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Title: Virginia Under Charles I And Cromwell, 1625-1660
Author: Washburn, Wilcomb E.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 AND CROMWELL, 1625-1660


 Wilcomb E. Washburn

 Research Associate, Institute
 of Early American History and Culture


 Instructor in History,
 College of William and Mary

 Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corporation
 Williamsburg, Virginia


 Jamestown 350th Anniversary
 Historical Booklet, Number 7

Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell, 1625-1660


Woodrow Wilson named the first volume of his _History of the United
States_ "The Swarming of the English." We might go further and compare
the colonization and expansion in the New World to a fissioning process
in which individual atoms are torn loose from a former pattern of
coherence and fused into new and strange patterns. The United States,
indeed, is still in the process of fusion following the earlier fission
process. It has not yet reached the stability that comes to some nations
in history, and which is marked by a fixed pattern of population growth,
land use, day-to-day habits, and philosophic beliefs. It is, rather, a
country in which every generation can look back to a strangely different
era that existed before it came of age.

The period 1625-1660 in Virginia history is an important one for the
study of the fission-fusion process in America. During those years
Virginia's population increased perhaps twenty-five or thirty fold, and
the settlements spread from a thin belt along the James River to the
whole of Tidewater Virginia. Human atoms were propelled outwards in
every direction in an uncontrolled and only feebly directed expansion.

The years 1607 to 1625 had created a base for this expansion. Those had
been crucial years and difficult ones. Settlements had resembled
military camps and individual colonists had been commanded like
soldiers. Rigorous administration of justice, fear of the Indians, and
the strict economic regulations imposed by the London Company had served
to restrain the potentially expansive nature of the colonists.

The year 1625 saw Virginia under a new King and under a new form of
government. The charter of the London Company was made void, and the
colony passed from the control of a commercial company to the direct
control of King Charles I.

The official census of the non-Indian population of Virginia in 1625
showed 1,232 persons in the colony. Nine hundred and fifty-two were
males, twelve of them Negroes. Two hundred and eighty were females,
eleven of them Negroes. Although the colony had been in existence for
eighteen years the fissioning process had hardly begun. But it was
beginning. Five years later the population had more than doubled to
approximately 3,000. In 1640 the population jumped to 8,000, and by 1670
to 40,000, of whom 2,000 were Negroes. Every aspect of Virginia
life--political, physical, economic, social, and moral--was to be
affected by this explosive and uncontrolled growth.

Virginia did not develop any cities or even towns during the period
1625-1660. Indeed, the towns, such as Jamestown and Henrico, that had
earlier been established, declined in population or were totally
abandoned. The immigrants who were funneled into the colony through
Jamestown were soon attracted to the ever widening frontier. During the
first twenty years colonists had lived in organized farming communities,
separated from other such settlements, but strictly supervised by local
"plantation commanders." The separate settlements were variously called
"colonies," "plantations," "hundreds," and "particular plantations," and
sometimes contained hundreds of planters. Frequently the "plantation"
was located within a loop of the James River. The members of the
settlement planted their crops within the loop, and set up palisades and
forts at the open end for their common defense. Sentinels and guards
were provided cooperatively to man the defenses. As the settlers
increased in numbers and the power of their governors and of the Indians
to restrain them decreased, however, they tended to leave the organized
communities and to carve out for themselves individual plantations in
the wilderness. Thus, even while the population of the colony grew by
leaps and bounds, the population of Jamestown and other areas where
population was once concentrated declined. It was a process, one might
call it, of de-urbanization.

What was it that reversed the process of urbanization that was going on
in the mother country? The attraction was, of course, the land and its
fruits. England, with her five or six millions, was not overpopulated by
modern standards. Nor was she overpopulated by comparison with the great
nations of the Orient such as China which could even in that period
count its population in the hundreds of millions. But her few millions
seemed at times to oppress the English soil. On the other hand, America
was a relatively new home of the human species. Perhaps less than a
million Indians lived within the present bounds of the United States,
and the Indians with whom the English in Virginia came in contact
numbered less than 10,000. "In the beginning all the world was America,"
wrote John Locke, and the English townsmen, villagers, and yeomen who
came to America found it natural to revert back to the time when Adam
went forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was
taken. It would be more truthful to say, however, that the English went
not so much in sorrow as in confidence, as the sons of Abraham to whom
God had promised all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.

Tobacco was the richest fruit of the land. Despite the moral opprobrium
in which the "vile, stinking weed" was held by men in England, including
King James himself, the public soon developed an insatiable appetite for
it. Having for the Europeans the attraction of novelty and utility, it
commanded an enormous price in the early years of the settlement. With
Spanish tobacco selling at eighteen shillings a pound in 1619, the
opportunities for gain from tobacco production seemed unlimited. Here
was the "gold" that Virginia had to offer, and soon all hands could
think of nothing else. The earliest settlers, hoping to emulate the
Spaniards in finding great treasures and living off the labor of the
Indians, had suffered bitterly from shortages of food. Later settlers,
though they did not hold to the expectations of the first arrivals,
still sought the avenue of quickest and greatest gain, and tobacco
provided that avenue. Throughout the 1620's many planters neglected to
grow corn or wheat, preferring to obtain their food supply by barter or
seizure from the Indians, or by purchase from planters who were willing
to divert their labor to such crops. Who would bother with grain when
tobacco sold for as much per pound as grain did per bushel? Frenchmen,
brought over to introduce vine-growing in the colony, neglected their
specialty to plant tobacco and had to be restrained by an act of
February 1632. An act of February 1633 similarly required all gunsmiths,
brickmakers, carpenters, joiners, sawyers, and turners to work at their
trades and not to plant tobacco or do other work in the ground.

Another booklet in this series deals with agriculture in Virginia. It is
enough to say here that as the total production of tobacco increased so
did the price decline. Our present-day farm surplus problem is not new.
Even when the price had plummeted to a penny a pound the planters were
not discouraged from planting. Attempts were made on both sides of the
Atlantic to fix prices and to control the amount of production in order
to restore prosperity to the tobacco farmers. The important questions
were whose interests would be served, and how would they be served best?

The death of James I and the dissolution of the Virginia Company
occurred almost at the same time. Charles I, his son, assumed the throne
in 1625 and promptly assured the planters that though the form of
Virginia's government had changed, the individual planters could be sure
that their rights and property would be respected. Charles informed the
colonists, however, that he would take over the buying of their tobacco
as a royal monopoly and give them such prices as would satisfy and
encourage them. Agreement with the planters, nevertheless, was difficult
to obtain. The Virginians were solidly united as a special interest in
favoring the highest prices and the greatest production. Their
representatives, both in the House of Burgesses and on the Council, were
their ardent spokesmen, themselves planters, whose interest lay in
fighting the battle of all Virginians. On the other hand the King, and
the English merchants and associates through whom he dealt, desired to
buy Virginia's tobacco at the lowest possible prices and in moderate
quantities. The tug of war between the two sides continued for many
years without any clear-cut resolution.


Sir Francis Wyatt, who had been the London Company's Governor in the
period 1621-1624, was appointed Governor by James I the first year the
colony was under royal control. Although the King made no specific
provision for the continuation of a representative Assembly, Wyatt and
the Council called together representatives of the various settlements
to meet in a General Assembly on May 10, 1625, in Jamestown. There they
drew up a petition complaining of the old Company rule and the miserable
state in which it had kept the colony during the previous twelve years,
and pleading with the King not to allow a monopoly of the tobacco trade.
The King's advisers, they feared, were those who had formerly oppressed
them and who would do so again should the King consent to a "pernitious
contract" taking all their tobacco at unfair rates. To present their
case against the contract they chose Sir George Yeardley, former
Governor, to go to England as their agent. The willingness of Wyatt and
the Council to call such an Assembly and the unanimity of views deriving
from it, show how single in their economic interests all Virginians

Governor Wyatt attempted to prevent disorderly expansion of settlement
and to build positions of strength in the colony, but he knew that the
"affection" of the planters to "their privat dividents" was too strong a
force to resist. Hence he recommended that a palisade be built from
Martin's Hundred on the James River to Chiskiack on the York River,
with houses spaced along it at convenient intervals. In this way the
Indians might be kept out of the entire lower portion of the peninsula,
the cattle kept in, and the colony provided with a secure base for the
development of its economy. After the economy was flourishing, there
would be a chance for finding the riches in the mountains to the west
and the longed-for passage to the South Sea, so confidently believed to
lie just beyond the Appalachians. All these enterprises presupposed the
"winning of the Forest" between the York and the James, which Wyatt
hoped to accomplish by means of his palisade scheme.

Wyatt's project was not immediately put into effect. In 1626 he was
replaced by Sir George Yeardley. Yeardley, like Wyatt, devoted much of
his time to devising means to promote the security of the colony against
attack by land or by sea.

It is hard for us to realize how desperately concerned with their
security were the few thousand Englishmen who inhabited Virginia at this
time. Separated from the mother country by 3,000 miles of ocean, a
dangerous crossing usually taking two months, the settlers had only a
precarious toe hold on a vast continent. From the ocean side the
settlers feared possible attack from other European colonizing powers:
the Spanish, French, or Dutch. The Spanish ambassador in London in the
early period of the Virginia settlement had frequently urged his
government to wipe out the struggling colony. But the indecision of
Spain's monarch had saved the colony.

The Virginians themselves had engaged in expeditions against the French
settled in Maine, and spoke menacingly of the Dutch who had established
a settlement on the King's domain in Hudson's River in 1613. The claims
of the European monarchs to the American continent conflicted with one
another, and there seemed little chance that a resolution would come by
any other means than war. So it proved to be, later. In the meantime, at
home, Virginia settlers stood on guard. Governor Yeardley appointed
Capt. William Tucker, one of the Virginia Council, to check at Point
Comfort all ships entering the James River. Tucker was provided with a
well-armed shallop and absolute authority to check all ships arriving.
He could not do battle with an enemy warship, of course, but he could
give the alarm in case the enemy appeared. A few years later a fort was
built at Point Comfort to defend the entrance to Virginia's great river.
Although the channel was too wide ever to be adequately commanded by the
cannon of the day, the fort provided some protection to the colony.

Yeardley made similar efforts to strengthen Virginia's position on land
against the numerically superior Indians. Like Wyatt he urged the
necessity of "planting the forest" rather than jumping beyond it to
areas far from existing settlements. As a means of controlling the
population Yeardley issued a proclamation requiring that anyone who
desired to move his place of residence within the colony must obtain
prior permission from the Governor and Council. Even to be absent for a
short time from his place of residence, a planter was required to get
permission from his "plantation commander." As was pointed out earlier,
"plantations" in this early period were usually not the
individually-owned, individually-operated plantations of later times,
but "private colonies" or "particular plantations," organized on a
joint-stock basis, on which more than a hundred men might live.

In keeping with his conception of the colony as a military outpost,
Yeardley made plans for an armed settlement on the York at Chiskiack,
and devised a project for a surprise attack on all the surrounding
Indians on the first day of August 1627. Each "particular plantation"
was to march against an Indian town, kill as many Indians as possible,
and seize or cut down what corn it could. The attack was a success, but
because of a scarcity of shot the English failed in their desired goal
of utterly extirpating the red men.

In November 1627 Yeardley died, and the Council chose one of its
number, Captain Francis West, to assume the role of Governor and Captain


Meanwhile the King had grown increasingly disgusted that Virginia's
economy continued to be "built on smoke," and he ordered the Virginians
to concentrate on crops and products other than tobacco. Among the
products urged on the colonists were iron, salt, pitch and tar, potash,
and pipe staves. As his directives went unheeded, the King determined to
force a drastic reduction in the planting of the profitable tobacco
crop. In instructions sent out in 1627 he directed that no master of a
family be allowed to plant above 200 pounds of tobacco and no servant
more than 125 pounds. He also ordered that all tobacco was to be
consigned to him or his representatives.

