Massachusetts Colonial History – Part II – The Governor and His Times
The Massachusetts Bay Colony And The Plymouth Massacre
The Massachusetts Bay Colony, also known as The Colony of Massachusetts Bay and formerly known as The Massachusetts Colony, was a brief English settlement along the Massachusetts Bay, located along the present Connecticut River. It was founded by colonists from the Plymouth colony, which eventually became one of the world’s oldest established communities.
At the time, it was one of the most densely populated regions in the world with over fifty thousand people. The colony was established as a consequence of the success of the English in the aforementioned colony and the subsequent settlements on the adjacent coasts of Massachusetts.
One of the most well-known events that happened during the colony period was the burning of Boston harbor, which is also referred to as the “Plymouth Massacre.” This occurred during the middle of July 16 at the hands of the colonists following an argument with the Plymouth settlers who had refused to pay their annual tax.
The colonists had accused the Plymouth officials of insubordination and of ignoring the tax demands of the colonists. In response, Governor William Bradford directed all British officials to burn Boston harbor as a means of intimidating the colonists into paying their share of the tax.
As the colony was formed, there were two main governing bodies that governed the new country: the colony itself and the Royal Proclamation of 1630. The colony was administered by the elected governor as represented by the Massachusetts Bay colony official. The governor was elected for a four-year term, and he was selected by the colony’s Parliament. Every year, a general assembly was held to ratify, revise, and pass laws that were required by the Plymouth colony law.
American Revolutionary War And The European Revolution
Among the major events that happened in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were the first American Revolutionary War (Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts) and the first European Revolution (Plymouth colony, Massachusetts). These two major events marked the beginning of the development of what we call the United States. The colonists fought and ultimately destroyed the British threat during the Revolutionary War. The success of the colonists earned them the status of “Stars of America” and later, they were referred to as “American Indians”.
Legal Document Red Tape
The colonists did not have much time to develop meaningful political institutions or form of government. They immediately began forming “papers of record” that included everything from court documents to land registers. As a result, the colonists became flooded with legal documents filled with errors and impostors.
This problem was compounded by the fact that many of these documents contained religious or philosophical passages, which were then used to justify the actions of the colonists against their English neighbors. As a result, many of these documents were never really accepted as legal documents. Some of these rebellious documents were even used as ways of justifying attacks on neighboring colonies.
Thus, the lack of a legal system and the imprecision of legal documents created a situation where the colonists could not establish any type of order in their colony. Without any means of recording their deeds or protecting their interests, the colonists lost their sense of community and identity. They simply vanished into the American wilderness. In addition to being separated from each other by lack of a written system of laws, many of the colonists became hostile towards their English neighbors. Many of them joined with the Native Americans in attacking settlements or against English shipping activity in the New World.
The General Court System
As described in the Massachusetts Bay Colony records, general court sessions were organized in each town. At these court meetings, “general warrants” were issued that allowed the settlers to apprehend criminals and bring them before the General Court for trial. In most towns, however, general warrants were not needed.
The colonists also established a system of local government where power was vested in elected or appointed bodies rather than in the general court. Towns and villages were also empowered to decide laws affecting their respective communities.
Although power was decentralized in the colony, the Governor retained absolute power over his people. The colonial Governor was selected by the selectmen of the town of Boston, and he had the final authority over legislation. The original plan of the Massachusetts colonists was to have the Governor serve as both the Executive and the Premier, making him the first truly “leader-led” government in the world.
Although the Governor and Council of Tryon resident elected by the population at large took over the executive authority of the colony, the Governor and his close advisors, including the Secretary of State John Winthrop was given the authority to veto any legislation they deemed to be injurious to the colonists or their interests abroad.