Terminological update

April 10, 2007

I looked up Morgan:

Apparently the “freemen” of a Company met 4 times a year in a Great and General Court, in the place specified by the Charter (usually London or Plymouth), and elected a Governor, Deputy Governor and 18 “Assistants” who were like a Board of Directors. The Assistants met monthly, with 7 required for a quorum, and 6 of them had to attend the Great and General Court; no other quorum requirement was specified. The Assistants had the absolute right to admit new persons to “freeman” status; generally, I imagine, this happened automatically with the selling of shares.

So Winthrop’s innovations were: 1) getting the Charter to allow the Court to meet in the New World; 2) bringing the actual Charter with him; 3) assembling a quorum of Assistants here; and last but not least, 4) admitting all church-going settlers to “freeman” status.

Instant democracy. The newly-redefined “freemen” were in effect citizens, with the power to elect a sovereign (indeed virtually omnipotent) government.


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