Government in England and the Colonies

The governments in America today are similar in many ways to the governments of the thirteen colonies. In the original “New England” each town was directed by town meetings and in the south counties were headed by sheriffs or constables. There are still town or representative town meetings and county governments in many states. Like the states today, each colony was run by a government headed by a governor and a legislature. The thirteen colonies were under a legislature, the British Parliament, (similar to the current congress) and a King whose powers were not that different from those granted the American President.

British rule in the colonies was enforced by the colonial governor. He was usually appointed by the King and he served as the chief law enforcement officer in the colony. The governor seemed all powerful but the royal governors often met determined resistance from colonial assemblies.

Analysis of Structure and Function of Government in England and Colonies

Executive (Enforce Laws)

  • England: King
  • Colonies: Governor
  • U.S. Today: President

Legislative (Make Laws)

  • England: Parliament: House of Lords & Commons
  • Colonies: Council & Assembly
  • U.S. Today: Congress: Senate & House of Representatives

Judicial (Interpret Laws)

  • England: Courts leading to House of Lords
  • Colonies: Courts leading to Council
  • U.S. Today: Courts leading to Supreme Court

Source: Government in England and the Colonies
Thomas Ladenburg copyright, 1974, 1998, 2001, 2007

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