THE HISTORY OF VIRGINIA.
THE BEGINNINGS OF VIRGINIA, 1584-1624.
Early English Explorations.
WHEN Columbus sailed westward from Spain in 1492, had any writer attempted to picture the results which were to follow from his voyage, his views would have been regarded as the utterances of an insane man. Nevertheless, it is true that Columbus pointed the way for the development of great continents, the possibilities of which it took Europe more than two hundred years to grasp. The goal was India, whose wealth was being sought, and a new world was far from the thoughts of Columbus. The lands that he reached he regarded only as a barrier to India, which, doubtless, lay near by.
Having established the fact that a westward voyage might be made to the oriental countries, explorers by the score were soon traversing the high seas, each hoping to be the first to reach, by sea, the long coveted goal. Among these explorers was Americus Vespucius, who, having sailed far south, touched the mainland of South America. In the year 1507 he promulgated his view that the western lands which Columbus and the other explorers had reached were not portions of Asia but a new continent.
In the meantime, some ten years before, Vasco da Gama had sailed southward along the coast of Africa passing the Cape of Good Hope, and striking across the Indian Ocean had reached India. Thus an all-water trade route had been discovered to the east while the explorers were still searching for the westward passage. Da Gama’s success, however, did not deter others from looking for the western passage; in fact, it only stimulated western voyages.
While Spain and Portugal were sending out explorers, England was not unmindful of her own development, and desired to participate in whatever good results might come from the discovery of such a passage, and she, therefore, under the direction of her business-like king, Henry VII., sent out expeditions commanded by John Cabot and his son, Sebastian Cabot, in the years 1497 and 1498. These voyages resulted in the discovery of the shores of North America, extending from Labrador as far south as Florida.
Though the northwest passage was not found other English explorers continued the search, among them Martin Frobisher, who touched the coast of Labrador some eighty years later than the days of Cabot. But during the reign of Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Mary practically nothing was done towards following up the explorations which had been made in earlier years. It remained, therefore, for the reign of Queen Elizabeth to see the expansion of England in all directions. Along with the growth of English towns, English industries and the development of a splendid literature came a commercial spirit which looked to the encompassing of the globe a spirit which has made England the foremost nation of the Twentieth century.
This spirit grew out of opposition to Spain, a desire to prevent her from being the most powerful nation of Europe as the result of the riches which she was securing from South America. English merchant-knights and sea-rovers were soon found in all directions upon the high seas, among them being Hawkins, Grenville, Drake and Gilbert. Hawkins and Drake plundered Spanish commerce on the oceans and frequently touched new lands. Drake on one voyage went as far north along the Pacific coast as the mouth of the Columbia River, and circumnavigated the globe.
As opposition to Spain increased, a feeling grew for the establishment of an English colony in North America. Among the first to undertake it was Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who was undoubtedly stimulated by his half-brother, Raleigh. In 1578 Gilbert started out with his first colony, but on account of a storm was forced to return to England. Five years later he planted a colony on the coast of Newfoundland, but was forced to abandon it, and on his return to England was lost at sea.
The next year, 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh secured, in his own name, the patent which Queen Elizabeth had granted to Gilbert for the planting of a colony in the new world. Raleigh had been Gilbert’s mentor in his colonisation scheme, and now he took upon himself the obligation, as he saw it, of planting an English nation in America as a bulwark against Spanish aggression. The letters patent granted to Raleigh gave all the colonists the rights of English subjects, and allowed Raleigh, his heirs or assigns, to provide such governments for the colony, or colonies, as were in harmony with the English constitution.
The colony of Roanoke Island was located on the island of Roanoke Island, off the east coast of the American state of North Carolina. It was founded on 17 August 1585 with 108 men, making it the first English colony in North America.
The Roanoke Colony.
Having secured the letters patent Raleigh sent out two experienced sea-captains, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow, who, sailing from England in April, 1584, finally reached the coast of North Carolina July 2 of the same year. A few days later they entered Albemarle Sound and landed on Roanoke Island. A glowing report they made of the new world on their return to England, telling of the excellent timber and fruits, and of the game to be found in the new land. It is said that when the report was made to Queen Elizabeth she decided to name the country in honour of herself, the Virgin Queen, and called it “Virginia.” Thereupon Sir Walter proceeded to secure settlers to go to the new land. Some one hundred men set sail from England in a fleet of seven small ships under the command of the famous fighter and sea-rover, Sir Richard Grenville.
