Restrictions on colonial commerce
ascending the throne in his twenty-fifth year,
Charles I. inherited the principles and was governed by the favorite of his father.
The rejoicings in consequence of his recent nuptials, the reception of his, bride, and preparations for a parliament, left him little leisure for American affairs.
was esteemed by the monarch as the country producing tobacco, its inhabitants were valued at court as planters, and prized according to the revenue derived from the staple of their industry.
The plantation, no longer governed by a chartered company, was become a royal province and an object of favor; and, as it enforced conformity to the church of England, it could not be an object of suspicion to the clergy or the court.
The king felt an earnest desire to heal old grievances, to secure the personal rights and property of the colonists, and to promote their prosperity.
Franchises were neither conceded nor restricted; for it did not occur to his pride, that, at that time, there could be in an American province any thing like established privileges or vigorous political life; nor was he aware that the seeds of liberty were already germinating on the borders of the Chesapeake
His first Virginian measure was a proc-
lamation on tobacco; confirming to Virginia and the Somer Isles
the exclusive supply of the British
under penalty of the censure of the star-chamber for
In a few days, a new proclamation appeared, in which it was his evident design to secure the profits that might before have been engrossed by the corporation.
After a careful declaration of the forfeiture of the charters, and consequently of the immediate dependence of Virginia
upon himself, a declaration aimed against the claims of the London company, and not against the franchises of the colonists, the monarch proceeded to announce his fixed resolution of becoming, through his agents, the sole factor of the planters.
Indifferent to their constitution, it was his principal aim to monopolize the profits of their industry; and the political rights of Virginia
were established as usages by his salutary neglect.1
There is no room to suppose that Charles nourished the design of suppressing the colonial assemblies.
For some months, the organization of the government was not changed; and when Wyatt
retired, Sir George Yeardley
was appointed his successor.
This appointment was in itself a guaranty, that, as ‘the former interests of Virginia
were to be kept inviolate,’2
so the representative government, the chief political interest, would be maintained; for it was Yeardley
who had had the glory of introducing the system.
commission now issued,3
the monarch expressed his desire to benefit, encourage and perfect the plantation; ‘the same means, that were formerly thought fit for the maintenance of the colony,’ were continued; and the power of the governor and council was limited, as
it had before been done in the commission of Wyatt
by a reference to the usages of the last five years. In that period, representative liberty had become the custom of Virginia
The words were interpreted as favoring the wishes of the colonists; and King Charles, intent only on increasing his revenue, confirmed, perhaps unconsciously, the existence of a popular assembly, The colony prospered; Virginia
rose rapidly in public estimation; in one year, a thousand emi-
grants arrived; and there was an increasing demand for all the products of the soil.
The career of Yeardley
was now closed by death.
Posterity will ever retain a grateful recollection of the man who first convened a representative assembly in the western hemisphere; the colonists, announcing his decease in a letter to the privy council, gave at the same time a eulogy on his virtues; the surest evidence of his fidelity to their interests.4
The day after his
burial, Francis West
was elected his successor;5
for the council was authorized to elect the governor, ‘from time to time, as often as the case shall require.’6
But if any doubts existed of the royal assent to the
continuance of colonial assemblies, they were soon removed by a letter of instructions, which the king ad-
dressed to the governor and council.
After much caviling, in the style of a purchaser who undervalues the wares which he wishes to buy, the monarch arrives at his main purpose, and offers to contract for the whole crop of tobacco; desiring, at the same time, that an assembly might be convened to consider his proposal.7
This is the first recognition, on the part of a Stuart, of a representative assembly in America
Hitherto, the king had, fortunately for the colony,
found no time to take order for its government.
His zeal for an exclusive contract led him to observe and to sanction the existence of an elective legislature.
The assembly, in its answer, acquiesced
in the royal monopoly, but protested against its being farmed out to individuals.
The independent reply of the assembly was signed by the governor, by five members of the council, and by thirty-one burgesses.
The Virginians, happier than the people of England
, enjoyed a faithful representative government, and, through the resident planters who composed the council, they repeatedly elected their own governor.
When West designed to embark for Europe
, his place was supplied by election.8
No sooner had the news of the death of Yeardley
, than the king proceeded to issue a commission9
to John Harvey
The tenor of the instrument offered no invasions of colonial freedom; but while it renewed the limitations which had previously been set to the executive authority, it permitted the council in Virginia
, which had common interests with the people, to supply all vacancies occurring in their body.
In this way direct oppression was rendered impossible.
It was during the period which elapsed between the appointment of Harvey
and his appearance in
America, that Lord Baltimore visited Virginia
The zeal of religious bigotry pursued him as a Romanist;10
and the intolerant jealousy of Popery led to memorable results.
Nor should we, in this connection, forget the hospitable plans of the southern planters; the people
of New Plymouth were invited to abandon the cold
and sterile clime of New England
, and plant themselves in the milder regions on the Delaware Bay
a plain indication that Puritans were not then molested in Virginia
It was probably in the autumn of 1629 that Harvey
arrived in Virginia
Till October, the name of Pott
appears as governor; Harvey
met his first assembly
of burgesses in the following March.13
He had for several years been a member of the council; and as, at a former day, he had been a willing instrument in the hands of the faction to which Virginia
ascribed its earliest griefs, and continued to bear a deep-rooted hostility, his appointment could not but be unpopular.
The colony had esteemed it a special favor from King James
, that, upon the substitution of the royal authority for the corporate supremacy, the government had been intrusted to impartial agents; and, after the death of Yeardley
, two successive chief magistrates had been elected in Virginia
The appointment of Harvey
implied a change of power among political parties; it gave authority to a man whose connections in England
were precisely those which the colony regarded with the utmost aversion.
As his first appearance in America
, in 1624, had been with no friendly designs, so now he was the support of those who desired large grants of land and unreasonable concessions of separate jurisdictions; and he preferred the interests of himself, his partisans and patrons, to the welfare and quiet of the colony.
The extravagant language, which exhibited him as a tyrant, without specifying his crimes, was the natural hyperbole of political
excitement; and when historians, receiving the
account, and interpreting tyranny to mean arbitrary taxation, drew the inference that he convened no assemblies, trifled with the rights of property, and levied taxes according to his caprice, they were betrayed into extravagant errors.
