What political opportunities did the thirteen colonies take advantage of?
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Settlers in the 13 colonies enjoyed the increased political (and religious, and economic, etc) freedom that comes from living thousands of miles away from traditional political sources of authority. While settlers in the colonies still fell under the authority of the King of England, it became clear almost immediately upon their arrival that they would need to create new political structures and agreements to govern themselves in this new, far-off land. The Mayflower Compact is a perfect example of this: it secured their legal existence as a part of the Royal Charter, but went a step further by joining its members of their own free will. They entered freely into a compact with one another and with God to create a form of government that was both individual and collective.
Because of these new conditions in the colonies, most white adult males had access to political participation. Slaves, women, and bondservants were, of course, not allowed to participate in the new government. However, individual liberty and a belief in equality meant that political opportunities, for men, at least, were much greater in the colonies than they had been in England.
The political philosophies of John Locke, Montesquieu and Rosseau had a tremendous impact upon the English people. As British colonialism took root in America, so did the ideas they brought along with them. These Enlightenment ideals of the natural rights of man, consent of the governed, and majority rule all found there way into several colonial governments. The Mayflower Compact, The Virginia House of Burgesses, and The Fundamental Orders of Connecitcut are among the earliest. The idea of the "town meeting" or "parish meeting",where the people of the community meet together to discuss the greater good of their community also originated in colonial America. All of these could be considered 'political opportunities" for the colonies. The colonies were not deferring any of their local matters to the King, and frankly, as long as the King's and Parliament's mercantilistic policies were met, the colonies were left to govern themselves. This salutory neglect allowed the colonies to move towards a "political independent" mindset, which the King and Parliament would later regret. The thirteen colonies belonged to Great Britain and the colonists were still British subjects, however by the mid 1750's it could be argued that their early political opportunities resulted in their greatest political achievement.
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