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BOROUGH, the English trading community that featured corporate organization and limited self-government, provided the model for many colonial towns. A colonial borough typically received its charter from the governor, who appointed a mayor and a recorder to sit on a common council with aldermen whom the freemen elected. These officials passed by laws to regulate commerce and labor, to indenture orphans, to supervise relief for the poor, to fix bread prices, and to admit freemen, who in early days enjoyed a monopoly on retail trade. Sitting as a mayor's court or sessions court, these officials handled civil and criminal law. After the American Revolution state legislatures granted borough charters that frequently widened suffrage and allowed popular mayoral elections and greater self-rule.


Hartog, Hendrik. Public Property and Private Power. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989.

New York (City) Mayor's Court. Select Cases of the Mayor's Court of New York City, 1678–1784. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 1935.

Richard B.Morris/s. b.

See alsoLocal Government .

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bor·ough / ˈbərō/ (abbr.: bor.) • n. a town or district that is an administrative unit. ∎  an incorporated municipality in certain U.S. states.

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borough †fortress; town (orig. fortified) OE.; town of a certain (political) status XVI. OE. burg, burh = OS. burg, OHG. burug (G. burg), ON. borg, Goth. baurgs :- Gmc. *burʒs, rel. to *berʒan protect, shelter (Cf. BORROW, BURY).