Слике страница

the assembly, but he could not appoint the council, or upper house, and he could choose the civil officers only with its consent. However, he enjoyed considerable military authority; he organized the militia, appointed the chief officers, commanded the armed forces, and declared martial law in case of rebellion or invasion. Naturally this division of authority invited conflicts, and it so happened that Massachusetts led the way in throwing off all royal authority.

In Rhode Island and Connecticut the governor occupied a peculiar position. In the first place, he was elected annually by a general assembly composed of the governor, assistants, and representatives chosen by the voters in each "city, town, or place." In the second place, the governor did not stand out as a distinct official; he was little more than a figurehead, his functions being discharged only in coöperation with his assistants, or councillors. In each of these colonies, the governor and assembly were duly authorized to make all necessary laws and ordinances and manage corporate business with a large degree of freedom. There was accordingly no separation of legislative and executive powers as in the royal provinces, and the governor was constantly controlled in his office by the advisers who, like himself, were chosen by the general assembly. Furthermore, he enjoyed no veto power over legislation."

The executive authority in the proprietary colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania and Delaware 3 stood on a different basis from that in the royal provinces or in Connecticut or Rhode Island. Each of the former was, as Professor Osgood points out, "a miniature kingdom of a semi-feudal type and the proprietor was a petty king." Each was a vast estate carved out of the royal domain and granted by the crown to a proprietor who, in theory at least, combined the rights of government with those of landlord, from which he derived large revenues. When the proprietor of Pennsylvania was in his province, he assumed executive au

1 For an extract from the Rhode Island Charter, Readings, p. 7.

2 The governor of Rhode Island was given the veto power in 1909. Delaware was united to Pennsylvania under the proprietorship of Penn in 1682, and until 1704 the two colonies had a single legislature. In the latter year, however, separate legislatures were established, although they continued under the same proprietor, who appointed a governor for Delaware to represent himself.

thority himself, but when he was absent he vested it in a lieutenant-governor who served in the capacity of his agent.' The Pennsylvania assembly successfully resisted the power of the governor to dissolve or prorogue, and the executive council did not serve as an upper chamber, as was the case in the legislatures of the other colonies, although it did enjoy a somewhat indefinite influence over legislation." In Maryland, "the proprietary held the title to all the land, was captain-general and head of the Church. All patronage, lay and clerical, amounting to fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds a year from the governor with a salary of fifteen hundred and fifty pounds down to the naval officers and sheriffs — was in his hands. He had a negative upon all laws, and the power of pardon. To the proprietary belonged all the quit-rents, the tobacco and tonnage duties, and the legal fines and forfeitures, although the assembly vigorously resisted this last source of emolument. To the governor, who was appointed by the proprietary, the exercise of all these sovereign powers was, as a rule, entrusted. The governor represented the proprietary in the province, summoned, prorogued, and dissolved the assembly, and assented to laws. He also claimed a veto on legislation, but this right was not admitted by the Burgesses. He made all appointments to office, issued pardons, signed the warrants for execution, and exercised great political influence." Nevertheless, under its power to control money grants, the popular branch of the legislature in Maryland succeeded, toward the Revolution, in securing a tolerably effective control over the governor in the exercise of these large powers.

Colonial Legislatures

In all of the colonies, except Pennsylvania, there were two branches of the legislature, and only in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, was the upper house — to use the term in a general sense elective. In these three New England colonies, the councillors, or assistants, as they were called, were chosen by the general assemblies, and thus did not occupy the

1 W. R. Shepherd, History of Proprietary Government in Pennsylvania (Columbia University Studies), p. 474.

2 Ibid., p. 321.

3 Lodge, English Colonies in America, p. 113.

same position of independence over against the representative branch, as did the councillors of the royal colonies. In the provincial colonies, the upper house, or council, was chosen by the king acting through the royal governor, who usually determined the selection himself. In the proprietary colonies, the proprietor or his representative selected the councillors.

In addition to the usual legislative powers, that is, the right to discuss and vote on laws, the council had executive and judicial functions. It advised the governor; in conjunction with him it formed a judicial tribunal; it frequently controlled him in making appointments; and it discharged many of the official duties now vested in higher state officers, such as the secretary and treasurer. In Massachusetts, the governor and council appointed civil officers; in South Carolina the governor had to secure the approval of the council before taking any important action or making an official appointment; in Rhode Island the assistants shared the executive power of the governor; and in New Jersey it was only with the consent of the council that the governor appointed judges and civil, ecclesiastical, and military officials. Where the council was elected it tended to merge with the legislature; in Pennsylvania, where it was the proprietor's advisory board, it lost almost all legislative power, and in the royal provinces it became an aristocratic body, sympathizing generally with the governor and king in the contests with the representative branch of the government.

