Slavery, Dissolution of the London Company

Slave Trade: Medieval Eastern Europe.

Americanist History, George Bancroft’s: History of the United States


WHILE Virginia, by the concession of a representative government, was constituted the asylum of liberty, it became the abode of hereditary bondsmen.

Slavery and the slave-trade are older than the records of human society; they are found to have existed wherever the savage hunter began to assume the habits of pastoral or agricultural life; and, with the exception of Australasia, they have extended to every portion of the globe. The oldest monuments of human labor on the Egyptian soil are the results of slave labor. The founder of the Jewish people was a slave-holder and a purchaser of slaves. The Hebrews, when they broke from their own thraldom, planted slavery in the promised land. Tyre, the oldest commercial city of Phoenicia, was, like Babylon, a market “for the persons of men.”

Old as are the traditions of Greece, slavery is older. The wrath of Achilles grew out of a quarrel for a slave; Grecian dames had servile attendants; the heroes before Troy made excursions into the neighboring villages and towns to enslave the inhabitants. Greek pirates, roving, like the corsairs of Barbary, in quest of men, laid the foundations of Greek commerce; each commercial town was a slave-mart; and every cottage near the sea-side was in danger from the kidnapper. Greeks enslaved each other. The language of Homer was the mother tongue of the Helots; the Grecian city that warred on its neighbor city made of its captives a source of profit; the hero of Macedon sold men of his own kindred and language into hopeless slavery. More than four centuries before the Christian era, Alcidamas, a pupil of Gorgias, taught that “God has sent forth all men free; nature has made no man slave.” While one class of Greek authors of that period confounded the authority of master and head of a family, others asserted that the relation of master and slave is conventional; that freedom is the law of nature, which knows no difference between master and slave; that slavery is the child of violence, and inherently unjust. “A man, O my master,” so speaks the slave in a comedy of Philemon, “because he is a slave, does not cease to be a man. He is of the same flesh with you. Nature makes no slaves.” Aristotle, though he recognizes “living chattels” as a part of the complete family, has left on record his most deliberate judgment, that the prize of freedom should be placed within the reach of every slave. Yet the idea of universal free labor was only a dormant bud, not to be quickened for many centuries.

Slavery hastened the fall of the commonwealth of Rome. The power of the father to sell his children, of the creditor to sell his insolvent debtor, of the warrior to sell his captive, carried it into the bosom of every family, into the conditions of every contract, into the heart of every unhappy land that was invaded by the Roman eagle. The slave-markets of Rome were filled with men of various nations and colors. “Slaves are they!” writes Seneca; “say that they are men.” The golden-mouthed orator Dion inveighs against hereditary slavery as at war with right. “By the law of nature, all men are born free,” are the words of Ulpian. The Roman digests pronounce slavery “contrary to nature.”

In the middle age the pirate and the kidnapper and the conqueror still continued the slave-trade. The Saxon race carried the most repulsive forms of slavery to England, where not half the population could assert a right to freedom, and where the price of a man was but four times the price of an ox. In defiance of severe penalties, the Saxons long continued to sell their own kindred into slavery on the continent. Even after the conquest, slaves were exported from England to Ireland, till, in 1102, a national synod of the Irish, to remove the pretext for an invasion, decreed the emancipation of all their English slaves.

The German nations made the shores of the Baltic the scenes of the same traffic; and the Dnieper formed the highway on which Russian merchants conveyed slaves from the markets of Russia to Constantinople. The wretched often submitted to bondage as the only refuge from want. But it was the long wars between German and Slavonic tribes which imparted to the slave-trade so great activity that in every country of Western Europe the whole class of bondmen took and still retain the name of Slaves.

In Sicily, natives of Asia and Africa were exposed for sale. From extreme poverty the Arab father would pawn even his children to the Italian merchant. Rome itself long remained a mart where Christian slaves were exposed for sale, to supply the market of Mahometans. The Venetians purchased alike infidels and Christians, and sold them again to the Arabs in Sicily and Spain. Christian and Jewish avarice supplied the slave-market of the Saracens. The trade, though censured by the church and prohibited by the laws of Venice, was not effectually checked till the mere presence in a Venetian ship was made the sufficient evidence of freedom.

In the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III had written that, “nature having made no slaves, all men have an equal right to liberty.” Yet, as among Mahometans the captive Christian had no alternative but apostasy or servitude, the captive infidel was treated in Christendom with corresponding intolerance. In the camp of the leader whose pious arms redeemed the sepulchre of Christ from the mixed nations of Asia and Libya, the price of a war-horse was three slaves. The Turks, whose law forbade the enslaving of Mussulmans, continued to sell Christian and other captives; and Smith, the third president of Virginia, relates that he was himself a runaway from Turkish bondage.

All this might have had no influence on the destinies of America but for the long and doubtful struggles between Christians and Moors in the west of Europe, where, for more than seven centuries, the two religions were arrayed against each other, and bondage was the reciprocal doom of the captive. France and Italy were filled with Saracen slaves; the number of them sold into Christian bondage exceeded the number of all the Christians ever sold by the pirates of Barbary. The clergy felt no sympathy for the unbeliever. The final victory of the Spaniards over the Moors of Granada, an event contemporary with the discovery of America, was signalized by a great emigration of the Moors to the coasts of Northern Africa, where each mercantile city became a nest of pirates, and every Christian the wonted booty of the corsair: an indiscriminate and retaliating bigotry gave to all Africans the denomination of Moors, and without scruple reduced them to bondage.

The clergy had broken up the Christian slave-markets at Bristol and at Hamburg, at Lyons and at Rome. In language addressed half to the courts of law and half to the people, Louis X, by the advice of the jurists of France, in July, 1315, published the ordinance that, by the law of nature, every man ought to be born free; that serfs were held in bondage only by a suspension of their early and natural rights; that liberty should be restored to them throughout the kingdom so far as the royal power extended; and every master of slaves was invited to follow his example by bringing them all back to their original state of freedom. Some years later, John de Wycliffe asserted the unchristian character of slavery. At the epoch of the discovery of America the moral opinion of the civilized world had abolished the trade in Christian slaves, and was demanding the emancipation of the serfs; but the infidel was not yet included within the pale of humanity.

Yet negro slavery is not an invention of the white man. As Greeks enslaved Greeks, as Anglo-Saxons dealt in Anglo-Saxons, so the earliest accounts of the land of the black men bear witness that negro masters held men of their own race as slaves, and sold them to others. This the oldest Greek historian commemorates. Negro slaves were seen in classic Greece, and were known at Rome and in the Roman empire. About the year 990, Moorish merchants from the Barbary coast reached the cities of Nigritia, and established an uninterrupted exchange of Saracen and European luxuries for the gold and slaves of Central Africa.

Not long after the conquests of the Portuguese in Barbary, their navy frequented the ports of Western Africa; and the first ships, which, in 1441, sailed so far south as Cape Blanco, returned not with negroes, but with Moors. These were treated as strangers, from whom information respecting their native country was to be derived. Antony Gonzalez, who had brought them to Portugal, was commanded to restore them to their ancient homes. He did so; and the Moors gave him as their ransom not gold only, but “black Moors” with curled hair. Negro slaves immediately became an object of commerce. The historian of the maritime discoveries of Spain even claims that she anticipated the Portuguese. The merchants of Seville imported gold dust and slaves from the western coast of Africa; so that negro slavery was established in Andalusia, and “abounded in the city of Seville,” before the first voyage of Columbus.

The adventurers of those days by sea, joining the creed of bigots with the designs of pirates and heroes, esteemed as their rightful plunder the wealth of the countries which they might discover, and the inhabitants, if Christians, as their subjects; if infidels, as their slaves. There was hardly a convenient harbor on the Atlantic frontier of the United States which was not entered by slavers. The red men of the wilderness, unlike the Africans, among whom slavery had existed from immemorial time, would never abet the foreign merchant in the nefarious traffic. Fraud and force remained, therefore, the means by which, near Newfoundland or Florida, on the shores of the Atlantic, or among the Indians of the Mississippi valley, Cortereal and Vasquez de Ayllon, Porcallo and Soto, and private adventurers, transported the natives of North America into slavery in Europe and the Spanish West Indies. Columbus himself, in 1494, enslaving five hundred native Americans, sent them to Spain, that they might be publicly sold at Seville. The generous Isabella, in 1500, commanded the liberation of the Indians held in bondage in her European possessions. Yet her active benevolence extended neither to the Moors nor to the Africans; and even her compassion for the men of the New World was but transient. The commissions for making discoveries, issued a few days before and after her interference to rescue those whom Columbus had enslaved, reserved for herself and Ferdinand a fourth part of the slaves which the new kingdoms might contain. The slavery of Indians was recognized as lawful.

A royal edict of 1501 permitted negro slaves, born in slavery among Christians, to be transported. Within two years there were such numbers of Africans in Hispaniola that Ovando, the governor of the island, entreated that their coming might be restrained. For a short time the Spanish government forbade the introduction of negro slaves who had been bred in Moorish families, and allowed only those who were said to have been instructed in the Christian faith to be transported to the West Indies, under the plea that they might assist in converting infidel nations. But, after the culture of sugar was begun, the system of slavery easily overcame the scruples of men in power. King Ferdinand himself sent from Seville fifty slaves to labor in the mines, and promised to send more; and, because it was said that one negro could do the work of four Indians, the direct transportation of slaves from Guinea to Hispaniola was, in 1511, enjoined by a royal ordinance, and deliberately sanctioned by successive decrees. Was it not natural that Charles V, a youthful monarch, at his accession in 1516, should have readily granted licenses to the Flemings to transport negroes to the colonies? The benevolent Las Casas, who felt for the native inhabitants of the New World all that the purest missionary zeal could inspire, and who had seen them vanish away like dew before the cruelties of the Spaniards while the African thrived under the tropical sun, in 1517 suggested that negroes might still further be employed to perform the severe toils which they alone could endure. The board of trade at Seville was consulted, to learn how many slaves would be required; four for each Spanish emigrant had been proposed; deliberate calculation fixed the number at four thousand a year. In 1518 the monopoly, for eight years, of annually importing four thousand slaves into the West Indies, was granted by Charles V to La Bresa, one of his favorites, and was sold to the Genoese. The buyers of the contract purchased their slaves of the Portuguese, to whom a series of papal bulls had indeed granted the exclusive commerce with Western Africa; but the slave-trade between Africa and America was never expressly sanctioned by the see of Rome. Leo X declared that “not the Christian religion only, but Nature herself, cries out against the state of slavery.” Paul III, two years after he had given authority to make slaves of every English person who would not assist in the expulsion of Henry VIII, in two separate briefs imprecated a curse on the Europeans who should enslave Indians, or any other class of men. Ximenes, the stern grand inquisitor, the austere but ambitious Franciscan, refused to sanction the introduction of negroes into Hispaniola, believing that the favorable climate would increase their numbers, and infallibly lead them to a successful revolt. Haiti, the first spot in America that received African slaves, was the first to set the example of African liberty.

The odious distinction of having first interested England in the slave-trade belongs to Sir John Hawkins. In 1562, he transported a large cargo of Africans to Hispaniola; the rich returns of sugar, ginger, and pearls, attracted the notice of Queen Elizabeth; and five years later she took shares in a new expedition, though the commerce, on the part of the English, in Spanish ports, was by the law of Spain illicit, as well as by the law of morals detestable.

Conditional servitude, under indentures or covenants, had from the first existed in Virginia. Once at least James sent over convicts, and once at least the city of London a hundred homeless children from its streets. The servant stood to his master in the relation of a debtor, bound to discharge by his labor the costs of emigration. White servants came to be a usual article of merchandise. They were sold in England to be transported, and in Virginia were to be purchased on shipboard. Not the Scots only, who were taken in the field of Dunbar, were sold into servitude in New England, but the royalist prisoners of the battle of Worcester. The leaders in the insurrection of Penruddoc, in spite of the remonstrance of Haselrig and Henry Vane, were shipped to America. At the corresponding period, in Ireland, the exportation of Irish Catholics was frequent. In 1672, the average price in the colonies, where five years of service were due, was about ten pounds, while a negro was worth twenty or twenty-five pounds.

The condition of apprenticed servants in Virginia differed from that of slaves chiefly in the duration of their bondage; the laws of the colony favored their early enfranchisement. But this state of labor easily admitted the introduction of perpetual servitude. In the month of August, 1619, five years after the commons of France had petitioned for the emancipation of every serf in every fief, a Dutch man-of-war entered James river and landed twenty negroes for sale. This is the sad epoch of the introduction of negro slavery; but the traffic would have been checked in its infancy had it remained with the Dutch. Thirty years after this first importation of Africans, Virginia to one black contained fifty whites; and, after seventy years of its colonial existence, the number of its negro slaves was proportionately much less than in several northern states at the time of the war of independence. Had no other form of servitude been known in Virginia than of men of the same race, every difficulty would have been promptly obviated. But the Ethiopian and Caucasian races were to meet together in nearly equal numbers beneath a temperate zone. Who could foretell the issue? The negro race, from its introduction, was regarded with disgust, and its union with the whites forbidden under ignominious penalties.

If Wyatt, on his arrival in Virginia in 1621, found the evil of negro slavery engrafted on the social system, he brought with him the memorable ordinance on which the fabric of colonial liberty was to rest, and which was interpreted by his instructions in a manner favorable to the colonists. An amnesty of ancient feuds was proclaimed. In November and December, 1621, the first session of an assembly under the written constitution was held. The production of silk engaged attention; but silk-worms could not be cared for where every comfort of household existence required to be created. As little was the successful culture of the vine possible, although the company had repeatedly sent vine-dressers. In 1621, the seeds of cotton were planted as an experiment; and their “plentiful coming up” was a subject of interest in America and England. From this year, too, dates the sending of beehives to Virginia, and of skilful workmen to extract iron from the ore. At the instance of George Sandys, five-and-twenty shipwrights came over in 1622.

Nor did the company neglect education and religious worship. The bishop of London collected and paid a thousand pounds toward a university, which, like the several churches of the colony, was liberally endowed with domains, and fostered by public and private charity. But the plan of obtaining for them a revenue through a permanent tenantry could meet with no success where freeholds were so easily obtained. “Needless novelties ” in the forms of worship were prohibited by an instruction from England.

Between the Indians and the English there had been quarrels, but no wars. From the first the power of the natives had been despised; their strongest weapons were such arrows as they could shape without the use of iron, such hatchets as could be made from stone; and an English mastiff seemed to them a terrible adversary. Within sixty miles of Jamestown, it is computed, there were no more than five thousand souls, or about fifteen hundred warriors. The rule of Powhatan comprehended about eight thousand square miles, thirty tribes, and twenty-four hundred warriors. The natives dwelt in hamlets, with from forty to sixty in each household. Few assemblages of wigwams contained more than two hundred persons. It was unusual for any large portion of these tribes to meet together. They were regarded with contempt or compassion. No uniform care had been taken to conciliate their good-will, although their condition had been improved by some of the arts of civilized life. When Wyatt arrived, he assured them of his wish to preserve inviolable peace. An old law, which made death the penalty for teaching the Indians to use a musket, was forgotten, and they were employed as fowlers and huntsmen. The plantations of the English were extended for one hundred and forty miles on both sides of the James river and toward the Potomac, wherever rich grounds invited to the culture of tobacco.

Powhatan, the friend of the English, died in 1618; and his brother was the heir to his influence. By this time the natives were near being driven “to seek a stranger country;” to save their ancient dwelling-places, it seemed to them that the English must be exterminated. On the twenty-second of March, 1622, at mid-day, they fell upon the unsuspecting population; children and women, as well as men, the missionary, the benefactor—all were slain with every aggravation of cruelty. In one hour three hundred and forty-seven persons were cut off. The night before the execution of the conspiracy it had been revealed by a converted Indian to an Englishman whom he wished to rescue; Jamestown and the nearest settlements were prepared against the attack; the savages, as timid as they were ferocious, fled at the appearance of wakeful resistance; and the larger part of the colony was saved.

But public works were abandoned, and the settlements reduced from eighty plantations to less than eight. Sickness prevailed among the dispirited survivors, who were crowded into narrow quarters; some returned to their mother country. The number of inhabitants had exceeded four thousand; a year after the massacre there remained only two thousand five hundred.

The blood of the victims became the nurture of the plantation. Even King James, for a moment, affected generosity; gave from the Tower of London arms which had been thrown by as good for nothing in Europe; and made fair promises, which were never fulfilled. The city of London and many private persons displayed hearty liberality. The London company, which in May, 1622, had elected Nicholas Ferrar to be Lord Southampton’s deputy, “redoubled their courage,” and urged the Virginians not to charge their abode, nor apply all their thoughts to staple commodities, but “to embellish the Sparta upon which they had lighted.” While they bade them “not to rely upon anything but themselves,” they yet promised “that there should not be left any means unattempted on their part.” They announced their purpose of sending, before the next spring, four hundred young men, well furnished, out of England and Wales; and that private undertakers had engaged to take over many hundreds more. As to the Indians, they wrote: “The innocent blood of so many Christians doth in justice cry out for revenge. We must advise you to root out a people so cursed, at least to the removal of them far from you. Wherefore, as they have merited, let them have a perpetual war without peace or truce, and without mercy too. Put in execution all ways and means for their destruction, not omitting to reward their neighboring enemies upon the bringing in of their heads.”

