An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
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Finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in History
Written from a strikingly fresh perspective, this new account of the Boston Tea Party and the origins of the American Revolution shows how a lethal blend of politics, personalities, and economics led to a war that few people welcomed but nobody could prevent.
“A great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the edges,” observed Benjamin Franklin, shortly before the American Revolution. In An Empire on the Edge, British author Nick Bunker delivers a powerful and propulsive narrative of the road to war. At the heart of the book lies the Boston Tea Party, when the British stumbled into an unforeseen crisis that exposed deep flaws in an imperial system sprawling from the Mississippi to Bengal. Shedding new light on the Tea Party’s origins and on the roles of such familiar characters as Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, and the British ministers Lord North and Lord Dartmouth, Bunker depicts the last three years of deepening anger on both sides of the Atlantic, culminating in the irreversible descent into revolution.
The room was hot, lit by a blazing fire. Arriving late, Edmund Burke had to elbow his way in and found thirty-five members of the council already in session. With Sandwich, Suffolk, and Rochford among them, it was the largest assembly of the kind that Burke had ever seen. By now, the official dispatches had arrived, with a full account of the destruction of the tea. It was also known that in Philadelphia the tea ship Polly had been forced to sail back to England with her cargo after the
acknowledged,” see Public Advertiser, Aug. 24, 1772. 18. For “ill-delivered and formal,” see debate on Jan. 14, 1766, in PDNA, vol. 2, p. 72. 19. The Legges and the Norths: See ODNB, for Francis North, first Baron Guilford (1637–85), and George Legge, first Baron Dartmouth (ca. 1647–91). Financial affairs of Lord and Lady Dartmouth: Bargar, Lord Dartmouth and the American Revolution, pp. 5–8; and their marriage settlement and valuation of their estates in 1756, D1501/A/1/1-6 and
else, could decide what laws they lived by.14 It seems that Stephen Hopkins read the clause in precisely that way, and then, during the 1760s, he went further still to become a theorist of liberty for all the colonies, and not merely his own. Given his background, naturally he began by opposing the new Grenville taxes on sugar and molasses. To start with, Hopkins’s arguments did not seem new or unusual: like many other Americans he merely cited an ancient principle of English law, dating back to
Boulton lost the cash for the project in one of the insolvent banks. In London, Robert Adam had to hold a lottery, raising the funds to complete the Adelphi by raffling off five of the finest houses in the scheme. All of this occurred beneath the watchful eyes of visiting Americans, who promptly wrote home with the news. “Were I to recount the many Catastrophes that have happen’d & the many families reduced to want & Beggary I should fill a volume of incidents,” wrote a young man from Virginia
time Lord Dartmouth died at the turn of the century, the evangelical movement had ceased to be marginal. Instead, it became a powerful force within the Church of England, with William Legge among the men and women who did the most to bring this about. At its best, the movement could produce a hero like William Wilberforce, the antislavery campaigner. A fellow traveler with Dartmouth, he also knelt in prayer at the chapel of the Lock. At its worst, the evangelical revival merely reinforced a