Dissolution of the London company.
, by the concession of a represen-
tative government, was constituted the asylum of liberty, by one of the strange contradictions in human affairs, it became the abode of hereditary bondsmen.
The unjust, wasteful and unhappy system was fastened upon the rising institutions of America
, not by the consent of the corporation, nor the desires of the emigrants; but, as it was introduced by the mercantile avarice of a foreign nation, so it was subsequently riveted by the policy of England
, without regard to the interests or the wishes of the colony.
Slavery and the slave-trade are older than the records of human society: they are found to have existed, wherever the savage hunter began to assume the habits of pastoral or agricultural life; and, with the exception of Australasia, they have extended to every portion of the globe.
They pervaded every nation of civilized antiquity.
The earliest glimpses of Egyptian
history exhibit pictures of bondage; the oldest monuments of human labor on the Egyptian
soil are evidently the results of slave labor.
The founder of the Jewish nation was a slave-holder and a purchaser of slaves.
Every patriarch was lord in his own household.1
, when they burst the bands of their
own thraldom, carried with them beyond the desert the institution of slavery.
The light that broke from Sinai
scattered the corrupting illusions of polytheism; but slavery planted itself even in the promised land, on the banks of Siloa, near the oracles of God.
The Hebrew father might doom his daughter to bondage; the wife, and children, and posterity of the emancipated slave, remained the property of the master and his heirs; and if a slave, though mortally wounded by his master, did but languish of his wounds for a day, the owner escaped with impunity; for the slave was his master's money.
It is even probable, that, at a later period, a man's family might be sold for the payment of debts.2
The countries that bordered on Palestine
were equally familiar with domestic servitude; and, like Babylon
also, the oldest and most famous commercial city of Phenicia
, was a market ‘for the persons of men.’3
of the desert had already established slavery throughout the plains and forests of the unknown north.
Old as are the traditions of Greece
, the existence of slavery is older.
The wrath of Achilles
grew out of a quarrel for a slave; the Grecian
dames had crowds of servile attendants; the heroes before Troy
made excursions into the neighboring villages and towns to enslave the inhabitants.
pirates, roving, like the corsairs of Barbary
, in quest of men, laid the foundations of Greek
commerce; each commercial town was a slave-mart; and every cottage near the sea-side was in danger from the
Greeks enslaved each other.
language of Homer
was the mother-tongue of the Helots; the Grecian city
that made war on its neighbor city, exulted in its captives as a source of profit;5
the hero of Macedon
sold men of his own kindred and language into hopeless slavery.
The idea of universal free labor had not been generated.
Aristotle had written that all mankind are brothers; yet the thought of equal enfranchisement never presented itself to his sagacious understanding.
In every Grecian republic, slavery was an indispensable element.
The wide diffusion of bondage throughout the do minions of Rome
, and the extreme severities of the Roman
law towards the slave, contributed to hasten the fall of the Roman
The power of the father to sell his children, of the creditor to sell his insolvent debtor, of the warrior to sell his captive, carried the influence of the institution into the bosom of every Roman family; into the conditions of every contract; into the heart of every unhappy land that was invaded by the Roman
The slave-markets of Rome
were filled with men of every complexion and every clime.6
When the freedom of savage life succeeded in establishing its power on the ruins of the Roman
empire, the great swarms of Roman slaves began to disappear; but the middle age witnessed rather a change in the channels of the slave-trade, than a diminution of its evils.
The pirate, and the kidnapper, and the conqueror, still continued their pursuits.
carried the most repulsive forms of slavery to England
where not half the population could assert a right to freedom, and where the price of a man was but four times the price of an ox. The importation of foreign slaves was freely tolerated: in defiance of severe penalties, the Saxons sold their own kindred into slavery on the continent; nor could the traffic be checked, till religion, pleading the cause of humanity, made its appeal to conscience.
Even after the conquest, slaves were exported from England
, till the reign
of Henry II., when a national synod of the Irish, to remove the pretext for an invasion, decreed the emancipation of all English slaves in the island.7
The German nations made the shores of the Baltic
the scenes of the same desolating traffic; and the Dnieper formed the highway on which Russian
merchants conveyed to Constantinople
the slaves that had been purchased in the markets of Russia
The wretched often submitted to bondage, as the bitter but only refuge from absolute want.
But it was the long wars between German and Slavonic tribes which imparted to the slave-trade its greatest activity, and filled France
and the neighboring states with such numbers of victims, that they gave the name of the Slavonic nation to servitude itself; and every country of Western Europe
still preserves in its language the record of the barbarous traffic in ‘Slaves.’8
Nor did France
abstain from the slave-trade.
, the Jews were able to purchase slaves for their Saracen customers.9
, and perhaps in Italy
, the children of Asia
, in their turn, were exposed for sale.
people of the wilderness and the desert are famed
for love of their offspring; yet in the extremity of poverty, even the Arab father would sometimes pawn his children to the Italian
merchant, in the vain hope of soon effecting their ransom.
itself long remained a mart where Christian slaves were exposed for sale, to supply the domestic market of Mahometans.
, in their commercial intercourse with the ports of unbelieving nations, as well as with Rome
, purchased alike infidels and Christians, and sold them again to the Arabs in Sicily
Christian and Jewish
avarice supplied the slave-market of the Saracens.