In every colony there was an assembly of representatives chosen by popular vote, but, contrary to common impressions, there was nothing like universal manhood suffrage. In New York, for example, voters for members of the assembly - the lower branch of the legislature were required to be freeholders of lands or tenements to the value of forty pounds free from all encumbrances, except that in New York City and Albany the suffrage was open to all freemen - that is, all men who had been regularly admitted to civic rights.2 In Virginia the voter had to be a freeholder of an estate of at least fifty acres of land, if there was no house on it; or twenty-five acres with a house twelve feet

'Reference: A. E. McKinley, The Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English Colonies, University of Pennsylvania Publications the standard authority on this problem.

2 For a fuller explanation of this term, see McKinley, ibid., pp. 208 ff.

Colonial Origins of American Institutions


square; or, if a dweller in a city or town, he had to own a lot or part of a lot with a house twelve feet square. In Massachusetts the voter for member of the legislature, under the charter of 1691, had to be a freeholder of an estate worth at least forty shillings a year, or the owner of other property to the value of forty pounds sterling. In Pennsylvania the vote was restricted to freeholders of fifty acres or more of land "well seated" and twelve acres cleared, and to other persons worth at least fifty pounds in lawful money.

As a result of these property qualifications, a considerable portion of the adult males were excluded from any share in the government. Exact statistics are difficult to obtain, and the following figures are given by Dr. McKinley merely by way of illustration. He estimates that in New York City the voting class included from one-ninth to one-fourteenth of the total population, and that two-fifths of these electors were not owners of property, but voted as freemen of the city. Taking some scattered figures for mid-century elections in Virginia, he places the voting population at from seven to ten per cent of the white inhabitants, and concludes that "the franchise was more widely exercised, if not more widely conferred, in Virginia than in the more Northern colonies." In Boston during the period from 1745 to 1754 the number of voters averaged about three per cent of the population, but this was partially due to the fact that many duly qualified voters were ordinarily inactive, for on one occasion at least six and one-half per cent of the inhabitants took part in an election. In the rural districts of Pennsylvania about one out of ten of the population could vote, while in the city of Philadelphia the fifty-pound qualification disfranchised so many inhabitants that, according to the tax list, only one in fifty possessed the suffrage.

In conclusion, Dr. McKinley says: "In New York City in the elections of 1735, 1761, and 1769, the actual voters numbered about eight per cent of the population. In Pennsylvania the tax list figures give only the potential voters, but they show about eight per cent of the rural population qualified for the suffrage and only two per cent in the city of Philadelphia, a condition quite in contrast to that of New York City. In New England the actual voters appear to be less proportionately than in the middle and southern colonies. Massachusetts, for instance,

shows only one person in fifty as taking part in elections, and Connecticut, in elections immediately preceding the Revolution, had about the same proportion. In Rhode Island the freemen or potential voters numbered only nine per cent of the population. These figures are entirely too few and too scattered in time and territory to justify any accurate generalization from them. The potential voters seem to vary from one-sixth to one-fiftieth of the population, and the actual number of voters shows almost an equal variation; Massachusetts and Connecticut showing at times only two per cent of actual voters among the population, where perhaps sixteen per cent were qualified electors; and New York City and Virginia showing the far larger proportion of eight per cent of the population as actual voters. At best the colonial elections called forth both relatively and absolutely only a small fraction of the present percentage of voters. Property qualifications, poor means of communication, large election districts, and the absence of party organization combined to make the most sharply contested elections feeble in their effects upon the community as compared with the widespread suffrage of the twentieth century."

[ocr errors]

Most of the colonies also followed the example of the mother country in imposing special qualifications on members elected to the legislature. In South Carolina, for example, a member had to own five hundred acres of land and ten slaves or be worth one thousand pounds sterling in land, houses, or other property.' New Jersey members had to have one thousand acres freehold, while in Georgia delegates were required to own at least five hundred acres of land. In addition to property qualifications, religious tests were usually imposed on assemblymen.

Following the ancient practice of England, representatives were distributed, in colonial times, among distinct territorial districts rather than among equal groups of people. In New England the town was the unit of representation, and only a slight attempt was made to adjust the representation to the population. For example, the charter of Rhode Island stipulated that Newport should send not more than six persons, Providence, Portsmouth, and Warwick four each, and other places, towns, and cities two each. The Massachusetts charter,

1 Op. cit., p. 487.

[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »