The Governors and Members of Council in Colonial Virginia

Dateline: Virginia, 30 April 1652: The commissioners appointed by Parliament back in England and the Burgesses here in Virginia decide who should be Governor and Council members. Names are listed. My 500th post.

The Commonwealth of England means that Oliver Cromwell is in charge back in England. The king is not mentioned here in this excerpt.

The proper names are capitalized.

Modern transcription begins:

James City [Jamestowne] the 30th April 1652

After long and serious debate and advice taken for the settling and governing of Virginia, it was unanimously voted and concluded by the commissioners appointed here by authority of parliament and by all the Burgesses of the several counties and plantations respectively, until the pleasures of the states [estates] be known:

That Mr. RICHARD BENNETT, Esq. be governor for the ensuing year or until the next meeting of the Assembly, with all the just powers and authorities that may belong to that place lawfully;

And likewise that COL. WILLIAM CLAYBOURNE be Secretary of State, with all belonging to that office and is to be next in place to the Governor;

Next that the Council of State be as follows (vizt.):  CAPT. JOHN WEST, COL. SAM MATTHEWS, COL. NATHANIEL LITTLETON, COL. ARGOL YEARLY, COL. THOS. PETTUS, COL. HUMPHREY HIGGISON, COL. GEORGE LUDLOW, COL. WM BARNETT, CAPT. BRIDGES FREEMAN, CAPT. THOS HARWOOD, MAJOR WM. TAYLOR, CAPT. FRANCIS EPES, AND LT. COL. JOHN CHEESMAN;

And they shall have power to execute and do right and equal justice to all the people and inhabitants of this colony according to such instruction as they have or shall receive from Parliament of England and according to the known law of England;

And acts of Assembly here established;

And the said Governor, Secretary and Council of State are to have such power and authorities and to act from time to time, as by the Grand Assembly shall be appointed and granted to their several places respectively for the time aforesaid;

Of which all the people which inhabit or be in this country are hereby required to take notice and accordingly conform themselves thereunto.

God save the Commonwealth of England and this country of Virginia!

Transcription ends.

At first glance, from this one specific passage it is difficult to figure out where England’s Parliament’s power begins and ends, and Virginia’s Governor’s and Council’s and Grand Assembly’s power begins and ends. However, from a more careful reading (see the section right below the list of names), it looks like the final power is to be traced back to Parliament in England. Eventually, 124 years later, this power struggle (or at least ambiguity), among other various causes will, lead to the Declaration of Independence.

Finally, it is touching (for me at least) to see how they asked God to save the country of Virginia.

RELATED

Members of Virginia House of Burgesses 1619 to 1660

Gateway Ancestors of Virginia

SOURCE

Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/9, ed. by H. R. McIlwaine, Classic Reprint Series (orig. Richmond: 1915).

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