Such a procedure would have been impossible.
He had no soldiers at his command; no obsequious officers to enforce his will; and the Virginians would never have made themselves the instruments of their own oppression.
The party opposed to Harvey
was deficient neither in capacity nor in colonial influence; and while arbitrary power was rapidly advancing to triumph in England
, the Virginians, during the whole period, enjoyed the benefit of independent colonial legislation;14
through the agency of their representatives, they levied and appropriated all taxes,15
secured the free industry of their citizens,16
guarded the forts with their own soldiers, at their own
and gave to their statutes the greatest possi-
When the defects and inconveniences of infant legislation were remedied by a revised code, which was published with the approbation of the governor and council,19
all the privileges which the assembly had ever claimed, were carefully confirmed.20
Indeed, they seem never to have been questioned.
Yet the administration of Harvey
was disturbed by
divisions, which grew out of other causes than infringements of the constitution.
, who visited Virginia
in 1632—3, had reason to praise the advanced condition of the settlement, the abundance of its products, and the liberality of its governor.21
The community would hardly have been much disturbed because fines were exacted with too relentless rigor;22
but the whole colony of Virginia
was in a state of excitement and alarm in consequence of the dismemberment of its territory by the cession to Lord Baltimore.
As in many of the earlier settlements, questions about landtitles were agitated with passion; and there was reason to apprehend the increase of extravagant grants, that would again include the soil on which plantations had already been made without the acquisition of an indisputable legal claim.
, the first occupants had refused to submit, and a skirmish had ensued, in which the blood of Europeans was shed for the first time on the waters of the Chesapeake
; and Clayborne
, defeated and banisned from Maryland
as a murderer23
and an outlaw, sheltered himself in Virginia
, where he had long been a member of the council.
There the contest was renewed; and Harvey
far from attempting to enforce the claims of Virginia
, against the royal grant, courted the favor of Baltimore
The colonists were indignant that their governor should thus, as it seemed to them, betray their interests; and as the majority of the council favored their wishes, ‘Sir John Harvey
was thrust out of his government; and Captain John West
appointed to the office, till the king's pleasure be known.’
An assembly was summoned in May, to receive complaints against Harvey
; but he had in the mean time consented to go to England
, and there meet his accusers.24
The commissioners appointed by the council to man-
age the impeachment of Harvey
, met with no favor in England
, and were not even admitted to a hearing.25 Harvey
immediately reappeared to occupy his former
station; and was followed by a new commission, by which his powers were still limited to such as had been exercised during the period of legislative freedom.
General assemblies continued to be held; but the vacancies in the council, which had been filled in Virginia
, were henceforward to be supplied by appointment in England
remained in office till 1639.27
The complaints which have been brought against him, will be regarded with some degree of distrust, when it is considered, that the public mind
of the colony, during his administration, was con-
trolled by a party which pursued him with implacable hostility.
In April, 1642, two months only after the accession of Berkeley
, a public document declares the comparative happiness of the colony under the royal government; a declaration which would hardly have been made, if Virginia
had so recently and so long been smarting under intolerable oppression.28
At length he was superseded, and Sir Francis Wyatt29
appointed in his stead.
Early in the next year, he convened a general assembly.
recorded many instances where a legislature has altered the scale of debts: in modern times, it has frequently been done by debasing the coin, or by introducing paper money.
, debts had been contracted to be paid in tobacco; and when the article rose in value, in consequence of laws restricting its culture, the legislature of Virginia did not scruple to provide a remedy, by enacting that ‘no man need pay more than two thirds of his debt during the stint;’ and that all creditors should take ‘forty pounds for a hundred.’30
The artificial increase of the value of tobacco seemed to require a corresponding change in the tariff of debts.31
After two years, a commission32
was issued to Sir William Berkeley
, reasoning, from the revolutions which took place in England
, that there had been corresponding attempts at oppression and corresponding resistance in Virginia
, have delighted
to draw a contrast, not only between Harvey
the new governor, but between the institutions of Virginia
under their respective governments; and 1641 Berkeley
is said to have ‘restored the system of freedom,’ and to have ‘effected an essential revolution.’33
I cannot find that his appointment was marked by the slightest concession of new political privileges, except that the council recovered the right of supplying its own vacancies; and the historians, who make an opposite statement, are wholly ignorant of the intermediate administration of Wyatt
; a government so suited to the tastes and habits of the planters, that it passed silently away, leaving almost no impression on Virginia
history, except in its statutes.
The commission of Berkeley
was exactly analogous to those of his predecessors.
given him, far from granting franchises to the Virginians, imposed most severe and unwarrantable restrictions on the liberty of trade; and, by the prerogative, England
claimed that monopoly of colonial commerce, which was ultimately enforced by the navigation act of Charles II., and which never ceased to be a subject of dispute till the war of independence.
The nature of those instructions will presently be explained.
It was in February, 1642, that Sir William Berke
icy, arriving in the colony, assumed the government.
His arrival must have been nearly simultaneous with the adjournment of the general assembly, which was held in the preceding January.35
He found the American
planters in possession of a large share of the legislative
authority; and he confirmed them in the enjoy
ment of franchises which a long and uninterrupted succession had rendered familiar.
Immediately after his arrival, he convened the colonial legislature.
The utmost harmony prevailed; the memory of factions was lost in a general amnesty of ancient griefs.
The lapse of years had so far effaced the divisions which grew out of the dissolution of the company, that when George Sandys
, an agent of the colony, and an opponent of the royal party in England
, presented a petition to the commons, praying for the restoration of the ancient patents,36
the royalist assembly promptly disavowed the design, and, after a full debate, op-
posed it by a solemn protest.37
The whole document breathes the tone of a body accustomed to public discussion and the independent exercise of legislative power.
They assert the necessity of the freedom of trade, ‘for freedom of trade,’ say they, ‘is the blood and life of a commonwealth.’
And they defended their preference of self-government through a colonial legislature, by a conclusive argument.
‘There is more likelyhood, that such as are acquainted with the clime and its accidents may upon better grounds prescribe our advantages, than such as shall sit at the helm in England
In reply to their urgent petition, the king immediately declared his purpose not to change a form of government in which they ‘received so much content and satisfaction.’39
The Virginians, aided by Sir William Berkeley
could now deliberately perfect their civil condition.
