Many circumstances impeded the progress of the oldest Virginia colony. The first settlers at Jamestown were idle and improvident. Of the one hundred and five men who came with Newport in the spring of 1607, only twelve were common laborers. there were four carpenters in the company, and six or eight masons and blacksmiths, but the lack of mechanics was compensated by a long list of forty-eight gentlemen. If necessity had not soon driven these to the honorable vocations of toil, the colony must have perished. The few married men who joined the expedition had left their families in England.
From the first the affairs of the colony were badly managed. King James made out instructions for the organization of the new State, and then, with his usual stupidity, sealed up the parchment in a box which was not to be opened until the arrival of the emigrants in America. the names of the governor and members of the council were thus unknown during the voyage; there was no ligitimate authority on shipboard; insubordination and anarchy prevailed among the riotous company. In this state of turbulence and misrule, an absurd suspicion was blown out against Captain John Smith, the best and truest man in the colony. An arrest followed, and confinement until the end of the voyage. When at last the colonists reached the site of their future settlement, the king's instructions were unsealed and the names of the seven members of the Inferior Council made known. Then a meeting of that body was held and Edward Wingfield duly elected first governor of Virginia. Smith, who had been set at liberty, was now charged with sedition and excluded from his seat in the council. He demanded to be tried; and when it was found that his jealous enemies could bring nothing but their own suspicions against him, he was acquitted and restored to his place as a member of the corporation.
As soon as the settlement was well begun and the affairs of the colony came into a better condition, the restless Smith, accompanied by Newport and twenty others, ascended and explored James River for forty-five miles. Just below the falls of the river, at the present site of Richmond, the English explorers came upon the capital of Powhatan, the Indian king. Smith was not greatly impressed with the magnificence of an empire whose chief city was a squalid village of twelve wigwams. The native monarch received the foreigners with formal courtesy and used his authority to moderate the dislike which his subjects manifested at the intrusion. About the last of May the company returned to Jamestown, and on July 2 Newport embarked for England.
The colonists now for the first time began to realize their situation. They were alone amid the solitudes of the New World. the beauties of the Virginia wilderness were around them, but the terrors of the approaching winter were already present to their imagination. In the latter part of August dreadful diseases broke out in the settlement, and the colony was brought to the verge of ruin. The fort which had been built for the defense of the plantation was filled with the sick and dying. At one time no more than five men were able to go on duty as sentinels. Bartholomew Gosnold, the projector of the colony and one of the best men in the council, died, and before the middle of September one-half of the whole number had been swept off by the terrible malady. If the frosts of autumn had not come to check the ravages of disease, no soul would have been left to tell the story.
Civil dissension was added to the other calamities of the settlement. President Wingfield, an unprincipled man, and his confederate, George Kendall, a member of the council, were accused of embezzling the stores of the colony. They were arrested, impeached, and removed from the office. Only three councilmen now remained -- Ratcliffe, Martin, and Smith; the first was chosen president. He was a man who possessed neither ability nor courage, and the affairs of the settlers grew worse and worse. John Smith became next governor. In their distress and bitterness there had come to pass among the colonists a remarkable unanimity as to Smith's merits and abilities. The new administration entered upon the discharge of its duties without a particle of opposition.
The new president, though not yet thirty years of age, was a veteran in every kind of valuable human experience. Born an Englishman; trained as a soldier in the wars of Holland; a traveler in France, Italy, and Egypt; again a soldier in Hungary; captured by the Turks and sold as a slave; sent from Constantinople to a prison in the Crimea; killing a taskmaster who beat him, and then escaping through the woods of Russia to Western Europe; going with an army of adventurers against Morocco; finally returning to England and joining the London Company, -- he was now called upon by the very enemies who had persecuted and ill-treated him to rescue them and their colony from destruction. A strange and wonderful career! John Smith was altogether the most noted man in the early history of America.
