You Are There! America’s Third and Fourth Government Meetings, August 1-2, 1619

Dateline: Virginia. The meeting on August 1 has to qualify as the most solemn and briefest in early American history. Then, meeting on August 2, they carried on. Would you like to live under their list of rules?

Continuing from July 30, the Governor, his Council, and the General Assembly met in plenary session. This is the third and fourth days in the first weeklong convention. History comes alive!

Here’s the exact and complete wording of the meeting on August 1:

“Mr. Shelley, one of the Burgesses, deceased.”

The enrollment on July 30 says he was from Smyth’s Hundred. Click on You Are There! America’s First Government Meeting, July 30, 1619.

Now back to the sad event. Just seven words. Anyone out there know from family tradition what he died from?

In the days before bypass surgeries and even basic medical science (not like today), I get the impression that he died right in the middle of them. They dismissed the meeting for the entire day. No doubt if Mr. Shelley had family members in Virginia, the Burgesses sent servants back to his plantation to tell them the sad news. Or they sent word back to England if he had left his family behind.

But the death did not stop them. They resumed their business the next day.

First the Governor, Council, and Assembly take care of the John Martin case, which was brought up on the first day, July 30. The two issues: Martin enjoys a patent that allows him too much liberty: he can join the Burgesses, but he may choose not to follow their laws. Is he willing to suppress that clause in his patent? The second issue is his abuse of the Indians who sought justice from the Governor. Is he willing to give the Governor security if he goes up the bay in his shallop and trade with the Indians?

The second major section, divided into subsections in bold font, concerns the rules of conduct for the Virginians.

The third major section is the business side: How to handle the tobacco trade.


Modern transcription begins:

Captain John Martin (according to the summons sent him on Friday, July 30) made his personal appearance at the bar, when as the Speaker having first read unto him the orders of the Assembly that concerned him, he pleaded largely for himself to them both and endeavoured to answer some other things that were objected against his patent.

In fine being demanded out of the former order, whether he would quit that clause of his patent which (quite otherwise than Sir William Throckmorton, Captain Christopher Lawnes, and other men’s patents) exempts himself and his people from all services of the Colony, except only in case of war against a foreign or domestic enemy.

His answer was negative that he would not infringe any part of the patent. Whereupon it was resolved by the Assembly that his Burgesses should have no admittance.

To the second order his answer was affirmative, namely that (his patent notwithstanding) whensoever he should send into a bay to trade, he would be content to put in security to the governor for the good behavior of his people towards the Indians.

It was at the same further ordered by the Assembly that the Speaker in their names should (as he now does) humbly demand of the Treasurer, Council, and Company an exposition of this one clause in Captain Martin’s patent, namely where it is said that he is to enjoy his lands in as large and ample a manner to all intents and purposes as any lord of any Manors in England doth hold his ground, out of which some have collected; that he might by the same grant protect men from paying their debts and from diverse other dangers of law. The least the Assembly can allege against this clause is that it is obscure and that it is a thing impossible for us here to know the prerogatives of all Manors in England.

The Assembly therefore humbly beseeches their lordships and the rest of the honourable board that in case they shall find anything in this or any other part of his grant, whereby that clause towards the conclusion of the Great Charter (viz. that all grants as well of the one sort as of the other respectively be made with equal favor and grants of like liberties and immunities as near as may be) might in any sort be contradicted; or the uniformity and equality of laws and orders extending over the whole Colony might be impeached;

That they would be pleased to remove any such hindrance as may divert out of the true course the free and public current of justice.

Upon the same ground and reason their lordships together with the rest of the Council and Company are humbly sought by the General Assembly that if in that other clause which exempts Captain Martin and his people from all services of the Colony etc. they shall find any resistance against that equality and uniformity of laws and orders intended now by them to be established over the whole Colony that they would be pleased to reform it.

In fine, whereas Captain Martin for those ten shares allowed him for his personal adventure and for his adventure of 70li besides does claim 500 acres a share; that the Treasurer, Council and Company would vouchsafe to give notice to the Governor here what kind of shares they meant he should have, when they gave him his patent.

The premises about Captain Martin thus resolved, the Committee appointed to consider what instructions are fit to be converted into laws, brought in their opinions and first of some of the general instruction.

Transcription ends.


These rules were laid out in an earlier post, here.

This is a modern transcription of the exact original words, except the subsection titles in bold font (those are mine).

Here begin the laws drawn out of the Instructions given by his Majesty’s Council of Virginia in England to my lord La Warre, Captain Argall, & Sir George Yeardley, knight.