Condemnations to service had been a usual punishment;
these were abolished.
In the courts of justice,
a near approach was made to the laws and customs of England
Religion was provided for; the law about 1642 land-titles adjusted; an amicable treaty with Maryland
successfully matured; and peace with the Indians confirmed.
Taxes were assessed, not in proportion to numbers, but to men's abilities and estates.
The spirit of liberty, displayed in the English parliament, was transmitted to America; and the rights of property, the freedom of industry, the solemn exercise of civil franchises, seemed to be secured to themselves and their posterity.
‘A future immunity from taxes and impositions,’ except such as should be freely voted for their own wants, ‘was expected as the fruits of the endeavors of their legislature.’41
As the restraints with which colonial navigation was threatened, were not enforced,42
they attracted no attention; and Virginia
enjoyed nearly all the liberties which a monarch could concede, and retain his supremacy.
Believing themselves secure of all their privileges, the triumph of the popular party in England
did not alter the condition or the affections of the Virginians.
The commissioners appointed by parliament, with unlimited authority over the plantations,43
found no favor in Virginia
They promised, indeed, freedom from English taxation; but this immunity was already enjoyed.
They gave the colony liberty to choose its own governor; but it had no dislike to berkeley; and though there was a party for the parliament, yet the king's authority was maintained.44
The sovereignty of Charles had ever been mildly exercised.
The condition of contending parties in England
now given to Virginia
an opportunity of legislation
independent of European
control; and the voluntary act of the assembly, restraining religious liberty, adopted from hostility to political innovation, rather than from a spirit of fanaticism, or respect to instructions, proves conclusively the attachment of the representatives of Virginia
to the Episcopal church and the cause of royalty.
Yet there had been Puritans in the colony almost from the beginning: even the Brownists were freely offered a secure asylum;45
‘here,’ said the tolerant Whitaker
, ‘neither surplice nor subscription is spoken of,’ and several Puritan
families, and perhaps46
some even of the Puritan
clergy, emigrated to Virginia
They were so content with their reception, that large numbers were preparing to follow, and were restrained
only by the forethought of English intolerance.
We have seen, that the Pilgrims at Plymouth
were invited to remove within the jurisdiction of Virginia
merchants planted themselves on the James River
without fear, and emigrants from Massachusetts
recently established themselves in the colony.
The honor of Laud
had been vindicated by a judicial sentence, and south of the Potomac
the decrees of the court of high commission were allowed to be valid; but I find no traces of persecutions in the earliest history of Virginia
The laws were harsh: the administration seems to have been mild.
A disposition to non conformity was soon to show itself even in the council.
An invitation, which had been sent to Boston
for Punitan ministers, implies a belief that they would be admitted
But now the democratic revolution
had given an immediate political importance to religious sects: to tolerate Puritanism was to nurse a republican party.
It was, therefore, specially ordered
that no minister should preach or teach, publicly or privately, except in conformity to the constitutions of the church of England,47
and non-conformists were banished from the colony.
The unsocial spirit of political discord, fostering a mutual intolerance, prevented a frequent intercourse between Virginia
and New England
It was in vain that the ministers, invited from Boston
by the Puritan
settlements in Virginia
, carried letters from Winthrop
, written to Berkeley
and his council by order of the general court of Massachusetts
. ‘The hearts of the people were much inflamed with desire after the ordinances;’ but the missionaries were silenced by the government, and ordered to leave the country.48 Sir William Berkeley
was ‘a courtier, and very malignant towards the way of the churches’ in New England
thus displayed, though with comparatively little bitterness, the intolerance which for centuries had almost universally prevailed throughout the Christian world, a scene of distress was prepared by the vindictive ferocity of the natives, with whom a state of hostility had been of long continuance.
In 1643, it was enacted by the assembly, that no terms of peace should be entertained with the Indians; whom it was usual to distress by sudden marches against their settlements.
But the Indians had now heard of
the dissensions in England
, and taking counsel of their passions, rather than of their prudence, they resolved
on one more attempt at a general massacre
believing that, by midnight incursions, the destruction of the cattle and the fields of corn, they might succeed in famishing the remnant of the colonists whom they should not be able to murder by surprise.
On the eighteenth day of April,49
the time appointed for the carnage, the unexpected onset was begun upon the frontier settlements.
But hardly had the Indians steeped their hands in blood, before they were dismayed by the recollection of their own comparative weakness; and, trembling for the consequences of their treachery, they feared to continue their design, and fled to a distance from the colony.
The number of victims had been three hundred.
Measures were promptly taken by the English
for protection and defence; and a war was vigorously conducted.
The aged Opechancanough
was taken, yet not till 1646; and the venerated monarch of the sons of the forest, so long the undisputed lord of almost boundless hunting grounds, died in miserable captivity of wounds inflicted by a brutal soldier.
In his last moments, he chiefly regretted his exposure to the contemptuous gaze of his enemies.50
So little was apprehended, when the English
were once on their guard, that, two months after the massacre, Berkeley
embarked for England
, leaving Richard Kemp
as his successor.51
A border warfare continued; marches up and down the Indian
country were ordered; yet so weak were the natives, that though the
careless traveller and the straggling huntsman were
long in danger of being intercepted,52
yet ten men were considered a sufficient force to protect a place of danger.53
About fifteen months after Berkeley
's return from England
, articles of peace were established between the inhabitants of Virginia
and Necotowance, the successor of Opechancanough
Submission and a cession of lands were the terms on which the treaty was purchased by the original possessors of the soil, who now began to vanish away from the immediate vicinity of the settlements of their too formidable invaders.
It is one of the surprising results of moral power, that language, composed of fleeting sounds, retains and transmits the remembrance of past occurrences, long after every other monument has passed away.
Of the labors of the Indians on the soil of Virginia
, there remains nothing so respectable as would be a common ditch for the draining of lands;55
the memorials of their former existence are found only in the names of the rivers and the mountains.
Unchanging nature retains the appellations which were given by those whose villages have disappeared, and whose tribes have become extinct.
Thus the colony of Virginia
acquired the management of all its concerns; war was levied, and peace concluded, and territory acquired, in conformity to the acts of the representatives of the people.
