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The British Imperial Pyramid of Power: Manning an Empire in the Long Nineteenth Centu ...

Chapter 1:  Legacies of Early Empire
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The British Imperial Pyramid of Power:

Chapter 1

Legacies of Early Empire

When a makeshift Colonial Office, tied to the War Office, took over responsibility for most British possessions in 1801 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, its senior clerks and secretary of state were familiar with the main characteristics of their territories. The most enduring was the source of their institutional legitimacy in the royal prerogative, shared with the growing authority of Parliament. Whatever repercussions, contrasts, and parallels there may have been between the Protestant Glorious Revolution as an attack on the Roman Catholic authority of James II in English politics and colonial America’s dissatisfaction with royal governors, the outcome was that “both King and Parliament did act to tighten colonial policy” in 1696.1 Dutch William and the Hanoverians inherited the same source of power as the restored Stewarts. In the following century, Parliament’s ministers would become serious defenders of Crown prerogatives in its settler colonies and enemies of rebellious settlers.

The reason lay, first, in the deeply rooted assumption that law and dominion overseas derived from the monarch’s prerogative, together with a doctrine of uniform nationality for British subjects, including those born overseas in the monarch’s territories. Second, it lay in the