99. RECORDS CONCERNING VIRGINIA (1606-25)

(A) James I: Charter to the Virginia Company (1606)

James, by the grace of God king of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc. Whereas our loving and well-disposed subjects, Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers, knights; Richard Hackluit, clerk, prebendary of Westminster; and Edward Maria Wingfield, Thomas Hanham, and Ralegh Gilbert, esquires; William Parker and George Popham, gentlemen, and divers others of our loving subjects have been humble suitors unto us that we would vouchsafe unto them our licence to make habitation, plantation, and to deduce a colony of sundry of our people into that part of America commonly called Virginia ... , situate, lying, and being all along the sea-coasts between four-and-thirty degrees of northerly latitude from the equinoctial line and five-and-forty degrees of the same latitude ...; and to that end, and for the more speedy accomplishment of their said intended plantation and habitation there, are desirous to divide themselves into two several colonies and companies — the one consisting of certain knights, gentlemen, merchants, and other adventurers of our city of London and elsewhere ... , which do desire to begin their plantation and habitation in some fit and convenient place between four-and-thirty and one-and-forty degrees of the said latitude alongst the coasts of Virginia and the coasts of America aforesaid; and the other consisting of sundry knights, gentlemen, merchants, and other adventurers of our cities of Bristol and Exeter, and of our town of Plymouth, and of other places ... , which do desire to begin their plantation and habitation in some fit and convenient place between eight-and-thirty degrees and five-and-forty degrees of the said latitude .... — we, greatly commending ... so noble a work ... , do by these our letters patent graciously accept of and agree to their humble and well-intended desires....

And we do also ordain, establish, and agree, for us, our heirs, and successors, that each of the said colonies shall have a council, which shall govern and order all matters and causes which shall arise, grow, or happen to or within the same several colonies, according to such laws, ordinances, and instructions as shall be, in that behalf, given and signed with our hand or sign manual and pass under the privy seal of our realm of England; each of which councils shall consist of thirteen persons, to be ordained, made, and removed from time to time, according as shall be directed and comprised in the same instructions ...; and that also there shall be a council established here in England which shall ... consist of thirteen persons to be for that purpose appointed by us, our heirs, and successors, which shall be called our Council of Virginia, and shall from time to time have the superior managing and direction ... for all matters that shall or may concern the government as well of the said several colonies as of ... any other ... place within the aforesaid precincts....

Also we do, for us, our heirs, and successors, declare by these presents that all and every the persons, being our subjects, which shall dwell and inhabit within every or any of the said several colonies and plantations, and every of their children which shall happen to be born within any of the limits and precincts of the said several colonies and plantations, shall have and enjoy all liberties, franchises and immunities within any of our other dominions to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within this our realm of England, or any other of our said dominions....

Poore, Constitutions, II, 1888 f.

(B) Ordinance of the Virginia Council (1621)

An ordinance and constitution of the treasurer, council, and company in England, for a council of state and general assembly. To all people to whom these presents shall come ... the treasurer, council, and company of adventurers and planters for the city of London for the first colony of Virginia send greeting. Know ye that we ... , taking into our careful consideration the present state of the said colony of Virginia and intending by the divine assistance to settle such a form of government there as may be to the greatest benefit and comfort of the people ... , have thought fit to make our entrance by ordering and establishing such supreme councils as may not only be assisting to the governor for the time being ... , but also by their vigilant care and prudence may provide as well for a remedy of all inconveniences ... as also for advancing of increase, strength, stability, and prosperity of the said colony.

We therefore ... , by authority directed to us from his majesty under the great seal ... , do hereby order and declare that from henceforward there shall be two supreme councils in Virginia.... The one of which councils, to be called the council of state — and whose office shall chiefly be assisting with their care, advice, and circumspection to the said governor — shall be chosen, nominated, placed, and displaced ... by us, the said treasurer, council, and company ... , and this council to be always or for the most part residing about or near the governor. The other council, more generally to be called by the governor once yearly, and no oftener but for very extraordinary and important occasions, shall consist for the present of the said council of state, and of two burgesses out of every town, hundred, or other particular plantation, to be respectively chosen by the inhabitants; which council shall be called the general assembly, wherein, as also in the said council of state, all matters shall be decided ... by the greater part of the voices then present, reserving to the governor always a negative voice. And this general assembly shall have free power to treat, consult, and conclude as well of all emergent occasions concerning the public weal of the said colony ... as also to make, ordain, and enact such general laws and orders for the behoof of the said colony ... as shall ... appear necessary or requisite.... We require the said general assembly, as also the said council of state, to imitate and follow the policy of the form of government, laws, customs, and manner of trial, and other administration of justice used in the realm of England as near as may be.... Provided that no law or ordinance made in the said general assembly shall be or continue in force or validity unless the same shall be solemnly ratified and confirmed in a general quarter court of the said company here in England....

Stith, History of Virginia, App. 4.

(C) Charles I: Proclamation Concerning Virginia (1625)

Whereas the colony of Virginia, planted by the hands of our most dear father of blessed memory for the propagation of Christian religion, the increase of trade, and the enlarging of his royal empire, hath not hitherto prospered so happily as was hoped and desired ... , and therefore his late majesty ... did desire to resume that popular government and accordingly the letters patent ... were ... questioned and thereupon judicially repealed and adjudged to be void ...; and whereas we continue the like care of those colonies and plantations as our late dear father did, and ... are of the same judgment that our said father was of for the government of that colony of Virginia ...: we have thought fit to declare, and by our royal proclamation to publish, our own judgment and resolution in these things ... , and therefore we ... declare ... that we hold those territories of Virginia and of the Summer Islands, as also that of New England, where our colonies are already planted ... , to be a part of our royal empire descended upon us and undoubtedly belonging and appertaining unto us ...; and that our full resolution is that there may be one uniform course of government in and through all our whole monarchy; that the government of the colony of Virginia shall immediately depend upon ourself, and not be committed to any company or corporation — to whom it may be proper to trust matters of trade and commerce, but cannot be fit or safe to communicate the ordering of state affairs, be they of never so mean consequence....

We do hereby declare that we are resolved ... to establish a council consisting of a few persons of understanding and quality, to whom we will give trust for the immediate care of the affairs of that colony ...; also ... another council to be resident in Virginia, who shall be subordinate to our council here for that colony.

Rymer, Foedera, XVIII, 72 f.


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