Sunday, May 1, 1994

At Home and Abroad: English Domestic Conditions and the Establishment of a Viable Colony in Virginia

An academic paper submitted at University College, Cork (Ireland) during the 1993-1994 academic year.

The early seventeenth century was a time of great change in Britain. A foreign king acceded to the English throne, effecting a union of crowns if in no other way joining Scotland and England. Capital became available for borrowing and investment, paving the way for large companies to finance huge undertakings. Religion remained a popular topic for intellectual discussion, and the gentry got richer while the number of rural poor grew. The English view of the world was changing, most noticeably the point of view of the English monarch towards his world.

James VI of Scotland acceded to the throne of a country that was on the rise: it was maintaining an adequate political distance from continental European conflicts (while still keeping in economic contact with the European powers), and it was sending expeditions vast distances across an unfriendly, if traversable, sea. This first did not actually begin until 1604, when James made peace with the Spanish, but following that brief end of a conflict at the beginning of his reign, Jacobite England was not at war. It permitted the replacement of privateering by exploratory and colonial seafaring efforts.[1]

Exploration had been progressing for centuries, but mostly with either merchant backing or royal impetus but not both.[2] It was done in a trial-and-error manner,[3] and 'Elizabeth was chronically cautious',[4] dooming exploration during her reign to be half-hearted and not fully coordinated. As a result, the efforts in Newfoundland and Virginia of Elizabethan years failed.[5]

James, in 1603, became king of a country that had failed colonially. It would, by the end of his reign, have established a viable, even a successful, colony in Virginia. It is important to look closely at the situation in England during his reign, for it was the conditions in England which both permitted and made possible the success of the colony. Then we shall look at the events and trends in the colony, to trace its development. It might be thought illuminating to examine these situations, at home and abroad, in chronological order rather than to divide them according to the longitude of their occurrence. However, the colony developed largely separately from the mother country, with interjections from time to time of business from home in colonial affairs. We shall not ignore these interjections (as in fact they justify the division), but it is useful to see the development of domestic and colonial affairs not as intertwined with each other but as parallel and contemporary with each other.

It is, however, safe to say that they have a common point in 1603, at James's accession. There were no colonies, and no serious efforts had been put forth since Ralegh's effort in 1587 to save Roanoke, and even this effort was laughable.[6] The domestic situation was all that existed, and this is where we must begin.

Hill points out that inflation had happened through the sixteenth century and continued relatively steadily through the seventeenth as well.[7] It is fairly clear that though the Exchequer was in debt after Elizabeth's reign,[8] James saw prosperity and riches in his new kingdom.[9]

His subjects also saw opportunity in new lands: the London merchants saw that the East India Company had paid off handsomely for its investors, and they saw the chance for other companies and further riches. They had designs of land, estates, crops, industry, mining, and trading, all of which could prosper in a new colony. The western merchants and fishermen, looking for new fisheries to increase their production, saw an advantage for colonies as fishing bases.[10] This was a significant portion of the country's capital already - London and the outports were interested. And though we cannot be so sure as to their specific interests, the gentry were interested in making a profit if there was one to be made: one-third of the members of the 1604-1611 Parliament invested in at least one of the companies created for the goals of the merchants.[11]

Merchants were not alone in having goals for the New World. Religious reformers were not yet looking to America for refuge, but were instead hoping to achieve reform at home, with the new king. James was raised a Presbyterian, but had married a Catholic queen, Anne.[12] The Puritans, who agreed with many Presbyterian criticisms of the Established Church, hoped that James would undertake ecclesiastical reform.[13] Catholics were happy that Anne was a co-religionist of theirs, but they also were not to achieve the toleration they so desperately wanted.[14] And the Anglicans also saw James's Catholic marriage as significant: they worried that the Catholics would be tolerated after all the time that had passed since the assumption of royal supremacy over the Church; they feared a return of Papism.[15]

But like the Catholics in England, England as a nation in Europe had 'no serious political ambitions'.[16] James had, at his coronations, agreed to protect the laws of both Scotland and England;[17] he didn't really know what this meant to the English,[18] and domestic issues were to keep him occupied for the majority of his reign.

Indeed, crown-Parliament relations were vital to the success of both England and James himself. Parliament was strong under the Tudors, increasing in power as the dynasty's hegemony lasted. James did not have the Parliament he expected: a group of yes-men arrayed to approve the king's will.[19] It was instead a powerful body, with its own mind and voice, and with influence as an institution as well as having vastly influential individual members.[20] Balancing the strength of Parliament was the strongest prerogative ever held by an English monarch.[21]

The nobility, long a combination of 'side-kick' and advisor to the crown, were weak. Elizabeth's creations had been rare, and the average family size had grown among the high aristocracy in the closing quarter of the sixteenth century.[22] This created a huge demand for honors of various levels: younger sons of nobles, and their sons, as well as those merchants and gentry who had prospered under Elizabeth; all were waiting for a chance at a knighthood, or even a peerage. James obliged a fair percentage of this demand on his progress from Scotland to London, and then continued after arriving in London. Massive numbers of knights were dubbed, and honors were distributed widely, if carefully.[23]

James's carefulness in the beginning of his reign extended to his foreign policy. Disliking the idea of continued war with Spain, he made peace in 1604. This, together with the end of the Nine Years' War in Ireland in 1603,[24] opened the doors to investment of royal and common funds and effort in peaceful pastimes. Unfortunately, this annoyed people at all levels of society, including courtiers, who were profiting from the war,[25] and were forced to turn elsewhere for their profits.

