Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Pacts anticipate "By the People" - 1624 Laws & Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first legislature in the English colonies in America. It first met on July 30, 1619 at a church in Jamestown. Its first decision was to set a minimum price for the sale of tobacco. Soon, it became a symbol of representative government. The 22 members were elected by the members of the colony. The House met once a year and could create laws. These laws, however, could be vetoed by the governor. All delegates were men, as women in America did not get the right to vote until 1920. The House of Burgesses met from 1643 to 1776. This democratically elected legislative body was the first of its kind in English North America. From 1619 until 1643, elected burgesses met in unicameral session with the governor and the royally appointed governor's Council; after 1643, the burgesses met separately as the lower house of the General Assembly of Virginia. Each county sent two burgesses to the House; towns could petition to send a single representative, as Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Norfolk did. (The College of William and Mary also had representation in the House.) Most burgesses were also members of the gentry class, though the colonists they represented were usually male small land–owners and tenant farmers.  Women did not serve as Burgess.  In the British American colonies, which became the United States of America, women did not get the right to vote until 1920.

Laws & Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly March 05, 1624

THAT there shall be in every plantation, where the people use to meete for the worship of God, a house or roome sequestred for that purpose, & not to be for any temporal use whatsoever, & a place empaled in, sequestered only to the buryal of the dead.

That whosoever shall absent himselfe from divine service any Sunday without an allowable excuse shall forfeite a pound of tobacco, & he that absenteth himselfe a month shall forfeith 50lb. of tobacco.

That there be an uniformity in our church as neere as may be to the canons in England; both in substance & circumstance, & that all persons yeild readie obedience unto them under paine of censure.

That the 22nd of March be yeerly solemnized as holliday, & all other hollidays (except when they fall two together) betwixt the feast of the annuntiation of the blessed virgin & St. Michael the archangell, then only the first to be observed by reason of our necessities.

That no minister be absent from his church above two months in all the yeare upon penalty of forfeiting halfe his means, & whosoever shall absent above fowre months in the year shall forfeit his whole means & cure.

That whosoever shall disparage a minister without bringing sufficient proofe to justify his reports whereby the mindes of his parishioners may be alienated from him, & his ministry prove the less effectual by their prejudication, shall not only pay 500lb. waight of tobacco but also aske the minister so wronged forgiveness publickly in the congregation.

That no man dispose of any of his tobacco before the minister be satisfied, upon pain of forfeiture double his part of the minister’s means, & one man of every plantation to collect his means out of the first & best tobacco & corn.

That the Governor shall not lay any taxes or ympositions upon the colony their lands or comodities other way than by the authority of the General Assembly, to be levyed & ymployed as the said Assembly shall appoynt.

The governor shall not withdraw the inhabitants from their private labors to any service of his own upon any colour whatsoever & in case the publick service require ymployments of many hands before the holding a General Assemblie to give order for the same, in that case the levying of men shall be done by order of the governor & whole body of the counsell & that in such sorte as to be least burthensome to the people & most free from partialitie.

That all the old planters that were here before or came in at the last coming of sir Thomas Gates they & their posterity shall be exempted from their personal service to the warrs & any publick charge (church duties excepted) that belong particularly to their persons (not exempting their families) except such as shall be ymployed to command in chief.

That no burgesses of the General Assembly shall be arrested during the time of the assembly, a week before & a week after upon pain of the creditors forfeiture of his debt & such punishment upon the officer as the court shall award.

That there shall be courts kept once a month in the corporations of Charles City & Elizabeth Citty for the decyding of suits & controversies not exceeding the value of one hundred pounds of tobacco & for punishing of petty offences, that the commanders of the places & such others as the governor & council shall appoint by commission shall be the judges, with reservation of apeal after sentence to the governor & counsell & whosoever shall appeal yf he be there cast in suit shall pay duble damages, The commanders to be of the quorum & sentence to be given by the major parties.

That every privatt planters devident shall be surveyed & laid out in several & the bounds recorded by the survey; yf there be any pettie differences betwixt neighbours about their devidents to be divided by the surveyor if of much importance to be referred to the governor & counsell: the surveyor to have 10lbs. of tobacco upon every hundred acres.

For the encouragement of men to plant store of corne, the prise shall not be stinted, but it shall be free for every man to sell it as deere as he can.

