the period of success in planting colonies in Vir-
ginia had arrived; yet not till changes had occurred, affecting the character of European
politics and society, and moulding the forms of colonization.
The reformation had interrupted the harmony of religious opinion in the west of Europe
; and differences in the church began to constitute the basis of political parties.
Commercial intercourse equally sustained a revolution.
It had been conducted on the narrow seas and by land; it now launched out upon the broadest waters; and, after the East Indies
had been reached by doubling the southern promontory of Africa
, the great commerce of the world was performed upon the ocean.
The art of printing had become known; and the press diffused intelligence and multiplied the facilities of instruction.
The feudal institutions which had been reared in the middle ages, were already undermined by the current of time and events, and, swaying from their base, threatened to fall.
Productive industry had, on the one side, built up the fortunes and extended the influence of the active classes; while habits of indolence and of expense had impaired the estates and diminished the power of the nobility.
These changes also produced corresponding results in the institutions which were to rise in America
A revolution had equally occurred in the purposes
for which voyages were undertaken.
The hope of Columbus
, as he sailed to the west, had been the discovery of a new passage to the East Indies
The passion for rapidly amassing gold soon became the prevailing motive.
Next, the islands and countries near the equator were made the tropical gardens of the Europeans for the culture of such luxuries as the warmest regions only can produce.
At last, the higher design was matured, not to plunder, nor to destroy, nor to enslave; but to found states, to plant permanent Christian colonies, to establish for the oppressed and the enterprising places of refuge and abode, with all the elements of independent national existence.
The condition of England
favored adventure in America
A redundant population had existed even before the peace with Spain
and the timid character of King James, throwing out of employment the gallant men who had served under Elizabeth by sea and land, left them no option, but to engage as mercenaries in the quarrels of strangers, or incur the hazards of ‘seeking a New World.’2
The minds of many persons of intelligence, rank, and enterprise, were directed to Virginia
The brave and ingenious Gosnold
, who had himself witnessed the fertility of the western soil, long solicited the concurrence of his friends for the establishment of a colony,3
and at last prevailed with Edward Maria Wingfield
, a groveling merchant of the west of England
, Robert Hunt
, a clergyman of persevering fortitude and modest worth.
and John Smith
, the adventurer of rare genius and undying fame, to consent to risk their own lives and
their hope of fortune in an expedition.4
than a year, this little company revolved the project of a plantation.
At the same time, Sir Ferdinand Gorges
was gathering information of the native Americans
, whom he had received from Weymouth
, and whose descriptions of the country, joined to the favorable views which he had already imbibed, filled him with the strongest desire of becoming a proprietary of domains beyond the Atlantic
was a man of wealth, of rank, and of influence; he readily persuaded Sir John Popham
, lord chief justice
, to share his intentions.5
Nor had the assigns of Raleigh
become indifferent to ‘western planting;’ the most distinguished of them all, Richard Hakluyt
, the historian of maritime enterprise, still favored the establishment of a colony by his personal exertions and the firm enthusiasm of his character.
Possessed of whatever information could be derived from foreign sources and a correspondence with the eminent navigators of his times, and anxiously watching the progress of the attempts of Englishmen in the west, his extensive knowledge made him a counsellor in the enterprises which were attempted, and sustained in him and his associates the confidence which repeated disappointments did not exhaust.6
Thus the cause of colonization obtained in England
zealous and able defenders, who, independent of any party in religion or politics, believed that a prosperous state could be established by Englishmen in the temperate regions of North America
The king of England
, too timid to be active, yet too
vain to be indifferent, favored the design of enlarging his dominions.
He had attempted in Scotland
the introduction of the arts of life among the Highlanders
and the Western Isles
, by the establishment of colonies;7
and the English
plantations which he formed in the northern counties of Ireland, are said to have contributed to the affluence and the security of that island.8
When, therefore, a company of men of business and men of rank, formed by the experience of Gosnold
, the enthusiasm of Smith
, the perseverance of Hakluyt
, the hopes of profit and the extensive influence of Popham
applied to James I. for leave ‘to deduce a colony into Virginia
,’ the monarch promoted the
noble work by readily issuing an ample patent.
The first colonial charter;10
under which the English
were planted in America
, deserves careful consideration.
A belt of twelve degrees on the American
coast, embracing the soil from Cape Fear
, excepting perhaps the little spot in Acadia
then actually possessed by the French
, was set apart to be colonized by two rival companies.
Of these, the first was composed of noblemen, gentlemen, and merchants, in and about London
; the second, of knights, gentlemen, and merchants, in the west.
adventurers, who alone succeeded, had an exclusive right to occupy the regions from thirty-four to thirty-eight degrees of north latitude, that is, from Cape Fear
to the southern limit of Maryland
; the western men had
equally an exclusive right to plant between forty-one
and forty-five degrees.
The intermediate district, from thirty-eight to forty-one degrees, was open to the competition of both companies.
Yet collision was not probable; for each was to possess the soil extending fifty miles north and south of its first settlement; so that neither might plant within one hundred miles of a colony of its rival.
The conditions of tenure were homage and rent; the rent was no other than one fifth of the net produce of gold
, and one fifteenth of copper.
The right of coining money was conceded, perhaps to facilitate commerce with the natives, who, it was hoped, would receive Christianity and the arts of civilized life.
The superintendence of the whole colonial system was confided to a council in England
; the local administration of each colony was intrusted to a council residing within its limits.
The members of the superior council in England
were appointed exclusively by the king; and the tenure of their office was his good pleasure.
Over the colonial councils the king likewise preserved a control; for the members of them were from time to time to be ordained, made, and removed, according to royal instructions.
Supreme legislative authority over the colonies, extending alike to their general condition and the most minute regulations, was likewise expressly reserved to the monarch.
A hope was also cherished of an ultimate revenue to be derived from Virginia
; a duty, to be levied on vessels trading to its harbors, was, for one-and-twenty years, to be wholly employed for the benefit of the plantation, at the end of that time, was to be taken for the king.
To the emigrants it was promised, that they and their children should continue to be Englishmen—a concession which secured them rights on returning
, but offered no barrier against
Lands were to be held by the most favorable tenure.
Thus the first written charter of a permanent American colony, which was to be the chosen abode of liberty, gave to the mercantile corporation nothing but a desert territory, with the right of peopling and defending it, and reserved to the monarch absolute legislative authority, the control of all appointments, and a hope of an ultimate revenue.
To the emigrants themselves it conceded not one elective franchise, not one of the rights of self-government.
They were subjected to the ordinances of a commercial corporation, of which they could not be members; to the dominion of a domestic council, in appointing which they had no voice; to the control of a superior council in England
, which had no sympathies with their rights; and finally, to the arbitrary legislation of the sovereign.
Yet, bad as was this system, the reservation of power to the king, a result of his vanity, rather than of his ambition, had, at least, the advantage of mitigating the action of the commercial corporation.
The check would have been complete, had the powers of appointment and legislation been given to the people of Virginia
The summer was spent by the patentees in preparations for planting a colony, for which the vain glory of the king found a grateful occupation in framing a code of laws;12
an exercise of royal legislation which
has been pronounced in itself illegal.13
The superior council in England
was permitted to name the colonial council, which was constituted a pure aristocracy,
entirely independent of the emigrants whom they were
to govern; having power to elect or remove its president, to remove any of its members, and to supply its own vacancies.
