Colonial Government and Politics

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What kind of government did we have before George Washington?

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Prior to the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies from which the United States would originate were provinces of the British Empire, each under its own governor. Citizens of the colonies were not represented in the British Parliament or permitted to vote in British elections. Nonetheless, their remoteness from London necessitated...

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Prior to the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies from which the United States would originate were provinces of the British Empire, each under its own governor. Citizens of the colonies were not represented in the British Parliament or permitted to vote in British elections. Nonetheless, their remoteness from London necessitated that the colonies exercise some degree of independence.

Beginning with Virginia in 1619, the colonies formed assemblies which, while varying widely in structure and practice, would take on the responsibilities of organizing local finances and drafting legislation. These assemblies, also known as legislatures, were local parliaments in all but name, though any law they wrote up was subject to veto by the colonial governor. Governors, usually originating from Britain’s aristocratic classes, were appointed directly by the monarch or by commercial interests. Despite the power of veto they enjoyed over colonial legislatures, governors were still reliant to some degree on the good will of colonial assemblies, who controlled their financial resources. These assemblies, in turn, were quasi-democratic institutions that relied on the support of their constituents—or, rather, their white, male, Protestant constituents.

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