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1600-1754: Government and Politics: Chronology

1600-1754: Government and Politics: Chronology




  • Three vessels carrying 105 London Company passengers arrive in Virginia.


  • Capt. John Smith is elected president of the Jamestown Council.


  • Capt. John Smith reluctantly relinquishes authority with the anticipated arrival of Gov. Thomas Lord De La Warr.
  • The Starving Time, a one-year period of severe malnutrition, disease, and disorder begins in the Jamestown settlement.


  • Virginia governor Thomas Gates implements a series of laws called Dales Code to maintain order in Jamestown.


  • The first tobacco shipment is sent to England.


  • Martial law in Virginia is replaced by a general assembly of twenty-two burgesses, the first representative assembly in America.


  • Off of present-day Cape Cod, Massachusetts, forty-one male passengers on the Mayflower sign the Mayflower Compact, establishing a preliminary civil body politic and the authority to legislate laws as necessary.


  • William Bradford becomes governor of Plymouth and serves at that post for thirty years.


  • After the revocation of the London Company charter in May, Virginia becomes a royal colony.
  • The first permanent settlers to come through the Dutch West India Company (approximately thirty families) arrive in the present-day New York Bay area.



  • The Massachusetts Bay Company is formed by English Puritans allowing the Company to have governmental autonomy once on the American mainland.


  • John Winthrop is elected first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.


  • One hundred and thirty male church members combine to make up the freemanship of Massachusetts Bay Colony.


  • Maryland is established as the first proprietary colony. George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, sought the initial charter from Charles I, and upon his death, his son Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, became the first proprietor of the colony.


  • The General Court of Massachusetts Bay banishes Roger Williams after he questions the governments authority in matters of religious conscience.


  • Plymouth colony inhabitants adopt the Great Fundamentals allowing for the establishment of a general court made up of the governor and two representatives from each town.
  • Roger Williams founds Providence, Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay.


  • In retaliation for the killing of the trader John Oldham the previous year, militiamen under Capt. John Mason destroy a large portion of the Pequot Indians in the New Haven area.


  • Anne Hutchinson is tried and banished from Massachusetts Bay for the promulgation of Antinomianism, which is seen by authorities as a threat to church dominance both politically and religiously.
  • Backed by Dutch and Swedish investors, settlers from Sweden and the Netherlands disembark at present-day Wilmington, Delaware.



  • The Massachusetts Bay General Court adopts the Body of Liberties, a penal code closely aligned with Old Testament Law.



  • Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth form a confederation called the United Colonies of New England.
  • The colony of New Haven formally bases its government structure on the Mosaic Decalogue (Ten Commandments).


  • Massachusetts Bay adopts a bicameral legislature.
  • Roger Williams receives an official charter granting inhabitants of the four primary towns of Rhode Island (Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick) the right to establish a constitution through a general assembly.



  • After Charles I is beheaded, Virginia proclaims its loyalty to the Stuarts and becomes a safe haven for royal supporters.
  • The Act of Toleration passed in Maryland affirms freedom of religion for all Christians in that colony.


  • Dutch official Peter Stuyvesant authorizes an independent government for the growing municipality of New Amsterdam.
  • The General Court of Massachusetts Bay officially pronounces the territory of Maine as within the boundaries of the Bay colony.
  • After authorizing a blockade on Virginia shipping, the English Commonwealth Parliament forces a new election for governorship, replacing Sir William Berkeley with a parliamentary appointee.


  • The earliest English settlers in the Carolinas come by way of Virginia. The settlement of Albemarle is established just north of Albemarle Sound; the colony is called North Carolina after 1691.


  • Peter Stuyvesant brings an end to Swedish rule in America by defeating Johan Classon Rising, New Swedens governor, at Fort Casimir.


  • With the fall of Oliver Cromwells Protectorate, the Virginia burgesses assume full control of the colony.


  • After the Restoration of the Stuarts, Charles II re-commissions Sir William Berkeley as Virginias royal governor.
  • Parliament passes the first of the Navigation Acts.
  • The Lords of Trade (or Committee for Trade and Plantations) is commissioned to oversee commerce in the American colonies; it operates under the authority of the Privy Council.


  • Connecticut obtains a royal charter.


  • Charles II grants the lands consisting of South and North Carolina to eight proprietors.