The arrival of these instructions found the Virginians already involved in a war of extermination. First in the field was George Sandys, the colonial treasurer, who headed two expeditions; next, Yeardley, the governor, invaded the towns of Opechancanough; Captain Madison entered the Potomac. The Indians promptly fled on indications of watchfulness and resistance; but the midnight surprise, the ambuscade by day, might be feared; and they proved to be “an enemy not suddenly to be destroyed with the sword, by reason of their swiftness of foot, and advantages of the wood to which upon all assaults they retired.”

In July, 1623, the inhabitants of the several settlements, in parties, under commissioned officers, fell upon the adjoining savages; and a law of the general assembly commanded that in July of 1624 the attack should be repeated. Six years later, the colonial statute-book proves that ruthless schemes were still meditated; for it was enacted that no peace should be concluded with the Indians—a law which remained in force for two years.

Meantime, a change was preparing in the relations of the colony with the parent state. The earl of Southampton and his friends gave their services freely, having no motive but the advancement of the plantation; the adherents of the former treasurer, among whom Argall was conspicuous, under the lead of the earl of Warwick, constituted a relentless faction. As the shares in the stock were of little value, the contests were chiefly for the direction, and were not so much the wranglings of disappointed merchants as the conflict of political parties. The meetings of the company, which now consisted of a thousand adventurers, of whom two hundred or more usually appeared at the quarter courts, were the scenes for freedom of debate, where the patriots, who in parliament advocated the cause of liberty, triumphantly opposed the decrees of the privy council on subjects connected with the rights of Virginia. The unsuccessful party sought an ally in the king, who desired to recover the authority of which he had deprived himself by a charter of his own concession. Moreover, Gondomar, the Spanish envoy, said to him: “The Virginia courts are but a seminary to a seditious parliament.” Besides, he was haunted by a passion to wed his eldest surviving son to a princess of the house of Spain, and therefore courted the favor of the Spanish monarch, even at the sacrifice of an English colony.

Unable to get the control of the company by overawing their assemblies, the monarch resolved upon the sequestration of the patent; and raised no other question than how the law of England could most plausibly be made the instrument of tyranny. An allegation of grievances, set forth by the royalist faction in a petition to the king, was, in May, 1623, fully refuted by the company, and the ground of discontent was answered by an explanatory declaration. Yet commissioners were appointed to engage in a general investigation of the concerns of the corporation; the records were seized, the deputy treasurer imprisoned, and private letters from Virginia intercepted for inspection. Captain John Smith was particularly examined; his honest answers exposed the defective arrangements of previous years, and he favored the cancelling of the charter as an act of benevolence to the colony.

To the Virginia quarter court, held on the twenty-fifth of June for the annual election, James sent a very short letter, in which he said: “Our will and pleasure is that you do forbear the election of any officers until to-morrow fortnight at the soonest, but let those that be already remain as they are in the mean time.” The reading of the letter was followed by a long and general silence, after which it was voted that the present officers should be continued because, by the express words of their charter, choice could be made only at a quarter court.

The king, enraged at the company, held the citing of their charter as a mere pretext to thwart his command; and on the last day of July the attorney-general, to whom the conduct of the company was referred, gave it as his opinion that the king might justly resume the government of Virginia, and, should they not voluntarily yield, could call in their patent by legal proceedings. In pursuance of this advice, the king, in October, by an order in council, made known to the company that the disasters of Virginia were a consequence of their ill government; that he had resolved, by a new charter, to reserve to himself the appointment of the officers in England, a negative on appointments in Virginia, and the supreme control of all colonial affairs. Private interests were to be sacredly preserved, and all grants of land to be renewed and confirmed. Should the company resist the change, its patent would be recalled. This was in substance a proposition to revert to the charter originally granted.

On the seventeenth the order was read to the Virginia company in court three several times; after the reading, for a long while no man spoke a word. They then desired a month’s delay, that all their members might take part in the final decision. The privy council peremptorily summoned them to appear before it and make their answer at the end of three days. At the expiration of that time the surrender of the charter was refused by a vote of threescore against nine.

But the decision of the king was already taken; and, on the twenty-fourth, commissioners were appointed to proceed to Virginia and inquire into the state of the plantation. John Harvey and Samuel Matthews, both distinguished in the annals of Virginia, were of the committee.

