"A New Kind of Revolution"
Carl N. Degler
In his article "A New Kind of Revolution", author Carl N. Degler explains how government institutions had evolved in colonial America before 1763, and how it was threatened by new English actions and Britain's desire to re-gain control over the colonies. English policies and practices were the structure that helped shape colonial government, but the original policies of mother England had many differences to that of colonial policy that can be seen in many way both micro and macro. By the 1850's, many of the English practices and policies had been forgotten, and a unique American government had formed. Colonial governments still resembled those in England in many areas. All but four of the colonies were lead by a Royal Governor appointed by the King and a colonial assembly similar to Parliament. The English and the colonists differed greatly in the form and purpose of their constitutions. From the early 17th century in England, the government had been gradually moving towards providing Parliament with absolute power. Even the King was now considered under the law, divine right had been cast aside and Parliament was unapproachable in authority and power. The colonists did not believe their assemblies should have absolute rule. Also unlike the English constitution which consisted of a "body of law and custom from the beginning of the kingdom", the colonists believed that a constitution was an actual written document that could not be changed on a whim by a supreme legislature. England and the colonies also differed in another aspect. In England the executive and legislative branches were simply similar forms of the same body, the executive branch was only an association of ministers taken directly from Parliament. In America, it was not possible to develop in this way because the governor was appointed by the King. They believed the King, like their governor was the true executive. For most of the 17th century it was assumed that Parliament still held legislative and executive power over the colonies, and was not tested. This caused the period of "salutary neglect" to occur. The colonies then became self reliant and formed their own ideas about government in lieu of Parliament's direct control. Colonial assemblies were seen as the main governing bodies and the colonists believed them to be as important as Parliament. The colonies also defended freedom of the press. The trial of John Peter Zenger in New York in 1735 was once such instance. Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, changed beliefs about how the judge should rule for seditious libel. Before, the duty of the judge was to decide if the defendant actually wrote the alleged libel. In the Zenger case, Hamilton admitted that Zenger had written it, but he said the jury should acquit Zenger if the charges he wrote were true. The jury went along with Hamilton's idea and found Zenger not guilty. The view substantiated in this case was that if a society was considered free, then their voices and opinions must also be free. Voting in the colonies was also handled very differently; just who could vote as determined by English law was quite different from colonial policy. In both countries, only white, male, land owners could vote. In the mother country, this produced a small voting in elite due to the scarce availability of land, but in America where many people could vote, it made a large voter pool. In the years after 1740 the colonists became increasingly aware of themselves as Americans. Nearly twenty years before the revolution Americans were expressing feelings that they were different from Europeans. The French and Indian War brought this obvious difference between Americans and English into light. When Britain ordered Americans to fight alongside the English, the two group's differences were obvious. After the war, Americans left with a feeling of British cruelty in their treatment of the colonies, and...
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