Under the new administration the Jamestown settlement soon began to show signs of vitality and progress. Smith's first care, after the settlers were in a measure restored to health, was to improve the buildings of the plantation. The next measure was to secure a supply of provisions from the surrounding country. A plentiful harvest among the Indians had compensated in some degree to the mismanagement of the former officers of the colony, but to procure corn from the natives was not an easy task. Although ignorant of the Indian language, Smith undertook the hazardous enterprise. Descending James River as far as Hampton Roads, he landed with his five companions, went boldly among the natives, and began to offer them hatchets and copper coins in exchange for corn. The Indians only laughed at the proposal, and then mocked the half-starved foreigners by offering to barter a piece of bread for Smith's sword and musket. Finding that good treatment was only thrown away, the English captain formed the desperate resolution of fighting. He and his men fired a volley among the affrighted savages, who ran yelling into the woods. Going straight to their wigwams, he found an abundant store of corn, but forbade his men to take a grain until the Indians should return to attack them. Sixty or seventy painted warriors, headed by a priest, who carried an idol in his arms, soon came out of the forest and made a violent onset. The English made a rush, wounded several of the natives, and captured their idol. A parley now ensued; the terrified priest came and humbly begged for his fallen deity, but Smith stood grimly with his musket across the prostrate idol, and would grant no terms until six unarmed Indians had loaded his boat with corn. Then the image was given up, beads and hatchets were liberally distributed among the warriors, who ratified the peace by performing a dance of friendship, while Smith and his men rowed up the river with a boatload of supplies.
There were other causes of rejoicing at Jamestown. The neighboring Indians made liberal by their own abundance, begam to come into the fort with voluntary contributions. The fear of famine passed away. The woods were full of wild turkeys and other game, inviting to the chase as many as delighted in such excitement. Good discipline was maintained in the settlement and friendly relations established with several of the native tribes. Seeing the end of their distresses, the colonists revived in spirit; cheerfulness and hope took the place of melancholy and despair.
As soon as the setting in of winter had made an abandonment of the colony impossible, the president, to whose ardor winter and summer were alike, gave himself freely to the work of exploring the country. With a company of six Englishmen and two Indian guides he began the ascent of the Chickahominy River. It was generally believed by the people of Jamestown that by going up this stream they could reach the Pacific Ocean. Smith knew well enough the absurdity of such an opinion, but humored it because of the opportunity which it gave him to explore new territory. After ascending the Chickahominy until they reached shallow water, Smith left his white companions to guard the boat, and, led by his Indian guides, proceeded through the forest on foot. at length he was attacked by a body of Indians and after a desparate fight was driven into a swamp and captured.
Without exhibiting the least signs of fear, Smith demanded to see the Indian chief, and on being taken into the presence of that dignitary began to excite his interest and curiosity by showing him a pocket compass and a watch. These mysterious instruments struck the Indians with awe; and profiting by his momentary advantage, the prisoner began to draw figures on the ground, and to give his captors some rude lessons in geography and astronomy. The savages were amazed and listened for an hour, but then grew tired, bound their captive to a tree and prepared to shoot him. At the critical moment he flourished his compass in the air as though performing a ceremony, and the Indians forbore to shoot. His sagacity and courage had gained the day, but the more appalling danger of torture was yet to be avoided. The savages, however, were thoroughly superstitious, and became afraid to proceed against him except in the most formal manner. He was regarded by tham as an inhabitant of another world whom it was dangerous to touch.
Smith was first taken to the town of Orapax, a few miles northeast of the site of Richmond. here he found the Indians making great preparations to attack and destroy Jamestown. they invited him to join them and become their leader, but he refused, and then terrified them by describing the cannon and other destructive weapons of the English. He also managed to write a letter to his countrymen at the settlement, telling them of his captivity and their own peril, asking for certain articles, and requesting especially that those bearing the note should be thoroughly frightened before their return. This letter, which seemed to them to have such mysterious power of carrying intelligence to a distance, was not lost on the Indians who dreaded the writer more than ever. When the warriors bearing the epistle arrived at Jamestown and found everything precisely as Smith had said, their terror and amazement knew no bounds, and as soon as they returned to Orapax all thought of attacking the settlement was at once given up.
The Indians now marched their captive about from village to village, and at length he was condemned to death. It was necessary that the sanction of the Indian emperor should be given to the sentence, and Smith was now taken twenty-five miles down the river to a town where Powhatan lived in winter. The savage monarch was now sixty years of age, and, to use Smith's own language, looked every inch a king. He received the prisoner with all the rude formalities peculiar to his race. Going to the Long House of the village, the emperor, clad in a robe of raccoon skins, took his seat on a kind of throne prepared for the occasion. His two daughters sat right and left, while files of warriors and women of rank were ranged around the hall. The king solumnly reviewed the cause and confirmed the sentence of death. Two large stones were brought into the hall, Smith was dragged forth bound, and his head put into position to be crushed with a war-club. A stalwart painted savage was ordered out of the rank and stood ready for the bloody tragedy. The signal was given, the grim executioner raised his bludgeon, and another moment had decided the fate of both the illustrious captive and his colony. But the peril went by harmless. Motoaka,* the eldest daughter of Powhatan, sprang from her seat and rushed between the warrior's uplifted club and the prostrate prisoner. (*Powhatan's tribe had a superstition that no one whose real name wa unknown could be injured. They therefore told the English falsely that Matoaka's name was Pocahontas.) She clasped his head in her arms and held on with the resolution of despair until her father, yielding to her frantic appeals, ordered Smith to be unbound and lifted up. Again he was rescued from a terrible death.