The last of July, 1585, the colony landed on Roanoke Island and proceeded to build a small town under the direction of Ralph Lane, who had been sent by Raleigh as governor of the colony. Lane was a man of wisdom and good judgment, and he opposed the selection of Roanoke Island as the site of the colony, and sent out two parties, one by land and one by sea, to meet on the Chesapeake Bay for the selection of a better site. With Lane was Thomas Cavendish, afterwards to become renowned as an explorer; John White, the artist and afterwards governor of the second Roanoke colony; Thomas Hariot, the historian and one of the best known mathematicians of England. Under Lane’s direction a fort was built and the lands in the neighbourhood of Roanoke Island explored as far south as eighty miles. Exploring parties went 130 miles north and northwest.
The neighbourhood of Roanoke was not suitable for a small colony in a strange land. Indians combined against Lane under two Indian chiefs, Wingina and Wanchese. Among the friendly Indian chiefs was Granganimeo and Manteo. An attack was made by the Indians on the fort but it was repulsed, and Wingina was shot and his warriors scattered. A few days later, June 11, 1586, Sir Francis Drake arrived at Roanoke Island with a fleet of twenty-three sails, and after consultation between him and Lane it was decided that the colony should be taken back to England.
On June 19 they sailed back to the mother country. Lane took back to England with him three articles: tobacco, Indian corn and Irish potatoes. Raleigh introduced the use of tobacco in England and also the cultivation of the potato. Indian corn has since become the great product of America. Raleigh constantly thought of the colony which he had planted on the American shores, and before they sailed from America he had sent supplies from England under the direction of Sir Richard Grenville, but they reached Roanoke Island after the colony had departed with Drake. On returning to England they found, much to their surprise, that the colony had not perished from hunger or at the hands of the Indians.
Sir Walter Raleigh was a man of great determination, and Lane’s return to England did not, therefore, cause him to abandon the hope of establishing an English colony in Virginia; so, in the year 1587, he sent out 150 colonists under John White, the artist, who was appointed governor, with twelve assistants, who received from him a charter and were incorporated under the name of “Governor and Assistants of the Citie of Raleigh in Virginia.” Of the 150 settlers seventeen were women and nine were children, and, judging from their names, ten of the men brought their wives and children. Instructions were given that the colony should be planted on the Chesapeake Bay, and since Grenville, who the previous year had carried over some supplies, had left some men at the fort, they were instructed to go by Roanoke Island and get these men before proceeding to Chesapeake Bay. On reaching Roanoke the commander of the fleet, Simon Ferdinando, refused to go farther, so that “White was forced to land and reestablish the colony of Roanoke. The men that Grenville had left behind had been killed by the Croatan Indians according to the stories told by the Indians themselves, but the houses which Lane’s colony had built remained intact.
These houses were soon repaired and the colony began work, but the fleet under Ferdinando sailed away. In a little while the colonists were at war with the Indians, though Manteo still remained friendly and was baptised into the Christian faith. Soon after this (August 18) Virginia Dare was born, the first American child of English parents. In a few weeks White returned to England to get supplies. He was loath to go and tried to persuade some of the assistants to undertake the journey, but, on their refusal, he departed with two small ships which had been left to the colony. On arriving in England he found everything in bustle and confusion on account of the reported invasion of England by Spain; in fact, the Invincible Armada was already sailing towards the English channel.
All English ships and all English sailors were needed to defend England against the Spanish power, yet away. Raleigh prepared, at White’s suggestion, an expedition to go to the relief of the colony, but at the last minute orders were given that it should not sail. A little later, however, two ships were sent out, but being attacked by Spanish vessels were compelled to return to England. Then came the terrible struggle with Spain in which the Invincible Armada was defeated, after which White was finally able to get together supplies, and in March, 1590, sailed for Roanoke.
