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Colonial government in America

The organization and structure of Colonial governments in America shared many attributes. While each of the 13 colonies destined to become the United States has its own history and development, there emerged over time some common features and patterns to the structure and organization of the governments of these provinces. By the time of the American Revolution, many of these features applied to most of the colonies, and this article reviews those features as they appeared in the 1764 to 1775 time frame.

Table of contents
1 Origins
2 The Governor
3 The Legislature
4 The Courts
5 The Military


There were originally three forms taken by ventures that created colonies. These are usually described as Proprietary colonies, Royal colonies, and Corporate colonies. The Proprietary Colonies were created when large grants of land and authority were made to one or a small group of men, known as the proprietors. The Royal Colonies were created by a grant of authority under the kings patent to a group. The Corporate Colonies were creatures of both Parliament and the king, and their authority came though a charter.

The actual form of these governments could and did change. Charters were granted and revoked, and new patents were issued as various colonial schemes gained favor. By the time of the revolution, only Connecticut and Rhode Island maintained a unique status as chartered corporate colonies. The others had very similar governments based on the royal model, although terminology and usage varied.

The Governor

The Legislature

The Council

The Assembley

The Courts

The Military