Powhatan, having determined to spare his captive's life, received him into favor. It was agreed soon afterward that he should return to his own people at Jamestown. The conditions of his liberation were the he should send back to Orapax two cannons and a grindstone. Certain warriors were to accompany Smith to the settlement and carry the articles to Powhatan. There should then be peace and friendship between the Enclish and the Red men. The colony was reached in safety, the lost captain and his twelve Indian guides being received with great gladness.* (*The stories of Smith's adventures among the Indians, including the Pocahontas story, are wholly derived from his own narrative. Some historians are inclined to disbelieve them, but there is reason to believe that they are substantially correct.)
Smith's first and chief care was to make a proper impression on the minds of the savages. He now ordered the two cannons which he had promised to give Powhatan to be brought out and loaded to the muzzle with stones. Then, under pretense of teaching the Indians gunnery, he had the pieces discharged among the tree-tops, which were bristling with icicles. There was a terrible crash, and the savages, cowering with fear and amazement, could not be induced to touch the dreadful machines. The barbarous delegation returned to their king with neither guns nor grindstones.
As a matter of fact, the settlers were very little to be dreaded by anybody. Only thirty-eight of them were left alive, and these were frost-bitten and half-starved. Their only competent leader had been absent for seven weeks in the middle of a severe winter. The old fears and discontents of the colonists had revived; and when Smith returned to the settlementm, he found all hands preparing to escape in the pinnace as soon as the ice should break in the river. With much persuasion and a few wholesome threats he induced the majority to abandon the project, but the factious spirits of the colony, burning with resentment against him and his influence, made a conspiracy to kill him, and he knew not what hour might be his last.
In the midst of these dark days Captain Newport arrived from England. He brought a store of supplies and one hundred and twenty emigrants. Great was the joy throughout the little plantation; only the president was at heart as much grieved as gladdened, for he saw in the character of the newcomers no promise of anything but vexation and disaster. Here were thirty-four gentlemen at the head of the list to begin with; then came gold-hunters, jewelers, engravers, adventurers, strollers, and vagabonds, many of whom had more business in jail than at Jamestown. To add to Smith's chagrin, this company of worthless creatures had been sent out contrary to his previous protest and injunction. He had urged Newport to bring over only a few industrious mechanics and laborers; but the love of gold among the members of the London Company had prevailed over common sense to send to Virginia nother crowd of profligates.
The kind of industry which Smith had encouraged in the colony was now laughed at. As soon the weather would permit, the newcomers and as many of the old settlers as had leaned nothing from the past year's experience began to stroll about the country digging for gold. In a bank of sand at the mouth of a small tributary of the James some glittering particles were found, and the whole settlement was ablaze with excitement. Martin and Newport, both members of the council, were carried away with the common fanaticism. The latter, having filled one of his ships with the supposed gold-dust, sent it to England, and then sailed up James River to find the Pacific Ocean! Fourteen weeks of the precious springtime, that ought to have been given to plowing and planting, were consumed in this stupid nonsense. Even the Indians ridiculed the madness of men who for imaginary grains of gold were wasting their chances for a crop of corn.
In this general folly Smith was quite forgotten; but foreseeing that the evil must soon work its own cure, he kept his patience, and in the meantime busied himself with one of his most brilliant and successful enterprises; this wa sno less than the exploration of Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Accompanied by Dr. Russell and thirteen other comrades who had remained faithful to him, he left James town on the 2d of June. He explored the eastern shore and the potomac River, returning to Jamestown in July.
After a rest of three days a second voyage was begun. This time the expedition reached the head of the bay, and sailed up the Susquehanna River until the volume of water would float the barge no farther. On the return voyage Smith passed down the bay as far as the mouth of the Rappahannock; this stream he ascended to the head of navigation, and then, returning by way of the York and Chesapeake Rivers, reached Jamestown on the 7th of September. He had been absent a little more than three months, had explored the winding coast of the great bay, had encountered hostile savages by hundreds, had been driven hither and thither by storms, once wrecked, once stung by a poisonous fish and brought so near to death that his comrades digged his grave; now he was come back to the colony with a Map of the Chesapeake, which is still preserved. Only one man had been lost on the expedition.
