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War, State, and Society in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland$

Stephen Conway

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253753

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253753.001.0001

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War and the State

War and the State

(p.33) 2 War and the State
War, State, and Society in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland

Stephen Conway (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the strength of the British state as a war-waging force, and its working with other groups beyond its complete control. Partnerships of various kinds were forced on, or engaged in willingly, by the British state in order to raise the necessary quantities of human, material, and financial resources for war.

Keywords:   British state, Seven Years War, France, army, navy, partnership

The nature and strength of the eighteenth-century British state have been subjects of considerable scholarly debate. Long ago, Otto Hintze, the pioneer of the theory of state formation, characterized the English historical experience as very different from that of continental Europe, and Germany in particular. He suggested that England developed a distinctive parliamentary system and amateur administration at the local level, and avoided the absolutism, strong central bureaucracy, and large standing armies that were to be found in many European polities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.1 The work of John Brewer has seriously challenged Hintze's long-accepted model. Although the distinctive position of Parliament was clearly important, and England and Britain did avoid continental-style absolutism—despite the obvious admiration of the later Stuart monarchs for Louis XIV—Hintze's belief that England managed without a bureaucracy and a significant standing army now seems highly questionable. Brewer, building on Peter Dickson's detailed study of the financial revolution,2 argued that a ‘fiscal-military state’ developed in England/Britain between the Glorious Revolution of 1688–9 and the end of the American war in 1783. A steadily expanding central bureaucracy, growing armed forces, and substantial levels of taxation and borrowing made possible by the emergence of Parliament as an entrenched institution formed the vital ingredients of this ‘fiscal-military state’. War-making efficiency, in Brewer's view, was the vital cause of Britain's rise from a marginal and second-rank player under the later Stuart monarchs to undisputed great power status at the beginning of the reign of George III.3 Brewer's thesis has been widely welcomed as a major contribution to our understanding of eighteenth-century Britain; within a few years of the publication of his work, a collection of essays dedicated to exploring the implications of his arguments for Britain and its empire appeared.4

(p.34) Yet, almost simultaneously, a somewhat different impression was emerging from the studies of other historians—an impression that at least partly vindicated Hintze's model. Paul Langford's picture of eighteenth-century England suggested that power was widely dispersed, and that in the localities a broadly based propertied class exercised considerable quasi-independent authority.5 There was nothing that inherently contradicted Brewer's thesis in Langford's work, since their focus was not the same; however, J. E. Cookson has taken Langford's localist perspective further, and explicitly argued that the British state, far from being strong, was weak—even in the key area of national defence. His detailed study of the mobilization of manpower in the long wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France highlights the dependence of the state on local agencies that were remote from, and often antagonistic to, central control.6

What does the British and Irish experience of war between 1739 and 1763 tell us about this historiographical debate? A case can certainly be made for the weakness of the British state; but a case can also be made—probably a more persuasive case—for its strength. The British state, moreover, seems to have increased in efficiency and effectiveness over the period considered here. Yet it remains undeniable that the state needed the assistance of private and local interests. Andrew Mackillop, in a study of the Highlands between 1746 and 1815 that broadly endorses Brewer's thesis, tackles this issue by arguing that the central state established a symbiotic relationship with local elites, whose authority in the Highlands was reinforced, while at the same time the state effectively conscripted them as its agents. He warns that ‘care must be taken when artificially dividing “the state” and local interests’.7 This approach has much to commend it, but a different way of looking at the relationship between the state and local and private interests is as a partnership. The balance of power within that partnership varied according to circumstances, but partnership was the key to Britain's ultimate success in mobilizing such impressive quantities of manpower, material, and money.


Before we explore these different arguments further, we need to be clear about definitions. The state is usually used as an abstract term for a political community resident within a defined territorial area, and more concretely to denote that community's embodiment in central or national governmental institutions. For our present purposes, what primarily interests us is the machinery of government. The King's servants constituted the main part of this machinery. Both George II and George III were also, of course, rulers of Hanover; but although there was much (p.35) debate about the relationship between Britain and Hanover, and much criticism of George II's Hanoverian orientation,8 the government of Hanover and the government of Britain were entirely separate entities, neither of which had any jurisdiction within the territory of the other. George II and George III ruled Hanover by virtue of their title as electors, not as kings of Great Britain. By the King's servants, then, we mean ministers, officers in government departments, members of the regular armed forces—anyone in the pay of the Crown, whether in Britain, or in Ireland, or in the colonies.

There is a case for saying that all governmental structures—local as well as national or imperial—are part of the state apparatus.9 There were certainly local functionaries appointed by central government, who acted as local agents of central direction. However, Justices of the Peace, the most important local officers, were in practice members of the local elite, who acquired their posts on the basis of their local reputation. They were not paid servants of the Crown, but local amateur administrators.10 They were meant to implement laws passed by Parliament, but how they chose to do that was very much their own affair.11 Sometimes they cooperated fully, as during the Austrian war when Westminster magistrates met with the commissioners appointed to execute legislation to promote army recruitment and discussed a schedule of further meetings in the different parishes.12 On other occasions, however, local justices were far from cooperative. A good and very relevant example of this would be the way in which magistrates frequently resisted the claims of naval press-gangs acting under the authority of the Privy Council: when Lt. James Ryder arrived in Hull in June 1758, he found that the mayor refused to assist him in pressing for sailors.13

If we accept that, at least for the present purposes, the state will be seen as central and national in its institutional form, there are still difficulties to address. Where do the Parliaments of Britain and Ireland and the assemblies of the colonies fit into the picture? Were they part of the state apparatus, or should we see them as checks on the power of the state? Consider first the British Parliament. While there were some MPs who were also government office holders, and others who were in receipt of pensions, the majority of MPs had no direct financial relationship with government. Large numbers of them, furthermore, thought of (p.36) themselves primarily as tribunes for their localities; most were elected on the basis of their local standing rather than on national political platforms. As Lewis Namier wrote many years ago, ‘The Commons were…originally a quasi-federation of shires and boroughs; the knights of the shire in the eighteenth century were the consuls of the county republics’.14 The legislature comprised representatives of different communities, many of whom were very locally oriented and displayed little or no interest in national issues. An indication of the importance of local concerns is the volume of legislation that dealt specifically with local and personal matters, rather than national ones: between 1714 and 1760 nearly three-quarters of all of the acts of the British Parliament came in this category.15 Paul Langford has gone so far as to argue that the legislature ‘resembled nothing so much as a gigantic rubber stamp, confirming local and private enterprise, but rarely undertaking initiatives of its own’.16 But it was equally true that Parliament as a body, whatever the dispositions and predilections of individual MPs, represented the nation as a whole, and as a national institution working with government to produce laws and raise taxes it can be seen as part of the fabric of the British state.

For much of the seventeenth century, the English legislature had acted as a check on executive authority rather than as part of government. However, as a result of the Revolution of 1688–9 and the long wars with Louis XIV, the Westminster Parliament was transformed from an occasional event and sometimes irritating thorn in the side of kings into an entrenched institution and a vital adjunct to government. Although in the eighteenth century the House of Commons was still thought to retain an important checking and balancing function,17 and was particularly keen to scrutinize government expenditure,18 its greater law-making and tax-raising roles made it more an instrument of the state than a focus for opposition to state power.19 The Westminster Parliament met every year from 1689, and soon flexed its muscles. In 1707 it absorbed the Edinburgh Parliament and became the British Parliament; in 1720 it claimed the right to legislate for Ireland; in 1766 it was to assert its right to do the same for the colonies, though in practice it had already been doing so for generations.20

(p.37) This imperial role clearly distinguished the British Parliament from the other legislatures of the empire, which we can characterize both as local bodies and as foci of resistance to the power of the central British state. True, from 1732 the Irish Parliament met in an imposing new building meant to demonstrate its importance,21 and in 1755 the speaker of the Irish Commons sent copies of the printed journals of his House to the British speaker, who ‘in respectfull return’ provided a set of the journals of the British Commons.22 But we should not mistake architectural pretensions and polite exchanges for equivalence between the two legislatures. In reality, the Irish Parliament was a local institution, with severely limited powers, rather than part of the machinery of the British state. The Dublin Parliament met only for a few months every two years. In theory, at least, it could not even begin to debate proposed legislation until the subject had been sanctioned in London (in practice, the device of considering ‘Heads of Bills’, rather than bills themselves, enabled the Irish Commons and Lords to initiate legislation, though it remained subject to interference and ultimate approval from London). In addition, as we have just seen, the British Parliament, from 1720, claimed the right to legislate for Ireland whenever it chose to do so. In practice that claim was exercised sparingly (and there was no attempt to tax Ireland from Westminster), but control of the army in Ireland was secured by the annual Mutiny Acts passed by the British Parliament and Irish overseas trade was regulated by British Acts of Parliament.

