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that Richard Bennett, himself a commissioner of the CHAP. parliament, and, moreover, a merchant and a Round- a head, was, on the recommendation of the other conimis- 1652.

April sioners, unanimously chosen governor. The oath re- 30. quired of the burgesses made it their paramount duty to provide for “ the general good and prosperity” of Virginia and its inhabitants. Under the administration of Berkeley, Bennett had been driven from Virginia ; and now not the slightest effort at revenge was attempted. 3

The act which constituted the government, claimed April. for the assembly the privilege of defining the powers which were to belong to the governor and council ; and the public good was declared to require, “ that May the right of electing all officers of this colony should 5 appertain to the burgesses," as to “ the representatives of the people.” 4 It had been usual for the governor May and council to sit in the assembly; the expediency of 6 the measure was questioned, and a temporary compromise ensued; they retained their former right, but were required to take the oath which was administered to the burgesses. Thus the house of burgesses acted as a convention of the people ; exercising supreme authority, and distributing power as the public welfare required.

Nor was this an accidental and transient arrangement. Cromwell never made any appointments for Virginia ; not one governor acted under his commis

i Hening, i. 371. See Stith, 199, thorities are Strong's Babylon's who tells the story rightly.-- Fall, i. 7, and 10; Langford's RefuStrange, that historians would not tation, 3; Hammond's Leah and take a hint from the accurate Rachel, 21. These, taken together, Stith!

are conclusive. Bennett was of the 2 Hening, i. 371.

council in 1646. Hening, i. 322. 3 Langford's Refutation, 3. That 4 Hening, i. 372. Bennett was a Roundhead is indisputable. The contemporary au- 6 Hening's note, i. 369.

VOL. I. 29

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CHAP. sion. When Bennett retired from office, the assembly

* itself elected his successor ; and Edward Diggs, who 1655. had before been chosen of the council, and who “ had Mar. 31. given a signal testimony of his fidelity to Virginia, and

to the commonwealth of England,"3 received the suffrages. The commissioners in the colony 5 were rather engaged in settling the affairs and adjusting the boundaries of Maryland, than in controlling the destinies of Virginia.

The right of electing the governor continued to be claimed by the representatives of the people, and 66 worthy Samuel Matthews, an old planter, of nearly forty years' standing," who had been “a most deserv

ing commonwealth's man, kept a good house, lived 1658. bravely, and was a true lover of Virginia,” 7 was next

honored with the office. But, from too exalted ideas of his station, he, with the council, became involved in an unequal contest with the assembly by which he had been elected. The burgesses had enlarged their power by excluding the governor and council from their sessions, and, having thus reserved to themselves the first free discussion of every law, had voted an adjournment till November. The governor and council, by message, declared the dissolution of the assembly. The legality of the dissolution was denied ; 8 and, after an oath of secrecy, every burgess was enjoined not to betray bis trust by submission. Matthews yielded, reserving a right of appeal to the protector.' When the house unanimously voted the governor's answer unsatisfactory, he expressly revoked the order


1 Hening, i. Preface, 13.
2 Ibid. 388. November, 1654.
3 Ibid. i. 388.

4 Ibid. 408. Compare Hening, i.
5, and also 426.

5 Ibid. 428 and 4:32. Haz i. 594.

6 Hening, i. 431.
7 i. Mass. Hist. Coll. ix. 119.
8 Hening's note, i. 430.

9 Hening, i. 496, 497; and 500, 501.





of dissolution, but still referred the decision of the CHAP. dispute to Cromwell. The members of the assembly, apprehensive of a limitation of colonial liberty by the 1658 reference of a political question to England, determined on a solemn assertion of their independent powers. A committee was appointed, of which John Carter, of Lancaster, was the chief; and a complete declaration of popular sovereignty was solemnly made.

