Charter Colonies

Sir Edmund Andros

Sir Edmund Andros who attempted to revoke charters

This article on the Charter Colonies of Colonial America provides facts and information about:

  • Definition of the Charter Colonies
  • Charter Colonies - Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island
  • Royal, Proprietary and Charter Colonies
  • The Rights of Charter Colonies
  • Charter Colonies - Sir Edmund Andros
  • New England Charter Colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island
Colonial Congress & Government
Royal ColoniesProprietary Colonies
American Colonies IndexFirst 13 Colonies

History of the Colonization of America and the original 13 Colonies

 Charter Colonies: The Establishment and Settlement of the 13 original colonies

Charter Colonies
Meaning and Definition of Charter Colonies: A charter is a written document from the sovereign power of a country that bestowed certain rights, franchises, or privileges. Charter Colonies were written contracts between the British King and the American colonists, defining the share each should have in the government and were not to be changed without the consent of both parties.

The Charter Colonies
The Charter Colonies were all located in New England where colonial government issues were discussed at town meetings. The names of areas governed as Charter Colonies at the start of the American Revolutionary War were:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts (Charter then Royal)
  • Rhode Island

In early colonial history Massachusetts was one of 6 separate colonies in the region of New England. The other five were Rhode Island, Connecticut Maine, New Hampshire and Plymouth.

 

Map of Charter Colonies

 

Royal, Proprietary and Charter Colonies
There were three types of colonies and systems of government in the British Colonies of North America - Royal, Charter and Proprietary.

  • Royal Colonies were ruled directly by the English monarchy
  • Proprietary Colonies was established in territories which had been granted by the English Crown to one, or more, proprietors who had full governing rights
  • Charter Colonies was generally self-governed, and their charters were granted to the colonists as opposed to proprietors

Prior to the establishment of Royal, Proprietary and Charter colonies the British colonization of North America had been financed and settled under the jurisdiction of joint stock companies operating under charters granted by the crown.

The Rights of Charter Colonies
All of the colonial charters guaranteed to the American colonists the vague rights and privileges of Englishmen, which would later prove to be a critical point of contention, especially in Massachusetts, and one of the major causes of the American War for Independence. In the second half of the 17th century, the Crown looked upon Charters and the Charter Colonies as obstacles to British colonial control and changed the Charter Colony of Massachusetts to a Royal Colony.

Charter Colonies - Sir Edmund Andros
King James II ascended the throne in 1685 and believed that the New England colonies were far too independent. The King wanted to take greater control of the New England Colonies and in 1686 sent Sir Edmund Andros to establish one new government called the "Dominion of New England."  In order to achieve this goal he needed to cancel existing charters that gave each colony its borders and specified how it would be governed. King James revoked, or took back, the charters of Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Hampshire, and Maine before Sir Edmund Andros left England. He succeeded in revoking the charters of Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Hampshire, and Maine.

1629 Charter of the Colony of New Plymouth

Charter Colonies changed to Royal or Proprietary Colonies
By 1763 most colonies surrendered their charters to the Crown and became Royal Colonies. Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania remained proprietary colonies under a charter. Connecticut and Rhode Island managed to retain their charters and Massachusetts was governed as a royal province while operating under a charter.

  

Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

  

Charter Colonies - Massachusetts
The Massachusetts charter was given to business corporations in 1629. Regular meetings of company officers and stockholders were the only requirements. In 1684, the Chancery Court in England cancelled the charter and changed Massachusetts into a Royal Colony. In 1685 King Charles II placed Massachusetts under the Dominion of New England. In 1691 William and Mary gave Massachusetts a new charter that restored many of the colonists' rights but insisted on appointing governors for the colony. Massachusetts was therefore governed as a royal province while operating under a charter.

1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay Text and Words
1691 Charter of Massachusetts Bay Text and Words

Charter Colonies - Connecticut and the " Charter Oak"
The Charter of Connecticut was granted by King Charles II in 1662 which included the right of self-government. When King James II came to the throne he tried to cancel the Connecticut charter. Sir Edmund Andros went to Hartford to collect the Connecticut charter. Captain Joseph Wadsworth, a Connecticut patriot, stole the charter and hid it in a hollow oak tree. The "charter oak" became a symbol of American Independence. Connecticut temporarily lost the right of self-government under the Dominion of New England in 1687, but it was reinstated in 1689.

Charter Colonies - Rhode Island
In 1644 Roger Williams secured 1663 Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from Parliament but this charter was voided in 1660 by King Charles II when the monarchy was restored. John Clarke was able to obtain a new charter for Rhode Island that was approved in 1663. The Rhode Island Charter was a milestone in the move towards religious freedom when the King signed a charter guaranteeing that individuals were free to practice the religion of their choice without any interference from the government.

 

Charter Colonies

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  • The Charter Colonies is great history timeline resource for kids
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Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

 

Private Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh - Roanoke Island
The first Charter in North America was granted to Sir Walter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Walter Raleigh sent his first colonization mission to the island of Roanoke, which is located in present-day North Carolina. Initially, the name "Virginia" was applied to the entire eastern coast of North America from Cape Fear to a large portion of Canada.

 Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh

Proprietary Charter Colonies - Chartered Companies
Before the establishment of Royal, Proprietary and Charter colonies most of the colonies had been financed and settled under the jurisdiction of joint stock companies operating under charters granted by the crown. Proprietary Charter Colonies were formed by Chartered Companies. Charter Companies were formed by a group of investors looking to explore and colonize North America in order to make money from the natural resources of the land through trade. Chartered Companies were under the patronage of the sovereign who issued a charter to each company. Virginia was originally a Proprietary Charter Company. The borders of Virginia were initially defined in the first Charter of Virginia issued by King James I as grants of land to private investors. King James granted a proprietary charter to the two competing companies that were supported by investors. The companies were the Plymouth Company and the London Company. In 1624 King James made Virginia a Royal Colony, rather than a Proprietary (private) Colony.
Charter of Virginia Text and Words

Charter Colonies
The Charter Colonies of New England were Massachusetts Bay Colony (which included Maine), Connecticut and Rhode Island. We hope that this article will assist in your studies or homework and that you will enjoy watching the videos featuring many pictures of the colonists. A great educational resource for kids on the subject of the Colonies of New England and their charters.

Colonial Government

 

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