Self-government in the Early Colonies

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How were the seeds for self-government sown in the early colonies? Why was this important when England started to enforce rules (such as the Intolerable Acts)? Please give specific examples.

Self-governance was a primary idea of the settlers in North America. Once English settlers began to come to the new world in the 1600s, they knew they needed to have their own freedom for themselves, after all that is why they left Great Britain in many cases. Self-governance is most notable in the earliest form of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 for Virginia. Great Britain began to deteriorate the self-governing nature of the colonies in the mid-1700s through various acts it deemed to be necessary. The enforcement of these acts caused the colonists to be unhappy with the actions Great Britain was taking and so the phrase “taxation without representation is tyranny” came.

The Mayflower Compact, signed by some of the earliest settlers of Virginia including John Carter in 1620 was an example of early self-governance in that they established a “frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices..for the generall good of the Colonie.” They had left Great Britain with the intention to care for themselves and govern themselves. The Mayflower Compact is one of the earliest examples of people coming together to govern themselves and take control of their future and well-being as a colony without Great Britain. Many others followed suit after them in a manner very similar.4

In the 1760s King George III enacted the Sugar Act and the Stamp act to gain extra revenue from his colonies. King George III decided to enact heavier taxes to put money back into the empire that had been lost after the French and Indian War. This act levied heavy taxes on sugar imported from the West Indies. The Stamp Act in 1765 required that many items have a stamp to prove that the owner had payed for the taxes on the item. The problem the colonists had with it was that it increased the presence of English troops in the Colonies and they felt it was unneeded and only meant to put more control into Great Britain's hands.
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