Dateline: 1642: King Charles I in an epistle tells the Virginia colonists that he supports them as they outgrow the restrictive company that seeks to recover its investments. Over 30 men signed this proto-Declaration of Independence that breaks free from the original company. Great for family research.
The colonists are outgrowing the original company that set out to search the riches of the New World. They resent the restrictions that the company imposed on them.
The Colonists’ Grievances
Here is only a summary, for it’s too long to transcribe here. Then we’ll get to a modernized transcription of the King’s letter, below.
April 1, 1642
The colonists declare:
(1) We his Majesty’s subjects suffer torments and oppressions from the corporation;
(2) The company controlled a man’s labors and earnings; even in returning home to England he had to leave the fruits of his labours in a Magazine (warehouse);
(3) His Majesty gave his loyal subjects a right to hold assemblies and jury trials;
(4) Land grants come from the King, not the corporation;
(5) Members of the company “are considered by themselves and distinguished in privileges from planters and adventurers not being members, and we further find ourselves (being the King’s grantees) in the said charter condemned”;
(6) The company cannot interfere between us and his Majesty;
(7) Our birth put us under a monarchy, not a “popular and tumultuous government” of the shareholders in a company;
(8) We breach our natural duty and religion to “give up and resign the lands which we had granted and hold from the King upon certain annual rents”;
(9) If we join the company “the freedom of our trade (which is the blood and life of a commonwealth) is impeached”;
The colonists conclude (in a modernized transcription):
We the Governor, Council and Burgesses of this present Grand Assembly, having taken into serious consideration these and many other dangerous effects which must be concomitant in and from a company or corporation, have thought fit to declare and hereby do declare from ourselves and all the commonality of this colony that it was never desired, sought after or endeavoured to be sought for either directly or indirectly by the consent of any Grand Assembly or the common consent of the people. And we do hereby further declare and testify to all the world that we will never admit the restoring of the said company or any for or in their behalf, saving ourselves herein a most faithful and loyal obedience to his sacred Majesty, our dread Sovereign, whose royal and gracious protection and allowance and maintenance of this our just declaration and protestation we doubt not according to his accustomed clemency and benignity to his subjects to find.
William Berkeley [Governor and knight]
Francis Wyatt, John Upton, Obedience Robins, Ben. Harrison, Thos. Dewe, John Hill, Ferd. Franklin, John Weale, Edward Hill, Thos. Harwood, Nath. Gough, Joseph Johnson, Matthew Chiles, Wm Dacker, Wm Butler, Thos. Fallowes, George Worley [Worleigh] George Hardy, Francis Fowler, Thos. Bernard, Edward Windham.
God Save the King!
The King’s Letter of Support
Modernized transcription begins:
C.R. [Carolus Rex]
5 July 1642
Trusty and Well beloved. We greet you well.
Whereas we have received a petition from you, our Governor, Council and Burgesses of the Grand Assembly in Virginia, together with a Declaration and Protestation of the first of April against a petition presented in your names to our House of Commons in this our Kingdom for restoring of the letters patents for the incorporation of the late Treasurer and Company contrary to our intent and meaning; And against all such as shall go about to alienate you from our immediate protection.
And whereas you desire by your petition that we shall confirm this your declaration and protection under our Royal signet and transmit it to this our Colony:
These are to signify your acknowledgement of our great bounty and favour towards you, and your so earnest desire to continue under our immediate protection is very acceptable to us;
And that as we had not before the least intention to consent to the introduction of any Company over that our Colony, so we are by it much confirmed in our former resolutions, as thinking it unfit to change a form of Government wherein (besides many other reasons given and to be given) Our Subjects there (having had so long experience of it) receive so much contentment and satisfaction.
And this our approbation of your petition and protestation, we have thought fit to transmit unto you under our Royal signet,
Given at the Court at York, the 5th day of July 1642.
To Our Trusty and Wellbeloved Our Governor, Council, and Burgesses of the Grand Assembly in Virginia.
Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/9, ed. by H. R. McIlwaine, Classic Reprint Series (orig. Richmond: 1915).