Unsurprisingly, this subordination caused resentment. In December 1759, there was serious rioting in Dublin when it was feared that a union between Britain and Ireland was in the offing, a union that would have meant the end of the Irish Parliament.23 The Irish people, the Archbishop of Tuam wrote with regard to the Dublin Parliament, ‘are unwilling to acknowledge the Dependency of this on the British L——sl——re, and … are all bred up in a settled Antipathy to the Superiority of the latter’.24 Irish parliamentary ‘patriots’ regarded themselves as the articulators of this resentment, and directed much of it at the Irish administration at Dublin Castle, which was recognized to be a mere extension of government from London. This meant that Irish patriots remained particularly wedded to seventeenth-century anti-executive rhetoric; in the Irish setting the ‘country’ tradition was fortified by a strong sense of injured national pride.25 Patronage, dispensed through the hands of the so-called undertakers—Irish (p.38) politicians of established standing and influence who ‘undertook’ to manage the Irish House of Commons for the administration at Dublin Castle—generally acted as a check on the appeal of patriotism, and ensured that the Castle usually had parliamentary majorities for its favoured measures.26 But the undertakers could not always be relied upon to deliver votes for the government. In November 1761, after one such parliamentary rebuff, the Earl of Halifax, the new Lord Lieutenant, complained that if the undertakers ‘coud not preserve ye Rights of the Crown from Such indecent & ill timed Attacks, they had not ye Interest they pretended to have’. The inability of the undertakers, combined with their ‘ill judged political Craft’, as Halifax put it,27 ultimately led British ministers—in the same spirit of reform that they brought to imperial issues—to review the Irish system after the Seven Years War.28 From the time of Viscount Townshend's viceroyalty (1767–72), Lords Lieutenant became resident and their chief secretaries emerged as the key figures in parliamentary management. But whether they were appointed by the chief secretary or the undertakers, even Irish placemen might ally with the patriot opposition on issues of real sensitivity.

What of the colonial assemblies? There can be little doubt that they exercised considerable authority within their communities—in that they were elected on a regular basis by a significant proportion of the adult white male population, they were held in much greater regard than Dublin parliaments elected only by Ireland's Protestant minority in very infrequent elections.29 The colonial assemblies were part of the governing machinery in the sense that they passed local laws and agreed local taxes, but it would surely be inappropriate to view them as instruments of the British state. They were no more sovereign within their own jurisdictions than the Irish Parliament was within Ireland; the British Parliament legislated for the colonies and the British Privy Council had the right to disallow acts passed by the colonial assemblies. And if they were clearly meant to be subordinate in the imperial structure, they were also, at the same time, fiercely resistant to central control. They saw their role, in line with classical English constitutional theory, as acting as a check on the power of the Crown, in the form of its local representatives, the governor and his subordinate civil officers.30 In America, (p.39) moreover, the assemblies were able to translate theory into practice more effectively than were country-minded Irish or British MPs. Patronage was not available to colonial governors on anything like the same scale as to the Irish undertakers or British ministers (though wartime mobilization did provide opportunities for skilful operators such as William Shirley of Massachusetts),31 and assemblymen in the North American provinces, answerable to a much larger electorate than their British and Irish counterparts, were less likely to accept compromising appointments and offer governors their uncritical support; consequently, colonial governments were not usually able to exert much influence over colonial legislatures. Indeed, in many provinces the governor found himself obliged to accept that the assembly voted his salary annually, rather than for his tenure, thus effectively surrendering to the assembly a substantial lever that could be used to ensure gubernatorial acquiescence in local resistance to unwelcome metropolitan interference and even gubernatorial approval of assembly bills that were contrary to royal instructions.32


If we return to the metropolitan core, it rapidly becomes apparent that, by modern standards, the eighteenth-century British state apparatus was decidedly small. Although the official armed forces expanded considerably in time of war,33 the number of civilian employees seems tiny compared with today's civil service. The revenue departments—especially customs and excise—were the most extensive; Brewer calculates that there were 6,765 full-time employees in the ‘fiscal bureaucracy’ in 1741 and 7,478 in 1763.34 Other departments had much smaller staffs: there were just thirty-seven Admiralty officials, ranging from the first lord to the ‘necessary woman’, or toilet cleaner, in 1727, and still only sixty in 1760. The Board of Trade employed a mere twenty-three people in 1727, and no more in 1760. The staff of the Treasury, in many ways the most important branch of the administration, was only fifty-one strong at the time of the accession of George III.35 Numbers are not everything, of course, and they need to be viewed in contemporary as well as historical perspective,36 but the small number of staff in the various offices of state (p.40) is not the only striking feature to the modern eye. Overlapping and competing jurisdictions hardly suggest a strong or efficient bureaucratic apparatus. The two secretaries of state, one for the northern department and one for the southern, each had responsibility for relations with foreign powers, sometimes leading to confusion over who should be dealing with a particular issue, or even the pursuit of two different foreign policies.37 Imperial administration was the responsibility of a bewildering number of different agencies—including the southern secretary of state, the Board of Trade, the Treasury, and the Privy Council, and the Cabinet— with the demarcation lines between them often difficult to determine.38 Worse still, perhaps, the Board of Trade, the body with the greatest expertise on colonial matters, had very little authority, whereas those with the greatest authority, namely the secretary of state and his Cabinet colleagues, often had the least knowledge.

There is certainly a case for saying that the wars of the mid-eighteenth century exposed the great limitations on the power of the British state. The recruitment of military manpower often depended upon individuals or corporate bodies remote from, or unconnected with, government. Most obviously, perhaps, the volunteer corps formed in both mid-century wars represented private initiatives, not government action. While the number of Britons and Irishmen under arms during wartime was increased considerably by the creation of bodies of volunteers, it would be wrong to see them as a force under the command of the state. Volunteer formations usually envisaged themselves as performing a purely local defence function, and we can be confident that they would have resisted any attempt by government to deploy them away from their home territory.39 We should also recognize that privateering vessels were most emphatically not under state control, even though they received their letters of marque, or licences, from government. As private ships, they were free for most of the time to operate in whatever way they chose. Although they sometimes cooperated with the Royal Navy, and they could be seen as a significant extension of British sea power (there were more than 1,100 of them in the Austrian Succession struggle, and in excess of 1,600 in the Seven Years War),40 it should be remembered that they were largely autonomous agents. The provincial regiments raised in North America, though they were placed under the command of British generals, were raised and paid for (at least initially) by the colonial assemblies, which, as we have seen, were famously resistant to control from London. The provincial troops, moreover, proved difficult to discipline; their tendency to take literally their terms and conditions of enlistment were a constant source of irritation to regular officers more accustomed to instant (p.41) obedience than negotiation and persuasion.41 But, whether they liked it or not, the British commanders needed the support of the provincials, the numerical contribution of whom to the war effort in North America was at least equal to that of the regulars. The Duke of Cumberland's comment to Lord Loudoun in October 1756 that, ‘execrable Troops as they are’, the provincials were ‘for some time at least, necessary to you’42 was to hold good for much longer than he anticipated—indeed, for the whole of the war. In April 1761, Amherst was still trying to persuade the various colonies to supply ‘with all possible dispatch, two thirds of the number of men, they furnished the last campaign’, and in February 1762 he was endeavouring to secure ‘the same number’ of provincial troops as ‘last year’.43 Nor should we forget that the fighting in Asia was largely conducted by the forces of the East India Company rather than the British army proper. Clive's tiny force that defeated Siraj-ud-daula at Plassey was largely made up of sepoys—there were more than 2,000 of them, out of a total of less than 3,000 troops under Clive's command.44 And when Colonel Draper took Manila in October 1762, a significant proportion of his little army again comprised sepoys and European troops in the pay of what was still in our period essentially a private commercial body.45

