authority to interfere in the internal gover-
nance of the colonies. Scholars have generally attributed this stance, known as patriot
royalism, to political necessity: with no other means of disputing Parliament's op-
pressive actions, desperate pamphleteers sought to revive the discredited constitutional
ideas of the Stuarts. In contrast, we argue that this position was deeply rooted in the
institutional context of colonial governance. More specifically, we show that revolu-
tionary Americans directly experienced lawmaking by Privy Council and the Board of
Trade over which, as a practical matter, there was no higher authority. This conciliar
form of governance, which survived the break with England, exerted a significant in-
fluence on the constitutional framers and their handiwork.

Americans   are accustomed  to reading  words  of the United  States Constitu-
tion in light of their precise historical setting. Indeed, it would be considered
the height of foolishness to attempt  to discern the meaning   of, say, equal
protection without  reference to the social and institutional context in which
the phrase  is used. If anything, the British constitution, lacking a single or
express  text, requires even greater caution. No  phrases  have figured  more
importantly  in English (or American)   political history than lex terram and
per judicium  parium  suorum   in Magna   Carta. But no  one would  dream   of

John W. Compton is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, Chapman University
(compton@chapman.edu). Karen Orren is professor in the Department of Political Science, UCLA
   The authors would like to thank Joyce Appleby, Eric Nelson, Peter Onuf, Stephen Skowronek, and
the anonymous reviewers and editor of American Political Thought for their helpful comments and

American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, vol. 3 (Spring 2014).
2161-1580/2014/0301-0004$10.00. © 2014 by The Jack Miller Center. All rights reserved.

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