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.

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]

BACON'S REBELLION. - Massachusetts and New York were not the first colonies in which bad government led to uprisings against a royal governor. In Virginia, during the reign of Charles II, the rule of Governor Berkeley was selfish and tyrannical. In 1676 the planters on the frontier asked for protection against Indian attacks, but the governor, who was engaged in Indian trade, refused to send soldiers; and when Nathaniel Bacon led a force of planters against the Indians, Berkeley declared him a rebel, raised a force of men, and marched after him. While Berkeley was away, the people in Jamestown rose and demanded a new Assembly and certain reforms. Berkeley yielded to the demands, and was also compelled to give Bacon a commission to fight the Indians; but when Bacon was well on his way, Berkeley again proclaimed him a rebel, and fled from Jamestown.

Bacon, supported by most of the people, now seized the government and sent a force to capture Berkeley. The governor and his followers defeated this force and occupied Jamestown. Bacon, who was again on the frontier, returned, drove Berkeley away, burned Jamestown lest it should be again occupied, and a month later died. The popular uprising then subsided rapidly, and when the king's forces arrived (1677) to restore order, Berkeley was in control. [12]

GROWTH OF POPULATION. - During the century which followed the restoration of monarchy (1660) the colonies grew not only in number but also in population and in wealth. In 1660 there were probably 200,000 people in the English colonies; by 1760 there were nearly 2,000,000 - all east of the Appalachian watershed. The three great centers were Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Sparse as the population seems to us, the great march across the continent had begun. [13]

CITIES AND TOWNS. - The century (1660-1760) had seen the rise of but one real city in the South - Charleston. Annapolis was a village, Baltimore a hamlet of a hundred souls, Williamsburg and Norfolk were but towns, and no place in North Carolina was more than a country village. Philadelphia, which did not exist in 1660, had become a place of 16,000 people in 1760, neat, well-built, and prosperous. Near by was German town, and further west Lancaster, the largest inland town in all the colonies. Between Philadelphia and New York there were no places larger than small villages. New York had a population of some 12,000 souls; Boston, the chief city in the colonies, some 20,000; and in New England were several other towns of importance.

LIFE IN THE CITIES. - In the cities and large towns from Boston to Charleston in 1760 were many fine houses. Every family of wealth had costly furniture, plenty of silver, china, glass, and tapestry, and every comfort that money could then buy. The men wore broadcloth, lace ruffles, silk stockings, and silver shoe buckles, powdered their hair, and carried swords. The women dressed more elaborately in silks and brocades, and wore towering head-dresses and ostrich plumes. Shopkeepers wore homespun, workingmen and mechanics leather aprons.

THINGS NOT IN USE IN 1660. - Should we make a list of what are to us the everyday conveniences of life and strike from the list the things not known in 1660, very few would remain. A business man in one of our large cities, let us suppose, sets off for his place of business on a rainy day. He puts on a pair of rubbers, takes an umbrella, buys a morning newspaper, boards a trolley car, and when his place of business is reached, is carried by an elevator to his office floor, and enters a steam-heated, electric-lighted room. In 1660 and for many years after, there was not in any of the colonies a pair of rubbers, an umbrella, a trolley car, a morning newspaper, an elevator, a steam-heated room, [14] an electric light.

The man of business sits down in a revolving chair before a rolltop desk. In front of him are steel pens, India rubber eraser, blotting paper, rubber bands, a telephone. He takes up a bundle of typewritten letters, dictates answers to a stenographer, sends a telegram to some one a thousand miles away, and before returning home has received an answer. In 1660 there was not in all the land a stenographer, or any of the articles mentioned; no telephone, no telegraph, not even a post office.

TRAVEL AND COMMUNICATION. - If business calls him from home, he travels in comfort in a steamboat or a railway car, and goes farther in one hour than in 1660 he could have gone in two days, for at that time there was not a steamboat, nor a railroad, nor even a stagecoach, in North America. Men went from one colony to another by sailing vessel; overland they traveled on horseback; and if a wife went with her husband, she rode behind him on a pillion. The produce of the farms was drawn to the village market by ox teams.