  • Rhode Island receives a royal charter which honors the colonys preexistent declaration of religious liberty.
  • English forces take New Netherland and rename it New York.
  • John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret receive a grant from the duke of York for land within present-day New Jersey.


  • New Haven becomes part of the royal colony of Connecticut.
  • Philip Carteret, a relative of Sir George Carteret, is appointed the first governor of New Jersey.
  • New York adopts the Dukes Laws which mark the transition from a Dutch to an English civil and legal code.
  • Charles II sends four commissioners to New England to ensure that each of the regional colonies (Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) comply with royal prerogatives, one of which demands greater latitude for church membership. The royal commissioners also institute a separate government in Maine.
  • Carolina proprietors adopt the Concessions and Agreements which allow for the formation of a representative assembly of freeholders, a system of land ownership, and freedom of conscience.



  • Maine becomes part of Massachusetts.
  • As a supplement to the Concessions and Agreements, Carolina proprietors adopt John Lockes Fundamental Constitutions.


  • An English settlement is established on the Ashley River at Albemarle Point called Charles Town. The settlement later relocates to the fork of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, site of present-day Charleston, South Carolina.


  • The first assembly for the new settlement at Charles Town is established.


  • The Treaty of Westminster provides for the official surrender of Dutch forces which had retaken control of New York earlier in the year.


  • King Philips War begins and pits the New England Confederation against Indian tribes led by Chief Philip of the Wampanoags. The two-year conflict results in great loss and destruction for both sides. Twelve New England towns are leveled, and for every sixteen white men of fighting age, one loses his life.


  • Bacons Rebellion occurs in Virginia.
  • As a result of proprietary transitions first initiated by Lord Berkeleys sale of his interests, New Jersey divides into two colonies, East and West Jersey.


  • Since the Lords of Trade do not recognize Massachusetts claim on the territory of Maine, Massachusetts Bay authorities buy out the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges who hold the land title. From this point until 1820 Maine remains part of Massachusetts.
  • The proprietors of West Jersey institute the Laws, Concessions, and Agreements which stress the rights of religious liberty, trial by jury, and the requirement of public consent prior to taxation.
  • In Charles Town an antiproprietary government, with John Culpeper as a principal leader, is formed to counter the perceived misappropriation of authority by the proprietary government.


  • The colony of New Hampshire is separated, by royal commission, from Massachusetts.


  • William Penn receives proprietary rights from Charles II for the land now known as Pennsylvania. The formation of this colony is what Penn calls a holy experiment due to the emphasis placed on the rights of Christian dissent.


  • William Penn establishes his Frame of Government which allows for the creation of an assembly, council, and governors office in Pennsylvania.


  • Under the direction of the duke of York, the Charter of Liberties (drawn up by Mathias Nichols) provides for the establishment of a general assembly with the powers of taxation and independent legislation.


  • The Royal Court of Chancery decrees the Massachusetts Bay charter null and void.


  • Due to Charles Towns rejection of the Fundamental Constitutions, the Carolina proprietors disallow the settlements local assembly.
  • The Dominion of New England is formed, and the next year Sir Edmund Andros is appointed governor.


  • With the absence of Gov. Sir Edmund Andros and Lt. Gov. Francis Nicholson, Jacob Leisler, German trader and fervent Calvinist, assumes political and military control of New York.


  • Newly arrived Gov. Henry Sloughter defeats Jacob Leislers forces in New York.


  • William III commissions the Board of Trade to oversee commercial (trade and fishing) and political (power of appointments and legislative review) concerns in the American colonies.


  • The Board of Trade establishes vice admiralty courts which have jurisdiction over colonial maritime cases.


  • Delaware becomes a separate government from Pennsylvania and convenes its first autonomous assembly three years later. Even so, a single governor administers both provinces until the American Revolution.
  • The Charter of Liberties, the constitution of Pennsylvania until the American Revolution, establishes the only sustained unicameral (onehouse) legislature in the colonies.


  • Both East and West Jersey become royal colonies.


  • The secretary of state for the Southern Department gains the prerogative to appoint royal governors in the colonies; this power had been previously held by the Board of Trade.



  • South Carolina becomes a royal colony with the appointment of Francis Nicholson as governor.


  • North Carolina becomes a royal colony.


  • Twenty trustees receive a royal charter for land south of the Savannah River, previously part of South Carolina; the new colony becomes known as Georgia.


  • The original charter granted to the Georgia trustees expires, whereupon Georgia becomes a royal colony.

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