Proprietary colony

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Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore was the first Proprietor and Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland.

A proprietary colony was a colony in which one or two Individuals, usually land owners, remaining subject to their parent state's sanctions, retained rights that are today regarded as the privilege of the state, and in all cases eventually became so.[1]

This type of colonial government, based on the county palatine and resembling feudal grants of fiefs in exchange for service was used by England's colonization along the Atlantic coasts of North America and the Caribbean.[2]

Most were run under a colonial charter agreement, which was reviewed by the ruling monarch. A good example is the Province of Pennsylvania, granted to William Penn (the state still bears the name meaning "Penn's woods") by King Charles II of England.

This type of indirect rule eventually fell out of favor as the colonies became established and administrative difficulties eased. The English sovereigns sought to concentrate their power and authority and the colonies were converted to Crown colonies, i.e. governed by officials appointed by the King, replacing the people the King had previously appointed and under different terms.

Historical precedent[edit]

In medieval times, it was customary in Continental Europe for a sovereign to grant almost regal powers of government to the feudal lords of his border districts, so as to prevent foreign invasion. These districts or manors were often called palatinates or counties palatine, because the lord dwelled in a palace, or wielded the power of the king in his palace. His power was regal in kind, but inferior in degree to that of the king.[3]

This type of arrangement had been made in Norman times for certain English border counties. These territories were known as counties palatine and they lasted at least in part to 1830 and for good reason: remoteness, poor communications, governance carried out under difficult circumstances. The monarch and his or her government, retained its usual right to separate head and body, figuratively or literally, at any time. (see also the hereditary title marquess.)[4]

Proprietary colonies in America were governed by a lord proprietor, who, holding authoriity by virtue of a royal charter, usually exercised that authority almost as an independent sovereign.[5] Eventually, these were converted to royal colonies.

The Caribbean[edit]

British America colonies before the American Revolution[edit]

The British America colonies before the American Revolution consisted of thirteen colonies that became states of the United States of America.


  • Proprietor of Nova Scotia, 10 September 1621 – 12 June 1632 Sir William Alexander, (from 1633) Earl of Stirling and Viscount of Canada (b. 1567–d. 1640)

French examples[edit]

In 1603, Henry IV, the King of France, granted Pierre Du Gua de Monts the exclusive right to colonize lands in North America between 40°–60° North latitude. The King also gave Dugua a monopoly in the fur trade for these territories and named him Lieutenant General for Acadia and New France. In return, Dugua promised to bring 60 new colonists each year to what would be called l'Acadie. In 1607 the monopoly was revoked and the colony failed, but in 1608 he sponsored Champlain to open a colony at Quebec.[6]

The Iles Glorieuses, i.e. Glorioso Islands, were on 2 March 1880 settled and named by Frenchman Hippolyte Caltaux (b. 1847–d. after 1907), who was their proprietor from then till 1891. Only on 23 August 1892 they were claimed for the French Third Republic, as part of the Indian Ocean colony of French Madagascar.

However he was again their proprietor from 1901 till his death in 1907.

On 26 June 1960 they became a regular French possession, initially administered by the High Commissioner for Réunion, on 3 January 2005 transferred to the administrators of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roper (2007)
  2. ^ Roper (2007)
  3. ^ Osgood, H. L. American Historical Review, July, 1897, p. 644
  4. ^ Martinez (2008)
  5. ^ Elson, Henry William, History of the United States of America, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Chapter IV
  6. ^ Roper (2007)

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Martinez, Albert J. "The Palatinate Clause of the Maryland Charter, 1632-1776: From Independent Jurisdiction to Independence." American Journal of Legal History (2008): 305-325. in JSTOR
  • Mereness, Newton Dennison. Maryland as a proprietary province (1901) online
  • Osgood, Herbert L. “The Proprietary Province as a Form of Colonial Government.” Part I. American Historical Review 2 (July 1896): 644-64; Part 495. vol 3 (October 1897): 31-55; Part III. vol 3 (January 1898): 244-65. part 1 online free at JSTOR, part 3 the standard survey
  • Osgood, Herbert Levi. The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century: The Proprietary Province in Its Earliest Form, the Corporate Colonies of New England (1930)
  • Osgood, Herbert Levi. The Proprietary Province in Its Later Forms (Columbia University Press, 1930)
  • Roper, Louis H., and Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, eds. Constructing Early Modern Empires: Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750 (Brill, 2007)