Charles directed that a general assembly of the planters'
representatives be summoned to deal with his proposals, and Governor
West and the Council ordered an Assembly to meet on March 10, 1628. The
Assembly thanked the King for prohibiting the importation of Spanish
tobacco into the English market, but cried that they would be at the
mercy of covetous individuals in England if a monopoly on Virginia
tobacco was allowed. They proposed, however, that since the King
intended to take all their tobacco, he should agree to take at least
500,000 pounds of tobacco at 3 shillings 6 pence the pound delivered in
Virginia, or 4 shillings delivered in London. If the King was unwilling
to take so much, they desired the right to export again from England to
the Low Countries, Ireland, Turkey, and elsewhere. As to the King's
proposal to limit tobacco cultivation to 200 pounds for the master of a
family and 125 pounds for a servant, "every weake judgment," they
asserted, could see that this would not be sufficient for their
maintenance. As to the King's desire that the colonists should produce
pitch and tar, pipe staves, and iron, they complained that much capital
was needed to put such enterprises in operation. Few planters either
could or would undertake such schemes when tobacco culture required so
little capital and produced such quick and profitable results.

[Illustration: National Portrait Gallery, London


Painting by Daniel Mytens]

The Assembly commissioned Sir Francis Wyatt, then in England, and two
Virginians to represent them in negotiations with the King. They were to
be allowed to come down six pence on each of the figures insisted upon
by Governor, Council, and Burgesses in their answer to the King's

As in 1625, the opportunity to join in Assembly for the purpose of
agreeing on regulations for tobacco production allowed the planters to
deal with other matters. Wesley Frank Craven has written that
"representative government in America owes much in its origins to an
attempt to win men's support of a common economic program by means of
mutual consent." Had the King been less desirous of taking every
planter's tobacco and less concerned with the neglect of staple
commodities, he might well have governed the colony without calling the
planters together in periodic "assemblies."

Dr. John Pott was elected by the Council on March 5, 1629, to succeed
West as Governor, and he governed in Virginia for one year. Few men
possess a less savory record than this first representative of the
medical profession in America. In 1624 he had been ordered removed from
the Virginia Council, at the insistence of the Earl of Warwick, for his
part in the attempt to poison the colony's Indian foes. He was later
convicted of cattle stealing but spared punishment because he was the
only doctor in the colony and therefore in great demand.

Both West and Pott were foes of the Indians, and in numerous orders and
proclamations denounced former treaties of peace with them, and directed
that perpetual enmity and wars be maintained against them. A pretended
peace was, however, authorized to be extended to the Indians in August
1628 until certain captive Englishmen were redeemed; then it was to be

The colonists, too, suffered during the administrations of West and
Pott. One man expressed the hope for "an Easterly wind to blow to send
in Noble Capt. Harvey, And then I shall have wright for all my wrong."
Capt. John Harvey was known in the colony for the investigation he had
conducted in Virginia in 1624-1625, and the King had appointed him
Governor on March 26, 1628. Harvey did not actually take up his
government in Virginia until two years later. In the meantime West and
Pott administered the colony.


When Harvey arrived in 1630 he found that inadequate restrictions placed
on tobacco production in the previous years had created an enormous
surplus which had forced the price down to a penny a pound. Harvey found
also that because of their "greedie desires to make store of Tobackoe,"
the settlers had neglected to plant sufficient corn, let alone to
develop different commodities as instructed by the King. Calling an
Assembly, he convinced the representatives to agree to reduce the amount
of tobacco planted, and to increase the amount of corn. He also sent
ships into the Chesapeake and southward to Cape Fear to trade for corn
with the Indians to make up the deficit left by the negligent planters.
But most important of all, Harvey put into effect the long-dreamed-of
plan to secure the entire area between the James and the York by
building a palisade between Archer's Hope Creek (now College Creek),
emptying into the James River, and Queen's Creek, emptying into the York
River. Harvey's plan called also for a settlement on the south side of
the York. This outpost would serve as an advance base and point of
defense for operations against Opechancanough, King of the Pamunkeys,
and his many warriors. Six hundred acres apiece were granted there in
1630 to Capt. John West, brother of Lord Delaware, and to Capt. John
Utie, who were made commanders of the settlement. Fifty acres were
offered to any person who would settle there during the first year of
its existence and twenty-five during the next year. Exactly when the
first settlers moved to the York is uncertain, but it was probably in
1631. West and Utie settled on either side of a bay formed by the
joining of King's Creek and Felgate's Creek about four miles above
modern Yorktown. The tourist who speeds along the Colonial Parkway from
Jamestown to Yorktown crosses the bay within sight of the tracts granted
West and Utie. Today he may drive from Jamestown to the York with
comfort and safety in a few minutes. It took the early settlers
twenty-four years to cover the same distance.

[Illustration: Map 1]

About the same time, probably in 1630, another distant settlement was
established. William Claiborne, Secretary of the Council of State of
Virginia, with one hundred men, settled Kent Island 150 miles up
Chesapeake Bay. In the Assembly of February 1632 both "Kiskyacke and the
Isle of Kent" were represented by Capt. Nicholas Martiau, ancestor of
George Washington.

The great expansion had now begun. Settlers crossed from the James to
the York, and provision was made by an act of the Assembly of February
1633 for building houses at Middle Plantation, situated strategically
between College Creek and Queen's Creek, and for "securing" the tract of
land lying between the two creeks.

Besides being concerned with questions of defense, Harvey pursued a
policy of encouraging trade with other colonies in the New World.
Numerous commissions were issued by the Governor in March and April of
1632 authorizing individuals to trade with New England, Nova Scotia, and
the Dutch plantation in Hudson's River, as well as with the West Indies.
Harvey even gave instructions to Nathaniel Basse, one of the traders and
a member of the Council, to encourage people from the other colonies to
come to Virginia. "If those of Newe England shall dislike the coldnes of
there clymate or the barrenness of the soyle," wrote Harvey, "you may
propose unto them the plantinge of Delaware bay, where they shall have
what furtherance wee cann afford them, and noe impediment objected
against theire owne orders and lawes."

But all was not well in the government of the colony. Harvey found the
Council members constantly opposing him, disputing his authority,
resisting his attempts to administer equal justice to all men. The royal
Governor was not supreme as we now sometimes mistakenly assume. He was
first among equals only. Decisions at this time were made by majority
vote, and the Governor was frequently outvoted. Moreover the Councilors,
who could devote more of their time to their private affairs, tended to
be better off financially than the Governor himself, who found it next
to impossible to get his salary from the King, and who was forced to
entertain at his own expense all who came to James City. Harvey
complained that he should be called the "host" rather than the
"Governor" of Virginia. In contrast, Samuel Mathews, one of Harvey's
enemies on the Council, owned the finest estate in Virginia. William
Claiborne, another of Harvey's enemies on the Council, besides a large
estate, had a royal commission and English backers for his powerful
trading company.

Harvey made every effort to reconcile the differences which arose
between him and the Council members, and on December 20, 1631, all
signed an agreement promising to work in harmony and to mend their

Fortified by this agreement, Harvey went forward with his efforts to put
Virginia's agricultural economy on a sound basis. The principal problem
was to force the planters to diversify. Many tears are shed for the
poverty of the planters of Virginia, and their customary indebtedness to
English creditors is usually cited as proof of their poverty. But this
"poverty" was not based on the inability of the planter to raise enough
food to support himself and his family, but on the fluctuations of the
market price of the crop--tobacco--to which he had devoted most of his
energies as a speculative venture. Strange as it may seem, the planter
had to be forced to raise enough food for his own support, so avid was
his desire for quick tobacco profits.

Governor Harvey's Assembly of February 1632 directed that every man
working in the ground should plant and tend at least two acres of corn
per head, on penalty of forfeiture of his entire crop of tobacco. Harvey
hoped to make Virginia "the granarie to his Majesty's Empire," as Sicily
had been to Rome. Another act allowed corn to be sold for as high a
price as could be obtained, contrary to the usual European and colonial
habit of fixing prices on basic commodities used by the people. The
reason given for this freedom from price fixing was that the precedents
of other countries did not apply to America, "for none are so poore
heere, as that they may not have as much corne, as they will plant,
havinge land enough."

The Assembly of 1632 did, however, fix a price on tobacco, requiring
that it not be sold at less than six pence per pound, a law they went to
great pains to justify to the King. Tobacco was Virginia's primary
economic interest, and the Virginians were willing to go to any lengths
to advance that interest. They urged the King not to place any
impediment to their "free trade," or right to sell their tobacco
wherever they could, and mentioned that they had already constructed
several barques and had begun trading with the Dutch plantation on
Hudson's River. Governor Harvey asked why the English merchants could
not afford to allow them a penny a pound for their tobacco when the
Dutch paid eighteen pence per pound.

The English merchants who traded with Virginia formed a tight little
group which used its favored position to charge excessive prices for
English-made goods, and to give abnormally low prices for Virginia
tobacco. Such a policy was not entirely owing to covetousness. The
English economy was shackled by a conception of economic life which
believed in the necessity of monopolies and restrictive devices of all
sorts. The Dutch nation, on the other hand, had thrown off many of the
traditional mercantilist restraints on trade. Holland soon enjoyed a
level of prosperity that made her the envy of the rest of Europe. Her
rivals attributed Dutch success to the energy of her people. "Go to beat
the Dutch" became a byword which has persisted to this day. Not until a
century later did the English realize that Dutch prosperity was caused
not so much by hard work as by the policy of freeing trade from
unnecessary restraints. As Dutch prosperity increased, Dutch ships
appeared in every sea, underselling all rivals and paying better prices
for local products. The complaint that the London merchants allowed only
one penny a pound for the Virginians' tobacco while the Dutch gave
eighteen strikingly illustrates the measure of Dutch commercial
superiority. No wonder that the London merchants should demand that the
Dutch be excluded from the Virginia market! For the same reason
Virginians, whether Governors, Councilors, Burgesses, or planters, were,
throughout the seventeenth century, almost unanimously opposed to the
English government's policy of restricting trade with Virginia to
English ships and confining that trade to English ports.

Although Governor Harvey supported the Burgesses and Council in their
strong defense of tobacco production, he privately wrote that he had not
only endeavored to have reduced the amount of tobacco planted "but if it
might have been, to have utterly rooted out this stinking commodity." He
reported that only the powerful hand of the King and his Council could,
however, effect such an end, so "indeared" were the planters to the
traffic. Moreover, Harvey admitted that until some more staple commodity
could be developed, tobacco could not be prohibited without the utter
ruin of the colony. Virginia was rooted to tobacco--seemingly for ever.

The Virginia planters' proposals, of course, met the opposition of the
London merchants, who complained to their powerful friends and
associates in the government and urged the King and his Council to
nullify the restrictions which the Virginians tried to place on the sale
of their tobacco. The merchants were particularly opposed to the desire
of the Virginians to by-pass them and trade with foreign nations

It is hard for us to realize today the immense importance of merchants
and traders in influencing the colonial policies of the English
government. Virginia was founded by a commercial company. All the early
attempts at settlement were made by private persons who were willing to
"adventure" their capital or their skill. Behind the great explorers
stood private individuals who risked their money on the success of the
voyage or settlement. The "government"--perhaps it would be truer to say
the Kings and their advisers--did not have the funds or the foresight to
support these ventures. They were perfectly willing to sign papers
granting lands they did not own to those who were willing to attempt the
settlement, but they were reluctant to put up their own money except on
a sure thing.

Once the settlements were functioning, once revenues were patently
obvious, the monarchs showed more concern with their government.
Merchants still, however, continued to provide the link between the King
and colony to a great extent. In an age of state regulation and
monopolies, in an age which did not provide fixed salaries for men in
high position, there was a close relationship between the Exchange and
the Court. A merchant dealing with overseas trade could not be
successful unless he had influence at Court. Even after the King took
away the charter of the Virginia Company, merchants continued to apply
pressure to the committees and commissions set up to advise the King on
colonial policy. Although the colonists feared that Charles I might
reinstitute a company over them, and the former representatives of the
Virginia Company pressed for such a move, the merchants were not able to
re-establish direct control over the colony.


In September 1632, under Governor Harvey's direction, the first revisal
of Virginia's laws was made. Twenty-five years of experience under
varying forms of government lay behind the revisal. All previous laws
were examined and brought into conformity with existing conditions. Most
of the legislation concerned the Church, tobacco, and the Indians, good
indications of what most concerned the early settlers. Highways were
also authorized to be laid out in convenient places, the first sign that
settlement was spreading from the rivers--the traditional highways of
Virginia--into the interior. Virginia was becoming more than a military
outpost. It was becoming a "home."

The success of Harvey's attempt to stabilize and diversify agricultural
production is confirmed in the account of Captain Thomas Young of his
voyage to Virginia and Delaware Bay in 1634. Sailing up the James River
he noticed that "the cuntry aboundeth with very great plentie of milk,
cheese, butter and corne, which latter almost every planter in the
country hath." The grim threat of starvation that had in former times
hung over the colony had been dispelled. Although there had been a rapid
increase in population, the food supply more than kept up with the
increase, and thousands of bushels of corn were even transported and
sold to the New England colonists.

The year 1634 also marked the establishment of the county form of local
government in Virginia. The scattered plantations and settlements,
rapidly expanding and hence more difficult to govern from James City,
were now organized into eight counties. For each a monthly court was
established by commission from the Governor and Council. Provision for
separate courts in outlying areas had been made as early as 1618. Now
the shift to decentralized government was formalized.

[Illustration: Map 2]


In 1635, in one of the most famous incidents in Virginia's early
history, Governor Harvey was deposed by his Council. Many historians
have assumed that Harvey was deposed by a spontaneous uprising of the
people no longer able to bear his oppressive government. There is,
however, little justification for this view. Many more accusations have
been hurled at Harvey by later historians than by his contemporaries,
and it is undoubtedly Harvey's position as a royal Governor and his
quick temper that have caused historians to take such a hostile view of
him. Ever since the successful American Revolution of 1776, American
historians, in interpreting the events of the colonial period, have
jumped at any evidence of discontent as an anticipation of, and
justification for, the War for Independence. They have not stopped to
determine whether the charges hurled at the royal Governors were true or
not. It is enough that someone accused them of oppression.

The causes of the revolt against Harvey were various. Of first
importance was the continual opposition that existed between the
Governor and his Council. The revolt was not primarily a revolt of the
people but a revolt by certain members of the Council who attempted to
give their particular insubordination the appearance of a general

Harvey's commission was such that he could do nothing except by majority
vote of himself and the Council sitting as a single body. The Council
frequently outvoted him, effectively blocking his proposals. Harvey
bitterly disputed the Council's power to thwart his will. He pointed out
that the King had sent him to Virginia not only as the new Governor but
with the specific duty of correcting the abuses that were reported to
have existed under previous Governors, especially those abuses for which
members of the Council were responsible. Previous to his arrival the
government had been in the hands of Francis West and Dr. John Pott,
elected to office by the other members of the Council. Pott, whose
reputation has been mentioned earlier, was not pleased to be brought to
justice for his dishonest actions. Nor was Samuel Mathews, an important
member of the Council, pleased to be brought to justice for withholding
the cattle and property of other men. (Mathews, the richest man in the
colony, successfully resisted all legal attempts to divest him of this
property.) Nor were the Council members pleased when, in accordance with
His Majesty's commands, Harvey attempted to punish those responsible for
the ill treatment of William Capps, sent earlier by the King to start
production of tar, potash, salt, pipe staves and other commodities. The
Council had discouraged him from his mission, except in so far as it
concerned the production of salt, and Pott had issued an order
preventing him from leaving the colony to report to the King.

Another cause for grievance against Harvey was the peace he made with
the local Indians. The colonists distrusted the Indians more than they
distrusted other Europeans. The great massacre of 1622, when the Indians
made a desperate attempt to destroy the English settlement, had placed
Indian-white relations on a basis of perpetual enmity. Legally, the
Indians had never been considered to have the same rights as the
English. English law throughout the seventeenth century maintained the
doctrine that between Christians and infidels there could exist nothing
but perpetual enmity, a view which was a hangover from the period of the
Crusades, wars against the Turks, and expansion by militant Christian
nations into heathen lands during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
It is true that practical co-operation and on-the-spot recognition of
Indian rights had developed in Virginia in the early years. The massacre
of 1622, however, gave Virginians an excuse for abandoning all forms of
co-operation with, and respect for, the Indians. Deceit and breach of
faith were elevated into acknowledged instruments of policy. The right
of the Indians even to occupy the land of their forefathers was denied.
They were admitted to exist and to hold land _in fact_, but the English
refused to recognize _in law_ either their existence or their title to
land. Total extirpation was resolved against those Indian nations which
had taken part in the massacre. "Marches" were periodically ordered
against the various tribes with the purpose of destroying or seizing
their corn, burning their shelters, and killing as many members of the
tribe as possible.

Governor Harvey reversed this policy and made peace with the Indians
against the advice of Dr. Pott and other Councilors. He also attempted
to see that some measure of equity was extended to Indian-white
relations. As a result, the more aggressive planters accused him of
promoting a second massacre.

What really set off the revolt against Harvey, however, was the
injection of the hottest issue of the day into the controversy: whether
Harvey was "soft" on Catholicism. This issue was brought to a head
because of the grant of a portion of Virginia's original territory to
George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. Harvey had extended a helping hand
to Baltimore's colonists. Although his actions in this regard were
specifically required of him by the King, and although he received
especially warm commendation from the English government for doing so,
the Virginia colonists objected. The King's grant, for one thing, had
been carved out of the Virginia Company's old bounds which had been left
undisturbed when the Company lost its right to govern the area. Already
Virginians were beginning to eye the benefits of settlement in the
northern reaches of Chesapeake Bay. One, Colonel William Claiborne,
Secretary of the colony, had obtained a royal commission to trade in the
area and had established a settlement on Kent Island, opposite the
present Annapolis, far up Chesapeake Bay. By acting on the King's
instructions and supporting Baltimore's authority in the area against
Claiborne's claims, Harvey turned the second most important man in the
colony against him.

Harvey at first backed the Virginia Council's assertion that Kent
Island was a part of Virginia, and not part of the supposedly
uncultivated wilderness granted to Baltimore by the King. But in the
face of Charles's obvious desire to take the area away from Virginia,
and because Claiborne's patent authorized trade rather than settlement,
Harvey soon accepted Lord Baltimore's position that Claiborne's trading
post lay within the limits of Baltimore's jurisdiction. Irritation
between the two men increased when Harvey attempted jointly with the
Maryland authorities to conduct an examination of charges that Claiborne
was stirring up Maryland's Indians against the new settlers. Claiborne
was accused of telling the local Indians that the new settlers were not
Englishmen but Spaniards. The investigation which ensued was hampered at
every turn by Claiborne and his friends on the Virginia Council.

The Virginians were most concerned not by the apparent violation of
Virginia's territorial integrity, but by the fact that the new
settlement was being established and settled by Roman Catholics. The
Virginians were less tolerant than the King in wishing success to Lord
Baltimore, a Catholic, and his fellow religionists, in establishing a
colony on their northern border. The Virginia Council wrote Charles in
1629 thanking him for "the freedome of our Religion which wee have
enjoyed," and asserting proudly that "noe papists have beene suffered to
settle amongst us." They insisted upon tendering the oaths of supremacy
and allegiance to Lord Baltimore when he arrived in Virginia in October
1629 to consider a possible settlement, and reported to the King that he
had refused to take those oaths. Charles I had married a Catholic,
Henrietta Maria of France, and, like his father, James I, was not
disposed to allow too rigorous penalties against those who professed
religious allegiance to Rome. But the Parliament, and the people in
general, feared and hated Catholics, believing their religious beliefs
to be incompatible with loyalty to a Protestant state.

By means of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy Catholics were
required to recognize the English sovereign as their rightful ruler in
matters spiritual and ecclesiastical as well as temporal, to repudiate
the papal claim to depose heretical princes, to promise to fight for the
King in case of rebellion caused by a papal sentence of deposition, and
to denounce the doctrine that princes, being excommunicated, could be
deposed or murdered, or that subjects could be absolved from their oath
of allegiance. The oaths were based on a real fear which identified
Roman Catholicism with treason. Protestants felt that Catholics owed
their highest allegiance to a foreign power, and hence were not good
Englishmen. The problem was a complicated one, and much debated at the
time and since. Now it is generally accepted that one can owe spiritual
allegiance to Rome while remaining a faithful subject of a non-Catholic
state. In England in the seventeenth century, however, the Church of
Rome was too closely identified with England's mortal enemies to allow
her freely to tolerate Catholics in her midst. For a long period England
had feared Spain as the greatest threat to her existence. Even after the
defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 this fear persisted and to a
certain extent was transferred to France, another Catholic power. The
measures taken against the Catholics in England were similar to those
taken against Communists in this country today, and they were taken for
the same reason: the fear that the followers of a universal ideology
would turn against their local allegiance if the two ever came in

Eventually Charles's easy attitude towards Catholics helped bring about
his downfall. In a similar way Harvey's compliance with the King's
instructions to aid and respect Baltimore's colonists weakened his
popularity in Virginia.

As the locus of power in England shifted from the King and his lords
towards the Parliament and the people, a stronger Protestant and
democratic policy became necessary. The eventual result of this shift in
power became evident with the beheading of Charles I in 1649 and, later,
with the Glorious Revolution of 1689 and the crowning of William and
Mary as constitutional symbols of the power of the English nation.

So great was the popular feeling in Virginia against the "Papists" in
Maryland that many, in casual conversation, exclaimed that they would
rather knock their cattle on the head than sell them to Maryland. To
accommodate the needs of the new settlers in Maryland, Harvey sent them
some cows of his own and did his best to ease their early struggles, in
accordance with the King's commands. He could not do all he wished,
however, because he was frequently outvoted at the Council meetings on
anything that had to do with Maryland.

The deposition of Governor Harvey had its origin on April 27, 1635, in a
mutinous gathering held in the York River area, Virginia's first
frontier settlement outside the James River. The ring-leader seems to
have been Francis Pott, brother of Doctor Pott, who harangued the
meeting about the alleged injustice of Governor Harvey, and about the
Governor's toleration for Indians, which he said would bring on another
massacre. Francis Pott had formerly been commander of the fort at Point
Comfort but had a short time before been discharged by Harvey for

Harvey ordered the principals in the York meeting arrested, and called
the Council together to consider what action should be taken against
them. The Council opposed Harvey's desire to proceed against them by
martial law, and began to excuse the dissidents on the grounds of the
many complaints the people had about the government. Harvey thereupon
demanded opinions in writing on what should be done with the mutineers.
George Menefie, the first Councilor of whom Harvey demanded such a
written statement, said he was but a young lawyer and dared not give a
sudden opinion. A violent debate ensued. The rest of the Council also
refused to put their opinions in writing. At the next meeting of the
Council, Menefie began to recount the grievances of the country, naming
Harvey's detention of the Assembly's letter to the King as the principal
one. The original of this letter, refusing the King's propositions
concerning a tobacco contract, Harvey had retained, as likely to
infuriate the monarch and do the country no good. Instead he had sent a
copy of the letter to the Secretary of State. At Menefie's words,
Harvey, in a rage, brought his hand down sharply on the Councilor's
shoulder and said, "Do you say so? I arrest you on suspicion of treason
to his Majesty." Then Capt. John Utie and Capt. Samuel Mathews seized
Harvey and said, "And we you upon suspicion of treason to his Majesty."
Secretary Richard Kemp immediately stepped between the men and told Utie
and Mathews that Harvey was the King's Lieutenant and that they had done
more than they could answer for. Mathews and Utie released their hold on
the Governor but demanded that he go to England to answer the people's
complaints. To emphasize their demand Dr. John Pott signaled forty
soldiers who had been concealed outside the Governor's house (where the
meeting was held) to march up to the door, apparently as a form of
threat, although the mutineers protested that the guard was for the
Governor's safety. More days of negotiations passed. The rebellious
Council called an Assembly to hear charges against Harvey, and chose
Capt. John West to be Governor until His Majesty's pleasure might be
known. Finally Harvey agreed to return to England. Francis Pott went on
the same ship home.

In England the Privy Council heard the charges against Harvey and his
defense. None of the accusations stood up, and he was able to show why
the Council had private reasons to desire his removal. The King directed
him to return to his government with increased power, and ordered the
Councilors who had been instrumental in deposing him to be sent to
England for trial. Harvey was able to collect some of his back pay and
to obtain the King's agreement that he should return in a ship of war.
Unfortunately, an old and unseaworthy prize ship was provided him which
had to turn back shortly after its departure, and Harvey was forced to
take passage on an ordinary merchant ship which arrived in Virginia
January 18, 1637. Harvey suffered great losses because of the
unseaworthiness of the prize ship, and petitioned the King for
recompense. He was, however, ordered to pay out of his own pocket all
the losses he had sustained by the affair, although he was authorized to
collect an equivalent amount from the estates of the mutinous Councilors
should they be convicted.

