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Harvard Professor Nelson: The Royalist Revolution - Monarchy and the American Founding

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  • Harvard Professor Nelson: The Royalist Revolution - Monarchy and the American Founding

    Eric Nelson is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard University. His research focuses on the history of political thought in early-modern Europe and America, and on the implications of that history for debates in contemporary political theory. Particular interests include the history of republican political theory, the relationship between the history of political thought and the history of scholarship, theories of property, and the phenomenon of secularisation. Nelson is the author, most recently, of The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard/Belknap, 2014).

    Generations of students have been taught that the American Revolution was a revolt against "royal tyranny". In this revisionist account, Eric Nelson argues that a great many of the US-American “founding fathers” saw themselves as rebels against the British Parliament, not the Crown. The Royalist Revolution interprets the patriot campaign of the 1770s as an insurrection in favour of royal power - driven by the conviction that the Lords and Commons had usurped the just prerogatives of the monarch.

    Leading patriots believed that the colonies were the king’s own to govern, and they urged King George III to defy Parliament and rule directly. These theorists were proposing to turn back the clock on the English constitution, rejecting the Whig settlement that had secured the supremacy of Parliament after the Glorious Revolution. Instead, they embraced the political theory of those who had waged the last great campaign against Parliament’s “usurpations”: the reviled Stuart monarchs of the seventeenth century.