Government of Colonies

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 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.