There were no colonies in 1603. London was the dominant force in the English economy, but James and, later, his son Charles, were 'no lovers of London.' They gave power and influence to the outports, but were not able, if they were indeed trying, to take away London's dominance.[26]

London was, of course, also dominant in political affairs, making it a very powerful city in domestic affairs. Parliament sat in London, the king lived there, and the government administration was housed there. It is to these institutions and their endeavors in the seventeenth century that we now turn, to examine the situation that made possible the establishment of a viable colony.

James met with his first Parliament on 19 March 1604. There was a confrontation already brewing: James had issued a proclamation prior to the election which established criteria for membership in Parliament. One member had been returned in a free and fair election, but who did not meet the criteria dictated by James. Parliament and James disagreed over whether the proclamation should stand, and, therefore, over whether the member should have been allowed to sit. In the compromise (suggested by James) which was to solve the problem, a new election would be held, and the king would recognize Parliament's status as a court of record and as a (but not the) judge of election disputes.[27] It was an explicit recognition by James of the power of the Commons, and should have made him aware of the arrangements he was dealing with.

However, the Commons did not press their independence on James just yet. They voted him supply, following the custom, and though they rejected out of hand his idea for a statutory Union with Scotland, they were not highly vocal in their protestations against James in general: that would come later.[28] The Lords complained about the inflation of honors; both new and ancient peers disliked the debasement of their status and those of knights (who were often their brothers or sons).[29]

The Puritan faction in Parliament also complained to the king, in the form of the Millenary Petition. It asked for moderate reforms of the Established Church, and was initially welcomed by James, who called the Hampton Court Conference to discuss it. The conference ended in promises on paper, which would go unfulfilled (except for the issuance of a new Bible in 1611), and in a threat by James to run the Puritans out of the realm.[30]

Merchants proposed change, too. In the first session of Parliament, Sir Edwin Sandys (later to figure very prominently in the Virginia Company) introduced two bills to the Commons. The first was in favor of free trade; the second was to promote the expansion of trade. Both bills included complaints about monopolies (ironic for the man who would later be a power in one of the larger monopolies of the reign) and both passed by overwhelming majorities. James even backed the bills, stressing 'the importance of increasing trade.'[31]

James's positive attitude towards Parliament was hampered by his initial unwillingness to enforce the penal laws forcing conformity on Catholics. That problem died away briefly following the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, after which James cracked down on Catholics and imposed the Oath of Allegiance.[32]

He was helped in his crackdown by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Bancroft, who had issued, with James's 'support and encouragement', a new series of Canons in September 1604 and had begun enforcing clerical conformity to them, which was accepted by most ministers.[33]

James insisted also on conformity to another 1608 publication, his new Book of Rates, setting customs duties on imports and exports. It was his right as king to set the fees, and he raised all the rates significantly (since they had not been changed for decades) and met almost immediately with Parliamentary opposition.[34]

The 1610 Parliamentary debate over his right to set impositions duties (a form of customs) hinged on Parliament's claim to be the sole body with power to tax.[35] The debate led directly to Salisbury's proposal of the Great Contract.

It was an idea that James would trade purveyance and reform of the Court of Wards, in exchange for a fixed annual salary from Parliament.

Wardships were an old feudal right of the monarch, to take custody of an estate which had been inherited by a minor, and to adminster the estate until the heir's majority. Under the Tudors, a practice had arisen which continued under James: the Court of Wards, rather than actually administering the ward, would sell the wardship to any buyer, who could then do with it as he pleased. This, obviously, led to terrible exploitation of estates, and ruin for the heir when he reclaimed his land, and the aristocracy clamored for reform of the Court.

Purveyance was the right of the king's purchasers to buy goods for the royal household at prices below those on the open market, saving the king a considerable amount of money, as he had a huge household.[36]

Neither Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who proposed the idea, nor James liked it. It was forced upon them by financial considerations, but would not really economically benefit the king.[37] As well, it was a reduction of the prerogative, which meant people would be less inclined to obey the king rather than the law.[38]

By the summer of 1610 Parliament was committed to [[sterling]]600,000 initially and [[sterling]]200,000 annually, in perpetuity; simultaneously, James was souring towards the deal. When the Commons returned in the autumn, they brought with them the sentiments of their constituents, who were not prepared to pay more than three subsidies annually, forever. The deal collapsed, and Salisbury fell out of favor.[39]

Parliament's power stood: James was dependent on Parliament for money. They soon asked him to curtail the powers of the High Commission, which governed the Church; it was part of a conflict between the common law judiciary and the ecclesiastic courts over the prohibition of cases from spiritual courts unless remanded there by common law judges.[40]

The power remained through the rest of that sitting of Parliament, and into the next. James called his second Parliament in 1614, and it met on 5 April for two months and two days before its dissolution. The Addled Parliament passed no acts, and granted James no money; it concentrated solely on criticizing the monarch and his government.[41] One of its larger complaints was against the inflation of honors,[42] which had been a reasonably effective way of raising money. The fact that Parliament granted no money to James made him need to sell more peerages, and increased the grievance.[43] Also, the Commons saw the danger of James's use of the absolute prerogative (his emergency powers as king) to govern without Parliament in times without emergencies.[44] Despite their criticism of him and his use of power, there was no objection to his use of the royal prerogative to dissolve Parliament on 7 June 1614.

