Governing the Colonies

Governing the Colonies
The English Parliamentary Tradition
• In England 1215, English
nobles forced King John
to sign the Magna Carta
• The Magna Carta was
significant because it was
the first document to put
restrictions on an English
ruler’s power
• It said the king could not
raise taxes, people had
the right to own property,
and right to trial by jury
King John Signs the Magna Carta
The British Parliament
• The British Parliament
was a two-house
legislature made up of
two houses: the House
of Lords and the House
of Commons
• This will be the law
making body for
England up to modern
The British Parliament ca. 1600s
English Bill of Rights
• In 1689, King William
and Queen Mary signed
the English Bill of Rights
• The Bill of Rights:
– Restated many rights
(trial by jury)
– Upheld habeas corpus
– King could not levy taxes
without the Parliament
– Influenced American Bill
of Rights 100 years later
King William III
Colonial Self-Government
• The colonists expected to have a voice in their
government, just like their English
• Many colonies establish their own
governments (House of Burgesses, General
• Not everybody had a voice though (women,
Natives, Africans)
Freedom of the Press
• In 1735, John Peter
Zenger, a publisher,
printed articles criticizing
the New York governor
• He was charged with libel
• His lawyer, Andrew
Hamilton, argued the
articles were based on
• Zenger was found
innocent and his court
case helped establish
freedom of the press
The Trial of Peter Zenger
Regulating Trade – Navigation Acts
• England still used the theory of mercantilism with it’s
• To support mercantilism, they passed a set of laws
called the Navigation Acts:
– Shipments to the colonies had to go to England first
– Colonists had to use British ships
– Colonies could only sell products to England
• Positives: colonial traders had a large market,
supported the shipbuilding industry
• Negatives: laws favored English merchants, they could
make more money on their own
• To get around the laws, colonists started smuggling

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