SL&C & the colonies 3: Jurisdiction and limits of self rule in the colonies
- This is just some introductory material due to the limits of time to
deal with all the matters concerned herein.
As to the colonies themselves, we are not even talking about an
existing foriegn government that was taken over and placed under
occupation by Britain, and later returned to its independency. The
titles to their land, were issued by the crown of England. All the
officers of every colony but New York, were appointed by the king;
none were elected by the people, except members of the colonial
legislatures (which were still accountable to the appointed officials
and the colonial charters granted by the king). America, before the
Revolution, assented to all of this. All this allegiance was
transferred to the covenanted government, and continued from 1643 to
American colonists recognized that they had rights as British
citizens whether born in Britain or in the colonies.
Since at least 1740, even foriegn immigrants into the colonies were
given full rights as citizens of Britain as well as colonists who had
come from Britain.
As citizens of the British colonies, the people revolted because
their rights as British citizens, under the Magna Carta and the 1689
British Bill of Rights were regarded to have been interfered with. It
was upon this basis that they protested not that Parliament taxed
them, but that they were not given representation before parliament
with regards to this issue of taxation as other British citizens.
The land itself was owned by the British and granted to the colonists
by charter of the King. The colonies themselevs were British
territory being parcelled out originally to businesses as British
land they could as British citizens by grant from the King use for
commercial purposes. Because of the distance, it was difficult to
maintain as strict an observance over them, so some measure of self
governance was allowed, within limits imposed by the crown and
parliament, which still retained its rights over the colonies. The
colonies were the property of the crown (not independant nations or
states) and were subject to the King.
According to Carle Ubbelohde, The American Colonies and the British
Empire, p 86, the American colonies were governed all along by a
"'layered' arrangement extending from the British Crown and
Parliament through royal officials resident in the colonies [called
governors], to colonial assemblies and down to local units of
Massachussetts Bay Colony was land chartered to a business, and the
charter was by the crown retained in Britain by agreement.
Eventually, the charter was allowed to be brought on boat to America,
and the charter became the constitution of the colony of
Massachussetts. Yet the charter itself still recognized the land as
property of and under the authority of the British crown.
In 1660, William Bradstreet went to England to have Charles II
confirm the Massachusetts charter granted under the previous monarch.
Why would this need to be done if the colony was an independant
James II attempted, on the other hand, to cancel the charter of
Massachusetts, but the colonists apparently warded off such
cancellation (I presume by appeal to Parliament).
Massachusetts received a further charter under William and Mary in
1691, until 1725, which was then changed by George.
The 1629 charter under Charles gave rules for the governance of the
colony and nominated who the original rulers of the colony would be.
It also defined that the colonies, and all who lived there, whether
from Britain or no, were subject unto the Crown and "under our
Furthermore, the right to self government expressly stated that they
could NOT rule contrary to the laws of England:
"from time to time, to make, ordain, and establish all manner of
wholesome and reasonable orders, laws, statutes, and ordinances,
directions, and instructions, not contrary to the laws of this Our
realm of England"
and the power to punish and execute laws it shall establish provided
the laws are such as
"not being repugnant to the laws and statutes of Our realm of England
If the SL&C was enacted as a fundamental part of British law,
regardless of the fact of "out of sight, out of mind" and the lack of
commitment in Britian to even realize the full execution of the
covenant in the isles, not seeing a diligent care being taken to
execute the covenant in British North America would not have, for
example, given Massachusstes the legal right to enact laws contrary
to the SL&C, regardless of whether or not the King said they were not
bound, any more than the King could tell England, Ireland, and
Scotland that they were not bound by their covenant with God by
attempting to declare the covenant no longer to hold part in
Furthermore, the oaths of allegiance and supremacy WERE required to
be administered in the colony of Massachusetts, as is noted in the
charter. That these oaths pertained to Britain is clear. They were
changed under the charter granted by William and Mary, whereby a
different oath was made.