For seven years following the dissolution of the Addled Parliament, James ruled as they had feared: without Parliament. During this time a considerable amount of growth happened in the Virginia Colony, which had been first established in 1606. We shall go into these events later, but continue at this stage uncongnizant that the success of the colony was concurrent with, and therefore not unrelated to, James's personal rule would be a great error. James's energies did not have to be put to combating a troublesome group of powerful men whose business in London was in political and power-hungry interests; instead, he could focus his attention on those powerful men whose business was economic success, expansion of the realm, and in achieving cooperation among as many rich investors as possible. Royal financial backing was never directly given to any company, but financial advantages were granted to all of them, and this was tantamount to a cash flow from the Exchequer to the coffers of the companies.

But the Exchequer's resources could not bear the weight of company backing (which was not an expense, but it did not provide much income) or the weight of its other expenses. And in 1621, despite the valiant efforts of Lord Treasurer Sir Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, James was out of money and needed to call Parliament again.

This Parliament, meeting first on 30 January 1621, had learned its lesson from its immediate predecessor, and voted subsidies. It saw that if James did not get money from them, he would dissolve it angrily; they offered him a small amount and did not close the door to granting more.[45] This gesture bought them a year.

They did not know how long they had, however, and worked fast to put into action the words of the Addled Parliament. They had been searching the past for precedents in their argument over crown-Parliament sovereignty, and had found one they used: impeachment of crown officials. First to fall was Mompesson, a sort of test case, to see if they could get away with reviving a privilege they had not used since early Tudor times. He was impeached for abuses of monopolies, as part of Parliament's enforced complaint against economic exclusivity. The House of Lords joined the Commons against Mompesson.[46] It was more than against Mompesson, however: Buckingham, who had risen to royal favor in 1615 and had promptly taken a stranglehold on influence at court,[47] was a 'monopoly-monger'.[48] Commons and Lords alike resented his influence, and spoke against both the man and his wares, which included peerages as well as monopolies.[49] They spoke again soon after Mompesson when Sir Francis Bacon, a chief advisor to the king, was impeached for various crimes amounting to the fact that he was widely disliked in both Houses of Parliament. James failed to protect Bacon, and he was convicted and removed from office; this ushered in the precedent for accountability of royal ministers to Parliament.[50] It was a new thing which would soon come to be called 'ancient' and of origin immemorial.[51]

Commons created another new thing in 1621 which would become traditional, and be defended vigorously. They were Parliamentary committees, which were used for two main purposes: to avoid control of debates by the Speaker of the House, a royal appointee, and to permit members to speak more than once in a particular debate, which was against the rules of the House in full session.[52] By 18 December 1621, the Commons had the courage to enter into their Journals a document called the Protestation of the Commons, which laid claim to the unlimited free speech of the members in the House, on any topic relating to the realm. It was in response to a royal request that Parliament not discuss foreign policy.[53] James tore the Protestation out of the Journals with his own hands.[54] Commons, though, forced their foreign policy on the crown by making James accept it or dissolve Parliament and remove all chance that they would grant him more money.[55] It was originally a very conservative foreign policy,[56] and they were reluctant to discuss it without royal sanction,[57] but felt obliged to oppose Buckingham's designs of an alliance with Spain,[58] and to demand instead war with that country.[59] They even went so far as to try to make the money they voted James conditional on war with Spain.[60] Fortunately, they did not succeed; this would have had bad repercussions in Virginia, as it would not only have permitted Spanish ships to prey on English ones in America, but also it would have removed royal attention from the colony just when there were about to be serious problems with the colonial government.

The next Parliament succeeded at forcing war with Spain. It first met on 19 February 1624, and technically lasted until James's death, on 27 March 1625, though it was prorogued 20 May 1624. It granted three subsidies conditional on war with Spain,[61] who it saw as 'the enemy'.[62] It did not stop at deciding James's foreign policy, and took up the precedent, now 'ancient', used during the previous Parliament, and impeached Sir Lionel Cranfield, the Lord Treasurer. James agreed not to protect the able Cranfield from the wrath of Parliament and its attack on monopolies, in exchange for Parliamentary supply.[63] Now everything was for sale, even the prosecution of crown officers! In keeping with a newly established Parliamentary tradition, the 1624 Parliament also claimed the right to unlimited free speech.

