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