Colonial élites. Rome, Spain and the Americas by Ronald Syme

By Ronald Syme

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The theme could be carried much further, if one toys with the fancy of prominent men from the colonies returning to public life in England. Their activities might not in themselves provoke disturbance or a revolution. Yet there might have ensued some bigger and better civil war in the British Empire, with a battle of Gettysburg decided along the escarpment ofNiagara. Speculation of this kind you might find empty and vain. I utter it only becausethere is this to be said-that almost anything can happen in history.

In all ages of history it is desirable to get away from generalizations and study individuals and families. The present argument is con- centrated on the higher ranks of society, neglecting the lower, because most is known about them-and, indeed, because they have the greatest freedom ofaction. But in passing let it be remembered that the history of the upper order in the Thirteen Colonies is not the whole history of English America. I have alluded to the contrasts of social life between North and South.

Once again, it is expedient to turn to details and facts about individuals and families. 16 Inquiry shows that this ' sugar lobby ' totalled only thirteen, although in passing it may be said that no fewer than seven were 57 COLONIAL ELITES ENGLISH AMERICA from Jamaica. 17 the same family group, being connected with William Beckford, the largest landowner in the island. The men of the Thirteen Colonies at this time were highly suspicious of the ' sugar aristocracy ' of the West Indies, perhaps unduly.

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