Within three days after Smith's return to Jamestown he was formally elected president. He entered at once upon the duties of his office, correcting abuses, enforcing the laws, and restoring order to the distracted colony. There was a marked change for the better; gold-hunting became unpopular, and the rest of the year was noted as a season of great prosperity. Late in the autumn Newport arrived with seventy additional immigrants, increasing the number to more than two hundred. The health was so good that only seven deaths occurred between September and May of the following year. Excellent discipline was maintained. Every well man was obliged to work six hours a day. New houses were built, new fields fenced in; and all through the winter the sound of ax and saw and hammer gave token of a prosperous and growing village. Such was the condition of affairs in the spring of 1609.
On the 23d of May, 1609, King James, without consulting the wishes of his American colonists, revoked their constitution, and granted to the London Company a new charter, by the terms of which the government of Virginia was completely changed. The territory included under the new patent extended from Cape Fear to Sandy Hook, and westward to the Pacific Ocean. The members of the Superior Council were now to be chosen by the stockholders of the company, vacancies were to be filled by the councilors, who were also empowered to elect a governor from their own number.
The council was at once organized in accordance with this charter, and the excellent Lord De La Ware chosen governor for life. With him were joined in authority Sir Thomas Gates, lieutenant-general; Sir George Somers, admiral; Christopher Newport, vice-admiral; Sir Thomas Dale, high marshal; Sir Ferdinand Wainman, master of horse; and other dignitaries of similar sort. Attracted by the influence of these noblemen, a large company of more than five hundred emigrants was speedily collected, and early in June a fleet of nine vessels sailed for America. About the middle of July the ships, then passing the West Indies, were overtaken and scattered by a storm. One small vessel was wrecked, and another, having on board the commissioners of Lord Deleware, wa driven ashore on one of he Bermuda Islands, where the crew remained until April of the following year; the other seven ships came safely to Jamestown. Soon after the arrival of the vessels John Smith, the doughty governor, met with a serious accident. On his way down the river, while asleep in the boat, a bag of gunpowder lying near by exploded, burning and tearing his flesh so terribly that in his agony he leaped overboard. Being rescued from the river, he was carried to the fort, where he lay for some time racked with fever and tortured with his wounds. Finally, despairing of relief under the imperfect medical treatment which the colony afforded, he decided to return to England. About the middle of September, 1609, he left the scene of his heroic toils and sufferings, never to return.
There remained at Jamestown a colony of four hundred and ninety persons, well armed, well sheltered, and well supplied. Such were the viciousness and profligacy of the greater number, and such the insubordination and want of proper leadership, after Smith's departure, that by the beginning of winter the settlement was face to face with starvation. The Indians became hostile and hovered around the plantations, stragglers were intercepted and murdered, houses were fired, disease returned to add to the desolation, and cold and hunger completed the terrors of a winter which was long remembered with a shudder and called The Starving Time. By the last of March there were only sixty persons alive, and these, if help had not come speedily, could hardly have lived a fortnight.
Meantime, Sir Thomas Gates and his companions, who had been shipwrecked in the Bermudas, had set sail for Virginia. They came in full expectation of a joyful greeting from a happy colony. What, therefore, was their disappointment and grief when a few wan, half-starved wretches crawled out of their cabins to beg for bread! Whatever stores the commissioners had brought with them were distributed to the famishing settlers, and Gates assumed control of the government.
But the colonists had now fully determined to abandon forever a place which promised them nothing but disaster and death. In vain did the commissioners remonstrate; they were driven by the clamors around them to yield to the common will. On the 7th of June, Jamestown was abandoned. The disheartened settlers, now grown resentful, were anxious before leaving to burn the town, but Gates defeated this design, and was himself the last man to go on board. Four pinnaces lay at their moorings in the river; embarking in these, the colonists dropped down with the tide, and it seemed as though the enterprise of Raleigh and Gosnold had ended in failure and humiliation.
But Lord Delaware was already on his way to America. Before the escaping settlers had passed out of the mouth of the river, the ships of the noble governor came in sight. Here were additional immigrants, plentiful supplies, and promise of better things to come. Would the colonists return? The majority gave a relunctant consent, and before nightfall the fires were again kindled on the hearthstones of the deserted village. The next day was given to religious services; the governor caused his commission to be read, and entered upon the discharge of his duties. The amiability and virtue of his life, no less than the mildness and decision of his administration, endeared him to all and inspired the colony with hope.
