The Concept of Representation in the Age of the American Revolution

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University of Chicago Press, 1989 - Law - 251 pages
"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.


The Concept of Consent
Mechanics of Consent
Concept of Representation
Theories of Representation
Responsibility of Representation
Accountableness of Representation
Authority of Consultation
Practice of Instructions
Corruption of Representation
Reformation of Consent
American Representation
Dilemmas of Consent

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About the author (1989)

John Phillip Reid is professor of law at New York University. He is the author of twelve books on political and legal thought, including The Concept of Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution, also published by The University of Chicago Press.

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