Democracy in the colonies

How democratic was colonial America?

In time it became evident that there existed a different spirit
than the one that existed in England. The colonists were a different
breed of man. They were tough hewn adventurers, not the spoiled
patricians that existed in the mother country. The colonists had come
for many reasons, not the least of which was to get away from
England. Whether their goal was economic opportunity or religious
freedom it was goal that required a certain amount of independence
from the King. While no colonist would acknowledge this it was true.
They were some 3,000 miles away and for all intents and purposes
expected to be left alone as long as they remained loyal to the
crown. They were willing to owe allegiance to the King and they were
willing to pay their fair share of taxes but the never expected the
King to meddle in everyday affairs. The result of this was a spirit
of Democracy that did not exist in England. Where the colonies
democratic, far from it but they were on the way.

Democratic and Undemocratic
Characteristics of Life in the Colonies

Democratic Characteristics

Undemocratic Characteristics

Freedom of the Press

– The trial and acquittal of John Peter
Zenger on charges of libel set the stage for the first use
of freedom of the press. This became a precedent in colonial
trials and newspapers began to report news differently in
the colonies than they did in England.

Freedom of religion

-Roger Williams, William Penn and others that
founded colonies dedicated to promoting religious freedom.

Elected legislatures existed in almost all colonies.

Town Hall meetings took place where citizens consulted on
all manners of law.

Mayflower Compact was an early sign of Democracy. It
showed that government came from the will of the people and
it set a precedent in the colonies.

Rugged nature of the colonists was one that did not take
well to be told what to do by a King (or anyone for that

Distance from England – They were 3000 miles away and
grew accustomed to making decisions for themselves.

Slavery – was clearly undemocratic, except that most did
not consider the slaves to be really human.

Indentured Servitude was another relatively undemocratic
fact of life, after all how can one sell himself as

Ruled by a King – The fact was the the law was made by
the King and the colonists had sworn their loyalty to him.
The fact remains that up until the revolution most still
considered themselves loyal to the King.

Colonial existence was by its very nature undemocratic.