Colony of Virginia
|Colony of Virginia|
|-||1603–1625||James I (first)|
|-||1760–1776||George III (last)|
|-||1607||Edward Wingfield (first)|
|-||1771–1775||Lord Dunmore (last)|
|Legislature||House of Burgesses (1619–1776)|
|-||Began Royal Colony|
The Colony of Virginia (also known frequently as the Virginia Colony, the Province of Virginia, and occasionally as the Dominion and Colony of Virginia) was the first English colony in the world. William Kelso says Virginia "is where the British Empire began,... this was the first colony in the British Empire." The colony existed briefly during the 16th century, and then continuously from 1607 until the American Revolution (as a British colony after 1707). The name Virginia was first applied by Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I in 1584. After the English Civil War in the mid 17th century, the Virginia Colony was nicknamed "The Old Dominion" by King Charles II for its perceived loyalty to the English monarchy during the era of the Commonwealth of England.
In 1607, members of a joint venture called the Virginia Company founded Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America on the banks of the James River. Famine, disease and conflict with local Native American tribes (the Powhatan Confederacy) in the first two years brought Jamestown to the brink of failure before the arrival of a new group of settlers and supplies in 1610. Tobacco became Virginia's first profitable export, the production of which had a significant impact on the society and settlement patterns. In 1624, the Virginia Company's charter was revoked by King James I and the Virginia Colony was transferred to royal authority as a crown colony.
From 1619 to 1776, the legislature of the Virginia was the House of Burgesses, which governed in conjunction with a colonial governor. Jamestown remained the capital of the Virginia colony until 1699; from 1699 until its dissolution the capital was in Williamsburg. It experienced its first major political turmoil with Bacon's Rebellion of 1676.
After declaring independence from Great Britain in 1775 before the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted, the Virginia Colony became the Commonwealth of Virginia, one of the original thirteen states of the United States, adopting as its official slogan "The Old Dominion". After the United States was formed, the entire states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, and portions of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania were all later created from the territory encompassed earlier by the Colony of Virginia.
- 1 Names and etymology
- 2 History
- 2.1 Elizabethan colonization attempts (1584–1590)
- 2.2 Virginia Company (1606–1624)
- 2.3 Vagrant London Children sent to Virginia 1618-1619
- 2.4 Royal colony
- 2.5 English Civil War and Commonwealth
- 2.6 Restoration and Rebellion
- 2.7 Williamsburg era
- 2.8 American Revolution
- 3 Relations with the Virginia Indians
- 4 Geography
- 5 Government and law
- 6 Economy
- 7 Culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Names and etymology
The name "Virginia" is the oldest designation for English claims in North America. In 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to explore what is now the North Carolina coast, and they returned with word of a regional king (weroance) named Wingina, who ruled a land supposedly called Wingandacoa. The latter word may have inspired the Queen to name the colony "Virginia", noting her status as the "Virgin Queen." On the next voyage, Raleigh was to learn that, while the chief of the Secotans was indeed called Wingina, the expression wingandacoa heard by the English upon arrival actually meant "What good clothes you wear!" in Carolina Algonquian, and was not the name of the country as previously misunderstood.
Initially, the term "Virginia" was applied to the entire eastern coast of North America from the 34th parallel (near Cape Fear) north to the 48th parallel, including the shorelines of Acadia and a large portion of inland Canada.
In gratitude for Virginians' loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War, Charles II gave it the title of "Old Dominion"; Virginia maintains "Old Dominion" as its state nickname. Accordingly, the University of Virginia's athletic teams use "Cavaliers" as one of their nicknames, and Virginia has named one of its other state public universities "Old Dominion University".
Although Spain, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands all had competing claims to the region, none of these prevented the English from becoming the first European power to colonize successfully the Mid-Atlantic coastline. Earlier attempts had been made by the Spanish in what is now Georgia (San Miguel de Gualdape, 1526–27; several Spanish missions in Georgia between 1568 and 1684), South Carolina (Santa Elena, 1566–87), North Carolina (Joara, 1567–68) and Virginia (Ajacán Mission, 1570–71); and by French in South Carolina (Charlesfort, 1562–63). Farther south, the Spanish colony of Spanish Florida, centered on St. Augustine, was established in 1565, while to the north, the French were establishing settlements in what is now Canada (Charlesbourg-Royal briefly occupied 1541–43; Port Royal, established in 1605).