Even if we consider the more official armed forces, the role of individuals and groups beyond state control emerges as crucial in many instances. The noblemen's regiments recruited at the time of the 'Forty-five rebellion are a case in point. The noblemen in question, in return for pledging to form regiments, were given the right to nominate the officers—an important surrender of patronage by the state, which had the effect of reinforcing the autonomous local power of the nobles.46 According to the Revd William Stukeley, writing once the rebellion was safely over, ‘It appears to me very evident that it was the vast diligence of the nobility, and clergy, and gentry in raising troops, it was this only that saved us from the effects of the rebellion…. The King could not possibly have raised troops on a sudden, but the nobility raised 'em in a week's time.'47 There was, of course, a touch of hyperbole here—we know that some of the noblemen's regiments took much longer to raise than Stukeley admitted (Lord Berkeley's, recruited in Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties, took months to bring up to strength).48 (p.42) Nonetheless, Stukeley's observation was essentially sound; at a time of dire emergency, it was the willingness of leading landowners to use their influence that secured the necessary manpower, and the state had little choice but to use this route if it wanted to recruit a large number of soldiers in a hurry. Noblemen's regiments, though raised on somewhat different terms, were to be important again in the next war, and once more revealed the dependence of the state on the autonomous power of local elites.49 Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Scottish Highlands. The British state began a concerted drive to break the clan system and ‘modernize’ Highland society in the aftermath of the 'Forty-five.50 Lord Hardwicke, the chief architect of the legislative onslaught that began in 1746 and only finished in 1752, was alarmed that the new Highland regiments raised from 1757 represented a big step backwards, as they seemed to re-legitimize the old clan system. However, Hardwicke's objections were not sufficient to prevent the regiments being raised, for the simple reason that without clan-based regiments, and the sponsorship and active participation of the Highland chiefs, there would have been no mobilization of the Highlanders. If the British state wanted to tap Highland manpower effectively, it could do so only through the traditional leaders of Highland society and military units built on clan loyalty; the British state itself had neither the power nor the prestige to attract large numbers of Highlanders into existing regular regiments.51 A similar point could be made about naval mobilization. Nicholas Rodger has demonstrated that landed officers used their territorial influence to recruit men from amongst their family employees and dependents.52 Nor should we forget that local authorities, and particularly borough corporations, provided extra recruitment incentives, in the form of bounties for new naval and army entrants. The governing bodies of towns even raised regiments of their own—such as the Liverpool Blues in the War of the Austrian Succession—using the opportunity, no doubt, to expand the corporation's patronage base.53

To supply the armed forces with their requirements—food, clothing, weapons, munitions, transport, and, in the case of the navy, warships—was a considerable undertaking.54 The state did not even begin to attempt to produce all of the necessary goods itself. There were, to be sure, the royal docks that built and serviced naval vessels at Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth and a number of smaller yards. However, in time of war, these government facilities were unable to cope with greatly increased demand, particularly for smaller craft. Contracts with private shipyards were therefore essential to secure the quantity of ships needed by the navy.55 The movement of soldiers, equipment, and supplies was even more (p.43) dependent upon private contractors. Merchant ships were hired by the Navy, Victualling, and Ordnance Boards to carry expeditions overseas, to take armies or smaller detachments from one theatre of operations to another, and to transport supplies. To give just a small example: in January 1743 the Victualling Board hired thirteen ships to convey food stocks to the fleet operating in the Mediterranean.56 On land, the army and militia were similarly reliant on the short-term hiring of civilian wagons and horses. There was no regular military transport system; even the Royal Artillery depended upon civilian drivers hired for each campaign to move its ‘train’ of guns, powder, and ammunition. In 1755, for instance, fifty-two drivers and 130 horses were provided by the contractors Warrington and Baldwin, for that year's train; when the Rochefort expedition sailed in 1757 it included another contingent of civilian drivers and horses hired for the artillery, while during the Portuguese campaign at the end of the Seven Years War, more than a hundred local drivers were hired to move the guns, powder, and shot.57 While brass-founding and gun-boring were carried out by the Ordnance Board at Woolwich, most weapons were not produced in government armouries, but by private contractors—iron and steel manufacturers made muskets, cannons, swords, and bayonets for the armed forces, and also supplied them with shot. Gunpowder was produced in government-run mills from 1759, when the Ordnance Board purchased facilities at Faversham in Kent; even so, private firms produced and supplied most of the powder that was used by the army, navy, and militia.58 Army uniforms, though produced to official specifications—patterns were approved by the Board of General Officers from 1708—were not made in government-run mills and workshops; private manufacturers and suppliers were paid to provide the clothing that was needed. Finally, the vast quantities of foodstuffs consumed by the armed forces were also supplied on a contractual basis. The Victualling Offices in London, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, it must be said, baked and packed ships' biscuits, and salted and pickled beef and pork.59 However, although the navy and army established depots for meats, bread, grains and dairy products, these items were produced and provided by contractors and subcontractors. Beer was made in breweries run by the Victualling Board, but in time of war these establishments—like the royal dockyards—were unable to cope with the volume of extra demand, and so private brewers supplied the considerable shortfall.60

The state's reliance on private enterprise clearly enabled some contractors to exploit their position of strength. During the 'Forty-five rebellion, the Earl of Cholmondeley, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire and governor of Chester Castle, who was empowered by the Government to secure foodstuffs, clothing, and footware for the troops moving north to engage the Jacobite forces, found himself in a very (p.44) vulnerable position indeed. He needed supplies desperately, and he was acutely aware of how easy it was for hard-headed farmers and tradesmen to take advantage of his situation. In November 1745, as he prepared to purchase cereals for the soldiers and forage for the army's horses, Cholmondeley worried about the need ‘to prevent Combinations, among farmers’ designed to push up the prices of the commodities that he required. His suspicion was understandable, for at the same moment he was experiencing great difficulties with another set of producers. Shoes were usually supplied to the army at between three shillings and fourpence and three shillings and eightpence a pair; but Cholmondeley discovered that the local master shoemakers, having agreed with him verbally to provide as many pairs as possible for four shillings each, were now demanding four shillings and a penny.61 In the next conflict, John Ball, who supplied lead for the armed forces, regarded the Ordnance Board as ‘the best of Customers’, since it ‘always pay[s] 10s a Ton more than the Merchants’.62