Possessed of security and quiet, abundance of land, a free market for their staple, and, practically, all the rights of an independent state, having England
for its guardian
against foreign oppression, rather than its ruler,
the colonists enjoyed all the prosperity which a virgin soil, equal laws, and general uniformity of condition and industry, could bestow.
Their numbers increaseed; the cottages were filled with children, as the ports were with ships and emigrants.
At Christmas, 1648, there were trading in Virginia
, ten ships from London
, two from Bristol
, twelve Hollanders, and seven from New England
The number of the colonists was already twenty thousand; and they, who had sustained no griefs, were not tempted to engage in the feuds by which the mother country was divided.
They were attached to the cause of Charles, not because they loved monarchy, but because they cherished the liberties of which he had left them in the undisturbed possession; and, after his execution, though
there were not wanting some who, from ignorance, as the royalists affirmed, favored republicanism, the government recognized his son57
The disasters of the Cavaliers in England
strengthened the party in the New World.
Men of consideration ‘among the nobility, gentry, and clergy,’ struck ‘with horror and despair’ at the execution of Charles I., and desiring no reconciliation with the unrelenting ‘rebels,’ made their way to the shores of the Chesapeake
, where every house was for them a ‘hostelry,’ and every planter a friend.
The mansion and the purse of Berkeley
were open to all; and at the hospitable dwellings that were scattered along the rivers and among the wilds of Virginia
, the Cavaliers, exiles like their monarch, met in frequent groups to recount their toils, to sigh over defeats, and to nourish
loyalty and hope.58
The faithfulness of the Virginians
did not escape the attention of the royal exile; from his retreat in Breda he transmitted to Berkeley
a new commission;59
he still controlled the distribution of offices, and, amidst his defeats in Scotland
still remembered with favor the faithful Cavaliers in the western world.
Charles the Second, a fugitive from England
, was still the sovereign of Virginia
was whole for monarchy, and the last country, belonging to England
, that submitted to obedience of the commonwealth.’61
But the parliament did not long permit its authority to be denied.
Having, by the vigorous energy and fearless enthusiasm of republicanism, triumphed over all its enemies in Europe
, it turned its attention to the
colonies; and a memorable ordinance62
at once empowered the council of state to reduce the rebellious colonies to obedience, and, at the same time, established it as a law, that foreign ships should not trade at any of the ports ‘in Barbadoes
, Bermudas, and Virginia
, which was not expressly included in the ordinance, had taken care to acknowledge the new order of things;63
, alike unwilling to encounter the hostility of parliament, and jealous of the rights of independent
legislation, by its own enactment, prohibited all intercourse with Virginia
, till the supremacy of the commonwealth should be established; although the order, when it was found to be injurious to commerce, was
promptly repealed, even whilst royalty still triumphed
Chap. VI.} 1651. Oct. 14.
But would Virginia
resist the fleet of the republic?
Were its royalist principles so firm, that they would animate the colony to a desperate war with England
The lovers of monarchy indulged the hope, that the victories of their friends in the Chesapeake
would redeem the disgrace, that had elsewhere fallen on the royal arms; many partisans of Charles had come over as to a place of safety; and the honest Governor Berkeley
, than whom ‘no man meant better,’ was so confirmed in his confidence, that he wrote to the king, almost inviting him to America
The approach of the day of trial was watched with the deepest interest.
But while the preparations were yet making for the reduction of the colonies, which still preserved an appearance of loyalty, the commercial policy of England
underwent an important revision, and the new system, as it was based upon the permanent interests of English merchants and ship-builders, obtained a consistency and durability which could never have been gained by the feeble selfishness of the Stuarts.
It is the ancient fate of colonies to be planted by the daring of the poor and the hardy; to struggle into being through the severest trials; to be neglected by the parent country during the season of poverty and weakness; to thrive by the unrestricted application of their powers and enterprise; and by their consequent prosperity to tempt oppression.
colonies early attained opulence and strength, because they were always free; the new people at its birth was independent, and remained so; the emigrants were dismissed, not as servants but as equals.
the natural, not the necessary, allies of the mother
They spoke the same dialect, revered the same gods, cherished the same customs and laws; but they were politically independent.
Freedom, stimulating exertion, invited them to stretch their settlements from the shores of the Euxine to the Western Mediterranean
, and urged them forward to wealth and prosperity, commensurate with their boldness and the vast extent of their domains.
The colonies of Carthage
, on the contrary, had no sooner attained sufficient consideration to merit attention, than the mother state insisted upon a monopoly of their commerce.
The colonial system is as old as colonies and the spirit of commercial gain and political oppression.66
No sooner had Spain
entered on maritime discovery, and found their way round the Cape of Good Hope
and to America
, than a monopoly of the traffic of the world was desired.
Greedily covetous of the whole, they could with difficulty agree upon a division, not of a conquered province, the banks of a river, a neighboring territory, but of the oceans, and the commerce of every people and empire along the wide margin of their waters.
They claimed that, on the larger seas, the winds should blow only to fill their sails; that the islands and continents of Asia
, of Africa
, and the New World, should be fertile only to freight the ships of their merchants; and, having denounced the severest penalties against any who should infringe the rights which they claimed, they obtained the sanction of religion to adjust their differences, and to bar the ocean against the intrusion of competitors.67
The effects of this severity are pregnant with in-
Direct commerce with the Spanish
settlements was punished by the Spaniards with confiscation and the threat of eternal wo. The moral sense of mariners revolted at the extravagance: since forfeiture, imprisonment, and excommunication, were to follow the attempt at the fair exchanges of trade; since the freebooter and the pirate could not suffer more than was menaced against the merchant who should disregard the maritime monopoly,—the seas became infested by reckless bucaniers, the natural offspring of colonial restrictions.
Rich Spanish settlements in America
were pillaged; fleets attacked and captured; predatory invasions were even made on land to intercept the loads of gold, as they came from the mines; and men, who might have acquired honor and wealth in commerce, if commerce had been permitted, now displayed a sagacity of contrivance, coolness of execution, and capacity for enduring hardships, which won them the admiration of their contemporaries, and, in a better cause, would have won them the perpetual praises of the world.
, the freedom of the sea was vindicated against the claims of Spain
by a nation, hardly yet recognized as an independent state, occupying a soil, of which much had been redeemed by industry, and driven by the stern necessity of a dense population to seek for resources upon the sea. The most gifted of her sons, who first gave expression to the idea, that ‘free ships make free goods,’68
defended the liberty of commerce, and appealed to the judgment of all free governments and nations against the
maritime restrictions, which humanity denounced as
contrary to the principles of social intercourse; which justice derided as infringing the clearest natural rights; which enterprise rejected as a monstrous usurpation of the ocean and the winds.
The relinquishment of navigation in the East Indies
was required as the price at which her independence should be acknowledged, and she preferred to defend her separate existence by her arms, rather than purchase security by circumscribing the courses of her ships.
The nation, which by its position was compelled to acquire skill in commerce, and, in its resistance to monopoly, was forced by competition to obtain an advantage, succeeded in gaining the maritime ascendency.
While the inglorious James
, immersed in vanity and pedantry, was negotiating about points of theology; while the more unhappy Charles was wasting his strength in vain struggles against the liberties of his subjects,—the Dutch
, a little confederacy, which had been struck from the side of the vast empire of Spain
, a new people, scarcely known as possessed of nationality, had, by their superior skill, begun to engross the carrying trade of the world.
Their ships were soon to be found in the harbors of Virginia
; in the West Indian archipelago; in the south of Africa
; among the tropical islands of the Indian Ocean
; and even in the remote harbors of China
Already their trading-houses were planted on the Hudson
and the coast of Guinea
, in Java
. One or two rocky islets in the West Indies
, in part neglected by the Spaniards as unworthy of culture, were occupied by these daring merchants, and furnished a convenient shelter for a large contraband traffic with the terra firma So great was the naval success of Holland
that it engrossed the commerce of the European
nations themselves; English mariners sought employment in Dutch
vessels, with which the ports of England
were filled; English ships lay rotting at the wharves; English ship-building was an unprofitable vocation.
The freedom and the enterprise of Holland
had acquired maritime power, and skill, and wealth, such as the vast monopoly of Spain
had never been able to command.
The causes of the commercial greatness of Holland
were forgotten in envy at her success.
She ceased to appear as the antagonist of Spain
, and the gallant champion of the freedom of the seas; she was now envied as the successful rival.
The eloquence of Grotius
was neglected, as well as the pretensions of Spain
disregarded; and the English
government resolved to protect the English
desired to confirm the maritime power of his country; and St. John
, a Puritan and a republican in theory, though never averse to a limited monarchy, devised the first act of navigation, which the politic Whitelocke
introduced and carried through parliament.
ward, the commerce between England
and her colonies, as well as between England
and the rest of the world was to be conducted in ships solely owned, and principally manned, by Englishmen.
Foreigners might bring to England
nothing but the products of their own respective countries, or those of which their countries were the established staples.
The act was leveled against Dutch
commerce, and was but a protection of British shipping; it contained not one clause relating to a colonial monopoly, or specially injurious to an American colony.
Of itself it inflicted no wound on Virginia
or New England
In vain did the Dutch
expostulate against the act as a breach of commercial
amity; the parliament studied the interests of England
, and would not repeal laws to please a neighbor.69
A naval war soon followed, which Cromwell
ly desired, and Holland
as earnestly endeavored to avoid.
The spirit of each people was kindled with the highest national enthusiasm; the commerce of the world was the prize contended for; the ocean was the scene of the conflict; and the annals of recorded time had never known so many great naval actions in such quick succession.
This was the war in which Blake
, and Ayscue
, and De Ruyter
, gained their glory; and Tromp
fixed a broom to his mast in bravado, as if to sweep the English
flag from the seas.
was not disposed to trammel the industry of Virginia
, and Maryland
, and New England
His ambition aspired to make England
the commercial emporium of the world.
His plans extended to the possession of the harbors in the Spanish Netherlands
was obliged to pledge her aid to conquer, and her consent to yield Dunkirk
, Mardyke and Gravelines; and Dunkirk
, in the summer of 1658, was given up to his ambassador by the French
king in person.
Nor was this all: he desired the chief harbors in the North Sea
, and the Baltic
; and an alliance with Sweden
, made not simply from a zeal for Protestantism, was to secure him Bremen
, and Elsmore
and Dantzig, as his reward.70
In the West Indies
, his commanders planned the capture of Jamaica
succeeded; and the attempt at the reduction of Hispaniola
, then the chief possession of Spain
islands, failed only through the incompetency or want
of concert of his agents.
It is as the rival of Holland
, the successful antagonist of Spain
, the protector of English shipping, that Cromwell
laid claims to glory.
The crown passed from the brow of his sons; his wide plans for the possession of commercial places on the continent were defeated; Dunkirk
was restored; the monarchy, which he subverted, was reestablished; the nobility, which he humbled, recovered its pride:—Jamaica and the Act of Navigation were the surviving monuments of Cromwell
The protection of English shipping, thus permanently established as a part of the British
commercial policy, was the successful execution of a scheme, which many centuries before had been prematurely attempted.
A new and a still less justifiable encouragement was soon demanded, and English merchants began to insist upon the entire monopoly of the commerce of the colonies.
This question had but recently been agitated in parliament.
It was within the few last years, that England
had acquired colonies; and as, at first, they were thought to depend upon the royal prerogative, the public policy with respect to them can be found only in the proclamations, charters, and instructions, which emanated from the monarch.
The prudent forecast of Henry VII.
had considered the advantages which might be derived from a colonial monopoly; and while ample privileges were bestowed on the adventurers who sailed for the New World, he stipulated that the exclusive staple of its commerce should be made in England
A century of ill success had checked the extravagance of hope; and
as the charters of Gilbert
and of Raleigh
little but concessions, suited to invite those eminent men to engage with earnestness in the career of western discoveries, so the first charter for Virginia
pressly admitted strangers to trade with the colony on payment of a small discriminating duty.72
On the enlargement of the company, the intercourse with for-
signers was still permitted; nor were any limits assigned to the commerce in which they might engage.73
The last charter was equally free from unreasonable
restrictions on trade; and, by a confirmation of all former privileges, it permitted to foreign nations the traffic, which it did not expressly sanction.74
At an early period of his reign, before Virginia
been planted, King James found in his hostility to the use of tobacco a convenient argument for the excessive tax which a royal ordinance imposed on its consumption.75
When the weed had evidently become the staple of Virginia
, the Stuarts cared for nothing in the colony so much as for a revenue to be derived from an impost on its produce.
