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Colonial Government Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Colonial Government in America
  • 1:00 Types of Colonies
  • 1:28 Royal & Proprietary Colonies
  • 2:10 Charter Colonies
  • 2:50 Breaking Away From…
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Barbi Brittain

Barbi has been an elementary educator for over 10 years and has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Have you ever wondered what the government was like in America before the United States? In this lesson, we'll learn about the colonial government that oversaw the 13 Colonies.

Colonial Government in America

It's hard to imagine what our country was like before it became the United States. For thousands of years, Native Americans were the main inhabitants, until Europeans began to explore and colonize (that is, create settlements and inhabit) the New World. The early 1600s saw the formation of the 13 Colonies, the original British colonies developed along the East Coast of North America.

The 13 Colonies were overseen by the colonial government, the same monarchy (government ruled by one leader) in Britain ruled by King George III and overseen by the Parliament, which is the British legislature.

It must have been difficult for a king to help make laws in America while sitting thousands of miles away across an ocean in a palace. That's why he appointed governors for each colony to enforce his laws. He would also send the British army to collect taxes from the colonists.

Types of Colonies

The colonies followed three basic rules:

  1. All colonies should be democratic.
  2. Each colony should elect its own legislature.
  3. Each colony should have a governor and court system.

While all the colonies were formed with these rules in mind, not all colonies were the same. There were three different types, each with different forms of colonial government. Let's explore those next.

Royal & Proprietary Colonies

Royal colonies were where land owners voted to make a government that was ruled by the king-appointed governor, who had the support of the king's army. The legislature of this form of government could pass its own laws, but the governor would reject those laws if the governor thought the king wouldn't approve. There were initially seven royal colonies, which were New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Proprietary colonies were created by an agreement between the king and an individual or business. The colonists had no voice in their government at all. The proprietary colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

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