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VI.

92

CHAP. pelled to quit Virginia ; and now not the slightest

effort at revenge was attempted." 1652.

The act which constituted the government, claimed April.

for the assembly the privilege of defining the powers

which were to belong to the governor and council ; May and the public good was declared to require, “ that 5.

the right of electing all officers of this colony should appertain to the burgesses," as to “the representa

" May tives of the people. It had been usual for the

governor and council to sit in the assembly; the expediency of the measure was questioned, and a temporary compromise ensued; they retained their former right, but were required to take the oath, which was administered to the burgesses. Thus the house of burgesses acted as a convention of the people; exercising supreme authority, and distributing power as the public welfare required. *

Nor was this an accidental and transient arrangement. Cromwell never made any appointments for

Virginia; not one governor acted under his commis1655. sion. When Bennett retired from office, the assem31. bly itself elected his successor; and Edward Diggs,

who had before been chosen of the council, received the suffrages. The commissioners in the colony

" were rather engaged in settling the affairs and adjusting the boundaries of Maryland, than in controlling the destinies of Virginia.

Mar.

1 Langford's Refutation, p. 3. On Bennett, compare ii. Mass. Hist. Coll. v. ix. p. 118. He was of the council in 1646. Hening, v. i. p. 322.

2 Hening, v. i. p. 372.
3 Ibid, p. 373.

4 Hening's Note, v. i. p. 369.
5 Hening, v. i. Preface, p. 13.
6 Ibid, p. 388. November, 1654.

7 Ibid, p. 408. Compare, also, Hening, v. i. p. 5, and also

p.

426. 8 Ibid, p. 428 and 432; Hazard, v. i. p. 594.

VIRGINIA DURING THE PROTECTORATE.

243

VI.

The right of electing the governor continued to CHAP. be claimed by the representatives of the people, and “worthy Samuel Matthews, an old planter, of nearly forty years' standing," who had been “a most deserving commonwealth's man, kept a good house, lived bravely and was a true lover of Virginia," was 1658. next honored with the office. But the worthy old gentleman had too exalted ideas of his station ; and, in conjunction with the council, became involved in an unequal contest with the very assembly, by which he had been elected. The burgesses had enlarged their power by excluding the governor and council from their sessions, and, having thus reserved to themselves the first free discussion of every law, had voted an adjournment till November. The governor and council, by message, declared the dissolution of April the assembly. The legality of the dissolution was denied ;; and, after an oath of secrecy, every burgess was enjoined not to betray his trust by submission. Matthews yielded, reserving a right of appeal to the protector. When the house unanimously voted the governor's answer unsatisfactory," he expressly revoked the order of dissolution ; but still referred the decision of the dispute to Cromwell. The members of the assembly, apprehensive of a limitation of colonial liberty by the reference of a political question to England, determined on a solemn assertion of their independent powers. A committee was appointed, of which John Carter, of Lancaster, was the chief;

1.

1 Hening, v. i. p. 431.
2 ii. M. Hist. Coll. v. ix. p. 119.
3 Hening's Note, v. i. p. 430.

4 Hening, v. i. p. 496, 497, and 500, 501.

5 Ibid, p. 501.

VI.

CHAP. and a complete declaration of popular sovereignty

was solemnly made. This was followed by an unu1658. sual exercise of power. The governor and council

had ordered the dissolution of the assembly; the burgesses now decreed the former election of governor and council to be void. Having thus exercised, not merely the right of election, but the more extraordinary right of removal, they re-elected Matthews, “who by us,” they add, “shall be invested with all the just rights and privileges belonging to the governor and captain-general of Virginia.” The governor submitted, and acknowledged the validity of his ejection by taking the new oath, which had just been prescribed. The council was organized anew; and the spirit of popular liberty established all its claims.

The death of Cromwell made no change in the

constitution of the colony. The message of the gov1659. ernor duly announced the event to the legislature.”

It has pleased some English historians to ascribe to Virginia a precipitate attachment to Charles II. On the present occasion, the burgesses deliberated in private, and unanimously resolved, that Richard Cromwell should be acknowledged. But it was a

” more interesting question, whether the change of protector in England would endanger liberty in Virginia. The letter from the council had left the government to be administered according to former usage. The assembly declared itself satisfied with

1658.

Mar.

1 Hening, v. i. p. 504, 505.
2 See the names of the mem-

bers, in Hening, v. i. p. 506, 507.

3 Hening, v. i. p. 511. Mar. 1659.

VIRGINIA DURING THE PROTECTORATE.

245

VI.

the language. But that there might be no reason CHAP. to question the existing usage, the governor was summoned to come to the house ; where he appeared 1659. in person, deliberately acknowledged the supreme power of electing officers to be, by the present laws, resident in the assembly, and pledged himself to join in addressing the new protector for special confirmation of all existing privileges. The reason for this extraordinary proceeding is assigned; “ that what was their privilege now, might be the privilege of their posterity. The frame of the Virginia government was deemed worthy of being transmitted to remote generations.

On the death of Matthews, the Virginians were 1660. without a chief magistrate, just at the time when the resignation of Richard had left England without a government. The burgesses, who were immediately convened, resolving to become the arbiters of the fate of the colony, enacted, “ that the supreme power of the government of this country shall be resident in the assembly; and all writs shall issue in its name, until there shall arrive from England a commission, which the assembly itself shall adjudge to be lawful.” This being done, Sir William Berkeley was elected governor ;4 and, acknowledging the validity of the acts of the burgesses, whom, it was expressly agreed, he could in no event dissolve, he accepted the office to which he had been chosen, and recognized, without a scruple, the authority to which he owed his elevation. “I am,” said he, “but a

Mar.

1 Hening, v. i. p. 511.
2 Ibid, p. 511, 512.

3 Ibid, p. 530, Act 1. Mar. 1660.
4 Ibid, p. 530, 531, and 5.

1660.

2

CHAP. servant of the assembly.” Virginia did not lay claim

" to absolute independence; but anxiously awaited the settlement of affairs in England.? · The legislation of the colony had taken its character from the condition of the people, who were essentially agricultural in their pursuits; and it is the interest of society in that state to discountenance contracting debts. Severe laws for the benefit of the creditor are the fruits of commercial society; Virginia possessed not one considerable town, and her statutes favored the independence of the planter, rather than the security of trade. The representatives of colonial landholders voted “the total ejection of mercenary attornies." By a special act, emi

93 grants were safe against suits, designed to enforce engagements that had been made in Europe ;4 and colonial obligations might be easily satisfied by a surrender of property. Already large landed proprietors were frequent; and plantations of two thousand acres were not unknown.

During the suspension of the royal government in England, Virginia attained unlimited liberty of commerce, which she regulated by independent laws. The ordinance of 1650 was rendered void by the act of capitulation; the navigation act of Cromwell was not designed for her oppression, and was not enforced within her borders. If an occasional confiscation took place, it was done by the authority of

p. 27.

1 Smith's History of New-York, 349. 419. 482. 495, and preface,

2 See the note of Hening, in v. 4 Ibid, p. 256, 257. i. p. 526_529.

5 Ibid, p. 294. Hening, v. i. p. 275. 302. 313. 6 Virginia's Cure, p. 2 and 8.

p. 18.

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