Date of Completion

Spring 5-9-2010

Thesis Advisor(s)

Christopher Clark

Honors Major



European History | History | United States History


By looking at Great Britain and the American colonies in conjunction with the larger British Atlantic Empire, historians can better understand the political, social, and cultural transformations that occurred when transatlantic actors met. William Samuel Johnson is an example of an "ordinary" agent who nonetheless had extensive contacts with numerous British and American thinkers. While acting on Connecticut's behalf in London between 1767 and 1771, he sent reports back to Connecticut governors Jonathan Trumbull and William Pitkin on parliamentary proceedings while corresponding with the people who traveled around the Atlantic world during this critical period-merchants, seafarers, emigrants, soldiers, missionaries, radicals and conservatives, reformers, and politicians. He is also representative of the late eighteenth-century empire writ large. Agents, who had once been a source of stability in the far-flung colonies, became a destabilizing force as confusion and conflict grew over conceptual ideas of what constituted "the empire" and who was included in it. Johnson was a sane observer in the midst of the ideological and administrative upheaval of the 1760's and 1770's. His subsequent loyalism and political obscurity during the war years was in many ways a result of his attempts to reconcile various factional interests during his tenure as an agent. Although he did his best to resolve these divisions and provide an accurate account of the powerful nationalistic forces gathering on both sides of the Atlantic on the eve of the American Revolution, the agents' collective failures as transatlantic mediators helped bring about the collapse of an imperial community. This disintegration had dramatic effects on the whole of the Atlantic world.