In August, 1590, three years after he had left the colony, he reached Roanoke Island. Everything was found in ruins; grass was growing in the doorways and no sign of human life was to be seen. On leaving the island in 1587 he had instructed the settlers in the event of leaving the island to carve on a tree or some conspicuous place the name of the place to which they had gone, and if in distress a cross in addition. After a search the word “Croatan” was found carved on a tree without across. Efforts were made to find Croatan, but a storm drove the vessels from the sound, and food supplies being low, the ships sailed to the West Indies. Unfortunately these ships were not under the direction of White. Between 1592 and 1602 no less than five different attempts were made to locate this lost colony, but as a matter of fact no careful search was made at any distance from the shore, and no one has ever been able to place the lost colony of Roanoke.
Sir Walter Raleigh was very persistent in his efforts. He had spent no less than $1,000,000 in attempting to plant a colony and to locate the lost colony. Still he never despaired of seeing Virginia settled by the English. He once said, “I shall yet live to see it an English nation,” and he did, for Jamestown had been settled and was a thriving colony before he was led to the block. The lost colony of Roanoke has remained a mystery in history, some believing that all the colonists were killed, others that they were absorbed by the Croatan Indians, who to-day live in North Carolina and claim that in their veins flows the blood of the Englishmen who we remembers of White’s colony. To-day the spot where Raleigh’s colonies were planted is marked by a monument which bears the following inscription:
“On this site in July-August, 1585 (O. S.), colonists, sent out from England by Sir Walter Raleigh, built a fort, called by them “The New Fort in Virginia.’ “These colonists were the first settlers of the English race in America. They returned to England in July, 1586, with Sir Francis Drake.
“Near this place was born, on the 18th of August, 1587, Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in America daughter of Ananias Dare and Eleanor White, his wife, members of another band of colonists, sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587.
“On Sunday, August 20, 1587, Virginia Dare was baptised. Manteo, the friendly chief of the Hatteras Indians, had been baptised on the Sunday preceding. These baptisms are the first known celebrations of a Christian sacrament in the territory of the thirteen original United States.”
Steps to Permanent Settlement.
The work of Sir Walter Raleigh in trying to establish a colony in Virginia was not entirely futile, though for something over a decade efforts to plant a colony in Virginia were abandoned. However, it was a time in England when progress was everywhere present, in letters, arts, science, explorations and commerce. The spirit of the day was well exemplified in Raleigh himself, and there were others ready to lead in the same movement in which he had figured. His plans and those of Gilbert were, however, too large for individual effort. The natural outcome was the organisation of a company, or companies, for the promotion of colonial efforts, the basal reasons being commercial.
Already large trading companies existed in Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark and even in Russia. In these countries during the 150 years after 1554 there were no less than seventy companies chartered for commercial and colonising purposes, the two ideas being closely related in the purposes of these companies. In the year 1600 Queen Elizabeth chartered the East Indian Company, which was given a monopoly of the trade in all countries lying between the Cape of Good Hope and the Strait of Magellan going east. There were 125 stockholders, and the government of the Company was in the hands of a governor, deputy-governor and a directing board of twenty four members. The organisation of this Company was taken as the basis of the organisation of the London Company of Virginia. Almost simultaneously with the establishment of the East India Company plans were on foot for the establishment of a Virginia company. The Rev. Mr. Hakluyt was urging the establishment of a colony in the West, and among the motives assigned for such a colony were: (1) The discovery of a western passage to India for commerce; (2) a colony to which the unemployed class of England could be transported; (3) to check the power of Spain, and (4) the Christianising of the Indians.
These motives were freely discussed, each promoter stressing that motive which appealed most to him. As a matter off act, the two arguments of greatest weight were the ones for the promotion of commercial enterprise and the Christianising of the “infidels.” Mr. Hakluyt had earnest supporters in Bartholomew Gosnold, a merchant sea-captain, Edward Maria Wingfield, a London merchant, and Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers, two distinguished English gentlemen. Among other earnest advocates were Raleigh Gilbert, a nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh, William Parker, a rich merchant of Plymouth, and other gentlemen and merchants of England.
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The London Company Charter.