NEWSPAPERS AND PRINTING. - In 1660 no newspaper or magazine of any sort was published in the colonies. The first printing press in English America was set up at Cambridge in 1630, and was long the only one. The first newspaper in our country was the Boston News Letter, printed in 1704, and there was none in Pennsylvania till 1719, and none south of the Potomac till 1732.

LIBERTY OF THE PRESS did not exist. No book, pamphlet, or almanac could be printed without permission. In 1685, when a printer in Philadelphia printed something in his almanac which displeased the Council, he was forced to blot it out. Another Philadelphia printer, Bradford, offended the Quakers by putting into his almanac something "too light and airy for one that is a Christian," whereupon the almanac was suppressed; and for later offenses Bradford was thrown into jail and so harshly treated that he left the colony.

In New York (1725) Bradford started the first newspaper in that colony. One of his old apprentices, John Peter Zenger, started the second (1733), and soon called down the wrath of the governor because of some sharp attacks on his conduct. Copies of the newspaper were burned before the pillory, Zenger was put in jail, and what began as a trial for libel ended in a great struggle for liberty of the press; Zenger's acquittal was the cause of great public rejoicings. [15]

CHANGES BETWEEN 1660 AND 1760. - By 1760 the conditions of life in the colonies had changed for the better in many respects. Stagecoaches had come in, and a line ran regularly between New York and Philadelphia. Post offices had been established. There were printing presses and newspapers in most of the colonies, there were public subscription libraries in Charleston and Philadelphia, and six colleges scattered over the colonies from Virginia to Massachusetts.

EDUCATION. - What we know as the public school system, however, did not yet exist. Children generally attended private schools kept by wandering teachers who were boarded around among the farmers or village folk; and learned only to read, write, and cipher. But a few went to the Latin school or to college, for which they were often prepared by clergymen.

SPORTS AND PASTIMES. - Amusements in colonial days varied somewhat with the section of the country and the character of the people who had settled it. Corn huskings, quilting parties, and spinning bees were common in many colonies. A house raising or a log-rolling (a piling bee) was a great occasion for frolic. Picnics, tea parties, and dances were common everywhere; the men often competed in foot races, wrestling matches, and shooting at a mark. In New England the great day for such sports was training day, which came four times a year, when young and old gathered on the village green to see the militia company drill.

In New York there were also fishing parties and tavern parties, and much skating and coasting, horse racing, bull baiting, bowling on the greens, and in New York city balls, concerts, and private theatricals. In Pennsylvania vendues (auctions), fairs, and cider pressing (besides husking bees and house raisings) were occasions for social gatherings and dances. South of the Potomac horse racing, fox hunting, cock fighting, and cudgeling were common sports. At the fairs there were sack and hogshead races, bull baiting, barbecues, and dancing. There was a theater at Williamsburg and another in Charleston.

MANUFACTURES AND COMMERCE. - Little manufacturing was done in 1760, save for the household. A few branches of manufactures - woolen goods, felt hats, steel - which seemed likely to flourish in the colonies were checked by acts of Parliament, lest they should compete with industries in England. But shipbuilding was not molested, and in New England and Pennsylvania many ships were built and sold.

Land commerce in 1760 was still confined almost entirely to the Indian fur trade. In sea-going commerce New England led, her vessels trading not only with Great Britain and the West Indies, but carrying on most of the coasting trade. In general the Navigation Acts were obeyed; but the Molasses Act (1733), which levied a heavy duty on sugar or molasses from a foreign colony, was boldly evaded. The law required that all European goods must come by way of England; but this too was evaded, and smuggling of European goods was very common. Tobacco from Virginia and North Carolina often found its way in New England ships to forbidden ports.


1. The English colonies were of three sorts - charter, royal, and proprietary; but before 1660 each managed its affairs much as it pleased.

2. Charles II and later kings tried to rule the colonies for the benefit of the crown and of the mother country. They acted through the Lords of Trade in England and through colonial governors in America.

3. In 1676 Bacon led an uprising in Virginia against Governor Berkeley's arbitrary rule.

4. In 1684 Massachusetts was deprived of her charter, and within a few years all the New England colonies, with New York and New Jersey, were put under the tyrannical rule of Governor Andros.

5. When James II lost his throne, Andros was deposed, and Massachusetts was given a new charter (1691).

6. The government of each colony was managed by (1) a governor elected by the people (Rhode Island, Connecticut) or appointed by the king or by the proprietor; (2) by an appointed Council; and (3) by an Assembly or lower house elected by the colonists.