The sending of the mutinous Councilors--Capt. John West, Samuel Mathews,
John Utie, and William Pierce--as prisoners to England, strangely enough
allowed them to accomplish what they had been unable to do in Virginia.
So many and so powerful were their friends, so wealthy were they
themselves, and so many were the charges that they contrived against
Harvey now that he was back in the colony and unable to answer them,
that the King soon reversed himself and ordered Harvey relieved of his
post. The King's action illustrates one of the little appreciated
factors in American colonial history: the role played by petitions to
the King. Three thousand miles of ocean, and months, even years, in
time, separated the assertion from the proof, encouraged the most
exaggerated charges, and contributed to the unjustified sympathy
extended by the King to many petitioners who did not deserve such
consideration. Some of the "crimes" charged against Harvey were even
discovered to have their origin in the King's own commands or in earlier
acts of Assembly. Yet they contributed to clouding the atmosphere and
blinding the lords of England to the true worth of their representative
in Virginia.

On the basis of unjustified or unsupported charges concerning Harvey's
alleged misappropriation of the mutinous Councilors' estates, which had
been seized for the King pending their trial, the King, on May 25, 1637,
ordered these estates returned to their owners. Harvey complied
immediately as far as four of the Councilors were concerned, but he had
already allowed legal action to be directed against Mathews' estate by
those who had claims against Mathews, and judgments had been made in
favor of the plaintiffs. When the English government heard he had not
turned back Mathews' property, it promptly ordered that he do so without
delay, which order Harvey then tried to put into effect as best he
could. The damage had been done, however, and the impression created
that he had willfully misappropriated Mathews' property and disobeyed
the King's commands.

Harvey's fight against the charges his enemies brought against him in
England suffered another blow when Mr. Anthony Panton, a minister who
had been twice banished from the colony, returned to England to add his
complaints to those of the others. Harvey was not given a chance to
defend himself against the new charges, and on January 11, 1639, Sir
Francis Wyatt was appointed to succeed him.

On Wyatt's arrival Harvey's estate was seized and the old Governor
prevented from returning to England until he could satisfy his
creditors. To meet their demands, Harvey, in 1640, was forced to sell
all his land and much of his personal property. The fact that he was in
debt to many persons in the colony is itself a significant indication
that he had not abused the powers of his office. It is a curious fact
that both Governor Sir William Berkeley and Governor Harvey were much in
debt when the rebellions against their rule began, while their principal
enemies were among the wealthiest men in the colony.

Harvey was finally able to return to England, probably in 1641. There he
found Anthony Panton continuing his campaign of defamation against him.
Panton was not content to accuse the previous government in Virginia of
every sort of general crime (although he failed to cite any specific
instance of oppression) but charged that the commission the King had
granted to Sir William Berkeley in August 1641 to replace Wyatt had been
surreptitiously obtained. The House of Lords therefore ordered
Berkeley's voyage delayed while they examined the case. The House of
Commons, on the basis of an earlier petition from Panton, had similarly
prevented the return to Virginia of Richard Kemp, Secretary of the
colony, and Christopher Wormeley. Both Berkeley and the two Virginians
presented counterpetitions, the one pointing out that he was charged
with nothing and hence desired not to be held up on his costly voyage,
the others asserting that all Panton's accusations were untrue and
similarly requesting permission to leave. The House of Lords thereupon
granted these petitions, sending Panton's charges to the Governor and
Council of Virginia for a decision.


In March 1642 Sir William Berkeley took up his duties in Virginia and
began a career which ended both gloriously and ignominiously thirty-five
years later. Berkeley came from a distinguished family, was a graduate
of Oxford and the Inns of Court, a playwright, and a courtier much
admired by the King. Men frequently wondered why he chose to waste his
talents in the American wilderness when he might have achieved eminence
at Court. The mystery will probably ever remain. In Virginia Berkeley
had to work with many of the same Councilors who bedeviled Harvey, but
Berkeley was able to get along well with them and with the Assembly and
people of Virginia. No Governor of Virginia in the seventeenth century
was ever so well or so deservedly loved by the people. Since he ended
his long career as Governor amidst a colonial rebellion against his rule
in 1676, historians have found it hard to determine whether to bestow
praise or blame upon him. Usually he is praised for his early years in
the government and condemned for his later years, thus taking on a Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character. The last word has not yet been written on
Governor Berkeley, however, and his character may prove to be more
consistent than historians have realized.

Berkeley's first action was to join the Burgesses and Council in a
violent denunciation of those who were attempting to reinstitute the old
Virginia Company's control over the colony. In a "Declaration against
the Company" Berkeley and the Assembly asserted that government under
the Company had been intolerable and if introduced again would destroy
all the democratic rights allowed by the King's instructions, such as
legal trial by jury, the right to petition the King, and yearly
Assemblies. The readmission of the Company would also, the declaration
asserted, impeach the "freedom of our trade (which is the blood and life
of a commonwealth)." The declaration went on to order that anyone who
promoted the restoration of the Company's power would, upon due
conviction, be held an enemy to the colony and forfeit his whole estate.

Berkeley's next action was to recommend the repeal of the tax of four
pounds of tobacco per poll which formerly had been levied for the
Governor's use. The Assembly acknowledged this as "a benefit descending
unto us and our posterity ... contributed to us by our present
Governor." Berkeley abolished certain other valuable emoluments due him
by virtue of his office "wherein," the Assembly declared, "we may not
likewise silence the bounty of our present Governor in preferring the
public freedom before his particular profit." Finally Berkeley
recommended that taxes be proportioned in some measure "according to
mens abilities and estates" rather than by the old poll tax system, and
the new scheme was, for a brief period, put into effect.

Governor Berkeley not only showed himself selfless in restraining his
own opportunities for profit, but fearless in restraining the colonists'
itch for land. A few months before his arrival, the Assembly had
authorized settlement both on the north side of the York and in the
Rappahannock area, if it could be done in great enough force.
Opechancanough was to be offered fifty barrels of corn a year for the
area between the York and the Piankatank, although the English proposed
to take the area whether Opechancanough accepted the offer or not.
Twenty-four years had elapsed before English settlement jumped from the
James to the York. Now, ten years after the first settlements on the
York, Virginians were settling on the next great river to the north, the
Rappahannock. By the time Berkeley arrived, some settlers had
established themselves in the area, and many more had claimed grants.
Indian hostility was great, however, and soon a number of the settlers
returned to more secure areas of the country.

Berkeley, working with the Assembly of March 1643, obtained a law which
provided that the Rappahannock River region should remain "unseated,"
though grants might be tentatively claimed in the area, until the
Governor, Council, and Burgesses, that is, the Grand Assembly, should
authorize settlement there. The Governor was attempting to regulate the
expansion of the colony so that the twin goals of security for the
English and justice for the Indians could both be secured. In this he
was not entirely successful, since he could only guide, not arbitrarily
direct, the representatives of the people. The rich, virgin land of the
frontier exerted a continuing attraction to the tobacco planters, and
five years later, in 1648, the restrictions on settlement in the
Rappahannock region, as well as in the Potomac region, were officially

Many other important policy decisions were made at the March 1643
meeting of the Grand Assembly. One of these decisions concerned church
government. The first act provided for the establishment of church
government according to the Anglican form. Virginia was not formed as a
protest against the Church of England, as were the Puritan colonies in
New England in large measure. Conformity in religious matters was
considered a virtue in Virginia. The Assembly, indeed, enacted that
nonconformist ministers be compelled to depart the colony, an act which
did much to sour Virginia's relations with New England. What was
significant about the act, however, was that, with certain exceptions
and qualifications, it gave the vestry of every parish power to elect
the minister of the parish. Because established landlords and nobles
did not exist to build and endow churches as in England, the
representatives of the people, in the vestry, had to assume the role of
patron, to build the church, and to provide for the support of the
minister. In such circumstances it was natural that much of the power
that remained in the hierarchy of church, state, and society in England
should, in Virginia, pass to the ordinary people and be exercised
through their representatives--the vestry and Burgesses. The people, not
the King, became the patron of the Church of England in Virginia.
Popular responsibility replaced clerical responsibility and added one
more phase of life to those controlled directly by the people in the New
World. It is significant that Patrick Henry, years before the
Revolution, should first have asserted the doctrine of popular
responsibility and authority in a case--the celebrated "Parsons'
Cause"--involving the people's authority over the church.

An even more significant indication of the shift in power in the
government was the provision in one of the acts of the Assembly of 1643
that appeals from the General Court (composed of the Governor and
Council, all appointees of the Crown) should be made to the Grand
Assembly (composed of the representatives of the people plus the
Governor and Council).

Still another demonstration of the _de facto_ shift in power from the
Crown to the people was the third act of the 1643 Assembly which
declared that the Governor and Council "shall not lay any taxes or
impositions upon this collonie their lands or comodities otherwise then
by the authority of the Grand Assembly to be leavied and imployed as by
the Assembly shall be appointed." The first such law had been passed in
March 1624 and renewed in February 1632. The process of wresting control
of the purse strings from the representatives of the Crown was to be a
long-drawn-out process in America, as indeed it was in England. In
Virginia the battle was won without a fight either because the Governors
were unable to oppose the power of the Burgesses or because they
identified their interests with those of the people. In the case of the
rights won by the people of Virginia during Sir William Berkeley's
governorship, these seem to have been the results as much of the
Governor's benevolence as of the Burgesses' power.

The colony also took its economic welfare into its own hands in the
early years of Berkeley's administration. Dutch traders were encouraged
by an act which made it free and lawful for any Dutch merchant or
shipowner to bring merchandise into the colony and to take tobacco out
of it. Means were provided to ease the difficulty caused by the
requirement that the Dutch give security for payment of the King's
customs at the port of London.


On April 18, 1644, occurred the second great Indian massacre in
Virginia's history. Opechancanough, King of the Pamunkey Indian
confederation, planned and executed the massacre, which most historians
attribute to the steadily increasing pressure exerted by the English on
the Indians' lands. The white population had increased from 3,000 in
1630 to 8,000 in 1640, and more were pouring in yearly. Nearly four
hundred English, living in exposed areas of the colony, reportedly lost
their lives in the massacre. The gallant young Berkeley, as proficient a
soldier as he was a playwright and courtier, struck back hard at the
Indians. The entire colony was put on a war footing. Campaigns, usually
by small mobile forces, were conducted against the Indians where they
could be found. The June Assembly passed an act for "perpetuall warre
with the Indians" promising to "pursue and root out those which have any
way had theire hands in the shedding of our blood and massacring of our

As in the case of so many Indian wars, there was a difference of opinion
as to which Indian nations were guilty of the attack. The Assembly's act
attempted to restrict reprisals to those who had actually perpetrated
the massacre. Some individuals, however, like Col. William Claiborne,
seem to have desired to extend the reprisals to the Indians living
between the Rappahannock and the Potomac, where the land interests of
Claiborne and others were concentrated at this time.

Little progress was made in defeating the enemy in the early months of
the war. The Assembly, meeting in June 1644, foreseeing ruin and
desolation unless the colony could be furnished with a greater supply of
arms and ammunition, entreated Governor Berkeley to return to England
and implore His Majesty for assistance to the country. The Assembly also
commissioned Mr. Cornelius Lloyd as agent for the colony to obtain what
supplies he could from the Dutch plantation in Hudson's River, from the
Swedish plantation on the Delaware, and from the New England

It does not seem, from the records available, that either mission was
successful. Governor Berkeley found England involved in full-scale war
between the forces of the King and those of Parliament. Instead of
receiving aid from the King, Berkeley lent his own assistance to the
King's cause in his English campaigns. Berkeley returned to Virginia a
year later.

The mission of Virginia's agent to the northern colonies apparently met
with similar lack of success. Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts
Bay attributed the massacre to Virginia's expulsion of certain "godly
ministers" sent from New England a short time before, and told the
Virginia agent that Massachusetts could not spare the powder requested.
When Massachusetts' principal powder store shortly thereafter blew up,
Winthrop wondered whether God's wrath might not have been kindled
against the Bay Colony for her refusal to provide powder to fellow
Englishmen in need.

The war with Opechancanough continued throughout the fall and winter of
1644 and into the spring of 1645. At the Assembly of February 1645
provision was made for sending out the usual military parties. But in
addition three forts were ordered built: one in the Pamunkey territory,
one at the falls of the James, and a third along the Chickahominy.