Their plans for a large company to be divided into two division were presented to King James and met with his approval, and a charter was granted by him on April 10, 1606, to two companies, one commonly known as the London Company and the other was the Plymouth Company. The London Company was to settle in southern Virginia and the Plymouth Company in northern Virginia. To the London company was granted the right to settle anywhere between latitude 34 and 41, and to the Plymouth Company between latitude 38 and 45, it being stipulated that the lands between 38 and 41 were open to both companies with the proviso that the company last planting a colony should not come nearer than 100 miles of any settlement founded by the other company.
The incorporators of the London Company were Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, Richard Hakluyt and Edward Maria Wingfield. The incorporators of the Plymouth Company were Raleigh Gilbert, William Parker, Thomas Hamhan and George Popham. The Plymouth Company was the first to make an effort at colonisation. In May, 1606, it sent out a colony which settled on the Kennebec River. The death of Popham and Gilbert, both of whom accompanied the settlement, caused the colony to be abandoned, and no other serious attempt was made by this Company.
It remained to the London Company, therefore, to make the first permanent English settlement in America. The charter granted to the London Company in 1606 provided for a council of thirteen residents in England appointed by the King as the ruling body. This council was to establish, with the approval of the King, the form of government which was to prevail in Virginia. To the settlers was granted the right to hold lands and trial by jury, and only five offences were made punishable by death, small as compared with English punishments at that time and adultery.
The plea of the benefit of clergy was not to be allowed except in case of manslaughter. It is interesting to note that this benefit of the clergy was allowed in most of the American colonies for this particular crime down to the Revolution, but the person pleading it was punished with being burned in the hand. All excesses, drunkenness, etc., were subject to punishment. It was provided that everything in the colony should be held in common for a period of at least five years, there being a treasurer or cape-merchant to handle the goods and properties of the adventurers. In matters of religion, the Church of England was established.
Under this charter three small ships were equipped and 104 colonists sent to Virginia by the Company. A council of seven selected from these colonists were to rule in Virginia, one of that number being designated as president. In order to gratify a whim of the King, it was provided that it should not be known who the members of the council would be until the colonists had arrived in Virginia, their names being sealed in a box. The expedition, composed of the three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery under the command of Capt. Christopher Newport, sailed from England on Dec. 19, 1606, and after a rough voyage passed between two capes, which were named Charles and Henry in honour of the two sons of James I.
Settlement at Jamestown.
On April 26, 1607, a landing was effected at Cape Henry, a cross planted, and the country taken possession of in the name of King James of England. After several days and several landings, they passed up a broad river which was named “James” in honour of the King, and on May 13 anchored off Jamestown Island, then a low-lying peninsula. Here the first settlement was begun. Here the council, composed of Edward Maria Wingfield, as president, and Kendall, Ratcliffe, Martin, Gosnold, Newport and Smith, began their management of the first permanent settlement of America. Smith, however, was for a time excluded from the council until he could be tried on the charge of mutiny which had been made against him on the voyage, he being brought to the colony under arrest. He was acquitted and his accuser adjudged to pay him 200 damages. Rude houses were constructed and religious services were regularly held by the Rev. Mr. Hunt, who accompanied the settlers, under an old sail fastened to some trees.
As soon as work had begun on the building of the log huts, Newport returned to England leaving the settlers to continue their operations. Unfortunately, there were few carpenters, labourers and servants among this early body of settlers, most of them being classified as gentlemen. More unfortunate still, however, was the visitation of some terrible disease, probably malarial fever, which fell upon the colonists, and in a short time swept away more than fifty persons, among them Bartholomew Gosnold. Wingfield, on attempting to flee, was deposed as president and Ratcliffe put in his place.
Ratcliffe was incompetent, and the colony went from bad to worse. Wingfield and Kendall entered into a plot to seize the small boat which had been left to the colony, but were detected, and Kendall was tried for treason and shot the first reported execution in America. In the meantime the food supply was low and much of it had been injured by climatic conditions. Still the settlers made some efforts at exploration. Hardly had they landed at Jamestown before some went up the river as far as the falls at Richmond, and late in the fall of 1607 Smith explored the Chickahominy *), was captured, carried before Opecancanough and afterwards before Powhatan.
*) The Chickahominy (pronounced tschicke-) are a Virginia Algonkin people living in the Richmond, Virginia area, particularly in New Kent and Charles City counties. During the arrival of the English colonists in 1607, the Chickahominy were allies of Chief Powhatan. Today, the people consist of about 750 people living within a radius of about five miles of the centre in Charles City County, and several hundred who reside in other regions of the United States. The people were recognised by the state of Virginia in 1983.
Pogahontas by Simon van de Passe, 1616.
Matoaks als Rebecka daughter to the mighty Prince Powhâtan Emperour of Attanoughkomouck als virginia converted and baptized in the Christian faith, and wife to the worff. Engraved portrait of Matoaks or Rebecka, the Native American woman better known as Pocahontas, made in 1616 during her trip in England, where she died shortly after. It is the only known representation of her made during her lifetime.
Upon the entreaties of Pocahontas he was finally released and allowed to return to Jamestown. On reaching the colony in January he found a large per cent, of the settlers dead and the few remaining ones greatly in need of corn. Fortunately for the colony, Newport arrived with a second supply and the colony was saved. In 1608 Smith explored the region of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and drew a map of this region which, considering the information which he had at hand, was extremely accurate. During this summer came Newport with other supplies and settlers, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Forrest and her maid, Anne Burras, who shortly afterwards was married to John Laydon, the first marriage to be celebrated in the colony.
Ratcliffe having proved absolutely unworthy, Smith was finally made president, and during the remaining portion of the year 1608 better houses were built at Jamestown and a good fort constructed. The food supply was very limited, but he made many expeditions among the Indians during the winter and secured the necessary food to keep the colony alive.
During this winter his life was threatened by the Indians, but Pocahontas remained his faithful friend and informed him of their plots. With the spring of 1609 new settlers arrived, all told about 500, and several new settlements were made in the colony, among them a settlement of 120 men in that portion of Richmond now called “Rocketts.”
Difficulties arose there with the Indians, and as Smith was returning from a trip to settle the differences at this plantation, known as Captain West’s plantation, a bag of gunpowder exploded in his boat and he was severely wounded. This forced him to give up his residence in Virginia and he returned to London, the reins of government being placed in the hands of George Percy.
It was a sad day for Virginia when Smith left the colony. Percy proved incompetent. Neither he nor his assistants knew how to deal with the Indians; Pocahontas absented herself from the English; the food supplies were extremely short and the colony entered upon a period known as the starvation time. Throughout the whole winter of 1609-10 suffering was intense; every horse, cow and hog were slaughtered and eaten. The colonists even ate rats, dogs and adders, and it was also reported that an Indian, who had been killed, was eaten. Other horrible accounts of cannibalism are also given us.
The London Company Reorganised.
While matters were going on thus in Virginia, the London Company was considering the problem of the new colony. No returns had been received from the settlement to indicate that the Company would reap any commercial benefit. The colonists had been told to find precious metals, but Newport had only carried to England a shipload of yellow sand and clay that contained no gold. The colony had been a drain upon the Company, and it was, therefore, determined that efforts should be made to reorganise the Company on a broader basis so as to sustain the colony and eventually develop it. Consequently a new charter, drawn by no other than Sir Edwin Sandys, was granted in 1609.
The Company was now made into a great corporation composed of 659 distinguished nobles, knights, gentlemen and merchants of England and some fifty-six city companies of London. The prerogatives of the Company were enlarged. Sir Thomas Smythe was made treasurer and the Earl of Southampton and fifty-one others were appointed a council resident in England. In this council were fourteen members of the House of Lords and thirty members of the House of Commons. To this resident council was granted the right to make all regulations and to determine the form of government for the colony. Thus was established the first great American trust with a monopoly of the trade with colonies to be planted
The boundaries of Virginia were now to be 200 miles south and 200 miles north of Old Point Comfort, and to run west and northwest from sea to sea. It was under this charter that Virginia claimed all of the Northwest Territory in after years. The governing council of this corporation at once determined to change the government in Virginia. It appointed Thomas West, Lord Delaware, governor and captain-general of Virginia, Sir Thomas Gates as lieutenant-governor, and Sir George Somers as admiral under the new charter. A large expedition of ten ships was prepared to go to Virginia under the direction of Newport, Gates and Somers, Lord Delaware to follow later. Eight ships reached Virginia in August with a large number of settlers, but unfortunately two were lost, one being the Sea Venture, which carried Newport, Gates and Somers.
