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Mayflower, Day by Day - Friday, 22 October 1621

22 Oct 2021 3:55 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Magistrates

As a first step in organizing the government in 1620, those original settlers who concerned themselves with this effort convened and elected several "Assistants" and John Carver as the first Governor; this took place in Plymouth Harbour before the Mayflower departed for America. Carver died the next year, and William Bradford was elected as the next Governor and remained in that office for decades. These officers were elected again in each year by the General Court, which was convened on a fairly informal basis in the earliest years of the Colony. None of these officials were trained in the law, and there were no lawyers present in the Colony in these early decades.  The Governor and Assistants operated, through the Court of Assistants (also called the "Counsell"), to handle all matters on a subject-by-subject and case-by-case basis. They did not have the authority to enact comprehensive laws and ordinances, but issued orders on a limited array of subjects actng as the Court of Assistants. Only the General Court, attended by voting freemen, had the authority to enact such legislation, and it did not do so in a comprehensive manner until the codification of laws in 1636 (PCR 11: 7, 11) -- more on how, and perhaps more interestingly, why that happened tomorrow.

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