May 11, 2024 at 5:43 a.m.

250th Anniversary of The Massachusetts Government Act



Jennifer Baker, DAR Vesuvius Furnace Chapter | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

250th Anniversary of The Massachusetts Government Act

Compiled by Jennifer Baker, DAR Vesuvius Furnace Chapter

After the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament issued a series of acts known as the Intolerable Acts, or the Coercive Acts, to punish Massachusetts for its transgressions and consolidate power over the thirteen colonies. The Massachusetts Government Act was one of these Acts and restructured the Massachusetts government to give the royally appointed leaders more power. In short, the Government Act abolished representative government by establishing an all-powerful governor and removed the right to a fair trial.

An excerpt from this document reads as follows:

WHEREAS by letters patent under the great seal of England, made in the third year of the reign of their late majesties King William and Queen Mary, for uniting, erecting, and incorporating, the several colonies, territories, and tracts of land therein mentioned, into one real province, by the name of Their Majesties Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England; whereby it was, amongst other things, ordained and established, That the governor of the said province should, from thenceforth, be appointed and commissionated by their Majesties, their heirs and successors: It was, however, granted and ordained, That, from the expiration of the term for and during which the eight and twenty persons named in the said letters patent were appointed to be the first counsellors or assistants to the governor of the said province for the time being, the aforesaid number of eight and twenty counsellors or assistants should yearly, once in every year, for ever thereafter, be, by the general court or assembly, newly chosen: And whereas the said method of electing such counsellors or assistants, to be vested with the several powers, authorities, and privileges, therein mentioned, although conformable to the practice theretofore used in such of the colonies thereby united, in which the appointment of the respective governors had been vested in the general courts or assemblies of the said colonies, hath, by repeated experience, been found to be extremely ill adapted to the plan of government established in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, by the said letters patent herein-before mentioned, and hath been so far from contributing to the attainment of the good ends and purposes thereby intended, and to the promoting of the internal welfare, peace, and good government of the said province, or to the maintenance of the just subordination to, and conformity with, the laws of Great Britain, that the manner of exercising the powers, authorities, and privileges aforesaid, by the persons so annually elected, hath, for some time past, been such as had the most manifest tendency to obstruct, and, in great measure, defeat, the execution of the laws; to weaken and, in great measure, defeat, the execution of the laws; to weaken the attachment of his Majesty well-disposed subjects in the said province to his Majesty government, and to encourage the ill-disposed among them to proceed even to acts of direct resistance to, and defiance of, his Majesty authority; And it hath accordingly happened that an open resistance to the execution of the laws hath actually taken place in the town of Boston, and the neighbourhood thereof, within the said province: And whereas it is, under these circumstances, become absolutely necessary, in order to the preservation of the peace and good order of the said province, the protection of his Majesty well-disposed subjects therein resident, the continuance of the mutual benefits arising from the commerce and correspondence between this kingdom and the said province, and the maintaining of the just dependance of the said province upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain, that the said method of annually electing the counsellors or assistants of the said province should no longer be suffered to continue but that the appointment of the said counsellors or assistants should henceforth be put upon the like footing as is established in such other of his Majesty colonies or plantations in America, the governors whereof are appointed by his Majesty commission, under the great seal of Great Britain: Be it therefore enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of August, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four, so much of the charter, granted by their majesties King William and Queen Mary to the inhabitants of the said province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England, and all and every clause, matter, and thing, therein contained, which relates to the time and manner of electing the assistants or counsellors for the said province, be revoked, and is hereby revoked and made void and of none effect; and that the offices of all counsellors and assistants, elected and appointed in pursuance thereof, shall from thenceforth cease and determine: And that, from and after the said first day of August, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four, the council, or court of assistants of the said province for the time being, shall be composed of such of the inhabitants or proprietors of lands within the same as shall be thereunto nominated and appointed by his Majesty, his heirs and successors, from time to time, by warrant under his or their signet or sign manual, and with the advice of the privy council, agreeable to the practice now used in respect to the appointment of counsellors in such of his Majesty other colonies in America, the governors whereof are appointed by commission under the great seal of Great Britain: provided, that the number of the said assistants or counsellors shall not, at any one time, exceed thirty-six, nor be less than twelve.

The document went on to say that the appointment of counselors, any judges of the lower courts of common pleas, commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, the attorney general, provosts, marshals, sheriffs, justices of the peace, or other officers were without a term end date and those individuals were immune from prosecution with the position of privilege. It also gave the royal governor the ability to appoint and remove these positions as needed at all levels within the colony “without the consent of the council”. Chief justices would be appointed by the crown and could not be removed “unless by the order of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, under his or their sign manual.”

The document went on to limit the authority of town and city governments and limit the ability to assemble in public unless ordered by the royal government. Religious institutions had some exceptions but were required to be inspected at least twice annually. The document also limited the use of jury trials and how jurors were to be selected and kept, which extended to local roles like the coroner and sheriff and said that they could “be appointed for that purpose by the court.” It also extended the authority of sheriffs and constables saying “that all sheriffs may be the better informed of persons qualified to serve on juries at the superior courts of judicature, courts of assize, general goal delivery, general sessions of the peace, and inferior court of common pleas, within the said province…”

When Governor Thomas Gage invoked the act in October 1774 to dissolve the provincial assembly, Massachusetts’ Patriot leaders responded by setting up an alternative government that actually controlled everything outside Boston. They argued that the new act had nullified the contract between the king and the people, who ignored Gage's order for new elections and set up the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. It acted as the province's government until the 1780 adoption of the Massachusetts State Constitution. The governor had control only in Boston, where his soldiers were based. Parliament repealed the act in 1778 as part of attempts to reach a diplomatic end to the ongoing American Revolutionary War.



Comments:

You must login to comment.

Events

May

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
28
29
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.