The result was that Smith and the old regime refused to surrender the government into the hands of any newcomers for lack of proper authorisation. When the ships sailed away, however, Smith went with them, leaving the old regime in existence under Percy. The Sea Venture was not lost but wrecked on the Bermudas, and finally, after having passed the winter there, two small boats were constructed in which Somers, Gates and Newport arrived in Virginia. They found the starved colonists who had numbered 500 in the fall now reduced to sixty with no provisions of any kind, so it was agreed that the best solution of the whole matter was the abandonment of the colony. On June 9 all sailed away from Jamestown, fortunately not burning any of the buildings. On nearing the mouth of the river they met a small boat which announced that Lord Delaware had passed through the Capea. They thereupon returned to the Island the next day, having been away for just one night.
Lord Delaware’s timely arrival saved the colony. On reaching Jamestown he fell upon his knees and gave thanks for the salvation of the colony. The new regime was now inaugurated. It was one of pomp and display. The governor marched regularly to church at stated times attended by his guardsmen, forced the people to attend services regularly and put them to work.
On account of the climate Delaware was forced to leave, and in his stead came Sir Thomas Dale, who was a soldier of distinction. Heat once inaugurated military rule. Under him the colony prospered, though his government was one of absolutism. In the meantime, Somers and Gates and others having reported the discovery of the Bermudas, the charter of Virginia was slightly modified in 1612, this being the third charter of the London Company. The modification was made in order to include the Bermuda Islands as a part of Virginia. It also designated that the council resident in London should meet weekly, and that four times a year all members of the Company should meet in a general court. It was further provided that all laws for the government of Virginia were to be made by the Company or its authorised agents.
Dale’s administration is also marked by the marriage of John Rolfe to the Indian princess, Pocahontas. John Rolfe had been wrecked a long with his family on the Bermuda Islands in the Somers and Gates expedition, and there his first wife had died. While a resident of Jamestown he had seen and become enamoured of Pocahontas, who was held there as a prisoner, she having been captured by Captain Argall on the Potomac River. The marriage was celebrated in the church at Jamestown, and their honeymoon was spent at Rolfe’s estate on the James River known as Varina. In 1616 Dale returned to England, and with him went Master John Rolfe and his wife, who was graciously received at the court of King James and was lionised by London society. Mistress Rolfe died in London, leaving one son from whom so many Virginians claim descent.
The First American Legislative Assembly.
Dale’s successor was Sir George Yeardley, who for some ten years with intervening periods was governor of the colony. He was a resident of Virginia, had a large plantation at Flower de Hundred, and was deeply interested in the development of the colony. When he became governor there were some 700 or 800 settlers. Within three years the population was probably 2,000, distributed among some eleven settlements. This growth in population was due to many causes: (1) More interest in the colony on the part of the London Company secured by frequent meetings; (2) the beginnings of the tobacco trade, the first tobacco being shipped to England by John Rolfe in 1612, and (3) Yeardley’s efforts to secure married settlers and the building of permanent homes.
The constant reports made from Virginia to the London Company and the interest which was secured caused a more liberal attitude to be developed in the London Company towards the management of the Virginia colony. Moreover, many members of the House of Lords and especially of the House of Commons were opposed to the high-handed measures of King James in England, and were anxious to establish a colony where a liberal government might prevail. The outcome was a struggle in the Company, beginning in 1618, between the King’s party and the liberal faction as it existed in Parliament. In other words, the meetings of the council of the London Company and the general courts became the debating ground of English conditions as well as Virginia conditions, and many a parliamentary debate was, as it were, transferred to the meetings of the London Company.