Not an element of popular liberty was introduced into the form of government.
Religion was specially enjoined to be established according to the doctrine and rites of the church of England; and no emigrant might withdraw his allegiance from King James, or avow dissent from the royal creed.
Lands were to descend according to the common law. Not only murder, manslaughter, and adultery, but dangerous tumults and seditions were punishable by death; so that the security of life depended on the discretion of the magistrate, restricted only by the necessity of a trial by jury.
All civil causes, requiring corporal punishment, fine or imprisonment, might be summarily determined by the president and council; who also possessed full legislative authority in cases not affecting life or limb.
Kindness to the savages was enjoined, with the use of all proper means for their conversion.
It was further, and most unwisely, though probably at the request of the corporation, ordered, that the industry and commerce of the respective colonies should for five years, at least, be conducted in a joint stock.
The king also reserved to himself the right of future legislation.
Thus were the political forms of the colony established, when, on the nineteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and six, one hundred and nine years after the discovery of the American
continent by Cabot
, forty-one years from the settlement of Florida
, the little squadron of three vessels, the largest not exceeding one hundred tons
bearing one hundred and five men, destined
to remain, set sail for a harbor in Virginia
The voyage began under inauspicious omens.
Of the one hundred and five, on the list of emigrants, there were but twelve laborers, and very few mechanics.15
They were going to a wilderness, in which, as yet, not a house was standing; and there were fortyeight gentlemen to four carpenters.
Neither were there any men with families.
It was evident, a commercial and not a colonial establishment was designed by the projectors.
Dissensions sprung up during the voyage; as the names and instructions of the council had, by the folly of James, been carefully concealed in a box, which was not to be opened till after the arrival in Virginia
, no competent authority existed to check the progress of envy and disorder.16
The genius of Smith
excited jealousy; and hope, the only power which can still the clamors and allay the feuds of the
selfish, early deserted the colonists.
, who commanded the ships, was acquainted with the old passage, and, consuming the whole of the early spring in a navigation which should have been completed in February, sailed by way of the Canaries and the West India Islands
As he turned to the north, a severe storm carried his fleet beyond the settlement of Raleigh
, into the magnificent Bay of the Chesapeake
The head-lands received and retain
the names of Cape Henry
and Cape Charles
, from the sons of King James; the deep water for anchorage, ‘putting the emigrants in good Comfort,’ gave a name to the Northern Point
; and within the capes a country
opened, which appeared to the emigrants to ‘claim
the prerogative over the most pleasant places in the world.’
Hope revived for a season, as they advanced.
‘Heaven and earth seemed never to have agreed better to frame a place for man's commodious and delightful habitation.’18
A noble river was soon entered, which was named from the monarch; and, after a search of seventeen days, during which they encountered the hostility of one little savage tribe, and at Hampton
smoked the calumet of peace with another, the peninsula of Jamestown
, about fifty miles above
the mouth of the stream, was selected for the site of the colony.
Thus admirable was the country.
The emigrants themselves were weakened by divisions, and degraded by jealousy.
So soon as the members of the council were duly constituted, they proceeded to choose Wingfield
president; and then, as by their instructions they had power to do, they excluded Smith
from their body, on a charge of sedition.
But as his only offence consisted in the possession of enviable qualities, the attempt at his trial was abandoned,19
and by ‘the good doctrine and exhortation’ of the sincere Hunt
, the man without whose aid the vices of the colony would have caused its immediate ruin, was soon restored to his station.20
While the men were busy in felling timber and providing freight for the ships, Newport
and twenty others ascended the James River
to the falls.
They visited the native chieftain Powhatan, who has been styled ‘the emperor
of the country,’ at his principal seat, just below the falls of the river at Richmond
The imperial residence was a village of twelve wig-
The savages murmured at the intrusion of strangers into the country; but Powhatan disguised his fear, and would only say, ‘They hurt you not; they take but a little waste land.’21
About the middle of June, Newport
set sail for England
What condition could be more pitiable, than that of the English
whom he had left in Virginia
The proud hopes which the beauty of the country had excited, soon vanished; and as the delusion passed away, they awoke and beheld that they were in the wilderness.
Weak in numbers, and still weaker from want of habits of industry, they were surrounded by natives whose hostility and distrust had already been displayed; the summer heats were intolerable to their laborers; the moisture of the climate generated disease; and the fertility of the soil, covered with a rank luxuriance of forest, increased the toil of culture.
Their scanty provisions had become spoiled on the long voyage.
‘Our drink,’ say they, ‘was unwholesome water; our lodgings, castles in the air: had we been as free from all sins as from gluttony and drunkenness, we might have been canonized for saints.’
Despair of mind ensued; so that, in less than a fortnight after the departure of the fleet, ‘hardly ten of them were able to stand;’ the labor of completing some simple fortifications was exhausting; and no regular crops could be planted.
During the summer, there were not, on any occasion, five able men to guard the bulwarks; the fort was filled in every corner with the groans of the sick, whose outcries, night and day, for six weeks, rent the hearts of those who could minister no relief.
Many times, three or four died in
a night; in the morning, their bodies were trailed out
of the cabins, like dogs, to be buried.
Fifty men, one half of the colony, perished before autumn; among them Bartholomew Gosnold
, the projector of the set-
tlement, a man of rare merits, worthy of a perpetual memory in the plantation,22
and whose influence had alone thus far preserved some degree of harmony in the council.23
Disunion completed the scene of misery.
It became necessary to depose Wingfield
, the avaricious president, who was charged with engrossing the choicest stores, and who was on the point of abandoning the colony and escaping to the West Indies
, the new president, possessed neither judgment nor industry; so that the management of affairs fell into the hands of Smith
, whose deliberate enterprise and cheerful courage alone diffused light amidst the general gloom.
He possessed by nature the buoyant spirit of heroic daring.
In boyhood he had sighed for the opportunity of ‘setting out on brave adventures;’ and though not yet thirty years of age, he was already a veteran in the service of humanity and of Christendom.
His early life had been given to the cause of freedom in the Low Countries
, where he had fought for the independence of the Batavian Republic
Again, as a traveller, he had roamed over France
; had visited the shores of Egypt
; had returned to Italy
; and, panting for glory, had sought the borders of Hungary
, where there had long existed an hereditary warfare with the followers of Mahomet.
It was there that the young English cavalier distinguished himself by the bravest leats of arms, in the sight of Christians and infidels,
engaging fearlessly and always successfully in the single
combat with the Turks, which, from the days of the crusades, had been warranted by the rules of chivalry.
His signal prowess gained for him the favor of Sigismund Bathori
, the unfortunate prince of Transylvania
At length he, with many others, was overpowered in
A sudden skirmish among the glens of Wallachia
, and was left severely wounded in the field of battle.
A prisoner of war, he was now, according to the Eastern
custom, offered for sale ‘like a beast in a marketplace,’ and was sent to Constantinople
as a slave.
A Turkish lady had compassion on his misfortunes and his youth, and, designing to restore him to freedom, removed him to a fortress in the Crimea.
Contrary to her commands, he was there subjected to the harshest usage among half-savage serfs.
