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RESTRICTIONS ON COLONIAL COMMERCE.
1625. Mar. 27.
ASCENDING the throne in his twenty-fifth year, CHAP. Charles I. inherited the principles and was governed by the favorite of his father. The rejoicings in consequence of his recent nuptials, the reception of his bride, and preparations for a parliament, left him little leisure for American affairs. Virginia was esteemed by the monarch as the country, producing tobacco; its inhabitants were valued at court as planters; and prized according to the revenue derived from the staple of their industry. The plantation, no longer governed by a chartered company, was become a royal province and an object of favor; and, as it enforced conformity to the church of England, it could not be an object of suspicion to the clergy or the court. The king felt an earnest desire to heal old grievances, to secure the personal rights and property of the colonists, and to promote their prosperity. Franchises were neither conceded nor restricted; for it did not occur to his pride, that, at that time, there could be in an American province anything like established privileges or vigorous politi
CHAP. cal life; nor was he aware that the seeds of liberty
were already germinating on the borders of the
Chesapeake. His first Virginian measure was a April
proclamation on tobacco; confirming to Virginia and the Somer isles the exclusive supply of the British market; under penalty of the censure of the
star-chamber for disobedience. In a few days a new May proclamation" appeared ; in which it was his evident
design to secure the profits, that might before have been engrossed by the corporation. After a careful declaration of the forfeiture of the charters, and consequently of the immediate dependence of Virginia upon himself, a declaration, aimed against the claims of the London company and not against the franchises of the colonists, the monarch proceeded to announce his fixed resolution of becoming, through his agents, the sole factor of the planters. Indifferent to their constitution, it was his principal aim to monopolize the profits of their industry; and the political rights of Virginia were established as usages by his salutary neglect.3
There is no room to suppose, that Charles nourished the design of suppressing the colonial assemblies. For some months, the organization of the government was not changed; and when Wyatt, on
the death of his father, obtained leave to return to 1626. Scotland, Sir George Yeardley was appointed his suc
cessor. This appointment was in itself a guarantee, that, as “the former interests of Virginia were to be
2 Ibid, v.
1 Hazard, v. i. p. 202, 203.
3 Burk’s History of Virginia, v. ii. p. 14, 15.
kept inviolate," so the representative government, CHAP. the chief political interest, would be maintained; for it was Yeardley, who had had the glory of intro- 1626. ducing the system. In the commission now issued,” Mar. the monarch expressed his desire to benefit, encourage and perfect the plantation ; “the same means, that were formerly thought fit for the maintenance of the colony,” were continued; and the power
of the governor and council was limited, as it had before been done in the commission of Wyatt, by a reference to the usages of the last five years. In that period representative liberty had become the custom of Virginia. The words were interpreted as favoring the wishes of the colonists; and King Charles, intent only on increasing his revenue, confirmed, perhaps unconsciously, the existence of a popular assembly. The colony prospered; Virginia rose rapidly in public estimation; in one year, a 1627. thousand emigrants arrived; and there was an increasing demand for all the products of the soil.3
The career of Yeardley was now closed by death. Nov. Posterity will ever retain a grateful recollection of the man, who first convened a representative assembly in the western hemisphere; the colonists, announcing his decease in a letter to the privy council, gave at the same time a eulogy on his virtues; the surest evidence of his fidelity to their interests. The day after his burial, Francis West was elected his Nov. successor ;5 for the council was authorized to elect
1 Letter of the privy council, in Burk, v. ii. p. 18.
2 Hazard, v. i. p. 230_234.
3 Burk, v. ii. p. 23.
CHAP. the governor “from time to time, as often as the case
shall require. 1628.
But if any doubts existed of the royal assent to the continuance of colonial assemblies, they were
soon removed by a letter of instructions, which the June king addressed to the governor and council. After
much cavilling in the style of a purchaser, who un-
tract led him to observe and to sanction the existence 1629. of an elective legislature. The assembly, in its
answer, firmly protested against the monopoly; and
1 Hazard, v. i. P 233.
3 Hening, v. i. p. 134-136 ; 2 Burk, v. ii. p. 19, 20; Hening, Burk, v. ii. p. 24. v. i. p. 129.
4 Hening, v. i. p. 4. 137.
No sooner had the news of the death of Yeardley CHAP. reached England, than the king proceeded to issue a commission' to John Harvey. The tenor of the in- 1628. strument offered no invasions of colonial freedom; but, while it renewed the limitations which had previously been set to the executive authority, it permitted the council in Virginia, which had common interests with the people, to supply all vacancies, occurring in their body. In this way direct oppression was rendered impossible.
It was during the period, which elapsed between 1628, the appointment of Harvey and his appearance in 1629. America, that Lord Baltimore visited Virginia. The zeal of religious bigotry pursued him as a Romanist;? and the intolerance of the colony led to memorable results. Nor should we, in this connexion, forget the hospitable plans of the southern planters; the people of New-Plymouth were invited to abandon the cold and sterile clime of New England, and plant themselves in the milder regions on the Delaware Bay.
It was probably in the autumn of 1629 that Harvey arrived in Virginia. Till October, the name of Pott appears as governor ;5 Harvey met his first 1630. assembly of burgesses in the following March. He had for several years been a member of the council ; and, as at an earlier day he had been a willing instrument in the hands of the faction, to which Virginia ascribed its earliest griefs and continued to bear
1 Hazard, v. i. p. 231–239.
4 Chalmers, p. 118.