In 1618 very liberal instructions were given by the Company to Sir George Yeardley for the management of the colony of Virginia, instructions which allowed him to call a General Assembly. Under these instructions the governor issued a summons for the election of two delegates from each of the eleven plantations of the colony, which representatives met at Jamestown on July 30, 1619, and proceeded to organise the first legislative assembly of America. In addition to these representatives, the Assembly was also to be composed of the governor and his council, making a unicameral body.
The first Assembly was held in the church at Jamestown. John Pory, secretary of the colony, was elected speaker. Every member was required to take the oath of supremacy as administered to the members of the English Parliament. The proceedings of this Assembly in Pory’s autograph were found in the British record office by Mr. Bancroft, and show what was discussed by these early lawmakers. Among the important acts was one stating that since the London Company insisted on approving the laws of the Virginia Assembly, the Virginia Assembly should likewise have the privilege of approving the acts of the London Company the early beginnings of resistance to legislation without representation. The London Company was also requested to send over labourers and workmen to build the college at Henrico.
The first movement for a college to be established in Virginia was made about 1616, and the King authorized the bishops of England to take up a collection for it, which resulted in securing 1,500. The Company granted certain lands at Henricopolis, now Dutch Gap, and in 1620 sent over George Thorpe as superintendent of the college property with workmen and carpenters. It was doubtless due to the request of the Virginia Assembly, or House of Burgesses, as it is so commonly called, that Thorpe was sent. Later the Rev. Mr. Copeland was elected rector, but never reached Virginia because the massacre of 1622 had destroyed the college property. Thus the first college in America had its beginnings before any other settlement than Virginia had been made. The early Virginians, therefore, took an interest in educational matters, even in the London Company period.
Some of the other acts of the first Assembly related to drinking, and it was unlawful for any man to get drunk. It was also made unlawful for any man to wear fine apparel provided he did not pay to the support of the church according to the quality of the clothes he wore. Anyone who was guilty of swearing, after having been three times admonished, should be fined five shillings for every offence, the fine to go to the church. The Assembly was in session only five days, but judging from the reports of its proceedings the men were conservative and business-like, and had little difficulty in passing such regulations as seemed to them best for the colony. The spirit of independence and freedom shown by this Assembly was indicative of that spirit which was afterwards to produce the American Revolution.
Charter of London Company Annulled.
For the next three years the colony grew rapidly. Negro slavery was introduced in 1619, twenty slaves being purchased from a Dutch man-of-war, eight of whom became the property of the governor. Some ninety young ladies were brought over to become wives of the settlers, and thus more permanent homes were formed. The tobacco industry increased, and in 1620 20,000 pounds were shipped to England. By 1622 the number of settlements was some twenty-four or twenty-five.
The Indians saw with amazement the occupancy of their lands by the whites. At the time that the first settlement was made at Jamestown, Powhatan, as he was called, was ruler of a loose confederacy of small Indian tribes in eastern Virginia. At first he was hostile to the English, but though he was a wily diplomat he was no match for John Smith, and finally yielded to all the requests of the English without serious conflict.
After the capture of his daughter and her conversion to Christianity and marriage to John Rolfe, he and his tribe lived in peace with the English. The tie between the races was, however, somewhat broken by the death of Pocahontas, and later entirely severed by the death of Powhatan.
The same chieftain who had first captured Smith in 1607, Opecancanough, now became the ruler of Powhatan’s people, and urged them to prevent a further growth of the English settlements. The outcome was a sudden and unexpected uprising in the spring of 1622 which resulted in the destruction of the city of Henricopolis and several other smaller plantations, and the death of some 300 settlers, among them Capt. William Powell, who had been a member of the first legislative Assembly, and probably John Rolfe, who had married Pocahontas. This was a severe blow to the colony, and it was some six or eight months before it again began to receive new settlers and to take on new life.
While these affairs were going on in Virginia, the situation in the London Company in London was becoming more critical. Sir Thomas Smythe, in 1619, having been appointed by the King a commissioner of the navy, declined reelection as treasurer of the London Company, and Sir Edwin Sandys was elected as his successor.
