America’s neglected debt to the Dutch, an institutional perspective

  • Roger D. CongletonEmail author
Original Article


America’s early constitutional development owes a good deal to the experience and policies of the Dutch republic. Many of the parallels are direct: In the late 16th century, the Dutch fought a successful war to secede from a major empire. They wrote a declaration of independence and adopted a federal model of Republican governance almost exactly two hundred years before the Americans. Somewhat later, the Dutch republic and its political institutions subsequently inspired and protected enlightenment scholars. Its leading political family and army played a crucial role in curtailing English absolutism in England and in England’s American colonies, and its federal template provided a model for early American institutions.


Constitutional evolution Constitutional reform Constitutional history Public choice Dutch republic American Revolution Glorious Revolution 

JEL Classification

D72 H11 N40 F54 



I have many debts to acknowledge, particularly those to Bernard Steunenberg who arranged for eight months of study at the University of Leiden in 2003–2004, and to Iain McLean who helped arrange a productive stay at Oxford University in early 2004, where work on British constitutional history was undertaken. Bernard Grofman deserves special thanks for suggesting the present application of that research and for helpful comments on an early draft. David Levy and Gordon Tullock also made helpful suggestions on early drafts of this paper.


  1. Barker, J. E. (1906). The rise and decline of the Netherlands, a political and economic history and study in practical statesmanship. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.Google Scholar
  2. Claydon, T. (2002). William III. London: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  3. Congleton, R. D. (2007). From royal to parliamentary rule without revolution, the economics of constitutional exchange within divided governments. European Journal of Political Economy, 27, 261–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dawson, C. (1954). The historic origins of liberalism. Review of Politics, 16, 267–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dillon, F. (1975). The pilgrims. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  6. Dunthorne, H. (2004). The Dutch republic: That mother nation of liberty. In M. Fitzpatrick, P. Jones, C. Knellwolf, & I. McCalman (Eds.), The enlightenment world (pp. 87–103). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Edler, F. (1911). The Dutch republic and the American Revolution. reprinted in 2001 by the University Press of the Pacific.Google Scholar
  8. Field, J. (2002). The Story of parliament in the palace of Westminster. London: Politico’s Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Garrard, J. (2002). Democratization in Britain, elites, civil society, and reform since 1800. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  10. Goldie, M. (Ed.) (1997). Locke: Political essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Goldstone, J. A. (2006). Europe’s peculiar path: Would the world be modern if William III’s invasion of England in 1688 had failed? In P. E. Tetlock, N. Lebow, & G. Parker (Eds.), Unmaking the west: What-if scenarios that rewrite world history. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  12. Grant, J. (2005). John Adams, party of one. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  13. Haffenden, P. S. (1958). The crown and the colonial charters, 1675–1688: Part II. William and Mary Quarterly, 15, 452–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hall, P. A., & Taylor, R. C. R. (1996). Political science and the three new institutionalisms. Political Studies, 46, 936–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hamilton, A., & Madison, J. (1787). B. F. Wright (Ed., 1961). The federalist papers. Cambridge Mass: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  16. Holmberg, T. (2002). Great Britain: The treasonable and seditious practices and seditious meetings acts of 1795, Website: The Napoleanonic series.
  17. Israel, J. I. (1998). The Dutch republic: Its rise, greatness, and fall 1477–1806. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, P. (1999). A history of the American people. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  19. Ketcham, R. (1986). The Anti-federalist papers and the constitutional convention debates. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  20. Koch, A., & Peden, W. (Eds.) (1993). The life and selected writings of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  21. Kossmann, E. H. (1978). The low countries, 1780–1940. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lovejoy, D. S. (1964). Equality and empire, the New York charter of libertyes, 1683. William and Mary Quarterly, 21, 493–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lovejoy, P. E. (1982). The volume of the Atlantic slave trade: A synthesis. Journal of African History, 23, 473–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lutz, D. (1984). The relative influence of European writers on late eighteenth-century American political thought. American Political Science Review, 78, 189–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Macpherson, C. B. (1968). Introduction to the Thomas Hobbes and the Leviathan, the Leviathan. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  26. McKinley, A. E. (1901). The transition from Dutch to English Rule in New York: A study in political imitation. American Historical Review, 6, 693–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miller, J. C. (1943). Origins of the American revolution. Boston: Little Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  28. Morgan, E. S. (1989). Inventing the people: The rise of popular sovereignty in England and America. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  29. Morgan, K. O. (2001). The Oxford history of Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Nash, R. (Ed.) (1968). The American environment: Readings in the history of conservation. Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  31. North, D., & Weingast B (1989). Constitutions and commitment: The evolution of institutions governing public choice in seventeenth century England. Journal of Economic History, 49, 803–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. O’Gorman, F. (1989). Voters, patrons and parties: The unreformed electoral system of Hanoverian England: 1734–1832. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  34. Osgood, H. L. (1902). England and the American colonies in the seventeenth century. Political Science Quarterly, 17, 206–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Palmer, R. R. (1959). The age of democratic revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Pugh, M. (1999). Britain Since 1789, a concise history. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  37. Rietbergen, P. J. A. N. (2002). A short history of the Netherlands: From prehistory to the present day. Amersfoort: Bekking Publishers.Google Scholar
  38. Schwoerer, L. G. (1990). Locke, Lockean ideas, and the Glorious Revolution. Journal of the History of Ideas, 51, 531–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schofield, N. (2002). Evolution of the constitution. British Journal of Political Science, 32, 1–20.Google Scholar
  40. Shorto, R. (2004). The island at the center of the world. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  41. Smith, A. (1776/1937). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  42. Sopper (1968). In R. Nash (Ed.), The American environment: Readings in the history of conservation. Reading Mass.: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  43. Stasavage, D. (2003). Public debt and the Birth of the democratic state: France and Great Britain 1688–1789. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Steele, I. K. (1989). Origins of Boston’s revolutionary declaration of 18 April 1689. New England Quarterly, 62, 75–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Taylor, A. (2001). American colonies, the settling of North America. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  46. ‘t Hart, M. C. (1993). The making of a bourgeois state: War politics and finance during the dutch revolt. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Thatcher, O. J. (Ed.) (1907). The library of original sources. Milwaukee: University research extension Co. (Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries).Google Scholar
  48. Tsebelis, G. (2002). Veto players: How political institutions work. Princeton, N: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Weingast, B. R. (2006). Designing for constitutional stability, In: R. D. Congleton & B. Swedenborg (Eds.), Democratic constitutional design and public policy. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  50. Wish, H. (1950). Society and thought in Early America. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Study of Public ChoiceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

Personalised recommendations