Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Peterson, Mark


This dissertation focuses on the constitutional politics of England, and then Britain’s, transatlantic empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through the lens of Jamaica and New York. In those two colonies, as in the rest of the Atlantic empire, colonial elites and imperial authorities were in perpetual political conflict. In this dissertation, I explain why the conflict persisted without resolution. Historians, though they rarely answer this question, have described fundamental transatlantic clashes of interests, and I take these as my starting point. I argue that each side’s ideological and material interests interwove with and sustained one another, and were simultaneously fundamentally opposed to those of the other side. Moreover, the political, cultural, and intellectual structures of the transatlantic empire ensured that metropolitan authorities could not simply impose their vision on the colonies. Instead, British imperial government depended upon the cooperation of local elites, who would never surrender their material and ideological interests to the crown. Equally, however, the imperial authorities would never permit assemblies to reduce the royal prerogative in the colonies as far as Parliament had done in Britain, nor would they suffer British material interests to be harmed. Both sides were thus unwilling to compromise, but neither had the means to coerce the other. I argue, therefore, that the framework of Britain’s first transatlantic empire ensured fundamental and irresolvable constitutional conflict between colony and metropole. Only a revolutionary imperial transformation could provide a solution.