The American colonies were brought into legal existence by means of colonial charters and grants bestowed by the British Crown. These documents granted proprietors and settlement companies the exclusive and broad authority to govern territories and punish crimes in accordance with prescribed royal allowances. They laid the foundations for colonial and state constitutions and greatly influenced the evolution of individual rights, criminal law, and representative democracy in America.

Early Charters

The first English charter granted in consideration of present-day America was “The Letters Patents ...

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