Autumn came, and Lord Delaware fell sick. Against his own will, and to the great regret of the colony, he was compelled to return to England. It was an event of great discouragement; but fortunately, before a knowledge of the governor's departure reached England, the Superior Council had dispatched a new shipload of stores and another company of emigrants, under command of Sir Thomas Dale. The vessel arrived at Jamestown on the 10th of May. Dale, who became governor, hd been a military officer in the wars of the Netherlands, and he now adopted a system of martial law as the basis of his administration. He was, however, a man so tolerant and just, that very little complaint was made on account of his arbitrary method of governing.
One of Dale's first acts was to write to the council in England, requesting that body to send out immediately as large a number of colonists as possible, with an abundance of supplies. For once the council acted promptly; and in the latter part of August, Sir Thomas Gates arrived with a fleet of six ships, having on board three hundred immigrants and large quantity of stores. There was a great thanksgiving in the colony, a fresh enthusiasm was enkindled, and contentment came with a sense of security.
Thus far the property of the settlers of Jamestown had been held in common. The colonists had worked together, and in time of harvest deposited their products in storehouses which were under the control of the governor and council. Now the right of holding private property was recognized. Governor Gates had the lands divided so that each settler should have three acres of his own; every family might cultivate a garden and plant an orchard, the fruits of which no one but the owner was allowed to gather. The benefits of this system of labor were at once apparent. The laborers, as soon as each was permitted to claim the rewards of his own toil, became cheerful and industrious. There were now seven hundred persons in the colony; new plantations were laid out on every side, and new settlements were formed on both banks of the river and at considerable distances from Jamestown. The promise of an American State, so long deferred, seemed at last to be realized.
Early in the year 1612 the London Company obtained from the king a third patent. The Superior Council was abolished and the powers of that body transferred to the stockholders, who were authorized to hold public meetings, to elect their own officers, to discuss and decide all questions of law and right, and to govern the colony on their own responsibility. The cause of this change was the unprofitableness of the colony as a financial enterprise, and the consequent dissatisfaction of the company with the management of the council. The new patent, although not so intended by the king, was a great step toward a democratic form of government in Virginia.
The year 1613 was marked by two important events, both of them resulting from the lawless behavior of Captain Samuel Argall. While absent on an expedition up the Potomac River he learned that Pocahontas, who had had some difficulty with her father's tribe, was residing in that neighborhood. Procuring the help of a treacherous Indian family, the English captain enticed the unsuspecting girl on board his vessel and carried her captive to Jamestown. The authorities of the colony, instead of punishing Argall for this atrocity, aggravated the outrage by demanding that Powhatan should pay a heavy ransom for his daughter's liberation. The old king indignantly refused, and ordered his tribes to prepare for war. Meanwhile, Pocahontas, who seems not to have been greatly grieved on account of her captivity, was converted to the Christian faith and became by baptism a member of the Episcopal Church. she was led to this course of action chiefly by the instruction and persuasion of John Rolfe, a worthy young man of the colony, who after the baptism of the princess sought her in marriage. Powhatan and his chief men gave their consent, and the nuptials were duly celebrated in the spring of the following year. By this means war was averted, and a bond of union established between the Indians and the whites.
Two years later Rolfe and his wife went to England, where they were received in the highest circles of society. Captain Smith gave them a letter of introduction to Queen Anne, and many other flattering attentions were bestowed on the modest daughter of the Western wilderness. In the following year, Rolfe made preparations to return to America; but before embarking, Pocahontas fell sick and died. there was left of this marriage a son, who afterward came to Jamestown and was a man of some importance in the affairs of the colony. To him several influential families of Virginia still trace their origin. John Randolph of Roanoke was a grandson of the sixth generation from Pocahontas.
When Captain Argall returned from his expedition up the Potomac, he was sent with an armed vessel to the coast of Maine. The object was to destroy the French colonies which might be found within the territory claimed by England. He attacked and destroyed a small French settlement on Mt. Desert Island near the mouth of the Penobscot, and another at the mouth of the St. Croix. On his return he attacked the few Dutch traders on Manhattan Island, destroyed their huts, and compelled them to acknowledge the sovereignty of England. The result of these proceedings was to confine the French settlements in America to the banks of the St. Lawrence, and to leave a clear coast for the English flag from Nova Scotia to Florida.
