CHAPTER VII. HOW THE COLONIES WERE GOVERNED

GROUPS OF COLONIES. - It has long been customary to group the colonies in two ways - according to their geographical location, and according to their form of government.

Geographically considered, there were three groups: (1) the Eastern Colonies, or New England - New Hampshire, Massachusetts (including Plymouth and Maine), Rhode Island, and Connecticut; (2) the Middle Colonies - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; and (3) the Southern Colonies - Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. (Map, p. 134.)

Politically considered, there were three groups also - the charter, the royal, and the proprietary. (1) The charter colonies were those whose organization was described in a charter; namely, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. (2) The royal colonies were under the immediate authority of the king and subject to his will and pleasure - New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. [1] (3) In the proprietary colonies, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, authority was vested in a proprietor or proprietaries, who owned the land, appointed the governors, and established the legislatures.

THE FIRST NAVIGATION ACT. - It was from the king that the land grants, the charters, and the powers of government were obtained, and it was to him that the colonists owed allegiance. Not till the passage of the Navigation Acts did Parliament concern itself with the colonies.

The first of these acts, the ordinance of 1651, was intended to cut off the trade of Holland with the colonies. It provided that none but English or colonial ships could trade between England and her colonies, or trade along the coast from port to port, or engage in the foreign trade of the plantations.

THE SECOND NAVIGATION ACT was passed in 1660. It provided (1) that no goods should be imported or exported save in English or colonial ships, and (2) that certain goods [2] should not be sent from the colonies anywhere except to an English port. A third act, passed in 1663, required all European goods destined for the colonies to be first landed in England. The purpose of these acts was to favor English merchants.

THE LORDS OF TRADE. - That the king in person should attend to all the trade affairs of his colonies was impossible. From a very early time, therefore, the management of trade matters was intrusted to a committee appointed by the king, or by Parliament during the Civil War and the Commonwealth. After the restoration of the monarchy (in 1660) this body was known first as the Committee for Foreign Plantations, then as the Lords of Trade, and finally (after 1696) as the Lords of the Board of Trade and Plantations. It was their duty to correspond with the governors, make recommendations, enforce the Navigation Acts, examine all colonial laws and advise the king as to which he should veto or disallow, write the king's proclamations, listen to complaints of merchants, - in short, attend to everything concerning the trade and government of the colonies.

THE COLONIAL GOVERNOR. - The most important colonial official was the governor. In Connecticut and Rhode Island the governor was elected by the people; in the royal colonies and in Massachusetts (after 1684) he was appointed by the king, and in the proprietary colonies by the proprietor with the approval of the king. Each governor appointed by the king recommended legislation to the assemblies, informed the king as to the condition of the colony, sent home copies of the laws, and by his veto prevented the passage of laws injurious to the interests of the crown. From time to time he received instructions as to what the king wished done. He was commander of the militia, and could assemble, prorogue (adjourn), and dismiss the legislature of the colony.

THE COUNCIL. - Associated with the governor in every colony was a Council of from three to twenty-eight men [3] who acted as a board of advisers to the governor, usually served as the upper house of the legislature, and sometimes acted as the highest or supreme court of the colony.

THE LOWER HOUSE of the legislature, or the Assembly, - called by different names in some colonies, as House of Delegates, or House of Commons, - was chosen by such of the people as could vote. With the governor and Council it made the laws, [4] levied the taxes, and appointed certain officers; but (except in Rhode Island and Connecticut) the laws could be vetoed by the governor, or disallowed by the king or the proprietor.

There were many disputes between governor and Assembly, each trying to gain more power and influence in the government. If the governor vetoed many laws, the Assembly might refuse to vote him any salary. If the Assembly would not levy taxes and pass laws as requested by the governor, he might dismiss it and call for the election of a new one.

THE LAWS. - Many of the laws of colonial times seem to us cruel and severe. A large number of crimes were then punishable with death. For less serious offenses men and women had letters branded on their foreheads or cheeks or hands, or sewed on their outer garments in plain sight; or were flogged through the streets, ducked, stood under the gallows, stood in the pillory, or put in the stocks. In New England it was an offense to travel or cook food or walk about the town on the Sabbath day, or to buy any cloth with lace on it.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT was of three systems: the town (township) in New England; the county in the Southern Colonies; and in the Middle Colonies a mixture of both.