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The Government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

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Ben White

on 9 September 2010

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Transcript of The Government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Massachusetts Bay Government Puritan Theory of Government Democracy or Theocracy? Democracy Democracy - A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representitives. There is a seperation between religion and state. System of checks and balances. Offices are open to all. The affairs of state can be changed by the people. Elected rulers can be impeached. A seperate branch of the government handles civil law. Modern Democracies: United States, Switzerland Theocracy Theocracy: A nation or state in which the clergy exercise political power and in which
religous law is dominant over civil law. The ruler is absolute. Religous text may act as the constitution. The head of state(if not the religous head) will have to answer to the clerics. The people have little to no say in the affairs of the government. Religous laws are enforced as civil laws. Modern Theocracies: Iran, Saudi Arabia Rulers are said to have a direct link to God(s). Religion and state are one. So which is it? It was a trick question! The Massachusett's Bay Colony was neither Democracy or Theocracy, the colonists had a government that included a little bit of both. So what was the structure of Mass. Bay Colony's Government? Structure of the Mass. Bay Government To understand the Structure of the Mass. Bay Government we must look at the Governor, the General Court, who could vote, and the Town Meetings. The Governor The Governor was the most powerful man in the colony. The first governor was John Winthrop. The Govenor had 8 assistants that made up his council. John Winthrop was a smart man and a devout Puritan. He had a very strong faith in God, and he believed God was unhappy with England, and thus wanted him to establish a colony in England. (“[God will] provide a shelter and a hiding place for us.”)
The govenor and his council were both in the General Court. The General Court In October of 1630, the first General Court was held; and the magistrates allowed all residents of the colony to attend. Meetings were held 4 times per year. The General Court consisted of the Governor, his 8 assistants, and two delegates elected by each town. Though many people were included in the General Court, it is very
likely that the majority of the posistions were held by a minority of
the actual members. The people in this minority usually had better
connections and were more wealthy than the average citizens. The General Court had many powers including the ability to set taxes and to elect a governor. John Winthrop did get reelected but eventually his competitor, Thomas Dudley. Who Could Vote? The only people that could vote were the "freemen." These freemen were white adult males who were members of a Congregational church.
-by 1630, 40% of adult males could vote in the colony Women and black people could not vote for ministers, but could be members of the Congregational church. Freemen could vote for the governor, his assistants, deputies, and military officers every year. Town Meetings Puritans wanted great order and unity, and from this desire they developed a strong town governance. This popular participation promoted consensus rather than ensure pluralism.
-Freemen were taught that it was their duty as citizens to choose, or vote for, the men chosen by God to be in leadership positions (the electorate). Town meetings became an extremely important aspect of Puritan society because it also made the people feel obligated to follow the rules of society because their vote was involved in making it that way. Now you know everything there is about the Mass. Bay Government right?
Wrong! There are still a few important subjects to go over, like the Blue Laws, the Dominion of New England, and Andros's Rebellion. Blue Laws and Restrictions on Personal Actions What were the Blue Laws? Restrictions on Personal Actions Based on the Blue Laws The Blue Laws were a set of laws based on the bible's religous rules. They were sometimes used to dictate what was publicly acceptable or not. What did these laws restrict? Most of these laws have been repealed, declared unconstitutional, or uninforced nowadays. Reverend Samuel Peters fabricated notorious Blue Laws such as, "No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath or fasting-day." Reverend Peters' Blue Laws were considered "false blue laws." The Blue Laws that still exist are usually about the prohibition of alcohol or sometimes all commercial goods on Sabbath. Chick-fil-A has a Blue Law-like policy beacause it does not operate on Sunday. An example of a real Blue Law from the time of the Mass. Bay colony is, "If any man or woman, after legal conviction, shall have or worship any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death." As you can see, these Laws had harsh punishments. The Dominion of New England and Andros Rebellion The Dominion of New England Andros Rebellion In 1686, much to the dismay of the colonists, the Dominion of New England was created. Imposed from London, this new system countered much of the independence that they had had earlier. England sent soldiers to strengthen colonial defense in case of war with Indians. These soldiers ignored the customs and rules of the colonies. Most egregious was the enforcement of the Navagation Laws. These laws restricted trade with any country besides England or one of its colonies. Smuggling became more and more common. Sir Edmund Andros was appointed as the head of the new Dominion. He made New England more aristocractic. Sir Edmund Andros was disliked by the colonist for many reasons. He had a connection with the Church of England. He reduced the amount of town meetings. He put large restrictions on the courts, the press, and the schools. Also, he took back all land titles. Ignoring the officially elected representitives, he taxed the people of New England. He enforced the Navagation Laws and tried to suppress the smuggling. When they had the Glorious Rebellion in Old England, it is of little surprise that the
colonists took advantage of the disorder to rebel themselves and to send Sir Edmund
Andros back to England. Phew! A lot of information, but now you can say that you are experts on the...
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