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THE GOVERNMENT OF THE
1. The English Colonies in America. The fact that several nations exist in the world is almost as apparent as the existence of the human race itself. Frenchmen learn very early that they are not Englishmen; the Japanese, that they are not Russians; and the Spaniards, that they are not Germans. Our traditions, our love of country, and our reading in history tend to keep clear in our minds the fact that the members of our nation constitute a large group by themselves, and that they are in some respects separate and distinct from those of other nations. The nation may be defined as a large independent group of persons possessing a definite territory and a supreme government. By a supreme government is meant a government that is not under any other government. The government of a city in the United States is under the State government. The government of a State is limited by the authority which the Constitution of the United States confers upon the Federal Government. The City of New York is a large group of persons and has a definite territory—that is to say, we know its boundaries; but it is under the government of the State of New York. It is therefore not a nation. The State of New York has also a definite territory; but it is not a nation, because its
government is under the superior authority of the United States. The United States has a definite territory, but its Government is not under any superior power; hence we call the United States a nation. For the same reasons we call France, Italy, or Japan a nation.
The colonies that were united to form the United States were at first under the government of England. They did not then constitute a separate nation; they were rather a part of the English nation. After they had declared their independence and maintained it, and formed a government for themselves that was not under any other government, then they became the nation that we call the United States of America.
The English Government granted, in large measure, to its American colonies the right to govern themselves. These colonies were often small in the beginning, but they grew strong by being compelled to rely upon themselves. The colonists found along the Atlantic coast only a sparse population of savages, who they expected would disappear, and who have almost entirely disappeared. From these Indians they kept aloof. They drove them back into the wilderness, and maintained the European standard of civilization. The Spaniards, who settled Mexico and South America intermarried with the Indians, and as a consequence their descendants fell below the European standard. The colonies of Spain were more completely dependent upon the mother country than were the colonies of England. The most noticeable points of contrast between the relations of these two nations with their colonies are the following:
1. The Spanish colonists might not trade with the merchants of foreign nations. The English colonists were free to trade in certain wares with any nation.
2. For a long time Spain required all trade with America to pass through a single Spanish port. England allowed
all her ports to have equal privileges with reference to the trade with America.
3. Spanish colonies might not trade with one another. English colonies enjoyed full freedom in their intercolonial trade.
4. Spain laid special stress on getting gold and silver from America. England laid special stress on getting raw material for her manufactures.
5. Spain excluded from her colonies all foreign manufactures. England excluded from her colonial markets such foreign manufactures as were in competition with her home manufactures.
6. The traditions of the Spanish nation and the state of Spanish society in America favored the application of the principles of absolutism in the government of the Spanish colonies. The traditions of the English nation and the state of English society in America encouraged in the English colonies the development of popular rule.
Topics.-Definition of a nation.—Why the State of New York may not be called a nation. How a colony may become a nation.Attitude of the English Government toward its colonists.-Spanish system contrasted with the English system.
References.-Hinsdale, American Government, 26-76; Frothingham, Rise of the Republic, 1-157.
2. The Supremacy of the King.– The settlers in America and their descendants, whether English, French, or Spanish, regarded the king as the sole possessor of the supreme power over them; and all the colonizing nations in Europe participated in the view that American colonies were possessions of the king. This view was so firmly fixed in the minds of the Spanish-Americans that they considered themselves no longer bound to Spain after Napoleon had set aside the legitimate Spanish king. The French colonists, as the subjects of an absolute monarch, recognized, of
necessity, the supremacy of the king alone. The English colonists also recognized no supreme authority over them but that of the king.
The rapid growth of the power and prestige of the Parliament, however, led to a modification of this idea in England. Yet the Americans adhered to the thought that, as they were not represented in this body, it had no power over them. While, therefore, it was consistent with the later English view that the Parliament should have part in the government of the colonies, the colonists themselves protested against parliamentary interference in their affairs.
Topics.-American settlers' view of the king.-Attitude of the English settlers toward the Parliament. - English opinion as to the Parliament's relation to colonial affairs.
References.—Miller, Lectures on the Constitution, 36, 75.
3. The Colonial Governments.-At the close of the period of dependence, there were three classes of English colonies: (1) The republican colonies; those whose governors, as well as other officers, were elected by the people. Connecticut and Rhode Island belonged to this class. (2) The proprietary colonies; those whose governors were appointed by hereditary proprietors. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware belonged to this class. (3) The royal colonies; those whose governors were appointed by the crown. This class embraced Georgia, the two Carolinas, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts after 1692. During the colonial period many changes were made in the governments of the colonies. Some of these governments belonged to different classes at different times. Massachusetts, for example, prior to 1692, elected her governor, deputy governor, the assistants, and the members of the house of deputies. After 1692, under the new charter, the governor and the lieutenant governor
were appointed by the crown, while the members of the general court continued to be elected by the people.
In spite of the observed differences relating to the governor, the several colonies were in many respects similar. They were all subordinate to the English crown and were dependent parts of the English nation. They all had representative legislative assemblies, and these assemblies controlled the public funds and directed their expenditure. In each colony there was a small body, called the council, the assistants, or the magistrates, which in relation to the assembly was an upper house, and in relation to the governor was a cabinet or ministry. It did not take part in legislation in some of the colonies. In Pennsylvania, it performed only executive duties. In some cases the members of this council were elected by the people; in others, by the assembly; in still others, they were appointed by the king or the lords proprietary.
It thus appears that the form of most of the colonial governments resembled that of the Government of England. The king, the lords, and the commons were reproduced on a small scale in the governor, the council, and the assembly. The powers of the commons in England and the powers of the assembly in the colonies were derived from the people. The king in England received his power by hereditary right, and the governor in the colonies received his power in most cases by royal appointment. These facts helped to make the assemblies antagonistic to the governors appointed by the king, as the House of Commons was antagonistic to the crown. It was the antagonism, in both cases, between royal power and popular power.
Although the government in England determined what the colonial governments might or might not do, yet practically each colony was a self-governing commonwealth, left to manage its own affairs with scarcely any