The Puritans in Parliament were instrumental in engineering the assault on the royal prerogative; Puritan ethics were ideal for creating a group of dedicated fighters, who were prepared to fight alone if need be.[64] They took up their own cause as well as the Parliamentary one, and looked for justice adminstration within the parish community, rather than from a centralized authority.[65] The full Puritan program meant, however, the loss of state control of the Established Church.[66]

Those who had control of the Church, the Anglicans, were very closely linked with the idea of divine right monarchy, which was 'novel and unpopular' by Loades's assessment;[67] perhaps it was unpopular, but it was not new. The Anglicans, in any case, were worried by James's promises of Catholic toleration, but were appeased by the Oath of Allegiance and the fact that James had not yet given Catholics legal toleration.[68] Convocation, then, which was elected by the clergy and represented only them,[69] stayed closer to the king than Parliament did, even granting him money when Parliament refused.[70]

The Presbyterians, whose influence had been demonstrated at the Hampton Court Conference,[71] were closely tied to the Puritans and indeed little can be said of them after 1604.

The Catholics, however, were doing quite well in England under James. The Jesuits had lost their leader in the crackdown following the Gunpowder Plot, but had lost little momentum.[72] They had been promised no persecution early in the reign,[73] and in the negotiations for Charles's marriages, the first of which, with the Spanish Infanta, failed humiliatingly in 1623.[74] The second attempt was successful, and in 1624 Charles married Henrietta Maria, daughter of the king of France.[75] This saved the Catholics at court from being ignored, as they had been after Anne's death in 1619.[76]

Not ignored but neglected perhaps were the average citizenry. They were forced to bear the burden of the increasing rural poor, and at the same time to accept falling wages as population increased. The rural poor were a particular drain on the system, originating from the economic conditions of price inflation, population expansion, and landlord exploitation.[77]

The gentry were having difficulties with several land-related issues, which led to their exploitation of tenants. Tenure had been abolished at James's accession, eliminating landholding on the basis of providing fighting forces against the Scots.[78] This custom, replaced by monetary payments, benefited the northern landholders but few others.[79] Enclosure, however, affected everyone. It was the practice of consolidating landholdings from small pieces spread around the fields outside a village, into one large parcel of land, which could then be fenced off to keep other people's animals out.[80] It was an issue which affected the profits of individuals, as well as community-wide conditions, such as division of labor and specialization of land.[81] Rearranging land was done during renegotiations of leases, when they expired.

Also done at this time was the raising of rents to exorbitant heights, called rack-renting. Royal participation in rack-renting activities was part of a revival of medieval methods of fundraising to help out the failing Exchequer.

In order to make more money, the gentry used their extant capital to work for them, and invested in commerce and trade. Many of them did not make large investments in or serious commitments to any companies, but the small investors made the companies viable.[82] Non-merchant aristocracy were highly interested in trade, and one in thirty knights, gentry, and peers were involved,[83] mostly in joint-stock companies.[84]

The joint-stock companies were dominated by merchants,[85] and London merchants were dominant among the trading class.[86] In the early seventeenth century, all of the English ports were very active,[87] and the crown had many opportunities to make large amounts of money from impositions and customs.[88]

The crown also capitalized on its power to grant monopolies. It sold monopolies and claimed royalties on money made from them.[89] Particularly following the failure of the Cokayne Project in 1616, they were openly criticized in public, and in Parliament in 1621 and 1624.[90] The crown didn't benefit as much as it could have from these special favors, which were only available through court connections.[91]

The royal Bedchamber, a new Jacobite addition to the court hierarchy, was the center of power.[92] It replaced the Henrician Privy Chamber in function, and became a very effective way to get the royal signature.[93]

In the wider court, the crown lost control of many important officers and politicians by making them peers, which removed their dependence on the crown; families no longer needed to serve the king to maintain their social status, as it had become hereditary.[94]

The nobles looked down on court life, as too servile for the ancient status of the nobility.[95] It was a promiscuous court, with homosexuality on open display,[96] and that turned off many more to the idea of court life.

The country aristocracy, who could afford to oppose the crown and Buckingham (which they did) because of their financial independence and their existence outside royal favor,[97] still respected the monarch and the prerogative, and knew that without the king, Parliament was useless.[98] In 1621 the Lords joined the Commons in the impeachments of Mompesson and Bacon, as a statement against monopolies.[99]

Also in the ranks against monopolies and other royal power was Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He was appointed to that post by James 'during good behaviour' and promptly proceeded to launch an attack on royal power. In 1604 the judges complained about the issuances of royal dispensations to grant exemption from the law.[100] But the judges, and most other people, felt that, in general, the courts should be upholding the king rather than attacking him. They saw the limitation of the prerogative as a political, and not a legal, problem.[101]

Coke, however, wanted the king out of law. He felt that the law, as the product of the past generations, were 'wiser than any individual - even James I',[102] and that the judges were the mouthpiece of the law.[103] The prohibitions controversy was the first opportunity for Coke to voice his views.

