II Independence and Nationhood
Despite the shared tradition of political liberty, relations between England and the colonies took a bad turn after 1760 when the home government attempted to reform colonial administration. If prudently managed, reform might have improved colonial relations, particularly if the home government had recognized political realities in the colonies. The assemblies claimed rights not recognized by parliament, and parliament claimed powers not recognized by the assemblies. Most Americans assumed that their assemblies had a constitutional role in government not unlike the role of parliament in England, while parliament regarded the assemblies as mere institutions of convenience. The contradictions needed sorting out before the competing claims caused serious trouble. But the situation required caution and mutual respect, because any attempt to impose unilateral changes would only make matters worse. The colonies were no longer shaky outposts of empire in the wilderness; they had become thriving centers of population, wealth, and political power with claims that no sensible home government could safely ignore.