Conduct Towards the Indians

By this present General Assembly be it enacted that no injury or oppression be wrought by the English against the Indians whereby the present peace might be disturbed and ambient quarrels might be revived.

And farther be it ordained that the Chicohomini [Indians] are not to be excepted out of this Law, until either that such order come out of England, or that they do provoke us by some new injury;

Personal and Social Conduct

Against idleness, gaming, drunkenness and excess in apparel, the Assembly has enacted as follows:

First in detestation of idlers, be it enacted, that if any man be found to live as an idler or renegade, though a freed man, it shall be lawful for that Incorporation or Plantation to which he belongs to appoint him a Master to serve for wages till he show apparent signs of amendment.

Against gaming at dice & cards be it ordained by this present Assembly that the winner or winners shall lose all his or their winnings & both winners & losers shall forfeit ten shillings a man, one ten shillings whereof to go to the discoverer [the one who tells], and the rest to charitable & pious uses in the Incorporation where the faults are committed.

Against drunkenness be it also decreed that if any private person be found culpable thereof for the first time he is to be reproved privately by the Minister, the second time publicly, the third time to lie in bolts 12 hours in the House of the Provost Marshall & to pay his fees, and if he still continue in that vice, to undergo such severe punishment, as the Governor & Council of Estate shall think fit to be inflicted on him.

But if any Officer offend in this crime, the first time he shall receive a reproof from the Governor, the second time he shall openly be reproved in the Church by the minister, & the third time he shall first be committed & then degraded, provided it be understood that the Governor has always power to restore him, when he shall, in his discretion think fit;

Against excess of apparel, that every man be assessed in the Church for all public contributions; if he be unmarried according to his own apparel; if he be married, according to his own & his wives’, or either of their apparel.

Converting and Educating Indians

As touching the instruction of drawing some of the better disposed of the Indians to converse with our people & to live & labour among them, the Assembly who know well their dispositions, think it fit to enjoin, at least to counsel those of the Colony neither utterly to reject them, nor yet to draw them to come in. But in case they will of themselves come voluntarily to places well peopled there to do service, in killing of deer, fishing, beating corn, & other works that then five or six may be admitted into every such place, and no more; & that with the consent of the Governor, provided that good guard in the night be kept upon them, for generally (though some amongst many may prove good) they are a most treacherous people, & quickly gone when they have done a villainy. And it were fit, a house were built for them to lodge in apart by themselves, and lone inhabitants by no means to entertain them.

Be it enacted by this present Assembly, that for laying a surer foundation of the conversion of the Indians to Christian Religion, each town, city, burrough, & particular plantation do obtain unto themselves by just means a certain number of the natives’ children to be educated by them in true Religion & civil course of life. Of which children the most toward boys in wit & graces of nature to be brought up by them in the first elements of literature, so as to be fitted for the College intended for them; that from thence [there] they may be sent to that work of conversion.

Crops and Other Products

As touching the business of planting corn, this present Assembly does ordain that year by year, all & every householder and householders, have in store for every servant whosoever they shall keep, & also for his or their own persons, whether they have any servants or none, one spare barrel of corn to be delivered out yearly either upon sale or exchange, as need shall require. For the neglect of which duty he shall be Subject to the censure of the Governor and Council of State; provided always that for the first year of every new man this Law shall not be in force.

About the plantation of Mulberry trees [for silk] be it enacted that every man, as he is seated upon his division, do for seven years together every year plant & maintain in growth six Mulberry trees at the least and as many more as he shall think convenient, & as his virtue & industry shall move him to plant, and that all such persons as shall neglect the yearly planting & maintaining of that small proportion, shall be Subject to the censure of the Governor and the Council of State;

Be it farther enacted, as concerning silk-flax that those men that are upon their division or settled habitation do this next year plant & dress 100 plants which, being found a commodity, may farther be increased. And whosoever do fail in the performance of this shall be subject to the punishment of the Governor and Council of state.

For hemp [much weaker than cannabis sativa and not smoked] also both English and Indian, & for English flax & aniseeds, we do require & enjoin all householders of this Colony that have any of those seeds, to make trial thereof the next season.

Moreover, be it enacted by this present Assembly that every householder do yearly plant & maintain ten vines, until they have attained to the art & experience of dressing a vineyard, either by their own industry, or by the instruction of some vigneron ; and that upon what penalty soever, the Governor & Council of State shall think fit to impose upon the neglecters of this Act.

Tradesmen and Their Pay

Be it also enacted that all necessary tradesmen, or so many as need shall require, such as are come over since the departure of Sir Thomas Dale, or that shall hereafter come shall work at their trades for any other man, each one being paid according to the quality of his trade & work, to be estimated, if he shall not be contented, by the Governor & Officers of the place where he works.

Owners, Tenants, and Servants

Be it further ordained by this General Assembly and we do by these presents enact that all contracts made in England between the owners of land & their tenants and servants which they shall send hither [here] may be caused to be duly performed, and that the offenders be punished as the Governor & Council of State shall think just & convenient.

Be it established also by this present Assembly that no crafty or advantageous means be suffered [allowed] to be put in practice for the enticing away the tenants & servants of any particular plantation from the place where they are seated. And that it shall be the duty of the Governor & Council of State most severely to punish both the seducers & the seduced, and to return these latter into their former places.

Orders for the Magazine

Be it further enacted that the orders for the magazine [warehouse] lately made be exactly kept, & that the magazine be preserved from wrong & sinister practices & that according to the orders of court in England, all tobacco & sassafras be brought by the planters to the Cape Marchant [Cap or head Merchant] till such time as all the goods now or heretofore sent for the magazine be taken off their hands at the prices agreed on, that by this means the same going for England into one hand, the price thereof, may be upheld the better. And to the end [goal] that all the whole Colony may take notice of the last order of Court made in England, & all those whom it concerns may know how to observe it we hold it fit to publish it here for a Law among the rest of our laws, the which order is as follows.

Upon the 26 of October 1618, it was ordered that the magazine should continue during the term formerly prefixed, & that certain abuses now complained of should be reformed; and that for preventing of all impositions, save [except] the allowance of 25 in the hundred profit, the Governor shall have an invoice as well as the Cape Merchant [Cap or head Merchant] that if any abuse in the sale of the goods be offered, he upon intelligence & due examination thereof shall see it corrected.

And for the encouragement of particular hundreds [small districts], as Smyth’s Hundred, Martin’s Hundred, Lawne’s Hundred, & the like, it is agreed that what commodities are reaped upon any of their several Colonies, it shall be lawful for them to return the fame to their own adventurers, provided that the same commodity be of their own growing, without trading with any other, in one entire lump & not dispersed; and that at the determination of the joint stock the goods then remaining in the magazine shall be bought by the said particular Colonies before any other goods Which shall be sent by private men.

And it is moreover ordered that if the Lady La Warre, the Lady Dale, Captain Bargrave, & the rest, would unite themselves into a settled Colony, they might be capable of the same privileges that are granted to any of the foresaid hundreds.

Transcription ends.


Transcription begins:

All the General Assembly by voices concluded not only the acceptance and observations of this order, but of the instruction also to Sir George Yeardley next preceding the same.

Provided first that the Cape Merchant [Cap or head merchant] do accept of the tobacco of all and every the planters here in Virginia, either for goods or upon bills of exchange at three shillings the pound the best and 18d the second sort [lesser quality];

Provided also that the bills be duly paid in England;

Provided in the third place that if any other besides the magazine have at any time  any necessary commodity which the magazine does want [lack], it shall and may be lawful for any of the Colony to buy the said necessary commodity of [from] the said party, but upon the terms of the magazine, viz. allowing no more gain than 25 in the hundred and that with the leave [permission] of the Governor;

Provided lastly that it may be lawful for the Governor to give leave [permission] to any mariner or any other person that shall have any such necessary commodity wanting [lacking] to the magazine to carry home for England so much tobacco or other natural commodities of the Country as his customers shall pay him for the said necessary commodity or commodities.

And to the end [goal or purpose] we may not only persuade and incite men, but to enforce them also thoroughly and loyally to cure their tobacco before they bring it to the magazine, be it enacted and by these present we do enact that if upon the judgment of four sufficient men of any incorporation where the magazine shall reside (having first taken their oaths to give true sentence, two whereof to be chosen by the Cape Merchant and two by the Incorporation) any tobacco whatsoever shall not prove vendible [salable] at the second price, that it shall there immediately be burnt before the owner’s face.

Hitherto such laws as were drawn out of the instructions.

Transcription ends.


You Are There! America’s First Government Meeting, July 30, 1619

Your Are There! America’s Second Government Meeting, July 31, 1619

You Are There! America’s Third and Fourth Government Meeting, August 1-2, 1619.

You are There! America’s Fifth Government Meeting, August 3, 1619.

You Are There! America’s Sixth Government Meeting, August 4, 1619.

Members of Virginia House of Burgesses 1619 to 1660

Gateway ancestors of Virginia


Journal of the House of Burgesses, 1619-1658/59, vol. 1, ed. H. R. MciLwaine, Richmond: 1914.

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