Dateline: Virginia, 1625: One thing is certain: the Colony did not want to submit to another company. 32 Virginians signed the petition.
The petition is not dated precisely, and James I died on March 27, 1625. Is it to him or to his son Charles I? Probably to James, since word may not have reached the Colonists about James’s death until weeks or months afterwards.
Here are the main elements of the petition:
- We ask the king to pay no attention to Mr. Thomas Smyth’s “malicious” stories about the Colony;
- John Puntis or Pountis died, so maybe our side of the story did not reach James I’s (or Charles I’s) hands;
- We do not want a President and Council in England to rule over our affairs in Virginia; (this sounds familiar 151 years later);
- We are being price gouged by threefold, while we’re in a miserable condition;
- Some planters have left for England, which endangers the mission to colonize Virginia;
- We unanimously choose Sir. George Yardley, knight, as messenger to the king;
- We do not want another contract to control our tobacco;
- He is to appeal to the Commission to oversee Virginia, made up of these men: William Lord Padgett; Sir Richard Weston, Knight Chancellor of the Exchequer; Sir Humphrey May, Knight Chancellor of the Duchy; and Sir Robert Killigrew;
Modern transcription begins:
To the King’s most excellent Majesty,
The humble petition of the Governor, Council, and Colony of Virginia assembled together.
That whereas in the former year we directed a petition to your Majesty humbly desiring therein that your Highness would not give credit to the late declaration presented to your Majesty concerning the happy but indeed miserable estate [state or condition] of the Colony, during the first twelve years’ government; neither to the malicious imputations which have been laid on the latter, but to be pleased to behold in little the true estate of both, by our relations [narrations or accounts] which we then sent unto your Highness by the hands of Mr. John Puntis, containing nothing but the truth without disaffection or partiality, whereby we doubted not but your Majesty would understand the condition of both times;
And [we] farther besought your Majesty that you would not suffer [allow] your poor subjects to fall again into the hands of Sir Thomas Smyth and his confidents, but that you would graciously protect us from those growing storms engendered by faction which presaged the ruin of some, whose endeavors have deserved a better reward and in general of the whole plantation [of Virginia].
So it is that we are driven to misdoubt by reason of the death of Mr. John Puntis and that many things have fallen out contrary to our humble desires that the aforesaid petition and relations were never presented to your royal hands, the rather because the same persons were never presented so justly complained of are joined in your Majesty’s commission for governing the affairs of Virginia, wherewith being armed we fear they intend to exercise the same Tyranny upon our persons, which already by the pernicious contract they execute upon our fortunes; and having just cause to fear that upon the establishing of a President and Council in England for the government of Virginia, if those persons shall be chosen of that number, the same power and means to execute their vindictive malice may be more fully and absolutely settled and confirmed upon them, and the estate of the Colony much more desperate; the effect whereof already begin to appear not only in the scant supply of necessaries this year, not sufficient to cover our nakedness; and the rates of those threefold more excessive than formerly;
But also in the extreme discouragement of the adventurer and planter, insomuch that the great number of planters had resolved to have gone for England in these ships expressly to have petitioned your Majesty for redress and protection.
But lest the clamor of so many should be troublesome and displeasing to your Majesty, we, urged by our duties to your Majesty, our zeal to the Colony, and the discharge of our own consciences, have with unanimous consent made choice of Sir George Yardley, Knight, (the importance of the cause requiring no less than one, who having formerly commanded here in chief and by immediate commission from your Majesty has again been nominated to succession in the government) to prefer the said petitions and relations to your gracious survey, whereby it will most clearly appear how unfit they are to manage the affairs of this Colony in which they have formerly so much erred and proceeded so contrary, even in the fundamental points of government, to your highness gracious charters and instructions;
As also our demonstrations against the late pernicious contract, so mainly opposing your Majesty’s royal bounty and intentions to the advancement of this your Majesty’s colony.
We humbly therefore beseech your Majesty to afford a gracious hearing to the said George Yardley and to refer the examination of our cause to the right honorable William Lord Padgett; Sir Richard Weston, Knight Chancellor of the Exchequer; Sir Humphrey May, Knight Chancellor of the Duchy; and Sir Robert Killigrew, Knight (they being appointed Commission by your Majesty for the affairs of Virginia to make report thereof to your Majesty;
And we as our duty binds us shall ever pray to God for your Majesty’s long and prosperous reign in this life and eternal in the life to come.
Francis Wyatt [Knight and Governor]
Francis West, George Sandys, Roger Smyth, Raphe [Ralph] Hamor, Wm Clayborne, Sam Matthews, Abraham Percy, Wm Tucker, Nath. Bassett, Wm Peirce, Francis Epes, Thomas Osborne, Wm Horwood, Rich. Kingsmill, Isaac Chaplin, Ellis Emerson, Math. Caussey, Rich. Biggs, Edw. Waters, Fran. Chamberlain, John Price, John Downeman, Rich. Taylor, Ed. Blayney, Henry Woodard, Gilbert Peppet, F. Barkeley [Berkeley] John Chew, Clement Dilke, Luke Boice, Hugh Crowder
In 1622, Indians massacred over one-quarter of the Colony, and bankrupted the Virginia Colony. The king dissolved it. The colonists were no fan of the company, so they kept right on going, keeping an eye on business.
Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/59, ed. H. R. McIlwaine (Richmond: 1915).