Efforts were made to see that the expenses of the war were equitably
shared. The settlers at Northumberland, on the south bank of the
Potomac, were ordered to contribute to the cost of the war on the north
side of the James. Chickacoan, as the area was known at first, had
served for several years as a rallying point for Protestants disaffected
with the government of Lord Baltimore, but this was the first official
notice of the settlement by the Virginia Assembly. Settlement along the
Potomac was significant, of course, because it placed a body of citizens
farther from effective control than any had been in the past. It had
been hard enough for Harvey to control the citizens on the south side of
the York River; now two broad rivers, the York and Rappahannock, lay
between the frontier settlements and Jamestown.

The Assembly of February 1645 found time to deal with matters other than
the conduct of the war. It passed an act providing "That Free trade be
allowed to all the inhabitants of the collony to buy and sell at their
best advantage." Because some questions had been asked by the merchants
of London concerning a rumored prohibition of trade with them, it was
thought fit to explain that Virginia's free trade extended to them as to
other Englishmen.

Following Sir William Berkeley's return from England June 7, 1645,
vigorous measures were taken to end the protracted war with
Opechancanough, and a new Assembly was called to reform abuses which had
sprung up. This Assembly met in November and passed reform laws which
demonstrate the concern Berkeley had for satisfying all the legitimate
grievances of the people. Action was taken against innkeepers who
charged unreasonable rates and fraudulently mixed their wines and
liquors with water. Similar action was taken against millers who
overcharged the people. Attorneys at law who charged fees for their
services were expelled from office, the colony having become outraged
at their exactions. The prohibition against professional attorneys
continued for a number of years before it was finally relaxed. Strict
regulations were instituted to curb the abuses of administrators of
deceased persons and orphans. Because of the trouble and charge to
plaintiffs and defendants of coming to Jamestown to attend the General
Court, county courts were allowed power to try all causes at common law
and equity. The tradition that appeals should lie from county courts to
the General Court and from the General Court to the Assembly was
reaffirmed. General poll taxes, which had been reintroduced, were
abolished on the grounds that they were "inconvenient" and had "become
insupportable for the poorer sorte to beare." All levies were ordered to
be raised "by equall proportions out of the visible estates in the
collony." Exemptions from taxation extended to members of the Council
were canceled for the duration of the war. It is not hard to imagine the
praise that would have been heaped on the initiator of such reforms, had
it seemed that they were the result of a democratic uprising.

In March 1646 the Assembly met again. The policy of building forts had
evidently been considered successful enough to encourage the Assembly to
order another, Fort Henry, constructed at the falls of the Appomattox
for the defense of the inhabitants on the south side of the James River
and to deprive the Indians of their fishing in the area. The war had
been going on for a year and a half and the enemy forces were still not
destroyed. The Assembly, considering the vast expense that the conflict
had caused and considering "the almost impossibility of a further
revenge upon them, they being dispersed and driven from their townes and
habitations, lurking up and downe the woods in small numbers, and that a
peace (if honourably obtained) would conduce to the better being and
comoditie of the country," authorized Capt. Henry Fleet, the colony's
interpreter, and sixty men, to go out and try to make a peace with
Opechancanough. If they could not make such a peace, they were to erect
a fort on the Rappahannock River or between it and the York.

The "break" in the war came with the daring capture of Opechancanough
himself by Governor Berkeley. Berkeley, who frequently led the troops of
the colony in the field, was apprised of the Indian leader's
whereabouts, and with characteristic boldness led a troop of men in a
raid on his headquarters. The raid was successful: Opechancanough was
captured and brought back to Jamestown. The old chief, said to be over
100 years, acted the part of Emperor of the Indian confederation with
grave dignity. The historian Robert Beverley tells us that one day the
nearly blind warrior heard "a great noise of the treading of people
about him; upon which he caused his eye-lids to be lifted up; and
finding that a crowd of people were let in to see him, he call'd in high
indignation for the Governour; who being come, Opechancanough scornfully
told him, that had it been his fortune to take Sir William Berkeley
prisoner, he should not meanly have exposed him as a show to the
people." Berkeley accepted the rebuke, and ordered him treated with all
the dignity due his position as the leader of many Indian nations.
Unfortunately the life of Opechancanough was shortly after snuffed out
by one of his guards who shot him in the back, despite his defenseless

Peace was concluded with Necotowance, Opechancanough's successor, by the
first act of the October 1646 Assembly. The treaty is a document of
historic importance. Under its provisions Necotowance acknowledged that
he held his kingdom from the King of England and that his successors
might be appointed or confirmed by the King's Governors. Twenty beaver
skins were to be paid to the Governor yearly "at the going away of the
geese" in acknowledgment of this subjection. Necotowance and his people
were given freedom to inhabit and hunt on the north side of York River
without interference from the English, provided that if the Governor and
Council thought fit to permit any English to inhabit the lower reaches
of the peninsula, where land grants had been made before the massacre,
Necotowance first should be acquainted therewith. Necotowance in turn
surrendered all claim to the land between the falls of the James and the
York rivers downward to Chesapeake Bay. Indians were not allowed on this
land unless specially designated as messengers to the English. Similarly
it was a felony for an Englishmen to repair to the north side of the
York River except temporarily under special conditions authorized by the

The significance of the treaty lies in the fact that the Indians were to
be treated as equals, with equal rights to live on the land with the
English and to enjoy the rights of human beings. They were no longer
considered as vermin to be exterminated whenever the opportunity
presented itself. For the first time in Virginia's history, the Indian
was considered to have an unquestioned legal right to the land. The
setting aside of a reservation for the Indians into which English
intrusion was forbidden marked the end of the "perpetual enmity" policy
of earlier days. When differences arose, they might still be settled by
peace or by war, but the right of either side to exist would not be

Despite the improvement in the status of the Indian nations occasioned
by the treaty of 1646 it proved impossible to preserve their rights in
the face of the enormous increase in English population. The fate of the
eastern Indians proved identical to the fate of their western brothers
in the nineteenth century, when white population increased around the
areas set aside for Indian occupancy. But in Virginia the attempt was
made to establish a fair settlement, and Governor Berkeley honestly and
courageously labored to keep faith with the Indians, even though he lost
popularity and eventually his position as a result.

The Assembly of October 1646 also provided for the maintenance of the
forts built during the war. This was done by granting the land on which
they were built, plus adjoining acres, to individuals who would
guarantee to maintain the forts and to keep a certain number of men
constantly on the place. By this method the valuable forts of the
colony were preserved, yet the people were spared the heavy taxes that
would normally have been necessary to maintain them.

The Assembly made further provision that those who had settled along the
Potomac in Northumberland should not be allowed to avoid taxes as they
had done during the war. The English in this remote area had evidently
ignored the act of the February 1645 Assembly which attempted to tax
them, and followed instead their own interests, free from any effective
control by Virginia's government during the conflict with

Finally the October Assembly enacted the strictest and most democratic
voting law ever made in Virginia. Not only were all freemen (as well as
covenanted servants) allowed to vote, but they were fined 100 pounds of
tobacco for failing to do so. This act seems to have continued in effect
until 1655 when the Assembly prohibited freemen from voting unless they
were also householders.


Following the war Virginia returned to its two great peacetime
interests--trade and expansion. In the Assembly of April 1647 Berkeley,
the Council, and the Burgesses joined in a declaration which reveals the
extent to which the colony relied on Dutch traders. It noted that
"absolute necessities" had caused earlier Assemblies to invite the Dutch
to trade with the inhabitants of Virginia, "which now for some few
yeares they have injoyed with such content, comfort and releife that
they esteeme the continuance thereof, of noe lesse consequence then as a
relative to theire being and subsistence." Rumors had been raised, the
declaration went on, that by a recent ordinance of Parliament, all
foreigners were prohibited from trading with any of the English
plantations "which wee conceive to bee the invention of some English
merchants on purpose to affright and expell the Dutch, and make way for
themselves to monopolize not onely our labours and fortunes, but even
our persons." The declaration noted the baneful effects on the colony of
the greed of the English merchants and pointed out that by ancient
charter and right the inhabitants of Virginia were allowed to trade with
any nation in amity with the King. It would be inconceivable that
Parliament would abridge this right "especially without hearing of the
parties principally interested, which infringeth noe lesse the libertye
of the Collony and a right of deare esteeme to free borne persons:
_viz._, that no lawe should bee established within the kingdome of
England concerninge us without the consent of a grand Assembly here."
But since they had heard nothing officially concerning the rumored act,
"wee can interprett noe other thing from the report, then a forgerye of
avaritious persons, whose sickle hath bin ever long in our harvest
allreadye." To provide for Virginia's subsistence the Governor, Council,
and Burgesses ordered that the right of the Dutch nation to trade with
Virginia be reiterated and preserved, and her traders given every

Virginia's other great problem, that of unregulated expansion, was dealt
with by the Grand Assembly of November 1647 in an extraordinary way. The
Governor, Council, and Burgesses ordered that persons inhabiting
Northumberland and "other remote and straying plantations on the south
side of Patomeck River, Wicokomoko, Rappahannock and Fleets Bay" be
displanted and removed. They justified this act on the basis of frequent
instructions from the King to Berkeley and the Council directing that
the planters not be allowed to scatter themselves too widely, and also
because they considered such settlement "pernicious" and "destructive"
to the peace and safety of the colony, animating the Indians to attack,
and thus imbroiling the country in troublesome and expensive wars. Since
winter was approaching, the inhabitants were allowed one year to remove
themselves to the south side of York River.

The same session of the Assembly authorized Capt. Edward Hill and others
to establish, at the head of Rappahannock River, a military and trading
outpost which was deemed valuable to the peace and safety of the colony.
Hill and his associates were to provide forty men to man the fort which
was not to exceed five acres at most, on pain of having the grant

It was a brave and sensible policy which Berkeley and the Assembly
pursued, but one that was destined to be overridden by the power,
self-interest, and numbers of the thousands of new members of the
colony, both those being born in Virginia in ever-increasing numbers,
and those who had left behind them the civil strife of England. In less
than a year the Assembly enacted that the tract of land between the
Rappahannock and Potomac rivers should be called Northumberland and that
it should have power to elect Burgesses. The reasons of "state" that had
convinced the Assembly of November 1647 to order the utter dissolution
of the Northumberland settlements were thus thrown to the winds by the
next Assembly. No doubt the pressure of the inhabitants, would-be
inhabitants, and speculators, in addition to the difficulty of enforcing
the decision, caused the repeal of the act. The restraining hand of the
Governor was never again to be felt as it had been in the period
following the 1646 peace. The explosive growth of settlement in Virginia
had proved impossible to control.

The justification of the settlement south of the Potomac River was not
the only victory of the people in the Assembly of October 1648. Upon the
representation of the Burgesses to the Governor and Council complaining
of the worn-out lands and insufficient cattle ranges of the earlier
settlements, the Governor and Council, after long debate, joined the
Burgesses in authorizing settlement on the north side of the York and
Rappahannock rivers. The act declared, however, that "for reasons of
state to ... [the Governor and Council] appearing, importing the safety
of the people in their seating," no one was to go there before the first
of September of the following year. Surveys of the area were allowed at
once, however, and land patents were authorized to be taken out. The act
making it a felony to go to the north side of York River was repealed.
The settlers' and speculators' victory was complete. Reasons of "policy"
and "state" proved only of sufficient power to delay the inevitable.


On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was beheaded by the Parliamentary
forces. It was a logical climax to the turmoil into which English
institutions and values had been cast by the long years of civil war
that preceded the deed. The execution of the King shocked Englishmen as
well as foreigners. The reaction of the Virginians came in the form of
Act I of the Assembly of October 1649 which hailed "the late most
excellent and now undoubtedly sainted king," denounced the perpetrators
of the deed, and declared that if any person in the colony should defend
"the late traiterous proceedings ... under any notion of law and
justice" by words or speeches, such person should be adjudged an
accessory _post factum_ to the death of the King. Anyone who expressed
doubt, by words and speeches, as to the inherent right of Charles II to
succeed his father as King of England and Virginia, was likewise to be
adjudged guilty of high treason.