The state was obliged to find the money to pay for the vast majority of war-related costs, whether they were incurred in recruiting or maintaining the armed forces.63 But even in this vital area, government was again reliant on individuals and groups beyond its control. When the state borrowed money—and borrowing, as we will see, was crucial to war finance—the terms it secured were dependent on the willingness of wealthy businessmen and investors to purchase government stock. The interest rates offered on government issue were at least partly a product of intense negotiations between ministers and private financiers. The Government, particularly at times of dire need and national emergency, could find itself obliged to accept much more generous rates than it wanted to pay, as in March 1746, when the continuing Jacobite rebellion obliged ministers ‘to raise money at a high interest’.64 Nor was the taxation necessary to service the debt always secured easily. In March 1742, just after Walpole's fall, the new chancellor of the exchequer, Samuel Sandys, was attacked by Tory MPs when he proposed the continuation of the four shillings in the pound land tax: they complained that they believed that Sandys had promised them that every effort would be made to reduce the burden by a shilling.65 Two years later, Pelham found the House of Commons unwilling to accept his proposed sugar duties.66 True, most MPs were reluctant to be seen to be hindering the effective prosecution of military and naval operations by objecting to the required taxes, but when they were asked to pay for the deployment of troops on the Continent, there could be substantial opposition. In January 1742, for instance, 160 MPs voted against a motion to continue paying the army in (p.45) Flanders.67 Parliamentarians were even less inhibited when it came to post-war taxes, which were just as necessary if interest on the national debt was to be paid. In February 1767, the Commons refused to sanction a continuation of the land tax at four shillings in the pound, and insisted on its reduction to three shillings.68 Some years earlier, the battle over the cider tax, introduced by Bute's Government in March 1763, demonstrated the protracted difficulties that the state could face. Opposition within the British Parliament to this new excise was fierce, yet far from insurmountable: at no point did more than 120 MPs vote against the bill. But the popular outcry in the western apple-producing counties was picked up and stimulated by sections of the press, and Bute, disconcerted by the ferocity of the personal attacks launched on him, resigned. His successor, Grenville, was then faced with a determined campaign to repeal or at least revise the unpopular impost. Early in 1764 the Government defeated a proposal to modify the cider tax by a majority of only twenty votes. In his budget of that year, presented to the Commons in March, Grenville promoted parliamentary taxation of the American colonies; with tax resistance a major problem in post-war Britain, new sources of revenue had to be found. Anticipating difficulties in squeezing more money out of reluctant British taxpayers, Grenville had begun to prepare the ground for parliamentary taxation of the colonies soon after taking office.69 But the recurring imperial crises that Grenville's American taxes initiated underlined, perhaps more than anything else, the severe limitations on the power of British Governments.


There are, however, other ways of looking at the mobilization of manpower and resources, and even the exertion of British authority in the colonies, that point to very different conclusions. Consider again the expansion of the armed forces. Whatever the contribution of autonomous local agents, the state had overall control of the process and responsibility for keeping the army, navy, and militia in being. While some of the soldiers were incorporated in regiments raised by the local influence of noblemen, and their officers chosen by those noblemen to boost their local power bases, all officers received commissions from the Crown and were therefore ultimately under the command of the King and his ministers. Moreover, local elites competed with each other in offers to raise troops, especially towards the end of the Seven Years War, with the result that on some occasions the state could choose between different suitors, acceding to the request that offered the best chance of raising the stipulated number of men in the shortest possible time.70 The militia, (p.46) originally intended by its supporters as a locally controlled check on central authority, as well as a defensive force, was reformed in 1757 in a way that effectively made it an adjunct of the army rather than an alternative to a centrally controlled professional military force. At least some of its officers resented any attempt to portray the militia as different from the army proper.71 The pay of the army, the navy, and the militia was supplied by government, acting through Parliament. Nor should we forget that the state directly involved itself in recruitment. The least important aspect of this involvement, in numerical terms, was the offering of royal pardons to convicts on condition that they served in the army or navy. More productive was compulsion in the form of the press-gang. Naval conscription was deeply unpopular; it was resisted at the local level and criticized in the British Parliament. But there was no gainsaying that without it the navy would have found it very difficult to man the King's ships with the number and kind of men that it required.72 Pressing was also used to augment the army, through government-sponsored Recruiting Acts. Resistance was again considerable, so much so that this method of raising troops was dropped during the Seven Years War, and the number of men compelled to serve under the provisions of the Acts was not very substantial, considering the total number raised during the two conflicts.73 On the other hand, the success of the Recruiting Acts should not be measured just by reference to the impressment clauses; they also offered inducements, and probably stimulated much larger numbers of men to join the colours voluntarily. Indeed, the state was perhaps rather better at offering carrots than it was at using sticks. The opportunity to practice a trade regardless of local guild restrictions—an instance of the state ignoring, or even trampling upon, entrenched local interests—and the prospect of land being offered in North America were incentives that encouraged men to become soldiers.74

If we look again at the ways in which the armed forces were maintained, it similarly becomes clear that the role of the state was far from minimal. The royal dockyards were amongst the largest units of production in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland.75 George Wansey, a Wiltshire clothier, visited Portsmouth in August 1741 and was deeply impressed by the scale of the dockyard facilities: ‘we saw the Masthouse in which were a great Number of Masts some very large & other pieces of Timber, & many Men at Work;… We saw the Ropehouse of a prodigious Length, the Tar Furnaces, the Mast-ponds’.76 Portsmouth, as Wansey's wide-eyed description suggests, was a vast industrial complex, as were Plymouth and Chatham. They covered hundreds of acres and had workforces larger than any contemporary company. At the height of the Austrian war the British yards employed 8,500 men between them.77 While private yards built many craft in (p.47) wartime, the larger ships were all constructed in the royal dockyards, which were also the only ones equipped to carry out major repairs. There were no other state enterprises to match the royal docks, but the state established the regulatory framework within which civilian contractors were obliged to operate. The production of cannons, for instance, was largely undertaken by private iron producers; the Board of Ordnance, however, inspected the finished products rigorously, and those that failed to meet the required standard were rejected.78 The Victualling Board, surely the largest single purchaser of foodstuffs at the time,79 was also able to exercise some influence over the quality of the products that it bought. A vital part of the regulatory framework was the use of export embargoes. These were ostensibly designed to prevent valuable supplies reaching the enemy, but they also had the advantage, from the Government's point of view, of helping to build up stocks and therefore reducing the market price.80 As Waddell Cunningham wrote from New York in May 1756, ‘There is a Prohibition from exporting Provisions which stops the shipping off of Rice. It is at present A very dull article here [and] may be bought at 12s per hundredweight.’81 If the state as purchaser might at times be exposed to individuals and groups determined to maximize their profit at public expense, we should remember that the Government and its agencies, with substantial buying power at their disposal, were often in a position to make or break smaller suppliers. John Warrington, who provided horses for the artillery, found himself having to accept appreciably less favourable terms from the Ordnance Board in the later stages of the Seven Years War: down from a shilling per horse per day in 1760, to ten and a half pence per horse per day in 1761.82 Contractors frequently complained of late payment,83 or of the need for more orders to justify investment.84 Their willingness, despite these complaints, to continue providing supplies suggests that they, rather than the state, were in a position of dependency. More generally, it could be argued that the extensive use of private contractors was a symptom not of the weakness of the British state, but of its strength. Contractors would have been (p.48) reluctant to tender for business if they had little or no faith in the reliability of their paymaster.85

Indeed, the state's crucial role in mobilizing resources for war is nowhere clearer than in relation to public finance. There was, as we have seen, post-war tax resistance, and rates of interest were influenced, of course, by the demands of the major moneylenders. There were also, as noted, times of acute stress and worry for treasury ministers and officials. But the general picture is much more positive. The army and navy expanded enormously, especially in the Seven Years War, and the militia was reformed and mobilized from 1757. In both mid-century conflicts Britain's military reach was extended by paying for foreign auxiliaries and subsidy allies on a vast scale: in the Seven Years War some 30 per cent of the money appropriated by the British Parliament for the army was spent on foreign troops.86 The war effort in the colonies was also substantially supported by parliamentary contributions. In the Austrian war, Massachusetts was reimbursed for at least some of its expenses, and in the next struggle the colonies generally were able to secure metropolitan funds to cover about half of their military costs.87 Vast sums, in short, were found to pay for a global war effort, and this must surely be counted as a substantial achievement. The necessary taxes were raised: there was even remarkably little resistance to settling the army's extraordinary expenses—that is, the amount that exceeded the anticipated expenditure presented in the annual estimates.88 Borrowing was not always easy, but, even when there were difficulties, the required sums were secured in the end. Here we should note that in the negotiations with the major lenders, it was not always that state that was in a position of dependency. In 1742 the Bank of England lent the Government £1.6 million without interest, in return for a renewal of its charter. Two years later, the East India Company similarly advanced £1 million at only 3 per cent interest as part of a process designed to secure a renewal of its commercial privileges.89 Indeed, such was the general willingness to lend, that in January 1756, when a subscription was opened for £2 million, some £800,000 was pledged on the first day.90 The Government was usually able to secure loans at remarkably low rates of interest. The £12 million borrowed in 1762 required only 4.8 per cent interest, and the £2 million in 1756 just 3.4 per cent.91 In the previous war, the £4 million raised at (p.49) the end of 1746 was secured by offering only 4 per cent.92 Though additional inducements such as free lottery tickets and extra stock were often necessary, and increased the total cost to the state, it remains the case that these rates were certainly not high by contemporary and historic standards.93

