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What Was the First Form of Representative Government in the Colonies

When the first pilgrims traveled to the New World, a strange twist of fate created a spirit of self-government. These Mayflower pilgrims were on their way to Virginia in 1620, but they got lost and ended up in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Since Plymouth was not within the boundaries of the colony of Virginia, the pilgrims did not have an official charter to govern it. So they designed the Mayflower Compact, which essentially stipulated that they would govern themselves. Although Massachusetts eventually became a royal colony, the Plymouth Pilgrims set a powerful precedent for setting their own rules, which were later reflected in the city`s meetings held in colonial New England. As the revolution approached, colonial assemblies began to forcibly oust their governors. Maryland was the only colony that did not remove its last owner governor from office and instead chose a formal and largely polite transfer of power. By 1775, the authority of its English governor, Sir Robert Eden, had effectively been usurped by the Convention of Annapolis, and Eden was finally invited by the Maryland Council of Safety to resign as governor. The Maryland Convention had been pushed by the Continental Congress (and Virginians in particular) to arrest and imprison Eden, but they held back and preferred to avoid such an „extreme” measure. Eventually, the Maryland Convention officially required the governor`s departure, and Governor Eden finally left Maryland for England on June 23, 1776. New France, settled by France in the 16th century, included the colonies of Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. As citizens of the United States of America, it is important for us to rediscover earlier expressions of our constitutional ideals in colonial Virginia.

Although many of our ideas about representative government evolved from the English model of parliament, the American tradition of representative government actually began in Jamestown. The experience that took place there would later influence the political development of other English colonies in the New World. The second trend was that the power to legislate to regulate the colony was becoming increasingly decentralized. In 1609, the king, reluctant to assume the financial burden of the colony of the royal treasury, signed a second charter that allowed the sale of shares in the company to the public. James I reluctantly relinquished his absolute control over the colony in order to win the support of as many investors as possible. This trend towards the decentralization of power did not initially lead to more rights and privileges for the settlers. The rigid penalty code, known as the „Divine, Moral and Martial Laws,” which began around 1611, was a major setback, if any. In 1618, however, martial law was abolished, the Legislative Assembly was created, and some of the government`s power eventually seeped into the hands of the settlers. Together, the two trends discussed above accelerated the general trend towards a colony of a less commercial and political nature.

In the British Empire, a governor was originally an official appointed by the monarch or the British cabinet to oversee one of the colonies and be the head of the colonial administration. The governor was given general executive powers and was authorized to convene a locally elected assembly. In addition to advising the governor, the governor`s council met as an upper house when the assembly was in session. The governor had absolute veto power and could adjourn (i.e. delay) and dissolve the meeting at any time. The governor lived in an official residence, which in most colonies was simply known as Government House. We will begin by briefly discussing some of the important events that led to the Legislative Assembly of 1619; Second, we will discuss the distinctive features of this historic meeting that took place in the Church during the hot summer months of July and August; and finally, we will discuss the importance of the First Assembly as a precedent for many of the institutional values represented in the United States Constitution. The Mayflower Compact was the first government document of the Plymouth Colony. It was written by separatists or Puritans fleeing religious persecution by King James of England. They traveled aboard the Mayflower in 1620 with adventurers, merchants and servants. The Mayflower was originally intended for the colony of Virginia, funded by the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. However, storms forced them to land on the Cape Cod hook in what is now Massachusetts.

This inspired the passengers to announce, as the agreement would not be concluded as agreed in virginia territory, they would use their own freedom, and no one had the power to command them. Thus, in April 1619, Governor George Yeardley arrived and announced that the company had voted to abolish martial law and create a legislative assembly to improve the social conditions of the colony. This meeting would be held no more than once a year, „where the governor and council should be present with two citizens from each plantation who could be freely elected by the residents.” The mandatory presence of the Governor and the appointed council has somewhat restricted freedom of debate. The power of a governor could diminish if the colony received a more representative government. This representation could take the form of an executive council, which helps administer the colony, or, in a later phase of self-government, in legislative councils and assemblies, in which the governor often played a role. In some colonies, the colonial assembly shared power with a royally appointed governor. At a more local level, the power of the government rested with the district courts, which continued themselves – incumbents filled all vacancies and there had never been popular elections. The task of the assembly was to enact all local laws and ordinances to ensure that they were not incompatible with the laws of England.

In practice, this has not always been achieved, as many provincial assemblies have sought to expand their powers and limit those of the governor and the crown. Laws could be reviewed by the Chamber of Commerce, which also had veto power over the law. The Board of Trade (originally known as the Lords of Trade or Lords of Trade and Plantations) was a committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, established in the 17th century as a temporary committee of inquiry and gradually evolved into a department with a variety of functions. Taxes and state budgets also came from the assembly, and the budget was linked to the training and equipment of the militia. In 1534, Jacques Cartier claimed the first province of New France. However, early French attempts to colonize the region failed. However, French fishing fleets continued to sail to the Atlantic coast and the St. Lawrence River.

French merchants soon realized that the St. Lawrence region was full of precious furry animals, especially the beaver, which became rare in Europe. Eventually, the French crown decided to colonize the region to secure and expand its influence in America. Conflicts over taxes and budgets contributed to the tensions between assemblies and governors that eventually led to the American Revolution. In 1769, the Virginia House of Burgesses affirmed that only the governor and legislature of Virginia could tax its citizens. The members wrote an official letter to the king and completed it shortly before the dissolution of the legislature by the royal governor of Virginia. Colonial economies operated under mercantilism, a system based on the belief that colonies existed to increase the wealth of the homeland. England tried to regulate trade and prohibit the colonies from trading with other European countries. England also retained the right to tax the colonies. Trade and taxation were difficult for England to control, so an informal agreement was formed. England regulated trade, but granted settlers the right to levy their own taxes.

The smugglers soon took advantage of the Inability of the English to guard any port by acting secretly against the will of Parliament. Religious freedom was the main motivation of Europeans to venture into the American colonies. Puritans and pilgrims from Massachusetts, Quakers from Pennsylvania, and Catholics from Maryland represented the growing religious diversity in the colonies. Rhode Island was founded as a colony of religious freedom in response to the zealous Puritans. As a result, many different religions coexisted in the colonies. This variant required an insistence on religious freedom from the early days of British colonization. The weather was unbearably hot and humid, and a citizen died during the session; Nevertheless, the Assembly managed to deal with several agenda items during its short six-day meeting. First, the assembly called for some minor changes to the regulation of land ownership. Then the Assembly approved the „Magna Carta” of 1618, which had made its creation possible. Then the assembly adopted measures against drunkenness, idleness and gambling. Other laws discussed on Monday, August 2 included protection from Indians, baptism of Indians, and planting of trees and crops.

On August 3, the assembly discussed „a third type of laws that could emerge from the privileged competence of each man.” This is where the power of the individual citizen to initiate laws and not simply to pass the laws proposed from above lies. Citizens initiated and passed other laws regulating relations with Indians and the personal affairs of settlers. The assembly even passed a law requiring compulsory church attendance. Also on 3 August, the Assembly took on a judicial character when it tried one of a landowner`s servants for inappropriate conduct. . . .