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Land proprietors profoundly shaped the New England town from

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Land proprietors profoundly shaped the New England town from [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2013, 10:02
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Land “proprietors” profoundly shaped the New England town from the very beginning of settlement, and this fact calls into question long-held assumptions about life in colonial New England. Seventeenth-century municipalities functioned as land corporations; they were modeled after joint-stock companies and had an exclusive membership based on ownership of shares--notions that directly challenge our past understanding that the New England town operated as a “community” with broader aims and objectives. Local powers were vested in the town’s proprietors. Towns may have attracted other settlers or church congregations, but neither of those groups had the power to divide land, finance town affairs, vote on local matters, or become proprietors in their own right. The New England town was not a single community but several. Some individuals were mere “residents,” others were resident or absentee “inhabitants” (a term which applied only to proprietors), and many of each may have been church members. Although such exclusive control of affairs by “inhabitants” often led to con tention, their monopoly over power and land was repeatedly sustained by higher levels of colonial authority.

Exhaustive studies of town records show that the proprietors played an essential and pervasive role in town building and founding. These men (and occasionally a few women) effectively controlled and ran the affairs of towns, regardless of size, location, or stage of development.
1. It can be inferred from the passage that "inhabitants"
A. were resident in colonial settlements year-round
B. included both voting and non-voting members of the community
C. consisted solely of those residents of a town who were members of a church congregation
D. exercised control of political power in an arbitrary and capricious manner
E. were those members of a community who owned land and controlled political power
[Reveal] Spoiler:
E



2. With which of the following statements about New England towns would the author of the passage most likely agree?
A.The fact that power was distributed based on land ownership was a fundamentally democratic method of organizing early local governments.
B. Individual interests in the towns were often subverted by communal goals and decisions.
C. Political control was equated with land ownership no matter what the population or geographic locations of those towns.
D. The control of colonial affairs by land proprietors was an issue of debate and contention within the church hierarchy.
E. The concentration of political power in the hands of town proprietors was necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of early settlements.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
C

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Re: Land “proprietors” profoundly shaped the New [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2013, 12:26
Expert's post
Dear rajatr,
I'm happy to help with this. :-) First of all, this passage has 221 words, so it's a tad shorter than what you would find on the GMAT. Also, it really presents only one point of view, without much controversy --- controversy is mentioned, but there's really no difference in perspective throughout the argument. This is a bit uncharacteristic of standard GMAT RC passages. On this prep book overall, here's a review:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/princeton- ... ok-review/

As to the questions:
1. It can be inferred from the passage that "inhabitants"
In the passage, it says "...'inhabitants' (a term which applied only to proprietors)..." So, this term refers to the folks who owned all the land and, thereby, controlled all the political power in the town. The whole passage is about how these folks ran the show in a New England town, so the answer should say something about having power.
(D) is a bit too strong --- know the "inhabitants" had power, but whether they used it judiciously or abused it, the passage does not say. We would be inferring far too much to leap to the conclusion of (D). By contrast, (E) simply says --- they "owned land and controlled political power" --- very factual and objective, and exactly what the passage is about. (E) is the best answer.

2. With which of the following statements about New England towns would the author of the passage most likely agree?
A.The fact that power was distributed based on land ownership was a fundamentally democratic method of organizing early local governments.

NO. We are told the system was "exclusive" and not based on "community" Some people had all the control and others had no say --- that's not how democracy is supposed to work! (Never mind about shortcomings of US democracy in 2013!)

B. Individual interests in the towns were often subverted by communal goals and decisions.
NO. The power dynamic was not about individual vs. community. This was NOT a community based system. The power was between folks who owned land and all the poor slobs who didn't.

C. Political control was equated with land ownership no matter what the population or geographic locations of those towns.
This is promising. The passage explicitly says: "Local powers were vested in the town’s proprietors." Those who had land, had power. The passage also seems to suggest this state of affairs was widespread over New England. This is a promising choice for the answer.

D. The control of colonial affairs by land proprietors was an issue of debate and contention within the church hierarchy.
NO. Be careful here. There is a mention of contention, presumably between folks with land & power vs. folks with no power. Church is briefly mentioned elsewhere in the passage, not related to contention, and there's absolutely no mention of the church hierarchy. This answer basically makes a salad out of various ideas in the passage. It is not a cogent answer.

E. The concentration of political power in the hands of town proprietors was necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of early settlements.
NO. This is a wild unsubstantiated inference. The passage says --- as it happens, power was concentrated in the hands of the few. That's how it played out, but there's no statement about whether this was the best or the fairest or the smoothest system. In fact, this system did generate contention, so it wasn't necessarily smoothly functioning. Not a particularly believable answer.

For #2, the best answer by far is (C).

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: Land proprietors profoundly shaped the New England town from [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2013, 14:29
Hi rajatr,
For the first question (E) seems to be the right choice because towards the end, the author focuses on how the inhabitants controlled the power system as well as the land.

For the second question (D) was my first choice initially. But reading this sentence clarifies -

"Although such exclusive control of affairs by “inhabitants” often led to contention, their monopoly over power and land was repeatedly sustained by higher levels of colonial authority."

This sentence does not say that the contention was existent within church hierarchy. So, (C) seems to be more reflective of the overall gist. Especially with this last line -
Exhaustive studies of town records show that the proprietors played an essential and pervasive role in town building and founding. These men (and occasionally a few women) effectively controlled and ran the affairs of towns, regardless of size, location, or stage of development
Re: Land proprietors profoundly shaped the New England town from   [#permalink] 27 Apr 2013, 14:29
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