It might seem that the imperial dimension points to the opposite conclusion—for here the weakness of the British state is certainly more apparent than its strength. We have already noted that substantial compromises were required to mobilize American manpower and resources effectively during the Seven Years War—compromises that suggest the very limited ability of the King's servants to impose their will. The failure of the post-war attempts to tax the colonies, and the eventual breakaway of thirteen of the colonies to form the United States, is also strongly suggestive of the weakness of the British state apparatus. Yet there is a different story that can be told. Loudoun might have complained bitterly of the lack of cooperation from the colonial assemblies, and he certainly made less progress militarily than Amherst, who was able to benefit from Pitt's concessions to American sensitivities, but we should not underestimate how much Loudoun achieved as commander-in-chief. His triumphs were logistical, rather than on the battlefield, but none the less important in paving the way for the more obvious successes of those who followed him. His use of embargoes, as we have seen, was part of this logistical preparation, for it enabled him to impose some control over the availability and price of provisions and transport. His embargo policy could not be sustained indefinitely, and eventually collapsed under the pressure of colonial resistance, with Loudoun predictably denouncing the assemblies again for their lack of public spirit. But the system, based on his fiat as the King's commander-in-chief in North America, lasted long enough for him to secure the supplies and transport he needed for his 1757 Louisbourg campaign. What was surprising, surely, was not that the embargoes ultimately failed, but that the different colonies abided by them for as long as they did. Perhaps we should take this as an indication that, despite Loudoun's complaints, his authority as the King's representative carried more weight with the colonists than he was willing to acknowledge.94 Loath as they were to recognize the British Parliament's claims to sovereign authority, the Americans seem to have been much more willing to accept exercises of the Crown's prerogative.

Although we might interpret the post-Seven Years War drive to tax America as a consequence of the resistance to further fiscal demands in Britain, and therefore as (p.50) an essentially defensive move, illustrative of the limited power of the state, the project of extracting a revenue from the colonies can equally well be seen as a symptom of great confidence on the part of British Governments, the British Parliament, and the whole state machine. Nearly twenty years earlier, in the aftermath of the 'Forty-five rebellion, the power of the British state had been asserted in very confident manner. When the House of Lords debated the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in Scotland, Lord Hardwicke brushed aside the objection that these jurisdictions were protected by the terms of the Act of Union of 1707. There could be no restrictions, he argued, on the sovereign legislature.95 The same confident logic was to be expressed during the disputes with the American colonies that followed the assertion of the British Parliament's claims to be an imperial legislature, complete with taxing powers. After having emerged triumphant in a titanic struggle with France and Spain, British ministers were prepared to address what they saw as the flaws in the imperial system—flaws that had been recognized for many generations but had been left unremedied for fear of provoking trouble. The lax or expedient old ways were no longer considered acceptable. A ramshackle and loose-reined empire was to be transformed, by greater central control, into a more cohesive and sustainable whole. American taxation was undoubtedly linked to domestic fiscal pressures, but it was also part of a more general reforming impulse, designed to bind the empire more closely together and impose stronger direction from London. This reforming impulse explains the attempts made to tighten up and enforce the Navigation laws regulating colonial commerce, exemplified in an order in council of 1 June 1763, which sought to revitalize the customs service, and the creation of an American Board of Customs Commissioners in June 1767; it also accounts for the importance that Charles Townshend and his successors attached to ‘independent Salaries for the civil officers in North America’ as a means of reducing the power of the colonial assemblies and making the officers more effective tools of imperial government.96


By focusing on the victorious finale of Britain's long and near continuous struggle against France, we can all too easily slip into the assumption that the British state gradually improved its efficiency, by an incremental process, until it reached its acme of achievement in the triumphs of the Seven Years War. The truth, inevitably, is more complex; a linear narrative oversimplifies the story. It could be argued, for instance, that as the demands of war increased, the state became more reliant on agents beyond its control—as in the case of the noblemen's regiments in both mid-century struggles, and particularly the Seven Years War, when compulsion in the (p.51) form of the Recruiting Acts was replaced by the raising of units that depended upon the local influence of peers and gentlemen and surrendered to those local elites important patronage powers. Equally, it could be argued that the British state's attempt radically to remodel Highland society in the aftermath of the 'Forty-five Rebellion represented an exertion of power as ambitious as anything tried in relation to America from 1763: Bob Harris has described it as ‘the greatest episode of state-sponsored social engineering’ attempted in eighteenth-century Britain.97 It could also be said that the legislative assault on the clan system, and Highland life generally, while less than fully successful, and somewhat undermined by the partial rehabilitation of the clan structure for military purposes in the Seven Years War, achieved more, from the British state's perspective, than the attempted reform of the North American colonies. The first eventually allowed the Scottish Highlands to be properly incorporated into Britain and for the military potential of the Highlanders to be tapped for the British state; the second led to determined resistance, open revolt, and finally the breakaway of most of the mainland colonies.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for believing that the efficiency of the British state apparatus increased over the period covered by the two mid-century wars. This owed less, it might seem, to structural changes designed to improve performance, than to the commitment and energy of individuals. The Board of Trade, founded in 1696 to oversee colonial development, underwent no significant reform during our period (though its formal powers were enlarged in 1752).98 However in the aftermath of the Austrian war, when the British Government became more aware of the value of the colonies, the Earl of Halifax was appointed as its new head, and his taking office meant that more than twenty years of declining influence and activity for his department was reversed in a determined drive to assert more control from the centre and to resist the erosion of the authority of the colonial governors.99 Likewise, the secretaries of state ran an office whose responsibilities and functions remained unchanged until a third secretary—for the colonies—was created in 1768. It was not until defeat in the American war that a fundamental reform took place, abolishing the post of colonial secretary, and reallocating the northern and southern secretaries' responsibilities to new offices under secretaries of state with responsibility for home and foreign affairs, respectively. The coordinating activity of Pitt in the Seven Years War was attributable not to any formal changes in the scope of the southern secretary's responsibilities, but to his own determined—not to say power-hungry—personality.100

However, this overlooks apparently small-scale technical improvements and bureaucratic refinements that enhanced the efficiency of many branches of the (p.52) state apparatus, and the recruitment of more officers to carry out the required work. The Treasury became more and more effective in controlling contract costs: it encouraged supply ships to sail in convoy to reduce insurance rates, and established increasingly robust auditing procedures to limit the scope for fraudulent behaviour. Contracts were also usually entered into on a short-term basis, allowing for revision of terms at renewal and providing a further check on costs.101 In the revenue service, upon which the whole war-waging system relied, numbers of officers not only increased, as we have seen, but the excise commissioners in 1758 asked their own juniors for suggestions on improving the administration of the malt tax in preparation for an increase in the duty. The next year the excise began a comprehensive survey of the nation's retail outlets to ensure that duties were collected more effectively.102 The excise service, as Brewer has demonstrated, was well-trained, well-educated, and technically competent,103 and it seems to have become still more effective as the demands of war greatly increased the need for money.