Rising against his taskmaster, whom he slew in the struggle, he mounted a horse, and through forest paths escaped from thraldom to the confines of Russia
Again the hand of woman relieved his wants; he travelled across the country to Transylvania
, and, there bidding farewell to his companions in arms, he resolved to return ‘to his own sweet country.’
But, as he crossed the continent, he heard the rumors of civil war in Northern Africa
, and hastened, in search of untried dangers, to the realms of Morocco.
At length returning to England
, his mind did not so much share as appropriate to itself the general enthusiasm for planting states in America
; and now the infant commonwealth of Virginia
ed for its existence on his firmness.
His experience in human nature under all its forms, and the cheering vigor of his resolute will, made him equal to his duty.
He inspired the natives with awe, and quelled the spirit of anarchy and rebellion among the emigrants
He was more wakeful to gather provisions than the
covetous to find gold; and strove to keep the country more than the faint-hearted to abandon it. As autumn approached, the Indians, from the superfluity of their harvest, made a voluntary offering; and supplies were also collected by expeditions into the interior.
But the conspiracies, that were still formed, to desert the settlement, first by the selfish Wingfield
, and again by the imbecile Ratcliffe
, could be defeated only after a skirmish, in which one of the leaders was killed; and the danger of a precipitate abandonment of Virginia
continued to be imminent, till the approach of winter, when not only the homeward navigation became perilous, but the fear of famine was removed by the abundance of wild fowl and game.24
Nothing then remained but to examine the country.
The South Sea
was considered the ocean path to every kind of wealth.
The coast of America
on the Pacific
had been explored by the Spaniards, and had been visited by Drake
; the collections of Hakluyt
had communicated to the English
the results of their voyages; and the maps of that day exhibited a tolerably accurate delineation of the continent of North America
With singular ignorance of the progress of geographical knowledge, it had been expressly enjoined on the colonists to seek a communication with the South Sea
by ascending some stream which flowed from the northwest.25
The Chickahominy was such a stream.
, though he did not share the ignorance of his employers, was ever willing to engage in discoveries.
Leaving the colonists to enjoy the abundance which winter had brought, he not only ascended the river as far
as he could advance in boats, but struck into the in-
His companions disobeyed his instructions, and, being surprised by the Indians, were put to death.
himself, who, in the plains of the Crimea and of Southern Russia
, had become acquainted with the superstitions and the manners of wandering tribes, did not beg for life, but preserved it by the calmness of self-possession.
Displaying a pocket compass, he amused the savages by an explanation of its powers, and increased their admiration of his superior genius, by imparting to them some vague conceptions of the form of the earth and the nature of the planetary system.
To the Indians, who retained him as their prisoner, his captivity was a more strange event than any thing of which the traditions of their tribes preserved the memory.
He was allowed to send a letter to the fort at Jamestown
; and the savage wonder was increased; for he seemed, by some magic, to endow the paper with the gift of intelligence.
The curiosity of all the clans of the neighborhood was awakened by the prisoner; he was conducted in triumph from the settlements on the Chickahominy
to the Indian
villages on the Rappahannock
and the Potomac
; and thence, through other towns, to the residence of Opechancanough
, at Pamunkey
There, for the space of three days, they practised incantations and ceremonies, in the hope of obtaining some insight into the mystery of his character and his designs.
It was evident that he was a being of a higher order: was his nature beneficent, or was he to be dreaded as a dangerous enemy?
Their minds were bewildered, as they beheld his calm fearlessness; and they sedulously observed towards him the utmost reverence and hospitality, as if to propitiate his power, should he be rescued from their
The decision of his fate was referred to Pow-
hatan, who was then residing in what is now Gloucester county
, on York River
, at a village to which Smith
was conducted through the regions, now so celebrated, where the youthful Lafayette
hovered upon the skirts of Cornwallis, and the arms of France
and the Confederacy
were united to achieve the crowning victory of American independence.
The passion of vanity rules in forests as well as in cities; the grim warriors, as they met in council, displayed their gayest apparel before the Englishman, whose doom they had assembled to pronounce.
The fears of the feeble aborigines were about to prevail, and his immediate death, already repeatedly threatened and repeatedly delayed, would have been inevitable, but for the timely intercession of Pocahontas
, the daughter of Powhatan, a girl ‘of tenne’ or ‘twelve’ ‘years old, which not only for feature, countenance, and expression, much exceeded any of the rest of his people, but for wit and spirit, was the only nonpareil of the country.’
The gentle feelings of humanity are the same in every race, and in every period of life; they bloom, though unconsciously, even in the bosom of a child.
had easily won the confiding fondness of the Indian
maiden; and now the impulse of mercy awakened within her breast; she clung firmly to his neck, as his head was bowed to receive the strokes of the tomahawk.
Did the childlike superstition of her kindred reverence her interference as a token from a superior power?
Her fearlessness and her entreaties persuaded the council to spare the agreeable stranger, who might make hatchets for her father, and rattles and strings of beads for herself, the favorite child.
The barbarians, whose decision had long been held in suspense by the mysterious awe
had inspired, now resolved to receive him
as a friend, and to make him a partner of their councils.
They tempted him to join their bands, and lend assistance in an attack upon the white men at Jamestown
; and when his decision of character succeeded in changing the current of their thoughts, they dismissed him with mutual promises of friendship and benevolence.
Thus the captivity of Smith
did itself become a benefit to the colony; for he had not only observed with care the country between the James
and the Potomac
, and had gained some knowledge of the language and manners of the natives, but he now established a peaceful intercourse between the English
and the tribes of Powhatan
; and, with her companions, the child who had rescued him from death, afterwards came every few days to the fort with baskets of corn for the garrison.26
Returning to Jamestown
found the colony reduced to forty men; and of these, the strongest were again preparing to escape with the pinnace.
This third attempt at desertion he repressed at the hazard of his life.27
Thus passed the first few months of colonial existence in discord and misery; despair relieved and ruin prevented, by the fortitude of one man, and the benevolence of an Indian girl.
Meantime, the council in England
, having received an increase of its numbers and its powers, determined to send out new recruits and supplies; and Newport
had hardly returned from his first voyage, before he was again despatched with one hundred and twenty
Yet the joy in Virginia
on their arrival
was of short continuance; for the new comers were chiefly vagabond gentlemen and goldsmiths, who, in spite of the remonstrances of Smith
, gave a wrong direction to the industry of the colony.
They believed they had discovered grains of gold in a glittering earth which abounded near Jamestown
; and ‘there was now no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold.’
The refiners were enamored of their skill; Martin
, one of the council, promised himself honors in England
as the discoverer of a mine; and Newport
, having made an unnecessary stay of fourteen weeks, and having, in defiance of the assurances of Powhatan, expected to find the Pacific
just beyond the falls in James River
, believed himself immeasurably rich, as he embarked for England
with a freight of worthless earth.28
Disgusted at the follies which he had vainly opposed, Smith
undertook the perilous and honorable office of exploring the vast Bay of the Chesapeake
, and the numerous rivers which are its tributaries.
