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Colonial Charters

Colonial Charters

The colonies and governments established along the the Atlantic seaboard during the British colonial period were based upon written charters issued by the British sovereign.

The charters were issued to groups of colonists, trade companies, and, in some cases, individuals. In total they authorized three (3) types of colonial governments:

    • Royal or Crown - These were the most numerous and included Maine. New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Massachusetts (after 1691).  These charters appointed a governor (or deputy) as the royal representative to implement the charter and a council, appointed by the sovereign or governor, to act as an upper legislative house. Additionally, they authorized a general assembly, chosen by voters, and a judiciary system appointed by the governor and approved by the council.

Proprietary - There were three Proprietary colonies at the beginning of the Revolution: Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The charters authorized the proprieters to appoint governors, establish legislative bodies, apppoint judges, establish local governments, and exercise perogatives, which in the Royal colonies, resided with the Sovereign.

Charter or Corporate - Rhode Island and Connecticut were the only two (2) Charter colonies. These charters were granted to the colonists as a group after they were settled and the Sovereign had little, or no, authority to interfere with their administration and development. The Charter colonies were organized along popular and democratic lines.

For a slide presentation on the various types of colonies, click here.

This section provides the various colonial and royal charters charters.