Books in Brief

The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding, by Eric Nelson (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press; 390 pp., $29.95).  Historians have long noted the seeming paradox that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution invested the office of the American president with greater powers than those enjoyed by the English king, whose “yoke” they had just thrown off.  This thoroughly researched, elegantly written, and extremely interesting book answers the question conclusively.  From the 1760’s to the 1780’s, Nelson explains, the American colonists reconsidered the nature of their relationship with the British government as they gradually came round to the view that Parliament, not the king, was their oppressor—a conclusion that reflected the royalist side of a debate concerning the relative power of Crown and Parliament that had preoccupied British politics for much of the century.  This was the view that was adopted by the colonial leaders who, after independence had been won, became known as the Federalists—men like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, who wielded a conservative influence during the Constitutional Convention, and afterward.  The Royalist...

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