The Imperial Constitution of the Law Officers of the Crown: Legal Thought on War and Colonial Government, 1719–1774
Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 2018
12 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 30, 2018
The rule of conquest came to receive different applications for different parts of the British Empire. How this happened, and who was responsible for it happening, are the interests of this article. Calling upon court reports, parliamentary records, and correspondence between various officeholders in the early Hanoverian government, attention will be drawn in particular to the attorney general and the solicitor general (the law officers of the crown) and the advice they offered upon the governance of colonies between 1719 and 1774. Focusing upon the conventions that pertain to war and conquest in Ireland, the Caribbean, India, and North America, this article reveals inconsistency in doctrine, but consistency in the procedures by which law officers of the crown acquired influence over proceedings in the houses of parliament and in the courts of common law and equity. Just as often in their formal capacities as in their informal capacities, the attorney general and the solicitor general were pivotal to the development of the imperial constitution, in constant response, as they were, to the peculiar demands of various colonies and plantations in the British Empire.
Keywords: Imperial Constitution, Crown Law Officers, Conquest, British Empire, Ireland, Bengal, Jamaica, Grenada, Quebec, America
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