The following year when the question of election came up the King sent word that Sir Edwin Sandys was persona non grata, whereupon the liberal faction placed in nomination the Earl of Southampton, who was elected. Southampton was equally as objectionable, but as long as the London Company remained in existence he was reflected to his office. In other words, the London Company was controlled by the more liberal element of Parliament which was opposed to King James’ notion of Divine Eight and royal prerogative. It was, therefore, the King’s desire to annul the charter of the London Company and to break up its meetings, which, to his mind, were the hot-bed of sedition.
Among the King’s supporters were Sir Thomas Smythe, Robert Rich (Earl of Warwick), and many other prominent English gentlemen and merchants. In other words, the merchant class, who had the monopoly of the trade, were afraid of the liberal policies of the Sandys-Southampton people who were led by Sir Edwin and the Earl, with their able associates George Sandys, the Ferrars, the Earl of Dorset, William Cavendish and others. In 1623 the King, disgusted with the management of the London Company, sent a commission to Virginia to report on the state of the colony. Its report was adverse to the London Company, claiming that its management of Virginia was unsatisfactory.
The Virginians sent a commissioner saying that they were thoroughly satisfied with the government they enjoyed. The London Company itself prepared an answer to the King. However, James pushed proceedings to a finish, and by quo warranto *) Chief Justice Ley declared the charter of the London Company null and void. Thus ended, in 1624, the rule of the London Company in
*) Quo warranto (from Medieval Latin for “by what right?”) is a “prerogative” writ (exclusive right of authority) directed against a person by summoning him or her to appear before a judge, in order to require the person to whom it is directed to prove what authority he or she has to exercise certain rights or powers he or she claims to possess.
Fortunately for the students of history, the proceedings of this Company were preserved by Nicholas Ferrar *) and were finally bought by William Byrd, of Virginia **), and, passing through several hands, reached Thomas Jefferson, and with his library were purchased by the United States. To-day they are preserved in the Library of Congress.
*) Nicholas Ferrar (22 February 1592 – 4 December 1637) was a British politician, founder of the Little Gidding community, which T. S. Eliot visited in 1936, and from which he drew the inspiration for the last of the Four Quartets.
**) William Byrd I, born in 1652, died on 12 April 1704, was a London silversmith and later a colonist in America. William Byrd I was born in 1652 in Shadwell, London, England, to John Byrd (c. 1620-1677), a London silversmith, and Grace Stegge. William arrived in Virginia in the late 1660s, like his uncle, Captain Thomas Stegge. On 27 October 1673, he was granted 5 km2 of land on the James River. Byrd became a successful fur trader in Richmond, Virginia. Byrd’s land became (after his death) a modern site in Richmond. Around 1673, he married Maria Horsmanden (?-9 November 1699), from Hampton (Kent), England, daughter of Warham Horsemanden.
Virginia now became a royal province, but the work of the London Company could not be entirely undone. To this great trust or corporation is due the establishment of the first permanent settlement in America at the expense of several millions of dollars to the incorporators. The establishment of a representative form of government in the new world is a heritage which we have from the London Company.
It was the purpose of James to take from the colony much of the freedom in governmental affairs which it had enjoyed under the London Company. Fortunately for Virginia, James died before he could prepare a plan of government for the colony, and Charles I. was persuaded by the Virginians, who granted him certain duties on tobacco from the colony, to continue a representative form of government. Thus one of the most abiding influences of the London Company popular government was preserved in the American colonies and eventually produced our republic.
Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler (October 29, 1872 – May 31, 1934),
Professor of History, Richmond College; author of Makers of Virginia History, etc.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Brown: Genesis of the United States; Campbell: History of Virginia; Chandler and Thames: Colonial Virginia; Connor: Beginnings of English America; Fiske: Old Virginia and Her Neighbors; Hariot: A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia; Hening: Statutes at Large; Kingsbury: Records of the Virginia Company of London; Neill: The Virginia Company; Smith, John: General History of Virginia; Tyler: Cradle of the Republic, England in America, Narratives of Early Virginia.
Source: The South in the building of the nation : a history of the southern states designed to record the South’s part in the making of the American nation; to portray the character and genius, to chronicle the achievements and progress and to illustrate the life and traditions of the southern people by Southern historical publication society. Richmond, Va.: The Southern historical publication society, c1909-1913.