After 1605, the ecclesiastic courts tried to preserve their independence from the temporal common law courts. Coke countered with the idea that the temporal judges were entitled to their privilege of prohibiting cases from being tried at spiritual law until it was determined by a common law judge that it was a case appropriate for a bishop's court.[104] Archbishop Bancroft opposed this, saying that the crown, as supreme head of the Church and of the realm, was the arbiter of disputes between the spiritual and the legal. Coke disagreed, saying that Parliament was the highest common law court in the land (as tradition surely held) and that since its right of prohibition was so ancient, it could not be modified by the crown, who was not above the law and therefore could not change it. Parliament, said Coke, was the only body which could touch the subject of prohibitions.[105]

In 1607 the dispute escalated, with James claiming to be the supreme judge of the realm and demanding to hear all cases himself. Coke replied that the judges were representatives of the king and that their rights could not be abridged without their dismissal.

In 1615 Peacham's Case came before the Bench and James made an attempt to influence the decision by calling the judges before him individually, rather than as a group as was the custom. Coke resisted, with the backing of his judges, on the grounds that the Bench should be independent and that blackmail was a deplorable method of administering justice.[106]

The final blow came during the case of commendams, in 1616. James intervened in a court case, delaying the trial of a case involving the royal prerogative until he could attend. Coke insisted that justice should continue apace, and denied James's right to presence as a party to the suit, despite the involvement of the prerogative.[107] In this he stood alone among the judges, and James decided that he was no longer demonstrating the 'good behaviour' during which Coke had been appointed, and James unprecedentedly dismissed his Chief Justice.[108]

Another circumstance without precedent was the change from the Elizabethan Council to the Jacobite one. Cuddy points out that a major part of the change was not 'how the Council was run, but how the chief minister and Council related to the monarch'.[109] Contact with the monarch was now separated in both fuction and personnel between the Bedchamber and the Council chamber.[110]

The Council did not undergo significant change until the 1610 failure of the Great Contract, after which Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, fell out of royal favor. A dispute broke out between the Howards, earls of Northampton and Suffolk, and the 'ex-Essexians' led by the earl of Southampton.[111] Cecil had not been dismissed after his failure, but was allowed to die in office, which he did in 1612. His death added a third faction to the power struggle at court, the 'ex-Cecilians'.[112]

Cecil's death had left his two major offices open, those of the Treasury and the Secretaryship. They remained open, and James acted as his own Secretary, though most of the office was run by Carr. However, Sir Thomas Lake held the signet and Northampton was both Lord Privy Seal and performed many domestic Secretarial functions. He was, in addition, the head of the Treasury Commission that was in place of a Lord Treasurer.[113]

James opposed Southampton's faction, even though Carr, the favorite, was one of them. Overbury was an obstacle to Carr's friendship with the Howards, and James arranged to have him eliminated.[114] This led to the formation of a 'Carr/Howard axis' at court, under Carr, Northampton, and Suffolk. Such was the situation at the time of the calling of the 1614 Parliament.[115]

The Council's peace did not last long. The Council discussed how to conduct the Parliament, and the king, Bedchamber, and favorite backed away from the discussions. The Howards were split by a dispute over who would hold the Secretaryship, and the multiple divisions resulting from these actions led to a terrible base for the running of a Parliament;[116] the Addled Parliament resulted.

Just after the end of the Addled Parliament, Northampton died, leaving the offices of Lord Privy Seal and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports vacant. The vacancies were settled by Carr and Suffolk.[117]

Suffolk got the previously vacant office of Lord Treasurer. Carr got the Lord Chamberlainship (from Suffolk), Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Wardenship, and was already a Gentleman of the Bedchamber and had previously been given the signet from Lake. Amusingly and appropriately, Cuddy terms Carr with his new offices 'Lord High Everything Else'.[118]

Clearly there had to be an outcry from the courtiers, and there were: many of them complained about losing power to Carr's influence. Pembroke, an 'ex-Cecilian', had been promised a high court office in 1612 and by 1614 the promise was unfulfilled. Southampton had been taken off the Council in 1611, though he would be back. And Lake was frustrated at his loss of the signet and subsequent lack of influence with the king.[119]

By the middle of 1615, the clamor against Carr was deafening and could not be ignored. By October of that year, Carr had been implicated in Overbury's murder (indeed, it had been James's ruse to bring Carr to further power) and was out of favor.[120] His offices were spread widely, with a different person holding each: Lord Zouch became Lord Warden, Pembroke Lord Chamberlain, Winwood became Secretary of State, Lake was 'Secretary to the king's Majesty', and Worcester was made Lord Privy Seal, though the duties of that office were executed by John Packer, clerk of the Privy Seal and personal secretary to the new favorite, George Villiers. Villiers himself, who would become Earl, then Marquess, and finally Duke of Buckingham (in the fastest elevation of a region ever seen in English history: from earldom through marquisate to duchy), was in charge of the Privy Lodgings and Master of the Horse and was with the king at every moment, in and out of the palace.[121]

The new favorite quickly backed away from the party which had backed him as a replacement favorite to Carr, and became, with James, an 'arbiter' of the attack on the Carr-Howard alliance.[122] Cuddy observes that after 1615 the Tower of London was used more frequently than it had been in previous years.[123]

In 1617 Villiers became Earl of Buckingham, and the following year he became Marquess of Buckingham. He then had to wait five years to be elevated to be Duke of Buckingham,[124] but he made excellent use of his time. He was protected by James and was able to manipulate the monarch expertly.[125]

