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CHAP. earnestness in schemes to advance the population
IV. and establish the liberties of Virginia; and Sir Ed1619. win Sandys, the new treasurer, was a man of such
judgment and firmness, that no intimidations, not even threats of blood, could deter him from investigating and reforming the abuses, by which the progress of the colony had been retarded. At his accession to office, after twelve years' labor and an expenditure of eighty thousand pounds by the company, there were in the colony no more than six hundred persons, men, women and children; and now, in one year, he provided a passage to Virginia for twelve hundred and sixty-one persons. Nor must the character of the emigration be overlooked. "The people of Virginia had not been settled in their minds," and, as, before the recent changes, they had gone there with the design of ultimately returning to England, it was necessary to multiply attachments to the soil. Few women had as yet dared to cross the Atlantic; but now the promise of prosperity induced ninety3 agreeable persons, young and incorrupt, to listen to the wishes of the company and the benevolent advice of Sandys, and to embark for the colony, where they were assured of a welcome. They were transported at the expense of the corporation; and were married to the tenants of the company; or to men, who were well able to support them, and who willingly defrayed the costs
1 Chief Root of the Differences, in Burk, v. i. p. 323; Stith, p. 159.
2 A Note of the Shipping, Men
and Provisions sent to Virginia in
THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE CIVIL FREEDOM.
of their passage, which were rigorously demanded.1 CHAP. The adventure succeeded so well, that it was designed to send the next year another consignment 1620. of one hundred ; but before these could be collected, the company found itself so poor, that its design could be accomplished only by a subscription. After some delays, sixty were actually despatched, maids 1621. of virtuous education, young, handsome, and well recommended. The price rose from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco, or even more; so that all the original charges might be repaid. The debt for a wife was a debt of honor, and took precedence of any other; and the company, in conferring employments, gave a preference to the married men. Domestic ties were formed; virtuous sentiments and habits of thrift ensued; the tide of emigration swelled; within three 1619, years fifty patents for land were granted, and three 1621. thousand five hundred persons found their
The deliberate and, formal concession of legisla- 1620. tive liberties was an act of 'the deepest interest. When Sandys, after a year's service, resigned his office as treasurer, a struggle ensued on the election of his successor. The meeting was numerously attended; and, as the courts of the company were now become the schools of debate, many of the distinguished leaders of parliament were present. King James attempted to decide the struggle; and a mes
1 Sir Edwin Sandys' Speech, reported in Stith, p. 166.
2 Supplies for 1620, p. 11, an
nexed to State of Virginia, 1620.
3 Stith, p. 196; State of Virginia, 1622, p. 6, &c.
CHAP. sage was communicated from him, nominating four candidates, one of whom he desired should receive 1621. the appointment. The company resisted the royal interference as an infringement of their charter; and while James exposed himself to the disgrace of an unsuccessful attempt at usurpation, the choice of the meeting fell upon the earl of Southampton, the early friend of Shakspeare. Having thus vindicated their own rights, the company proceeded to redress former wrongs, and to provide colonial liberty with its written guarantees.1
In the case of the appeal to the London company from a sentence of death pronounced by Argall, the friends of that officer had assembled, with the earl of Warwick at their head, and had voted, that trial by martial law is the noblest kind of trial, because soldiers and men of the sword were the judges. This opinion was now reversed and the rights of the colonists to trial by jury amply sustained. Nor was it long before the freedom of the northern fisheries was equally asserted; and the early history of NewEngland will explain with what success the monopoly of a rival corporation was opposed.3
The company had silently approved, yet never expressly sanctioned the colonial assembly which had been convened by Sir George Yeardley. It was July. in July, 1621, that a memorable ordinance1 established for the colony a written constitution. The
1 Stith, p. 176-181.
3 Ibid, p. 185; Gorges' Descrip-
4 Hening, v. i. p. 110, 111;
Stith's Appendix, p. 32; Hazard, v. i. p. 131-133. Compare Chalmers, p. 54, 55; Story's Commentaries, v. i. p. 26.
THE VIRGINIANS ACQUIRE CIVIL FREEDOM.
form of government prescribed for Virginia was CHAP. analogous to the English constitution, and was, with some modifications, the model of the systems, which 1621. were afterwards introduced into the various royal provinces. Its purpose was declared to be "the greatest comfort and benefit to the people, and the prevention of injustice, grievances and oppression." Its terms are few and simple; a governor, to be appointed by the company; a permanent council, likewise to be appointed by the company; a general assembly, to be convened yearly, and to consist of the members of the council, and of two burgesses to be chosen from each of the several plantations by their respective inhabitants. The assembly might exercise full legislative authority, a negative voice being reserved to the governor; but no law or ordinance would be valid, unless ratified by the company in England. With singular justice and a liberality without example, it was further ordained, that, after the government of the colony shall have once been framed, no orders of the court in London shall bind the colony, unless they be in like manner ratified by the general assembly. The courts of justice were required to conform to the laws and manner of trial, used in the realm of England.
Such was the constitution, which Sir Francis Wyatt, the successor of the mild but inefficient Yeardley, was commissioned to bear to the colony. The system of representative government and trial by jury, was thus established in the new hemisphere as an acknowledged right; the colonists, ceasing to
CHAP. depend as servants on a commercial company, now became freemen and citizens. The ordinance was 1621. the basis, on which Virginia erected the superstructure of its liberties. Its influences were wide and enduring, and can be traced through all following years of the history of the colony. It constituted the plantation, in its infancy, a nursery of freemen; and succeeding generations learned to cherish institutions, which were as old as the first period of the prosperity of their fathers. The privileges, which were now conceded, could never be wrested from the Virginians; and, as new colonies arose at the south, their proprietaries could hope to win emigrants only by bestowing franchises as large, as those enjoyed by their elder rival. The London company merits the fame of having acted as the successful friend of liberty in America. It may be doubted, whether any public act during the reign of King James was of more permanent or pervading influence; and it reflects glory on the earl of Southampton, Sir Edwin Sandys, and the patriot party of England, who, unable to establish guarantees of a liberal administration at home, were careful to connect popular freedom so intimately with the life, prosperity and state of society of Virginia, that they never could be separated.
1 The oldest book, printed on Virginia, is in our Cambridge Library, though not mentioned in the catalogue. It is a thin quarto, in Black Letter, by John Smith, printed in 1608. "A True Rela
tion of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia since the first planting of that Collony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne."