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Mr Pitkin traces briefly, but with discrimination, in the principles and forms of our colonial governments, the primary causes of the revolution, and the elements of the systems which succeeded. New England was under charter governments. These resembled each other in their prominent features, and secured important privileges to the people. They were allowed, for instance, to choose their own governors, to elect a legislative assembly, and establish courts of justice. The assembly was empowered to pass any laws concerning the colony, with the only provision that these laws should not be opposed to any of the laws of England. For a few of the first years of the Massachusetts government, the chief control was in the hands of the governor and his assistants. At length the people, whose numbers were increasing, began to claim a greater share in the administration of affairs. At a meeting they resolved, that the power to make laws, appoint officers, and impose taxes, should rest with the General Court alone, and that this General Court should be composed of two or three members chosen from each plantation by the people. This, though not strictly warranted by the charter, was generally assented to, and became a fundamental part of the constitution of the colony. The assistants and deputies at first met together in the same room, and the former claimed a negative on the acts of the latter. This created no little dispute between them, and was not finally settled until 1644, when it was mutually agreed, that the legislature should consist of two separate bodies, each having a negative on the other.' At this early period the mode of legislating by two separate houses was introduced into Massachusetts.
The origin of the Connecticut government was somewhat peculiar. A company of emigrants from Massachusetts settled on the Connecticut river, at the towns of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor. The government was first in the hands of persons designated by the legislature of Massachusetts, called magistrates, and assisted by committees from the towns, who gave their advice on important occasions. This scheme was
of short duration; for the people, finding themselves beyond
depository, also, of historical fragments of early times, selections from manuscripts, and reprints of rare pieces, which have a permanent value. It is the best devised and most successful attempt of the kind, which we have seen. The plan might be followed with great advantage in every state.
the limits of the Massachusetts charter, thought it convenient to establish a form of government for themselves.
"The outlines of this constitution were, that there should be two general assemblies held in each year, one in April and the other in September. The one in April was called the court of election, at which were to be chosen a governor, and six magistrates, at least, and other public officers, as should be found requi site--the governor and magistrates to hold their offices for one year, and the governor was to be chosen from the magistrates. The governor and magistrates to be elected by those admitted freemen by the towns, and had taken the oath of fidelity. The mode of electing magistrates, was, it is believed, peculiar to Connecticut, and well calculated to prevent the choice of improper persons, either from the momentary impulse of the electors, or intrigues of the candidates. No person could be elected to that important station, who had not been proposed or nominated at some preceding General Court. The towns, by themselves, or their representatives, had a right to make such nominations, and transmit them to the court, and the court might add such names as they thought proper. The names of the persons thus nominated were published, and out of this number alone could the magistrates be chosen, by secret ballot, in the following manner. On the day of election, the names of the persons thus nominated at the preceding assembly, were called over in order by the secretary; and the freeman who desired the person called to be chosen, gave in a piece of paper, with some writing upon it; and those who did not wish him to be elected, gave in a blank; and those who had more written than blank papers were elected. No person could be chosen governor for two years in succession; and the governor must have been a magistrate, and also a member of some approved congregation.
The towns were to be represented in the general assembly by deputies, chosen by the freemen of the same; the towns of Hartfort, Wethersfield, and Windsor, to send four each, and the towns afterwards to be made, as many as the court should direct. The representatives to be chosen by those who had been admitted inhabitants of the town, and taken the oath of fidelity.' Vol. I. pp. 43, 44.
It is remarkable, that the substance of this system, or constitution, founded at the very outset of the colony, was retained in the charter of Charles the Second, and remained the same throughout the colonial period, the changes of the revolution, under the constitution of the United States, and even down to the new constitution of Connecticut, adopted eleven years ago, into which instrument many of its principles are incorporated.
The settlement on the Connecticut river consisted of eight hundred persons, when this form of government was instituted.
All the world knows the history of Roger Williams, and the liberal and enlightened spirit by which the institutions of Rhode Island were established under his influence. So well did these accord with the principles of liberty and right, that the charter obtained in conformity with them, not only secured to the people the privilege of self-government under the colonial organization, but formed the basis of a system entirely adequate to all the ends of a free government in its widest application.
The most remarkable feature in the history of the charter governments is the confederacy into which they entered in 1643. Besides its agency in guiding the events of the time, it was the prototype of the confederacy of the states during the revolution, which was in fact the germ and vivifying principle of our existence as a nation. There is so much similarity in the substance of the two confederations, as to prove that the legislators in Congress were not unwilling to profit by the wisdom and example of their forefathers. The author describes the New England confederacy as follows.