What though the trade was exposed to the censure of the church, and prohibited by the laws of Venice
It could not be effectually checked, till, by the Venetian law, no slave might enter a Venetian ship, and to tread the deck of an argosy of Venice
became the privilege and the evidence of freedom.10
The spirit of the Christian
religion would, before the discovery of America
, have led to the entire abolition of the slave-trade, but for the hostility between the Christian church and the followers of Mahomet.
In the twelfth century, Pope Alexander
III., true to the spirit of his office, which, during the supremacy of brute force in the middle age, made of the chief minister
of religion the tribune of the people and the guardian of the oppressed, had written, that ‘Nature having made no slaves, all men have an equal right to liberty.’11
But the slave-trade had never relented among the Mahometans: the captive Christian
had no alternative but apostasy or servitude, and the
captive infidel was treated in Christendom with corre-
In the days of the crusaders, and in the camp of the leader whose pious arms redeemed the sepulchre of Christ
from the mixed nations of Asia
and Lybia, the price of a war-horse was three slaves.
, whose law forbids the enslaving of a Mahometan, still continue to sell Christian captives; and we have seen, that the father of Virginia
had himself tasted the bitterness of Turkish bondage.
All this might have had no influence on the destinies of America
, but for the long and doubtful struggles between Christians and Moors
in the west of Europe
; where, for more than seven centuries, and in more than three thousand battles, the two religions were arrayed against each other; and bondage was the reciprocal doom of the captive.
Bigotry inflamed revenge, and animated the spirit of merciless and exterminating warfare.
were filled with Saracen slaves; the number of them sold into Christian bondage exceeded the number of all the Christians ever sold by the pirates of Barbary
The clergy, who had pleaded successfully for the Christian
, felt no sympathy for the unbeliever.
The final victory of the Spaniards over the Moors of Granada
—an event contemporary with the discovery of America
—was signalized by a great emigration of the Moors to the coasts of Northern Africa
, where each mercantile city became a nest of pirates, and every Christian the wonted booty of the successful corsair Servitude was thus the doom of the Christian
in Northern Africa
: the hatred of the Moorish
dominion extending to all Africa
, an indiscriminate and retaliating bigotry felt no remorse at dooming the sons of Africa
All Africans were esteemed as Moors
The amelioration of the customs of Europe
proceeded from the influence of religion.
It was the clergy who had broken up the Christian
slave-markets at Bristol
and at Hamburg
, at Lyons
and at Rome
At the epoch of the discovery of America
, the moral opinion of the civilized world had abolished the traffic in Christian slaves, and was fast demanding the emancipation of the serfs: but bigotry had favored a compromise with avarice; and the infidel was not yet included within the pale of humanity.
Yet negro slavery is not an invention of the white man. As Greeks enslaved Greeks, as the Hebrew often consented to make the Hebrew his absolute lord, as Anglo-Saxons trafficked in Anglo-Saxons, so the negro race enslaved its own brethren.
The oldest accounts of the land of the negroes, like the glimmering traditions of Egypt
, of Greece
and of Rome
, bear witness to the existence of domestic slavery and the caravans of dealers in negro slaves.
The oldest Greek
commemorates the traffic.
Negro slaves were seen in classic Greece
, and were known at Rome
and in the Roman
It is from about the year 990, that regular accounts of the negro slave-trade exist.
At that period, Moorish merchants from the Barbary coast
first reached the cities of Nigritia, and established an uninterrupted exchange of Saracen and European
luxuries for the gold and slaves of Central Africa
Even though whole caravans were sometimes buried in the sands of the desert, and at others, without shade and without water, suffered the horrors of parching thirst under a tropical sun, yet the commerce extended because it was profitable; and
before the genius of Columbus
had opened the path
to a new world, the negro slave-trade had been reduced to a system by the Moors, and had spread from the native regions of the Aethiopian race to the heart of Egypt
on the one hand, and to the coasts of Barbary
on the other.13
But the danger for America
did not end here.
The traffic of Europeans in negro slaves was fully established before the colonization of the United States
, and had existed a half century before the discovery of America
It was not long after the first conquests of the
Portuguese in Barbary
, that the passion for gain, the love of conquest, and the hatred of the infidels, conducted their navy to the ports of Western Africa
; and the first ships which sailed so far south as Cape Blanco
, returned, not with negroes, but with Moors
The subjects of this importation were treated, not as laborers, but rather as strangers, from whom information respecting their native country was to be derived.
, who had brought them to Por-
tugal, was commanded to restore them to their ancient homes.
He did so, and the Moors gave him as their ransom, not gold only, but ‘black Moors
’ with curled hair.
Thus negro slaves came into Europe
; and mercantile cupidity immediately observed, that negroes might become an object of lucrative commerce.
ships were despatched without delay.14 Spain
engaged in the traffic: the historian of her maritime discoveries even claims for her the unenviable distinction of having anticipated the Portuguese in introducing negroes into Europe
The merchants of
imported gold dust and slaves from the western
coast of Africa
and negro slavery, though the severity of bondage was mitigated in its character by benevolent legislation,17
was established in Andalusia, and ‘abounded in the city of Seville
,’ before the enterprise of Columbus
The maritime adventurers of those days, joining the principles of bigots with the bold designs of pirates and heroes, esteemed the wealth of the countries which they might discover as their rightful plunder, and the inhabitants, if Christians, as their subjects, if infidels, as their slaves.
Even Indians of Hispaniola
were imported into Spain
Cargoes of the natives of the north were early and repeatedly kidnapped.
The coasts of America
, like the coasts of Africa
, were visited by ships in search of laborers; and there was hardly a convenient harbor on the whole Atlantic frontier of the United States
which was not entered by slavers.19
The native Indians
themselves were ever ready to resist the treacherous merchant; the freemen of the wilderness, unlike the Africans, among whom slavery had existed from immemorial time, would never abet the foreign merchant, or become his factors in the nefarious traffic.
Fraud and force remained, therefore, the means by which, near Newfoundland
, on the shores of the Atlantic
, or among the Indians
of the Mississippi valley
and Vasquez de Ayllon
, Porcallo and Soto
, with private adventurers.
whose names and whose crimes may be left unrecorded, transported the natives of North America
into slavery in Europe
and the Spanish West Indies
The glory of Columbus
himself did not escape the stain; enslaving five hundred native Americans
, he sent them
, that they might be publicly sold at Seville
The generous Isabella
commanded the liberation of
the Indians held in bondage in her European
Yet her active benevolence extended neither to the Moors, whose valor had been punished by slavery, nor to the Africans; and even her compassion for the New World was but the transient feeling, which relieves the miserable who are in sight, not the deliberate application of a just principle.
For the commissions for making discoveries, issued a few days
before and after her interference to rescue those whom Columbus
had enslaved, reserved for herself and Ferdinand a fourth par22
of the slaves which the new kingdoms might contain.
The slavery of Indians was
recognized as lawful.23
The practice of selling the natives of North America
into foreign bondage continued for nearly two centuries; and even the sternest morality pronounced the sentence of slavery and exile on the captives whom the field of battle had spared.
The excellent Winthrop
enumerates Indians among his bequests.24
The articles of the early New England
confederacy class persons among the spoils of war. A scanty remnant of the
, the captives treacher-
ously made by Waldron
in New Hampshire
the harmless fragments of the tribe of Annawon,27
the orphan offspring of King Philip himself,28
were all doomed to the same hard destiny of perpetual bondage.
The clans of Virginia
for more than a hundred years, were hardly safe against the kidnapper.
The universal public mind was long and deeply vitiated.
It was not Las Casas
who first suggested the plan of transporting African
slaves to Hispaniola
; Spanish slaveholders, as they emigrated, were accompanied by their negroes.
The emigration may at first have been contraband; but a royal edict soon permitted Negro
slaves, born in slavery among Christians, to be transported to Hispaniola
Thus the royal ordinances of Spain
authorized negro slavery in America
Within two years, there were such numbers of Africans in Hispaniola
, that Ovando
, the governor of the island, entreated that the importation might no longer be permitted.31
The Spanish government attempted to disguise the crime, by forbidding the introduction of negro slaves, who had been bred in Moorish families,32
and allowing only those who were said to have been instructed in the Christian
faith, to be transported to the West Indies
, under the plea that they might assist in converting the infidel nations.
But the idle pretence was soon abandoned; for should faith in Christianity be punished by perpetual bondage in the
And would the purchaser be scrupulously
inquisitive of the birthplace and instruction of his laborers?
Besides, the culture of sugar was now successfully begun; and the system of slavery, already riveted, was not long restrained by the scruples of men in power.
King Ferdinand himself sent from Seville
to labor in the mines; and, because it was said, that one negro could do the work of four Indians
, the direct traffic in slaves between Guinea
was enjoined by a royal ordinance,34
liberately sanctioned by repeated decrees.35
not natural that Charles V., a youthful monarch, surrounded by rapacious courtiers, should have readily granted licenses to the Flemings to transport Negroes
to the colonies?
The benevolent Las Casas
, who had seen the native inhabitants of the New World vanish away, like dew, before the cruelties of the Spaniards, who felt for the Indians all that an ardent charity and the purest missionary zeal could inspire, and who had seen the African thriving in robust36
health under the sun of Hispaniola
, returning from America
the cause of the feeble Indians
, in the same year which saw the dawn of the Reformation in Germany
, suggested the expedient,37
that negroes might still further be employed to perform the severe toils which they alone could endure.
The avarice of the Flemings greedily seized on the expedient; the board of trade
was consulted, to learn how many slaves
would be required.
It had been proposed to allow four for each Spanish emigrant; deliberate calculation fixed the number esteemed necessary at four thousand.
The year in which Charles V. led an expedition against Tunis
, to check the piracies of the Barbary states, and to emancipate Christian slaves in Africa
, he gave an open sanction to the African slave trade.
The sins of the Moors were to be revenged on the negroes; and the monopoly for eight years of annually importing four thousand slaves into the West Indies
, was eagerly seized by La Bresa, a favorite of the Spanish
monarch, and was sold to the Genoese, who purchased their cargoes of Portugal
We shall, at a later period, observe a stipulation for this lucrative monopoly, in a treaty of peace, established by a European congress; shall witness the sovereign of the most free state in Europe
stipulating for a fourth part of its profits; and shall trace its intimate connection with the first in that series of wars which led to the emancipation of America
lived to repent of his hasty benevolence, declaring afterwards that the captivity of black men is as iniquitous as that of Indians; and he feared the wrath of divine justice for having favored the importation of negro slaves into the western hemisphere.
But covetousness, and not a mistaken compassion, established the slave trade, which had nearly received its development before the voice of charity was heard in defence of the Indians.
policy, and religion, alike condemned the
A series of papal bulls had indeed secured to
the Portuguese the exclusive commerce with Western Africa
; but the slave-trade between Africa
was, I believe, never expressly sanctioned by the see of Rome
The spirit of the Roman church was against it. Even Leo X., though his voluptuous life, making of his pontificate a continued carnival, might have deadened the sentiments of humanity and justice, declared,39
that ‘not the Christian
religion only, but nature herself, cries out against the state of slavery.’
