The English settlements in America, during the century and a half of their existence as colonies, encountered many difficult problems. In the earlier years of this period there were troubles with the Indians; in the later years there were almost incessant bickerings with the French colonists to the north. But in due time the redskins were humbled and France was expelled from her American territory. Then there were religious troubles which at times rent the English colonies in twain. Some of these settlements, it is true, had been founded as a protest against ecclesiastical bigotry at home; but that did not make them tolerant of heresy within their own borders. Those who failed to make outward compliance with the established religious practices were in some cases harried out of the land, and a rigid enforcement of this policy in Massachusetts led to the founding of Rhode Island and Connecticut as separate colonies.

Another difficult problem was that of providing a satisfactory frame of civil government. Every colony had its own series of experiments embodied in charters,〖First Charter of Virginia, Harvard Classics, xliii, 49-58.〗 fundamental laws〖The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639).〗 and bodies of liberties.〖The Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), etc., H. C., xliii, 60ff.〗 At this historical distance these quaint documents make instructive reading, for they portray with great fidelity the earliest political ideals of the American people. Despite the rigor with which these codes attempted to regulate the daily walk and conversation of citizens, one can nevertheless trace in every line a firm loyalty to the principle that governments should be of laws and not of men. The faith in constitutional guarantees of civil liberty goes back to the very origins of American government.

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