When Massachusetts was first chartered, a council of inhabitants was formed, the 28 members of which were to be chosen annually by the people of the colony. This bit of democratic representation was unique among the many colonies, and it was a right the people took seriously and enjoyed, given the level of patronage and corruption evident when such councilors were appointed. However, the level of independence the council eventually felt at liberty to exercise was not to the liking of the colonial power, especially as the people in America began to exert muscle on trade and political issue. The Massachusetts Government Act was passed, on May 20, 1774, to reign in this independence.
The Act abolished the popularly elected council members, and replaced them with a 12 to 36 member council appointed by the King. The Act also forbade any meeting of the people of a town, unless at an annual meeting held in either March or May, unless specifically authorized by the governor.
The Act also required constables in each town to make lists of all persons 21 to 70 years of age for the purpose of making jury lists, and that if the constable needed assistance in making this list, that tax records could be consulted. The lists were then sent to the county sheriff to make a jury pool. Additional lists of those who had served would be made, and no one would be required to serve more than once each three years. The Act further details special juries, when they can be called, and who the cost of the trial would fall upon.
The Massachusetts Government Act is one of the Intolerable Acts that lead to dissent in the American colonies and to the creation of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances in 1774.