Elizabethan colonization attempts (1584–1590)
In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh sent his first colonization mission to the island of Roanoke (in present-day North Carolina). This was the first English settlement, although it did not survive, it was a military research expedition with a very narrow focus. Joachim Gans was sequestered on Roanoke Island to research copper smelting techniques of the indigenous tribes in order to reduce European smelting times from 16 weeks to 4 days; giving the English a strategic advantage over other European nations in smelting and forging cannons for their warships. What is unique about the inclusion of Joachim Gans in this expedition was that Jews were not allowed in England until Oliver Cromwell allowed them back into England in 1655 by refusing to extend Expulsion Laws imposed roughly 300 years earlier by Edward I in 1290.
In 1587, Raleigh sent another group to again attempt to establish a permanent settlement. The first English child born in the New World was named Virginia Dare. The expedition leader, John White returned to England for supplies that same year, but was unable to return to the colony due to war between England and Spain. When he finally did return in 1590, he found the colony abandoned. The houses were intact, but the colonists had completely disappeared. Although there are a number of theories about the fate of the colony, it remains a mystery and has come to be known as the "Lost Colony". Dare County was named in honor of the baby Virginia Dare, who was among those whose fate is unknown. The word Croatoan was found carved into a tree, the name of a tribe on a nearby island.
Virginia Company (1606–1624)
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, King James I ascended to the throne. England was financially pressed following years of war with Spain. Additionally, England's forests and other natural resources were nearly exhausted after centuries of supporting the population. In order to remedy the exhaustion of these vital resources, they were supplemented in part by trade with other nations, as well as exploitation of Northern Ireland labor and resources via Ulster plantation. The Muscovy Company in particular, had success importing goods such as lumber and pitch from the Dutch. However, the volatile and unstable conditions of the various trade relationships throughout Europe positioned England to consider other alternatives in the New World. Investment capital was raised to bring back gold and other riches and seek the Northwest Passage to the Middle East and India. James granted a proprietary charter to two competing branches of the Virginia Company, which were supported by investors. These were the Plymouth Company and the London Company.
Charter of 1606
By the terms of the charter, the Plymouth Company was permitted to establish a colony of 100 miles (160 km) square between the 38th parallel and the 45th parallel (roughly between Chesapeake Bay and the current U.S.-Canada border). The London Company was permitted to establish between the 34th parallel and the 41st parallel (approximately between Cape Fear and Long Island Sound), and also owned a large portion of Atlantic and Inland Canada. In the area of overlap, the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within one hundred miles of each other. During 1606, each company organized expeditions to establish settlements within the area of their rights.
In the plot of the play "Eastward Hoe", presented on the London stage in 1605, the villains of the piece attempt to flee to Virginia after accumulating debts in England.
The London Company hired Captain Christopher Newport to lead its expedition. On December 20, 1606, he set sail from England with his flagship, the Susan Constant, and two smaller ships, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, with 105 men and boys, plus 39 sailors. After an unusually long voyage of 144 days, they arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and came ashore at the point where the southern side of the bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, an event which has come to be called the "First Landing". They erected a cross, and named the point of land Cape Henry, in honor of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King James.
Their instructions were to select a location inland along a waterway where they would be less vulnerable to the Spanish or other Europeans also seeking to establish colonies. They sailed westward into the Bay and reached the mouth of Hampton Roads, stopping at a location now known as Old Point Comfort. Keeping the shoreline to their right, they then ventured up the largest river, which they named the James, for their king. After exploring at least as far upriver as the confluence of the Appomattox River at present-day Hopewell, they returned downstream to Jamestown Island, which offered a favorable defensive position against enemy ships and deep water anchorage adjacent to the land. Within 2 weeks, they had constructed their first fort, and named their settlement Jamestown.
In addition to securing gold and other precious minerals to send back to the waiting investors in England, the survival plan for the Jamestown colonists depended upon regular supplies from England and trade with the Native Americans. The location they selected was largely cut off from the mainland, and offered little game for hunting, no fresh drinking water, and very limited ground for farming. Captain Newport returned to England twice, delivering the First Supply and the Second Supply missions during 1608, and leaving the Discovery for the use of the colonists. However, death from disease and conflicts with the Natives Americans took a fearsome toll of the colonists. Despite attempts at mining minerals, growing silk, and exporting the native Virginia tobacco, no profitable exports had been identified, and it was unclear whether the settlement would survive financially.