This union was proposed by the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven, as early as 1638, but was not finally completed until five years after. This confederacy of these infant colonies continued about forty years; and the confederacy itself, and the proceedings under it, constitute an interesting portion of the political history of New England. It consisted of the colonies of Massachusetts, New Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. By the articles of confederation, as they were called, these colonies entered into a firm and perpetual league of friendship and amity, for offence and defence, mutual advice and succor, upon all just occasions, both for preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the Gospel, and for their own mutual safety and welfare. Each colony was to retain its own peculiar jurisdiction and government; and no other plantation or colony was to be received as a confederate, nor any two of the confederates to be united into one jurisdiction, without the consent of the rest. The affairs of the united colonies were to be managed by a legislature to consist of two persons, styled commissioners, chosen from each colony. These commissioners had power to hear, examine, weigh, and determine all affairs of war or peace, leagues, aids, charges, and number of men for war,-division of spoils, and whatsoever is gotten by conquest-receiving of more confederates for plantations, into combination with any of the confederates; and all things of a like nature, which are the proper concomitants and consequences
of such a confederation for amity, offence, and defence; not intermeddling with the government of any of the jurisdictions, which, by the third article, is preserved entirely to themselves." The commissioners were to meet annually, in each colony, in succession, and when met, to choose a president, and the determination of any six to be binding on all.
The expenses of all just wars to be borne by each colony, in proportion to its number of male inhabitants of whatever quality or condition, between the ages of sixteen and sixty.
In case any colony should be suddenly invaded, on motion and request of three magistrates of such colony, the other confederates were immediately to send aid to the colony invaded, in men, Massachusetts one hundred, and the other colonies forty-five each, or for a less number, in the same proportion.
'The commissioners, however, were very properly directed, afterwards, to take into consideration the cause of such war or invasion, and if it should appear that the fault was in the colony invaded, such colony was not only to make satisfaction to the invaders, but to bear all the expenses of the war.
'The commissioners were also authorized "to frame and establish agreements and orders in general cases of a civil nature, wherein all the plantations were interested, for preserving peace among themselves, and preventing as much as may be all occasions of war, or difference with others, as about the free and speedy passage of justice, in every jurisdiction, to all the confederates equally as to their own, receiving those that remove from one plantation to another, without due certificates."
'It was, also, very wisely provided in the articles, that runaway servants, and fugitives from justice, should be returned to the colonies where they belonged, or from which they had fled. If any of the confederates should violate any of the articles, or, in any way injure any one of the other colonies, "such breach of agreement, or injury, was to be considered and ordered" by the commissioners of the other colonies. This confederacy, which was declared to be perpetual, continued without any essential alteration, until the New England colonies were deprived of their charter by the arbitrary proceedings of James II. In the year 1648, some of the inhabitants of Rhode Island requested to be admitted into the confederacy, but they were informed that the Island was within the patent granted to New Plymouth, and therefore their request was denied.' Vol. 1. pp. 50, 51.
The main objects of the confederates were to protect themselves against the Dutch at New York, and the Indians. The line between New York and Connecticut was run and settled under the direction of the commissioners, and the famous war
with King Philip was prosecuted by the united forces of the confederate colonies.
An anecdote in the history of those times shows, that tariffmaking is not a modern device in our legislation. The town of Springfield, on the Connecticut river, was within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. A fort had been erected at the mouth of the river, which was supported at the charge of Connecticut, and the provident people of that colony imposed a duty on certain articles, which the inhabitants of Springfield were in the habit of carrying down the river, in search of a market, beyond the limits of the colony; alleging as a reason, that, as the people of Springfield were benefited by the protection derived from the fortification at the mouth of the river, they ought to contribute their share of its expense. This was deemed a grievance and an indignity by Massachusetts, and, according to the provisions of the confederation, the case was referred for decision to Plymouth and New Haven, as not being interested in the result. They gave it in favor of Connecticut. Far from being satisfied with this judgment, Massachusetts resorted to a retaliatory act, imposing a duty on similar articles imported from New Haven, Connecticut, and Plymouth, within the Castle of Boston harbor; assigning as a reason, that the castle had been built and was kept up at a great expense for the protection of all ships, which entered the harbor. At the next meeting of the commissioners a remonstrance was brought in from the three colonies; but as the fort at Saybrook was soon after destroyed by fire, and the duties in consequence abolished, the affair was pursued no farther.
The charter governments were founded on a more liberal basis than the others, as they left much in the hands of the people. They were not without troubles and embarrassments. The king and parliament claimed the right of altering them, or even revoking them altogether; whereas the colonies denied such right, affirming that the charters were sacred compacts, which could not be annulled or infringed, unless their conditions had been violated by the party to whom they were granted. The charters were, nevertheless, sometimes forcibly taken away, and the injuries thus inflicted led to ceaseless contentions, which were among the chief causes of the revolution.
The proprietary governments, as the name indicates, were in the hands of proprietors, or individuals, who had derived grants from the king in their own name, with authority to set up VOL. XXX.-NO. 66.