The governor and council had ordered the dissolution of the assembly; the burgesses now decreed the former election of governor and council to be void. Having thus exercised, not merely the right of election, but the more extraordinary right of removal, they reelected Matthews, " who by us,” they add, “ shall be invested with all the just rights and privileges belonging to the governor and captain-general of Virginia.” The governor submitted, and acknowledged the validity of his ejection by taking the new oath, which had just been prescribed. The council was organized anew; and the spirit of popular liberty established all its claims.

The death of Cromwell made no change in the 1658 constitution of the colony. The message of the governor duly announced the event to the legislature. Mar. It has pleased some English historians to ascribe to Virginia a precipitate attachment to Charles II. On the present occasion, the burgesses deliberated in private, and unanimously resolved that Richard Cromwell should be acknowledged. But it was a more interesting question, whether the change of protector in England would endanger liberty in Virginia. The letter from the council had left the government to be




i Hening, i. 504, 505.
? See the names of the mem-

bers, in Hening, v. i. p. 506, 507.

3 Hening, i. 511. Mar. 1659.



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CHAP. administered according to former usage. The assen

* bly declared itself satisfied with the language.' But, 1659. that there might be no reason to question the existing

usage, the governor was summoned to come to the house; where he appeared in person, deliberately acknowledged the supreme power of electing officers to be, by the present laws, resident in the assembly, and pledged himself to join in addressing the new protector for special confirmation of all existing privileges. The reason for this extraordinary proceeding is assigned ; “ that what was their privilege now, might be the privilege of their posterity.” 2 The frame of the Virginia government was deemed worthy

of being transmitted to remote generations. 1660. On the death of Matthews, the Virginians were

without a chief magistrate, just at the time when the resignation of Richard had left England without a government. The burgesses, who were immediately convened, resolving to become the arbiters of the fate of the colony, enacted, “ that the supreme power of the government of this country shall be resident in the assembly; and all writs shall issue in its name, until there shall arrive from England a commission, which the assembly itself shall adjudge to be lawful.” This being done, Sir William Berkeley was elected governor ; 4 and, acknowledging the validity of the acts of the burgesses, whom, it was expressly agreed, he could in no event dissolve, he accepted the office, and recognized, without a scruple, the authority to which he owed his elevation. "I am,” said he, - but a servant of the assembly." 5 Virginia did not lay claim

i Hening, i. 511.
2 Ibid. 511, 512.
3 Ibid. 530, Act 1. Mar. 1660.

4 Ibid. 530, 531, and 5.
5 Smith's New York, 27.





to absolute independence, but, awaiting the settlement CHAP of affairs in England, hoped for the Restoration of the Stuarts.

1660 The legislation of the colony had taken its character from the condition of the people, who were essentially agricultural in their pursuits ; and it is the interest of society in that state to discountenance contract ing debts. Severe laws for the benefit of the creditor are the fruits of commercial society; Virginia possessed not one considerable town, and her statutes favored the independence of the planter, rather than the security of trade. The representatives of colonial landholders voted « the total ejection of mercenary attornies.”? By a special act, emigrants were safe against suits designed to enforce engagements that had been made in Europe ; ; and colonial obligations might be easily satisfied by a surrender of property. 4 Tobacco was generally used instead of coin. Theft was hardly known, and the spirit of the criminal law was mild. The highest judicial tribunal was the assembly, which was convened once a year, or oftener.5 Already large landed proprietors were frequent; and plantations of two thousand acres were not unknown.

During the suspension of the royal government in England, Virginia attained unlimited liberty of commerce, which she regulated by independent laws. The ordinance of 1650 was rendered void by the act of capitulation ; the navigation act of Cromwell was not designed for her oppression, and was not enforced within her borders. If an occasional confiscation took

i Hening's note, i. 526_529. 6 Virginia's Cure, 2 and 8. Sad

2 Hening, i. 275. 302, 313. 349. State, 9. 419. 482. 495; and Preface, 18. 7 The commerce between the 3 Ibid. 256, 257.

Dutch and Virginia was hardly in4 Ibid. 294.

terrupted. 5 Hammond, 13. Sad State, 21.

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