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Richard Webster, where an acknowledgment of the obligation was inconvenient. His collections are a treasury of facts for an American Ecclesiastical historian. It is not impossible there may be valuable papers, illustrating particular facts, hereafter brought to light, which may modify or strengthen the statements made in these sketches. All things bow to the majesty of truth.
VIRGINIA IN SIXTEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-EIGHT.
The year 1688 is an epoch in English history. The protestant succession wTas then secured to the crown of England. The protestant religion was established as the religion of the State; in England, under the form of prelacy, in Scotland, of presbytery. Civil liberty made a great advance, and the anglo-saxon race ascended in the sight of all Europe, regaining what had been lost after Cromwell, and thenceforward holding the balance of power.
The civil and ecclesiastical condition of Virginia, at that time, cannot fail to be interesting to those, who take pleasure in noticing the progress of the human race, in the discovery, the possession, and the defence of the rights of man. Virginia, as she was then, and as she is now, exhibits strongly by contrast, colonial dependence on arbitrary power, and republican liberty. About that time, commenced in Virginia, a contest for religious liberty, which, after a hundred years of conflict, ended in the famous law entered on her statute book in 1785, declaring the citizens of the commmonwealth as free in mind as in body, in religion as in politics. Four score and two years had passed since the little fleet of three ships, whose whole capacity for burden did not exceed one hundred and sixty tons, set sail from Blackwall in England on the 19th of December, 1606, under the command of that experienced navigator, Christopher Newport, bearing a company of adventurers to the wilderness of Virginia. Three of these enterprising men will be famous to all posterity, Bartholomew Gosnold, Rev. Robert Hunt, and Captain John Smith. The names of the others have been saved from absolute oblivion by the famous Smith in his history of Virginia.
On the 26th of April 1607, the fleet, driven by a storm, entered the Chesapeake. On the 30th they cast anchor at a point well known in modern times. The voyagers named it Point Comfort, because after their long voyage and the late storm it had—"put them in good comfort." On the 13th of May the colony was landed on a peninsula, on the north side of James' river, about forty miles from its mouth. There they commenced the first permanent colony in North America. In honour of the king, James I., the place was called Jamestown. Here was a theatre, on which the enterprise, courage, and magnanimity of Smith, and the piety and patriotic devotion of Hunt displayed themselves. Here was the residence of the Governor, and the place of the meeting of the Burgesses, who claimed and exercised in the wilderness all the privileges of Englishmen. Here at the time of the accession of the Prince of Orange, in 1688, was the only place in the colony that might be called a town.
In 1688 the plantations in Virginia were scattered along the shores of the Chesapeake,—across the narrow strip of land, that separates the bay from the ocean,—along the banks of the rivers and creeks that fall into that noble bay, and on their tributary streams to the head of tide water. No settlement had been made above the falls where the river Powhatan, "falleth from the rockes farre west." The neighbourhood of some navigable water being esteemed essential to the successful operations of planters, the most fertile portions of land between the rivers, were occupied only in scattered positions. The expectation of finding abundant mines of the precious metals had allured multitudes, of the early adventurers, to Virginia. This had passed away, and the more sober, and ultimately more enriching, pursuits of agriculture occupied the public mind. The colony had become permanent in its inhabitants, and in its occupations. Few emigrants came, as at first, with the expectation of sudden wealth, and a speedy return to England. A cheerful independence, in the new country, in preference to poverty in the old, was the more reasonable expectation and desire. The emigrants also came in families, or sought to unite themselves, by marriage, with the older colonists. They were encouraged to do this, by the patrons in England, to give importance to the colony and increase their income; and by the colonists, to add to their numbers, their pecuniary strength and warlike means. The importation of wives by the cargo, that stroke of policy in the patrons, had long ceased, and men wooed and won their wives, according to the usages of civilized life. Children, grand children, and great grand children claimed Virginia as their home, England as the fatherland.
Of all the productions, which the earth brought forth in abundance, tobacco received the greatest attention. The first specimen of this plant peculiar to America was taken to England, from Carolina, by Ralph Lane, in 1586. It met the entire reprobation of the Queen. In less than ten years after the settlement of the colony, at Jamestown, tobacco was the principle article of export. The demand increased with the consumption, and the cultivation with the demand. The making of tar, pitch, and turpentine, and the hunting of mines, the objects of the first emigrants, were abandoned for the occupation of the planter. Governor Berkely says, in 1671, "commodities of the growth of our own country we never had any, but tobacco, which yet is considerable that it yields his Majesty a great revenue.,, The planters, being absorbed in the cultivation of tobacco, repeatedly suffered the evils of famine through their neglect to cultivate corn in sufficient quantities for home consumption. The supply from the savages, always scanty and precarious, became wilfully less, as the wants of the planters increased. The Indians desired by all, and every means, to drive the intruders from their fields and rivers. Laws were passed by the House of Burgesses to enforce the production of corn, and limit the amount of tobacco. In 1624, at the first Assembly, whose records have been preserved, it was resolved, by act 16th—" That three sufficient men of every parish shall be sworne to see that every man shall plant and tende sufficient corne for his family. Those men that have neglected so to do are to be by the said three men presented to be censured by the Governour and Counsell." By act 18th—" Every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden for planting vines, herbs, roots, &c. sub poena ten pounds of tobacco a man." The evil not being remedied by these enactments, it was ordered, in the year 1630, by act 6th—" That two acres of corne or neere thereabouts bee planted for every head that worketh in the ground, and the same to bee sufficiently tended weeded and preserved from hoggs cattell and other inconveniences. And if any planter shall be found delinquent therein, hee shall forfeit all his tobacco, which bee made of his cropp that yeare the one halfe to the informer, the other to bee employed to publique uses for the good of the country." In the revisal of the laws in 1632 the wording of this law was altered, but the spirit retained. In the revisal of 1642, Act 8th, the penalty was changed to—"five hundred pounds of tobacco per acre defective.'' In 1647 the act for enforcing the planting of two acres,—" either in Indian or English grayne"—is renewed. Act 6th with the additional penalty— "and for the neglect of any constables in not presenting both the planting and sufficient tending thereof, that the commissioners of the county doe impose a fine of five hundred pounds of tob'o upon each constable so defaulting—and in case the commissioners do not take a strict care in taking accompt of the constables in the execution of this act, that then the said commissioners shall be fined at the discretion of the Gov'r and Council.', In the same year the exportation of corn was forbidden on penalty of five hundred pounds of tobacco; and the price, at home, was limited to one hundred pounds of tobacco per barrel containing five Winchester bushels. In 1657, during the Commonwealth of England, the act for planting two acres of corn was renewed, with the same penalty on the planters; the constables not being mentioned.
