The lands which had been thus ceded were planted with facility, because they had already undergone the discipline of Indian tillage.
Food was therefore easily procured. The Roman Catholics, unhappy in their native land, and desirous of a peaceful asylum, went over in great numbers to Maryland. Lord Baltimore, to whom the Province had been granted, laid the foundation of its future prosperity on the broad basis of security to Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] property, and of freedom in religion. The wisdom of these measures converted a dreary wilderness into a prosperous colony, because men exert themselves in their several pursuits in proportion as they are assured of enjoying in safety those blessings which they wish for most.
Never did a people enjoy more happiness than the inhabitants of Maryland under Cecilius the founder of the Province. Mankind then beheld a new scene on the theatre of English America. They saw in Massachusetts the Puritans persecuting various sects, and the church of England in Virginia, actuated by the same spirit, harassing those who dissented from the established religion, while the Roman Catholics of Maryland tolerated and protected the professors of all denominations. In consequence of this liberal policy, and the other prudent measures adopted by the rulers of this Province, it rapidly increased in wealth and population.
The distractions which convulsed England for 25 years preceding the restoration in , left no leisure for colonising; but no sooner was Charles the Second restored to the throne of his ancestors, than it was resumed with greater spirit than ever. By this charter King Charles established a pure democracy. Every power, legislative, judicial and executive, was invested in the freemen of the corporation, or their delegates, and the colony was under no obligation to communicate its legislative acts to the national sovereign.
These, like Connecticut, had been previously settled by emigrants chiefly from Massachusetts, who as an independent people had seated themselves on land fairly obtained from the native proprietors, without any authority from the parent state. Carolina though settled originally as one government, was about the year divided into two.
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Georgia was, in the year , formed by George the Second into a distinct Province. These Provinces had been previously settled by Dutch Colonists, and held as terrirories of the United Netherlands, but they were easily reduced to the obedience of the King of England, who claimed the country by the right of prior discovery. Penn some time posterior to this, obtained a farther grant of the land on the Western side of the River Delaware, and South of Pennsylvania, which was formed into a separate Government, and is now the State of Delaware.
Notwithstanding these charters Mr. Penn did not think himself invested with the right of the soil, till he had purchased it from the native proprietors. Massachusetts had before that time questioned the authority of Parliament to tax them and legislate for them.
The general clause that the Colonists should retain all the privileges of Englishmen had already been made, the basis of claims against which some in the Mother Country had many objections. Perhaps the ruling powers of England were sensible, that they had previously delegated too much of independence to their Colonies, and intended to be more guarded in future, but their caution was too late.
Had it been seriously intended to control the natural order of events, by the feeble force of words and clauses in a charter, the experiment ought to have been tried from the first, and not reserved for that of Pennsylvania, which was one of the last granted to the Colonies. Near a century after, Dr. In the rapid manner just related, was the English North American Continent parcelled out into distinct Governments. Little did the wisdom of the two preceding Centuries foresee of the consequences both good and evil, that were to result to the old world from discovering and colonising the new.
When we consider the immense floods of gold and silver, which have flowed from it into Europe—the subsequent increase of industry and population, the prodigious extension of commerce, manufactures, and navigation, and the influence of the whole on manners and arts[—]we see such an accumulation of good, as leads us to rank Columbus among the greatest benefactors of the human race: but when we view the injustice done the natives, the extirpation of many of Edition: orig; Page: [ 14 ] their numerous nations, whose names are no more heard—the havoc made among the first settlers—the slavery of the Africans, to which America has furnished the temptation, and the many long and bloody wars which it has occasioned, we behold such a crowd of woes, as excites an apprehension, that the evil has outweighed the good.
In vain do we look among ancient nations, for examples of Colonies established on principles of policy, similar to those of the Colonies of Great-Britain. England did not, like the republics of Greece, oblige her sons to form distant communities in the wilds of the earth.
Like Rome she did not give lands as a gratuity to soldiers, who became a military force for the defence of her frontiers: She did not, like Carthage, subdue the neighbouring States, in order to acquire an exclusive right to their commerce. No conquest was ever attempted over the Aborigines of America. Their right to the soil was disregarded, and their country looked upon as a waste, which was open to the occupancy and use of other nations.
It was considered that settlements might be there formed for the advantage of those who should migrate thither, as well as of the Mother Country. The rights and interests of the native proprietors were, all this time, deemed of no account. What was the extent of obligations by which Colonies planted under these circumstances, were bound to the Mother Country, is a subject of nice discussion.
Whether these arose from nature and the constitution, or from compact, is a question necessarily connected with many others. While the friends of Union contended that the King of England had a property in the soil of America, by virtue of a right derived from prior discovery; and that his subjects by migrating from one part of his dominions to another, did not lessen their obligations to obey the supreme power of the nation, it was inferred, that the emigrants to English America, continued to owe the same obedience to the King and Parliament, as if they had never quitted the land of their nativity.
But if as others contended, the Indians were Edition: orig; Page: [ 15 ] the only lawful proprietors of the country in which their Creator had placed them, and they sold their right to emigrants who, as men, had a right to leave their native country, and as subjects, had obtained chartered permission to do so, it follows from these premises, that the obligations of the Colonists to their parent State, must have resulted more from compact, and the prospect of reciprocal advantage, than from natural obligation.
The latter opinions seem to have been adopted by several of the Colonists particularly in New-England. Sundry persons of influence in that country always held, that birth was no necessary cause of subjection, for that the subject of any Prince or State, had a natural right to remove to any other Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] State or quarter of the Globe, especially if deprived of liberty of conscience, and that, upon such removal, his subjection ceased.