Two voyages, made in an open boat, with a few companions, over whom his superior courage, rather than his station as a magistrate, gave him authority, occupied him about three months of the summer, and embraced a navigation of nearly three thousand miles.29
The slenderness of his means has been contrasted with the dignity and utility of his discoveries, and his name has been placed in the highest rank with the distinguished men who have enlarged the bounds of geographical knowledge, and opened the way by their investigations for colonies and commerce.
He surveyed the Bay
of the Chesapeake
to the Susquehannah
, and left only the
borders of that remote river to remain for some years
longer the fabled dwelling-place of a giant progeny.30
He was the first to make known to the English
the fame of the Mohawks, ‘who dwelt upon a great water, and had many boats, and many men,’ and, as it seemed to the feebler Algonquin tribes, ‘made war upon all the world;’ in the Chesapeake Bay
he encountered a little fleet of their canoes.31
was discovered and explored, and Smith
probably entered the harbor of Baltimore
The majestic Potomac, which at its mouth is seven miles broad, especially invited curiosity; and passing beyond the heights of Vernon
and the city of Washington
, he ascended to the falls above Georgetown
Nor did he merely explore the rivers and inlets.
He penetrated the territories, established friendly relations with the native tribes, and laid the foundation for future beneficial intercourse.
which he prepared and sent to the company in London
is still extant, and delineates correctly the great outlines of nature.
The expedition was worthy the romantic age of American history.
Three days after his return, Smith
was made pres-
ident of the council.
Order and industry began to be diffused by his energetic administration, when Newport
, with a second supply, entered the river.
About seventy new emigrants arrived; two of them, it merits notice, were females.
The angry covetousness of a greedy but disappointed corporation was now fully displayed.
As if their command could transmute minerals, narrow the continent, and awaken the dead,
tney demanded a lump of gold, or a certain passage to
the South Sea
, or, a feigned humanity added, one of the lost company, sent by Sir Walter Raleigh
The charge of the voyage was two thousand pounds; unless the ships should return full freighted with commodities, corresponding in value to the costs of the adventure, the colonists were threatened, that ‘they should be left in Virginia
as banished men.’37
Neither had experience taught the company to engage suitable persons for Virginia
‘When you send again,’ Smith
was obliged to write, ‘I entreat you rather send but thirty carpenters, husbandmen, gardeners, fishermen, black smiths, masons, and diggers up of trees' roots, well provided, than a thousand of such as we have.’
After the departure of the ships, Smith
his authority to enforce industry.
Six hours in the day were spent in work; the rest might be given to pastime.
The gentlemen had been taught the use of the axe, and had become accomplished woodcutters.
‘He who would not work, might not eat;’ and Jamestown
assumed the appearance of a regular place of abode.
Yet so little land had been cultivated—not more than thirty or forty acres in all—that it was still necessary for Englishmen to solicit food from the indolent Indians
; and Europeans, to preserve themselves from starving, were billeted among the sons of the forest.
Thus the season passed away; of two hundred in the colony, not more than seven died.38
The golden anticipations of the London company had not been realized.
But the cause of failure appeared in the policy, which had grasped at sudden
the enthusiasm of the English
exalted by the train of misfortunes; and more vast and honorable plan40
were conceived, which were to be effected by more numerous and opulent associates Not only were the limits of the colony extended, the company was enlarged by the subscriptions of many of the nobility and gentry of England
, and of the tradesmen of London
; and the name of the powerful Cecil
, the inveterate enemy and successful rival of Raleigh
, appears at the head of chose,41
who were to carry into execution the vast design to which Raleigh
, now a close prisoner in the tower, had first awakened the attention of his countrymen.
At the request of the corporation, which was become a very powerful body, without any regard to the rights or wishes of those who had already emigrated under the sanction of existing laws, the constitution of Virginia
The new charter42
transferred to the company the powers which had before been reserved to the king.
The supreme council in England
was now to be chosen by the stockholders themselves, and, in the exercise of the powers of legislation and government, was independent of the monarch.
The governor in Virginia
might rule the colonists with uncontrolled authority, according to the tenor of the instructions and laws established by the council, or, in want of them, according to his own good discretion, even in cases capital and criminal, not less than civil; and, in the event of mutiny or rebellion, he might declare martial law, being himself the judge of the necessity of the measure,
and the executive officer in its administration.
the lives, liberty and fortune of the colonists were placed at the arbitrary will of a governor who was to be appointed by a commercial corporation.
As yet not one valuable civil privilege was conceded to the emigrants.43
Splendid as were the auspices of the new charter, unlimited as were the powers of the patentees, the next events in the colony were still more disastrous.
Lord De La Ware
distinguished for his virtues, as well as rank, received the appointment of governor and captain-general for life; an avarice which would listen to no possibility of defeat, and which already dreamed of a flourishing empire in America
, surrounded him with stately officers, suited by their titles and nominal charges to the dignity of an opulent kingdom.45
The condition of the public mind favored colonization; swarms of people desired to be transported; and the adventurers, with cheerful alacrity, contributed free will offerings.46
The widely-diffused enthusiasm soon enabled the company to despatch a fleet of nine vessels, containing more than five hundred emigrants.
The admiral of the fleet was Newport
, who, with Sir Thomas Gates
and Sir George Somers
, was authorized to administer the affairs of the colony till the arrival of Lord Delaware
The three commissioners had embarked on board the same ship.48
When near the coast of Virginia
, a hurricane49
separated the admiral from the rest of his fleet; and his vessel was stranded on the rocks of the Bermudas.
A small ketch perished; an50
only arrived in Virginia
A new dilemma ensued.
The old charter was abrogated; and, as there was in the settlement no one who had any authority from the new patentees, anarchy seemed at hand.
The emigrants of the last arrival were dissolute gallants, packed off to escape worse destinies at home,51
broken tradesmen, gentlemen impoverished in spirit and fortune; rakes and libertines, men more fitted to corrupt than to found a commonwealth.
It was not the will of God that the new state should be formed of these materials; that such men should be the fathers of a progeny, born on the American
soil, who were one day to assert American liberty by their eloquence, and defend it by their valor.
Hopeless as the determination appeared, Smith
resolutely maintained his authority over the unruly herd, and devised new expeditions and new settlements, to furnish them occupation and support.
At last, an accidental explosion of gunpowder disabled him, by inflicting wounds which the surgical skill of Virginia
could not relieve.52
Delegating his authority to Percy
, he embarked for England
Extreme suffering from his wounds and the ingratitude of his employers were the fruits of his services.
He received, for his sacrifices and his perilous exertions, not one foot of land, not the house he himself had built, not the field his own hands had planted, nor any reward but the applause of his conscience and the world.53
He was the Father
, the true leader who first planted the Saxon
race within the borders of the United States
judgment had ever been clear in the midst of general
He united the highest spirit of adventure with consummate powers of action.
His courage and self-possession accomplished what others esteemed desperate.
Fruitful in expedients, he was prompt in execution.
Though he had been harassed by the persecutions of malignant envy, he never revived the memory of the faults of his enemies.
He was accustomed to lead, not to send his men to danger; would suffer want rather than borrow, and starve sooner than not pay.54
He had nothing counterfeit in his nature, but was open, honest, and sincere.
He clearly discerned, that it was the true interest of England
not to seek in Virginia
for gold and sudden wealth, but to enforce regular industry.
