Dateline: Virginia: The Governor and Council and the Burgesses first met on July 30, and here they meet the next day. I feel something significant is happening, History in the making!
Yesterday, July 30, after the members of this fledgling government were seated in the church and prayers were said, the two committees looked through the first two books of the Charter. That post had a lot of names. Click here:
The two committees assigned to read the two books of the Charter present six petitions to the Treasurer, Council and Virginia Company in England.
The big issue: Many people have been here for before 1619 and have lived outside of the Virginia Company; will the Company take from them their own privileges and liberties?
Here are some main points of the petitions:
- The land patents granted outside the Company must be protected;
- The ministers of the gospel who are part of the Incorporations must be willing to raise crops (manure their parish houses);
- People born here in Virginia, especially men and their wives, should have a share apiece;
- A sub-treasurer here in Virginia would be permitted to collect the rents in commodity, since the Virginians have no mint;
- The Treasurer, Council and Company should change the name from an Indian name to another one.
- Governor Sir George Yeardley suggests the plantations move close together, in light of the doubtful times between us and the Indians;
- The Great Charter was approved of by general assent and applause;
- Ever the businessmen, they discussed the price of tobacco;
Modern transcription begins:
The next day therefore out of the opinions of the said committees, it was agreed those petitions ensuing should be framed to be presented to the Treasurer, Council and Company in England.
Upon the Committee’s perusal of the first book, the General Assembly do become most humble suitors to their lordships and to the rest of that honourable Council and renowned Company that albeit they have been pleased to allot unto the Governor to themselves together with the Council of Estate [State] here, and to the officers of Incorporations, certain large portions of land to be laid out within the limits of the same.
Yet that they would vouchsafe also that such grounds as heretofore had been granted by patent to the ancient planters by former Governors that had from the Company receive commission so to do, might not now after so much labour and cost and so many years habitation be taken from them.
And to that end [purpose or goal] that no man might do or suffer any wrong in kind, that they would favour us so much (if they mean to grant this our petition) as to send us notice what commission or authority from granting lands they have given to each particular Governor in times past.
The second petition of the General Assembly framed by the committees out of the second book is that the Treasurer and Company in England would be pleased with as much convenient speed as may be to send men hither to occupy their lands belonging to the four Incorporations, we will as their own behoof [advantage] and profit as for the maintenance of the Council of Estate [State], who are now to their extreme hindrance often drawn far from their private business and likewise that they will have a care to send tenants to the ministers of the four Incorporations to manure their gleeb [parish house] to the intent that the allowance they have allotted them 200 li a year may the more easily be raised.
The third petition humbly presented by this General Assembly to the Treasurer, Council of State and Company is that it may plainly be expressed in the great commission (as indeed it is not) that the ancient planters of both sorts, viz. such as before SIR THOMAS DALE’s departure were come hither upon their own charges, and such also were brought hither upon the Company’s cost may have their second, third, and more divisions successively in as large and free manner as any other Planters. Also that they will be pleased to allow to the male children, of them and of all others begotten in Virginia, being the only hope of a posterity, a single share apiece and shares for their wives as for themselves, because that in a new plantation it is not known whether man or woman be the most necessary.
Their fourth petition is to beseech the Treasurer, Council and Company that they would be pleased to appoint a sub-treasurer here to collect their rents to the end [purpose or goal] that the inhabitants of this Colony be not tied to an impossibility of paying the same yearly to the Treasurer in England and that they would enjoin the said sub-treasurer not precisely according to the Letter of the Charter to exact money of us (whereof we have none at all, as we have no mint), but the true value of the rent in commodity.
The fifth petition is to beseech the Treasurer, the Council and Company that towards the erecting of the University and College they will send, when they shall think most convenient, workmen of all sorts fit for that purpose.
The sixth and last is that they will be pleased to change the savage name of Kiccowtan and to give the Incorporation a new name.
These are the several petitions drawn by the committees out of the two former books which the whole General Assembly in manner and form above set down do most humbly offer up and present to the favourable construction of the Treasurer, Council, and Company in England;
These two petitions thus concluded on, those two committees brought in a report what they had observed in the two latter books, which has nothing else but that they perfection of them was such as they could find nothing therein subject to exception. Only the Governor’s particular opinion to myself in private has been, as touching a clause in the third book that in these doubtful time ha between us and the Indians, it would behoove us not to make so large a distance between plantation and plantation as ten miles but for more strength and security to draw near together.
At the same time, there remaining no farther scruple in the minds of the Assembly touching the said Great Charter of Laws, Orders and Privileges, the Speaker put the same to the question and so it had both the general assent and the applause of the whole Assembly, who as they professed themselves in the first place most submissively thankful to Almighty God therefore, so the commanded the Speaker to return (as now he does) their due and humble thanks to the Treasurer, Council and Company for so many privileges and favours as well in their own names, as in the names of the whole Colony whom they represented.
This being dispatched, we fell once more to debating of such instructions given by the Council in England to several Governors as might be converted into laws, the last whereof was the establishment of the price of tobacco, namely of the best at 3s and of the second at 18d the pound.
At the reading of this, the Assembly thought good to send for MR. ABRAHAM PERCY, the Cape Merchant [“Cap” or “head” merchant], to publish this instruction to him and to demand of him if he knew any impediment why it might not be admitted of. His answer was that he had not as yet received any such order from the Adventurers of the Magazine in England.
And not withstanding he saw the authority was good, yet he was unwilling to yield till such time as the Governor and Assembly had laid their commandment upon him, out of the authority of the foresaid Instruction as follows:
By the General Assembly
We will require you, MR ABRAHAM PERCY, Cape Merchant, from this day forward to take notice that according to an article in the Instructions confirmed by the Treasurer, Council, and Company in England at a General Quarter Court, both by voices and under their hands and common seal, and given to SIR GEORGE YEARDLEY, Knight, this present governor, December 1, 1618, that you are bound to accept of the tobacco of the Colony, either for commodities or upon bills at three shillings the best and the second sort at 18d the pound, and this shall be your sufficient discharge.
James City, out of the said General Assembly July 31, 1619
At the same time the Instructions convertible into laws were referred to the consideration of the above named committees, viz. the general Instructions to the second, to be returned by them into the Assembly on Monday morning.
The General Charter, sent out by the Company in England and approved of by the whole Assembly, won’t last. Eventually people will want their own freedom and will appeal to the king himself. Further, Sir George Yeardly was right to be concerned about the “doubtful times” with the Indians. In 1622, they massacred over one quarter of the English settlers; the Virginia Company went bankrupt, but the settlers didn’t grieve over it. The king dissolved it, and the Virginians carried on.
You Are There! America’s First Government Meeting, July 30, 1619 (lots of names at this post, many of whom are “gateway ancestors”–see the link, below).
Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/9, ed. by H. R. McIlwaine, Classic Reprint Series (orig. Richmond: 1915).