Charter of 1609
In 1609, with the abandonment of the Plymouth Company settlement, the London Company's Virginia charter was adjusted to include the territory north of the 34th parallel and south of the 39th parallel, with its original coastal grant extended "from sea to sea". Thus, at least according to James I's writ, the Virginia Colony in its original sense extended to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in what is now California, with all the states in between (Kentucky, Missouri, Colorado, Utah, etc.) belonging to Virginia. For practical purposes, though, the English had no presence at all in most of this region. The colonists rarely ventured far inland to what was then known as "The Virginia Wilderness", although the concept itself helped renew the interest of investors, and additional funds enabled an expanded effort, known as the Third Supply.
Bermuda: The Somers Isles
For the Third Supply, the London Company had a new ship built. The Sea Venture was specifically designed for emigration of additional colonists and transporting supplies. It became the flagship of the Admiral of the convoy, Sir George Somers. The Third Supply was the largest to date, with 8 other ships joining the Sea Venture. The new Captain of the Sea Venture was mission's Vice-Admiral, Christopher Newport. Hundreds of new colonists were aboard the ships. However, weather was to drastically affect the mission.
A few days out of London, the nine ships of the third supply mission encountered a massive hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. They became separated during the three days the storm lasted. Admiral Sir George Somers had the new Sea Venture, carrying most of the supplies of the mission, deliberately driven aground onto the reefs of Bermuda to avoid sinking. However, while there was no loss of life, the ship was wrecked beyond repair, stranding its survivors on the uninhabited archipelago, to which they laid claim for England.
The survivors at Bermuda eventually built two smaller ships and most of them continued on to Jamestown, leaving a few on Bermuda to secure the claim. The Company's possession of Bermuda was made official in 1612, when the third and final charter extended the boundaries of 'Virginia' far enough out to sea to encompass Bermuda, which was also known, for a time, as Virgineola. Bermuda has since been known officially also as The Somers Isles (in commemoration of Admiral Somers). The shareholders of the Virginia Company spun off a second company, the Somers Isles Company, which administered Bermuda from 1615 til 1684.
However, upon their arrival at Jamestown, the survivors of the Sea Venture discovered that the 10 month delay had greatly aggravated other adverse conditions. Seven of the other ships had arrived carrying more colonists, but little in the way of food and supplies. Combined with a drought, and hostile relations with the Native Americans, the loss of the supplies which had been aboard the Sea Venture had resulted in the Starving Time in late 1609 to May 1610, during which over 80% of the colonists perished. Conditions were so adverse it appears, from skeletal evidence, that the survivors engaged in cannibalism. The survivors from Bermuda had brought few supplies and food with them, and it appeared to all that Jamestown must be abandoned and it would be necessary to return to England.
Permanence of Jamestown
During this time, perhaps 5000 Virginians died of disease or were killed in the Indian massacre of 1622.
Samuel Argall was the captain of one of the seven ships of the Third Supply which had arrived at Jamestown in 1609 after becoming separated from the Sea Venture, whose fate was unknown. Depositing his passengers and limited supplies, he had returned to England with word of the plight of the colonists at Jamestown. The King had authorized another leader, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, later better known as "Lord Delaware", to have greater powers, and the London Company had organized another Supply mission. They set sail from London on April 1, 1610.
Just after the survivors of the Starving Time and those who had joined them from Bermuda had abandoned Jamestown, the ships of the new supply mission sailed up the James River with food, supplies, a doctor, and more colonists. Lord Delaware was determined that the colony was to survive, and intercepted the departing ships about 10 miles (16 km) downstream of Jamestown. The colonists thanked Providence for the Colony's salvation.
Among these individuals who had briefly abandoned Jamestown was John Rolfe, a Sea Venture survivor who had lost his wife and son in Bermuda. He was a businessman from London who had some untried seeds for new, sweeter strains of tobacco with him, as well as some untried marketing ideas. It was to turn out that John Rolfe held the key to the Colony's economic success.
By 1612, Rolfe's new strains of tobacco had been successfully cultivated and exported. Finally, a cash crop to export had been identified, and plantations and new outposts sprung up, initially both upriver and downriver along the navigable portion of the James River, and thereafter along the other rivers and waterways of the area. The settlement at Jamestown could finally be considered permanently established.
