Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ON the 14th of May, 1692, Sir William Phipps arrived at Boston, with the new charter, and a commission, appointing him Governor of the colony. The people were not a little surprised to find, that the patent which had caused them so much apprehension, was more favourable than they expected; but liberal as it was, there was a very large party in the colony averse to receiving it, hoping that by showing a bold front, and determined opposition, they might extort a renewal of the old one.

Warned by past experience of the danger of permitting any sect to indulge intolerance, a clause was introduced into it by the Crown officers, allowing liberty of conscience in the worship of God to all Christians excepting Papists; appeals to the King and Council were supported in all personal actions above three hundred pounds sterling in value; and the exercise of Admiralty jurisdiction was reserved to the Crown. But the great restraint laid upon the province consisted in the appointment of the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and Secretary by the King; in investing his representative

with a negative upon all laws and elections made by the Council and House of Representatives; and subjecting the laws, even when thus sanctioned, to rejection by the King, within the term of three years. The Governor was also authorised to call an Assembly whenever he saw proper, and to adjourn, prorogue, and dissolve it at pleasure. No act of the Legislature was to have any validity without his assent. The appointment of all military officers was vested in him solely, and he had concurrent authority with the Council in filling every situation in Courts of Justice; their civil officers were to be chosen by the two Houses, subject to his negative; and no money could be paid out of the treasury, but by his warrant. Besides these changes, the differences between the old and new charter consisted in an express authority for exercising powers which had been in constant use from necessary implication: these were the privileges of a House of Representatives as a branch of the Legislature, the levying of taxes, and creating courts for the trial of capital crimes. The probate of wills, and granting administration on intestate estates, were expressly given to the Governor and Council. Whilst the privileges of the people were thus diminished, the territory of the province was enlarged. The colony of New Plymouth, the province of Maine, and the county of Nova Scotia, with the lands between the two latter, were joined to Massachusetts, and formed an extensive tract of not less than eight hundred miles in length. Out of this extensive domain, the only new reservations made were the timber suitable for masts for the Royal Navy, and grants of land between the River Sagadahook and the Gulf and River of St. Lawrence, which were not to be valid without the King's approbation. The jealousy always felt of royalty showed itself at once on the first exercise of prerogative rights under the charter. Advantage was taken of the ignorance of the Governor by the Council, to assume to themselves the appointment of sheriffs, justices, and other similar officers. An act was passed at the same time, to continue in full force, until formally repealed, all the old laws of the colony in existence when the second charter issued; by which, had not the design been discovered and frustrated in England, the law enforcing the ecclesiastical discipline of the Congregationalists, and authorising the levying taxes for their support, would have been re-enacted; and as no refusal could have been procured without the consent of the Lower House, it would have either remained for ever on the Statute Book, or caused some legislative action in Parliament. Another contemporaneous act clearly evinces the spirit of the people. It was a sort of Magna Charta (from which, indeed, many of its clauses were copied), and recited at length their various rights and privileges; among others they failed not to insist upon the following: “No aid, tax, taillage, assessment, custom, loan, benevolence, or imposition whatever, shall be laid, assessed, imposed, or levied, on any of their Majesties’ subjects or estates, on any pretence whatsoever, but by the aid and consent of the Governor, Council, and Representatives of the people assembled in General Court.” This law, on the advice of Lord Chief Justice Holt, was disallowed by the King, because it contained what none of his predecessors had ever conferred. A criminal code was also compiled, and passed by the Legislature, that was in the same manner disapproved, since it was thought to have been borrowed too much from the Jewish system to be consistent with the jurisprudence of England. Another law, “for securing the liberty of the subject,” by extending the Habeas Corpus Act, was rejected, as Somers and other Whigs insisted it had not yet been extended to the colonies. Few of the acts of that session, had the good fortune to please the statesmen of England, since they thought it of importance to oppose the progress of any innovation. In the first House convened under the new Charter, a broad line of demarcation was observable among the representatives; the friends of British connection and Loyalists on the one hand, honest Republicans, unprincipled demagogues, and bigoted sectarians on the other. Such as were for limiting the prerogative, securing the dependence of the Governor, and maintaining the supremacy of the Colonial Legislature, naturally won the hearts of the people, and received their confidence in proportion to their zeal; while those who thought rights and duties reciprocal, saw no danger in a limited monarchy, and were attached from prin

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »