|Governing the Colonies
In its own way, each of the 13 colonies governed itself. They all had an elected assembly that passed laws. Colonists believed they had a right to take part in their government, but laws passed by the assemblies still had to be approved by England. Governors, appointed by the King, saw that the colonies obeyed British law. Sometimes governors and assemblies disagreed on which laws had to be obeyed.
Governors and Assemblies
Many New Englanders ignored English laws they did not agree with. Members of the Massachusetts assembly even attempted to remove their British governor. Local colonial governments held town meetings to discuss problems, vote on laws, and elect officials. Only adult white males who owned property could vote. Punishment for crimes was harsh and peace was maintained by constables and sheriffs.
Spirit of Freedom
Philosopher John Locke believed it was the job of a government to respect people's "natural rights." His views became increasingly popular in the colonies. He also wrote that citizens have a right to replace a government that doesn't do its job. Publisher John Peter Zenger was put on trial for accusing New York's royal governor of dishonesty. He was found not guilty and freedom of the press was established as a legal right. Enslaved African Americans took special note of the growing calls for freedom. In a book of poetry, enslaved African Phyllis Wheatley wrote of freedom.