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THE FIRST CHARTER FOR VIRGINIA.

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IV.

were planted in America, deserves careful considera- CHAP tion. A belt of twelve degrees on the American coast, embracing the soil from Cape Fear to Halifax, 1606. excepting perhaps the little spot in Acadia, then actually possessed by the French, was set apart to be colonized by two rival companies. Of these, the first was composed of noblemen, gentlemen, and merchants in and about London, the second, of knights, gentlemen, and merchants in the west. The London adventurers, who alone succeeded, had an exclusive right to occupy the regions from thirtyfour to thirty-eight degrees of north latitude, that is, from Cape Fear to the southern limit of Maryland; the western men had equally an exclusive right to plant between forty-one and forty-five degrees. The intermediate district, from thirty-eight to fortyone degrees, was open to the competition of both companies. Yet collision was not possible;

for each was to possess the soil, extending fifty miles north and south of its first settlement; so that neither could plant within one hundred miles of a colony of its rival. The conditions of tenure were homage and rent; the rent was no other than one fifth of the net produce of gold and silver, and one fifteenth of copper. The right of coining money was conceded, perhaps to facilitate commerce with the natives, who, it was hoped, would receive Christianity and the arts of civilized life. The superintendence of the whole colonial system was confided to a council in England; the local administration of each colony was entrusted to a council residing

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VOL. I.

IV.

CHAP. within its limits. The members of the superior

council in England were appointed exclusively by 1606. the king, and the tenure of their office was his good

pleasure. Over the colonial councils the king likewise preserved a control, for the members of them were from time to time to be ordained, made and removed according to royal instructions. Supreme legislative authority over the colonies, extending alike to their general condition and the most minute regulations, was likewise expressly reserved to the monarch. A hope was also cherished of an ultimate revenue to be derived from Virginia ; a duty, to be levied on vessels trading to its harbors, was, for one and twenty years, to be wholly employed for the benefit of the plantation; at the end of that time, was to be taken for the king. To the emigrants it was promised, that they and their children should continue to be Englishmen; a concession, which secured them rights on returning to England, but offered no barrier against colonial injustice. Lands were to be held by the most favorable tenure.

Thus the first written charter of a permanent American colony, which was to be the chosen abode of liberty, gave to the mercantile corporation nothing but a desert territory, with the right of peopling and defending it; and reserved to the monarch absolute legislative authority, the control of all appointments, and a hope of an ultimate revenue. To the emigrants themselves it conceded not one elective franchise, not one of the rights of self-government. They were subjected to the ordinances of a com

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KING JAMES' LAWS FOR VIRGINIA.

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mercial corporation, of which they could not be CHAP. members, to the dominion of a domestic council, in appointing which they had no voice, to the control of 1606. a superior council in England, which had no sympathies with their rights, and finally, to the arbitrary legislation of the sovereign. Yet, bad as was this system, the reservation of power to the king, a result of his vanity, rather than of his ambition, had, at least, the advantage of mitigating the action of the commercial corporation. The charter would have been complete, had the powers of appointment and legislation been given to the people of Virginia.

The summer was spent by the patentees in preparations for planting a colony, for which the vain glory of the king found a grateful occupation in framing a code of laws; an exercise of royal legisla- Nov. tion, which has been pronounced in itself illegal. The superior council in England was permitted to name the colonial council ; which was constituted a pure aristocracy, entirely independent of the emigrants whom they were to govern; having power to elect or remove its president, to remove any of its members, and to supply its own vacancies. Not an element of popular liberty was introduced into the form of government. Religion was specially enjoined to be established according to the doctrine and rites of the church of England; and no emigrant might withdraw his allegiance from king James, or

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1 Compare Chalmers, p. 13— v. i. p. 67–75. Compare, also, ; 15; Story on the Constitution, v. Stith's Virginia, p. 37–41; Burk’s i. p. 22–24.

Virginia, v. i. p. 86–92. 2 See the Instrument, in Hening, 3 Chalmers, p. 15.

IV.

CHAP. avow dissent from the royal creed. Lands were

to descend according to the common law. Not only 1606. murder, manslaughter and adultery, but dangerous

tumults and seditions were punishable by death ; so that the security of life depended on the discretion of the magistrate, restricted only by the necessity of a trial by jury. All civil causes, requiring corporal punishment, fine or imprisonment, might be summarily determined by the president and council; who also possessed full legislative authority in cases not affecting life or limb. Kindness to the savages was enjoined. It was further, and most unwisely, though. probably at the request of the corporation, ordered, that the industry and commerce of the respective colonies should for five years, at least, be conducted in a joint stock. The king also reserved to himself the right of future legislation.

Thus were the political forms of the colony established, when, on the nineteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and six, one hundred and nine years after the discovery of

, the American continent by Cabot, forty-one years from the settlement of Florida, the little squadron of three vessels, the largest not exceeding one hundred tuns burthen, bearing one hundred and five men, destined to remain, set sail for a harbor in Virginia.

The voyage began under inauspicious omens. Of the one hundred and five, on the list of emigrants, there were but twelve laborers and very few mechan

1 Smith's Virginia, v. i. p. 150.

COLONISTS ARRIVE IN VIRGINIA.

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ics. They were going to a wilderness, in which, CHAP. as yet, not a house was standing; and there were forty-eight gentlemen to four carpenters. Neither were there any men with families. It was evident, a commercial and not a colonial establishment was designed by the projectors. Dissensions sprung up during the voyage; as the names and instructions of the council had, by the folly of James, been carefully concealed in a box, which was not to be opened till after the arrival in Virginia, no competent authority existed to check the progress of envy and

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and hope, the only power which can still the clamors 1607. and allay the feuds of the selfish, early deserted the colonists.

Newport, who commanded the ships, was acquainted with the old passage, and, consuming the whole of the early spring in a navigation which should have been completed in February, sailed by way of the Canaries and the West India Islands. As he turned to the north, a severe storm carried his fleet beyond the settlement of Raleigh, into the magnificent bay of the Chesapeake. The head April lands received and retain the names of Cape Henry and Cape Charles, from the sons of King James ; and within those capes a country opened, which appeared to the emigrants to “claim the prerogative over the most pleasant places in the world.” Hope revived for a season, as they advanced. “Heaven

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i See the names in Smith's Vir- 2 Smith, v. i. p. 150; Chalmers, ginia, v. i. p. 153, and in Purchas, p. 17. v. iv. p. 1706.

3 Smith, v. i. p. 150; Stith, p. 44.

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