CHAPTER VII. HOW THE COLONIES WERE GOVERNED

TOWN MEETING. - The affairs of a New England town were regulated at town meeting, to which from time to time the freemen were "warned," or summoned, by the constable. To be a freeman in Massachusetts and Connecticut a man had to own a certain amount of property and be a member of a recognized church. If a newcomer, he had to be formally admitted to freemanship at a town meeting. These meetings were presided over by a moderator chosen for the occasion, and at them taxes were levied, laws enacted, and once a year officers were elected. [5] The principal town officers were the selectmen who managed the town's affairs between town meetings, the constables, overseers of the poor, assessors, the town clerk, and the treasurer.

THE COUNTY. - In the South, where plantations were numerous and where there were no towns of the New England kind, county government prevailed. The officers were appointed by the royal governor, formed a board called the court of quarter sessions, and levied local taxes, made local laws, and as a court administered justice.

In the Middle Colonies there were both town and county governments. In New York, each town (after 1703) elected a supervisor, and county affairs were managed by a board consisting of the supervisors of all the towns in the county. In Pennsylvania the county officers were elected by the voters of the whole county.

NO REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT. - The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament. In certain matters that body legislated for the colonies, as in the case of the Navigation Acts. But unless expressly stated in the act, no law of Parliament applied to the colonies. Having no representation in Parliament, the colonies often sent special agents to London to look after their affairs, and in later times kept agents there regularly, one man acting for several colonies. [6]

A UNION OF THE COLONIES. - The idea of uniting the colonies for purposes of general welfare and common defense was proposed very early in their history. In 1697 Penn suggested a congress of delegates from each colony. A little later Robert Livingston of New York urged the grouping of the colonies into three provinces, from each of which delegates should be sent to Albany to consider measures for defense. As yet, however, the colonies were not ready for anything of this sort.

THE CHARTERS ATTACKED. - The king, on the other hand, had attempted to unite some of the colonies in a very different way - by destroying the charters of the northern colonies and putting them under one governor. The first attack was made by King Charles II, on Massachusetts, and after a long struggle her charter (p. 58) was taken away by the English courts in 1684. The charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut were next annulled, and King James II [7] sent over Edmund Andros as governor of New England.

CONNECTICUT SAVES HER CHARTER. - Andros reached Boston in 1686, and assumed the government of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. [8] He next ordered Plymouth, Rhode Island, and Connecticut to submit and accept annexation. Plymouth and Rhode Island did so, but Connecticut resisted. Andros therefore came to Hartford (1687), dissolved the colonial government, and demanded the Connecticut charter. Tradition says that the Assembly met him, and debated the question till dusk; candles were then lighted and the charter brought in and laid on the table; this done, the candles were suddenly blown out, and when they were relighted, the charter could not be found; Captain Wadsworth of Hartford had carried it off and hidden it in an oak tree thereafter known as the Charter Oak.

But Andros ruled Connecticut, and in the following year New York and East and West Jersey also were placed under his authority. Andros thus became ruler of all the provinces lying north and east of the Delaware River. [9] His rule was tyrannical: he abolished the legislatures, and with the aid of appointed councilmen he made laws and levied taxes as he pleased.

THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION OF 1689. - In 1689 King James II was driven from his throne, William and Mary became king and queen of England, and war broke out with France. News of these events caused an upheaval in the colonies. The people in Boston promptly seized Andros and put him in jail; Connecticut and Rhode Island resumed their charter governments; the Protestants in Maryland overthrew the government of the proprietor and set up a new one in the name of William and Mary [10]; and in New York Leisler raised a rebellion.

MASSACHUSETTS RECHARTERED. - Massachusetts sent agents to London to ask for the restoration of her old charter; but instead William granted a new charter in 1691, which provided that the governor should be appointed by the king. Plymouth and Maine were united with Massachusetts, but New Hampshire was made a separate royal colony. The charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut were confirmed, so that they continued to elect their own governors.

LEISLER'S REBELLION. - Andros had ruled New York through a deputy named Nicholson, who tried to remain in control. A rich merchant named Jacob Leisler denied the right of Nicholson to act, refused to pay duty on some wine he had imported, and, aided by the people, seized the fort and set up a temporary government. A convention was then called, a committee of safety appointed, and Leisler was made commander in chief. Later he assumed the office of lieutenant governor. When King William heard of these things, he appointed a new governor, and early in 1691 three ships with some soldiers reached New York. Leisler at first refused to give up the fort; but was soon forced to surrender, and was finally hanged for rebellion. [11]