Colonial charter

Colonial charter

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A charter is a document
Document
The term document has multiple meanings in ordinary language and in scholarship. WordNet 3.1. lists four meanings :* document, written document, papers...

 that gave colonies the legal rights to exist.
A charter
Charter
A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified...

 is a document bestowing certain rights on a town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

, city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

or an institution.
Colonial Charters were empowered when the king gave a grant of exclusive powers for the governance of land to proprietors or a settlement company. The charters defined the relationship of the colony to the mother country, free from involvement from the Crown. For the trading companies, charters vested the powers of government in the company in England. The officers would determine the administration, laws, and ordinances for the colony, but only as conforming to the laws of England. Proprietary charters gave governing authority to the proprietor, who determined the form of government, chose the officers, and made laws, subject to the advice and consent of the freemen. All colonial charters guaranteed to the colonists the vague rights and privileges of Englishmen, which would later cause trouble during the revolutionary era. In the second half of the seventeenth century, the Crown looked upon charters as obstacles to colonial control, substituting the royal province for corporations and proprietary governments.

The Massachusetts and Virginia charters were given to business corporations. Regular meetings of company officers and stockholders were the only governmental institutions required. The Virginia charter, issued in 1606, was revoked upon bankruptcy of the Virginia Company of London in 1624. The second colonial charter was granted to Massachusetts in 1629. In 1684, the Chancery Court in England voided the charter and changed it to a royal colony. Charles II placed Massachusetts under the Dominion of New England in 1685. After William III came to the throne, he issued Massachusetts Bay a new liberal charter in 1691.

Charles II granted Connecticut its charter in 1662 with the right of self-government. When James II ascended the throne in 1685, he tried to revoke the Connecticut charter and sent Sir Edmund Andros to receive it for the Crown. Joseph Wadsworth stole the charter and hid it in a hollow oak tree, the "charter oak," until James was overthrown. Connecticut temporarily lost the right of self-government under the Dominion of New England in 1687, but it was reinstated in 1689. The last charter by Charles II was issued to Rhode Island in 1663. Connecticut and Rhode Island attained colonial charters as already established colonies that allowed them to elect their own governors.

As a result of political upheavals, most colonies surrendered their charters to the Crown by 1763 and became royal colonies. By 1776, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania remained proprietary colonies under a charter, Connecticut and Rhode Island continued as corporation colonies under charters, and Massachusetts was governed as a royal province while operating under a charter.