Jack P. Greene
THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
212pp. Cambridge University Press. Paperback, 15.99 [pounds sterling] (US $21.99).
978 0 521 13230 5
Jack P. Greene explains at the beginning of this book that what he is offering is an elaboration of arguments that he has already expounded in his very influential Peripheries and Center: Constitutional development in the extended polities of the British Empire and the United States 1607-1788, published in 1986. He sees further elaboration as necessary since he feels that neither his own book nor those of legal historians, above all the huge volume of John Phillip Reid's writings, have "managed to persuade scholars of the American Revolution to assign more weight to constitutional and legal issues in explaining that event". Be that as it may, a new book from Greene, argued with characteristic vigour and informed by massive scholarship is a most welcome event.
Legal issues cannot be ignored by historians, Greene insists, because Americans made their case against Britain primarily within the framework of the English jurisprudential conception of government, rather than by invoking the ideologies of classical republicanism or the radicalism of natural rights that surfaced in die Declaration of Independence. Those who argued for the colonies "demonstrated extraordinary learning in legal and constitutional matters, conducting their case like a court of common-law litigation in the...