In the month of March, 1614, Sir Thomas Gates returned to England, leaving the government in the hands of Dale, whose administration lasted for two years. During this time the laws of the colony were much improved, and, more important still, the colonial industry took an entirely different form. Hitherto the labor of the settlers had been directed to the planting of vineyards and to the manufacture of potash, soap, glass, and tar. The managers of the London Company had at last learned that these articles could be produced more cheaply in Europe than in America. They had also discovered that there were certain products peculiar to the New World which might be raised and exported with great profit. Chief among such native products was the plant called tobacco, the use of which had already become fashionable in Spain, England, and France. This, then, became the leading staple of the colony, and was even used as money. So entirely did the settlers give themselves to the cultivation of the famous weed that the very streets of Jamestown were plowed up and planted with it.
It was a great disaster to the people of the colony when in 1616 Argall was chosen deputy-governor. He was a man who had one virtue, courage; and in all other respects was thoroughly bad. His administration was characterized by fruad, oppression, and violence. Neither property nor life was secure against his tyranny and greed. By and by, the news of his proceedings reached England; emigration ceased at once, and the colony became a reproach, until Lord Delaware restored confidence by embarking in person for Virginia. But the worthy nobleman died on the voyage, and Argall continued his exactions and cruelty. In the spring of 1619, he was at last displaced through the influence of Sir Edwyn Sandys, and the excellent Sir George Yeardley was appointed to succeed him.
Martial law was now abolished. The act which required each settler to give a part of his labor for the common benefit wa also repealed, and thus the people were freed from a kind of colonial servitude. Another action was taken of still greater importance. Governor Yeardley, in accordance with instructions received from the company, divided the plantations along James River into eleven districts, called boroughs, and issued a proclamation to the citizens of each borough to elect two of their own number to take part in the government of the colony. The elections were duly held, and on the 30th of July, 1619, the delegates came together at Jamestown. Here was organized the Virginia House of Burgesses, a colonial legislature, the first popular assembly held in the New World.
The Burgesses had many privileges, but very little power. They might discuss the affairs of the colony, but could not control them; pass laws, but could not enforce them; declare their rights, but could not secure them. Though the governor and council should both concur in the resolutions of the assembly, no law was binding until ratified by the company in England. Only one great benefit was gained -- the freedom of debate. Wherever that is recognized, liberty must soon follow.
The year 1619 was also marked by the introduction of negro slavery into Virginia. The servants of the people of Jamestown had hitherto been persons of English or German descent, and their term of service had varied from a few months to many years. No perpetual servitude had thus far been recognized, nor is it likely that the English colonists would of themselves have instituted the system of slave labor. In the month of August a Dutch man-of-war sailed up the river to the plantations, and offered at auction twenty Africans. They were purchased by the wealthier class of planters, and made slaves for life. It was, however, early a half-century from this time before the system of negro slavery became well established in the English colonies.
Twelve years had now passed since the founding of Jamestown. Eighty thousand pounds sterling had been spent by the company in the attempted development of the new State. As a result there were only six hundred men in teh colony, and these for the most part were rovers, who intended to return to England. Sir Thomas Smith, the treasurer, had managed matters badly. Very few families had emigrated, and society in Virginia was coarse and vicious. In this condition of affairs Smith was superseded by Sir Edwyn Sandys, a man of great prudence and integrity. A reformation of abuses was at once begun and carried out. By his wisdom and liberality the new treasurer succeeded before the end of the summer of 1620 in collecting and sending to America a company of twelve hundred and sixty-one persons. Another measure of still greater importance was equally successful. By the influence of Sandys and his friends, ninety young women of good breeding and modest manners were induced to emigrate to Jamestown. In the following spring sixty others of similar good character came over, and received a hearty welcome.
The statement that the early Virginians bought their wives is absurd. All that was done was this: when Sandys sent the first company of women to America, he charged the colonists with the expense of the voyage -- a measure made necessary by the fact that the company was almost bankrupt. An assessment was made according to the number who were brought over, and the rate fixed at a hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco for each passenger -- a sum which the settlers cheerfully paid. The many marriages that followed were celebrated in the usual way, and nothing further was thought of the transaction. When the second shipload came, the cost of transportation was reported at a hundred and fifty pounds for each passenger, which was also paid without complaint.
