To what extent did the constitutional development of the American colonies in the 18th century conform to the model of English constitutionalism?

Essay by Cutie360College, UndergraduateB, December 2006

download word file, 3 pages 3.0

The Constitutional Development of the American Colonies

The constitutional development of the American colonies in the 18th century conformed to the model of English constitutionalism to the extent that the core was built to work the same way as the English constitution. However, after modeling the American colonies after the English constitution, the colonists built into it their own ideas and changes to create a constitution that would best fit the needs of the majority.

To begin, the American government was the same basic model as the English parliament, which consisted of the king, lords, and commons, except the American colonies combined the governor, council, and elected deputies together to form a legislature. Both were based in the theory of mixed-government, which was intended to maintain equilibrium between the bodies, each representing a different social class, therefore preventing the exclusive control by any one class. This means that the duties of governmental power were to be shared among all groups.

Having applied the basic principles of English constitutionalism to their own constitutional development, the colonists believed that they were entitled to the same rights as the English under the common law and the English constitution, and were able to get these rights granted to them. These rights, known as parliamentary privilege, included such things as freedom of speech on the floor of assembly, access to the governor, the right to decide the qualifications for membership for deputies in the lower house, the right to hold a trial for, and punish, outsiders who commit a crime against a deputy, and also to organize internal proceedings and discipline deputies who violate any of the rules of procedure. They also received the right to sit separately from the upper houses of assembly, elect a speaker for their selves, and initiate...