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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Debating and Creating Authority

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Elizabeth DaleDepartment of History, University of Florida, USA

ISBN13: 9780754621263
ISBN: 075462126X
Published: January 2002
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Ltd
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print



In the tight frame of its first 25 years, Massachusetts Bay dramatically altered its constitutional order. Founded as a theocracy, in which all human authority derived from God and was subordinated to divine command, by the end of the 1640s the colony had become an oligarchy, led by a few men who created their own authority and established the limits on their own almost unlimited power. This volume examines that shift.;At its most basic, it chronicles that evolution from its beginning in 1629, when a charter created the Massachusetts Bay Company, to the moment in 1648, when the colony adopted the collection of laws that set the new order in its place. This is not, however, simply a study of institutional change; it is a study of the process by which that change came about. Ultimately, the author's argument is that the colony began with a variety of conflicting attitudes towards human authority, which led to a series of debates about authority over the course of the next two decades. Those debates gradually led to the changes that converted the theocracy to an oligarchy. The terms in which the debates were conducted altered over time and the nature of those changes helped determine what solution the colony relied on in its attempt to resolve the problem of authority. To track that shift, this study traces the evolution of the constitutional order through a series of cases and disputes over law, exploring the language of those debates.

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Contents:
Imagining a polity; a system at odds with itself; crises of authority; failure of authority; authority and orthodoxy; reinterpretations; untethering the beast.