Whatever false display of zeal might be made for religion, the conversion of the heathen, the organization of the government, and the establishment of justice, the subject of tobacco was never forgotten.
The sale of it in England
strictly prohibited, unless the heavy impost had been paid;76
a proclamation enforced the royal decree;77
and, that the tax might be gathered on the entire consumption, by a new proclamation,78
the culture of to-
bacco was forbidden in England
, and the plants already growing were ordered to be uprooted.
Nor was it long before the importation and sale of
tobacco required a special license from the king.79
In this manner, a compromise was effected between the interests of the colonial planters and the monarch; the former obtained the exclusive supply of the English
market, and the latter succeeded in imposing an exorbitant duty.80
In the ensuing parliament,
Lord Coke did not fail to remind the commons of the usurpations of authority on the part of the monarch, who had taxed the produce of the colonies without the consent of the people, and without an act of the national legislature;81
, and Diggs
, and Farrar
, the friends of Virginia
, procured the substi-
tution of an act for the arbitrary ordinance.82
In consequence of the dissensions of the times, the bill, which had passed the house, was left among the unfinished business of the session; nor was the affair adjusted, till, as we have already seen, the commons, in 1624, again expressed their regard for Virginia
petition, to which the monarch readily attempted to give effect.83
The first colonial measure84
of King Charles related
to tobacco; and the second proclamation,85
though its object purported to be the settling of the plantation of Virginia
, partook largely of the same character.
In a series of public acts, King Charles attempted during his reign to procure a revenue from this source.
The authority of the star-chamber was invoked to assist
in filling his exchequer by new and onerous duties
his commissioners were ordered to con-
tract for all the product of the colonies;87
though the Spanish
tobacco was not steadily excluded.88
All colonial tobacco was soon ordered to be sealed;89
nor was its importation permitted except with special license;90
and we have seen, that an attempt was made, by a direct negotiation with the Virginians, to constitute the king the sole factor of their staple.91
The measure was
defeated by the firmness of the colonists; and the monarch was left to issue a new series of proclama-
tions, constituting London
the sole mart of colonial tobacco;92
till, vainly attempting to regulate the trade,93
he declared ‘his will and pleasure to have the sole
preemption of all the tobacco’ of the English
He long adhered to his system with resolute
The measures of the Stuarts were ever unsuccessful, because they were directed against the welfare of the colonists, and were not sustained by popular interests in England
After the long-continued efforts which the enterprise of English merchants and the independent spirit of English planters had perseveringly defied, King Charles, on the appointment of Sir William Berkeley
, devised the expedient which was destined to become so celebrated.
No vessel, laden with colonial commodities, might sail from the harbors of Virginia
for any ports but those of England
, that the staple of those commodities might be made in the mother country; and all trade with foreign vessels, except in case of necessity, was forbidden.96
which the instructions of Berkeley
him to introduce, was ultimately successful; for it sacrificed no rights but those of the colonists, while it identified the interests of the English
merchant and the English
government, and leagued them together for the oppression of those, who, for more than a century, were too feeble to offer effectual resistance.
The Long Parliament was more just; it attempted
to secure to English shipping the whole carrying trade of the colonies, but with the free consent of the colonies themselves; offering an equivalent, which the legislatures in America
were at liberty to reject.97
The memorable ordinance of 1650 was a war meas-
ure, and extended only to the colonies which had adhered to the Stuarts.
All intercourse with them was forbidden, except to those who had a license from parliament or the council of state.
Foreigners were rigorously excluded;98
and this prohibition was designed to continue in force even after the suppression of all resistance.
While, therefore, the navigation act
secured to English ships the entire carrying trade with England
, in connection with the ordinance of the preceding year, it conferred a monopoly of colonial commerce.
But this state of commercial law was essentially modified by the manner in which the authority of the English
commonwealth was established in the Chesapeake
The republican leaders of Great Britain
, conducting with true magnanimity, suffered the fever of party to subside, before decisive measures were adopted; and then two of the three commissioners, whom they appointed, were taken from among the planters themselves.
The instructions given them were such
might carry into effect; for they con-
stituted them the pacificators and benefactors of their country.
In case of resistance, the cruelties of war were threatened.99
would but adhere to the commonwealth, she might be the mistress of her own destiny.
What opposition could be made to the parliament, which, in the moment of its power, voluntarily pro-
posed a virtual independence?
No sooner had the Guinea
frigate anchored in the waters of the Chesapeake
, than ‘all thoughts of resistance were laid aside,’100
and the colonists, having no motive to con tend for a monarch whose fortunes seemed irretrievable, were earnest only to assert the freedom of their own institutions.
It marks the character of the Virginians, that they refused to surrender to force, but yielded by a voluntary deed and a mutual compact.
It was agreed, upon the surrender, that the ‘people of Virginia
’ should have all the liberties of the freeborn people of England
; should intrust their business, as formerly, to their own grand assembly; should remain
unquestioned for their past loyalty; and should
have ‘as free trade as the people of England
No taxes, no customs, might be levied, except by their own representatives; no forts erected, no garrisons maintained, but by their own consent.101
In the settlemen of the government, the utmost harmony prevailed between the burgesses and the commissioners: it was the governor and council only, who had any apprehensions for their safety, and who scrupulously provided a guaranty for the security of their persons and proper ty, which there evidently had existed no design to injure.
These terms, so favorable to liberty, and almost conceding independence, were faithfully observed till the restoration.
have, indeed, drawn gloomy pictures of the discontent which pervaded the colony, and have represented that discontent as heightened by commercial oppression.102
The statement is a fiction.
The colony of Virginia
enjoyed liberties as large as the favored New England
; displayed an equal degree of fondness for popular sovereignty, and fearlessly exercised political independence.103
There had long existed a republican party; and, now that monarchy had fallen, on whom could the royalists rely so safely as on themselves?