‘Nothing,’ said he, ‘is to be expected thence, but by labor.’55
The colonists, no longer controlled by an acknowledged authority, were soon abandoned to improvident idleness.
Their ample stock of provisions was rapidly consumed; and further supplies were refused by the Indians, whose friendship had been due to the personal influence of Smith
, and who now regarded the English
with a fatal contempt.
Stragglers from the town were cut off; parties, which begged food in the Indian
cabins, were deliberately murdered; and plans were laid to starve and destroy the whole company.
The horrors of famine ensued; while a band of about thirty, seizing on a ship, escaped to become pirates, and to plead their desperate necessity as an excuse for their crimes.56 Smith
, at his departure, had left more than
four hundred and ninety persons in the colony,57
six months, indolence, vice, and famine, reduced the number to sixty; and these were so feeble and dejected, that, if relief had been delayed but ten days longer, they also must have utterly perished.58
Sir Thomas Gates
and the passengers, whose ship
had been wrecked on the rocks of the Bermudas, had reached the shore without the loss of a life.
The liberal fertility of the uninhabited island, teeming with natural products, for nine months sustained them in affluence.
From the cedars which they felled, and the wrecks of their old ship, they, with admirable perseverance, constructed two vessels, in which they now embarked for Virginia
in the hope of a happy welcome to the abundance of a prosperous colony.
How great, then, was their horror, as they came among
the scenes of death and misery, of which the gloom was increased by the prospect of continued scarcity Four pinnaces remained in the river; nor could the extremity of distress listen to any other course, than to sail for Newfoundland
, and seek safety by dispersing the company among the ships of English fishermen.60
The colonists—such is human nature—desired to burn
the town in which they had been so wretched, and the exercise of their infantile vengeance was prevented only by the energy of Gates
who was himself the last to desert the settlement.
‘None dropped a tear, for none had enjoyed one day of happiness.’
They fell down the stream with the tide; but, the next morning,
as they drew near the mouth of the river, they encountered the long-boat of Lord Delaware
, who had
arrived on the coast with emigrants and supplies.
The fugitives bore up the helm, and, favored by the wind, were that night once more at the fort in Jamestown
It was on the tenth day of June, that the restauration of the colony was solemnly begun by supplications to God.
A deep sense of the infinite mercies of his providence overawed the colonists who had been spared by famine, the emigrants who had been shipwrecked and yet preserved, and the new comers who found wretchedness and want, where they had expected the contentment of abundance.
The firmness of their resolution repelled despair.
‘It is,’ said they, ‘the arm of the Lord
of Hosts, who would have his people pass the Red Sea
and the wilderness, and then possess the land of Canaan
Dangers avoided inspire trust in Providence
‘Doubt not,’ said the emigrants to the people of England
, ‘God will raise our state and build his church in this excellent clime.’
After solemn exercises of religion, Lord Delaware
caused his commission to be read; a consultation was immediately held on the good of the colony; and its government was organized with mildness but decision.
The evils of faction were healed by the unity of the administration, and the dignity and virtues of the governor; and the colonists, excited by mutual emulation, performed their tasks with alacrity.
At the beginning of the day, they assembled in the little church, which was kept neatly trimmed with the wild flowers of the country;64
next, they returned to their houses to receive their allowance of food.
The settled hours of labor were from six in the morning till ten, and from two in the
afternoon till four.
The houses were warm and
secure, covered above with strong boards, and matted on the inside after the fashion of the Indian
Security and affluence were returning.
But the health of Lord Delaware
sunk under the cares of his situation and the diseases of the climate; and, after a lingering sickness, he was compelled to leave the administration with Percy
, and return to England
The colony, at this time, consisted of about two hundred men; but the departure of the governor was a disastrous event, which produced not only despondency at Jamestown
, but ‘a damp of coldness’ in the hearts of the London company; and a great reaction in the popular mind in England
In the age when the theatre was the chief place of public amusement and resort, Virginia
was introduced by the stage-poets as a theme of scorn and derision.66
‘This plantation,’ complained they of Jamestown
, ‘has undergone the reproofs of the base world; our own brethren laugh us to scorne; and papists and players, the scum and dregs of the earth, mocke such as help to build up the walls of Jerusalem
Fortunately, the adventurers, before the ill success
of Lord Delaware
was known, had despatched Sir Thomas Dale
, ‘a worthy and experienced soldier in the Low Countries
,’ with liberal supplies.
He arrived safely in the colony, and assumed the government,
which he soon afterwards administered upon the basis of martial law. The code, written in blood, and printed and sent to Virginia
by the treasurer, Sir Thomas Smith
, on his own authority, and without the
order or assent of the company, was chiefly a trans-
lation from the rules of war of the United Provinces.
The Episcopal Church, coeval in Virginia
with the settlement of Jamestown
, was, like the infant commonwealth, subjected to military rule; and, though conformity was not strictly enforced, yet courts-martial had authority to punish indifference with stripes, and infidelity with death.
The introduction of this arbitrary system added new sorrows to the wretchedness of the people, who pined and perished under despotic rule; but the adventurers in England
regarded the Virginians as the garrison of a distant citadel, more than as citizens and freemen.
The charter of the London company68
had invested the governor with full authority, in cases of rebellion and mutiny, to exercise martial law; and, in the condition of the settlement, this seemed a sufficient warrant for making it the law of the land.
The letters of Dale
to the council confessed the small number and weakness of the colonists; but he kindled hope in the hearts of those constant adventurers, who, in the greatest disasters, had never fainted.
‘If any thing otherwise than well betide me,’ said he, ‘let me commend unto your carefulness the pursuit and dignity of this business, than which your purses and endeavors will never open nor travel in a more meritorious enterprise.
Take four of the best kingdoms in Christendom, and put them all together, they may no way compare with this country, either for commodities or goodness of soil.’69 Lord Delaware
and Sir Thomas Gates
earnestly confirmed what Dale
had written, and, without any delay, Gates
who has the honor, to all posterity, of being the first
named in the original patent for Virginia
, conducted to the New World six ships, with three hundred emigrants.
Long afterwards the gratitude of Virginia
to these early emigrants was shown by repeated acts of benevolent legislation.
A wise liberality sent also a hundred kine, as well as suitable provisions.
It was the most fortunate step which had been taken,; and proved the wisdom of Cecil
, and others, whose firmness had prevailed.
The promptness of this relief merits admiration.
In May, Dale
had written from Virginia
, and the last of August, the new recruits, under Gates
, were already
So unlooked for was this supply, that at their approach, they were regarded with fear as a hostile fleet.
Who can describe the joy which ensued, when they were found to be friends?
assumed the government amidst the thanksgivings of the colony, and at once endeavored to employ the sentiment of religious gratitude as a foundation of order and of laws.
, our sweet native country,’ was the morning and evening prayer of the grateful emigrants.70
The colony now numbered seven hundred men; and Dale
, with the consent of Gates
, went far up the river to found the new plantation, which, in honor of Prince Henry, a general favorite with the English
people, was named Henrico
; and there, on the remote frontier, Alexander Whitaker
, the self-denying ‘apostle of Virginia
,’ assisted in ‘bearing the name of God to the gentiles.’
But the greatest change in the condition of the colonists, resulted from the incipient establishment of private property.
