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process of “
quired the general assembly, and also the council of State, to imitate and follow the policy of the form of government, laws, customs, and manner of trial, and other administration of justice used in the realm of England as near as may be.” Although this form of government was shortly after overthrown by
of “quo warranto" (1624), it was reestablished in nearly the same form by Charles I.; and the Revolution of 1688 found the colony, “if not in the practical possession of liberty, at least with forms of government well calculated silently to cherish its spirit.” *
The course of public opinion in Virginia is strongly marked by two circumstances in the legislation of that colony—the supremacy of the Church of England, and the strictness of entails.
By one of the earliest Acts of the colonial legislature, the Church of England was established, “and its doctrines and discipline were strictly enforced.” The clergy “were amply provided for by glebes and tithes,” and “ the
* Story, § 49.
performance of parochial duties peremptorily required.” “ The first law allowing toleration to Protestant dissenters was passed in the year 1699;" but, subject to this, “the Church of England seems to have maintained an exclusive supremacy down to the period of the American Revolution," *
With regard to entails, an Act was passed in the colony in 1705, to prevent their being barred by the ordinary process of fine or recovery, and requiring “a special Act of the legislature in each particular case.” Though subsequently modified so as to exclude small estates under 2001. in value, the general law remained in force to the period of the Revolution; and, “in this respect, the zeal of the colony to secure entails and perpetuate inheritances in the same family outstripped that of the parent country.
Massachusetts obtained from William and Mary, in the year 1691, the Charter, under which its government was conducted down to the time of the Revolution. The charter is
* $ 50.
described by Story as containing a liberal grant of authority to the province, and a reasonable reservation of the royal prerogative.
The principle of popular freedom had already taken deep root in Massachusetts, and in the other New England colonies which were by this charter incorporated with it. There are few events in history more striking and eventful than the landing of the small band of refugees from religious persecution—"the Pilgrim Fathers,”—on the bleak and forbidding shores of Cape Cod, in the winter of 1620, and their first act, their drawing up signing their simple and voluntary compact of government. By this instrument they “covenant and combine themselves together into a civil body politic, for the better ordering, and preservation, and furtherance,” of the ends they had in view,--namely, the founding of a colony "for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith, and the honour of their king and country.” And although they subsequently applied for and obtained from the Plymouth Company in Eng
land, such power as that company could give, to confirm their legislation, yet they never received any powers from the Crown itself, but continued to exercise, under their original compact, “the most plenary executive, legislative, and judicial authority," until they were incorporated with the province of Massachusetts by the charter above mentioned, in 1691. In a similar spirit the company that obtained from Charles I. the Charter of 1628, constituting them a body-politic, under the title of “ The Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, in New England,” (in continuation of the Charter of 1620, to “ The council established at Plymouth, in the county of Devon, for the planting, ruling, ordering, and governing of New England, in America,”) first took the bold step of transferring themselves and their charter to the territory granted to them, and next proceeded to extend their acts far beyond the expressed powers
government granted by that charter, which they would not admit as
furnishing any limit to them upon the freest exercise of legislative, executive, or
judicial functions.” They did not view it as creating an English corporation under the narrow construction of the common law, but as affording the means of founding a broad political government, subject to the Crown of England, but yet enjoying many exclusive privileges.”
The Charter of 1691 strengthened this union of free legislative action with the reasonable prerogatives of the Crown. « It reserved to the Crown the appointment of the governor, lieutenant-governor, and secretary of the province;” and “provided for the appointment of twenty-eight councillors, who were chosen by the general court.” This general court was to consist of “the governor and council for the time being, and of such representatives being freeholders as should be annually elected by the freeholders of each town, who possessed a freehold of forty shillings annual value, or other estate to the value of forty pounds." “ Each town was entitled to two representatives,” subject to alterations in
* $$ 65. 67.