Machinery Of Government
Council for Foreign Plantations.—The work of enforcing the laws devolved upon the crown and privy council. The accumulation of business and the specialized knowledge required in colonial matters made it desirable to have a body created which might handle the business in a more efficient manner. Accordingly in December, 1660, a Council for Foreign Plantations was commissioned. Members of the council were to inform themselves regarding the colonies, were to introduce a more uniform system of government, and were to see that the navigation acts were enforced.
Council of Trade.—From the English standpoint the colonies were mainly commercial enterprises. To foster commerce a Council of Trade was created. The work of the two bodies was to sift the mass of business so that matters of first importance only might come before the privy council. Lack of authority interfered with the interest of the members of the minor councils; the sessions became less and less frequent, and by 1665 both had ceased.
Council for Trade and Plantations.—Supervision of the colonies again devolved upon a committee of the privy council. In 1667 Clarendon fell and the small group known as the Cabal came into power. The following year the privy council was reorganized, four standing committees being constituted, one of which had charge of trade and plantations. The need of experts, however, continued to be felt, and in 1668 a new Council of Trade was appointed. In 1670 the Council for Plantations was also revived, and in 1672 the two councils were consolidated as the Council for Trade and Plantations. The council prepared preliminary drafts of instructions to governors, examined colonial legislation, and investigated questions which arose.
Lords of Trade.—Executive powers remained in the privy council, and this necessarily curbed the Council for Trade and Plantations, which was purely an advisory body. In 1674 the latter council was abolished, and the following year the king again committed its work to the Committee for Trade and Plantations of the privy council. This committee, known henceforth as the Lords of Trade, was a permanent body with its own clerks. William Blathwayt soon became the secretary and for twenty years he held the position. The efficiency of the body and the development of the colonial policy was due more to him than to any other person. The Lords of Trade prepared the instructions to governors, supervised the development of the colonies, examined colonial questions, and enforced the navigation laws.
The Admiralty.—After the Restoration the Duke of York was appointed Lord High Admiral of England and in 1662 his powers were extended to the colonies. Cases concerning vessels seized for violating some of the clauses of the commercial laws were tried in admiralty courts which were established in the crown colonies, deputies were appointed by the admiral to attend to the business, and ships were stationed in the colonies to seize illegal traders.
Governors and customs officials.—In the colony the chief executive officer was the governor. He was expected to enforce the trade laws, but outside of the crown colonies there was great, laxity in this regard. The work of enforcing the navigation laws was usually entrusted by the governor to a clerk called the naval officer but at a later period these officials were appointed by the crown. The right of collection of the English customs was leased to certain individuals who were known as farmers of the customs. They frequently complained that the governors were remiss in enforcing the navigation laws. Accordingly, the farmers of the customs were allowed to send, at their own expense, officers who would attend to the collection of duties. The farming system was soon abandoned and commissioners of customs were appointed, who sent out collectors, usually one to each colony. To examine the collector's accounts and act as a check upon him, officials called comptrollers were placed in most of the colonies, and in 1683 a superintendent for all the colonies, called the surveyor-general of the customs, was appointed. The activities of these officials led to considerable friction with colonial governors and proprietors, who resented the interference of the customs officials.
Next: Misrule And Rebellion In Virginia
Previous: Colonial Policy And Administration