New York Colony: History of government



In New York, under the Dutch, the example of self-government displayed in New England caused much dissatisfaction with the arbitrary rule which prevailed, and gave rise to popular demands for greater privileges and a share in the government. The people were very ready, on the occasion of the English invasion, to submit to their new rulers, in the hope of gaining increased liberty. Yet they found themselves under as severe a despotism as before, and made the same protest that had been heard in the other colonies, that taxation without representation was unjust and oppressive. They obtained answer from their governor that the taxes should be made so heavy that they would have time to think of nothing else but how to pay them. This oppression continued till 1683, when, under the advice of William Penn, the Duke of York ordered the governor to call an Assembly of representatives. This Assembly passed an important "charter of liberties," which was approved by the governor. This charter placed the supreme legislative power in the governor, council, and people met in general assembly, gave to every freeman full right to vote for representatives, established trial by jury, required that no tax whatever should be assessed without the consent of the Assembly, and that no professing Christian should be questioned concerning his religion. The privileges here claimed were not fully conceded. Several of the governors proved oppressive and ruled the colony despotically. But the right of self-government, so far as it had been attained, was never again yielded. The dispute, in 1732, between the liberal and the aristocratic parties, which was decided in favor of the former, showed clearly the prevailing liberal sentiments of the people. The editor who had been thrown into prison for a libel against the government was acquitted, and Andrew Hamilton, one of his counsel, was highly applauded for his eloquent defence of the rights of mankind and of free speech by the press.





Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 2)