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THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE HOMES.
looked. “ The people of Virginia had not been settled Chap in their minds,” and as, before the recent changes, a they had gone there with the design of ultimately returning to England, it was necessary to multiply attachments to the soil. Few women had as yet dared to cross the Atlantic ; but now the promise of prosperity induced ninety agreeable persons, young and incorrupt, to listen to the wishes of the company, and the benevolent advice of Sandys, and to embark for the colony, where they were assured of a welcome. They were transported at the expense of the corporation, and were married to the tenants of the company, or to men who were well able to support them, and who willingly defrayed the costs of their passage, which were rigorously demanded. The adventure which had been in part a mercantile speculation, succeeded so well, that it was designed to send the next 1620 year another consignment of one hundred ;3 but before these could be collected, the company found itself so poor, that its design could be accomplished only by a subscription. After some delays, sixty were actually 1621 despatched, maids of virtuous education, young, handsome, and well recommended. The price rose from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco, or even more ; so that all the original charges might be repaid. The debt for a wife was a debt of honor, and took precedence of any other; and the company, in conferring employments, gave a preference to the married men. Domestic ties were formed; virtuous sentiments and habits of thrift ensued; the tide of emigration swelled , 1619 within three years, fifty patents for land were granted, 1621
1 A Note of the Shipping, Men and Provisions sent to Virginia in 1619, p. 1, 2 and 3. Stith, 165.
2 Sandys, in Stith, 166.
3 Supplies for 1620, p. 11, annexed to State of Virginia, 1620.
THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE CIVIL FREEDOM.
CHAP. and three thousand five hundred persons found their a way to Virginia, which was a refuge even for
Puritans.? 1620. The deliberate and formal concession of legislative 17. liberties was an act of the deepest interest. When
Sandys, after a year's service, resigned his office as treasurer, a struggle ensued on the election of his successor. The meeting was numerously attended ; and, as the courts of the company were now become the schools of debate, many of the distinguished leaders of parliament were present. King James attempted to decide the struggle ; and a message was communicated from him, nominating four candidates, one of
whom he desired should receive the appointment. 1621. The company resisted the royal interference as an in
fringement of their charter; and while James exposed himself to the disgrace of an unsuccessful attempt at usurpation, the choice of the meeting fell upon the carl of Southampton, the early friend of Shakspeare. Having thus vindicated their own rights, the company proceeded to redress former wrongs, and to provide colonial liberty with its written guaranties.3
In the case of the appeal to the London company from a sentence of death pronounced by Argall, the friends of that officer had assembled, with the earl of Warwick at their head, and had voted, that trial by martial law is the noblest kind of trial, because soldiers and men of the sword were the judges. This opinion was now, reversed, and the rights of the colonists to trial by jury amply sustained. Nor was it long before the freedom of the northern fisheries was equally asserted ; and the early history of New England will
i Stith, 196. State of Virginia, 1622, p. 6, &c.
2 Whitaker, in Purchas. 3 Stith, 176-181.
THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE CIVIL FREEDOM.
explain with what success the monopoly of a rival cor- CHAP. poration was opposed."
The company had silently approved, yet never ex- 1621. pressly sanctioned, the colonial assembly which had been convened by Sir George Yeardley. It was in July, 1621, that a memorable ordinance? established July for the colony a written constitution. The form of government prescribed for Virginia was analogous to the English constitution, and was, with some modifications, the model of the systems, which were afterwards introduced into the various royal provinces. Its purpose was declared to be " the greatest comfort and benefit to the people, and the prevention of injustice, grievances, and oppression.” Its terms are few and simple ;-a governor, to be appointed by the company; a permanent council, likewise to be appointed by the company: a general assembly, to be convened yearly, and to consist of the members of the council, and of two burgesses to be chosen from each of the several plantations by their respective inhabitants. The assembly might exercise full legislative authority, a negative voice being reserved to the governor ; but no law or ordinance would be valid, unless ratified by the company in England. With singular justice, and a liberality without example, it was further ordained, that, after the government of the colony shall have once been framed, no orders of the court in London shall bind the colony, unless they be in like manner ratified by the general assembly. The courts of justice were required to conform to the laws and manner of trial used in the realm of England.
Such was the constitution which Sir Francis Wyatt, the successor of the mild but inefficient Yeardley, was
I Stith, 181–185. Gorges, c. xvii.—xxii.
2 Hening, i. 110, 111.
THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE CIVIL FREEDOM.
CHAP. commissioned to bear to the colony. The system
- of representative government and trial by jury, was 1621. thus established in the new hemisphere as an acknowl
edged right; the colonists, ceasing to depend as servants on a commercial company, now became enfranchised citizens. Henceforward, the supreme power was held to reside in the hands of the colonial parliament, and of the king, as king of Virginia. The ordinance was the basis on which Virginia erected the superstructure of its liberties. Its influences were wide and enduring, and can be traced through all following years of the history of the colony. It constituted the plantation, in its infancy, a nursery of freemen; and succeeding generations learned to cherish institutions which were as old as the first period of the prosperity of their fathers. The privileges which were now conceded, could never be wrested from the Virginians; and, as new colonies arose at the south, their proprietaries could hope to win emigrants only by bestowing franchises as large as those enjoyed by their elder rival. The London company merits the fame of having acted as the successful friend of liberty in America. It may be doubted, whether any public act during the reign of King James was of more permanent or pervading influence; and it reflects glory on the earl of Southampton, Sir Edwin Sandys, and the patriot party of England, who, unable to establish guaranties of a liberal administration at home, were careful to connect popular freedom so intimately with the life, prosperity and state of society of Virginia, that they never could be separated.
SLAVERY. DISSOLUTION OF THE LONDON COMPANY.
While Virginia, by the concession of a represen- CHAP tative government, was constituted the asylum of liberty, by one of the strange contradictions in human affairs, it became the abode of hereditary bondsmen. The unjust, wasteful and unhappy system was fastened upon the rising institutions of America, not by the consent of the corporation, nor the desires of the emigrants; but, as it was introduced by the mercantile avarice of a foreign nation, so it was subsequently riveted by the policy of England, without regard to the interests or the wishes of the colony.
Slavery and the slave-trade are older than the records of human society: they are found to have existed, wherever the savage hunter began to assume the habits of pastoral or agricultural life ; and, with the exception of Australasia, they have extended to every portion of the globe. They pervaded every nation of civilized antiquity. The earliest glimpses of Egyptian history exhibit pictures of bondage; the oldest monuments of human labor on the Egyptian soil are evidently the results of slave labor. The founder of the Jewish nation was a slave-holder and a purchaser of slaves. Every patriarch was lord in his own household.
i Gen. xii. 16; xvii. 12; xxxvii. 28.