To each man a few acres of ground were assigned for his orchard and garden
to plant at his pleasure and for his own use. So long
as industry had been without its special reward, reluctant labor, wasteful of time, had been followed by want.
Henceforward, the sanctity of private property was recognized as the surest guaranty of order and abundance.
Yet the rights of the Indians were little respected; nor did the English
disdain to appropriate by conquest, the soil, the cabins, and the granaries of the tribe of the Appomattocks.
While the colony was advancing in strength and happiness, the third patent for Virginia
granted to the
adventurers in England
the Bermudas and all islands within three hundred leagues of the Virginia
shore—a concession of no ultimate importance in American history, since the new acquisitions were soon transferred to a separate company.
But the most remarkable change effected in the charter, a change which contained within itself the germ of another revolution, consisted in giving to the corporation a democratic form.
Hitherto all power had resided in the council; which, it is true, was to have its vacancies supplied by the majority of the corporation.
But now it was ordered, that weekly or even more frequent meetings of the whole company, might be convened for the transaction of affairs of less weight; while all questions respecting government, commerce, and the disposition of lands, should be reserved for the four great and general courts, at which all officers were to be elected, and all laws established.
The political rights of the colonists themselves remained unimproved; the character of the corporation was entirely changed: power was transferred from the council to the company, and its sessions became the theatre of bold and independent discussion.
A perverse financial privilege was, at the
same time, conceded; and lotteries, though unusual in England
, were authorized for the benefit of the colony.
The lotteries produced to the company twenty-nine thousand pounds; but, as they were esteemed a grievance by the nation, so they were, after a few years, noticed by parliament as a public evil, and, in
consequence of the complaint of the commons, were suspended by an order of council.
If the new charter enlarged the powers of the com-
pany, the progress of the colony confirmed its stability.
Tribes even of the Indians submitted to the English
, and, by a formal treaty, declared themselves the tributaries of King James.
A marriage was the immediate cause of this change of relations.
A foraging party of the colonists, headed by Argall
, having stolen the daughter of Powhatan, demanded of her father a ransom.
The indignant chief prepared rather for hostilities.
But John Rolfe
, ‘an honest and discreet’ young Englishman, an amiable enthusiast, who had emigrated to the forests of Virginia
, daily, hourly, and, as it were, in his very sleep, heard a voice crying in his ears, that he should strive to make her a Christian.
With the solicitude of a troubled soul, he reflected on the true end of being.
‘The Holy Spirit’ —such are his own expressions—‘demanded of me why I was created;’ and conscience whispered that, rising above ‘the censure of the low-minded,’ he should lead the blind in the right path.
Yet still he remembered that God had visited the sons of Levi and Israel with his displeasure, because they sanctified strange women; and might he, indeed, unite himself with ‘one of barbarous breeding and of a cursed race?’
After a great struggle of mind, and daily and believing prayers, in the innocence of pious zeal, he resolved ‘to labor for the conversion of the unregenerated
maiden;’ and, winning the favor of Pocahontas
he desired her in marriage.
Quick of comprehension, the youthful princess received instruction with docility; and soon, in the little church of Jamestown
,—which rested on rough pine columns, fresh from the forest, and was in a style of rugged architecture as wild, if not as frail, as an Indian's wigwam,—she stood before the font, that out of the trunk of a tree ‘had been hewn hollow like a canoe,’ ‘openly renounced her country's idolatry, professed the faith of Jesus Christ
, and was baptized.’
‘The gaining of this one soul,’ ‘the first fruits of Virginian conversion,’ was followed by her nuptials with Rolfe
In April, 1613, to the joy of Sir Thomas Dale
, with the approbation of her father and friends, Opachisco, her uncle, gave the bride away; and she stammered before the altar her marriage vows, according to the rites of the English
Every historian of Virginia
commemorates the union with approbation; distinguished men trace from it their descent.
In 1616, the Indian
wife, instructed in the English
language, and bearing an English name, ‘the first Christian ever of her nation,’ sailed with her
husband for England
The daughter of the wilderness possessed the mild elements of female loveliness, half concealed, as if in the bud, and rendered the more beautiful by the childlike simplicity with which her education in the savannahs of the New World had in vested her. How could she fail to be caressed at court, and admired in the city?
As a wife, and as a young mother, her conduct was exemplary.
She had been able to contrast the magnificence of European
life with the freedom of the western forests; and now, as she was preparing to return to America
, at the age of twenty-two, she fell a victim to the English
saved, as if by the hand of mercy, from beholding the
extermination of the tribes from which she sprung,
leaving a spotless name, and dwelling in memory under the form of perpetual youth.
The immediate fruits of the marriage to the colony were a confirmed peace, not with Powhatan alone, but also with the powerful Chickahominies
, who sought the friendship of the English
, and demanded to be called Englishmen.
It might have seemed that the European
and the native races were about to become blended yet no such result ensued.
and the Indians remained at variance, and the weakest gradually disappeared.
The colony seemed firmly established; and its gov-
ernor asserted for the English
the sole right of colonizing the coast to the latitude of forty-five degrees.
In 1613, sailing in an armed vessel, as a protector to the fishermen off the coast of Maine
, Samuel Argall
, a young sea-captain, of coarse passions and arbitrary temper, discovered that the French
were just planting a colony near the Penobscot
, on Mount Desert Isle; and, hastening to the spot, after cannonading the intrenchments, and a sharp discharge of musketry, he gained possession of the infant hamlet of St. Sauveur.
The cross round which the faithful had gathered, was thrown down; and the cottages, and the ship in the harbor, were abandoned to pillage.
Of the colonists, some were put on board a vessel for St. Malo, others transported to the Chesapeake
The news of French encroachments roused the jealousy of Virginia
sailed once more to the north; raised the arms of England
where those of De Guercheville
had been planted; threw down the fortifications of De Monts
on the Isle of St. Croix
; and set on fire the deserted settlement of Port Royal
Thus did England
vindicate her claim to Maine
by petty acts of violence, worthy only of ma-
rauders and pirates.
In less than a century and a half, the strife for acres which neither nation could cultivate, kindled war round the globe.
Meantime the people of England
, who freely offered gifts while ‘the holy action’ of planting Virginia
was ‘languishing and forsaken,’ saw through the gloom of early disasters the success of the ‘pious and heroic enterprise.’
, in the maturity of his genius, shared the pride and the hope of his countrymen.
As he looked toward James River
, his splendid prophecy, by the mouth of the Protestant Cranmer
, promised the English
nation the possession of a hemisphere, through King James as the patron of colonies:
Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,
Sir Thomas Gates
His honor and the greatness of his name
Shall be, and make new nations.
He shall flourish,
And like a mountain cedar, reach his branches
To all the plains about him.
, leaving the government with Dale
, embarked for England
, where he employed himself in reviving the courage of the London company.
Commons Journal, II. 481.
Chalmers, 34, 35.
In May, 1614, a petition for aid was presented to the house of commons, and was received with unusual solemnity.
It was supported by Lord Delaware
, whose affection for Virginia
ceased only with life.
‘All it requires,’ said he, ‘is but a few honest laborers, burdened with children;’ and he moved for a committee to consider of relief.
But disputes with the monarch led to a hasty dissolution of the commons; and it was not to lotteries or privileged companies, to parliaments or kings, that the new state was to owe its prosperity.
industry, directed to the culture of tobacco, enriched Virginia
The condition of private property in lands, among
the colonists, depended, in some measure, on the circumstances under which they had emigrated.
Some had been sent and maintained at the exclusive cost of the company, and were its servants.
One month of their time and three acres of land were set apart for them, besides a small allowance of two bushels of corn from the public store; the rest of their labor belonged to their employers.
This number gradually decreased; and, in 1617, there were of them all, men, women, and children, but fifty-four.
Others, especially the favorite settlement near the mouth of the Appomattox
, were tenants, paying two and a half barrels of corn as a yearly tribute to the store, and giving to the public service one month's labor, which was to be required neither at seed-time nor harvest.
He who came himself, or had sent others, at his own expense, had been entitled to a hundred acres of land for each person: now that the colony was well established, the bounty on emigration was fixed at fifty acres, of which the actual occupation and culture gave a further right to as many more, to be assigned at leisure.
Besides this, lands were granted as rewards of merit; yet not more than two thousand acres could be so appropriated to one person.
A payment to the company's treasury of twelve pounds and ten shillings, likewise obtained a title to any hundred acres of land not yet granted or possessed, with a reserved claim to as much more.
Such were the earliest land laws of Virginia
: though imperfect and unequal, they gave the cultivator the means of becoming a proprietor of the soil.
These valuable changes were established by Sir Thomas Dale
, a magistrate who, notwithstanding the introduction of martial law, has gained praise for his vigor
and industry, his judgment and conduct.
mained five years in America
, and now desiring to visit England
and his family, he appointed George Yeardley
deputy-governor, and embarked for his native country.71
The labor of the colony had long been misdirected; in the manufacture of ashes and soap, of glass and tar, the colonists could not sustain the competition with the nations on the Baltic
Much fruitless cost had been incurred in planting vineyards.
It was found that tobacco might be profitably cultivated.
of gold-finders had become extinct; and now the fields, the gardens, the public squares, and even the streets of Jamestown
, were planted with tobacco;72
and the colonists dispersed, unmindful of security in their eagerness for gain.
Tobacco, as it gave animation to Virginian industry, eventually became not only the staple, but the currency of the colony.
With the success of industry and the security of
property, the emigrants needed the possession of political rights.
It is an evil incident to a corporate body, that its officers separate their interests as managers from their interests as partial proprietors.
This was found to be none the less true, where an extensive territory was the estate to be managed; and imbittered parties contended for the posts of emolument and honor.
It was under the influence of a faction which rarely obtained a majority, that the office of deputy-governor was intrusted to Argall
Martial law was at that time the common law of the country: that the despotism of the new deputy, who was both self-willed and avaricious, might be complete, he was further invested with the place of admiral of the country and the adjoining seas.73
The return of Lord Delaware
have restored tranquillity; the health of that nobleman was not equal to the voyage; he embarked with many emigrants, but did not live to reach Virginia
The tyranny of Argall
was, therefore, left unrestrained; but his indiscriminate rapacity and vices were destined to defeat themselves, and procure for the colony an inestimable benefit; for they led him to defraud the company, as well as to oppress the colonists.
The condition of Virginia
became intolerable; the labor of
the settlers was perverted to the benefit of the governor; servitude, for a limited period, was the common penalty annexed to trifling offences; and, in a colony where martial law still continued in force, life itself was insecure against his capricious passions.
The first appeal ever made from America
, directed, not to the king, but to the company, was in behalf of one whom Argall
had wantonly condemned to death, and whom he had with great difficulty been prevailed upon to spare.75
The colony was fast falling into disrepute, and the report of the tyranny established beyond the Atlantic
, checked emigration.
A reformation was demanded, and was conceded, with guarantees for the future; because the interests of the colonists and the company coincided in requiring a redress of their common wrongs.
After a strenuous contest on the part of rival factions for the control of the company, the influence of Sir Edwin Sandys
was displaced, and the mild and popular Yeardley
was now appointed captain-general of the
colony. But before the new chief magistrate
arrive in Virginia
had withdrawn, having pre-
viously, by fraudulent devices, preserved for himself and his partners the fruits of his extortions.
The London company suffered the usual plagues of corporations—faithless agents and fruitless suits.
, for twelve years after its settlement, had languished under the government of Sir Thomas Smith
, treasurer of the Virginia
company in England
The colony was ruled during that period by laws written in blood; and repeatedly suffered an extremity of distress too horrible to be described.
In April, 1619, Sir George Yeardley
Of the emigrants who had been sent over at great cost, not one in twenty then remained alive.
‘In James citty were only those houses that Sir Thomas Gates
built in the tyme of his government, with one wherein the governor allwayes dwelt, and a church, built wholly at the charge of the inhabitants of that citye, of timber, being fifty foote in length and twenty in breadth.’
, now Richmond
, there were no more than ‘three old houses, a poor ruinated church, with some few poore buildings in the islande.’
‘For ministers to instruct the people, only three were authorized; two others had never received their orders.’
‘The natives were upon doubtfull termes;’ and the colony was altogether ‘in a poore estate.’
From the moment of Yeardley
's arrival, dates the real life of Virginia
Bringing with him ‘commissions and instructions from the company for the better establishinge of a commonwealth,’ he made proclamation, ‘that those cruell lawes, by which the ancient planters had soe longe been governed, were now abrogated, and that they were to be governed by those free lawes, which his majesties subjectes lived
under in Englande.’
Nor were these concessions left
dependent on the good will of administrative officers.
‘That the planters might have a hande in the governing of themselves, yt was graunted that a generall assemblie shoulde be helde yearly once, whereat were to be present the governor and counsell with two burgesses from each plantation, freely to be elected by the inhabitantes thereof, this assemblie to have power to make and ordaine whatsoever lawes and orders should by them be thought good and profitable for their subsistence.’
In conformity with these instructions, Sir George Yeardley
‘sente his summons all over the country, as well to invite those of the counsell of estate that were absente, as also for the election of burgesses;’ and on Friday, the thirtieth day of July, 1619, delegates from each of the eleven plantations assembled at James City
The inauguration of legislative power in the Ancient Dominion
, by this first assembly, preceded the existence of negro slavery.
The governor and council sat with the burgesses, and took part in motions and in debates.
The secretary of the colony, though not a burgess, was chosen speaker.
Legislation was opened with prayer.
The assembly exercised fully the right of judging of the proper election of its members; and they would not suffer any patent, conceding manorial jurisdiction, to bar the obligation of obedience to their decisions.
They wished every grant of land to be made with equal favor, that all complaint of partiality might be avoided, and the uniformity of laws and orders never be impeached.
The commission of privileges sent by Sir George Yeardley
, was their ‘great charter’ or organic act,
which they claimed no right ‘to correct or con-
trol;’ yet they kept the way open for seeking redress, ‘in case they should find ought not perfectly squaring with the state of the colony.’
Leave to propose laws was given to any burgess, or by way of petition to any member of the colony; but for expedition's sake, the main business of the session was distributed between two committees, while a third body, composed of the governor and such burgesses as were not on those committees, examined which of former instructions ‘might conveniently put on the habit of laws.’
The legislature acted also as a criminal court.
