A long-held view of the history of the English colonies that became the United States has been that England’s policy toward these colonies before 1763 was dictated by commercial interests and that a change to a more imperial policy, dominated by expansionist militarist objectives, generated the tensions that ultimately led to the American Revolution. In a recent study, Stephen Saunders Webb has presented a formidable challenge to this view. According to Webb, England already had a military imperial policy for more than a century before the American Revolution. He sees Charles II, the English monarch between 1660 and 1685, as the proper successor of the Tudor monarchs of the sixteenth century and of Oliver Cromwell, all of whom were bent on extending centralized executive power over England’s possessions through the use of what Webb calls “garrison government.” Garrison government allowed the colonists a legislative assembly, but real authority, in Webb’s view, belonged to the colonial governor, who was appointed by the king and supported by the “garrison,” that is, by the local contingent of English troops under the colonial governor’s command.
According to Webb, the purpose of garrison government was to provide military support for a royal policy designed to limit the power of the upper classes in the American colonies. Webb argues that the colonial legislative assemblies represented the interests not of the common people but of the colonial upper classes, a coalition of merchants and nobility who favored self-rule and sought to elevate legislative authority at the expense of the executive. It was, according to Webb, the colonial governors who favored the small farmer, opposed the plantation system, and tried through taxation to break up large holdings of land. Backed by the military presence of the garrison, these governors tried to prevent the gentry and merchants, allied in the colonial assemblies, from transforming colonial America into a capitalistic oligarchy.
Webb’s study illuminates the political alignments that existed in the colonies in the century prior to the American Revolution, but his view of the crown’s use of the military as an instrument of colonial policy is not entirely convincing. England during the seventeenth century was not noted for its military achievements. Cromwell did mount England’s most ambitious overseas military expedition in more than a century, but it proved to be an utter failure. Under Charles II, the English army was too small to be a major instrument of government. Not until the war with France in 1697 did William III persuade Parliament to create a professional standing army, and Parliaments price for doing so was to keep the army under tight legislative control. While it may be true that the crown attempted to curtail the power of the colonial upper classes, it is hard to imagine how the English army during the seventeenth century could have provided significant military support for such a policy.
The passage suggests that the view referred to at the start of the first paragraph argued that
- the colonial governors were sympathetic to the demands of the common people
- Charles II was a pivotal figure in the shift of English monarchs toward a more imperial policy in their governorship of the American colonies
- the American Revolution was generated largely out of a conflict between the colonial upper classes and an alliance of merchants and small farmers
- the military did not play a major role as an instrument of colonial policy until 1763
- the colonial legislative assemblies in the colonies had little influence over the colonial governors
It can be inferred from the passage that Webb would be most likely to agree with which of the following statements regarding garrison government?
- Garrison government gave legislative assemblies in the colonies relatively little authority, compared to the authority that it gave the colonial governors.
- Garrison government proved relatively ineffective until it was used by Charles II to curb the power of colonial legislatures.
- Garrison government became a less viable colonial policy as the English Parliament began to exert tighter legislative control over the English military.
- Oliver Cromwell was the first English ruler to make use of garrison government on a large scale.
- The creation of a professional standing army in England in 1697 actually weakened garrison government by diverting troops from the garrisons stationed in the American colonies.
According to the passage, Webb views Charles II as the “proper successor” (first paragraph) of the Tudor monarchs and Cromwell because Charles II
- used colonial tax revenues to fund overseas military expeditions
- used the military to extend executive power over the English colonies
- wished to transform the American colonies into capitalistic oligarchies
- resisted the English Parliament’s efforts to exert control over the military
- allowed the American colonists to use legislative assemblies as a forum for resolving grievances against the crown
Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the author’s assertion in the last sentence of the last paragraph?
- Because they were poorly administered, Cromwell’s overseas military expeditions were doomed to failure.
- Because it relied primarily on the symbolic presence of the military, garrison government could be effectively administered with a relatively small number of troops.
- Until early in the seventeenth century, no professional standing army in Europe had performed effectively in overseas military expeditions.
- Many of the colonial governors appointed by the crown were also commissioned army officers.
- Many of the English troops stationed in the American colonies were veterans of other overseas military expeditions.
The author suggests that if William III had wanted to make use of the standing army mentioned (the second last sentence of the last para) to administer garrison government in the American colonies, he would have had to.
- make peace with France
- abolish the colonial legislative assemblies
- seek approval from the English Parliament
- appoint colonial governors who were more sympathetic to royal policy
- raise additional revenues by increasing taxation of large landholdings in the colonies
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