The navy can be seen in a similar light. Its increase in size—in terms of both manpower and ships—was of course vital. No less importantly, perhaps, the development of the Western Squadron to control the Western Approaches and the Bay of Biscay in the Austrian war is now seen as a major advance that enabled Britain's geographical strength to be harnessed effectively for the first time. The Western Squadron not only protected inward and outward bound British trade, but was also in a position to intercept French overseas commerce and to prevent the French navy leaving its Atlantic bases, particularly Brest in Britanny. Dominance in European waters was in due course to translate into control of more distant oceans, as the French ability to reinforce their ships in North America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean was severely hampered.104 Experience had also enabled the navy to become much more adept at working with the army in amphibious operations: the coordinated and well-organized campaigns in the Caribbean at the close of the Seven Years War suggest considerable improvements on earlier botched combined attempts such as at Cartagena in 1741 and Rochefort in 1757.105 But there were also technical and procedural advances that contributed to enhanced efficiency. Perhaps the most notable amongst these advances was the gradual introduction of anti-scorbutics to combat scurvy, one of (p.53) the health hazards that regularly reduced the capability of the fleet. James Lind's work, first published in 1753, though not initially responsible for change, marked the beginning of a long-drawn out process of dietary improvement.106 We might also note that the Commissioners for Sick and Wounded, who were first constituted in 1653, were appointed only on a temporary wartime basis until 1748, when they became a permanent body. Furthermore, a new hospital at Haslar, in Gosport, was constructed from 1746 to 1762, and a smaller establishment at Plymouth was built between 1757 and 1760.107 In the dockyards themselves, there was an improvement in facilities for building and repairing ships, and—perhaps more importantly—a new culture of inspection developed after the Austrian war, with a ‘visitation’ by the Admiralty in 1749 inaugurating a series of further inspections and producing a new standing order in 1750 designed to eliminate identified abuses.108 Naval officers went into uniform for the first time in 1748, and while this was a development that they themselves suggested as a means of greater differentiation, it symbolized the way in which the navy was losing the final vestiges of its pre-professional past.

The army also not only grew in size, but in professionalism, effectiveness, and cohesion. The redcoats who broke when faced with the Highland charge in the 'Forty-five, and whose shortcomings in wilderness warfare were brutally exposed by the Amerindians and French Canadians ten years later, had become a much more tactically flexible and formidable fighting force by the time they campaigned in the Caribbean in the closing stages of the Seven Years War.109 This owed little or nothing to the emergence of formal officer-training; though artillery and engineer officers were schooled at Woolwich from 1741, there was no military academy in Britain or Ireland for the infantry and cavalry. However, there was a good deal of attention to improving drill and tactics, some of it inculcated in treatises written by former or serving officers, and more picked up through experience and adaptation.110 Rather less obvious, but important symbolically, was the change in the way the army's regiments were identified. During the Austrian conflict, they were named after their colonels, reflecting the extent to which they were still seen in a proprietary light. A royal warrant of 1751 numbered the regiments, and at the same time colonels were forbidden to put their own coats of arms on regimental flags.111 In the next war, although the use of colonels' names persisted in some (p.54) quarters, numbering made it clear that the regiments were regarded as part of a whole—a state-controlled whole—rather than privately run units that came together to form the army. This change reflected a long-drawn-out process whereby the scope for army officers to run their companies and regiments as semi-autonomous fiefdoms, through which they could generate a private income, was gradually eroded. The end of the practice of putting fictitious names on muster rolls, and claiming non-existent men's pay; the introduction of more effective reviewing procedures; and new methods of checking regimental accounts—reforms completed in the aftermath of the Seven Years War—had been brought in incrementally between 1716 and 1766. But the period of the mid-century wars saw an intensification of this process, with important developments occurring during the two conflicts.112


If the British state was, by the standards of the time, efficient and effective in waging war, and seemingly becoming more so, that does not mean that the role of autonomous institutions, groups, and individuals beyond its control should be minimized. Rather than seeing the experience of the mid-century wars as demonstrating the strength or the weakness of the British state as an engine of war, we would do better to consider the successful mobilization of unprecedented levels of manpower, the harnessing of considerable material resources to sustain British, colonial, and allied armed forces, and the raising of the money to pay for all this effort, as the work of a highly productive partnership between Government and local and private effort.

As with all partnerships, the balance of power shifted according to circumstances. When the state needed men, supplies, or money desperately, it had to offer more in return to local elites, contractors, and financiers than it might have wished to do. Pitt's concessions to the colonial assemblies during the Seven Years War, which finally produced provincial forces large enough to make the fall of French Canada almost inevitable, can be seen in this way.113 On the other hand, members of local elites in Britain and Ireland often competed with each other for state favours, leading them to offer to raise more soldiers than their rivals in order to secure commissions for themselves or relatives or dependents. Contractors often had to work in a similarly competitive environment, and so were obliged to offer terms and conditions that were satisfactory to Government. Financiers like-wise often faced low rates of interest because of a general willingness to lend to the state.

(p.55) The agendas of the partners were undeniably in many senses very different, and once the mid-century wars were over, partnerships tended to break down. Regiments raised by large landowners or borough corporations in Britain and Ireland, or by the provincial assemblies in the North American colonies, were disbanded, ending, or at least reducing, the patronage opportunities that those regiments had provided. Contracts to supply the diminished armed forces were fewer in number and often smaller in value. Large new loans to fund a war machine were no longer required. But so long as the wars lasted, the different priorities of the partners were not a major impediment to the partnership's effective functioning. Profit, advancement for individuals, and extra power for local institutions were not necessarily, or even usually, incompatible with public service. Private and local interests gained enough from the relationship for the partnership to be mutually beneficial and generally effective in producing the required quantities of human, material, and financial resources.

The skill of Britain's military and naval commanders no doubt helped to ensure victory in the Seven Years War. Luck also played a part.114 None the less, even the most skilled commander, blessed with a prodigious amount of luck, could not have prevailed without manpower, military and naval hardware, supplies, and the money to pay for his battles and campaigns. The peculiar character of the British economy, with its high level of commercial exchange and limited barter component, certainly helped here, for it made tax assessment and collection easier than in France and many of Britain's other enemies or allies.115 The peculiarities of the British state helped too—by the standards of the time, it was efficient and effective, and apparently becoming more so by the end of our period. The state could not mobilize manpower, resources, and money on its own, however. Without the help of individuals and groups beyond its control, such a mobilization would not have been possible. Rather than seeing this as a weakness of the state, we should regard it as proof of the existence of a partnership between Government and local and private interests. That partnership deserves a place in any explanation of Britain's success in the Seven Years War.


(1) See Thomas Ertman, ‘Explaining Variation in Early Modern State Structure: The Cases of England and the German Territorial States’, in John Brewer and Eckhart Hellmuth (eds.), Rethinking Leviathan: The Eighteenth-Century State in Britain and Germany (Oxford, 1999), 24–5. See also Felix Gilbert (ed.), The Historical Essays of Otto Hintze (New York, 1975).

(2) P. G. M. Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England: A Study of the Development of Public Credit, 1688–1756 (London, 1967).

(3) John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State 1688–1783 (London, 1989).

(4) Lawrence Stone (ed.), An Imperial State at War: Britain from 1689 to 1815 (London, 1994).

(5) Paul Langford, Public Life and the Propertied Englishman 1689–1798 (Oxford, 1991).

(6) J. E. Cookson, The British Armed Nation 1793–1815 (Oxford, 1997).

(7) Andrew Mackillop, ‘The Political Culture of the Scottish Highlands from Culloden to Waterloo’, Historical Journal 46 (2003), 531.

(8) See Chs. 6 and 8.

(9) See, e.g., Joan R. Kent, ‘The Centre and the Localities: State Formation and Parish Government in England, circa 1640–1740’, Historical Journal, 38 (1995), 363–404; ‘Introduction’, in Brewer and Hellmuth (eds.), Rethinking Leviathan, 19–20; Michael J. Braddick, State Formation in Early Modern England c. 1550–1700 (Cambridge, 2000), ch. 1.

(10) Hence the importance of the unofficial guide to their duties, compiled by an experienced practitioner, Richard Burn's The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer (2 vols., London, 1755), which ran through numerous editions.

(11) For the Irish situation, see Toby Barnard, The Kingdom of Ireland 1641–1760 (London, 2004), esp. 119.

(12) London Metropolitan Archives, Westminster Sessions Papers, WJ/SP/1745/04/01.