"Wee doe hereby reserve full power and Authority to Vs Our Heires and
Successors to Nominate and appoint accordingly, shall before he or
they be admitted to the Execucon of their respective Offices take as
well the Oath for the due and faithfull performance of the said
Offices respectively as alsoe the Oaths appointed by the said Act of
Parliament made in the said First yeare of Our Reigne to be taken
instead of the said Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and shall alsoe
make repeate and subscribe the Declaracon appointed by the said Act
in such manner and before such persons as aforesaid And further Our
Will and Pleasure is and Wee doe hereby for Vs Our Heires and
Successors Grant Establish and Ordaine That all and every of the
Subjects of Vs Our Heires and Successors which shall goe to and
Inhabit within Our said Province and Territory and every of their
Children which shall happen to be born there or on the Seas in goeing
thither or returning from thence shall have and enjoy all Libertyes
and Immunities of Free and naturall Subjects within any of the
Dominions of Vs Our Heires and Successors to all Intents Construccons
and purposes whatsoever as if they and every of them were borne
within this Our Realme of England and for the greater Ease and
Encouragement of Our Loveing Subjects Inhabiting our said Province or
Territory of the Massachusetts Bay and of such as shall come to
Inhabit there Wee doe by these presents for vs Our heires and
Successors Grant Establish and Ordaine that for ever hereafter there
shall be a liberty of Conscience allowed in the Worshipp of God to
all Christians (Except Papists) Inhabiting or which shall Inhabit or
be Resident within our said Province or Territory And Wee doe hereby
Grant and Ordaine that the Gouernor or leivtent or Deputy Gouernor of
our said Province or Territory for the time being or either of them
or any two or more of the Councill or Assistants for the time being
as shall be hereunto appointed by the said Gouernor shall and may at
all times and from time to time hereafter have full Power and
Authority to Administer and give the Oathes appointed by the said Act
of Parliament made in the first yeare of Our Reigne to be taken
instead of the Oathes of Allegiance and Supremacy to all and every
person and persons which are now Inhabiting or resideing within our
said Province or Territory or which shall at any time or times
hereafter goe or passe thither..."
During the covenanted reformation, if the colonial powers were
required to give supremacy and allegiance to parliament and
parliamentary law, one could argue that it by nature oathed a
submission to the SL&C. The King had no right to disestablish the
covenant and rule contrary to it, and enforce such laws contrary to
the covenant on the colonies any more than he did in England,
Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.
George in 1725 had granted further rights to the colonies with
respect to legislatures, but they were still under ultimate authority
of a British governor who served under authority of the British crown.
These limits upon the colonial legislature, and oaths to the British
government, were not peculiar to Massachusetts. The 1681 charter of
Pennsylvania also stated that the right was granted to make laws,
"bee not repugnant nor contrary, but soe farre as conveniently may
bee agreeable with the Lawes of our Kingdome of England."
Furthermore, in 1701, Pennsylvania established,
"AND that all Persons... to serve this Government in any Capacity,
both legislatively and executively, he or they solemnly promising,
when lawfully required, Allegiance to the King as Sovereign, and
Fidelity to the Proprietary and Governor." (The governor acting as an
agent of Britain.)
One will find similar in the charter of Connecticut, 1662, Delaware,
1701, Georgia, 1732, Maryland, 1632, Carolina 1663, etc.
Oaths of supremacy required of those serving in office in the
colonies, recognition of the King, allowance to make and enforce new
laws, provided not contrary to laws in England, which in effect made
them subject to Parliament by the charter grants to the colonists to
begin with, notwithstanding certain liberties to deal with matters
locally without having to send their cases and questions 3,000 miles
overseas. Furthermore, many of the charters explicitly recognized the
citizens of the colony as citizens of Britain with full rights and
resposibilities of British citizenship. If any colonial charters did
not mention it expressly, it was certainly inferred by the colonists
as the established custom.
There is more on the limitations of self rule. Colonists attempted to
set up a government over a territory in NJ and the government was
disbanded by the queen in 1702 as contrary to the charter granted by
the previous king and in violation of the rights of the Crown as the
final soveriegn authority over NJ by virtue of the terms of the
colonial charter. The colonists did not resist but submitted to the
terms of their charter.
Now as to the question of the revolution and being released from the
laws and nation of Britain, I can concur that the British monarch had
the right, upon granting their independance, to loose them from those
aspects of the covenant that touched upon those under the covenant
with regards to their relations to Parliament and King. What the
crown, nay, no authority upon this earth could relase them from was
the moral duties to God covenanted to in the covenant.
Does that help anyone any?