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.