A Struggle for Power Essay - Critical Essays

A Struggle for Power

Theodore Draper’s A STRUGGLE FOR POWER: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION is a bold reinterpretation of the coming of the American Revolution. A distinguished historian who has written about topics as diverse as the rise of the American Communist Party, Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in Cuba, and the Iran-Contra affair, Draper brings a fresh perspective to an oft-told story. He challenges the academic orthodoxy which for the past thirty years has argued that the underlying cause of the rift between the colonies and mother country was ideological. According to this dominant interpretation, the famous phrase “no taxation without representation” accurately summarized the issue that spurred Americans to rebel against the authority of king and parliament. Schooled in a heady mixture of Lockean political philosophy, with its emphasis on natural rights and representative government, and the “Commonwealthman” tradition of English radicalism, which had long criticized the oligarchic realities of power in London, the American colonists were intellectually primed to resist the encroachments of a British government determined to rationalize imperial administration in the 1760’s.

Draper does not dismiss the importance of the American revolutionaries’ beliefs, but argues that a preoccupation with them has obscured a more fundamental explanation of the breakdown of British authority in the thirteen colonies. Draper contends that a contest over power lay at the...

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