Obrázky stránek

Pitkin says: "The political state of this colony, from the time of this capitulation to the restoration of Charles II, has not, until recently, been perfectly understood. The early historians of Virginia have stated that during this period, the people of that colony were in entire subjection to the oppressive government of Cromwell, and that the acts of parliament, in relation to trade, were there rigidly enforced, while they were relaxed in favor of the New England colonies. Recent researches, however, into the records of that ancient colony, prove these statements to be incorrect."-Vol. 1, p. 74. It was expressly agreed by the articles of capitulation, that the colonists were to have“ as free trade as the people do enjoy to all places and with all nations." It is hardly to be supposed, notwithstanding, that the ordinance of 1650, and the celebrated navigation act of 1651, were entirely inoperative during the time above mentioned.

The Virginians soon became dissatisfied with their government. The right to a participation in the government was insecure, being dependent on the will of the king. Representative assembles were called by the governors under royal instructions, which might be withdrawn or altered at the pleasure of the crown. The rights of the people were rendered more precarious by the reserved right of the crown to negative any act of the legislature. This form of government, however, continued, without material alteration, until the revolution.

New York was settled in 1614, by the Dutch, under a grant of the Dutch government to the West India company, and was held by them fifty years. The powers of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, were vested in a governor and council, who held their offices under the authority of the company, and were intrusted with the sole management of the affairs of the colony. Although the Dutch enjoyed the possession of this territory, it was claimed by the English; and in 1664, the territory now comprising New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and a part of Connecticut, was granted by Charles II, to his brother, the duke of York and Albany. The same year an expedition was sent out under the command of Col. Nichols, who demanded and received the surrender of the colony in the name of the British crown.

For nearly twenty years after their surrender to the English, the people continued to be denied the right of representation. All power was vested in a governor and council

, appointed by the king, and acting under his instructions. At length, in 1683, yielding to the repeated solicitations of the people, the king instructed the governor to call a legislative assembly, in which representatives of the freeholders were to be associated with the council.

Col. Nichols was the first English governor. He and his successors,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

with their councils, were appointed by the duke of York, until July, 1673, when a Dutch fleet entered the harbor of New York, and obtained a surrender of the place. The Dutch held it till February, 1674, when it was again surrendered to the English by treaty. In the same year, Charles II made a new grant to the duke of York, who appointed as his deputy-governor sir Edmund Andros, whose tyrannical conduct here, and subsequently as governor-general of the New England colonies, rendered him odious to the people.

The proprietary governments were those of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and at first the Carolinas and the Jerseys. These colonies were in the hands of proprietors, or persons to whom the right of the soil had been conveyed by the crown, with a general power to establish civil governments. Their authority within their own territories was nearly the same as that exercised by the crown in the royal governments. They appointed the governor, and organized and convened the legislature, according to their own will; and they also appointed other officers, or authorized the governors to appoint them. They had power to repeal or negative the acts of the assemblies; and the exercise of this power caused great discontent among the people. The proprietors, however, were subject to the control of the crown, from whom their own powers were derived.

Maryland was settled in 1633. The founding of this colony was contemplated by sir George Calvert, a Roman Catholic nobleman, to whom a grant of the territory was made by Charles I. Calvert died, however, before the settlement was effected; and the enterprise was assumed by his brother Cecil, second lord Baltimore, who appointed his brother, Leonard Calvert, governor, under whose command the first company of emigrants sailed from England, in November, 1632. The proprietor had authority, with the assent of the freemen, or their deputies, to make all laws that were not inconsistent with those of England. The freemen, at first, met in a body to make laws. In 1639, an act was passed, providing for the election of a house of burgesses, who, with other persons called by special writs of the proprietors, and the governor and secretary, constituted the general assembly. In 1650, the legislature was divided into two branches. Those called by special writs were to form the upper house, and those chosen by the hundreds, the lower house : and all bills assented to by both houses and approved by the governor, were to be deemed the laws of the province.

During the civil wars in England, which gave supremacy to parliament and Cromwell, the governor was for a time deprived of his government. In 1651, commissioners were appointed "for reducing and governing the colonies within the bay of Chesapeake.” The proprietor,

having submitted to the authority of parliament, was permitted to retain his station; but he was to govern in the name of the government of England.

In regard to the interference of parliament with the government of the colony, the colonists were divided. The Catholics adhered to the proprietors, while others favored the views of the ruling party in England. Contentions soon arose between the parties, which led to a civil war, in which the governor and Catholics were defcated; and in 1654, the government was assumed by the lord Protector. A new assembly was convened, and an act was passed, by which persons who held to popery or prelacy were restrained from the free exercise of their religion. On the restoration of Charles II, the government was restored to the proprietor. In 1689, in the reign of King William, he was again deprived of his government, which was permanently restored in 1716.