Vagrant London Children sent to Virginia 1618-1619
In 1618 a scheme was set on foot for taking up vagrant boys and girls that lay begging in the streets of the City (London), having neither home nor friends, and transporting them to Virginia to be there industriously employed. The Virginia Company agreed to take 100 boys and girls between the ages of eight and sixteen.
In 1620, a successor to the Plymouth Company sent colonists to the New World aboard the Mayflower. Known as Pilgrims, they successfully established a settlement in what became Massachusetts. The portion of what had been Virginia north of the 40th parallel became known as New England, according to books written by Captain John Smith, who had made a voyage there.
In 1624, the charter of the Virginia Company's was revoked by King James I and the Virginia Colony was transferred to royal authority in the form of a crown colony. Subsequent charters for the Maryland Colony in 1632 and to the eight Lords Proprietor of the Province of Carolina in 1663 and 1665 further reduced the Virginia Colony to roughly the coastal borders it held until the American Revolution. (The exact border with North Carolina was disputed until surveyed by William Byrd II in 1728.)
English Civil War and Commonwealth
Population swelled with Cavaliers during and after the English Civil War, as Virginia was sympathetic to the Crown rather than the Puritan Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. Even so, Virginia Puritan Richard Bennett was made Governor answering to Cromwell in 1652, followed by two more nominal "Commonwealth Governors".
Restoration and Rebellion
In 1676, Bacon's Rebellion challenged the political order of the colony. While a military failure, its handling did result in Governor Berkeley being recalled to England.
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Relations with the Virginia Indians
As the English expanded out from Jamestown, encroachment of the new arrivals and their ever-growing numbers on what had been Indian lands resulted in several conflicts with the Virginia Indians. For much of the 17th century, English contact and conflict was mostly with the Algonquian peoples that populated the coastal regions, primarily the Powhatan Confederacy. Following a series of wars and the decline of the Powhatan as a political entity, the colonists expanded westward in the late 17th and 18th centuries, encountering the Shawnee, Iroquoian-speaking peoples such as the Nottoway, Meherrin, Iroquois and Cherokee, as well as Siouan-speaking peoples such as the Tutelo, Saponi, and Occaneechi.
The Powhatan Confederacy was a confederation of numerous linguistically related tribes in the eastern part of Virginia. The Powhatan Confederacy controlled a territory known as Tsenacommacah, which roughly corresponded with the Tidewater region of Virginia. It was in this territory that the English established Jamestown.
The Anglo-Powhatan Wars were three wars fought between English settlers of the Virginia Colony, and Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy in the early seventeenth century. The First War started in 1610, and ended in a peace settlement in 1614. Another war between the two powers lasted from 1622 to 1632. The third War lasted from 1644 until 1646, and ended when Opechancanough was captured and killed. This situation would last until 1677 and the Treaty of Middle Plantation, which established Indian reservations following Bacon's Rebellion.
The First Anglo–Powhatan War, between the Powhatan and the English colonists, lasted from 1610 to 1614.
On August 9, 1610, tired of waiting for a response from Powhatan on his ultimatum to return all English subject and property, De la Warr sent George Percy with 70 men to attack the Paspahegh capital, burning the houses and cutting down their cornfields. They killed 65 to 75, and captured one of Wowinchopunk's wives and her children. Returning downstream, the English threw the children overboard, and shot out "their Braynes in the water". The queen was put to the sword in Jamestown. The Paspahegh never recovered from this attack, and abandoned their town. Another small force sent with Samuel Argall against the Warraskoyaks found that they had already fled, but he destroyed their abandoned village and cornfields as well. This event triggered the first Anglo-Powhatan War.
Indian Massacre of 1622
The relations with the Natives took a turn for the worse after the death of Pocahontas in England and the return of John Rolfe and other colonial leaders in May 1617. Disease, poor harvests and the growing demand for tobacco lands caused hostilities to escalate.
After Wahunsunacock's death in 1618, he was soon succeeded by his own younger brother, Opechancanough. He maintained friendly relations with the Colony on the surface, negotiating with them through his warrior Nemattanew, but by 1622, after Nemattanew had been slain, Opechancanough was ready to order a limited surprise attack on them, hoping to persuade them to move on and settle elsewhere.
Chief Opechancanough organized and led a well-coordinated series of surprise attacks on multiple English settlements along both sides of a 50-mile (80 km) long stretch of the James River which took place early on the morning of March 22, 1622. This event came to be known as the Indian Massacre of 1622, and resulted in the deaths of 347 colonists (including men, women, and children) and the abduction of many others.
