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nesses and sufferers in those times, had framed, out of their duty to their country and love of truth, the following answer given to the praises of Sir T. Smith's government, in the said declaration."
They next drafted a petition to the king, which, with a letter to the privy council and the other papers, were committed to the care of Mr. John Pountis, a member of the council, who was selected to go to England to represent the general interests of the colony before his majesty and the privy council; and whose expenses were provided for by a tax of four pounds of the best merchantable tobacco for every male person sixteen years of age, who had been in the country for one year. This gentleman unfortunately died on his passage. The letter to the privy council marks very strongly the value which they set even at that early day upon the right of legislating for themselves; the principal prayer in it being, “ that the governors may not have absolute power, and that they might still retain the liberty of popular assemblies, than which, nothing could more conduce to the public satisfaction and public utility.”
A contest of wits was commenced between the commissioners and the Assembly. The former, under various pretexts, withheld from the latter a sight of their commission, and the other papers with which they had been charged; and the governor and the Assembly thought proper to preserve an equal mystery as to their own proceedings. In this dilemma Mr. Pory, who was one of the commissioners, and who had been secretary to the company, and discharged from his post for betraying its councils to the earl of Warwick, now suborned Edward Sharpless, a clerk of the council, to give him copies of the proceedings of that body and of the Assembly. This treachery was discovered, and the clerk was punished with the loss of his ears; while an account was sent home to the company, expressive of the greatest abhorrence at the baseness and treachery of Pory. The commissioners finding their secret manæuvring defeated, next endeavored, by the most artful wheedling, to induce the Assembly to petition the crown for a revocation of the charter. In reply to this the Assembly asked for their authority to make such a proposition, which of course they could not give without betraying their secret instructions, and were compelled to answer the requisition in general terms and professions. The Assembly took no farther notice of the commissioners, but proceeded with their ordinary legislation.
Thirty-five acts of this Assembly have been preserved to the present time, and exhibit, with great strength, the propriety and good sense with which men can pass laws for the regulation of their
own interests and concerns. One of these acts establishes at once, in the most simple and intelligible language, the great right of exemption from taxation without representation; it runs in these words :---" The governor shall not lay any taxes or impositions upon the colony, their lands or commodities, other way than by the authority of the General Assembly, to be levied and employed as the said Assembly shall appoint." By a subsequent act it was declared that the governor should not withdraw the inhabitants from their private labors to any service of his own, upon any color whatsoever and in case the public service required the employment of many hands, before the holding of a General Asserbly, he was to order it, and the levy of men was to be made by the governor and whole body of the council, in such manner as would be least burdensome to the people and most free from partiality. To encourage good conduct, the old planters who had been in the colony since the last arrival of Gates, were exempted from taxation or military duty. Many acts of general utility were passed; the members of the Assembly were privileged from arrest; lands were to be surveyed and their boundaries recorded, which is no doubt the origin of our highly beneficial recording statutes; vessels arriving were prohibited from breaking their cargoes until they had reported themselves; inspectors of tobacco were established in every settlement; the use of sealed weights and measores was enforced ; provision was made for paying the public debt,“ brought on by the late troubles ;" no person was, upon the rumor of supposed change and alteration, to
presume to be disobedient to the present government, or servants to their private officers, masters, or overseers, at their uttermost perils.
Wise regulations were likewise made to prevent surprises by the Indians; every house was to be fortified with palisadoes; no man should go or send abroad without a party sufficiently armed, or to work without their arms, with a sentinel over them; the inhabitants were forbidden to go aboard ships or elsewhere in such numbers as to endanger the safety of their plantations; every planter was to take care to have sufficient arms and ammunition in good order; watch was to be kept by night; and no planter was to suffer powder to be expended in amusement or entertainments. To promote corn-planting, and ensure plenty of provision, no limit was fixed to its price ; viewers were appointed to see that every man planted a sufficiency for his family, and all trade with the savages for corn was strictly prohibited.
Having thus given a specimen of colonial spirit, and colonial legislation, we return to the little intrigues of James, who was striving by every means in his power to become possessed of the control of the colony; partly to gratify his love of arbitrary authority and of money, and partly to gratify his royal self-complacency, by framing a code of laws for a people with whose character and condition he was utterly unacquainted, and who, from the specimens recently given, appeared to be fully competent to the management of their own affairs, without the dictation or advice of this royal guardian ; who, while he displayed the craft without the talent of a Philip, aspired to the character of a Solon. The recent acts of the king led to a solemn council of the company on the state of their affairs, in which they confirmed by an overwhelming majority the previous determination to defend their charter, and asked for a restitution of their papers for the purpose of preparing their defence. This request was pronounced reasonable by the attorney-general, and complied with. While these papers were in the hands of the company, they were transcribed, and the copy has been fortunately preserved, and presents a faithful record of many portions of Virginia history, which it would be otherwise impossible to elucidate.*
The king had caused a quo warranto to be issued against the Nov. 10, 1624. company soon after the appointment of his com
missioners to go to Virginia, and the cause was tried in the King's Bench, in Trinity Term of 1624. A cause which their royal master had so much at heart could not long be doubtful with judges entirely dependent upon his will for their places; it is even credibly reported that this important case, whereby the rights of a powerful corporation were divested, and the possibility of a remuneration for all of their trouble and expense forever cut off, was decided upon a mere technical question of special pleading !+
* Burke, p. 274-5. Stith compiled his history principally from these documents. + Note to Bancroft, p. 207. Stith, p. 329, 330, doubts if judgment was passed. The doubt may be removed. “ Before the end of the same term, a judgment was declared by the Lord Chief Justice Ley, against the company and their charter, only upon failer or mistake in pleading." See a Short Collection of the most Remarkable Pas. sages from the Original to the Dissolution of the Virginia Company: London, 1651, p. 15. See also Hazard, vol. I. p. 19; Chalmers, p. 62 ; Proud's Pennsylvania, vol. I.
In the mean time the commissioners had returned, and reported very favorably of the soil and climate of Virginia, but censuring deeply the conduct of the company,-recommending the government of the original charter of 1606, and declaring that a body so large and so democratic in its forms as the company, could never persevere in a consistent course of policy, but must veer about as the different factions should prevail. In this it must be admitted that there was much truth, and all hopes of profit having for some time expired, and the company only being kept up by the distinguished men of its members, from patriotic motives and as an instrument of power for thwarting the king, in which capacity its present unpopularity rendered it of little use—it was now suffered to expire under the judicial edict, without a groan. The expiration of the charter brought little immediate change to the actual government of the colony a large committee was formed by the king, consisting principally of his privy council, to discharge the functions of the extinct company; Sir Francis Wyatt was reappointed governor, and he and his council only empowered to govern “ as fully and amply as any governor and council resident there, at any time within the space of five years last past”which was the exact period of their representative government. The king, in appointing the council in Virginia, refused to appoint embittered partisans of the court faction, but formed the government of men of moderation.
So leaving Virginia free, while his royal highness is graciously pleased to gratify his own vanity in preparing a new code of laws to regulate her affairs, we pass on to a new chapter.
PROGRESS OF THE COLONY FROM THE DISSOLUTION OF THE LONDON COMPANY,
TO THE BREAKING OUT OF BACON'S REBELLION IN 1675.
Accession of Charles I.—Tobacco trade.— Yeardley governor_his commission favora
ble-his death and character.—Lord Baltimore's reception.-State of religion-legis. lation upon the subject.— Invitation to the Puritans to settle on Delaware BayHarrey governor.-Grant of Carolina and Maryland.-Harvey deposed-restored.Wyatt governor.-Acts of the Legislature improperly censured.-Berkeley governor. - Indian relations.—Opechancanough prisoner—his death.-Change of government in England.-Fleet and army sent to reduce Virginia.-Preparation for defence by Berkeley.- Agreement entered into between the colony and the commissioners of the commonwealth.--Indian hostilities.—Matthews elected governor.—Difficulties between the governor and the legislature-adjusted.-State of the colony and its trade.-Com. missioners sent to England.—The Restoration.-General legislation. The dissolution of the London Company was soon followed by
the death of James, and the accession of his son, March 27, 1625. Charles I. The king troubled himself little about the political rights and privileges of the colony, and suffered them
to grow to the strength of established usage by his wholesome neglect; while he was employed in obtaining a monopoly of their tobacco. This valuable article, the use of which extended with such unaccountable rapidity, had early attracted the avidity of King James. The 19th article of the charter of 1609 had exempted the company, their agents, factors, and assignees, from the payment of all subsidies and customs in Virginia for the space and twenty years, and from all taxes and impositions forever, upon any goods imported thither, or exported thence into any of the realms or dominions of England ; except the five per cent. usual by the ancient trade of merchants. But notwithstanding the express words of this charter, a tax was laid by the farmers of the customs, in the year 1620, upon the tobacco of the colony; which was not only high of itself, but the more oppressive because it laid the same tax upon Virginia and Spanish tobacco, when the latter sold in the market for three times the price of the former. In the same year the same prince was guilty of another violation of the charter, in forcing the company to bring all of their tobacco into England; when he found that a portion of their trade had been diverted into Holland, and establishments made at Middleburg and Flushing. The charters all guarantied to the colony all of the rights, privileges, franchises, and immunities of native born Englishmen, and this act of usurpation was the first attempt on the part of the mother country to monopolize the trade of the colony. The next year the king, either his avidity being unsatisfied, or not liking the usurped and precarious tenure by which his gains were held, inveigled the Virginia and Somer Isles company into an arrangement, by which they were to become the sole importers of tobacco; being bound, however, to import not less than forty nor more than sixty thousand pounds of Spanish varinas, and paying to the king, in addition to the sixpence duty before paid, one-third part of all the tobacco landed in the realms. The king, on his part, was to prohibit all other importation and all planting in England and Ireland ; and that which was already planted was to be confiscated.
When the company petitioned parliament to prolong its existence, in opposition to the efforts of the king, they failed—but that portion of their petition, which asked for the exclusive monopoly of
tobacco to Virginia and the Somer Isles, was grantSep. 29, 1624.
ed, and a royal proclamation issued accordingly. Whether this exclusiveness was understood with the limitation in the previous contract between the king and the two companies, it is impossible to say, as the original documents are not accessible to the writer.* But the probabilities are greatly against the limitation.
Charles had not been long on the throne before he issued a
* Burke, I. 291, and Bancroft, I. 206-quoting Stith, Cobbett's Parliament. Hist. and Hazard.
April 9, 1625. proclamation, confirming the exclusive privileges
of the Virginia and Somer Isles tobacco ; and prohibiting a violation of their monopoly, under penalty of censure by the dread star-chamber. This was soon followed by another, in which he carefully set forth the forfeiture of their charter by the company, and the immediate dependence of the colony upon the crown; concluding by a plain intimation of his intention to become their sole factor.
Soon after this, a rumor reached the colonies that an individual was in treaty with the king for an exclusive contract for tobacco; one of the conditions of which would have led to the importation of so large an amount of Spanish tobacco, as would have driven that of the colonists from the market. The earnest representations of the colony on this subject caused an abandonment of the scheme; but in return, the colony was obliged to excuse itself from a charge of trade with the Low Countries, and promise to trade only with England. But the king's eagerness for the possession of this monopoly was not to be baffled thus. He made a formal proposition to the colony for their exclusive trade, in much the same language as one tradesman would use to another; and desired that the General Assembly might be convened for the purpose of Mar. 26, 1628.
considering his proposition. The answer by the
General Assembly to this proposition is preserved. It sets forth in strong, but respectful language the injury which had been done the planters, by the mere report of an intention to subject their trade to a monopoly: they state the reasons for not engaging in the production of the other staples mentioned by the king; and dissent from his proposition as to the purchase of their tobacco; demanding a higher price and better terms of admission, in exchange for the exclusive monopoly which he wished. In the mean time, the death of his father rendered it necessary
for Sir Francis Wyatt to return to Europe, to attend to his 1626.
private affairs; and the king appointed Sir George Yeardley his successor. This was itself a sufficient guarantee of the political privileges of the colony; as he had had the honor of calling the first colonial assembly. But in addition to this, his powers were, like those of his predecessor, limited to the executive authority exercised by the governor within five years last past. These circumstances taken in connection with the express sanction given by Charles to the power of a legislative assembly, with regard to his proffered contract for tobacco, sufficiently prove that he had no design of interfering with the highly prized privilege of self-government enjoyed by the colonists: and fully justifies the General Assembly in putting the most favorable construction upon the king's ambiguous words, announcing his determination to preserve in violate all the “former interests” of Virginia, which occur in his letter of 1627.
Thus were those free principles established in Virginia, for which the mother country had to struggle for some time longer.