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THE

AMERICAN STATESMAN.

CHAPTER I.

THE SETTLEMENT OF THE COLONIES, AND THEIR FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.

The establishment of republican institutions in this country constitutes a new era in the history of civil government. To America belongs the honor of having presented to the world the first system of constitational government founded upon political equality and the general consent of the people. Most governments had been the creatures of accident, or of the concurrence of unforeseen events, rather than the result of design. Liberty was enjoyed only as it had been wrested from the grasp of tyranny, or as it had been reluctantly granted to silence the popular clamor, or to prevent rebellion. Chartered governments, called republics, had indeed existed; but they conferred only a partial franchise and limited civil privileges. The political system of the United States is the result of forethought and mature deliberation, and derives its authority from the true source of power, the WHOLE PEOPLE: and its crowning excellence--its chief conservative principle—is its recognition of the paramount authority of the DIVINE WILL.

Constitutional liberty based upon these principles, is of a date long anterior to that of our national or any state constitution formed since the establishment of our national independence. It had its origin in the cabin of the Mayflower before the pilgrim immigrants had effected their landing. The constituent elements of the “compact," then and there formed, were early introduced into the governments of the colonies, especially those of New England.

Of the forms of government which prevailed in the colonies, there were three: the charter, the royal or provincial, and the proprietary governments.

The charter governments existed only in New England. These charteis, a: grants of the crown, conferred on the colonists not only a rtglit to the soil, but the privileges of natural born subjects. They clected their own governors and legislative assemblies, and established courts of justice. The legislative power was ample, its only limitation was, that the laws enacted should not be contrary to those of England.

During the attempts of the British Government, in the reign of Charles I, to enforce conformity to the established church, a number of people, to avoid prosecution under these laws, and to enjoy freedom of conscience in matters of religion, removed to Holland. In 1619, these persons determined to remove to North America; and in the following year they embarked on a voyage with a design of settlement on the Hudson, within the limits of the London, or South Virginia company, and for this purpose they had obtained a charter from this company. But by accident, as some suppose, or, as is generally believed, by the treachery of the Dutch, who themselves had contemplated settling on the Hudson, and who bribed the pilot to land them north of the Hudson, they were taken to the coast of Cape Cod, where they arrived on the 9th of November, 1620. The story of their having been carried thither against their wishes or intention, rests, however, on doubtful authority. They were called Puritans, a name given to those who dissented from the established church because they wished for a purer form of discipline and worship; some of the ancient Romish ceremonies being still continued in that church.

Not having contemplated any plantation within the limits of the Ply. mouth company, they had not obtained from them any charter. Being therefore destitute of any right to the soil, and without any powers of government derived from the proper authority, on the 11th of November, before they landed, they drew up and signed the following compact, or constitution :

“ In the name of God, amen.—We, whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James, &c., having undertaken, for the glory of God, the advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute and frame, such just and equal laws, ordi. nances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."

This was the earliest American constitution, and in substance a pure democracy. It was signed by 41 persons. The whole company, including women and children, numbered 101.

Having settled a social contract, they proceeded to examine the coast, and finally determined to settle at a place which they called Plymouth, after the name of the company owning the soil. They landed on the 23d of December, and commenced the first permanent settlement in New Eng. land. For ten years, the colonists held their property in common, when they obtained from the company a grant of the land. The government of the colony was administered by a governor and seven assistants, all chosen by the people annually. Being a pure democracy, the people, in general meeting, often decided upon both legislative and executive affairs

. In 1639, their numbers having become such as to render delib eration in full assembly inconvenient, the representative system was adopted.

In 1628, the Massachusetts colony was settled by a company, (also Puritans,) incorporated by royal charter, the land having been previously purchased of the Plymouth company. In 1630, the powers of government were transferred from the crown to the colonists, who had power to elect annually a governor, a deputy-governor, and eighteen assistants. In 1634, the people claimed the right of representation, which, though unauthorized by the charter, was generally assented to; and two or three deputies were chosen from each plantation, to represent the people in the general court. The governor, or, in his ahsence, the deputygovernor, the assistants, or at least six of them, and the body of freemen, constituted a general court, by which the powers of government were to be exercised. The claiming by the former, (the assistants,) of a right to negative the acts of the latter, caused frequent disputes between them, until 1644, when by mutual agreement, the legislature was to consist of two separate bodies, having a negative upon each other.

In New Hampshire the first permanent settlement was made in 1631, at and near Portsmouth, although a few huts had been erected a few years earlier, by fishermen, along the coast eastward from Merrimack. No organized government seems to have been established until several years afterward; and in 1641, Massachusetts, having previously asserted a right over this part of the territory, declared the inhabitants to be within her jurisdiction, leaving them, however, to participate in all their rights

, and exempting them from all public charges, except such as should arise on their own account. After a temporary protection from Massachusetts, New Hampshire became an independent colony.

Connecticut was settled in 1635, by persons from Massachusetts. The colonists were for several years governed by magistrates appointed

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