However, Jamestown was spared from destruction due to a Virginia Indian boy named Chanco who, after learning of the planned attacks from his brother, gave warning to colonist Richard Pace with whom he lived. Pace, after securing himself and his neighbors on the south side of the James River, took a canoe across river to warn Jamestown which narrowly escaped destruction, although there was no time to warn the other settlements.
The reaction to the Powhatan uprising was retaliation, and the English set to with a vengeance. A year later, Captain William Tucker and Dr. John Potts worked out a supposed-truce with the Powhatan and proposed a toast using liquor laced with poison. 200 Virginia Indians were killed by the poison and 50 more were slaughtered by the colonists. For over a decade, the English settlers killed Powhatan men and women, captured children and systematically razed villages, seizing or destroying crops.
By 1634, a six mile long palisade was completed across the Virginia Peninsula. The new palisade provided some security from attacks by the Virginia Indians for colonists farming and fishing lower on the Peninsula from that point.
On April 18, 1644, Opechancanough again tried to force the colonists to abandon the region with another series of coordinated attacks, killing almost 500 colonists. However, this was a much less devastating portion of the growing population than had been the case in the 1622 attacks.
The forces of Royal Governor of Virginia William Berkeley captured the old warrior in 1646, variously thought to be between 90 and 100 years old. In October, while a prisoner, Opechancanough was killed by a soldier (shot in the back) assigned to guard him.
Treaty of 1646
In 1646, the first treaties were signed between the Virginia Indians and the English. The treaties set up reservations, some of the oldest in America, for the surviving Powhatan. It also set up tribute payments for the Virginia Indians to be made yearly to the English.
The treaty also resulted in a boundary being defined between the Indians and English lands that could only be crossed for official business with a special pass. Fort Henry was established on the Appomattox River as the designated point of passage.
While the southern frontier established by this treaty (south of the James) remained in force for over half a century, the York river line on the north barely held 3 years before colonists began moving into the two more northerly peninsulae, encountering competition from the local tribes. Deeds of sale by the weroances exist for some, but not all of the areas in this region. The Doeg people were expelled from what is now Northern Virginia after a war with them from 1666 to 1670, and the land along the west bank of the Potomac patented as far north as My Lord's Island (near modern day Washington, DC).
Treaty of Middle Plantation
As the English settlements expanded beyond the Tidewater territory traditionally occupied by the Powhatan, they encountered new groups with which there had been minimal relations with the Colony.
Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood made further advances in policy with the Virginia Indians along the frontier. In 1714, he established Fort Christanna to help educate and trade with several tribes with which the colony had friendly relations, as well as to help protect them from hostile tribes. In 1722, he negotiated the Treaty of Albany.
Lord Dunmore's War
The cultural geography of colonial Virginia gradually evolved, with a variety of settlement and jurisdiction models experimented with. By the late 17th century and into the 18th century, the primary settlement pattern was based on plantations (to grow tobacco), farms, and some towns (mostly ports or courthouse villages).
The fort at Jamestown, founded in 1607, remained the primary settlement of the colonists for several years. A few strategic outposts were constructed, including Fort Algernon (1609) at the entrance to the James River.
A short distance farther up the James, in 1611, Thomas Dale began the construction of a progressive development at Henricus on and about what was later known as Farrars Island. Henricus was envisioned as possible replacement capital for Jamestown, and was to have the first college in Virginia. (The ill-fated Henricus was destroyed during the Indian Massacre of 1622). In addition to creating the new settlement at Henricus, Dale also established the port town of Bermuda Hundred, as well as "Bermuda Cittie" (sic) in 1613, now part of Hopewell, Virginia. He began the excavation work at Dutch Gap, using methods he had learned while serving in Holland.
Once tobacco had been established as an export cash crop, investors became more interested and groups of them united to create largely self-sufficient "hundreds." The term "hundred" is a traditional English name for an administrative division of a shire (or county) to define an area which would support one hundred heads of household. In the colonial era in Virginia, the "hundreds" were large developments of many acres, necessary to support land hungry tobacco crops. The "hundreds" were required to be at least several miles from any existing community. Soon, these patented tracts of land sprung up along the rivers. The investors sent shiploads of settlers and supplies to Virginia to establish the new developments. The administrative centers of Virginia's hundreds were essentially small towns or villages, and were often palisaded for defense.