In July of 1621 the London Company, which had now almost run its course, gave to Virginia a code of written laws and frame of government modeled after the English constitution. The terms of the instrument were few and easily understood. The governor of the colony was as hitherto to be appointed by the company, a council to be chosen by the same body, and a house of burgesses, two members from each district, to be elected by the people. In making laws the councilors and burgesses sat together. When a new law was proposed, it was debated, and if passed received the governor's signature, then was transmitted to England and ratified or rejected by the company. The constitution also acknowledged the right of petition and of trial by jury, but the most remarkable and liberal concession was that which gave the burgesses the power of vetoing any objectionable acts of the company.
Governor Yeardley's administration ended in October of 1621. At that time Sir Francis Wyatt arrived, commissioned as governor and bearing the new constitution of Virginia. The colony was found in a very flourishing condition. The settlements extended for a hundred and forty miles along both banks of James River and far into the interior, especially northward toward the Potomac. There remained but one cause of foreboding and alarm. The Indians had seen in all this growth and prosperity the doom of their own race, and had determined to make one desperate effort to destroy their foes before it should be too late. To do this in open war was impossible; necessity and the savage impulse working together suggested treachery as the only means likely to accomplish the result. Pocahontas was dead. the peaceable and faith-keeping Powhatan had likewise passed away. The ambitious and crafty Opechancanough, who succeeded to his brother's authority in 1618, had ever since been plotting the destruction of the English colony, and the time had come for the bloody tragedy.
The savages carefully concealed their murderous purpose. Until the very day of the massacre they continued on terms of friendship with the English. They came unmolested into the settlements, ate with their victims, borrowed boats and guns, made purchases, and gave not the slightest token of hostility. The attack was planned for the 22d of March, at midday. At the fatal hour the work of butchery began. Every hamlet in Virginia was attached by a band of yelling barbarians. No age, sex, or condition awakened an emotion of pity. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately slaughtered, until three hundred and forty-seven had perished under the knives and hatchets of the savages.
But Indian treachery was thwarted by Indian faithfulness. What was the chagrin and rage of the warriors to find that Jamestown and the other leading settlements had been warned at the last moment, and were prepared for the onset? A converted Red man, wishing to save an Englishman who had been his friend, went to him on the night before the massacre and revealed the plot. The alarm was spread among the settlements, and thus the greater part of the colony escaped destruction. But the outer plantations were entirely destroyed. The people crowded together on the larger farms about Jamestown, until of the eighty settlements there were only eight remaining. Still, there were sixteen hundred resolute men in the colony; and although gloom and despondency prevailed for a while, the courage of the settlers soon revived, and sorrow gave place to a desire for vengeance.
It wa now the turn of the Indians to suffer. Parties of English soldiers scoured the country in every direction, destroying wigwams, burning villages, and killing every savage that fell in their way, until the tribes of Opechancanough were driven into the wilderness. The colonists, regaining their confidence and zeal, returned to their deserted farms, and the next year brought such additions that the census showed a population of two thousand five hundred.
Meanwhile, difficulties arose between the corporation and the king. Most of the members of the London Company belonged to the patriot party in England, and the freedom with which they were in the habit of discussing political and governmental matters was very distasteful to the monarch. The liberal character of the Virginia constitution was offensive to King James, who determined by some means to obtain control of the London Company, or else to suppress it altogether. A committee was accordingly appointed to look into the affairs of the corporation and to make a report on its management. The commissioners performed their duty, and reported that the treasury was bankrupt, and especially that the government of Virginia was bad and would continue so until a radical change should be made in the constitution of the new State.
Legal proceedings were now instituted by the ministers to ascertain whether the company's character had not been forfeited. The question came before the judges, who had no difficulty in deciding that the violated patent was null and void. In accordance with this decision, the charter of the corporation was canceled by the king, and in June of 1624 the London Company ceased to exist. But its work had been well done; a torch of liberty had been lighted on the banks of the James which all the gloomy tyranny of after times could not extinguish. The Virginians were not slow to remember and to claim ever afterward the precious rights which were guaranteed in the constitution of 1621. And the other colonies would be satisfied with nothing less than the chartered privileges which were recognized in the laws of the Old Dominion.
A royal government was now established in Virginia. To the colonists themselves the change of authorities was scarcely perceptible. The new administration consisted of a governor and twelve councilors appointed by the crown. The General Assembly of the colony was left undisturbed, and all the rights and privileges of the colonists remained as before. The king's hostility had been directed against the London Company, and not against the State of Virginia; now that the former was destroyed the latter was left unmolested. Governor Wyatt was continued in office; and in making up the new council the king wisely took pains to select the known friends of the colony rather than the certain untried partisans of his own court. The Virginians found in the change of government as much cause of gratitude as of grief.
