How did the English colonies develop ideas of self-government?

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The English colonies in America developed ideas about self-government from three main sources.  First, there was their history as English people.  Second, there were the ideas of the Enlightenment.  Finally, there was their experience during the period of "salutary neglect."

First, English people had been developing ideas about self-government ever since at least the Magna Carta.  This had evolved over the centuries and can be said to have culminated (at that time) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  The colonies were heir to these ideas and had a clear sense of their rights as Englishmen.

Second, they were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment.  The elites of the colonies had read thinkers such as John Locke.  From those sorts of thinkers, they absorbed the idea that government drew its legitimacy from the consent of the governed.

Finally and more practically, the colonists had had a great deal of experience governing themselves.  For decades, the British government left them more or less to themselves, allowing them to develop the idea that they should be autonomous.

From these sources, the colonists derived the idea that they should be self-governing.

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Explain how the English colonies in North America developed ideas of self-government.

The main way in which the people of the English colonies developed these sorts of ideas was through the fact that they were English.  By the time the American colonies were founded, England had been moving toward more democracy for almost four centuries.  England was the most democratic country in the world.  Over the course of the 17th century, England became even more democratic.  By 1700, the Glorious Revolution had given rise to the English Bill of Rights.  This meant that England already had a constitutional monarchy of sorts by 1700.  The American colonists would have been very well aware of these moves and would have learned from them.

It is also important to note two other factors.  First, many of the colonists had come to the Americas for what might be called political reasons.  Notable among these were the Puritans, who came to New England to set up a society in which their religion could be dominant.  This would have led the colonists to be more interested in self-government.  Second, the English government practiced a policy of “salutary neglect” for many years.  This meant that the government in England left the colonies more or less alone.  Because of this, they came to think that they could and should govern themselves. 

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Explain how the English colonies developed the idea of self-government and individual liberties.

This seems weird because we are always told that the colonies broke away from English tyranny... but the truth is that the English colonies developed these ideas largely because these were ideas that were very important in the English system of government.

Ever since Magna Carta in 1215, England's governmental system had been moving towards reducing the king's power and (eventually) giving more power to Parliament.  Ever since Magna Carta, ideas like habeas corpus were present in English political thought.  Together, these meant that the British system allowed for some degree (more than just about anywhere else in the world) of democratic government and personal rights.

When you combine this with the fact that the British government pretty much left the colonies alone for long periods of time, you can see where the colonists got their ideas.  They got the ideas from England and then expanded those ideas as they were left alone to do as they pleased (more or less) during the period of "benign neglect."

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