網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE TENURE OF LANDS.

167

IV.

1

son.

store, and giving to the public service one month's CHAP. labor, which was to be required neither at seed-time nor harvest. This more favorable condition was probably owing to some peculiarities in the manner, in which their expenses in emigrating had been defrayed. He, who came himself, or had sent others at his own expense, had been entitled to a hundred acres of land for each person; now that the colony was well established, the bounty on emigration was fixed at fifty acres, of which the actual occupation and culture gave a further right to as many more, to be assigned at leisure. Besides this, lands were granted as rewards of merit; yet not more than two thousand acres could be so appropriated to one per

Every adventurer, who had paid into the company's treasury twelve pounds and ten shillings, likewise obtained a title to a hundred acres of land, any where in Virginia, not yet granted or possessed, with a reserved claim to as much more. Such were the earliest land laws of Virginia; imperfect and unequal as they were, they at least gave the cultivator the means of becoming a proprietor of the soil. These valuable changes were introduced by Sir Thomas Dale; a magistrate, who, notwithstanding the introduction of martial law, has gained praise for his vigor and industry, his judgment and conduct. Having remained five years in America, and now desiring to visit England and his family, he appointed George Yeardley deputy-governor, and embarked for 1616. his native country

a

1 Smith, v. ii. p. 22; Stith, p. 132. 1620, p. 9, 10; Stith, p. 139, 140. 2 State of Virginia, printed in 3 Stith, p. 138.

168

CULTURE OF TOBACCO. ADMINISTRATION OF ARGALL.

CHAP.

IV.

as it

1617.

The labor of the colony had long been misdirected; in the manufacture of ashes and soap, of glass and tar, the colonists could not sustain the competition with the nations on the Baltic. Much fruitless

cost had been incurred in planting vineyards. It 1615. was found, that tobacco might be profitably culti

vated. The sect of gold-finders had become extinct; and now the fields, the gardens, the public squares, and even the streets of Jamestown, were planted with tobacco;' and the colonists dispersed, unmindful of security in their eagerness for gain. Tobacco,

gave animation to Virginian industry, eventually became not only the staple, but the currency of the colony.

With the success of industry and the security of property, the emigrants needed the possession of

, political rights. It is an evil, incident to a corporate body, that its officers separate their interests as managers from their interests as partial proprietors. This was found to be none the less true, where an extensive territory was the estate to be managed ; and embittered parties contended for the posts of emolument and honor. It was under the influence of a faction, which rarely obtained a majority, that the office of deputy-governor was entrusted to Argall. Martial law was at that time the common law of the country; that the despotism of the new deputy, who was both self-willed and avaricious, might be complete, he was further invested with the place of admiral of the country and the adjoining seas.?

1 Smith, v. ii. p. 33.

? Stith, p. 145.

ARGALLS DESPOTIC ADMINISTRATION.

169

IV.

The return of Lord Delaware to America might CHAP. have restored tranquillity; the health of that nobleman was not equal to the voyage; he embarked 1617. with many emigrants, but did not live to reach Virginia.? . The tyranny of Argall was, therefore, left unrestrained; but his indiscriminate rapacity and vices were destined to defeat themselves, and procure for the colony an inestimable benefit; for they led him to defraud the company, as well as to oppress the colonists. The condition of Virginia became intolerable; the labor of the settlers was 1618 perverted to the benefit of the governor; servitude, for a limited period, became a common penalty, annexed to trifling offences; and, in a colony where martial law still continued in force, life itself was insecure against his capricious passions. The first appeal, ever made from America to England, directed, not to the king, but to the company, was in behalf of one whom Argall had wantonly condemned to death, and whom he had with great difficulty been prevailed upon to spare. The colony was fast falling into disrepute, and the report of the tyranny established beyond the Atlantic, checked emigration. A reformation was demanded, and was conceded with guarantees for the future; because the interests of the colonists and the company coincided in requiring a redress of their common wrongs. After a strenuous contest on the part of rival factions for the

1 Stith, p. 148. In Royal and 1618. The writers on Virginia Noble Authors, v. ii. p. 180—183, uniformly relate, that he died at Lord Delaware is said to have sea. Smith, v. ii. p. 34. died at Wherwell, Hants, June 7, 2 Stith, p. 150–153. VOL. I.

22

170

YEARDLEY'S ADMINISTRATION. COLONIAL ASSEMBLY.

IV.

2

CILAP. control of the company, the influence of Sir Edwin

Sandys prevailed ; Argall was displaced, and the mild

and popular Yeardley was now appointed captain1619. general of the colony. But before the new chief

magistrate could arrive in Virginia, Argall had withdrawn, having previously, by fraudulent devices, preserved for himself and his partners the fruits of his extortions. The London company suffered the usual plagues of corporations, faithless agents and fruitless law-suits.3

The administration of Yeardley began with acts of benevolence. The ancient planters were fully released from all further service to the colony, and were confirmed in the possession of their estates, both personal and real, as amply as the subjects of England. The burdens imposed by his predecessor were removed," and martial law gradually disappeared. But these were not the only benefits, conferred through Yeardley; his administration marks an era in the progress of American liberty.

By the direction of the London company, the authority of the governor was limited by a council, which had power to redress such wrongs as he should

commit; and the colonists themselves were admitted June to a share in legislation. In June, 1619, the first

colonial assembly that ever met in Virginia,' was convened at Jamestown. The governor, the newly

,

7

1 Stith, p. 154.

5 Ibid, p. 161; Chalmers, p. 2 Ibid, p. 157.

44. 3 The company's Chief Root of 6 State of Virginia, 1620, p. 6, the Differences and Discontents, 7. A rare tract of the highest in Burk, v. i. p. 317–322; the authority. It is in the Cambridge leading authority, written in 1623. Library. 4 Stith, p. 158.

7 Hening, v. i. p. 118.

7

SANDYS PROMOTES EMIGRATION.

171

IV.

appointed council, and the representatives of the chap. boroughs, hence called burgesses, constituted the a first popular representative body, ever convened in 1619. the western hemisphere. All matters were debated, which were thought expedient for the good of the colony. The legislative enactments of these earliest American law-givers, now no longer extant; could not be of force, till they were ratified by the company in England. It does not appear, that the ratification took place; yet they were acknowledged to have been “in their greatest part very well and judiciously carried." The gratitude of the Virginians was expressed with cheerful alacrity; former · griefs were buried in oblivion; and the representatives of the colony expressed their "greatest possible thanks” for the care of the company in settling the plantation.

This was the happy dawn of legislative liberty in America. They, who had been dependent on the will of a governor, now claimed the privileges of Englishmen, and demanded a code based upon the English laws. They were now willing to regard Virginia as their country and their home; and, since English jurisprudence was established and legislative liberty permitted, they resolved to perpetuate the colony.

The patriot party in England, now possessed of the control of the London company, engaged with

[ocr errors]

1 Stith, p. 160.

Purchas, v. iv. p. 1775, 1776. 2 Smith, v. ii. p. 39.

Chalmers, p. 44, perversely at3 Ancient Records, in Hening, tributes to the colonial assembly v. i. p. 121, 122.

the language employed by the 4 State of Virginia, 1620, p. 7; London company.

« 上一頁繼續 »