The validity of charters about which the emigrants to America were universally anxious, rests upon the same foundation. If the right of the sovereigns of England to the soil of America was ideal, and contrary to natural justice, and if no one can give what is not his own, their charters were on several accounts a nullity. In the eye of reason and philosophy, they could give no right to American territory.
The only validity which such grants could have, was that the grantees had from their sovereign, a permission to depart from their native country, and negotiate with the proprietors for the purchase of the soil, and thereupon to acquire a power of jurisdiction subject to his crown.
These were the opinions of many of the settlers in New-England. They looked upon their charters as a voluntary compact between their sovereign and themselves, by which they were bound neither to be subject to, nor seek protection from any other Prince, nor to make any laws repugnant to those of England: but did not consider them as inferring an obligation of obedience to a Parliament, in which they were unrepresented. The prospects of advantage which the emigrants to America expected from the protection of their native sovereign, and the prospect of aggrandizement which their native sovereign expected from Edition: orig; Page: [ 16 ] the extension of his empire, made the former very solicitous for charters, and the latter very ready to grant them.
Neither reasoned clearly on their nature nor well understood their extent. In less than eight years miles of the sea coast were granted away, and so little did they who gave, or they who accepted of charters, understand their own transactions, that in several cases the same ground was covered by contradictory grants, and with an absurdity that can only be palliated by the ignorance of the parties, some of the grants extended to the South Sea, over a country whose breadth is yet unknown, and which to this day is unexplored.
Ideal as these charters were, they answered a temporary purpose. The colonists reposed confidence in them, and were excited to industry on their credit. They also deterred foreign European powers from disturbing them, because agreeably to the late law of nations, relative to the appropriation of newly discovered heathen countries, Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] they inferred the protection of the sovereign who gave them. They also opposed a barrier to open and gross encroachments of the mother country on the rights of the colonists; a particular detail of these is not now necessary; some general remarks may, nevertheless, be made on the early periods of colonial history, as they cast light on the late revolution.
Long before the declaration of independence, several of the colonies on different occasions, declared, that they ought not to be taxed but by their own provincial assemblies, and that they considered subjection to acts of a British parliament, in which they had no representation, as a grievance. It is also worthy of being noted, that of the 13 colonies, which have been lately formed into States, no one Georgia excepted was settled at the expence of government.
Towards the settlement of that Southern frontier, considerable sums have at different times been granted by parliament, but the twelve more Northern provinces, have been wholly settled by private adventurers, without any advances from the national treasury.
It does not appear, from existing records, that any compensation for their lands was ever made to the Edition: orig; Page: [ 17 ] Aborigines of America, by the crown or Parliament of England; but policy as well as justice led the colonists to purchase and pay for what they occupied. This was done in almost every settlement, and they prospered most, who by justice and kindness took the greatest pains to conciliate the good will of the natives. It is in vain to look for well balanced constitutions in the early periods of colonial history.
Till the revolution in the year , a period subsequent to the settlement of the colonies, England herself can scarcely be said to have had a fixed constitution. At that eventful era the line was first drawn between the privileges of subjects, and the prerogatives of sovereigns. The legal and constitutional history of the colonies, in their early periods, therefore, affords but little instruction. It is sufficient in general to observe, that in less than eighty years from the first permanent English settlement in North America; the two original patents granted to the Plymouth and London companies were divided, and subdivided, into twelve distinct and unconnected provinces, and in fifty years more a thirteenth, by the name of Georgia, was added to the Southern extreme of previous establishments.
To each of these, after various changes, there was ultimately granted a form of government resembling, in its most essential parts, as far as local circumstances would permit, that which was established in the parent state. A minute description of constitutions, which no longer exist, would be both tedious and unprofitable. In general, it may be observed, that agreeably to the spirit of the British constitution, ample provision was made for the liberties of the inhabitants.
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The prerogatives of royalty and dependence on the Mother Country, were but feebly impressed, on the colonial forms of government. In some of the provinces the inhabitants chose their governors, and all other public officers, and their legislatures were under little or no controul. In others the crown delegated most of its power to particular persons, who were also invested with the property of the soil.
In those which were most immediately dependent on the King, he exercised no higher prerogatives over the colonists than over their fellow Edition: orig; Page: [ 18 ] subjects in England, and his power over the provincial legislative assemblies, was not greater than what he was constitutionally vested with, over the house of commons in the Mother Country. From the acquiescence of the parent state, the spirit of her constitution and daily experience, the colonists grew up in a belief, that their local assemblies stood in the same relation to them, as the parliament of Great Britain, to the inhabitants of that island.
The benefits of legislation were conferred on both, only through these constitutional channels. It is remarkable, that though the English possessions in America were far inferior in natural riches to those which fell to the lot of other Europeans, yet the security of property and of liberty, derived from the English constitution, gave them a consequence to which the colonies of other powers, though settled at an earlier day, have not yet attained. The wise and liberal policy of England towards her colonies, during the first century and [a] half after their settlement, had a considerable influence in exalting them to this pre-eminence.
She gave them full liberty to govern themselves, by such laws as their local legislatures thought necessary, and left their trade open to every individual in her dominions. She also gave them the amplest permission to pursue their respective interests in such manner, as they thought proper, and reserved little for herself, but the benefit Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] of their trade, and that of a political union under the same head.
The colonies, founded by other powers, experienced no such indulgences. Portugal and Spain burdened theirs with many vexatious regulations, gave encouragement only to what was for their own interest, and punished whatever had a contrary tendency. France and Holland did not adopt such oppressive maxims, but were in fact not much less rigorous and coercive.