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England were members of the Liberal party of that day. In their sympathy for popular liberty they resolved to give the colonists the power to enact laws so "that they might have a hand in governing themselves." 58
Acting under orders from the Company, Governor Yeardley called on the inhabitants of the eleven boroughs or towns of Virginia to elect two representatives from each borough to meet with him and his council. In accordance with that summons the first American legislature assembled in the church at Jamestown in the summer of 1619. That body had full power to make all needful "general laws," 59 but no law was to be in force unless approved by the Governor and "solemnly ratified" by the Virginia Company in England. The meeting of that House of Burgesses or Assembly marks the beginning of local self-government on the American continent.
At first all free men had the right to vote for members of the Assembly, but later (1670) it was enacted that in accordance with English law and custom none but householders and owners of real estate should have "a voice in the election of any burgesses in this country."
In 1621 the Company gave the colonists a written constitution 61 confirming their right to a legislative Assembly. A little later the burgesses enacted (1623) that the Governor should not "lay any taxes. . . upon the colony . . . other than by the authority of the General Assembly." 62 This enactment had the effect of making the Assembly the real ruling power.
The stockholders of the Virginia Company fell into disputes, and the King took advantage of the fact to annul the charter (1624) and make the colony a royal province; but this change did not affect the Assembly. The local government of the province was carried on by parish committees, who taxed the people for the support of the Episcopal Church and for the poor. The counties were governed by officers appointed by the royal Governor. These officers levied taxes to build highways
and for other purposes. The general expenses of the province were met by taxes levied by the Assembly.
In time local government throughout the South came to resemble that of Virginia, especially in the county system. 44. The beginning of African slavery in Virginia (1619). Not long after the meeting of the first American legislature an event occurred which John Rolfe, the tobacco planter, thus records: "About the last of August (1619) came in a Dutch man-of-war that sold us twenty Negars." The purchase of that score of kidnapped Africans fastened slavery on Virginia and on the United States. No one then thought it any more harm to buy a negro than to buy a horse. The laws of Moses were believed to sanction traffic in human beings, and the AttorneyGeneral of England declared that "negroes being pagans might justly be bought and sold." The English sovereigns shared in the profits of the trade and encouraged the Virginians to buy as many black men as they could pay for. Before the American Revolution, every one of the thirteen colonies held more or less slaves. But the increase of negroes in Virginia was slow, since planters of small means found it cheaper to employ the labor of "indented apprentices." Later a statute (1662) made slavery hereditary, not only for negroes, but for mulattoes, by providing that "all children born in this country shall be held bond or free, according to the condition of the mother." 63
45. Attempts to check the importation of slaves; growth of slavery. Eventually the Virginians became alarmed at the rapid increase of slaves and endeavored to check their importation, but the English Parliament refused to allow any restriction on so lucrative a trade. George Mason of Virginia declared in the Federal Congress that "this infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants," and Jefferson, in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, made the King's encouragement of the slave-trade one of the reasons which justified the colonies in separating from the mother-country.
But although Jefferson, Washington, and other leading Virginians (who were themselves slave-holders), advocated gradual emancipation, yet the majority of the planters opposed it. After the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and after the invention of the cotton-gin made the cultivation of cotton enormously profitable, slavery gained a commercial and political importance which made it for more than two generations the "central problem of American history."
46. Importation of women; results; Plymouth Colony; the situation. But though Virginia was becoming prosperous, the colony still lacked one element without which no colony could hope to thrive. Very few women had emigrated to Jamestown. The Virginia Company resolved to remedy the deficiency and sent (1621) ninety "young and handsome maids to be disposed in marriage to the most honest and industrious planters . . . who are to defray the charge of their passage.' The charge was from 120 to 150 pounds of the best leaf tobacco. Never was that plant put to better use.
When the women came, homes began in the New World. Husband, wife, children, these threefold bonds made the little Virginian commonwealth sure of its future.
Five hundred miles to the northeast a band of Pilgrims had recently (1620) planted a second English colony. They brought their families with them, they too had homes. The children born in these two settlements, at Plymouth Rock and on the James River, would call this country, and not England, their native land; in that way America would come to be a sacred name, and mean what it had never meant before.
Here then was the situation in 1621: In Florida a few hundred Spaniards held a fort (St. Augustine) on the coast; at Quebec a small number of French Catholics, who had gone there in 1608, held another fort; on the Hudson River a thrifty colony of Dutch traders had established themselves since 1613.
In New England and Virginia there were two little settlements of English people. Of these four rival colonies the
English homes alone were the abodes of men who made their own local laws and levied their own taxes. In that fact may be seen the germ of American independence.
47. Virginia loses part of her territory; civil war in England; cavaliers; loyalty of Virginia. - After Virginia lost her charter (§ 43) she also lost part of her territory through the King's grant (1632) of Maryland on the north and (1663) of the Carolinas on the south.
Shortly after Charles I. appointed Sir William Berkeley Governor of Virginia (1642), civil war broke out in England; the Puritan party suppressed the established Church of England for a time, and set up a short-lived republic.
Though the people of Virginia were divided in their political and religious opinions, yet the ruling element staunchly upheld the Church and the Crown. The Assembly enacted (1643) that "all non-conformists (that is, persons who would not attend the service of the Episcopal Church) should, when notified, be compelled to depart out of the colony." 66 Again, when Charles I. was beheaded (1649) the Assembly declared his executioners traitors, and threatened death to those who should defend them.67
But in the end Virginia found it policy to submit to the authority of the English Republic. Governor Berkeley retired from office, but gave princely receptions to the Cavaliers or "King's Men," who had fought for Charles I. and who now fled to Virginia. Among those who came were the ancestors of the illustrious families of the Washingtons and the Lees."
Great was the rejoicing in the "Old Dominion" when (1660) monarchy was restored in England, and "the King came back o his own again." Governor Berkeley again put on his silk obe of office, and the Assembly begged the pardon of Charles II. for having yielded for a time to the "execrable pwer that so bloodily massacred the late King Charles the First of blessed and glorious memory."
48. Navigation laws and other commercial restrictions. Under Cromwell the English Parliament enacted navigation laws
which forbade the importation into England of any products or goods not brought in British vessels. The object of those laws was to strike a blow at the Dutch, who had the control of the carrying trade of the world, and to secure a large part of the commerce to English shipowners. Charles II. (1660) signed a bill which made the navigation laws far more stringent. In their revised form they forbade the Virginians exporting their tobacco their only really profitable product to any country except Great Britain and her dependencies. A few years later (1663) a new statute prohibited the colonists from purchasing manufactured goods from any country but England. Finally, this restrictive legislation reached its climax in the enactment of a third law (1673) which prohibited the colonies from trading with each other in any article of importance.70
These laws were intended to protect the interests of the mother-country. They made it possible for English merchants to fix the price at which the Virginia and other colonial planters must sell their produce, and secondly to determine the price which the colonists must pay for whatever they imported. The Virginians would have been badly off indeed if they had not managed to smuggle their tobacco out in Dutch vessels and to smuggle European goods in.
49. Charles II. grants Virginia to two of his favorites. We have seen (§ 47) that the English sovereigns had carved huge slices out of Virginia, both on the north and the south. The people were dismayed at the loss, but congratulated themselves that the King had not taken all, when by a sudden act (1673) Charles did take all. That monarch had two rapacious favor ites, the Earl of Arlington and Lord Culpepper; both wished to fill their pockets at the expense of the New World. Charles took pity on them and granted "that entire tract of land and water commonly called Virginia" to have and to hold for thirty-one years. He empowered these two noblemen to collect all landrents and receive all revenues; and though they could not actually dispossess any settler who held his estate by a clear