Colonial America covers the years 1607 to 1776, in which settlers arriving from Europe were looking for religious freedom, land and the opportunity for wealth. The newcomers were governed by the laws of Europe, which inevitably led to rebellion and eventually the establishment of the 13 colonies and their own governments.
The 13 Colonies
The 13 colonies were divided into three geographical areas: the New England colonies, the Middle colonies and the Southern Colonies. These 13 colonies included Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, North and South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, New York, Virginia and Rhode Island.
Issued by the King
American colonial government had three types or systems of government: Royal, Charter and Proprietary. These, however, operated using the same basic principles: the 13 colonies elected their own legislature, they were democratic and they all had a governor’s court, a governor and a court system. The governor held executive power in the colony and represented the Crown of England, usually appointed by the King, in the colonial government. An assembly was elected by the citizens of the towns and counties, but often there was a power struggle between governor and assembly as the governor often seemed all too powerful.
Proprietary colonies were territories granted by the Crown to be owned by a person or family to govern as they wanted, and they were typically appointed by the governor. They were given more liberties than other colonies as the proprietor could make or pass laws and assign officials. The three proprietary colonies before the Revolutionary War were Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. By 1690, the British grew more concerned with the growing independence of the colonists, which led to the end of proprietary grants in an attempt to change all proprietary colonies to royal colonies.
Chartered colonies were normally self-governed and their charters, as opposed to proprietors, were granted to the colonists and included Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were between the British king and the American Colonists as written contracts. These colonies were known as corporate colonies or joint-stock companies where investors would purchase shares of stock, and if the colony was successful and depending on the number of shares an investor bought, the investor would be able to make some profit. All of the colonial charters guaranteed American colonists the vague rights and privileges of Englishmen and led to being one of the major causes of the American War for Independence.
Royal colonies didn’t have a corporate or proprietary charter, and the main function of them were to benefit the Crown. The colonies were ruled by the royal governor who represented the king, and any action done by the governor originated from the king. The seven royal colonies before the Revolutionary War included New York, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire and New Jersey. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War marked the defeat of the British, leading the colonies to develop their own constitutions and from there changed to states.
- Land of the Brave: Colonial America
- Land of the Brave: Colonial Government: The Royal, Charter and Proprietary Systems of Government
- University of Houston Digital History: Government in England and the Colonies
- History of the USA: Colonial Government
- Boundless: English Administration of the Colonies
- Encyclopedia.com: Royal Colonies