An example was Martin's Hundred, located downstream from Jamestown on the north bank of the James River. It was sponsored by the Martin's Hundred Society, a group of investors in London. It was settled in 1618, and Wolstenholme Towne was its administrative center, named for Sir John Wolstenholme, one of the investors.
Bermuda Hundred (now in Chesterfield County) and Flowerdew Hundred (now in Prince George County) are other names which have survived over centuries. Others included Berkeley Hundred, Bermuda Nether Hundred, Bermuda Upper Hundred, Smith's Hundred, Digges Hundred, West Hundred and Shirley Hundred (and, in Bermuda, Harrington Hundreds).
Including the creation of the "hundreds", the various incentives to investors in the Virginia Colony finally paid off by 1617. By this time, the colonists were exporting 50,000 pounds of tobacco to England a year and were beginning to generate enough profit to ensure the economic survival of the colony.
Citties, Shires, and Counties
In 1619, the plantations and developments were divided into four "incorporations" or "citties" (sic), as they were called. These were Charles Cittie, Elizabeth Cittie, Henrico Cittie, and James Cittie, which included the relatively small seat of government for the colony at Jamestown Island. Each of the four "citties" (sic) extended across the James River, the main conduit of transportation of the era. Elizabeth Cittie, know initially as Kecoughtan (a Native word with many variations in spelling by the English), also included the areas now known as South Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.
In 1634, a new system of local government was created in the Virginia Colony by order of the King of England. Eight shires were designated, each with its own local officers. Within a few years, the shires were renamed counties, a system which has remained to the present day.
In 1630, under the governorship of John Harvey, the first settlement on the York River was founded. In 1632, the Virginia legislature voted to build a fort to link Jamestown and the York River settlement of Chiskiack and protect the colony from Indian attacks. In 1634, a palisade was built near Middle Plantation. This wall stretched across the peninsula between the York and James rivers and protected the settlements on the eastern side of the lower Peninsula from Indians. The wall also served to contain cattle.
Northern Neck Proprietary
In the period following the English Civil War, the exiled King Charles II of England hoped to shore up the loyalty of several of his supporters by granting them a significant area of mostly-uncharted land to control as a Proprietary in Virginia (a claim that would only be valid were the king to return to power). While under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Colony, the proprietary maintained complete control of the granting of land within that territory (and revenues obtained from it) until after the American Revolution. The grant was for the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, which included the titular Northern Neck, but as time went on also would include all of what is today Northern Virginia and into West Virginia. Due to ambiguities of the text of the various grants causing disputes between the proprietary and the colonial government, the tract was finally demarcated via the Fairfax Line in 1746.
Government and law
In the initial years under the Virginia Company, the colony was governed by a council, headed by a council President. From 1611 to 1618, under the orders of Sir Thomas Dale, the settlers of the colony were under a regime of martial law that became known as Dale's Code.
Under a charter from the company in 1618, a new model of governance was put in place in 1619, which created a new House of Burgesses. On July 30, 1619, burgesses met at Jamestown Church as the first elected representative legislative assembly in the New World. The legal system in the colony was thereafter based around the English common law.
For much of the history of the Royal Colony, the formal appointed governor was absentee, often remaining in England. In his stead, a series of acting or Lieutenant Governors who were physical present held considerable actual authority. In the later years of its history, as it became increasingly "civilized", more governors made the journey.
The first settlement in the colony, Jamestown, served as the capital and main port of entry from its founding until 1699. During this time, a series of statehouses (capitols) were used and subsequently consumed by fires (both accidental, and in the case of Bacon's Rebellion, intentional). Following such a fire, in 1699 the capital was relocated inland, away from the swampy clime of Jamestown to Middle Plantation, soon to be renamed Williamsburg.
The capital of Virginia remained in Williamsburg until it was moved further inland to Richmond in 1779 during the American Revolution.
The entrepreneurs of the Virginia Company experimented with a number of means of making the colony profitable. The orders sent with the first colonists instructed that they search for precious metals (specifically gold). While no gold was found, various products were sent back, including pitch and clapboard. In 1608, early attempts were made at breaking the Continental hold on glassmaking through the creation of a glassworks. In 1619, the colonist built the first ironworks in North America.
