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organization of the general assembly, and in answer to the demand of the freemen for a share in the government the London Company granted to them in 1619 the right of sending to the assembly two burgesses from each plantation. But the deputies did not, as was the case in the English Parliament, form a distinct body by themselves. They had at first no separate organization or functions. They simply formed a part of the general assembly, which also included the governor, and the council appointed by the company.*
In New England we have more definite records of the exact method in which representation took its rise. first General Court of Massachusetts, which met in 1630, comprised the governor, the deputy-governor, the assistants and the whole body of freemen.† On account of the sudden influx of population and the rapid growth of towns it became impracticable for all the freemen to meet with the magistrates, whenever laws were to be made or causes were to be tried. The first device which occurred to the perplexed freemen was to delegate to the magistrates, that is, to the governor, the deputy-governor and the assistants, the full powers of government, and this system was practically in force for about three years. The tendency of this arrangement was to make the magistrates, or Court of Assistants, a body representative of the whole body of freemen. The defects of the system became apparent when the magistrates, without consulting the people, used their own discretion in apportioning the taxes among the various towns. The people of Watertown felt this to be a burden, and as a result of their protest, in 1632 it was ordered that there should be "two of every plantation to confer with the court about raising a public stock."§ This was, however, but the beginning of a system of representation, since the persons thus appointed had no authority except to confer
* Stith, 160.
Massachusetts Records, I., 79; Hutchinson, I., 25.
Ibid, I., 95.
with the magistrates in matters of taxation. The next step was provoked by the arbitrary regulations which the Court of Assistants saw fit to make in regard to swine trespassing beyond town limits. This crude legislation suggests the primitive life of the colonists, and indicates the purely local causes which contributed to the growth of representation in Massachusetts. In 1631 it had been ordered "that all swine found in any man's corn shall be forfeit to the public, and that the party damnified shall be satisfied."'* In 1633 it was ordered "that it shall be lawful for any man to kill any swine that comes into his corn." In view of these and similar acts, which were regarded as interfering unduly in local affairs, in 1634 twenty-four persons from the various towns appeared before the court and demanded recognition. As a result of their claims it was ordered "that none but the General Court hath power to make and establish laws ;' “that there shall be four General Courts held yearly, to be summoned by the governor for the time being, and not to be dissolved without the consent of the major part of the court; " that the freemen of every town choose and send to the General Court two or three persons "who shall have the full power and voices of the said freemen ;" and moreover "that all former orders concerning swine shall be repealed," and "that every town shall have liberty to make such orders about swine as they shall judge best for themselves." By these laws representation became assured, but the number of deputies was not definitely fixed. It was, therefore, ordered in 1636 that every town having between ten and twenty freemen send one deputy; those having between twenty and forty, two deputies; and those having over forty freemen, three deputies.§ Finally, in 1639, it was ordered that no town should send more than two deputies to the General Court.||
* Ibid, I., 86.
† Ibid, I., 106.
1 Ibid, I., 117, 118, 119.
Ibid, I., 178.
Ibid, I., 254.
By this series of laws representation was gradually established in Massachusetts. But still the deputies did not, as in England, form a distinct body, but continued for some years to sit in the same assembly with the governor, the deputy-governor and the assistants. The introduction of this system was not authorized by the Massachusetts charter; but evidently resulted from the instinctive efforts on the part of the colonists to solve a practical difficulty. It was due to the fact that the people, while clinging to their original and chartered rights to have a share in the government, felt that it was impracticable for all to meet in the assembly; and also, as Mr. Hutchinson says, to the danger arising from leaving their towns destitute of able-bodied men, and their families exposed to the attacks of their savage neighbors.* To one who reads the original records there does not appear the slightest evidence that the people of Massachusetts during this period were ever seized with the ambition-however plausible such an idea may seem to later historians-of reproducing the English House of Commons, with its co-ordinate legislative powers and its complex system of county and borough representatives.
The gradual modification of the General Court by the introduction of deputies did not, however, deprive the whole body of freemen of their right of electing their own magistrates. It was therefore customary for all the freemen of the colony to meet together in the spring at the General Court of Election for the purpose of choosing these officers. But the danger of leaving their towns destitute of men, even during the time of election, was still apparent; and it was therefore made lawful, in 1637, for all freemen to send their votes for election by proxy, instead of bringing them in person. By these various steps the government of Massachusetts became differentiated into three assemblies: (1) the Court of Assistants, comprising the governor, the
* Hutchinson, I., 36.
deputy-governor, and assistants, who were elected by all the freemen, and who performed the ordinary business of the colony; (2) the General Court, comprising the same persons, together with the deputies sent by the towns, to which body were referred the more important public matters; and (3), the Court of Elections, to which all the freemen presented their votes, either in person or by proxy, for the officers for the ensuing year.
When the emigrants from Massachusetts fixed their settlements on the Connecticut River, they established by their written constitution of 1639,* a representative system similar to that which had grown up in the mother colony as the result of a succession of separate laws. Representation was also established in Plymouth by an act of 1639; † in Maryland, by an act of the same year; ‡ in New Haven, by the constitution of 1643; § in Providence and Rhode Island, by the legislation of 1647.|| It would lead us too far into details to trace the circumstances which led to adoption of this system in these various colonies. It is enough to say that the system everywhere grew up as a simple expedient to preserve the rights of the freemen in the General Court after the growth of towns rendered it inconvenient for them to attend in person. The necessity of having a part act for the whole was instinctively presented to the minds of all the colonists; but the particular method of meeting this need was worked out by each colony for itself. They evidently had before their eyes no common model of representation which they were trying to reproduce. The system was marked by specific variations in different places. The number of deputies varied from one or two in Maryland, to six in Rhode Island. Sometimes the deputies were paid, and sometimes they were not; sometimes they were paid by the towns sending them, and
* Charters and Constitutions, I., 250.
Plymouth Records, XI., 31.
↑ Bozman, II., ch. 2.
New Haven Records, 1638-49, 112.
Arnold, I., 202.
sometimes by the whole colony. The growth of the system was attended in the different colonies by various other local features, for example, the use of beans and kernels of corn as a means of depositing votes, the introduction of paper ballots, the right of the deputies to judge of their own election, the right of the deputies to punish an offending member, the right of the governor, or the presiding officer of the assembly, to a casting vote in case of a tie.
The system of representation which grew up in the early colonies under no legal authority of the English crown (with the exception of Maryland, where it was only authorized and not directed), came to be recognized and ratified by subsequent charters. It was ratified in Connecticut by the charter of 1662;* in Rhode Island by the charter of 1663,† and later in Massachusetts by the charter of 1692.‡ In the colonies established after the Restoration in 1660 it became usual for the English king to grant to the proprietor permission to give to the freemen the right to a share in legislation, either in person or by deputies.§ It thus seems evident that the representative system in America had its origin in the peculiar circumstances in which the early colonies were placed. It was the product of the practical instinct of the Teutonic race, which had given birth to a form of representation even before the time of Henry III. or Edward I. It was not established by any charter of the English king, and did not receive a chartered sanction until it had become an established institution in the colonies. It had its own peculiar features in America, which were evidently not patterned after any existing model. It was rather a reversion to an earlier type than a reproduction of an existing one; and was, in fact, more truly representative of the whole body of the people than was the contemporary English House of Commons.
*Charters and Constitutions, I., 252.
+Ibid, II., 1598.
i, I. 949.
For Pennsylvania, cf. Charters and Constitutions, II., 1510; for Carolina, Ibid, II., 1384.