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VIRGINIA RETAINS ITS LIBERTIES.

207

V.

1624.

could lead only to confusion and contention; and CHAP. they promised prosperity only by a recurrence to the original instructions of the monarch.

Now, therefore, nothing but the judicial decision June. remained. The decree, which was to be pronounced by judges, who held their office by the tenure of the royal pleasure, could not long remain doubtful; and at the trinity term of the ensuing year, judgment was given against the treasurer and company, and the patents were cancelled.

Thus the company was dissolved. It had fulfilled its high destinies; it had confirmed the colonization of Virginia, and had conceded a liberal form of government to Englishmen in America. It could accomplish no more. The members were probably willing to escape from a concern, which promised no emolument and threatened an unprofitable strife; the public acquiesced in the fall of a corporation, which had of late maintained but a sickly and hopeless existence; and the friends of the colony well knew, that a body, rent by internal factions and opposed by the whole force of the English government, could never succeed in fostering Virginia. The fate of the London company found little sympathy; in the domestic government of the colony, it produced no change whatever. So far as the business of the

1 Story's Com. v. i. p. 27. failer, or mistake in pleading."

Stith, p. 329, 330, doubts if See a Short Collection of the most judgment were passed. The doubt Remarkable Passages from the may be removed. “ Before the originall to the Dissolution of the end of the same term, a judgment Virginia Company. London, 1651, was declared by the Lord Chief p. 15. See, also, Hazard, v. i. p. Justice Ley against the company 191; Chalmers, p. 62; Proud's and their charter, only upon à Pennsylvania, v. i. p. 107.

V.

15.

26.

CHAP. colony was to be transacted in England, it was en

trusted to a large committee, composed, in part, of 1624. members of the privy council, and clothed with very

extensive powers. To this committee the charter and all other papers of the company were ordered to be delivered ;' and it was invested with the powers, which had before rested with the corporation. To the liberties of Virginia, the abolition of the charter brought no immediate diminution ; Sir Francis

Wyatt, though he had been an ardent friend of the Aug. London company, was confirmed in the government

of the province; and he and his council, far from being rendered absolute, were only empowered to govern “as fully and amplye 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 could not but be interpreted as sanctioning the continuance of popular assemblies. The king, in appointing the council in Virginia, refused to nominate the embittered partisans of the court faction ; but formed the administration on the principles of accommodation. These

moderate measures appear, it is true, to have been 1625. designed as temporary. The vanity of the monarch

claimed the opportunity of establishing for the colony Mar. a code of fundamental laws; but death prevented

the royal legislator from attempting the task, which would have furnished his self-complacency so grateful an occupation.

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3

27.

1 Hazard, v. i. p. 186. 188. 2 Ibid, v. i. p. 192.

3 Ibid, v. i. p. 189. 192; Burk, v. ii. p. 11, from ancient records.

CHAPTER VI.

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

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VI.

.

1625.

April

9.

a

13.

CHAP. cal lise; nor was he aware that the seeds of liberty

were already germinating on the borders of the Chesapeake. His first Virginian measure was a 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.”

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

3

1 Hazard, v. i. p. 202, 203. 2 Ibid, v. i. p. 203—205.

3 Burk’s History of Virginia, v. ii. p. 14, 15.

VIRGINIA RETAINS ITS FRANCHISES.

211

VI.

1

4.

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, encour-
age 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 be-
fore 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, con-
firmed, 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 in-
creasing 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

14.

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.
4 Burk, v. ii. p. 22, 23,
5 Hening, v. i. p. 4,

.

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