Background and Emergence of Democracy in the British North American Colonies

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Background and Emergence of Democracy in the British North American Colonies

Beginning in the early 1600's, North America experienced a flood of emigrants from England who were searching for religious freedom, an escape from political oppression, and economic opportunity. Their emigration from England was not forced upon them by the government, but offered by private groups whose chief motive was profit.

The emergence of Democracy in colonial America can be attributed to the coming about of several institutions and documents filled with new and "unconventional" ideas that were brought about by a people tired of bickering among themselves and being torn apart by strife. The Anglo-American political thought in the eighteenth century contained notions of right and freedom, which fueled their passion for a better way of life. . The Virginia House of Burgesses, the Mayflower Compact, New England town meetings, and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were all early stepping stones toward a truly democratic government. These documents and organizations may not have been what we perceive, today, as being democratic, but they were a start.

The first permanent English settlement was a trading post founded in 1607 at Jamestown in the Old Dominion of Virginia. Virginian colonists had the right, granted to them by The Virginia Company, to elect a colonial legislature, called the House of Burgesses. Since Virginia was the first royal colony, it was only fitting that they should lead the way with the first representative government in the New World. Other lawmaking bodies, not that dissimilar to the House of Burgesses, would soon pop up in other colonies. The Pilgrims also pioneered the way to democracy. If the Pilgrims had settled in Virginia, where they had originally planned, they would have been subject to the authority of the Virginia Company. In their own colony of Plymouth, they were beyond any governmental jurisdiction, so established their own...
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