In 1614, settler John Rolfe planted tobacco obtained from Bermuda (during his stay there as part of the Third Supply). Within a few years, the crop proved extremely lucrative in the European market. As the English increasingly used tobacco products, tobacco in the American colonies became significant economic force, especially in the tidewater region surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.
Vast plantations were built along the rivers of Virginia, and social/economic systems developed to grow and distribute this cash crop. Some elements of this system included the importation and employment of slaves to grow crops. Planters would then fill large hogsheads with tobacco and convey them to inspection warehouses. In 1730, the Virginia House of Burgesses standardized and improved quality of tobacco exported by establishing the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730, which required inspectors to grade tobacco at 40 specified locations.
The first colonists to arrive hailed from various parts of England. Though the majority of colonists would continue to be English (as a result of it controlling the colony), other national origins and cultures would soon arrive.
In 1608, the first Poles and Germans arrived as part of a group of skilled craftsmen. In 1619, the first Africans were brought by a Dutch vessel, though the concept of racially-based slavery did not evolve for several decades. In the mid 17th-century, French Huguenots arrived in the colony. In the early 18th century, German specialists would again be brought over to establish the Germanna settlement, at the behest of Alexander Spotswood.
Servitude and slavery
With the boom in tobacco planting, there was a severe shortage of laborers to work the labor-intensive crop. One method to solve the shortage was through the usage of indentured servants.
By the 1640s, legal documents started to define the changing nature of indentured servants and their status as servants. In 1640, John Punch was sentenced to lifetime servitude as punishment for trying to escape from his master Hugh Gwyn. This is the earliest legal sanctioning of slavery in Virginia. After this trial, the relationship between indentured servants and their masters changed, as planters saw permanent servitude a more appealing and profitable prospect than seven year indentures.
Planters started to ignore the expiration of servants' indentured contracts and started to keep them as life long slaves. One example of this is with Anthony Johnson who argued in his civil suit that his servant John Casor was his for life and that he wasn't an indentured servant. The court ruled in favor of Johnson and ordered that Casor be returned to him, where he served the rest of his life as a slave. These legally documented cases marked the transformation of Negroes from indentured servants into slaves.
In the late 17th century, the Royal African Company, which was established by the King of England to supply the great demand for labor to the colonies, had a monopoly of the provision of African slaves to the colony.
In 1619, the Anglican Church was formally established as the official religion in the colony, and would remain so until shortly after the American Revolution. Establishment meant that local tax funds paid the parish costs, and that the parish had local civic functions such as poor relief. The upper class planters controlled the vestry, which ran the parish and chose the minister. The church in Virginia was controlled by the Bishop of London, who sent priests and missionaries. By the 1760s, dissenting Protestants, especially Baptists and Methodists, were growing rapidly and started challenging the Anglicans for moral leadership.
Education and literacy
The first printing press used in Virginia began operation in Jamestown on June 8, 1680, though within a few years it was shut down by the Governor and Crown of England for want of a license. It was not until 1736 that the first newspaper, the Virginia Gazette, began circulation under printer William Parks of Williamsburg.
For most of the 17th century, a university education for settlers of Virginia required a journey to England or Scotland. Such journeys were undertaken by wealthy young men, though many educated settlers received their education prior to immigrating to the colony.
In 1693, the College of William and Mary was founded at Middle Plantation (soon renamed Williamsburg). The college included a common school for Virginia Indians, supplemented by local pupils, which lasted until a 1779 overhaul of the institution's curriculum. The college, located in the capital and heart of the Tidewater region, dominated the colony's intellectual climate until after its independence.
After 1747, some Virginians began to attend institutions at Princeton and Pennsylvania, while tending to settle deeper into the colony as it grew westward, primarily in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge areas. It is in this region of Virginia where two future Presbyterian colleges trace their origins to institutions founded in this time period. First, what would become Hampden–Sydney College was founded in 1775, immediately prior to the American Revolution. Likwise, Augusta Academy was a classical school that would evolve into Washington and Lee University (though would not grant its first batcherlor's degree until 1785.
- History of Virginia
- History of Virginia on stamps
- List of colonial governors of Virginia
- Former counties, cities, and towns of Virginia
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- English colonial empire
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- (none given) (July 1, 1898). "Education in Colonial Virginia: Part V: Influence of William and Mary College". William and Mary Quarterly. 1 VII (1): 1. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- Heinemann, Ronald L., John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007 (2007). ISBN 978-0-8139-2609-4.
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