And Paul III., in two separate briefs,40
curse on the Europeans who should enslave Indians
, or any other class of men. It even became usual for Spanish vessels, when they sailed on a voyage of discovery, to be attended by a priest, whose benevolent duty it was, to prevent the kidnapping of the aborigines.41
The legislation of independent America
has been emphatic42
in denouncing the hasty avarice which entailed the anomaly of negro slavery in the midst of liberty.
Ximenes, the gifted coadjutor of Ferdinand and Isabella, the stern grand inquisitor, the austere but ambitious Franciscan, saw in advance the danger which it required centuries to reveal, and refused to sanction the introduction of negroes into Hispaniola
that the favorable climate would increase their numbers, and infallibly lead them to a successful revolt.
A severe retribution has manifested his sagacity: Hayti, the first spot in America
slaves, was the first to set the example of African
But for the slave-trade, the African race would have had no inheritance in the New World.
The odious distinction of having first interested England
in the slave-trade, belongs to Sir John Hawkins
He had fraudulently transported a large cargo of Africans to Hispaniola
; the rich returns of sugar, ginger, and pearls, attracted the notice of Queen Elizabeth; and when a new expedition was prepared,
she was induced, not only to protect, but to share the traffic.44
In the accounts which Hawkins
of one of his expeditions, he relates., that he set fire to a city, of which the huts were covered with dry palm leaves, and, out of eight thousand inhabitants, succeeded in seizing two hundred and fifty.
The deliberate and even self-approving frankness with which this act of atrocity is related, and the lustre which the fame of Hawkins
acquired, display in the strongest terms the depravity of public sentiment in the age of Elizabeth.
The leader in these expeditions was not merely a man of courage; in all other emergencies, he knew how to pity the unfortunate, even when they were not his countrymen, and to relieve their wants with cheerful liberality.46
Yet the commerce, on the part of the English
, in the Spanish
ports, was by the laws of Spain
illicit, as well as by the laws of morals detestable; and when the sovereign of England
participated in its hazards, its profits and its crimes, she became at once a smuggler and a slave merchant.47
A ship of one Thomas Keyser
and one James Smith
the latter a member of the church of Boston
brought upon the colonies the guilt of participating in the traffic in African
They sailed ‘for Guinea
to trade for negroes;’48
but throughout Massachusetts
the cry of justice was raised against them as malefactors and murderers; Richard Saltonstall
, a worthy assistant, felt himself moved by his duty as a magistrate, to denounce the act of stealing negroes as ‘expressly contrary to the law of God and the law of the country;’49
the guilty men were committed for the offence;50
and, after advice with the elders, the representatives of the people, bearing ‘witness against the
heinous crime of man-stealing,’ ordered the negroes to be restored, at the public charge, ‘to their native country, with a letter expressing the indignation of the general court’ at their wrongs.51
When George Fox
in 1671, he
enjoined it upon the planters, that they should ‘deal mildly and gently with their negroes; and that, after certain years of servitude, they should make them free.’
The idea of George Fox
had been anticipated by the fellow-citizens of Gorton
and Roger Williams
twenty years had then elapsed, since the representatives of Providence
, perceiving the disposition of people in the colony ‘to buy negroes,’ and hold them ‘as slaves forever,’ had enacted that ‘no black mankind’ should, ‘by covenant, bond, or otherwise,’ be held to perpetual service; the master, ‘at the end of ten years, shall set them free, as the manner is with English servants; and that man that will not let’ his slave ‘go free, or shall sell him away, to the end that he may be enslaved to others for a longer time, shall forfeit
to the colony forty pounds.’52
Now, forty pounds
was nearly twice the value of a negro slave.
The law was not enforced; but the principle lived among the people.
Conditional servitude, under indentures or covenants, had from the first existed in Virginia
The servant stood to his master in the relation of a debtor, bound to discharge the costs of emigration by the entire employment of his powers for the benefit of his creditor.
Oppression early ensued: men who had been transported into Virginia
at an expense of eight or ten pounds, were sometimes sold for forty, fifty, or even threescore pounds.53
The supply of white servants became a regular business; and a class of men, nicknamed spirits, used to delude young persons, servants and idlers, into embarking for America
, as to a land of spontaneous plenty.54 White
servants came to be a usual article of traffic.
They were sold in England
to be transported, and in Virginia
were resold to the highest bidder; like negroes, they were to be purchased on shipboard, as men buy horses at a fair.55
In 1672, the average price in the colonies, where five years of service were due, was about ten pounds; while a negro was worth twenty or twenty-five pounds.56
So usual was this manner of dealing in Englishmen, that not the Scots only, who were taken in the field of Dunbar
, were sent into involuntary servitude in New England
but the royalist prisoners of the battle of Worcester
and the leaders in the insurrection of Penruddoc,59
in spite of the remonstrance of Haselrig and Henry Vane
, were shipped to America
At the corresponding period, in Ireland
, the crowded exportation of Irish Catholics was a frequent event, and was attended by aggravations hardly inferior to the usual atrocities of the African slave-trade.60
In 1685, when nearly a thousand of the prisoners, condemned for participating in the insurrection of Monmouth
, were sentenced to transportation, men of influence at court, with rival importunity, scrambled for the convicted insurgents as a merchantable commodity.61
The condition of apprenticed servants in Virginia
differed from that of slaves chiefly in the duration of their bondage; and the laws of the colony favored their early enfranchisement.62
But this state of labor easily admitted the introduction of perpetual servitude.
The commerce of Virginia
had been at first monopolized by the company; but as its management for the benefit of the corporation led to frequent dissensions, it was in 1620 laid open to free competition.63
month of August of that year, just fourteen months after the first representative assembly of Virginia, four months before the Plymouth
colony landed in America
, and less than a year before the concession of a written constitution, more than a century after the last vestiges of hereditary slavery had disappeared from English society and the English
constitution, and six years after the commons of France
had petitioned for the emancipation of every serf in every fief, a Dutch manof-war entered James River
, and landed twenty
negroes for sale.64
This is, indeed, the sad epoch of
the introduction of negro slavery in the English
colonies; but the traffic would have been checked in its infancy, had its profits remained with the Dutch
Thirty years after this first importation of Africans, the increase had been so inconsiderable, that to one black, Virginia
contained fifty whites;65
and, at a later period, after seventy years of its colonial existence, the number of its negro slaves was proportionably much less than in several of the free states at the time of the war of independence.
It is the duty of faithful history to trace events, not only to their causes, but to their authors; and we shall hereafter inquire what influence was ultimately extended to counteract the voice of justice, the cry of humanity, and the remonstrances of colonial legislation.
Had no other form of servitude been known in Virginia
, than such as had been tolerated in Europe
, every difficulty would have been promptly obviated by the benevolent spirit of colonial legislation.
But a new problem in the history of man, was now to be solved.
For the first time, the Aethiopian and Caucasian races were to meet together in nearly equal numbers beneath a temperate zone.
Who could foretell the issue?
The negro race, from the first, was regarded with disgust, and its union with the whites forbidden under ignominious penalties.66
For many years, the Dutch
were principally concerned in the slave-trade in the market of Virginia
; the immediate demand for laborers may, in part, have blinded the eyes of the planters to the ultimate evils of slavery,67
though the laws of the colony, at a very early period
discouraged its increase by a special tax upon female slaves.68
, on his arrival in Virginia
, found the evil
of negro slavery engrafted on the social system, he brought with him the memorable ordinance, on which the fabric of colonial liberty was to rest, and which was interpreted by his instruction69
in a manner favorable to the independent rights of the colonists.
Justice was established on the basis of the laws of England
, and an amnesty of ancient feuds proclaimed.
As Puritanism had appeared in Virginia
, ‘needless novelties’ in the forms of worship were now prohibited.
The order to search for minerals betrays the continuance of lingering hopes of finding gold; while the injunction to promote certain kinds of manufactures was ineffectual, because labor could otherwise be more profitably employed.
The business which occupied the first session under
the written constitution, related chiefly to the encouragement of domestic industry; and the culture of silk particularly engaged the attention of the assembly.70
But legislation, though it can favor industry, cannot create it. When soil, men, and circumstances, combine to render a manufacture desirable, legislation can protect the infancy of enterprise against the unequal competition with established skill.
The culture of silk, long, earnestly, and frequently recommended to the attention of Virginia
is successfully pursued, only when a superfluity of labor exists in a redundant population.
, the first wants of life left no
abor without a demand; silk-worms could not be cared
for where every comfort of household existence required to be created.
Still less was the successful culture of the vine possible.
The company had repeatedly sent vine-dressers, who had been set to work under the terrors of martial law, and whose efforts were continued after the establishment of regular government.
But the toil was in vain.
The extensive culture of the vine, unless singularly favored by climate, succeeds only in a dense population; for a small vineyard requires the labor of many hands.
It is a law of nature, that, in a new country under the temperate zone, corn and cattle will be raised, rather than silk or wine.
The first culture of cotton in the United States
This year the seeds were planted as an experiment; and their ‘plentiful coming up’ was, at that early day, a subject of interest in America
Nor did the benevolence of the company neglect to establish places of education, and provide for the support of religious worship.
The bishop of London
collected and paid a thousand pounds towards a university; which, like the several churches of the colony, was liberally endowed with domains.73
Public and private charity were active;74
but the lands were never occupied by productive laborers; and the system of obtaining a revenue through a permanent tenantry could meet with no success, for it was not in harmony with the condition of colonial society.
Between the Indians and the English
been quarrels, but no wars.
From the first landing
of colonists in Virginia
, the power of the natives was
despised; their strongest weapons were such arrows as they could shape without the use of iron, such hatchets as could be made from stone; and an English mastiff seemed to them a terrible adversary.75
Nor were their numbers considerable.
Within sixty miles of Jamestown
, it is computed, there were no movie than five thousand souls, or about fifteen hundred warriors.
The whole territory of the clans which listened to Powhatan as their leader or their conqueror, comprehended about eight thousand square miles, thirty tribes, and twenty-four hundred warriors, so that the Indian
population amounted to about one inhabitant to a square mile.76
The natives, naked and feeble compared with the Europeans, were no where concentrated in considerable villages, but dwelt dispersed in hamlets, with from forty to sixty in each company.
Few places had more than two hundred; and many had less.77
It was also unusual for any large portion of these tribes to be assembled together.
An idle tale of an ambuscade of three or four thousand is perhaps an error for three or four hundred; otherwise it is an extravagant fiction, wholly unworthy of belief.78 Smith
once met a party, that seemed to amount to seven hundred; and, so complete was the superiority conferred by the use of fire-arms, that with fifteen men he was able to withstand them all.79
The savages were therefore regarded with contempt or compassion.
No uniform care had been taken to conciliate their
good will; although their condition had been improved
by some of the arts of civilized life.
The degree of their advancement may be judged by the intelligence of their chieftain.
A house having been built for Opechancanough
after the English
fashion, he took such delight in the lock and key, that he would lock and unlock the door a hundred times a day, and thought the device incomparable.80
arrived, the natives expressed a fear lest his intentions should be hostile: he assured them of his wish to preserve inviolable peace; and the emigrants had no use for fire-arms except against a deer or a fowl.
Confidence so far increased, that the old law, which made death the penalty for teaching the Indians to use a musket, was forgotten; and they were now employed as fowlers and huntsmen.81
The plantations of the English
were widely extended, in unsuspecting confidence, along the James River
and towards the Potomac
, wherever rich grounds invited to the culture of tobacco;82
nor were solitary places, remote from neighbors, avoided, since there would there be less competition for the ownership of the soil.
Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas
, remained, after the marriage of his daughter, the firm friend of the English
He died in 1618; and his younger brother was now the heir to his influence.
Should the native occupants of the soil consent to be driven from their ancient patrimony?
Should their feebleness submit patiently to contempt, injury, and the loss of their lands?
The desire of self-preservation, the necessity of self-defence, seemed to demand an active resistance; to preserve their dwelling-places, the English
must be exterminated; in open battle the Indians
would be powerless; conscious of their weakness, they could not hope to accomplish their end except by a preconcerted surprise.
The crime was one of savage ferocity; but it was suggested by their situation.
They were timorous and quick of apprehension, and consequently treacherous; for treachery and falsehood are the vices of cowardice.
The attack was prepared with impenetrable secrecy.
To the very last hour the Indians preserved the language of friendship: they borrowed the boats of the English
to attend their own assemblies; on the very morning of the massacre, they were in the houses and at the tables of those whose death they were plotting.
‘Sooner,’ said they, ‘shall the sky fall, than peace be violated on our part.’
At length, on the twenty-second of March, at
mid-day, at one and the same instant of time, the Indians fell upon an unsuspecting population, which was scattered through distant villages, extending one hundred and forty miles, on both sides of the river.
The onset was so sudden, that the blow was not discerned till it fell.
None were spared: children and women, as well as men; the missionary, who had cherished the natives with untiring gentleness; the liberal benefactors, from whom they had received daily kindnesses,—all were murdered with indiscriminate barbarity, and every aggravation of cruelty.
The savages fell upon the dead bodies, as if it had been possible to commit on them a fresh murder.
In one hour three hundred and forty-seven persons were cut off. Yet the carnage was not universal, and Virginia
was saved from so disastrous a grave.83
The night before the execution of the conspiracy, it
was revealed by a converted Indian to an Englishman whom he wished to rescue; Jamestown
and the nearest settlements were well prepared against an attack; and the savages, as timid as they were ferocious, fled with precipitation from the appearance of wakeful re distance.
Thus the larger part of the colony was save84
A year after the massacre, there still remained two thousand five hundred men; the total number of the emigrants had exceeded four thousand.
The immediate consequences of this massacre were disastrous.
Public works were abandoned;85
the culture of the fields was much restricted; the settlements were reduced from eighty plantations to less than eight.86
Sickness prevailed among the dispirited colonists, who were now crowded into narrow quarters; some even returned to England
But plans of industry were eventually succeeded by schemes of revenge; and a war of extermination ensued.
, the news, far from dispiriting the adventurers, awakened them to strong feelings of compassionate interest; the purchase of Virginia
was endeared by the sacrifice of so much life; and the blood of the victims became the nurture of the plantation.87
New supplies and assistance were promptly despatched; even King James, for a moment, affected a sentiment of generosity, and, like the churl, gave from the tower of London
presents of arms, which had been thrown by as good for nothing in Europe
They might be useful, thought the monarch, against the Indians!
also made good promises, which were never fulfilled.88
The city of London
contributed to repair the losses of the Virginians; and many private persons displayed an honorable liberality.89 Smith
volunteered his ser vices to protect the planters, overawe the savages, and make discoveries; the company had no funds, and his proposition was never made a matter of public discussion or record; but some of the members, with ludicrous cupidity, proposed, he should have leave to go at his own expense, if he would grant the corporation one half of the pillage.90
There were in the colony much loss and much sorrow, but never any serious apprehensions of discomfiture from the Indians.
The midnight surprise, the ambuscade by day, might be feared; the Indians promptly fled on the least indications of watchfulness and resistance.
There were not wanting men who now advocated an entire subjection of those whom lenity could not win; and the example of Spanish cruelties was cited with applause.91
Besides, a natural instinct had led the Indians to select for their villages the pleasantest places, along the purest streams, and near the soil that was most easily cultivated.
Their rights of property were no longer much respected; their open fields and villages were now appropriated by the colonists, who could plead the laws of war in defence of their covetousness.
Treachery also was employed.
The tangled woods, the fastnesses of nature, were the bulwarks to which the savages retreated.
Pursuit would have been vain; they could not be destroyed except as they were lulled into security, and induced to return to their old homes.
In July of the following year, the inhabitants of the
several settlements, in parties, under commissioned
officers, fell upon the adjoining savages; and a law of the general assembly commanded, that in July of 1624, the attack should he repeated.
Six years later, the
colonial statute-book proves that schemes of ruthless vengeance were still meditated; for it was sternly insisted, that no peace should be concluded with the Indians—a law which remained in force till a treaty in the administration of Harvey
Meantime, a. change was preparing in the relations
of the colony with the parent state.
A corporation, whether commercial or proprietary, is, perhaps, the worst of sovereigns.
Gain is the object which leads to the formation of those companies, and which constitutes the interest most likely to be fostered.
If such a company be wisely administered, its colonists are made subservient to commercial avarice.
If, on the other hand, the interests of the company are sacrificed, the colonists, not less than the proprietors, are pillaged for the benefit of faithless agents.
Where an individual is the sovereign, there is room for an appeal to magnanimity, to benevolence, to the love of glory; where the privilege of self-government is enjoyed, a permanent interest is sure to gain the ultimate ascendency; but corporate ambition is deaf to mercy, and insensible to shame.
The Virginia colony had been unsuccessful.
A settlement had been made; but only after a vast expenditure of money, and a great sacrifice of human life.
Angry factions distract unsuccessful institutions; and the London company was now rent by two parties, which were growing more and more imbittered.
As the shares in the unproductive stock were of little
value, the contests were chiefly for power; and were not so much the wranglings of disappointed merchants, as the struggle of political leaders.
The meetings of the company, which now consisted of a thousand adventurers, of whom two hundred or more usually appeared at the quarter courts,93
were the scenes for freedom of debate, where the patriots, who in parliament advocated the cause of liberty, triumphantly opposed the decrees of the privy council on subjects connected with the rights of Virginia
The unsuccessful party in the company naturally found an ally in the king; it could hope for success only by establishing the supremacy of his prerogative; and the monarch, dissatisfied at having intrusted to others the control of the colony, now desired to recover the influence of which he was deprived by a charter of his own concession.
Besides, he disliked the freedom of debate.
‘The Virginia courts
,’ said Gondeman, the Spanish
envoy, to King James, ‘are but a seminary to a seditious parliament.’94
Yet the people of England
, regarding only the failure of their extravagant hopes in the American
plantations, took little interest in the progress of the controversy which now grew up between the monarch and the corporation; and the inhabitants of the colony were still more indifferent spectators of the strife, which related, not to their liberties, but to their immediate sovereign.95
Besides, there was something of retributive justice in the royal proceedings.
The present proprietors enjoyed their privileges in consequence of a wrong done to the original patentees,
and now suffered no greater injury than had been
Before inflicted on others for their benefit.96
At the meeting for the choice of officers, in 1622, King James once more attempted to control the elections, by sending a message, nominating several candidates, out of whom they were to choose their treasurer.
The advice of the king was disregarded, and a great majority reflected the earl of Southampton
Unable to get the control of the company by overawing their assemblies, the monarch now resolved upon the sequestration of the patent; and raised no other question, than how the unjust design could most plausibly be accomplished, and the law of England
be made the successful instrument of tyranny.
The allegation of grievances, set forth by the court faction in a petition to the king, was fully refuted by the com-
pany, and the whole ground of discontent was answered by an explanatory declaration.98
sioners were appointed to engage in a general investigation of the concerns of the corporation; the records were seized, the deputy-treasurer imprisoned, and private letters from Virginia
intercepted for inspection.99 Smith
was particularly examined; his honest answers plainly exposed the defective arrangements of previous years, and favored the cancelling of the charter as an act of benevolence to the colony.100
The result surprised every one: the king, by an
order in council, made known, that the disasters of Virginia
were a consequence of the ill government of tile company; that he had resolved, by a new charter, to reserve to himself the appointment of the officers
, a negative on appointments in Virginia
and the supreme control of all colonial affairs.
interests were to be sacredly preserved; and all grants of land to be renewed and confirmed.
Should the company resist the change, its patent would be recalled.101
This was in substance a proposition to revert to the charter originally granted.
It is difficult to obtain a limitation of authority from a corporate body: an aristocracy is, of all forms of government, the most tenacious of life, and the least flexible in its purposes.
The company heard the order
in council with amazement: it was read three several times; and after the reading, for a long while, no man spoke a word.
Should they tamely surrender privileges which were conceded according to the forms of law, had been possessed for many years, and had led them to expend large sums of money, that had as yet yielded no return?
The corporation was inflexible, for it had no interest to yield.
It desired only a month's delay, that all its members might take part in the final decision.
The privy council peremptorily demanded a decisive answer within three days; and,
at the expiration of that time, the surrender of the charter was strenuously refused.102
The liberties of the company were a trust which might be yielded to superior force, but could not be freely abandoned without dishonor.
But the decision of the king was already taken,
and commissioners were appointed to proceed to Virginia
, to examine into the state of the plantation, to ascertain what expectations might be conceived, and to discover the means by which good hopes were to
be realized.103 John Harvey
and Samuel Matthews
both distinguished in the annals of Virginia
, were of the number of the committee.
It now only remained to issue a writ of quo warran-
to against the company.
It was done; and, at the next quarter court, the adventurers, seven only oppo-
sing, confirmed the former refusal to surrender the charter, and made preparations for defence.104
For that purpose, their papers were for a season restored: while they were once more in the hands of the company, they were fortunately copied; and the copy, having been purchased by a Virginian, was consulted by Stith
, and gave to his history the authority of an original record.105
While these things were transacting in England
commissioners, early in the year, arrived in the colony A meeting of the general assembly was immediately convened; and, as the company had refuted the allegations of King James, as opposed to their interests, so the colonists replied to them, as contrary to their honor and good name.
The principal prayer was, that the governors might not have absolute power; and that the liberty of popular assemblies might be retained; ‘for,’ say they, ‘nothing can conduce more to the public satisfaction and the public utility.’106
To urge this solicitation, an agent was appointed to repair to England
The manner in which the expenses of the mission were borne, marks colonial times and manners, and the universality of the excitement.
A tax of four pounds of the best tobacco was levied upon every male who was above sixteen years and had been in the colony
The commissioner unfortunately died on his passage to Europe
The spirit of liberty had planted itself deeply among the Virginians.
It had been easier to root out the staple produce of their plantations, than to wrest from them their established franchises.
The movements of their government display the spirit of the place and the aptitude of the English
colonies for liberty.
A faithless clerk, who had been suborned by one of the com missioners to betray the secret consultations of the Virginians, was promptly punished.
In vain was it attempted, by means of intimidation and promises of royal favor, to obtain a petition for the revocation of the charter.
It was under that charter, that the assembly was itself convened; and, after prudently rejecting a proposition which might have endangered its own existence, it proceeded to memorable acts of independent legislation.109
The rights of property were strictly maintained against arbitrary taxation.
‘The governor shall not lay any taxes or compositions upon the colony, their lands or commodities, other way than by the authority of the general assembly to be levyed and ymployed as the said assembly shall appoynt.’
, the oldest colony, was the first to set the example of a just and firm legislation on the management of the public money.
We shall see others imitate the example, which could not be excelled.
The rights of personal liberty were likewise asserted, and the power of the executive, circumscribed.
The several governors had in vain attempted, by penal statutes, to promote the culture of corn; the true remedy was now discovered
by the colonial legislature.
‘For the encouragement
of men to plant store of corn, the price shall not be stinted, but it shall be free for every man to sell it as deare as he can.’
The reports of controversies in England
, rendered it necessary to provide for the public tranquillity by an express enactment, ‘that no person within the colony, upon the rumor of supposed change and alteration, presume to be disobedient to the present government.’
The law was dictated by the emergency of the times; and, during the struggle in London
, the administration of Virginia
was based upon a popular decree.
These laws, so judiciously framed, show how readily, with the aid of free discussion, men become good legislators on their own concerns; for wise legislation is the enacting of proper laws at proper times; and no criterion is so nearly infallible as the fair representation of the interests to be affected.
While the commissioners were urging the Virginians to renounce their right to the privileges which they exercised so well, the English parliament assembled; and a gleam of hope revived in the company, as it forwarded an elaborate petition110
to the grand inquest of the kingdom.
It is a sure proof of the unpopularity of the corporation, that it met with no support from the commons;111
but Sir Edwin Sandys
, more intent on the welfare of Virginia
than the existence of the company, was able to secure for the colonial staple complete protection against foreign tobacco, by a petition of grace,112
which was followed by a royal proclamation.113
The people of England
could not have given a more earnest proof of their disposition to foster the plantations
, than by restraining all competition in their
own market for the benefit of the American
Meantime, the commissioners arrived from the colony, and made their report to the king.114
They enumerated the disasters which had befallen the infant settlement; they eulogized the fertility of the soil and the salubrity of the climate; they aggravated the neglect of the company in regard to the encouragement of staple commodities; they esteemed the plantations of great national importance, and an honorable monument of the reign of King James; they expressed a preference for the original constitution of 1606; they declared, that the alteration of the charter to so popular a course, and so many hands, referring, not to the colonial franchises, but to the democratic form of the London company, could lead only to confusion and contention; and they promised prosperity only by a recurrence to the original instructions of the monarch.
Now, therefore, nothing but the judicial decision
The decree, which was to be pronounced by judges who held their office by the tenure of the royal pleasure,115
could not long remain doubtful; at the Trinity
term of the ensuing year, judgment was given against the treasurer and company,116
and the patents were cancelled.
Thus the company was dissolved.
It had fulfilled its high destinies; it had confirmed the colonization of Virginia
, and had conceded a liberal form of government
to Englishmen in America
It could accomplish
The members were probably willing to escape from a concern which promised no emolument, and threatened an unprofitable strife; the public acquiesced in the fall of a corporation which had of late maintained but a sickly and hopeless existence; and it was clearly perceived, that a body rent by internal factions, and opposed by the whole force of the English court, could never succeed in fostering Virginia
The fate of the London company found little sympathy; in the domestic government and franchises of the colony, it produced no immediate change.
Sir Francis Wyatt
, though he had been an ardent friend of the London company, was confirmed in office; and he and his
council, far from being rendered absolute, were only empowered to govern ‘as fully and amplye as any governor and council resident there, at any time within the space of five years now last past.’
This term of five years was precisely the period of representative government; and the limitation could not but be interpreted as sanctioning the continuance of popular assemblies.
The king, in appointing the council in Virginia
, refused to nominate the imbittered partisans of the court faction, but formed the administration on the principles of accommodation.117
The vanity of the
monarch claimed the opportunity of establishing for the colony a code of fundamental laws; but death pre-
vented the royal legislator from attempting the task, which would have furnished his self-complacency so grateful an occupation.