7. Local government was of three sorts: in New England the township system prevailed; in the Southern Colonies the county system; and in the Middle Colonies a mixture of the two.

8. In 1660-1760 the population increased nearly tenfold; stagecoaches, post offices, and newspapers were introduced; commerce increased, but little manufacturing was done.


[1] New Hampshire after 1679, New York after 1685 (when the Duke of York became king), New Jersey after 1702, Virginia after 1624, North and South Carolina after 1729, Georgia after 1752.

[2] These goods were products of the colonies and were named in the act - such as tobacco, sugar, indigo, and furs. There was a long list of such "enumerated goods," as they were called.

[3] In the royal colonies they were appointed by the crown; in Massachusetts, by the General Court; in the proprietary colonies, by the proprietor.

[4] In Massachusetts as early as 1634 the General Court consisted of the governor, the assistants, and two deputies from each town. During ten years they all met in one room; but a quarrel between the assistants and the deputies led to their meeting as separate bodies. For an account of this curious quarrel see Fiske's Beginnings of New England, pp. 106-108. In Connecticut and Rhode Island also the towns elected deputies. Outside of New England the delegates to the lower branch of the legislature were usually elected from counties, but sometimes from important cities or towns.

[5] The first government of Plymouth Colony was practically a town meeting. The first town to set up a local government in Massachusetts was Dorchester (1633). Thus started, the system spread over all New England. Nothing was too petty to be acted on by the town meeting. For example, "It is ordered that all dogs, for the space of three weeks after the publishing hereof, shall have one leg tied up.... If a man refuse to tye up his dogs leg and he be found scraping up fish [used for fertilizer] in the corn field, the owner shall pay l2_s., besides whatever damage the dog doth." The proceedings of several town meetings at Providence are given in Hart's American History told by Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 214-219.

[6] Penn's charter required him to keep an agent in or near London.

[7] Charles II died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother, the Duke of York (proprietor of the colony of New York), who reigned as James II.

[8] New Hampshire, which had been annexed by Massachusetts in 1641, was made a separate province in 1679; but during the governorship of Andros it was again annexed.

[9] These were Massachusetts (including Maine), New Hampshire, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey - eight in all. The only other colonies then in existence were Pennsylvania (including Delaware), Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina. For an account of the attack on the New England charters, read Fiske's Beginnings of New England, pp. 265-268.

[10] The Protestant Episcopal Church of England was established in the colony (1692), and sharp laws were made against Catholics. From 1691 till 1715 Maryland was governed as a royal province; but then it was given back to the fifth Lord Baltimore, who was a Protestant.

[11] Read Fiske's Dutch and Quaker Colonies, Vol. II, pp. 199-208. In Leisler's Times, by Elbridge Brooks, and The Segum's Daughter, by Edwin L. Bynner, are two interesting stories based on the events of Leisler's time.

[12] Berkeley put so many men to death for the part they bore in the rebellion that King Charles said, "The old fool has put to death more people in that naked country than I did here for the murder of my father." Berkeley was recalled. Read Fiske's Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Vol. II, pp. 44-95; or the Century Magazine for July, 1890.

[13] In New Hampshire settlers had moved up the valley of the Merrimac to Concord. In Massachusetts they had crossed the Connecticut River and were well on toward the New York border (map, p. 59). In New York settlement was still confined to Long Island, the valley of the Hudson, and a few German settlements in the Mohawk valley. In Pennsylvania Germans and Scotch-Irish had pressed into the Susquehanna valley; Reading had been founded on the upper Schuylkill, and Bethlehem in the valley of the Lehigh (map, p. 78). In Virginia population had gone westward up the York, the Rappahannock, and the James rivers to the foot of the Blue Ridge; and Germans and Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania had entered the Great Valley (map, p. 50). In North Carolina and South Carolina Germans, Swiss, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish were likewise moving toward the mountains.

[14] Houses were warmed by means of open fireplaces. Churches were not warmed, even in the coldest days of winter. People would bring foot stoves with them, and men would sit with their hats, greatcoats, and mittens on.

[15] Read Fiske's Dutch and Quaker Colonies, Vol. II, pp. 248-257.