Episode 039: Eric Nelson, The Royalist Revolution

Royalist Revolution

The American Revolution was a revolution against Parliament not a king.

This is the idea offered by Eric Nelson in his new book The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding.

Today, we explore the Royalist Revolution and how it affected the politics of the American Revolution with Eric Nelson.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Eric NelsonIn this episode, Eric Nelson, the Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard University and author of The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding, joins us to discuss a new interpretation of the American Revolution: The American Revolution was a revolution against Parliament, not King George III.

During our conversation, Eric helps us brush up on our English constitutional history so we can better understand what the royalist revolution was and how it came about. He also leads us on an exploration of how Great Britain governed its 13 British North American colonies and why some colonists argued that King George III should have more power to govern them, not less.


What You’ll Discover

  • How Eric Nelson came to write about the American Revolution as a revolt against Parliament, not King George III
  • The English Constitution and the powers it delegated to Parliament and the Monarch in the 18th century
  • Overview of the English Civil Wars
  • Overview of how the 17th-century English government worked
  • How the powers of Charles II differed from those of his father, Charles I, and grandfather, James II
  • Royal vs. proprietary colonies
  • The evolution of the different colonies and their governance
  • How Great Britain governed its North American colonies
  • The king’s “negative voice”
  • Why and how some colonists argued that the king was a better representative of the people than Parliament
  • Political ideology of 18th-century Whigs and Royalists
  • Why some colonists preferred the idea that the king, not Parliament should govern the colonies
  • How Royalist ideas about a strong executive figured into debates about the U.S. Constitution
  • Origins of the pro-legislature narrative of the American Revolution
  • How revolutionaries remembered the American Revolution
  • Overview of the Presidential Title Controversy
Howard Chandler Christy, Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion what might have happened if King George III had heeded the Americans’ call to take up his defunct power of negative voice?


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