Government and Law


Government Structure

The government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century differed from any other style of government since the beginning of time. Escaping the persecution of the British, the Puritans were able to make their own government incorporating religion indirectly but heavily. The Puritans created their own type of government based on theology, the belief that state and church should be equal, while integrating some of the ideas of the British monarchy.



Puritans would have their community governor lecture about the Bible to fulfill their individualistic "desires".
Puritans would have their community governor lecture about the Bible to fulfill their individualistic "desires".



Four components into understanding the Puritan Government:


  • CONGREGATIONALISM: This form of government involves the Church being in charge of the State. That means that they make important decisions based on religion not what people think is best for them at the time. However over time these decisions became heavy on the people which led to chaos.

  • SELF-GOVERNMENT: This principle of government means that of a political unit ruled by its own people. The Puritans were persecuted enough by the British so they decided to rule themselves for a change. This type of government came to be very problematic because each village or community governed themselves through a very weak central authority.

  • LIMITED GOVERNMENT: This asset to the government believed that functions and powers are prescribed, limited, and restricted to one person. The Puritans believed that if one man originally committed sins, referring to Adam and Eve, then why should one man administer a whole population.

  • INDIVIDUALISM: This belief of individualism meant that the desire of the individual is based on the production of the economy. In the Puritan case it was interpreting the Bible, for it was basically considered a law and duty. This exaggerates the term individualism because it forces your desire to be interpreting the bible.






Voting in Puritan Massachusetts


In the Massachusetts Bay Colony only a few were allowed the power to vote. Only white males that owned land and were confirmed in the Puritan church were allowed to vote or run in elections for public office. Also, only 1 of 5 white adult males could vote. This was to insure that the church would stay in power and the colony would stay controlled by whites. This control by the church was made even stronger by the fact that actually getting conformed in the church was an extremely hard process that very few people were able to finish. These church Representatives met in Boston to elect governors, officials, and members of the General Court, after a sermon was given by each minister. This put
the power strongly into the hands of only a few and most of the time only the very religious were elected and then very often reelected many times. In fact, John Winthrop was the Governor for almost an entire generation when they first arrived. The elected church members were elected annually into two houses of colonial legislature.


Potrait of John Winthrop who was the first governor of the Massuchesetts Bay Colony
Potrait of John Winthrop who was the first governor of the Massuchesetts Bay Colony


Divisions of Power in the Government

The power was very much divided among the different village, although the central power was ruled almost completely by the church, each city, town, and village had its own government. Similar to our Congress today, the central powers were divided into two houses in the government set up. One house consisted of the governor and the deputies, and the other consisted of the governor’s assistants and councilors. Even though the government was ruled by white males that owned land and were confirmed in the Puritan church, each town was ruled by its own committee made up of its own church members. These committees decided public matters and laws for each of their towns such as taxes, building public structures and deciding who should town affairs.
For further information visit these respectable websites:
http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/history/ch1.htm
http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Colonial_America
http://www.alabaster.org.uk/chron4.htm


Bibliography


"Colonial New England." Academic American History. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. http://www.academicamerican.com/colonial/topics/NewEngland.htm.


"The Puritans and Church & State." Information Technology Services. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/HTALLANT/courses/his338/morgan.htm>.

"Political Economy -." Encyclopedia of Political Information. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <http://www.politicalinformation.net/encyclopedia/Political_economy.htm>.

Johnson, Claudia D. Daily Life In Colonial New England. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002. Print.