Colonial Government and Politics

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In New France, the king held all the powers of government through his appointed officials. The officials implemented and enforced all of the king’s orders. The English colonies, however, were not all governed by the king of England. For example, Pennsylvania was a proprietary colony. This meant that an individual or a group of land owners chosen by the king, known as proprietors, had the authority to govern themselves. Which statement is true regarding the government structures of New France and the English colonies?

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This is a true statement of how New France differed from the English colonies. At that time France was an absolutist state, which meant that the king enjoyed largely unchecked power to do as he pleased. Such absolute control extended beyond the boundaries of France to her colonies abroad. If...

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This is a true statement of how New France differed from the English colonies. At that time France was an absolutist state, which meant that the king enjoyed largely unchecked power to do as he pleased. Such absolute control extended beyond the boundaries of France to her colonies abroad. If the French were going to establish a colonial empire, then it was considered imperative that the king should exercise control over how it developed.

In practical terms, this means that French colonial officials didn't have much leeway in how they administered the new territories. At every turn they had to ensure that they were carrying out the will of the king, irrespective of their personal feelings and opinions.

With the English it was different. As England was not an absolutist state, its North American colonies weren't run on absolutist lines. Right from the start, English colonial ventures were operated by private traders. To be sure, they had to gain royal permission to establish colonies overseas, but once permission had been granted, they were given a good deal of discretion in how they established and administered colonies.

In due course, monarchs—even would-be absolutists like King Charles II—came to see the benefits of a hands-off approach. For instance, he granted the Royal Charter to William Penn that would establish Pennsylvania. The new colony quickly gained a reputation as a haven of peace from religious persecution, the very same kind of persecution that Charles was carrying out in England at that time. The idea of a French colony departing so radically from the policies of its parent government in this way would've been unthinkable.

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