The death of Charles I left the Parliamentary forces supreme in England.
Some royalists retired to the continent of Europe, and some came to
Virginia. England became a Commonwealth without a King; Oliver Cromwell
was later named Protector. The new government, after consolidating its
power in England, attempted to extend its control over the colonies,
some of which, like Virginia, continued to demonstrate their loyalty to
royal authority. On October 3, 1650, Parliament, as a punitive measure,
prohibited the trade of the colonies with foreign nations except as the
Parliamentary government should allow. "This succession to the exercise
of the kingly authority," wrote Jefferson later, "gave the first colour
for parliamentary interference with the colonies, and produced that
fatal precedent which they continued to follow after they had retired,
in other respects, within their proper functions."

The reaction of the Virginia Burgesses to this act was as violent as
their reaction to the beheading of Charles I. Their temper on both
occasions owed much to the eloquence of their Governor, and to the
admiration in which he was held by the people. In March 1651 they met to
consider the Parliamentary threat to their beliefs and to their
livelihood. Sir William Berkeley spoke to them on the subject of
Parliament's claim to speak for the English nation. Said the Governor:

    If the whole current of their reasoning were not as ridiculous, as
    their actions have been tyrannicall and bloudy, we might wonder with
    what browes they could sustaine such impertinent assertions: For if
    you looke into it, the strength of their argument runs onely thus:
    we have laid violent hands on your land-lord, possessed his manner
    house where you used to pay your rents, therfore now tender your
    respects to the same house you once reverenced.... They talke indeed
    of money laid out on this country in its infancy: I will not say how
    little, nor how centuply repaid, but will onely aske, was it
    theirs?... Surely Gentlemen we are more slaves by nature, then their
    power can make us if we suffer our selves to be shaken with these
    paper bulletts, and those on my life are the heaviest they either
    can or will send us.

Berkeley was confident that if Virginia put up a determined resistance,
the new English rulers would beg the colony to trade with them. He
compared the state of England with the state of Virginia, to the
disadvantage of the former. The Parliamentary government of England, he
asserted, did not represent the will of the people who would not endure
their "slavery, if the sword at their throats did not compell them to
languish under the misery they howrely suffer." As for Virginia, "there
is not here an arbitrary hand that dares to touch the substance of
either poore or rich." Berkeley called on the Burgesses to support his
stand against the act, asking:

    What is it can be hoped for in a change, which we have not allready?
    Is it liberty? The sun looks not on a people more free then we are
    from all oppression. Is it wealth? Hundreds of examples shew us that
    industry and thrift in a short time may bring us to as high a degree
    of it, as the country and our conditions are yet capable of: Is it
    securely to enjoy this wealth when gotten? With out blushing I will
    speake it, I am confident theare lives not that person can accuse me
    of attempting the least act against any mans property. Is it peace?
    The Indians, God be blessed round about us are subdued; we can onely
    feare the Londoners, who would faine bring us to the same poverty,
    wherein the Dutch found and relieved us; would take away the liberty
    of our consciences, and tongues, and our right of giving and selling
    our goods to whom we please. But Gentlemen by the Grace of God we
    will not so tamely part with our King, and all these blessings we
    enjoy under him; and if they oppose us, do but follow me, I will
    either lead you to victory, or loose a life which I cannot more
    gloriously sacrifice then for my loyalty, and your security.

The speech being ended the House of Burgesses, unanimously with the
Governor and Council, agreed to reject the Parliamentary act of October
3, 1650, as illegal, and to continue in allegiance to King Charles II,
always praying for his restoration to the throne and for the repentance
of those who, "to the hazard of their soules" opposed him. The Assembly
proclaimed that they would continue to trade freely with all persons of
whatever nation who came to trade with them, not excluding the

This assertion of Virginia's traditional freedom and rights was, of
course, a direct challenge to the Parliamentary government. In the fall
of 1651 that government determined to chastise the rebellious colony and
subject it by force. A fleet was dispatched in October to conquer
Virginia and Barbados, another rebellious colony. Robert Dennis, Richard
Bennett, Thomas Stegge, and William Claiborne were chosen commissioners
to take over the government of Virginia once it had been conquered.
Bennett and Claiborne were living in Virginia at the time.

Part of the fleet arrived in Virginia waters in January 1652. Berkeley
called upon the people to prepare for resistance. One thousand troops,
it is said, gathered in James City for the purpose. Five hundred Indian
allies of the colony promised their aid. Berkeley denounced the leaders
of the Parliamentary expedition as bloody tyrants, pirates, and robbers.
He warned the Virginians that, if they did not repel the attack, their
land titles would be thrown into doubt and they would be brought under a
company of merchants who would order them at their pleasure and keep
them from trade with all others. To counteract the Governor's influence,
the Parliamentary commissioners circulated letters and declarations
throughout the country denying any such evil intentions. Finally, on
January 19, they sent a summons to the Governor and Council to
surrender, and set sail from the lower reaches of the James to
Jamestown. A milder answer than expected was returned, setting forth
various demands and privileges desired by the Virginians.

The commissioners' reply to these proposals was favorable enough to
cause Berkeley to call an Assembly, and negotiations were entered into
between the Governor, Council, and Burgesses on the one hand, and the
Parliamentary commissioners on the other. Articles of submission were
agreed upon which were honorable to both sides, Virginia receiving
guarantees of the privileges of freeborn people of England, authority
for the Grand Assembly to continue to function, guarantees of immunity
for acts or words done or spoken in opposition to Parliament, guarantees
of the bounds of Virginia, of the fifty-acre headright privilege, and of
the right to "free trade as the people of England do enjoy to all places
and with all nations according to the lawes of that commonwealth."
Special provisions were made which allowed the Governor and Council to
refrain from taking any oath to the Commonwealth for one year and
guaranteed them for one year from censure for speaking well of the King
in their private houses. Berkeley and the Council were given leave to
sell their estates and quit Virginia, either for England or Holland. No
penalties were to be imposed on those who had served the King.

The commissioners of Parliament considered that they had been lucky to
reduce the colony without bloodshed, even though forced to agree to such
mild terms. At the same time the event suggests that the bitterness
which existed in England between Roundheads and Cavaliers was not quite
so extreme in the colonies, where little blood had been shed for the
cause of either. The colonies had interests of their own which ran
counter to those of the mother country, whether in the hands of King or
Parliament. Governor, Council, and Burgesses in Virginia were closer to
each other economically and politically than they were to their
respective counterparts in England. What held the colonies to the mother
country was not self-interest but ties of historical tradition and
racial patriotism. The execution of Charles I and seizure of the colony
by the Parliamentary fleet loosened these ties. The Crown, symbol of
continuity with past ages of English subjects and of unity among all the
King's realms, was now not only removed but denounced by those who had
done the deed.

Virginia never showed sympathy for those who had killed the King, and
the Assembly took to heart Governor Berkeley's warning of 1651 that the
blood of Charles I "will yet staine your garments if you willingly
submit to those murtherers hands that shed it." It is true that
following the surrender the Parliamentary commissioners agreed with the
representatives of the people on a provisional government for Virginia,
but the bonds that held Virginia to England had lost much of the cement
of love and tradition. Local and self-interest were now to dominate to a
great extent Virginia's actions. Such motives had always been latent,
and indeed active. But under royal government, the Governor could often
exert a countervailing force to prevent such interests from overriding
the interests of nation and morality.

Under the terms of the settlement the Grand Assembly was to continue to
function, and the Assembly and commissioners agreed that Richard
Bennett, one of the commissioners, should act as Governor for a year. It
was expected that orders would shortly arrive from England establishing
new patterns of government. Such instructions were especially necessary
to determine the role and authority of the Governor and Council,
formerly appointed by the King. The new rulers in England were made
aware of the need for a new policy for the colonies, but they never
found time to make the necessary decisions. At intervals the colonists
were informed that Cromwell had not forgotten them and that His Highness
would soon let them know his pleasure. But instructions never came
except spasmodically and inadequately. The merchants who stood to gain
from the Navigation Act of 1651, which generally excluded foreign ships
from the colonies and attempted to restrain colonial trade with foreign
countries, complained at the failure of the colonists to obey the act
and demanded that orders be sent to enforce it, but no adequate
provisions were ever made.

Thus the colony was left to its own devices during the period. Virginia
traders paid little attention to Parliamentary restrictions on their
commerce. They insisted that the provision of the Articles of Surrender
allowing them free trade with all nations according to the laws of the
Commonwealth did not prevent them from trading with foreigners. They
argued that since the first article of the surrender agreement
guaranteed them the rights of freeborn Englishmen, an act discriminating
against them in matters of trade because they happened to live in the
colonies was illegal. Dutch ships called often, though perhaps not so
frequently as some have believed, and individual Virginians traded as
they pleased with the Dutch and English colonies in America.


The existence of a weak executive, dependent on the people for his
authority, inevitably brought about a dispersal of power and authority
from the center to the outer edges of settlement. The explosive force
of expansion was no longer limited by the strong hand of a royal
Governor, and each increment of population in the colony and power in
the hands of the local authorities added fuel to the combustion.

One of Virginia's frontiers at this time was the Eastern Shore. It was a
frontier community because the law of the colonial government in
Jamestown rarely extended to it. The local commissioners of the county
court, later called "justices," provided what justice existed on the
Eastern Shore. But since these commissioners were sometimes the worst
offenders against the policies of the Governor, Council, and Burgesses,
justice was often sacrificed to interest, especially when Indians were
involved. The leaders on the Eastern Shore, like Edmund Scarborough,
were among the richest men and greatest landowners of the colony. They
conducted the county's business as if it were their own, which indeed it
was to a great extent. Their oppression of the Eastern Shore Indians
makes a sorry history, despite the efforts of Governor Berkeley to
restrain them. In April 1650, for example, Berkeley was forced to write
to the commissioners of Northampton asking them not to allow any land to
be taken from the Laughing King Indians. Berkeley pointed out that
during the massacre of 1644 these Indians had remained faithful to the
English. How could Virginia expect them to do the same again, asked
Berkeley, "unless we correspond with them in acts of charity and amity,
especially unless we abstain from acts of rapine and violence, which
they say we begin to do, by taking away their land from them, by
pretence of the sale of a patent."

Honest attempts were made both before and after the retirement of Sir
William Berkeley in 1652 to restrain the frontier barons in their savage
attacks on unsuspecting Indian towns. But often the law was too weak and
the guilty too strong. Neither the Indians in front of them nor the
government behind them had the power to curb their desires except in a
limited fashion. This was one of the benefits--to the frontiersmen--of
living under English law. The government could not effectively restrain
the Englishman nor protect the Indian. As a result the reckless
expansion went on into the lands of other tribes. As each new Indian
tribe was reached the same dismal pattern of subjugation or extirpation
was repeated, despite the efforts of the Governor and Council to see
that the rights of the Indians were preserved.

Every extension of settlement strengthened local rule. In May 1652 the
people of Northampton County, which comprised the whole of the Eastern
Shore of Virginia, protested to the Assembly against a tax levied on
them, asserting that since they had not sent representatives to the
Assembly since 1647, except for one Burgess in 1651, they did not think
the Assembly could tax them. They asked that they be allowed to have a
separate government and the right to try all causes in their own courts.
Although Northampton was not allowed to dissociate itself entirely from
the rest of Virginia, acts of 1654 and 1656 allowed the county to
constitute laws and customs for itself on matters dealing with Indians
and manufactures.

Virginia's most important frontier region in the 1650's was the area
along the Potomac River, although settlement went on simultaneously
westward up the James, York, and Rappahannock, southward into Carolina,
and northward up the Eastern Shore to Maryland. Sometimes individuals
obtained grants to explore, settle, and monopolize the trade of these
regions. But usually the expansion was catch as catch can. Since land
travel was still more difficult than water travel, expansion up the
Potomac, the last great unsettled tidewater river, was fastest.
Individuals who already had plantations in the older areas of settlement
around Jamestown sailed their barques up the Potomac and, without
bothering to go ashore, took the bounds of likely pieces of land. The
best spots were often the corn fields of the Indians and sometimes the
very towns where they lived. The fact that the Indians occupied the land
counted for little in the thoughts of the settlers and speculators who
flocked to the area. Following their surveys, the explorers rushed back
to James City and put in claims for the waterfront acreages, presenting
one "headright"--proof that someone had been imported into the colony by
their agency--for every fifty acres. The Patent Books of the colony
frequently show signs of fraud in the presentation of headrights.
Occasionally more land was granted than the claimant was entitled to on
the basis of the headrights he presented. But the headright system, even
imperfectly administered, remained during the Parliamentary period as
one of the elements of restraint on the unbounded desires of the
planters. Land acquisition was thus tied in a fixed ratio to population
increase. There was, as a result, some assurance that land acquired
would be populated and farmed. It was not until late in the seventeenth
century that anyone could buy land for money alone, a practice which
enabled some individuals in the eighteenth century to obtain holdings
exceeding 100,000 acres. In the middle of the seventeenth century 10,000
acres was a practical "top" limit.

