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 dissim...

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...ctions eventually lead to the

committee system still used by all governmental organizations.

Paragraph nine of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639), known

as the first written

constitution in North America, makes reference to town meetings. The

towns of Windsor, Hartford, and

Wethersfiled adopted the Fundamental Orders on January 14, 1639. They

formed, in the opinion of some

historians, the first modern written constitution. The purpose was to

limit governmental (British) powers.

It was the first American constitution of government.

All colonies contained elements of a complete democracy. Their

experience in self-government

evolved and grew. From these seeds, as Alexis de Toqueville stated, "A

democracy, more perfect than any

in which antiquity had dreamt of, started full-size…".
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