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  • The Mask of Guy Fawkes
  • Stephen Saunders Webb (bio)
Owen Stanwood. The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. ix + 277 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, and index. $45.00.

Daniel Defoe declared that, in England, “there were a hundred thousand country fellows . . . ready to fight to the death against popery without knowing whether popery was a man or a horse.” On Owen Stanwood’s showing, a lot of these belligerent bigots lived in England’s American colonies. There, as in England, antipopery pervaded politics—so much so that, Professor Stanwood asserts, the resistiveness of the colonists in the 1680s, culminating in “the coup that became known as the Glorious Revolution” (p. 1), was owing to the imperial authorities’ inadequate response to purported popish plots. After 1689, the failure of the revolutionary regimes to carry the war to Catholic New France led to a reaction in favor of empire. The restored royal executives “used the promise of security, couched in the language of centralization and the fear of popery, to build a popular movement for empire. By the eighteenth century . . . Anglo-Americans embraced their identity as the subjects of a powerful [and, surely, one must add, Protestant] English monarch” (p. 20).

Evidence for this conclusion is necessarily negative. Stanwood presumes a popularity for empire that, given the paucity of popular testimony, can only be deduced from outcomes. Yet the results of the Glorious Revolution actually repressed the antipapist populace and empowered a relatively rational elite. The revival of royal government was part of the process of domestic pacification and foreign war by which the turbulent seventeenth century became the stable eighteenth in less than a generation. Piety was replaced by order. Piracy was put down. Merchants were enriched. Mercantile wealth was enlisted in the cause of a constitutional monarchy by national recoinage, bank, and debt. State-sponsored capitalism underlaid national military strength. Marlborough’s victories supported the union with Scotland, which created Great Britain and a “Greater Britain,” as well, for the peace settlement licensed American expansion of British empire. Stanwood’s shorthand version of this stabilization is that the deposition of the Francophile Catholic, King James II, and his replacement by William of Orange—the military champion [End Page 537] of Protestant Europe—produced an imperial administration much more in tune with the concerns of England’s American colonists.

The American anti-absolutist agitations of the 1680s are Stanwood’s first concerns, the 1689 coups in the colonies, his second. Both subjects have been definitively dealt with. As Stanwood himself observes (p. 224n5), “this book builds on the one comprehensive survey of the colonies during the era of the Glorious Revolution, David S. Lovejoy, The Glorious Revolution in America” (1972). Professor Lovejoy’s thesis—that the colonial revolutionaries did not achieve political equality, either in 1689 or in the revolutionary regimes that ruled until 1692—undergirds Owen Stanwood’s argument about amplified imperial allegiance. Stanwood focuses on a smaller field than Professor Lovejoy. Concentrating on “the Northeastern settlements from New York to Nova Scotia” (p. 240n26), our author has to acknowledge “the definitive account” of Richard R. Johnson, Adjustment to Empire: The New England Colonies, 1675–1715 (1982). He might also have mentioned Philip S. Haffenden, New England in the English Nation, 1689–1713 (1974). Both Haffenden and Johnson discuss in detail the coup, the revolution that ensued, and the imperial integration imposed on New England by the Atlantic War.

Stanwood contrasts post–coup consolidation with the alleged failures of Restoration empire in New Hampshire. The royal governor, Edward Cranfield, “was the most principled defender of the royal prerogative working in the colonies during the 1680s” (p. 32). This is a rather odd assertion. General Thomas Dongan (New York), Colonel Herbert Jeffreys (Virginia), Major Edmund Andros (New York, until he was embroiled in an American episode of the Exclusion Crisis, so much to Stanwood’s point, but not discussed here), Sir Thomas Lynch (Jamaica), Sir William Stapleton (Leeward Islands), and Sir Richard Dutton (Barbados)—all governors general of unimpeachable and articulate royalism—were in office for extended terms in the major colonies during this decade. What is interesting about...