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

Dateline: Virginia. This is the final day of their weeklong plenary session. The Governor, his Council, and Burgesses consent to more laws, like treating Indian property with respect and servant girls not getting married without permission. Colonists had dogs too.

The sixth day of the session is the last one because of the extreme heat.

On August 2, the plenary session adopted laws: You Are There! America’s Third and Fourth Government Meeting, August 1-2, 1619.

This post adds more.

This is a faithful transcription of every word of the original, except for the words in bold font (those are mine).

Modern transcription begins.

This day (by reason of extreme heat both past and likely to ensue & by that rneans of the alteration of the health of diverse [various ones] of the General Assembly) the Governour who himself also was not well, resolved should be the last of this first session;


So in the morning the Speaker (as he was required by the Assembly) read over all the Laws and orders that had formerly passed the House, to give the same yet one review more & to see, whether there were any thing to be amended, or that might be excepted against;

This being done, the third sort of laws, which I am now coming to set down, were read over & thoroughly discussed, which together with the former did now pass the last and final consent of the General Assembly.

A third sort of laws such as may issue out of every man’s private conceit:


It shall be free for every man to trade with the Indians, servants only excepted, upon pain of whipping unless the Mister redeem it off with the payment of an Angel, one fourth part whereof to go to the Provost Marshall, one fourth part to the discoverer, & the other moiety to the public uses of the Incorporation where he dwells.

That no man do sell or give any Indians any piece shot, or powder, or any other arms offensive or defensive, upon pain of being held a traitor to the Colony, & of being hanged, as soon as the fact is proved, without all redemption.

That no man do sell or give any of the greater house to the Indians, or any English dog of quality, as a mastiff, greyhound, bloodhound, land or water Spaniel, or any other dog or bitch whatsoever, of the English race, upon pain of forfeiting 5£ sterling to the public uses of the Incorporation where he dwells.

Travel Restrictions

That no man may go above twenty miles from his dwelling place, nor upon any voyage whatsoever shall be absent from thence for the space of seven days together, without first having made the Governour or commander of the same place acquainted therewith upon pain of paying twenty shillings to the public uses of the same Incorporation, where the party delinquent dwells.

That no man shall purposely go to any Indian towns, habitations, or places of resort, without leave from the Governour or commander of that place where he lives upon pain of paying 40s to public uses as aforesaid.

Registering Newcomers

That no man living in this Colony, but shall between this and the first of January next ensuing come or send to the Secretary of State, to enter his own & all his servants’ names, & for what term, or upon what conditions they are to serve, upon penalty of paying 40s to the said Secretary of State. Also whatsoever Mistress or people do come over to this plantation [of Virginia], that within one month of their arrival (notice being first given them of this very law,) they shall likewise resort to the Secretary of State & shall certify him upon what terms or conditions they … come hither, to the end [purpose] that he may record their grants and commissions, and for how long time and upon what conditions their servants (in case they have any) are to serve them, and that upon pain of the penalty next above mentioned.

Ministerial Duties (see below)

All Ministers in the Colony shall once a year namely in the month of March bring to the Secretary of Estate [State] a true account of all the Christenings, burials, & marriages, upon pain, if they fail, to be censured for their negligence by the Governour & Council of Estate [State]; likewise where there be no ministers, that the commanders of the place do supply the same duty.


No man without leave [permission] from the Governour shall kill any neat cattle [oxen] whatsoever, young or old, especially kine, heifers or cow calves, & shall be careful to preserve their steers & oxen, & to bring them to the plough & such profitable uses, & without having obtained leave [permission] as aforesaid shall not kill them upon penalty of forfeiting the value of the beast so killed.

No Theft, Especially of Indian Goods

Whosoever shall take any of his neighbours’ boats, oars, or canoes without leave [permission] from the owner shall be held and esteemed as a felon and so proceeded against; also he that shall take away by violence or stealth any canoes or other things from the Indians shall make valuable restitution to the said Indians, and shall forfeit, if he be a freeholder, five pound; if a servant 40s, or endure a whipping; and anything under the value of 13d shall be accounted petty larceny.

Ministerial Duties (see above)

All ministers shall duly read divine service and exercise their ministerial function according to the Ecclesiastical laws and orders of the Church of England, and every Sunday in the afternoon shall catechize such as are not yet ripe to come to the Communion.

And whosoever of them shall be found negligent or faulty in this kind shall be subject to the censure of the Governour and Council of Estate [State];

The Ministers and Churchwardens shall seek to prevent all ungodly disorders, the committers whereof if, upon good admonitions and mild reproof they will not forbear the said scandalous offences, as suspicions of whoredoms, dishonest company, keeping with women and such like, they are to be presented and punished accordingly.

