FOR the first few years after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the only organ of government in the towns within its limits was the town meeting or general assembly of all the male inhabitants of the town. Even this body had legally no governmental authority, but was an extra-legal assembly made necessary by the circumstances which forced the early colonists under the leadership of Winthrop to separate into different groups and form several small settlements, instead of one large plantation as had been planned. To regulate the affairs of each of these settlements, some kind of local government was necessary, and this the settlers themselves created by meeting together to plan and carry into effect the necessary measures. The charter, under which the colony was planted, said nothing about towns and, consequently, authorized no form of town government. On the contrary, it mentioned only one governmental body--the eighteen assistants-- which, with the governor and deputy-governor, was to govern the colony.
It placed the government of the company in their hands, and they might have continued to govern--at least for a time--if the original plan of settlement could have been carried out. But the failure of the latter caused the failure of the former. Conditions had to be met for which no provisions were made in the charter, and these the colonists