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,