This is the first comprehensive study of the constitutionality of the Parliamentary legislation cited by the American Continental Congress as a justification for its rebellion against Great Britain in 1776. The content and purpose of that legislation is well known to historians, but here Reid places it in the context of eighteenth-century constitutional doctrine and discusses its legality in terms of the intellectual premises of eighteenth-century Anglo-American legal values.
The third installment in a planned four-volume work, The Authority to Legislate follows The Authority to Tax and The Authority of Rights. In this volume, Reid shows that the inflexibility of British constitutional principle left no room for settlement or change; Parliament became entrapped by the imperatives of the constitution it was struggling to preserve. He analyzes the legal theories put forward in support of Parliament’s authority to legislate and the specific precedents cited as evidence of that authority.
Reid’s examination of both the debate over the authority to legislate and the constitutional theory underlying the debate shows the extent to which the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence were actions taken in defense of the rule of law. Considered as a whole, Reid’s Constitutional History of the American Revolution contributes to an understanding of the central role of legal and constitutional standards, especially concern for rule by law, in the development of the American nation.