(13) HMC, Du Cane MSS (London, 1905), 224. See also, for resistance to pressing generally, Nicholas Rogers, Crowds, Culture and Politics in Georgian Britain (Oxford, 1998), ch. 3, and Ch. 6 in this book.

(14) Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (2nd edn., London, 1957), 5.

(15) Julian Hoppit, ‘Patterns of Parliamentary Legislation, 1660–1800’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996), 117 (table 1).

(16) Langford, Public Life and the Propertied Englishman, 166.

(17) See, e.g., [Anon.,] An Essay on Civil Government. In Two Parts: Part I. An Enquiry into the Ends of Government, and the Means of Attaining them. Part II On the Government and Commerce of England; with Reflections on Liberty, and the Method of Preserving the Present Constitution (London, 1743), 256; Richard Meadowcourt, The Duty of Considering Our Ways, Explained. In a Sermon Preached at the Cathedral Church of Worcester, April 11, 1744. Being the Day Appointed for a General Fast (London, 1744), 13; Thomas Pownall, Principles of Polity, being the Grounds and Reasons of Civil Empire (London, 1752), 9.

(18) See Julian Hoppit, ‘Checking the Leviathan, 1688–1832’, in Patrick O'Brien and Donald Winch (eds.), The Political Economy of British Historical Experience 1688–1914 (Oxford, 2002), 267–94.

(19) For the increasing volume of legislation passed by the British Parliament after 1689, see Hoppit, ‘Patterns of Parliamentary Legislation’.

(20) See H. T. Dickinson, ‘Britain's Imperial Sovereignty: The Ideological Case against the American Colonists’, in Dickinson (ed.), Britain and the American Revolution (London, 1998), 64–96.

(21) See Edward McParland, ‘Building the Parliament House in Dublin’, Parliamentary History, 21 (2002), 131–40.

(22) NLI, Shannon Papers, MS 13299, Arthur Onslow to Henry Boyle, 6 Dec. 1755.

(23) See, for the Duke of Bedford's view, SP 63/416, fo. 219. For a modern account of the riots, see Sean Murphy, ‘The Dublin Anti-Union Riot of 3 December 1759’, in Gerard O'Brien (ed.), Parliament, Politics and People: Essays in Eighteenth-Century Irish History (Dublin, 1988), 49–68.

(24) Derbyshire RO, Wilmot Horton of Catton Collection, D 3155, WH 3457, letter to Sir Robert Wilmot, 1 Jan. 1760.

(25) See J. L. McCracken, ‘Protestant Ascendancy and the Rise of Colonial Nationalism, 1714–1760’, in T. W. Moody and W. E. Vaughan (eds.), A New History of Ireland, iv. Eighteenth-Century Ireland 1691–1800 (Oxford, 1986), ch. 5.

(26) See Eoin Magennis, The Irish Political System 1740–1765: The Golden Age of the Undertakers (Dublin, 2000).

(27) NLI, MS 8064, Halifax's Journal, 5 and 10 Nov. [1761].

(28) For the background to the changes, see Martyn J. Powell, ‘The Reform of the Undertaker System: Anglo-Irish Politics, 1750–1767’, Irish Historical Studies, 31 (1998), 19–36.

(29) Until 1768, the Irish Parliament was subject to general elections only on the accession of a new monarch: there was no Irish general election between 1728 and 1761. For elections and the electorate in the colonies, see Robert J. Dinkin, Voting in Provincial America: A Study of Elections in the Thirteen Colonies, 1689–1776 (Westport, Conn., 1977). For the responsiveness of colonial assemblies to the needs of their electorates, see Alison G. Olson, ‘Eighteenth-Century Colonial Legislatures and Their Constituents’, Journal of American History, 79 (1992), 543–67.

(30) See Ian K. Steele, ‘The British Parliament and the Atlantic Colonies to 1760: New Approaches to Enduring Questions’, Parliamentary History, 14 (1995), 29–46, for the view that the colonial assemblies were influenced by the development of the constitutional position of the English/British Parliament, and saw themselves as following Westminster's model.

(31) See William Pencak, ‘Warfare and Political Change in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts’, in P. J. Marshall and Glyn Williams (eds.), The British Atlantic Empire before the American Revolution (London, 1980), 51–73.

(32) See [Thomas Pownall,] The Administration of the Colonies (London, 1764), 45–7. For the experience of one governor, see Eugene R. Sheridan (ed.), The Papers of Lewis Morris, iii. 1738–1746 (New Jersey Historical Society, xxvi, Newark, N.J., 1993), 342. For the rise of the colonial assemblies, see Jack P. Greene, Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville, Va., 1994), ch. 7.

(33) See Ch. 3.

(34) Brewer, Sinews of Power, 66 (table 3.2).

(35) J. C. Sainty, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, iv. Admiralty Officials 1660–1870 (London, 1975), 101–2; idem, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, iii. Officials of the Board of Trade (London, 1974), 79; idem, Office-Holders in Modern Britain, i. Treasury Officials 1660–1870 (London, 1972), 102.

(36) See Ch. 11.

(37) See H. M. Scott, British Foreign Policy in the Age of the American Revolution (Oxford, 1990), esp. 12–14.

(38) See P. J. Marshall, ‘The British State Overseas, 1750–1850’, in Bob Moore and Henk van Nierop (eds.), Colonial Empires Compared: Britain and the Netherlands, 1750–1850 (Aldershot, 2003), esp. 173–7, for the view that the East India Company's bureaucracy was more impressive than the British state's.

(39) See Chs. 3 and 8.

(40) David J. Starkey, British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century (Exeter, 1990), 121 (table 7) and 165 (table 13).

(41) For the ‘contractualism’ of the provincials and their resistance to command by regulars, see Fred Anderson, A People's Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1984), 167–95.

(42) Stanley Pargellis (ed.), Military Affairs in North America 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle (Hamden, Conn., 1969), 251.

(43) CO 5/60, 416–17; Nottingham University Library, Galway MSS, Ga M 84.

(44) Jeremy Black, Britain as a Military Power, 1688–1815 (London, 1999), 133.

(45) The East India Company insisted on its right to take control of the new conquest until the King's wishes were known: see Nicholas P. Cushner (ed.), Documents Illustrating the British Conquest of Manila 1762–1763 (Royal Historical Society, Camden 4th ser., viii, London, 1971), 41.

(46) See, e.g., William Salt Library, Congreve Papers, SMS.521, for Lord Gower's regiment.

(47) The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley, ii (Surtees Society, lxxvi, Durham, 1883), 336.

(48) Gloucestershire RO, Bond of Newland Papers, D 2026/X42. For the process of recruiting the Duke of Bedford's regiment, which also took rather longer than Stukeley suggested, see Bedfordshire RO, Russell Papers, Box 769.

(49) See Richard Middleton, ‘The Recruitment of the British Army, 1755–1762’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 67 (1989), 234–7; and Ch. 3 in this book.

(50) See Ch. 5.

(51) See Chs. 3 and 8.

(52) See N. A. M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (London, 1988), 155–7.

(53) See Chs. 3, 4, and 8.

(54) See Ch. 4.

(55) See, e.g., Beaulieu, Montagu Estate Papers, ‘Ships built for Government at Bucklers Hard from Septr. 1743 to January 1791’; and Gill Simmons, ‘Buckler's Hard: Warship Building on the Montagu Estate at Beaulieu’, New Acadian Journal 35 (1993), 24–45.

(56) ADM 110/13, fo. 92.

(57) WO 55/2, fos. 25, 120; WO 55/3, fo. 56.

(58) Jenny West, Gunpowder, Government and War in the Mid-Eighteenth Century (London, 1991), esp. 149–66.

(59) Rodger, Wooden World, 83.

(60) Peter Mathias, The Brewing Industry in England 1700–1830 (Cambridge, 1959), 201–4.

(61) Cheshire RO, Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley Papers, DCH/X/9, 10. See also 17, 21, 42. For a not dissimilar example of a contractor extracting additional sums for footware, apparently through failing to include shipping and freight charges in the original tender, see Centre for Kentish Studies, Amherst MSS, U1350 O36/21, 21A and 21B.