The executive officers became elective; and so evident were the designs of all parties to promote an amicable settlement of the government,
that Richard Bennett
, himself a commissioner of the
Chap VI.} 1652. April 30.
parliament, and, moreover, a merchant and a Roundhead, was, on the recommendation of the other commissioners, unanimously chosen governor.104
The oath required of the burgesses made it their paramount duty to provide for ‘the general good and prosperity’ of Virginia
and its inhabitants.105
Under the administration of Berkeley
had been oppressed in Virginia
; and now not the slightest effort at revenge was attempted.106
The act which constituted the government, claimed
for the assembly the privilege of defining the powers which were to belong to the governor and council; and the public good was declared to require, ‘that
the right of electing all officers of this colony should appertain to the burgesses,’ as to ‘the representatives of the people.’107
It had been usual for the governor
and council to sit in the assembly, the expediency of the measure was questioned, and a temporary compromise ensued; they retained their former right, but were required to take the oath which was administered to the burgesses.108
Thus the house of burgesses acted as a convention of the people; exercising supreme authority, and distributing power as the public welfare required.109
Nor was this an accidental and transient arrangement.
never made any appointments for Virginia
; not one governor acted under his commission.110
retired from office, the assembly
Chap. VI.} 1655. Mar. 31.
itself elected his successor; and Edward Diggs
, who had before been chosen of the council,111
and who ‘had given a signal testimony of his fidelity to Virginia
, and to the commonwealth of England
received the suffrages.113
The commissioners in the colony114
were rather engaged in settling the affairs and adjusting the boundaries of Maryland
, than in controlling the destinies of Virginia
The right of electing the governor continued to be claimed by the representatives of the people,115
and Samuel Matthews
son of an old planter, was next
honored with the office.
But, from too exalted ideas of his station, he, with the council, became involved in an unequal contest with the assembly by which he had been elected.
The burgesses had enlarged their power by excluding the governor and council from their sessions, and, having thus reserved to themselves the first free discussion of every law, had voted an adjournment till November.
The governor and coun-
cil, by message, declared the dissolution of the assembly.
The legality of the dissolution was denied;117
and, after an oath of secrecy, every burgess was enjoined not to betray his trust by submission.
yielded, reserving a right of appeal to the protector.118
When the house unanimously voted the governor's answer unsatisfactory, he expressly revoked the order of dissolution, but still referred the decision of the dispute to Cromwell
The members of the assembly,
apprehensive of a limitation of colonial liberty by the
reference of a political question to England
, determined on a solemn assertion of their independent powers.
A committee was appointed, of which John Carter
, of Lancaster
, was the chief; and a complete declaration of popular sovereignty was solemnly made.
The governor and council had ordered the dissolution of the assembly; the burgesses now decreed the former election of governor and council to be void.
Having thus exercised, not merely the right of election, but the more extraordinary right of removal, they reflected Matthews
, ‘who by us,’ they add, ‘shall be invested with all the just rights and privileges belonging to the governor and captain-general of Virginia
The governor submitted, and acknowledged the validity of his ejection by taking the new oath, which had just been prescribed.
The council was organized anew; and the spirit of popular liberty established all its claims.119
The death of Cromwell
made no change in the
constitution of the colony.
The message of the governor duly announced the event to the legislature.120
It has pleased some English historians to ascribe to Virginia
a precipitate attachment to Charles II.
On the present occasion, the burgesses deliberated in private, and unanimously resolved that Richard Cromwell
should be acknowledged.121
But it was a more interesting question, whether the change of protector in England
would endanger liberty in Virginia
The letter from the council had left the government to be administered according to former usage.
declared itself satisfied with the language.122
that there might be no reason to question the existing usage, the governor was summoned to come to the house; where he appeared in person, deliberately acknowledged the supreme power of electing officers to be, by the present laws, resident in the assembly, and pledged himself to join in addressing the new protector for special confirmation of all existing privileges.
The reason for this extraordinary proceeding is assigned; ‘that what was their privilege now, might be the privilege of their posterity.’123
The frame of the Virginia
government was deemed worthy of being transmitted to remote generations.
On the death of Matthews
, the Virginians were
without a chief magistrate, just at the time when the resignation of Richard had left England
without a government.
The burgesses, who were immediately convened, resolving to become the arbiters of the fate of the colony, enacted, ‘that the supreme power of the government of this country shall be resident in the assembly; and all writs shall issue in its name, until there shall arrive from England
a commission, which the assembly itself shall adjudge to be lawful.’124
This being done, Sir William Berkely
was elected governor;125
and, acknowledging the validity of the acts of the burgesses, whom, it was expressly agreed, he could in no event dissolve, he accepted the office, and recognized, without a scruple, the authority to which he owed his elevation.
‘I am,’ said he, ‘but a servant of the assembly.’126 Virginia
did not lay claim
to absolute independence, but, awaiting the settlement
of affairs in England
, hoped for the Restoration of the Stuarts.127
The legislation of the colony had taken its character from the condition of the people, who were essentially agricultural in their pursuits; and it is the interest of society in that state to discountenance contract ing debts.
Severe laws for the benefit of the creditor are the fruits of commercial society; Virginia
possessed not one considerable town, and her statutes favored the independence of the planter, rather than the security of trade.
The representatives of colonial landholders voted ‘the total ejection of mercenary attornies.’128
By a special act, emigrants were safe against suits designed to enforce engagements that had been made in Europe
and colonial obligations might be easily satisfied by a surrender of property.130
Tobacco was generally used instead of coin.
Theft was hardly known, and the spirit of the criminal law was mild.
The highest judicial tribunal was the assembly, which was convened once a year, or oftener.131
Already large landed proprietors were frequent; and plantations of two thousand acres were not unknown.132
During the suspension of the royal government in England
attained unlimited liberty of commerce, which she regulated by independent laws.
The ordinance of 1650 was rendered void by the act of capitulation; the navigation act of Cromwell
was not designed for her oppression,133
and was not enforced within her borders.