The province of Carolina was erected in 1663, and granted to lord Clarendon and others as proprietors. This charter, like that of Maryland, gave to the proprietors authority to establish such government and enact such laws as they should think proper, but “ with the assent of the freemen of the colony." The powers of government were vested in a governor, chosen by the proprietors out of thirteen persons to be nominated by the colony, and an assembly to be composed of the governor, council, and representatives of the people, with power to make laws, not contrary to those of England, which should remain in force until the proprietors should publish their dissent to them. By a change in this constitution, the executive power was placed in a governor, to act by the advice of a council of twelve, six of them to be chosen by himself

, and the other six by the assembly, which was composed of the governor, the council, and twelve delegates chosen annually by the freeholders. Freedom in religion was granted, and all were entitled to equal privileges, on taking the oaths of allegiance to the king, and fidelity to

[ocr errors]

the governor.

Still dissatisfied with their system of government, the proprietors procured the services of John Locke, the eminent philosopher, in drawing up a constitution, which was adopted by the proprietors in 1669. This plan was ill adapted to the government of freemen. A kind of nobility was created, with the titles of barons, landgraves, and casiques, who constituted one branch of the legislature. The whole system was extremely complicated and inconvenient, and was the cause of constant dissatisfaction among the people, and of frequent disputes between them and the proprietors. In 1693, this constitution was abrogated by the proprietors, and the former reëstablished.

In 1719, incited by the arbitrary exercise of power by the proprietors, the colonists, in a convention at Charleston, renounced the government of the proprietors, elected a governor, and declared him “invested with the powers of any of His Majesty's governors in America, till His Majesty's pleasure should be further known." The people having made their situation known to the crown, the charter of the proprietors was declared forfeit; the government was assumed by the crown; and a royal governor was appointed. In 1728, the king, in pursuance of an act of parliament, purchased of the proprietors their rights in the province; and the country was divided into two separate provinces, which continued under royal governments until the American revolution.

New Jersey, as has been stated, was included in the grant of Charles II, to his brother, the duke of York, in 1664. It was conveyed by the duke to lord Berkeley and sir George Carteret, and in 1766 it was divided between the proprietors or their grantees, into East and West Jersey, and a separate government was maintained in each by its proprietors, until 1702, when the proprietors surrendered the right of government to the crown, and both colonies were reunited under a royal charter.

The proprietor of Pennsylvania was William Penn, to whom the territory was granted by Charles II, in 1681; and three vessels with settlers arrived soon after from England. The next year Penn himself arrived, with about 2,000 emigrants, and a form of government, and code of laws prepared by himself for his province. The government consisted of a governor, a council of seventy-two persons, elected by the freemen, and an assembly to be composed, the first year, of the whole body of freemen, afterwards of two hundred, and never of more than five hundred. The council, in which the governor, having three votes, presided, exercised the executive power, and originated all bills for laws to be laid before the assembly. This system, as a whole, was ill adapted to the condition of the colony, and in 1683, was displaced by a new one agreed on by the governor and freemen. Penn having purchased of the duke of York, the lower counties of Delaware, settled by the Dutch, Swedes, and Finns, that territory was included in this government. By this constitution the council was reduced to eighteen, and the assembly to thirty-six.

In 1701, the government was again changed. The general assembly was to consist of a single house, composed of four representatives from each county, the governor having a negative upon the assembly. There was a council of state appointed by the proprietor, to advise and assist the governor, or his deputy, in all public affairs; and in his absence, or in case of the death or incapacity of his deputy, to exercise the power of government. This constitution continued until the revolution.




[ocr errors]

A wide difference of opinion existed as to the extent of power which Great Britain might lawfully cxercise over the colonies. The crown claimed the right to alter or to revoke their charters. This claim the colonists denied. They regarded the charters as compacts or agreements between themselves and the king; and, being such, they could not be altered without their consent, nor annulled or revoked without a forfeiture on their part, which must be determined by a court of competent authority. The only limitation to the power of the colonial legislatures was, that their laws must not be repugnant to the laws of England. The king declared that the laws here mcant were the ordinary laws of the kingdom. The colonists contended that the laws to which their laws must conform, were only the great, fundamental laws which secured to every British subject his birth-right privileges, as declared in the magna charta and bill of rights. Hence the resistance to the frequent attempts by the crown to infringe their chartered rights.

The most prominent subject of controversy was that of taxation without representation. It was asserted in England, that parliament had

" to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever," and consequently to tax them at pleasure. As the powers of the British government over the colonies had not been accurately defined, opinions somewhat different were entertained on this subject, even in America. In New England, it was generally maintained that the colonial assemblies possessed all the powers of legislation which had not been surrendered by compact ; that the colonists, being subjects of the British crown, were not bound by laws to which their representatives had not assented; that parliament had power to regulate commerce, but not the internal affairs of the colonies; and therefore, that while it could impose duties for the regulation of trade, its power did not extend to taxation. In some colonies, the right of general legislation seems to have been conceded to parliament, in cases of internal as well as external regulation. The right of internal taxation, however, was not admitted even in these colonies.

The Plymouth colony, in 1636, Maryland in 1650, and Massachusette in 1661, severally declared, by their legislatures, that no taxes should be

the power

« PředchozíPokračovat »