The church of England was confirmed as the church of Virginia; it was intended that the first four ministers should each receive two hundred pounds a year; all persons whatsoever, upon the Sabbath days, were to frequent divine service and sermons both forenoon and afternoon; and all such as bore arms, to bring their pieces or swords.
Grants of land were asked not for planters only, but for their wives, ‘because, in a new plantation, it is not known whether man or woman be the most necessary.’
Measures were adopted ‘towards the erecting of a university and college.’
It was also enacted, that of the children of the Indians, ‘the most towardly boys in wit and graces of nature should be brought up in the first elements of literature, and sent from the college to the work of conversion’ of the natives to the Christian
Penalties were appointed for idleness, gaming with dice or cards, and drunkenness.
Excess in apparel was taxed in church for all public contributions.
The business of planting corn, mulberry trees, hemp, and vines was encouraged.
The price of tobacco was fixed at three shillings a
pound for the best, and half as much ‘for the second sort.’
When the question was taken on accepting ‘the great charter,’ ‘it had the general assent and the applause of the whole assembly,’ with thanks for it to Almighty God and to those from whom it had issued, in the names of the burgesses and of the whole colony whom they represented; the more so, as they were promised the power to allow or disallow the orders of court of the London company.
A perpetual interest attaches to this first elective body that ever assembled in the Western world, representing the people of Virginia
, and making laws for their government, more than a year before the Mayflower
, with the Pilgrims, left the harbor of Southampton
, and while Virginia
was still the only British colony on the continent of America
The functions of government were in some degree confounded; but the record of the proceedings justifies the opinion of Sir Edwin Sandys
, that ‘the laws were very well and judiciously formed.’
The enactments of these earliest American lawgivers were instantly put in force, without waiting for their ratification by the company in England
Former griefs were buried in oblivion, and they who had been dependent on the will of a governor, having recovered the privileges of Englishmen, under a code of laws of their own, ‘fell to building houses and planting corn,’ and henceforward ‘regarded Virginia
as their country.’
The patriot party in England
, who now controlled the London company, engaged with earnestness in schemes to advance the numbers and establish the
liberties of their plantation.
No intimidations, not
even threats of blood, could deter Sir Edwin Sandys
, the new treasurer, from investigating and reforming the abuses by which its progress had been retarded.
At his accession to office, after twelve years labor, and an expenditure of eighty thousand pounds by the company, there were in the colony no more than six hundred men, women, and children; and in one year he sent over twelve hundred and sixty-one persons.
Nor must the character of the emigration be overlooked.
‘The people of Virginia
had not been settled in their minds,’ and as, before the recent changes, they retained the design of ultimately returning to England
, it was necessary to multiply attachments to the soil.
Few women had dared to cross the Atlantic
; but now the promise of prosperity induced ninety agreeable persons, young and incorrupt, to listen to the advice of Sandys
, and embark for the colony, where they were assured of a welcome.
They were transported at the expense of the company, and were married to its tenants, or to men who were able to support them, and who willingly defrayed the costs of their passage, which were rigorously demanded.
The adventure which had been in part a mercantile speculation, succeeded so well, that it was proposed to send the next year another consignment of one hundred;
but before these could be collected, the company found itself so poor, that its design could be accomplished only by a subscription.
After some delays, sixty were
actually despatched, maids of virtuous education, young, handsome, and well recommended.
The price rose from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco, or even more; so that all the
original charges might be repaid.
The debt for a
wife was a debt of honor, and took precedence of any other; and the company, in conferring employments, gave a preference to married men. Domestic ties were formed; virtuous sentiments and habits of thrift
ensued; the tide of emigration swelled; within three years, fifty patents for land were granted, and three thousand five hundred persons found their way to Virginia
, which was a refuge even for Puritans.
, after a year's service, resigned his office as treasurer, a struggle ensued on the election of his successor.
The meeting, on the seventeenth of
May, 1620, was numerously attended; and, as the courts of the company were become the schools of debate, many distinguished members of parliament were present.
A message was communicated from King James, nominating four candidates, one of whom he desired should receive the appointment.
The company resisted the royal interference as an infringement of their charter; and the choice of the meeting fell by acclamation upon the earl of Southampton
, the early friend of Shakespeare
Having thus vindicated their own rights, the company proceeded to redress former wrongs, and to provide colonial liberty with its written guarantees.
In the case of the appeal to the London company from sentence of death pronounced by Argall
, his friends, with the earl of Warwick
at their head, had voted, that trial by martial law is the noblest kind of trial, because soldiers and men of the sword were the judges.
This opinion was reversed, and the rights of the colonists to trial by jury sustained.
Nor was it long before the freedom of the northern fisheries
was equally asserted, and the monopoly of a rival
corporation successfully opposed.
Lord Bacon, who, at the time of Newport
's first voyage with emigrants for Virginia
, classed the enterprise with the romance of ‘Amadis de Gaul
,’ caught a glimpse of the future; and now he said of the plantation of Virginia
: ‘Certainly it is with the kingdoms of earth as it is in the kingdom of heaven, sometimes a grain of mustard seed proves a great tree.
Who can tell?’
The company had silently approved the colonial assembly which had been convened by Sir George Yeardley
; on the twenty-fourth of July, 1621, a memorable ordinance established for the colony a written constitution.
The prescribed form of government was analagous to the English
constitution, and was, with some modifications, the model of the systems which were afterwards introduced into the various royal provinces.
Its purpose was declared to be ‘the greatest comfort and benefit to the people, and the prevention of injustice, grievances, and oppression.’
Its terms are few and simple: a governor, to be appointed by the company; a permanent council, likewise to be appointed by the company; a general assembly, to be convened yearly, and to consist of the members of the council, and of two burgesses to be chosen from each of the several plantations by the respective inhabitants.
The assembly might exercise full legislative authority, a negative voice being reserved to the governor; but no law or ordinance would be valid, unless ratified by the company in England
It was further agreed, that, after the government of the colony shall have once been framed, no orders of the court in London
the colony, unless they be in like manner ratified
by the general assembly.
The courts of justice were required to conform to the laws and manner of trial used in the realm of England
Such was the constitution which Sir Francis Wyatt
, the successor of the mild but inefficient Yeardley
, was commissioned to bear to the colony.
The system of representative government and trial by jury thus became in the new hemisphere an acknowledged right.
Henceforward the supreme power was held to reside in the hands of the colonial parliament, and of the king, as king of Virginia
On this ordinance Virginia
erected the superstructure of her liberties.
Its influences were wide and enduring, and can be traced through all her history.
It constituted the plantation, in its infancy, a nursery of freemen; and succeeding generations learned to cherish institutions which were as old as the first period of the prosperity of their fathers.
The privileges then conceded, could never be wrested from the Virginians; and, as new colonies arose at the south, their proprietaries could hope to win emigrants only by bestowing franchises as large as those enjoyed by their elder rival.
The London company merits the praise of having auspicated liberty in America
It may be doubted whether any public act during the reign of King James was of more permanent or pervading influence; and it reflects glory on Sir Edward Sandys
, the earl of Southampton
, and the patriot party of England
, that though they were unable to establish guarantees of a liberal administration at home, they were careful to connect popular freedom inseparably with the life, prosperity, and state of society of Virginia