On the tenth of November a writ of quo warranto was issued against the company. On the nineteenth, the next quarter court, the adventurers, seven only opposing, confirmed the former refusal to surrender the charter, and made preparations for defense. For that purpose, their papers were for a season restored; certified copies of them, made by the care and at the expense of Nicholas Ferrar, are now in the library of congress.

While these things were transacting in England, the commissioners, early in 1624, arrived in the colony. The general assembly was immediately convened. The company had refuted the allegations of King James, as opposed to their interests; the colonists replied to them, as contrary to their honor and good name. The principal prayer was, that the governors might not have absolute power; and that the liberty of popular assemblies might be retained; “for,” say they, “nothing can conduce more to the public satisfaction and the public utility.” In support of this solicitation, an agent was appointed to repair to England; and, to defray the expenses of the mission, a tax of four pounds of the best tobacco was levied upon every male who was above sixteen years and had been in the colony a twelvemonth. The commissioner unfortunately died on his passage to Europe. The colony continued to entreat the king not to give credit to the declarations in favor of the truly miserable years of Sir Thomas Smythe’s government, and to repel the imputations on that of Southampton and Ferrar as malicious.

In vain was it attempted, by means of intimidation and promises of royal favor, to obtain a petition for the revocation of the charter. Under that charter the assembly was itself convened; and, after prudently rejecting a proposition which might have endangered its own existence, it proceeded to memorable acts of independent legislation.

The rights of property were strictly maintained against arbitrary taxation. “The governor shall not lay any taxes or impositions upon the colony, their lands or commodities, other way than by the authority of the general assembly, to be levied and employed as the said assembly shall appoint.” Virginia, the oldest colony, at the great example of a just and firm legislation on the management of the public money. The rights of personal liberty were asserted, and the power of the executive circumscribed. The several governors had in vain attempted, by penal statutes, to promote the culture of corn; the true remedy was now discovered by the colonial legislature. “For the encouragement of men to plant store of corn, the price shall not be stinted, but it shall be free for every man to sell it as dear as he can.” The reports of controversies in England rendered it necessary to provide for the public tranquility by an express enactment “that no person within the colony, upon the rumor of supposed change and alteration, presume to be disobedient to the present government.” These laws, so judiciously framed, show how readily, with the aid of free discussion, men become good legislators on their own concerns.

While the royal London commissioners were urging the Virginians to renounce their right to the privileges which they exercised so well, the English parliament was in session; and a gleam of hope revived in the company, as in April, 1624, Ferrar presented their elaborate petition for redress to the grand inquest of the kingdom. The house of commons took up the business reluctantly, and appointed the twenty-eighth of April for its consideration. But on that day, before any progress was made, there came a letter from the king: “That he both already had, and would also hereafter take the affair of the Virginia company into his own most serious consideration and care; and that, by the next parliament, they should all see he would make it one of his masterpieces, as it well deserved to be.” The house assented by a general silence, “but not without soft muttering that any other business might in the same way be taken out of the hands of parliament.” Sir Edwin Sandys was able to secure for the staple of Virginia complete protection in the English market against foreign tobacco, by a petition from the commons, which was followed by a royal proclamation. On the sixteenth of June, 1624, the last day of the Trinity term, judgment was given against the treasurer and company, and the patents were cancelled; but not till the company had fulfilled its high destiny by conceding irrevocably a liberal form of government to Englishmen in Virginia.

Meantime, commissioners arrived from the colony, and made their report to the king. They enumerated the disasters which had befallen the infant settlement; they eulogized the soil and the climate; they held up the plantations as of great national importance, and an honorable monument of the reign of King James; and they expressed a preference for the original constitution of 1606. Supported by their advice, the king resolved himself to “take care for the government of the country.” In its domestic government and franchises no immediate change was made. Sir Francis Wyatt, though he had been an ardent friend of the London company, was, in August, confirmed in office; and he and his council were only empowered to govern “as fully and amply as any governor and council resident there, at any time within the space of five years now last past.” This term of five years was precisely the period of representative government; and the limitation formally sanctioned the continuance of popular assemblies. The king, in appointing the council in Virginia, refused to nominate the embittered partisans of the court faction, and formed the administration on the principles of accommodation. But death prevented the royal legislator from preparing for the colony a code of fundamental laws.

Formatting, font, and spelling modernizations of this version of George Bancroft’s “History of the United States,” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.The original copyright for George Bancroft’s History of the United States is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired.