The Massachusetts Bay Company had been primarily a trading company, and the original Charter was written such that the first settlers had no political rights. The Court immediately made arrangements for extending the privileges of freemanship to all suitable persons. Freemanship was first granted to 108 men on the 19th of October 1630. Twenty of them belonged to Dorchester.

The primary benefits of being a “Freeman” were the right to vote; advantages given when lands were divided; and membership in the General Court. The principal qualification for these privileges seems to have been church membership. The character and morals of all persons wanting to emigrate were strictly scrutinized, and such arriving without proper testimonials were not received.

Below is an example of the Oath of a Freeman, taken and sworn to by Thomas Dewey I, on May 14th, 1634.


I, Thomas Dewey, being by God’s Providence an inhabitant and Freeman within the jurisdiction of this commonwealth, do fully acknowledge myself to be subject to the Government thereof; and therefore do here swear by the great and dreadful name of the ever living God, that I will be true and faithful to the same, and will accordingly yield assistance and support thereunto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound; and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the liberties and privileges thereof, submitting myself to the wholesome Lawes and orders made and established by the same, and further, that I will not plot or practice any evil against it, or consent to any that shall so do, but will truely discover and reveal the same to lawful authority now here established for the speedy preventing thereof. Moreover I do solemnly bind myself in the sight of God, that when I shall be called to give my voice touching any such matter of this State in which Freemen are to deal I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall judge in mine own conscience may best conduce and tend to the public weal of the body without respect to persons or favor of any man. So help me God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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