If any person after two warnings, do not amend his or her life in point of evident suspicion of incontinency or of the commission of any other enormous sins that then he or she be presented by the Churchwardens’ and suspended for a time from the church by the minister. In which interim if the same person do not amend and humbly submit him- or herself to the church, he is then fully to be excommunicate and soon after a writ or warrant to be sent from the Governour for the apprehending of his person & seizing all his goods;

Provided always, that all the ministers do meet once a quarter, namely, at the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, of the nativity of our Saviour, of the Annunciation of the blessed Virgin, and about midsummer, at James City or any other place where the Governour shall reside, to determine whom it is fit to excommunicate, and that they first present their opinion to the Governour ere [before] they proceed to the act of excommunication;

Personal Conduct

For Reformation of swearing, every freeman and Mister of a family after thrice admonition shall give 5s or the value upon present demand, to the use of the church where he dwells; and every servant after the like admonition, except his Mister discharge the fine, shall be subject to whipping; provided that the payment of the fine notwithstanding, the said servant shall acknowledge his fault publicly in the Church.

No man whatsoever coming by water from above, as from Henrico, Charles City, or any place from the westward of James City, & being bound for Kiccowtan or any other part on this side of the same, shall presume to pass by either by day or by night without touching first here at James City, to know whether the Governour will command him any service. And the like shall they perform that come from Kiccowtan ward, or from any place between this & that to go upward—upon pain of forfeiting ten pound sterling a time to the Governor; provided that if a servant having had instructions from his Master to observe his Service doe notwithstanding transgress the same—that then the said servant shall be punished at the Overseer’s discretion otherwise that the Master himself shall undergo the foresaid penalty.


No man shall trade into the Bay either in shallop, pinnace, or ship without the Governour’s license, and without putting in security, that neither himself, nor his Company shall force or wrong the Indians, upon pain that doing otherwise they shall be censured at their return by the Governour & Council of Estate [State].

Church Attendance with Weapons Ready

All persons whatsoever upon Sabbath days shall frequent divine service & sermons both forenoon and afternoon; & all such as bear arms, shall bring their pieces, swords, powder & shot. And everyone that shall transgress this Law shall forfeit three shillings a time, to the use of the Church, all lawful & necessary impediments excepted. But if a servant in this case shall willfully neglect his Mister’s command, he shall suffer bodily punishment.

Marriage Rules

No maid or woman servant, either now resident in the Colony, or hereafter to come, shall contract herself in marriage without either the consent of her parents or her Mister or Mistress or of the magistrate & minister of the place both together. And whatsoever Minister shall marry or contract any such persons without some of the foresaid consents shall be subject to the severe censure of the Governour, & Council of Estate [State].

Rules for Servants

Be it enacted by the present Assembly, that whatsoever servant has heretofore, or shall hereafter contracts himself in England, either by way of indenture or otherwise, to serve any Master here in Virginia, and shall afterward, against his said former contract, depart from his Master without leave [permission], or being once embarked, shall abandon the ship he is appointed to come in, & so being left behind, shall put himself into the service of any other man that will bring him hither; that then at the same servants arrival here, he shall first serve out his time, with that Master that brought him hither and afterward also shall serve out his time with his former Master according to his covenant.

Here end the laws.

Transcription ends.


The most interesting part of this trial is that an Indian chief and his tribe held a court, in which Capt. Spelman said a greater governor than Sir George Yeardley would come, implying that the Indians didn’t need to listen to the present one. Spelman was said to have more of the “savage” in him than the Christian.

Modern transcription begins:

All these laws being thus concluded & consented to, as aforesaid Captain Henry Spelman was called to the Bar, to answer to certain misdemeanours laid to his charge by Robert Poole interpreter, upon his Oath (whose examination the Governour sent into England in the Prosperous) of which accusations of Poole some he acknowledged for true, but the greatest part he denied.

Whereupon the General Assembly having thoroughly heard, & considered his speeches, did constitute this order following against him ….

This day Captain Henry Spelman was convented [called] before the General Assembly, & was examined by a relation [narration] upon oath of one Robert Poole, interpreter, what conference had passed between the said Spelman & Opochancano at Poole’s meeting with him in Opochancano’s court. Poole charges him, he spoke very irreverently & maliciously against this present Governour whereby the honour & dignity of his place & person, & so of the whole Colony, might be brought into contempt, by which means what mischiefs might ensue from the Indians by disturbance of the peace or otherwise, may easily be conjectured.

Some things of this relation Spelman conferred, but the most parte he denied, except only one matter of importance, & that was, that he had informed Opochancano that within a year there would come a Governour greater than this that now is in place; by which & by other reports, it seems he has alienated the mind of Opochancano from this present Governour & brought him in much disesteem both which Opochancano & the Indians, & the whole Colony in danger of their slippery designs.

The General Assembly upon Poole’s testimony only not willing to put Spelman to the rigour & extremity of the law, which might perhaps, both speedily & deservedly have taken his life from him (upon the witness of one whom he much excepted against) were pleased for the present to censure him rather out of that his confession above written, than out of any other proof. Several & sharp punishments were pronounced against him by diverse of the Assembly.

But in fine the whole court by voices united did incline to the most favourable, which was that for this misdemeanour he should first be degraded of his title of Captain at the head of the Troupe, & should be condemned to perform seven years service to the Colony, in the nature of an Interpreter to the Governour.

This sentence being read to Spelman, he as one that had in him more of the savage than of the Christian, muttered certain words to himself, neither showing any remorse for his offences, nor yet any thankfulness to the Assembly for their so favourable censure, which he at one time or another (God’s grace not wholly abandoning him) might with some one service have been able to have redeemed.


This day also did the inhabitants of Paspaheigh, alias Argall’s Town, present a petition to the General Assembly to give them an absolute discharge from certain bonds wherein they stand bound to Captain Samuel Argall for the payment of 600 pounds [or £] & to Captain William Powell at Captain Argall’s appointment, for the payment of 50 pounds [or £] more to Captain Argall for 15 score acres of woody ground called by the name of Argalls Town or Paspaheigh to Captain Powell in respect of his pains in clearing the ground, & building the houses for which Captain Argall ought to have given him satisfaction.

Now, the General Assembly, being doubtful whether they have any power & authority to discharge the said bonds, do by these presents (at the instance of the said inhabitants of Paspaheighs, alias Martin’s Hundred people) become most humble suitors to the Treasurer, Council & Company in England that they will be pleased to get the said bonds for 600 pounds [or £] to be cancelled; forasmuch as in their great commission they have expressly & by name appointed that place of Paspaheigh for part of the Governour’s land;

And whereas Captain William Powell is paid his 50 pounds [or £] which Captain Argall enjoined the said inhabitants to present him with, as part of the bargain, the General Assembly at their entreaty do become suitors on their behalf, that Capt. Argall, by the Council & Company in England may be compelled either to restore the said 50 pounds [or £] from thence, or else that restitution thereof be made here, out of the goods of the said Captain Argall.

Transcription ends.


Modern transcription begins:

The last Act of the General Assembly was a contribution to gratify their Officers as follows ….

It is fully agreed at this General Assembly, that in regard of the great pains & labour of the Speaker of this Assembly (who not only first formed the same Assembly & to their great ease & expedition, reduced all matters to be treated of into a ready method, but also, his indisposition notwithstanding wrote or dictated all orders & other expedients, & is yet to write several books for all the several incorporations & plantations, both of the great Charter, & of all the Laws) & likewise in respect of the diligence of the Clerk & Sergeant officers thereto belonging;

That every man & manservant of above 16 years of age shall pay into the hands & Custody of the Burgesses of every incorporation & plantation one pound of the best tobacco, to be distributed to the Speaker, & likewise to the Clerk & Sergeant of the Assembly, according

to their degrees & ranks, the whole bulk whereof to be delivered into the Speaker’s hands, to be divided accordingly. And in regard to the Provost Marshall of James City hath also given some attendance upon the said General Assembly, he is also to have a share out of the same.

And this is to begin to be gathered the 24th of February next.

Transcription ends.


The whole Assembly offers excuses to the people back in England for the abrupt dismissal of the plenary session. They will meet in March 1619 (the New Year began March 25).

Modern transcription begins:

In conclusion the whole Assembly commanded the Speaker (as now he does) to present their humble excuse to the Treasurer Council & Company in England for being constrained by the intemperature of the Weather, & the falling sick of diverse of the Burgesses, to break up so abruptly before they had so much as put their laws to the engrossing, this they wholly committed to the fidelity of their Speaker, who therein (his conscience tells him) hath done the part of an honest man; otherwise he would easily be found out by the Burgesses themselves, who with all expedition, are to have so many books of the same laws, as there be both incorporations & plantations, in the Colony.

In the second place, the Assembly does most humbly crave pardon that in so short a space they could bring their matter to no more perfection, being for the present enforced to send home titles rather than laws, propositions rather than resolutions, attempts than achievements, hoping their courtesy will accept our poor endeavour, and their wisdom will be ready to support the weakness of this little flock.

Thirdly, the General Assembly does humbly beseech the Treasurer, Council & Company that albeit it belongs to them only to allow or to abrogate any laws, which we shall here enact, and that it is their right so to do; yet that it would please them not to take it in ill part, if these laws, which we have now brought to light, do pass current & be of force, till such time as we may know their further pleasure out of England, for otherwise this people (who now at length have got the reins of former servitude into their own swinge [sway or empower]) would in short time grow so insolent, as they would shake off all government & there would be no living among them.

Their last humble suit is that the said Council & Company would be pleased, as soon as they shall find it convenient, to make good their promise set down at the conclusion of their commission for establishing the Council of Estate [State] & the General Assembly: namely that they will give us power to allow or disallow of their Orders of Court, as his Majesty has given them power to allow or to reject our Laws.

In sum Sir George Yeardley the Governour prorogued the said General Assembly till the first of March which is to fall out this present year 1619;

And in the mean [in between] season dissolved the same.

Transcription ends.


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

You 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

Gateway Ancestors of Virginia

Members of Virginia House of Burgesses 1619 to 1660


Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/59, ed. H. R. McIlwaine (Richmond: 1915).

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