Government of Colonies
Essay submitted by Be de Benito
The government in Massachusetts began with the Mayflower Compact, an agreement
signed by the Pilgrims pledging that they would set up a theocracy, a political system
headed by the clergy. In the compact, they also pledged loyalty to support and follow
England. Seven years later, the Massachusetts Bay Company, under John Winthrope,
coming for economic and religious reasons, set up a general court. This type of
government started with 18 elected freemen, or white, male, wealthy, land-owning
puritans. This government had many problems. The fact that only 18 people were
representing the mass of colonists in Massachusetts caused misrepresentation of the
majority of the colony. The elected freemen made decisions that looked to their own
interests rather than to the good of the colony. Also, this general court only met four
times a year, which is far too little to get any important, every day decisions made.
Other colonies with a unicameral, or one house assembly, government include New
Jersey and New York. New Jersey, before 1702, was proprietary; the business owners
made decisions. This type of government is an autocracy. After 1702, the King of
England appointed a governor and council, and there was one house of elected
freemen. New York, much like New Jersey, was a one-house government that consisted
1) Background on both Massachusetts and Virginia a) The London Virginia Company founded Virginia in 1607. i) Started with Jamestown. b) Settled mostly by English aristocrats. c) Discovered tobacco, and became a monopoly. d) Pilgrims founded Massachusetts in 1620 arriving on the Mayflower. i) Pilgrims wrote the Mayflower Compact. (1) Provided a democratic government based on the opinions of ...
of a powerful governor
and a council of elected freemen.
Two other colonies, Maryland and New Haven, had bicameral, or two housed,
governments. In Maryland, the governor was appointed by the King and was therefore
loyal to England. Only freemen could be in these two houses, but there was more
representation due to higher numbers of representatives. This was much like New
Haven, which had a bicameral government as well. New Haven had a Constitution called
the “Fundamental Orders.” It stated that the 7 officials, solely from the church, were
only to meet twice a year.
Although the meeting times became even more drastically spaced apart, all free men
could vote under this government. The fact that one did not have to be a member of
the church to vote showed that the government was beginning to break away from
theocracy and move closer to democracy.
The furthest developed government, in theory, was that of the Carolinas. A man named
Berkeley obtained the land as a proprietor from King Charles. The Fundamental
Constitution was set up as a balance between aristocracy and democracy. When the
King gave the land to the proprietors, a bicameral government was set up. The
governor was the head of the government. Directly below him was the upper house
nobility, which consisted of freemen. Far below them, the lower-house assembly, or
commoners, had power. Commoners finally had a say, in theory. The problems with this
government were that the lower-house still did not have a say. The upper house
assemblies felt that since they gave the commoners a little bit of voice, say, and
power, that they should be able to manipulate the system and make a profit. Despite
the many problems, the government of the Carolinas was more democratic than any
other colony so far.