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PARTIES AND THEIR PRINCIPLES.
GOVERNMENT OF THE COLONIES, 1620–1774.
The spirit of constitutional liberty came with the pilgrim fathers to the shores of the New World. It received its first embodiment in the cabin of the Mayflower; where, before landing, those earnest men trusting in God nant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation.”
This simple compact constituted the nucleus of the early governments in the New England Colonies. The royal prerogative was subsequently asserted, and the charter system superseded the previous action of the settlers. The authority, however, still vested in the people to elect all officers—legislative and executive—to establish courts of justice, and to enact such laws as seemed necessary, provided only that these enactments should not conflict with the laws of England.
The charter, the royal—where the power vested in the crown—and the proprietary, were the three forms of government established over the colonies.
The settlements, in their incipient stages, offered little inducement to tempt the monarch and the horde of eager and hungry officials of the mother country. They were left to defend themselves, as best they could, against savage foes, to subdue, as they were best able, the unbroken forests, and to endure the rigors of a northern climate. Human enterprise, urged on by necessity, met nature hand to hand and triumphed. Sites were carved out for thriving towns and populous cities, and the elements of a power created, which, in the vindication of justice and right, challenged the admiration and won the approval of the civilized world.
As wealth responded to the stroke of industry, and prosperity began to smile along the coast, and cast its influence inland, tracing the course of great streams, threading the prosperous valley and cropping out on the mountain side, and commerce began to whiten the ocean with the cheering emblem of a thriving people, the colonists were deemed no longer competent to manage their own affairs, and large numbers of officials were sent out to supervise them, “ that the king's interest should receive no detriment."
Then began that long series of peculation, of aggression, of insult and of oppression, on the part of the parent country, which was met by a determined and manly resistance, that knew no relaxation until the two countries became separate and distinct governments.
SUPREMACY OF THE BRITISH OR COLONIAL AUTHORITY.
How far Great Britain might legitimately exercise her authority in the Colonies, was a question out of which grew much dissension and great alienation of feeling. The home government asserted her right to change modify, or abolish the colonial charters; on the other hand, these instruments were held in the light of civil
COLONIES PROTEST AGAINST TAXATION.
compacts, and as such could be changed only by mutual consent. It was likewise maintained that the only limitation to colonial legislation was, that their enactments should not be antagonistic to the laws of the realm ; these laws being held as none other than those appertaining to the essential and fundamental rights of persons, secured to every citizen in the magna charta and the bill of rights. So wide a divergence of opinion could be reconciled with difficulty. The crown, arrogant and conscious of power, asserted its authority with unbending rigor; while the colonists, strengthened by an inherent sense of right, and goaded by insult, would not purchase peace by surrendering their just prerogatives.
The colonial governors and other officials being in the interest of the king, aided in precipitating upon their subjects the most odious feature of British usurpation—taxation without representation. An Act of Parliament, holding that it had the right “ to bind the Colonies in all cases whatsoever,” forced the colonists to accept a position inferior to that of regular British subjects, or to stand out in opposition to the unequivocal declaration of that body. The most of the colonists claimed the rights common to British subjects, and that they were not bound, neither could they be bound by laws in the enactment of which they had been permitted no voice; and that all powers not specifically withheld from them in their charters were subject to their own immediate control. Hence, while granting to Parliament the reserved right to impose duties for the purpose of regulating commerce, the colonists claimed the exclusive supervision over all internal interests, and the sole right to levy and collect taxes.
After a thorough and animated discussion the Colonies sent up a united protest against the aggressions of Parlia ment. The several legislatures, that of Plymouth in