Dateline: Virginia. This post deals with issues of a harsh punishment of a servant and then a petition by Mr. John Rolfe, the man who married Pocahontas.
For a list of the members of the two committees to examine the basic rules, please click on You Are There! America’s First Government Meeting, July 30, 1619.
And for the case of Capt. John Martin, click on the same link as above and this one: You Are There! America’s Third and Fourth Government Meeting, August 1-3, 1619.
Modern transcription begins:
This morning a third sort of laws (such as might proceed out of every man’s private conceit) were read & referred by halves to the same committees which were from the beginning.
This done, Captain William Powell presented to the Assembly a petition, to have justice against a lewd and treacherous servant of his, who by false accusation given up in writing to the Governour sought not only to get him deposed from his government of James City, and utterly (according to the Proclamation) to be degraded from the place & title of a Captain, but to take his life from him also. And so out of the said Petition sprang this order, following:
Captain William Powell presented a petition to the General Assembly against one Thomas Garnett a servant of his not only for extreme neglect of his business, to the great loss & prejudice of the said Captain, and for openly and impudently abusing his House, in sight both of Master and Mistress, through wantonness with a woman servant of theirs, a widow, but also for falsely accusing him to the Governour both of drunkenness, & theft, & besides for bringing his fellow servants to testify on his side, wherein they justly failed him.
It was thought fit by the General Assembly (the Governour himself giving sentence) that he should stand four days with his ears nailed to the pillory, viz. Wednesday Aug. 4th and so likewise Thursday, Friday, & Saturday next following, & every of those four days should be publicly whipped. Now as touching the neglect of his work, what satisfaction ought to be made to his Mister for that is referred to the Governour & Council of Estate [State].
The same morning the laws above written drawn out of the Instructions were read, & one by one thoroughly examined, & then passed once again the general consent of the whole Assembly.
This Afternoon the committees brought in a report, what they had done as concerning the third sort of laws, the discussing whereof spent the residue of that day.
Except only the consideration of a Petition of Mr. John Rolfe against Capt. John Martin for writing a letter to him wherein (as Mr. Rolfe alleges) he taxes him both unseemly and amiss of certain things wherein he was never faulty, and besides casts some aspersion upon the present government, which is the most temperate & just that ever was in this country, too mild indeed for many in this Colony, whom unwonted liberty has made insolent, and not to know themselves.
This Petition of Mr. Rolfe was thought fit to be referred to the Council of State.
Poor Thomas Garnett! The Old Testament prescribes physical punishment like flogging (Deut. 25:2-3), but I’m glad we moved past them. Until then, these men were living in their own times.
Next, Some historians believe that John Rolfe died in the massacre of 1622, by the Indians. His wife, Pocahontas, had died in England in March 1617 and was buried in St. George’s Church on March 21, 1617.
Some key words that struck me in the final section: Capt. John Martin “casts some aspersion upon the present government, which is the most temperate & just that ever was in this country, too mild indeed for many in this Colony, whom unwonted liberty has made insolent, and not to know themselves.”
That is, for them back then, the rules were meant to inspire work and conformity; the rules knock some sense into the people, so they can know themselves again—their upbringing and the purpose of their being in the New World, starting with survival, spreading the faith, and ending with profit.
Journal of the House of Burgesses, 1619-1776, vol. 2, (1659/60-1693), ed. H. R. MciLwaine, Richmond: 1914.