That there shall be in every parish a bulick granary unto which there shall be contributed for every planter exceeding the adge of 18 years alive at the crop after he hath been heere a year a bushell of corne, the which shall be disposed for the publique uses of every parish by the major part of the freemen, the remainder yearly to be taken out by the owners at St. Tho’s his day & the new bushell to be putt in the roome.

That three sufficient men of every parish shall be sworne to see that every man shall plant & tende sufficient of corne for his family. Those men that have neglected so to do are to be by the said three men presented to be censured by the governor & counsell.

That all trade for corne with the salvages as well publick as private after June next shall be prohibited.

That every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden for planting of vines, herbs, roots, &c. subpoena ten pounds of tobacco a man, but that no man for his own family shall be tyed to fence above an acre of land & that whosoever hath fenced a garden & [ ] of the land shall be paid for it by the owner of the soyle; they shall also plant Mulberry trees.

The proclamations for swearing & drunkenness sett out by the governor & counsell are confirmed by this Assembly; & it is further ordered that the churchwardens shall be sworne to present them to the commanders of every plantation & that the forfeitures shall be collected by them to be for publique uses.

That a proclamation be read, aboard every ship & afterwards fixed to the maste of such [ ] in, prohibiting them to break boulke or make privatt sales of any commodity until[ ] James City, without special order from the governor & counsell

That the proclamation of the rates of commodities be still in force & that there be some men in every plantation to censure the tobacco.

That there be no weights nor measures used but such as shall be sealed by officers appointed for that purpose.

That every dwelling house shall be pallizaded in for defence against the Indians.

That no man go or send abroad without a sufficient parties well armed.

That men go not to worke in the ground without their arms (and a centinell upon them).

That the inhabitants go not aboard ships or upon any other occasions in such numbers, as thereby to weaken & endanger the plantations.

That the commander of every plantation take care that there be sufficient of powder & amunition within the plantation under his command & their pieces fixt & their arms compleate.

That there be dew watch kept by night.

That no commander of any plantation do either himselfe or suffer others to spend powder unneccessarily in drinking or entertainments, &c.

That such persons of quality as shall be found delinquent in their duties being not fitt to undergoe corporal punishment may notwithstanding be ymprisoned at the discretione of the commander & for greater offences to be subject to a ffine inflicted by the monthlie court, so that it exceed not the value aforesaid.

That every man that hath not contributed to the finding a man at the castell shall pay for himself & servants five pounds of tobacco a head, towards the discharge of such as had their servants here.

That at the beginning of July next the inhabitants of every corporation shall fall upon their adjoyning salvages as we did the last yeare, those that shall be hurte upon service to be cured at the publique charge; in case any be lamed to be maintained by the country according to his person & quality.

That for defraying of such publique debts our troubles have brought upon us. There shall be levied 10 pounds of tobacco upon every male head above sixteen years of adge now living (not including such as arrived since the beginning of July last).

That no person within this colony upon the rumur of supposed changed & alteration, presume to be disobedient to the present government, nor servants to their private officers, masters or overseers at their uttermost perills.

That Mr. John Pountis, counsellor of state, goin to England, (being willing by our intreatie to accept of that imployment) to solicite the general cause of the country to his majesty & the counsell, towards the charges of which voyage, the country consente to pay for every male head above sixteen years of adge then living, which have been here a yeare ffour pounds of the best merchantable tobacco, in leafe, at or before the last of October next.


Sir Francis Wyatt, Knt. Governor, &c.
Capt Fran’s West, John Pott,
Sir George Yeardley Capt. Roger Smith,
George Sandy’s Trear, Capt. Raphe Hamer.
John Pountis.
William Tucker, Nathaniel Bass,
Jabez Whitakers, John Willcox,
William Peeine, Nicho: Marten,
Rauleigh Croshaw, Clement, Dilke,
Richard Kingsmell, Isaeck Chaplin,
Edward Blany, John Cew,
Luke Boyse, John Utie,
John Pollington. John Southerne,
Nathaniel Causey, Richard Bigge,
Robert Addams, Henry Watkins,
Thomas Harris, Gabriel Holland,
Richard Stephens, Thomas Morlatt,
Copia Test,
R.HICKMAN, Cl. Sec. off.