Philosophy of Evil
Socialism In America
By Jerry McDaniel
Chapter 4
Colonial Governments
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Philosophy of
Socialism in America

"The struggle of History is not
between the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat; it is between government
and the governed."

Jerry McDaniel
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The original thirteen colonies are usually divided into three groups according to their form of government, the Charter, the
Proprietary and the Royal; however, many historians have reduced them to two, the provincial and the corporation, the
Charter colony being more or less identical to the Proprietary colony. At the beginning of the Revolution there were only
three corporation colonies left, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Only Rhode Island and Connecticut had the
same form of government from their founding to the Revolution.

Each of the thirteen colonies operated under a slightly different form of government. However, the basic structure was
remarkably similar in all. Each consisted of three divisions, the governor appointed by the King or proprietor, the council, also
appointed, and an assembly, elected by the people. The governor served at the will of the King or proprietor and had
considerable power. He could convene or dissolve the people’s assembly, appoint officers such as judges, clerks, sheriffs,
justices of the peace, and so forth. He introduced legislation to the council and assembly and held veto power over their
actions. However, the one power he did not have allowed the people to hold him in check, the power over the public purse.

The councils varied in size, Massachusetts having twenty-eight and Maryland, in its early years having only three. The
average number was usually around twelve or thirteen. Council members were required to be residents of the colony they
served, and were usually men of wealth and social station in the community. They were appointed by the same power that
appointed the governor and usually sided with him in any disputes arising between him and the people. The three major
functions of the council were to act as a board of advisors to the governor, the upper house of the legislature, and frequently
as the highest court in the colony.

The assembly was the lower house of the legislature and was elected by the people, although suffrage was far from
universal. Voting was restricted to those who had a financial stake in the community, usually land ownership. The assembly
had the primary legislative power, but its acts were subject to veto by the governor and could be set aside by the Crown
within a specified amount of time. The most important power possessed by the assembly was the sole power of taxation.
This power was diligently guarded by the people although the King frequently attempted ways to get American revenue at the
disposal of the Crown. There were no internal taxes within the colonies until the period leading up to the Revolution, other
than those levied by the colonists themselves. This practice is the foundation on which the Constitutional requirement that all
revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives is based.

The Plymouth colony was the most autonomous and self-governing of the original colonies until it joined with the
Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691. With the Mayflower Compact as its basic constitution, the government of Plymouth was
initially vested in a body of freemen who met annually as a General Court to elect the governor and his assistants, pass laws,
and levy taxes. The General Court was the only legislative body and the governor and his assistants had no veto power over
its acts. As the colony grew and new settlements were added it became necessary to replace the annual assembly. By 1639,
the assembly of freemen was replaced with a representative body of deputies elected annually by the seven towns making up
the colony.

Ownership of land was not required as a condition of voting, but freemanship was limited to adult protestant males of good
character. Quakers were denied the privilege of voting from 1659 and church membership was added as a requirement for
the status of freeman in 1668. The following year the ownership of land was added.

Plymouth was made a part of the Dominion of New England in 1686. When the Dominion was overthrown three years later
Plymouth reestablished its previous form of government. However, in 1691 Plymouth was merged with the Massachusetts
Bay colony to form the royal province of Massachusetts. By that time, the population of the Plymouth colony was between
7,000 and 7,500 inhabitants.


Two of the early colonies started, not as a stock company or as an escape from English tyranny, but in protest to the
despotic theocracy established by the radical Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Connecticut and Rhode Island were
small colonies but large in their contributions to the ideas of liberty that furthered America’s progress toward freedom.
Connecticut was founded by Thomas Hooker who migrated to America in order to escape the persecutions of Archbishop
Laud and Charles I, in England. Hooker became the Puritan Pastor at Newtown, now Cambridge, a village adjoining Boston.
The limitations on suffrage imposed by Governor Winthrop became a matter of contention between Hooker and the
governor. Hooker argued that matters concerning all the people should be decided by a “general council chosen by all” but in
Massachusetts, only church members in good standing could vote.

In June of 1636, Hooker and his entire congregation left Newtown and walked the hundred miles or so to what is now the
City of Hartford, in the Connecticut Valley, driving their cattle before them. Other congregations from Dorchester and
Watertown soon followed founding the towns of Windsor and Wethersfield. Within the first year, eight hundred people had
joined Hooker and his congregation in the Connecticut Valley. A year later in 1638, the three towns combined to form a small
republic and craft a Constitution known as the Fundamental Orders.

The Constitution limited the Governor to one term and no religious test was required for citizenship, although, it did require
that “the Governor be always a member of some approved Congregation” It created a General Court with legislative, judicial,
administrative and taxing powers. While it provided for a representative government, it was sixty years before Connecticut
established a bicameral legislature. No mention was made in the constitution of allegiance to the British government or the

The Fundamental Orders remained in force as Connecticut’s Constitution until 1818, one hundred and eighty years later. It
was this constitution referred to in the famous letter from the Danbury Baptist to Thomas Jefferson in which they
“that religion is considered as the first object of legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as
a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights;”

The colony of Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams, also a refugee from Puritan Massachusetts Bay in 1636. Roger
Williams and the establishment of Rhode Island will be discussed in the next chapter on religious liberty.
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