If an occasional confiscation took
place, it was done by the authority of the colonial
The war between England
did not wholly interrupt the intercourse of the Dutch
with the English
colonies; and if, after the treaty of peace, the trade was considered contraband, the English
restrictions were entirely disregarded.135
A remonstrance, addressed to Cromwell
, demanded an
unlimited liberty; and we may suppose that it was not refused; for, some months before Cromwell
the Virginians invited the Dutch
and all foreigners to trade with them, on payment of no higher duty than that which was levied on such English vessels as were bound for a foreign port.136
Proposals of peace and commerce between New Netherlands and Virginia
were discussed without scruple by the respective colonial governments;137
and at last a special statute of Virginia
extended to every Christian nation, in amity with England
, a promise of liberty to trade and equal justice.138
At the restoration, Virginia
enjoyed freedom of commerce with the whole world.
Religious liberty advanced under the influence of independent domestic legislation.
No churches had been erected except in the heart of the colony139
and there were so few ministers, that a bounty was offered
for their importation.140
Conformity had, in the reign of
Charles, been enforced by measures of disfranchisement and exile.141
By the people under the commonwealth, though they were attached to the church of their fathers, all things respecting parishes and parishioners
were referred to their own ordering;142
and religious liberty would have been perfect, but for an act of intolerance, by which all Quakers were banished, and their return regarded as a felony.143
was the first state in the world, composed of separate boroughs, diffused over an extensive surface, where the government was organized on the principle of universal suffrage.
All freemen, without exception, were entitled to vote.
An attempt was
once made to limit the right to house-keepers;144
but the public voice reproved the restriction; the very next year, it was decided to be ‘hard, and unagreea-
ble to reason, that any person shall pay equal taxes, and yet have no votes in elections;’ and the electoral franchise was restored to all freemen.145
Servants, when the time of their bondage was completed, at once became electors, and might be chosen burgesses.146
established upon her soil the supremacy of the popular branch, the freedom of trade, the independence of religious societies, the security from foreign taxation, and the universal elective franchise.
If, in following years, she departed from either of these principles, and yielded a reluctant consent to change, it was from the influence of foreign
had herself, almost unconsciously,
established a nearly independent democracy; and already preferred her own sons for places of authority.147
The country felt itself honored by those who were ‘Virginians
and emigrants never again desired to live in England
Prosperity advanced with freedom; dreams of new staples and infinite wealth were indulged;150
while the population of Virginia
, at the epoch of the restoration, may have been about thirty thousand.
Many of the recent emigrants had been royalists in England
, good officers in the war, men of education, of property, and of condition.
The revolution had not subdued their characters; but the waters of the Atlantic
divided them from the political strifes of Europe
; their industry was employed in making the best advantage of their plantations; the interests and liberties of Virginia
, the land which they adopted as their country, were dearer to them than the monarchical principles which they had espoused in England
and therefore no bitterness could exist between the firmest partisans of the Stuarts and the friends of republican liberty.
had long been the home of its inhabitants.
‘Among many other blessings,’ said their statute-book,152
“God Almighty hath vouchsafed increase of children to this colony; who are now multiplied to a considerable number; and the huts in the wilderness were as full as the birds-nests of the woods.”
The genial climate and transparent atmosphere de-
lighted those who had come from the denser air of England
Every object in nature was new and wonderful.
The loud and frequent thunder-storms were phenomena that had been rarely witnessed in the colder summers of the north; the forests, majestic in their growth, and free from underwood, deserved admiration for their unrivalled magnificence; the purling streams and the frequent rivers, flowing between alluvial banks, quickened the ever-pregnant soil into an unwearied fertility; the strangest and the most delicate flowers grew familiarly in the fields; the woods were replenished with sweet barks and odors; the gardens matured the fruits of Europe
, of which the growth was invigorated and the flavor improved by the activity of the virgin mould.
Especially the birds, with their gay plumage and varied melodies, inspired delight; every traveller expressed his pleasure in listening to the mocking-bird, which caroled a thousand several tunes, imitating and excelling the notes of all its rivals.
The humming-bird, so brilliant in its plumage, and so delicate in its form, quick in motion, yet not fearing the presence of man, haunting about the flowers like the bee gathering honey, rebounding from the blossoms into which it dips its bill, and as soon returning ‘to renew its many addresses to its delightful objects,’ was ever admired as the smallest and the most beautiful of the feathered race.
The rattlesnake, with the terrors of its alarms and the power of its venom; the opossum, soon to become as celebrated for the care of its offspring as the fabled pelican; the noisy frog, booming from the shallows like the English
bittern; the flying squirrel; the myriads of pigeons, darkening the air with the immensity of their flocks.
and, as men believed, breaking with their weight the
boughs of trees on which they alighted,—were all honored with frequent commemoration, and became the subjects of the strangest tales.
The concurrent relation of all the Indians justified the belief, that, within ten days journey towards the setting of the sun, there was a country where gold might be washed from the sand, and where the natives themselves had learned the use of the crucible;153
but definite and accurate as were the accounts, inquiry was always baffled; and the regions of gold remained for two centuries an undiscovered land.
Various were the employments by which the calmness of life was relieved.
, an idle man, who had been a great traveller, and who did not remain in America
, a poet, whose verse was tolerated by Dryden
and praised by Izaak Walton
, beguiled the ennui of his seclusion by translating the whole of Ovid
To the man of leisure, the chase furnished a perpetual resource.
It was not long before the horse was multiplied in Virginia
; and to improve that noble animal was early an object of pride, soon to be favored by legislation.
Speed was especially valued; and ‘the planter's pace’ became a proverb.
Equally proverbial was the hospitality of the Virginians.
Labor was valuable; land was cheap; competence promptly followed industry.
There was no need of a scramble; abundance gushed from the earth for all. The morasses were alive with water-fowl; the creeks abounded with oysters, heaped together in inexhaustible beds; the rivers were crowded with
fisn; the forests were nimble with game; the woods
rustled with coveys of quails and wild turkeys, while they rung with the merry notes of the singing-birds; and hogs, swarming like vermin, ran at large in troops.
It was ‘the best poor man's country in the world.’
‘If a happy peace be settled in poor England
,’ it had been said, ‘then they in Virginia
shall be as happy a people as any under heaven.’155
But plenty encouraged indolence.
No domestic manufactures were established; every thing was imported from England
The chief branch of industry, for the purpose of exchanges, was tobacco-planting; and the spirit of invention was enfeebled by the uniformity of pursuit.