Edwin Sandys (1561–1629)

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Sir Edwin Sandys, 1776 mezzotint by Valentine Green.

Sir Edwin Sandys (/ˈsændz/ SANDZ; 9 December 1561 – October 1629) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1589 and 1626. He was also one of the founders of the proprietary Virginia Company of London, which in 1606 established the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States in the colony of Virginia, based at Jamestown. The parish of Sandys, in Bermuda (the Virginia Company's second colony) is named after him.

Early life and career[edit]

Sandys (pronounced Sands) was born in Worcestershire, the second son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, and his wife Cecily Wilford. He received his education at Merchant Taylors' School, which he entered in 1571, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (from 1577). He graduated B.A. in 1579 and was admitted fellow in the same year and B.C.L. in 1589.[1][2][3] At Oxford his tutor was Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, whose lifelong friend and executor Sandys became. Sandys is said to have had a large share in securing the Mastership of the Temple Church in London for Hooker. In 1582 Sandys' father gave him the prebend of Wetwang in York Minster, but he never took orders,[2] later resigning both his fellowship and prebendary.[4] In 1589 he was elected Member of Parliament for Plympton Erle. He entered in the Middle Temple in 1589. In 1593 he was re-elected MP for Plympton Erle.[5]

From 1593 to 1599 Sandys travelled abroad. When in Venice he became closely connected with Fra Paolo Sarpi, who helped him compose the treatise on the religious state of Europe, known as the Europae speculum. In 1605 this treatise was printed from a stolen copy under the title A Relation of the State of Religion in Europe. Sandys procured the suppression of this edition, but the book was reprinted at The Hague in 1629.[2]

After 1599, in view of the approaching death of Queen Elizabeth I, Sandys paid his court to King James VI of Scotland, and on James's accession to the throne of England in 1603 Sandys received a knighthood.[2]

Career as MP[edit]

In 1604, he sat in James's first parliament as MP for Stockbridge, and distinguished himself as one of the assailants of the great monopolies. He endeavoured to secure to all prisoners the right of employing counsel, a proposal which was resisted by some lawyers as subversive of the administration of the law.[2]

In 1614 he was elected MP for Rochester. He was appointed High Sheriff of Kent for 1615[5]-1616[4] - his country seat of Northborne was there.

Sandys sat in the later parliaments of James I as MP for Sandwich in 1621, and for Kent in 1624.[2]

On 16 June 1621 he and John Selden were taken into custody by order of the House of Commons, and not released until 18 July.[4]

His tendencies were towards opposition, and he was suspected of hostility to the court; but he disarmed the anger of the king by professions of obedience. He was member for Penryn in the first parliament of Charles I in 1625[6] and again in 1626.[5]

Role in the Virginia Company[edit]

Coat of Arms of Edwin Sandys

Sandys had been connected with the East India Company before 1614, and took an active part in its affairs until 1629. His most memorable services were, however, rendered to the Virginia Company of London, to which he became treasurer in 1619[2] (succeeding Thomas Smythe). He instituted a program designed to give investors and settlers incentive to emigrate to the New World. His program granted some of Virginia's land to the people who chose to live there, providing planters who had arrived before 1616 with one hundred acres each with settlers coming after 1616 getting fifty acres. He also sent several hundred tenant farmers to work land set aside for the company while urging the production of more than just tobacco for export.

In order to increase labour in Virginia, his program also promoted indentured servitude for the poor of England who could try to make a better life for themselves in the colony. These policies created a boom period of growth for Virginia. The large amount of labour available and the condition by which they made the journey led to exploitation of servants and tenants while allowing large farmer owners to also exploit the Virginia Company.[7]

Sandys also strongly supported the headright system, for his goal was a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. Also accredited to Sandys is an increase in women sent to the colonies, for the purpose of encouraging men to marry and start families, which ostensibly would motivate them to work harder. Edwin Sandys was also one of the men instrumental in establishing the first representative assembly in the new world at Jamestown by issuing a new charter calling for its establishment. In addition, he assisted the Pilgrims in establishing their colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts by lending them 300 pounds without interest. This led to Sandys being accused in 1624 by Sir Nathaniel Rich of having republican sympathies and of trying to establish a 'Brownist Republic' in Virginia.[8][9] This was an accusation not entirely without foundation, as the colonial project had from the outset quasi-republican overtones.

Although Sandys never travelled to Virginia, he worked tirelessly in England to support the effort.[citation needed] He promoted and supported the policy which enabled the colony to survive the disasters of its early days, and, he continued to be a leading influence in the Company[2] until it was dissolved in 1624.[10]

Although the Virginia Company ultimately failed financially by 1624, the colony eventually grew and prospered until achieving independence late in the 18th century following the American Revolutionary War.

Sandys' brother Thomas Sands (Sandys) was one of the first colonist in Jamestown, he survived the "starving times" and later returned to England.[11]

Theological positions[edit]

Edwin Sandys shared with his brother George a leaning toward English Arminian theology and rejected Calvinist predestinarianism.[12] Through his writings he also positioned himself theologically, and is described as a proto-Arminian.[13] Because of his anti-Calvinist views, he won the attention of the leading Dutch Arminian Hugo Grotius.[14]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Sandys died in October 1629,[6] leaving a £1500 endowment to the University of Oxford to fund a lecture in metaphysics.

Sandys is buried in Northbourne Church in Kent with his last wife Catherine.


Sandys was married four times:[15]

  1. Margaret Eveleigh, daughter of John Eveleigh of Devonshire, with whom he had one daughter.
    • Elizabeth, who married Sir Thomas Wilsford of Hedding, Kent
  2. Anne Southcott, daughter of Thomas Southcott, with whom he had no issue.
  3. Elizabeth Nevinson, daughter of Thomas Nevinson of Eastrey with whom he had one daughter.
    • Anne
  4. Catherine Bulkeley, daughter of Sir Richard Bulkeley of Anglesey, with whom he had seven sons and five daughters.[16]

Sandys' great-grandson Richard Sandys became a baronet in 1684.[4] His brother Sir Miles Sandys, 1st Baronet was also appointed a baronet, and sat as MP, and was High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.[17] Sandys Parish, Bermuda, which includes Somerset Village and the Royal Naval Dockyard, is named after him.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Foster 1891, pp. 1309–1310.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm 1911, p. 143.
  3. ^ Nichols 1828, p 115 footnote 10.
  4. ^ a b c d Nichols 1828.
  5. ^ a b c Harding 1981.
  6. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 144.
  7. ^ Morgan 1975, pp. 93–95, 114–116.
  8. ^ McMullan 1994, p. 199.
  9. ^ Fitzmaurice 2003, p. 89.
  10. ^ "The Virginia Company of London". pbs.org. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  11. ^ Brown 1890, p. 996.
  12. ^ Ellison 2002, p. 247. The brutal, greedy old Calvinist [Edwin Sandys father] can scarcely have seemed an attractive role-model, and it is no surprise that both George and Sir Edwin Sandys found the opinions of Richard Hooker more congenial. Arminian theology, scepticism, and tolerance were more attractive to them than Genevan predestinarianism.
  13. ^ Rabb 2017, p. 307. The historian of English Arminianism, Nicholas Tyacke, has suggested that Sir Edwin may also have suffered the disfavour that was directed in the early seventeenth century toward the antipredestinarian views that were to be associated with that doctrine. There are certainly hints of proto-Arminian position in the Relation, particularly in its singling out of the doctrine of unconditional predestination as a major obstacle to Christian reunion; its moderate remarks about papacy; and its acceptance of the potential value of such "works" as confession.
  14. ^ Norbrook 2002, p. 215. Several of Whither's political allies of 1614 had been anti-Calvinist in theology. Sir Edwin Sandys won the attention of the leading Dutch Arminian, and republican, Hugo Grotius for his views; his brother George later translated a tragedy by Grotius.
  15. ^ Pollard 1897.
  16. ^ "Edwin (Sir) Sandys". The Douglas Archives Genealogy Pages. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  17. ^ Nichols 1828, p. 116 footnote 2.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Plympton Erle
With: Richard Grafton 1589
Richard Southcote 1593
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Stockbridge
With: Sir William Fortescue
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Rochester
With: Sir Thomas Walsingham
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Sandwich
With: Sir Robert Hatton 1621
John Burroughes 1621–1622
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Kent
With: Nicholas Tufton
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Penryn
With: Edward Roberts
Succeeded by