(62) NLW, Powis Castle MSS, 1249.

(63) See Ch. 4.

(64) HMC, Du Cane MSS, 106.

(65) Stephen Taylor and Clyve Jones (eds.), Tory and Whig: The Parliamentary Diaries of Edward Harley, 3rd Earl of Oxford, and William Hay, M. P. for Seaford 1716–1753 (Woodbridge, 1998), 180 (Hay's journal, 12 March 1742).

(66) PH, xiii. 652.

(67) Ibid., xii. 940. For opposition to war in Europe, see Ch. 6.

(68) Brewer, Sinews of Power, 132.

(69) Philip Lawson, George Grenville: A Political Life (Oxford, 1984), 147–9, 170, 173–4. For Grenville's preparations for American taxation, see 190, 193–4.

(70) See, e.g., BL, Barrington Papers, Add. MS 73, 628, fos. 37, 69, 79.

(71) See Ch. 6 for more on this subject.

(72) Rodger, The Wooden World, 150.

(73) See Ch. 3.

(74) For land grants in North America, see Chs. 4 and 5.

(75) See Daniel A. Baugh, British Naval Administration in the Age of Walpole (Princeton, 1965), ch. 6.

(76) Wiltshire RO, Wansey Papers, 314/6, ‘A Journal of the Travels of a Week to Southampton, Isle of Wight, & Portsmouth’.

(77) R. J. B. Knight, ‘The Building and Maintenance of the British Fleet during the Anglo-French Wars, 1688–1815’, in Martine Acerra et al. (eds.), Les Marines de guerres européennes, XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1985), 38.

(78) See, e.g., correspondence and papers relating to the delivery of cannons to the Ordnance Office during the Seven Years War in Somerset RO, Dickinson Papers, DD/DN 498.

(79) In Sept. 1759, when the Victualling Board was worried that it had an inadequate supply available, there were 142,602 lbs of butter and more than 300,000 lbs of cheese in store at Plymouth and Portsmouth alone. See NMM, Victualling Papers, MS 84/057, ‘A State of the Butter & Cheese’. For the impact on the wider economy, see Ch. 4.

(80) See PRONI, Bedford Papers, T 2915/5/42, where Primate Stone warns that this is widely suspected to be the true reason for the embargo on Irish exports in 1758.

(81) Thomas M. Truxes (ed.), Letterbook of Greg and Cunningham 1756–57: Merchants of New York and Belfast (Records of Social and Economic History, new series, xxviii, Oxford, 2001), 122. For the impact of embargoes at Cork, see Ch. 10 of this book. An indication of the way in which bulk purchasing could affect prices can be found in a letter of 10 Dec. 1746 (ADM 110/14, fo.266), where the Victualling Board complains that the Dutch East India Company had been buying up oxen in London, causing a shortage and inflating the price that the Board was obliged to pay.

(82) TNA: PRO, Chancery Papers, C 103/202, Account-book of John Warrington, 1760–1.

(83) See, e.g., Berkshire RO, Downshire Papers, D/ED O37, Fisher and Pearce to Capt. Moses Corbett, 9 Sept. 1762; T 1/422, fos. 391–2, Petition of Henry Allnut.

(84) See, e.g., BL, Anson Papers, Add. MS 15,955, fo. 167.

(85) See Gordon Elder Bannerman, ‘British Army Contracts and Domestic Supply, 1739–1763’, unpublished University of London Ph.D. dissertation, 2005, 66.

(86) David French, The British Way in Warfare 1688–2000 (London, 1990), 38 (table 2.2).

(87) See Ch. 4.

(88) Bannerman, ‘British Army Contracts and Domestic Supply’, esp. 32.

(89) See David Hancock, ‘“Domestic Bubbling”:Eighteenth-Century London Merchants and Individual Investment in the Funds’, Economic History Review, 47 (1994), 684; H. V. Bowen, ‘Mobilizing Resources for Global War: The British State and the East India Company 1756–1815’, unpublished paper delivered at conference on ‘Mobilizing Money and Resources for War: European States at Work 1689–1815’, Universidad de Navarra, Sept. 2004.

(90) North Yorkshire RO, Metcalfe of Nappa Papers, ZOA, Alexander Fothergill to Thomas Metcalfe, 29 Jan. 1756.

(91) Reed Browning, ‘The Duke of Newcastle and the Financing of the Seven Years' War’, Journal of Economic History, 31 (1971), 353.

(92) William Muir (ed.), Selections from the Family Papers preserved at Caldwell (2 pts in 3 vols., The Maitland Club, lxxxi, Glasgow, 1854), pt. II vol. i. 82.

(93) For continental European comparisons, see Ch. 11. For favourable comments on the handling of the British public finances during the Seven Years War, see, e.g., Stephen B. Baxter, ‘The Conduct of the Seven Years War’, in idem (ed.), England's Rise to Greatness, 1660–1763 (Berkeley, Calif., 1983), 339; Nancy F. Koehn, The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994), 11.

(94) See Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766 (New York, 2000), 182–3, for a somewhat more negative view of Loudoun's performance.

(95) PH, xiv. 12.

(96) West Suffolk RO, Grafton Papers, Ac 423/445, Townshend to Grafton, [25 May 1767].

(97) Bob Harris, Politics and the Nation: Britain in the Mid-Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 2002), 14.

(98) See Ch. 9.

(99) See Ch. 9, and Ian K. Steele, ‘The Anointed, the Appointed, and the Elected: Governance of the British Empire, 1689–1784’, in P. J. Marshall (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire, ii. The Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1998), 119–20.

(100) See Marie Peters, The Elder Pitt (London, 1998), esp. 103–8.

(101) Bannerman, ‘British Army Contracts and Domestic Supply’, ch. 3. For an example of contract monitoring, see NAM, Hawley Papers, 7411-24-17, Newcastle to Lt.-Gen. Henry Hawley, 4 Jan. 1746.

(102) Brewer, Sinews of Power, 105, 112.

(103) See Brewer's essay on ‘Servants of the Public—Servants of the Crown: Officialdom of Eighteenth-Century English Central Government’, in Brewer and Hellmuth (eds.), Rethinking Leviathan, 127–47.

(104) See N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815 (London, 2004), esp. 250–6.

(105) See Richard Harding, Amphibious Warfare in the Eighteenth Century: The British Expedition to the West Indies 1740–1742 (Woodbridge, 1991), 83–122; W. K. Hackman, ‘The British Raid on Rochefort, 1757’, Mariner's Mirror, 64 (1978), 263–75.

(106) See Ch. 5.

(107) Michael Duffy, ‘The Foundations of British Naval Power’, in idem (ed.), The Military Revolution and the State 1500–1800 (Exeter, 1980), 72–4. See also, Stephen F. Gradish, The Manning of the British Navy during the Seven Years' War (London, 1980), ch. 3.

(108) James M. Haas, ‘The Royal Dockyards: The Earliest Visitations and Reform, 1749–1778’, Historical Journal, 13 (1970), 196–8.

(109) See Stephen Brumwell, Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755–1763 (Cambridge, 2002), chs. 6 and 7.

(110) See J. A. Houlding, Fit for Service: The Training of the British Army 1715–1795 (Oxford, 1981).

(111) Alan J. Guy, ‘The Army of the Georges 1714–1783’, in David Chandler and Ian Beckett (eds.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army (Oxford, 1994), 98.

(112) Alan J. Guy, Oeconomy and Discipline: Officership and Administration in the British Army 1714–1763 (Manchester, 1984), esp. 162.

(113) For more on the opportunities that Pitt's concessions provided for building a more durable partnership, and the difficulties involved in realizing that potential, see Ch. 9.

(114) This point, applied more generally to Britain's eighteenth-century wars, is the central thesis of Black, Britain as a Military Power..

(115) Brewer, Sinews of Power, 180–2. Parts of the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh economies would qualify this point: see Ch. 4.