At the beginning of the Commonwealth period in Virginia a number of new
counties were set up. The Assembly of April 1652 listed two new ones:
Gloucester, north of the York, and Lancaster, north of the Rappahannock.
The Assembly of November 1652 listed Surry, south of the James, for the
first time. Settlers had moved into these areas earlier when they were
parts of other counties, and in two cases the county organization may
have been set up prior to April 1652. The Assembly of July 1653, in
addition to authorizing exploration and settlement on the Roanoke and
Chowan rivers in present-day North Carolina, and exploration into the
Appalachian Mountains, ordered that a county to be called Westmoreland
should be set up west of Northumberland County on the Potomac, with
boundaries from Machodoc River to the falls of the Potomac above the
town of the Anacostan Indians. It was thus intended not only to include
in the new county all the lands of the Doeg Indians, but also those of
the Anacostans. The Assembly of November 1654 authorized the
establishment of New Kent County along both sides of the upper York
River and far up the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers.

The Assembly of November 1654 also authorized the three new northern
counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, and Westmoreland to march against
the Rappahannock Indians to punish various "injuries and insolencies
offered" by them. One hundred men were to be raised in Lancaster, forty
in Northumberland, and thirty in Westmoreland. The commissioners of
these counties were authorized to raise the troops, and one of their
number was appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition. He was to
march to the Rappahannock Indian town and demand and receive "such
satisfaction as he shall thinke fitt for the severall injuries done unto
the said inhabitants not using any acts of hostility but defensive in
case of assault." The charge of the war was to be borne by the three
counties concerned. This expedition was like many others that both
preceded and followed it. In each case, enormous authority and
responsibility were given to local officials who were themselves
frequently the leading oppressors of the Indians. Such expeditions not
infrequently took on the character of private wars between the big
landowners of the frontier and the Indian towns in the vicinity. The
Governor, Council, and Burgesses frequently heard the complaints of the
local settlers, but rarely the complaints of the Indians. The
authorization to the local community to administer justice to the
Indians often proved a cover for their expulsion or extirpation.

The usual grievances of the settlers against the Indians were not the
violent murders and massacres so often associated in the public mind
with Indian-white relations, but minor irritations concerning property
and animals. The settlers let their hogs run wild. The hogs would get
into the Indians' corn. The Indians would kill the hogs. The settlers
would demand satisfaction. Many acts of the Assembly testify to the fact
that shooting of wild hogs was one of the most frequent points of
dispute not only between the English and the Indians but among the
English themselves. It was one reason why early Assemblies provided
strict rules for erecting adequate fences around cultivated fields and
establishing lines of responsibility for damage caused by straying
cattle or hogs. On the frontier, however, such refinements of
civilization as fences were long in coming. What was more natural than
that the same conflicts which arose among the English in the early years
of settlement should arise between the English and the Indians on the
frontier. The tragedy was that English-Indian conflicts were not
normally settled in the courts as were conflicts between Englishmen. The
courts did deal with Indian-white conflicts to a certain extent, but, as
noted before, the local justices were often the very persons the Indians
accused of oppressing them. Sometimes the Indians were able to bring
their complaints before the General Court in Jamestown. But often the
dispute was settled in the wilderness in the traditional frontier way:
by violence. Since the settlers had weapons of violence superior to
those possessed by the Indians, it was not very frequently that the
Indians won their "case."

In the Assemblies of these years there is occasional mention of the
splitting of counties in two parts, or of the formation of new parishes.
Usually these divisions were made along rivers or streams. Such
legislation suggests that settlement was spreading back from the water
routes into the land area between streams. The early counties were
normally set up to embrace the area on both sides of watercourses, even
broad rivers like the James and York. The rivers were, in the early
period of settlement, bonds that linked the settlers on either side to
each other. It was natural that rivers should be the principal
thoroughfares of the country. But as settlement spread into the
interior, up the tributary streams that issued into the larger rivers,
the natural social unit that developed was that of communities on the
same side of the river. Hence the gradual conversion of rivers into
political boundaries.

The Assembly of March 1655, for the first time in Virginia's history,
restricted the voting privilege to "housekeepers whether freeholders,
leaseholders, or otherwise tenants." Freemen who could not qualify as
householders, even though they may have been grown sons living in their
father's house, could not vote. It is significant that this first
restriction on the right to vote in Virginia came not under a royal
governor, but under so-called "Parliamentary" rule. So unpopular was
this enactment that it was amended by an act of the Assembly of March
1656 on the grounds that "we conceive it something hard and unagreeable
to reason that any persons shall pay equall taxes and yet have no votes
in elections." Freemen were again allowed to vote provided that they did
not do so "in a tumultuous way."

The Assembly of March 1656 passed an act which attempted to solve the
Indian problem in a way that had never been tried before but has been
frequently tried since. The plan was to encourage the growth of an
acquisitive spirit among the Indians to serve as a counterweight to the
acquisitive spirit of the English. The preamble to the act asserted that
the danger of war from the Indians stemmed from two causes: "our
extreame pressures on them and theire wanting of something to hazard and
loose beside their lives." Therefore the Assembly enacted that for every
eight wolves' heads brought in by the Indians, the King or great man of
the Indians should have a cow delivered to him at the public charge.
"This will be a step to civilizing them and to making them Christians,"
the act went on; "besides it will certainly make the comanding Indians
watch over their own men that they do us no injuries, knowing that by
theire default they may be in danger of losing their estates." The
Assembly also attempted to make the lands possessed by the Indians under
the seal of the colony inalienable to the English. Otherwise, constant
pressure on the Indians by the settlers would force them over and over
again to dispose of their lands.

Many people fail to realize that the Indians of Virginia lived in
well-defined towns or settlements. It was, indeed, the Indians who lived
an "urban" life in the seventeenth century while the English settlers
were usually scattered about the countryside. The conventional picture
of the Indian roaming the forests, living solely by hunting and fishing,
is mistaken. The Indian did hunt and fish, as many of us do today. But
his support came in large measure from the corn and vegetables growing
in the fields which adjoined every Indian town. The Indians had a
close-knit and harmonious community life. They were only indirectly
touched by the white man's money economy and were usually content to
raise only what food they needed for their own consumption. They were
not infected with the restless, individualistic spirit of the white
settler who constantly worked to accumulate a monetary surplus from the
returns on his single cash crop, tobacco.

Like later attempts to destroy the group-centered society of the Indians
in favor of a self-centered society, this attempt of 1656 was not
completely successful.


Early in 1656 word was received that six or seven hundred strange
Indians from the mountains had come down and seated themselves near the
falls of the James. The March Assembly, considering how much blood it
had cost to "expell and extirpate those perfidious and treacherous
Indians which were there formerly," and considering how the area lay
within the limits "which in a just warr were formerly conquered by us,"
ordered the two upper counties under Col. Edward Hill to send 100 men to
remove the intruders peacefully, making war only in self-defense.
Messages were sent to obtain the aid of the Pamunkeys, Chickahominies,
and other neighboring Indians. Tottopottomoy, the King of the Pamunkeys,
joined Hill with 100 of his warriors, although only the summer before
his brother had been murdered by an Englishman.

The western Indians had apparently come down to treat with the English
about trade, bringing with them many beaver skins to begin the
commerce. Col. Hill, however, despite the Assembly's command to avoid
the use of force, perfidiously had five of the kings who came to parley
with him put to death. "This unparalleled hellish treachery and
anti-christian perfidy more to be detested than any heathenish
inhumanity," a contemporary wrote, "cannot but stink most abominably in
the nosetrils of as many Indians, as shall be infested with the least
scent of it, even to their perpetual abhorring and abandoning of the
very sight and name of an English man, till some new generation of a
better extract shall be transplanted among them!" In the fight that
ensued Tottopottomoy lost his life fighting bravely for the English.
Despite his fidelity, neither he nor his tribe was honorably treated by
the English, the very land he owned being extorted from him and his

Hill himself was found guilty by the unanimous vote of the Burgesses and
Council of "crimes and weaknesses" in his conduct of the campaign. He
was ordered suspended from all offices, military and civil, and made
liable for the charge of procuring a peace with the Indians with whom he
had so treacherously dealt.

The disgraceful episode of Hill's campaign may have caused some
soul-searching in the Assembly that met following the event, for, in
addition to censuring Hill, it repealed an act which had made it lawful
to kill an Indian committing a trespass. It pointed out that since the
oath of the person killing the Indian was considered sufficient evidence
to prove the alleged trespass, killing Indians, "though never so
innocent," had come to be of "small account" with the settlers. Since
the colony would probably be involved in endless wars and might "expect
a success answerable to the injustice of our beginning if no act be made
for the future to prevent this wanton and unnecessary shedding of
blood," the Assembly attempted to provide some protection for the

That expansion into the Indians' territory continued is shown by the
authorization given by this same Assembly of December 1656 to form the
county of Rappahannock on both sides of the Rappahannock River above
Lancaster County. Confirmation of the movement towards the frontier is
shown in the report to the same Assembly by the sheriffs of Isle of
Wight County and Elizabeth City County, both at the mouth of the James
River, that their counties were overrated in the tax lists of "tithable"
persons by thirty-eight and thirty-two persons respectively. The
Assembly ordered that their tax allotments should be reduced accordingly
and laid upon Lancaster County "where they are increased since the last
year's list 152 persons." An act of the Assembly of March 1658 similarly
took note of the numbers of inhabitants who had "deserted their
plantations and receded into the bay of Chisapeake" without having
satisfied their creditors. It prescribed penalties for removing without

Bills guaranteeing the Indians their lands, justice, and personal
freedom continued to pass. The acts freely admitted that previous
guarantees to this effect had been ineffective and that "manie English
doe still intrench upon the said Indians' land," which the Assembly
conceived to be "contrary to justice, and the true intent of the English
plantation in this country." Nevertheless attempts to legislate justice
for the Indians continued. It could not be done. The power of the
Assembly's acts was not equal to the power of the frontiersmen's
muskets. However, the acts of the Assembly were not without effect, and
in many cases served their purpose. One of the most notable acts of this
Assembly provided that no grants of land should be made to any
Englishman in the future until the Indians had first been guaranteed
fifty acres for each bowman. The good intent of this act seems to have
been a direct consequence of the practice that had arisen in the
preceding years of granting patents to Englishmen for land occupied by
the Indians. It was an attempt to make sure that the Indians would not
be wholly dispossessed to satisfy the land hunger of the English.

[Illustration: National Portrait Gallery, London


Painting by Robert Walker]


Early writers on Virginia history tended to overemphasize how completely
affairs in Virginia during the Commonwealth and Protectorate periods
were in the hands of the House of Burgesses. Still, the House did assume
to itself many of the powers of government in the period and asserted
its ultimate authority in all other matters. It took this position out
of necessity, and always with the proviso that, should instructions come
from the supreme power in England, it would obey them.

The first Governor under the Commonwealth, Richard Bennett, was
appointed by an act of Assembly on April 30, 1652, his term to last for
one year or until the following meeting of the Assembly, with the
further proviso that the appointment should be in effect "untill the
further pleasures of the states be knowne." Bennett, a planter of
Nansemond County, was a Puritan in his religious outlook and was one of
those who had invited New England to send ministers to Virginia in the
early 1640's. When Parliament decided to conquer the colony in 1651 it
appointed him one of the commissioners for the enterprise. It is
probable that the secret instructions issued to Bennett by the
Parliamentary authorities required him to come to some agreement with
the Burgesses on who should be Governor until a more formal commission
for the office should issue from the supreme power in England. However,
as the years passed, and as instructions from England failed to deal
with Virginia's problems, the House of Burgesses asserted its
prerogative more and more.

On March 31, 1655, Edward Digges was elected Governor by the Assembly to
replace Bennett. Digges was the son of Sir Dudley Digges, Master of the
Rolls under Charles I. He came to Virginia sometime before 1650 and
bought a plantation on the York River, subsequently known as
"Bellfield." The plantation become famous for the quality of the tobacco
grown there, and was also the scene of Digges's efforts at silk
production, in the culture of which he employed three Armenians. When
Digges decided to return to England in 1656, Samuel Mathews was elected
to succeed him. There is some confusion as to whether Governor Mathews
was the man who so bedeviled Sir John Harvey in the 1630's, or his son
of the same name.

When Mathews and the Council attempted to dissolve the Assembly on April
1, 1658, the Burgesses answered that the Governor's action was illegal,
and that they would remain and complete their work. Mathews refused to
concede their point formally, though he declared his willingness to
allow them to continue in fact while the dispute was submitted to the
Lord Protector in England. The Burgesses declared his answer
unsatisfactory. They demanded a specific acknowledgment that the House
remained undissolved. Mathews and the Council finally agreed to revoke
the declaration of dissolution, but still insisted on referring the
dispute to the Lord Protector. The House rejected this answer as well,
asserting that the present power of Virginia resided in the Burgesses,
who were not dissolvable by any power extant in Virginia but themselves.
They directed the High Sheriff of James City County not to execute any
warrant but from the Speaker of the House. In addition, they ordered
Col. William Claiborne, the Secretary of the Council, to surrender the
records of the country into the hands of John Smith, the Speaker of the
Assembly, on the basis of the Burgesses' declaration to hold "supreame
power of this country."

That the House of Burgesses did not mean its actions to be in defiance
of the power that existed in England, however, is shown by its agreement
to proclaim Richard, son of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector when the
Governor sent down, at the March 1659 session, an official letter from
His Highness' Council requiring that it be done. Immediately after
agreeing to proclaim Richard, the Burgesses decided to address the new
Lord Protector for confirmation of the privilege granted to the
Assembly, perhaps under the terms of Bennett's secret instructions, to
elect its own officers. Although the Speaker of the House assured the
Burgesses that the Governor was willing to join them in such a request,
some of the Burgesses expressed a desire to hear the assurance from the
Governor's own lips. Accordingly, he was sent for and, to the
satisfaction of the Burgesses, "acknowledged the supream power of
electing officers to be by the present lawes resident in the Grand
Assembly." He promised to join them in requesting confirmation of these
privileges from His Highness.

The Assembly, at this same session, passed an act electing Mathews
Governor again for two years "and then the Grand Assembly to elect a
Governour as they shall think fitt." The act was to be in force "until
his Highness pleasure be further signified." William Claiborne was
appointed Secretary of State on his acknowledgment that he received the
place from the Assembly, and with the proviso that he should continue
Secretary until the next Assembly or until the Lord Protector's pleasure
should be further signified to the colony.

The Assembly of 1659 marks the high water point of local government in
Virginia. Not only were the Burgesses supreme in matters of general
legislation, compelling the Governor and Secretary to bow to their
sovereign power, but in their home counties affairs were conducted much
as the local justices saw fit. The Assembly of 1659 even authorized free
trade with the Indians by anyone in any goods--even guns and ammunition.
Never before had regulation on a point of such vital interest to the
security of the colony been so utterly abandoned.


Soon after the Assembly of March 1659 ended, Richard Cromwell resigned
the reins of government in England. The English nation was again plunged
into turmoil. Letters arriving in Virginia spoke of the people divided
"some for one Government some for another." The prospect of London
"burned into Ashes and the streets running with blood" was held a
likely outcome of the divisions.

In the midst of this troublous situation, Governor Mathews died. The
next Assembly met in March 1660. In a move that has astonished
historians since that time it asked Sir William Berkeley, the royal
Governor whom its former leaders had deposed, to govern Virginia again.
No royal banners were unfurled; Charles II was not proclaimed King. The
House of Burgesses, holding the supreme power in the colony, merely
offered the governorship to the man who had been universally admired for
his justice, humanity, and willingness to sacrifice his own interest to
that of the colony.

Berkeley had been unwilling to disavow his loyalty to the Crown in 1652
and he was not prepared to do so now. He replied to the Burgesses'
invitation by saying that he would not dare to offend the King by
accepting a commission to govern from any power in England opposed to
him. He urged them to choose instead a more vigorous man from amongst
their own number. But he did offer to accept the governorship directly
from the House of Burgesses if the Council would concur with the
Burgesses in offering it to him. He promised that if thereafter any
supreme power in England succeeded in re-establishing its authority in
Virginia he would immediately lay down his commission and "will live
most submissively obedient to any power God shall set over me, as the
experience of eight yeares have shewed I have done." He would not refuse
their call, he wrote, if they accepted his conditions, for "I should be
worthily thought hospitall mad, if I would not change povertie for
wealth,--contempt for honor."

The Council on March 21, 1660, unanimously concurred in the Burgesses'
choice of Berkeley as Governor, and the King's loyal servant was
thereupon installed in the office.

Some historians have seen the election of Berkeley as the signal for a
royalist purge of the Parliamentary influences that were thought to
have existed in the colony since 1652. A study of the membership of the
House of Burgesses, Council, and county courts, however, shows a
continuity of membership which extends from before the Parliamentary
seizure of the colony until after the restoration of King Charles II.
The evidence suggests that there was no violent division between
royalists and Parliamentarians in Virginia. The people were Virginians
first and royalists or Parliamentarians second. The solidarity of their
political interests was a harbinger of the American independence that
was slowly to mature in the next century.

On May 29, 1660, the birthday of Charles II, that monarch returned to
London and was restored to the throne of England. Word of the
restoration was received in Virginia in the fall, and Berkeley ordered
the sheriffs and chief officers of all counties to proclaim Charles II
King of England, and to cause all writs and warrants from that time on
to issue in His Majesty's name. The Assembly of March 1661, taking into
consideration the fact that the colony, by submitting to the "execrable
power" of the Parliamentary forces, had thereby become guilty of the
crimes of that power, enacted that January 30, the day Charles I was
beheaded, should "be annually solemnized with fasting and prayers that
our sorrowes may expiate our crime and our teares wash away our guilt."
Another act declared May 29, the day of Charles II's birth and
restoration, a holy day to be annually celebrated "in testimony of our
thankfulnesse and joy."

Thus ended the brief period in which Virginia's government was turned
upside down and permanent alteration caused in her relations with
England. Although the King once more became the symbol of the unity of
the colony and the mother country, the royal prerogative would never
again be blindly accepted by the people of either place. Larger
developments in the economic, social, and intellectual spheres were
bringing to an end the era of all-powerful Kings. Power had descended to
the lower ranks of society, and that power was beginning to be brought
into play.

This larger shift of power has been chronicled in the story of Virginia
from 1625 to 1660. It is the story of a small community of Englishmen
transplanted to American shores, living for a time subject to
traditional English restraints, then, in a period of rapid expansion,
losing their cohesiveness and their values under the impact of the
American experience and their own natures. Their political expression
soon passed from a passive to an active mode. The law became something
they made, not something someone else applied to them. Land was
similarly not something bestowed on them by generous parents, but
something one took from Nature, or Nature's surrogate, the Indian. Labor
was no longer a privilege allowed the individual by the community, but a
precious gift contributed by the individual to the community. In sum,
the ordinary people who had removed themselves to the New World soon
discovered that they were no longer humble servants of great lords, but
were themselves lords of the American earth. If they had the power why
not exercise it? The process by which the rulers of the people were
forced to become the "servants" of their "subjects" thereupon began. The
culmination of this rearrangement of the political atoms of society was
the War for Independence of 1776. Whether the swing from authority to
liberty was for good or for evil is not for the historian to say.


Another booklet in this series contains a selected bibliography of works
on seventeenth-century Virginia. The interested student should consult
that booklet for a more detailed listing of works used in preparing this
account of Virginia in the period 1625-1660.

The best secondary account of Virginia in the period covered by this
booklet is Wesley Frank Craven, _The Southern Colonies in the
Seventeenth Century, 1607-1689_ (Baton Rouge, 1949). Craven skilfully
combines research in Virginia local history with a broad understanding
of developments in England and in other colonies. He points out the
social and political significance of many hitherto ignored aspects of
Virginia history. Other important works include Charles McLean Andrews,
_The Colonial Period of American History_, I (New Haven, 1934), Thomas
Jefferson Wertenbaker, _Virginia under the Stuarts_ (Princeton, 1914),
Herbert L. Osgood, _The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century_, 3
vols. (New York, 1904-1907), and Edward D. Neill, _Virginia Carolorum:
The Colony under the Rule of Charles the First and Second, A.D.
1625-A.D. 1685_ (Albany, 1886).

Any study of colonial Virginia must begin with a perusal of Philip
Alexander Bruce, _Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth
Century_, 2 vols. (New York, 1895), and his _Institutional History of
Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_, 2 vols. (New York, 1910). Bruce's
work is the indispensable platform upon which political and social
accounts of the period must rest. Morgan Poitîaux Robinson, _Virginia
Counties: Those Resulting from Virginia Legislation_ [Virginia State
Library, Bulletin, IX, Nos. 1-3] (Richmond, 1916), is a carefully
documented study of the growth of Virginia as evidenced by the formation
of its counties. Maps showing the area of settlement at frequent
intervals give a graphic account of the nature and extent of Virginia's

There are a number of local histories chronicling the growth of
particular regions in Virginia. An outstanding local history is Fairfax
Harrison, _Landmarks of Old Prince William_ (Richmond, 1924), which
analyzes the growth of settlement in the Potomac River valley. Histories
of the Eastern Shore are numerous: Susie M. Ames, _Studies of the
Virginia Eastern Shore in the Seventeenth Century_ (Richmond, 1940),
Jennings Cropper Wise, _Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, or the Eastern Shore
of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_ (Richmond, 1911), and Ralph T.
Whitelaw, _Virginia's Eastern Shore_, 2 vols. (Richmond, 1951).

A reading of but a few works in Virginia history will be enough to show
that the interpretations and conclusions of the authors must be accepted
with extreme caution. There are two conflicting interpretations for
nearly every important event in Virginia's history. History may be
defined as the attempt to state what happened in the past on the basis
of inadequate evidence existing in the present. The reader should keep
always in mind that historical writing is largely a series of guesses
more or less intelligently elaborated.

Much of the original manuscript material upon which an account of the
period must be based has been published in the following sources:
William Waller Hening, _The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all
the Laws of Virginia_, Vol. I (Richmond, 1809), H. R. McIlwaine,
_Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia,
1622-1632, 1670-1676_ (Richmond, 1924), H. R. McIlwaine, _Journals of
the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/59_ (Richmond, 1914), Nell
Marion Nugent, _Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land
Patents and Grants, 1623-1666_ (Richmond, 1934), _Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography_ (Richmond, 1893 to present), _William and Mary
Quarterly_ (Williamsburg, 1892 to present), _The Southern Literary
Messenger_, January 1845 (documents on the recall of Governor Berkeley
by the Burgesses and Council of Virginia in 1660), and W. Noel
Sainsbury, _Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 1574-1660,
Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty's Public Record
Office_ (London, 1860). The essential guide to most of this material is
Earl G. Swern, _Virginia Historical Index_, 2 vols. (Roanoke, 1934).

The most important unpublished manuscript materials of the period are
the county records, some of which are complete from the earliest period
of settlement. Originals or transcripts of the county records are
available in the Virginia State Library, Richmond. Another important
source of unpublished manuscript material for the period is the
"Virginia, Book No. 43" manuscript in the Library of Congress,
Washington, D. C., which contains numerous commissions and proclamations
for the period 1626-1634. Among the Virginia papers of the Barons of
Sackville, Knole Park, are a few documents relating to the period which
have not been printed either in the documentary articles in the
_American Historical Review_, XXVII (1922), Nos. 3-4, or elsewhere. They
are now available on microfilm in the Library of Congress, having been
photographed by the British Manuscripts Project of the American Council
of Learned Societies.

Important unpublished dissertations include James Kimbrough Owen, "The
Virginia Vestry: A Study in the Decline of a Ruling Class" (Ph. D.
dissertation, Princeton University, 1947), and Edna Jensen, "Sir John
Harvey: Governor of Virginia" (M. A. thesis, University of Virginia,

[Illustration: Virginia Farrer Map of Virginia, 1651, showing common
geographical misconceptions of the period.]

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