King James of England died in 1625. His son, Charles I., a young, inexperienced, and stubborn prince, succeeded to the throne. The new king paid but little attention to the affairs of his American colony, until the commerce in tobacco attracted his notice. Seeing in this product a source of revenue for the crown, he attempted to gain a monopoly of the trade, but the colonial authorities outwitted him and defeated the project. It is worthy of special note that while conferring with the colony of this subject the king recognized the Virginia assembly as a rightfully constituted power. The reply which was finally returned to the king's proposal was signed not only by the governor and the council, but by thirty-one of the burgesses.
In 1626 Governor Wyatt retired from office, and Yeardley, the old friend and benefactor of the colonists, was reappointed. The young State was never more prosperous than under this administration, which was terminated by the governor's death, in November of 1627. During the preceding summer a thousand new immigrants had come to swell the population of the growing province.
The council of Virginia had a right, in case of an emergency, to elect a governor. Such an emergency was now present, and Francis West was chosen by the councilors; but as soon as the death of Yeardley was known in England, King Charles commissioned John Harvey to assume the government. He arrived in the autumn of 1629, and from this time until 1634, the colony was distracted with the presence of a most unpopular chief magistrate. He seems to have been disliked on general principles, but the greatest source of dissatisfaction was his partiality to certain speculators and land monopolists who at this time infested Virginia, to the annoyance and injury of the poorer people. There were many old land grants covering districts of territory which were now occupied by actual settlers, and between the holders of the land and the holders of the titles violent altercations arose. In these disputes the governor became a partisan of the speculators against the people, until the outraged assembly of 1635 passed a resolution that Sir John Harvey be thurst out of office, and Captain West be appointed in his place "until the king's pleasure may be known in this matter." A majority of the councilors sided with the burgesses, and Harvey was obliged to go to England to stand his trial.
King Charles treated the whole affair with contempt. The commissioners appointed by the council of Virginia to conduct Harvey's impeachment were refused a hearing, and he was restored to the governorship of the unwilling colony. He continued in power until the year 1639, when he was superseded by Wyatt, who ruled until the spring of 1642.
And now came the English Revolution. The exactions and tyranny of Charles at last drove his subjects into open rebellion. The country was plunged into the horrors of civil war. After a few years of conflict the royal army was routed and dispersed; the king escaped to Scotland, and the leading royalists fled to foreign lands. On the demand of Parliament, Charles was given up and brought to trial. The cause was heard, a sentence of death was passed, and on the 30th of January, 1649, the unhappy monarch was beheaded.
Monarchy was now abolished. Olivery Cromwell, the general of the Parliamentary army, was made Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. By him the destinies of the nation were controlled until his death, in 1658, when he was succeeded by his son Richard. But the latter, lacking his father's abilities and courage, became alarmed at the dangers that gathered around him, and resigned. The exiled son of Charles I. was called home and proclaimed king, the people acquiesced, Parliament sanctioned the measure, and on the 18th of May, 1660, Charles II. was placed on the throne of England.
These were times full of trouble. Virginia shared in some degree the distractions of the mother-country, yet the evil done to the new State by the conflict in England was less than might have been expected. In the first year of the civil war Sir William Berkeley became governor of the colony, and, with the exception of a brief visit to England in 1645, remained in office for ten years. His administration, notwithstanding the commotions abroad, was noted as a time of rapid growth and development. The laws were greatly improved and made conformable to the English statutes. The old controversies about the lands were satisfactorily settled. Cruel punishments were abolished and the taxes equalized. The general assembly was regularly convened to bear its part in the government, and Virginia was in all essential particulars a free as well as a prosperous State. So rapid was the progress that in 1646 there were twenty thousand people in the colony.
But there were also drawbacks to the prosperity of Virginia. Religious intolerance came with its baleful shadow to disturb the State. The faith of the Episcopal Church was established by law, and dissenting was declared a crime. The Puritans were held in contempt by the people, who charged them with being the destroyers of the peace of England. In March of 1643 a statute was enacted by the assembly declaring that no person who disbelieved the doctrines of the English Church should be allowed to teach publicly or privately, or to preach the gospel, within the limits of Virginia. The few Puritans in the colony were excluded from their places of trust, and some were even driven from their homes. Governor Berkeley, himself a zealous churchman, was a leader in these persecutions, by which all friendly relations with New England were broken off for many years.
A worse calamity befell in a second war with the Indians. Early in 1644, the natives, having forgotten their former punishment, and believing that in the confusion of the civil war there still remained a hope of destroying the English.
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