Tobacco became the standard of value, and supplied, in part at least, the place of a circulating medium of the precious metals. By act 64, in 1632—"The Secretaries fees shall be as followeth, viz—ffor a warrant 051bs of tobacco,—ffor a passe lOlbs,—ffor a freedom 20,—ffor Commission of Administration 20,—The Marshalls fees shall be, ffor an arrest lOlbs of Tobacco,—ffor warning the cort 02,—imprisonment, coming in 10, going out 10,—Laying by the heels 5,—whippinge 10,— Pillory 10,—Duckinge 10.—The Prisoner lying in prison, Marshalls attendance per day 5,—ffor every 51bs of tobacco the Marshall may require 1 bushel of corne." By act 61st 1642, Attorney's fees, in the county court, for any kind of service, was not to exceed 201bs of tobacco, upon penalty of 500 lbs of tobacco; and in the quarter court not to exceed 501bs, upon penalty of 20001bs of tobacco. The house of Burgesses was slow in admitting Lawyers to plead in the courts, on any terms. One of the charges,—" Duckinge lOlbs,"—refers to the English law for the punishment of turbulent women.
The price of tobacco was always fluctuating on account of the varying quantity and quality of the crops. Some years, immense crops were tended, and the supply of good tobacco was greater than the demand; in other years the quantity was less, and the quality inferior. Keeping accounts in tobacco became inconvenient, especially if payment were delayed for a length of time. It was therefore enacted 1633, Act 4th— "Whereas it hath beene the usuall custome of marchants and others dealinge intermutually in this colony to make all bargains, contracts, and to keep all accounts in tobacco and not in money, contrary to the former custome of this plantation and manner of England, and other places within the Kings dominions, which thinge hath bredd many inconvenienceys in the trade, and occasioned many troubles as well to the marchants as to the planters, and inhabitants amongst themselves. It is thought fitt by the Governor and Oouneill and the Burgesses of this Grand Assembly, That all accounts and contracts be usually made and kept in money and not in Tobacco, That all pleas and actions of debt or trespass be commenced and sett downe in lawful money of England onlie, and in no other commoditie.,, In order to preserve an equality in the price of tobacco the Legislature frequently attempted to regulate the quantity of the crops, by determining, by Statute, how many hills of tobacco might be tended for each poll on a plantation.
In 1688 there were no large towns in Virginia, nor any number of small ones, or even villages. The Legislature, in conformity to the wishes of the mother country, encouraged the gathering of numerous families, in close community, for the purpose of traffic and mechanical trades. It layed out towns and made regulations for them. It directed that foreign traffic should be carried on, exclusively' at these towns. Ports of entry were made in sufficient numbers to accommodate the country, and secure the revenue. But the places, called towns, or ports of entry often consisted of a single dwelling-house with a store, or office; and not a single flourishing town was to be found in the whole province, Jamestown, the capital, not excepted. The trade now collected in cities, as centres, was then scattered over the whole country. The planters preferred making sale of their own tobacco directly to the foreign trader; and welcomed the vessels that cast anchor, for the purpose of trade, in the nearest river, or at the most convenient landing, not very scupulous whether the port was established by law or chosen for convenience. A statute of Assembly required the planters to report, on pain of fines, the number of hogsheads they sold these foreign vessels. Whether the change effected, by transferring the principal business of the whole country to a few cities, either within or without the state, has proved beneficial to community at large, by confining to a few hands the business once shared by all, is a matter for discussion. The popular feeling is, however, in favour of cities, and the course of trade is settled on the principle, the more merchants the more traffic, and the better business.
The inhabitants of the colony were all planters. Scattered over the country as suited their interest or convenience, they lived unrestrained, fed by their plantations and the abundance of the sea. Their first exposure had been to the pressure of famine; and the next to massacre from savage hands. The plentiful crops gathered, in consequence of the watchful care ef the legislature, and the remembrance of past sufferings from their improvidence, had removed the fears of want; and their increasing numbers, and the wasting strength of the Indian tribes, had relieved them from the alarms of midnight attacks. Governor Berkeley says, in 1671,—" We suppose, and I am very sure we do not much miscount, that there are in Virginia above