Gaining Control of Political and Economic institutions in Colonial America: 1607-1763

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The first successful British colony in North America, Jamestown was created in 1607. Though at first the American colonists were heavily dependent on Britain for their financial and governmental needs, they soon developed their own cultural and societal ideals. These ideals were not deterred until after the French and Indian War, when the English recognized the need for more royal authority in the colonies. The gradual weakening of British control over the colonies until this point allowed Americans to acquire relative control of their political and economic institutions throughout the years 1607 and 1763.

Politically, Americans grew steadily more independent from Britain as the colonies progressed from 1607 to 1763. When the colony of Jamestown was first founded in 1607, settlers relied on the London Company and English government officials. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, English settlers continued to believe that they were re-creating in North America the practices and institutions of their homes in Britain.

However, they inevitably created a very different political landscape in the New World. One of the reasons for this unintentional change was the scarcity of English-trained politicians and lawyers. It was only after 1700 that English authorities attempted to impose the common law of Britain upon the provinces; far too late to have any significant effects. Though the essential elements of the English legal system were adopted by the American legal system, various differences were also established. For example, punishments for crimes were different and court procedure tended to be simpler in America. An important difference in the law of America and Britain was the freedom of the press which was influenced by John Peter Zenger's 1734-1735 trial. Unlike in Britain, American colonists began to believe that law was a consequence of the natural order.

Numerous other differences between the American and...