He had his fingers in every pot, with himself in the Bedchamber and his patrons as well, and in control of the Sign Manual, which registered every use of the royal signature; Buckingham could even influence the Attorney General, when he needed to.[126] From 1619 Buckingham's grip on the Bedchamber, and thereby on the monarch, tightened. He and Charles began working as a team, and both of them were constantly in the Bedchamber with James,[127] using their powers of persuasion and preventing the use of anyone else's. In fact, by 1622 Charles and Buckingham were making policy without James.[128]

But with Buckingham's grip on the royal administration strengthening, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and a man not too well liked by James a few years previously, returned to the picture, this time with the backing of the Virginia Company. On 20 February 1619 it is recorded that the king was paying Southampton money in lieu of a grant of royal forestland which had 'grown useless by the multitude of deer.'[129] So Southampton had some degree of royal favor. In March, he was to be offered command of the fleet preparing to defend companies' ships against pirates.[130] And in April, he was made a Privy Councillor! Conway claimed his influence was used to achieve that, but nonetheless, a man who had been disliked by the king in 1612 was back, in a strong position.[131]

Slightly over a year later, Southampton was made president of the Virginia Company, by request of the king.[132] This put a Privy Councillor, and one who was acutely aware of the whims of the royal will, at the top of a very important company, made up of many influential shareholders. In November 1620, Southampton was made a member of the 'Council for plantations in New England',[133] which was both a reward for him and a manifestation of royal hands influencing the colony.

But in a quick turnaround, in June 1621, Southampton was arrested by order of the king, along with Sandys and Selden, both high company officials and courtiers.[134] Southampton was not initially informed of the charges,[135] but the reports from his questioning reveal that he was suspected of plotting with the Commons to aid the king of Bohemia, James's son-in-law (of whom James disapproved), of being unfaithful to the king in the House of Lords, and of being unhappy with the government. He denied all the charges, but admitted talking to the Commons and being unhappy not with the government but with 'evils in the State'.[136]

In late July 1621, Southampton, Northumberland, Oxford, Sandys, and others were freed,[137] but Southampton was under guard for another month.[138] In November he went home from the court and from London, 'rather by advice than by command'.[139]

After that return home, Southampton was mentioned in no further entries in the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic during James's reign, except in his personal letters, which do not reveal much of his business.[140]

We do know, though, about the goings-on of the Commons and who they were. They were the rich gentry, for whom seats in Parliament were social distinctions. Country representatives were elected by the people in their districts who were freeholders worth forty shillings or more. Town members were elected by a franchise which varied with the town. Hill points out that 'more towns were represented by gentlemen than by their own inhabitants', showing that power was wielded by the regional elite, no matter what the region was.[141] They were rich and educated,[142] and their power and boldness had been enhanced during Elizabeth's reign.[143] They saw themselves as the defenders of the common good,[144] and used this as a basis for judging which privileges they wanted to expand.

Their privileges were many, though there were but a few important ones. The most important one, or at least the one that had the most noise made about it and its protection, was free speech. It was originally implemented to permit open discussion of the king's business, and, like most privileges of Parliament, was intended to be an expedient to royal affairs rather than to slow them down. It became taken, however, to mean that the Commons could discuss anything of importance to the realm, on any topic, without a royal request for them to discuss it. This move happened as Privy Councillors in the Commons lost control of the debates to private members,[145] which was made easier by the introduction of committees, as discussed previously.

The other major right was the right of Commons to tax, and thereby to provide money to the crown and royal government. This led to debate over other issues, as the Commons realized the power taxation gave them over a monarch who could not be frugal. As well, they began to demand the right to determine where their money was being spent, and this caused further problems.[146]

They took out their frustration at the royal finances on two crown officers: Bacon and Cranfield, impeaching them both in a revival of the early Tudor precedent. The impeachments also were seen to counter the efforts of the prerogative courts to administer arbitrary royal 'justice'.[147]

Badly enough for the king and his ministers, the opposition in both Houses of Parliament was 'almost always' in the majority, and they were 'commanded and principled' and focused primarily on the two issues closest to the king: Union with Scotland and fiscal reform.[148] But in terms of colonial affairs, 'Parliament very rarely legislated about the internal affairs of particular colonies' and 'usually confined itself to the regulation of trade and related matters'.[149] Parliament, with all their fighting and dissent, left the affairs of the colonies to the king and his Council and the government.

So we now turn away from the disagreement of England under James, and we turn to the colonies. They were, as we have seen, largely left out of direct involvement in crown-Parliament confrontations, and the colonists themselves were very far removed, certainly physically, from the events in the country of their birth. We shall first undertake a brief chronology of the events relating to the colony during James's reign, from the point of view of those in England, including major colonial events for perspective; we will look at more closely at events from the colony's point of view later.

Around 1600, there was consideration of another attempt to plant 'an English colony in the North West of America'.[150] Merchants and gentry were both interested in the idea, and on 10 April 1606 a charter was issued for the formation of a company to found a colony in Virginia. It was issued to agents of Sir John Popham, Nottingham, and Salisbury, but none of those powerful courtiers were named in the charter.[151] K. R. Andrews says the charter committed the crown to 'the colonial enterprise' but this is hardly the case.[152] Indeed, K. R. Andrews himself admits that the crown never invested any money in the Virginia Company.[153]

The colony was set up with a council in Virginia to govern it,[154] as the crown was not interested in governing.[155] The charter, 'never a first-rate instrument for colonization'[156] did guarantee departing Englishmen their rights as English subjects, but did nothing for a 'viable legal system' in Virginia.[157] It did, however, commit the English merchants involved, if no one else, to the efforts of establishing a colony in America.[158]

By the summer of 1607 good reports were coming back about conditions for a colony in Virginia;[159] the problem was that the colonists were terrible pioneers: the good farmers had succeeded in England and had had no cause to leave.[160] Disease was also a serious long-term problem, and K. R. Andrews cites apocalyptic figures of emigration and net population increase: for 4000 emigrations to Virginia between 1618 and 1621, the population between 1616 and 1621 only increased from 350-843.[161]

The 1606 charter had a few problems; the major one was that the council in the colony was seen to be self-perpetuating and not governing in the interests of the colony so much as for their own ends. To solve this problem, a new charter was issued in 1609, providing for a governor in the colony to supersede the council, which had judicial, legislative, and executive powers.[162] It still left out 'any specific instruction' regarding law in the colony,[163] but this omission seemed not to bother the gentry, who began investing in the Virginia Company in great numbers.[164] This gentry support would sustain the company even after the merchants, who were interested in short-term profits, lost interest.[165]

The new charter did not improve things in the colony, and it was actually totally abandoned in 1610. The ships were loaded and left the colony, only to meet a relief expedition sailing the other way; the ships all turned around and went back to the colony to stay.[166] In 1611 relief of the colony was needed twice, but Governor Sir Thomas Dale's brutal efforts kept the colony alive,[167] and on 22 June 1611 Lord De la Warr was confident enough to report to Salisbury that Virginia was 'in a most hopeful state'.[168]

Less than a year later, on 12 March 1612, James issued a third charter to the company, with Salisbury and Suffolk heading the list (Southampton had been at the top of the list with Salisbury and Suffolk in 1609,[169] but was now nowhere to be found) and providing to the company 'more extensive property and more ample jurisdiction' than previously.[170]

There were to be four courts commissioned in Virginia, to elect councillors, appoint government officials, and to 'make laws for the good of the plantation'.[171] The company itself was a standard joint-stock company, rather than the previous semi-joint-stock companies formed under the previous two charters.[172]

Also that year, in 1612, in the legal realm, a volume was published codifying the laws of the colony, incorporating and modifying English law. Called the Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, the code was strict and strong, in the tradition of the men who compiled it: Gates, De la Warr, and Dale, all strict disciplinarians, who were the first three governors of the colony.[173]

At the same time, economic interest began to fall,[174] ironically enough simultaneous with the first crop of tobacco grown in Virginia,[175] introducing the commodity that would make Virginia rich for nearly four hundred years. It had been six years since the first charter was issued, and the merchants were losing interest: their money had been tied up for too long with too little profit.[176] The gentry, too, were tied up in difficulties with the king,[177] following the dissolution of the first Parliament.

There was danger to the colony from outside the company, too: in April 1612 there was fear that there would be an attack by the Spanish on the colony if it was not evacuated.[178] And inside the colony itself, Chamberlain reported to Carleton, the 'Virginia Plantation [was] likely to come to nothing, through the idleness of the English'.[179] Chamberlain described the situation as dire due to the 'extreme beastly idleness of our [the English] nation, who ... will rather starve than be industrious'.[180]

In 1618, the colonists were angry over the harsh laws under which they lived, and in response the company abolished the Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall.181 It was the beginning of the bringing in of more English law rather than harsh dictator-like rules. It was, of course, conducted in a piecemeal manner, but judicial institutions were erected and a beginning was made.[182]

In July 1622 a recommendation was made that was quite telling about the fortunes of the colony: it was suggested that silk cultivation begin in Virginia 'in preference to the cultivation of tobacco'.[183]

This, unfortunately, was made but two days before the first report of the massacre in the colony: natives killed 350 English. The most shocking thing to those at home was the report that the natives had firearms, which could only have come from the colony itself.[184]

November 1622 saw an attempt by the Virginia Company to attract interest in the colony from among the peers: the company held a huge feast and invited many prominent nobles.[185]

Sometime around 1622 saw the formal introduction of an idea that was to figure centrally in the future of the colony: Edwin Bennett wrote a treatise suggesting the exclusion of foreign tobacco from England to further aid the export market of tobacco from Virginia and her sister colony the Somers Islands.[186]

Until 1624, James could claim no 'suzerainty' over Virginia in that he could get no services from it.[187] However, in that year, a major change was made in the administration of the colony: the charter was dissolved, and royal control was assumed.

Prior to 1624 the royal hand can be seen in colonial and company affairs in two areas: those issues which were brought before the king or Council by being issues of foreign policy, of petitioners, or of suitors; and those issues in which the king intervened directly of his own initiative, in both colony and company business.

The colony was a part of James's realm, and as such he was ultimately responsible for all actions of the colonists, from a foreign policy point of view. In October 1613 this was brought to his attention by a letter from the Admiral of France, H. de Montmarcy, who wrote of Captain Argall's attack on Quebec, which originated in the Virginia colony. Montmarcy asked for the release of two prisoners taken during the attack, and for financial restitution. He also asked 'that the Council or Society of Virginia explicitly declare the bounds of their country' because the attack was believed to have been generated by the proximity of the two colonies,[188] an idea which demonstrates how little was known of the geography of the continent on which the two colonies sat.

Aside from passing fears of a Spanish attack, as mentioned earlier in the brief chronology of the colony, there was but one other foreign policy problem for Virginia, which was its proximity (this time arguably realistic) to the New Netherlands, set up by the Dutch around 1620 or 1621. In December 1621 the Council ordered Sir Dudley Carleton, Ambassador at the Hague, to speak to the States General of the Netherlands in the king's name, and to ask them to stop sending supplies to the colony they had established within the limits of the New England grant. This was in defense both of the colony and of the royal power to grant land. Two months later, Carleton wrote that the States General had replied that they intended no colony in the New Netherlands, but merely trading outposts.[189]

Carleton's action in the king's name was one undertaken by colonists and company members alike in their own names: petition to an authority for redress of grievances. Suits and petitions came from colony and company in large numbers, and similar to his practice of intervening in common law cases where he saw fit, James took a personal interest in those cases relating to Virginia.

The first such suit mentioned in the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial for the years 1574 to 1660 was in 1613, when a suit came before the prerogative court of Chancery against a group of adventurers to Virginia who 'flatly refused to pay their adventure'. Chancery, of course, ruled that the adventurers had to pay.[190] This action does not imply James's intervention, but is a demonstration that such suits were taken before prerogative courts rather than applicable common law courts, where contract law could be contested.

In June 1620 a petition to Buckingham resulted in a curious turn of events, which has been alluded to earlier. Sir Edwin Sandys wrote to Buckingham, complaining that 'Sir Thos Smythe and his upholders' were lining their pockets, to the detriment of the Virginia colony.[191] A month later, the Earl of Southampton was made president of the Virginia Company, replacing Smythe, who was returned to the governorship of the East India Company, all of which happened 'by request of the king'.[192] We have discussed this in terms of the rise and fall of Henry, Earl of Southampton, but it is important to see here in its company and colonial context: a Privy Councillor was heading the Virginia Company. It is a pity that we do not know the content of any dialogue between James and Southampton, as that would certainly shed more light on the issue of royal intervention in company affairs.

As it is, we must rely on what we do know, and of that there is plenty. In 1622 a group of people, 'ancient planters and adventurers in Virginia', wrote to the king. Of course, these people were not 'ancient' dwellers in Virginia; even if they had been born there, in the first year of the colony, and survived as infants in conditions which killed many able-bodied people, they would only have been 18 years of age at this time. But the appeal to tradition was important. They complained that there was no profit to be made on tobacco, and asked the king to 'make tobacco his own commodity' and impose price controls and production limits to improve the economic conditions of the colony.[193] Indeed, the colonists were inviting James to intervene directly in colony affairs, and in the colony's economic relations with England.

The Company also asked for Council intervention in colony affairs; after the massacre of the colonists by the natives in 1622, the Company requested some old weapons and gunpowder from the Council, to defend the colony with. In July 1622 this was granted to the Company.[194]

Community affairs were not the only aim of petitions to the crown or to the Council. A revealing series of petitions and suits originated from Captain John Bargrave, who was very much interested in being personally compensated for his losses.

His first petition was on 4 April 1622, and it began with a list of his own achievements, to better lay claim to the favors he was requesting. He claimed that the Virginia Company took 'violently the best part of his estate' which he had held in Virginia. In response to this, he asked for 'a new form of government for the colony' in place of the government set up by the private Virginia Company. The Company, he complained, had damaged not only himself, but the welfare of the colony, by 'encouraging only tobacco and sassafras', with the end that 'other commodities have been neglected'. Interestingly, in the very same petition, he reminds the king that in 1618 it had been he who had proposed the idea of a subsidiary company (called a magazine) to be the farmer to the king of the sole importation of tobacco.[195]

On 7 June 1622, Bargrave again petitioned the Council, submitting to pressure to 'avow the present government in good hands'.[196] Subsequently, probably on 16 June 1622 (the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial dates it as '16 July?' but it is more likely June) the Privy Council ordered that a report was to be made of Bargrave's allegations of 'unjust practices, and miscarriage of the government of the Virginia plantation'.[197] On 17 June the king ordered the Privy Council to dismiss the suit of Bargrave against Smythe, 'because the plaintiff seems to have no other end than to blemish the reputation of Sir Thos. Smythe'.[198] The suit was then dismissed, but that was not the end of Bargrave's efforts.

In April 1624 he again petitioned the Council, still seeking payment from Smythe for the damages incurred during Smythe's corrupt governorship of the company.[199] Smythe replied that, in truth, Bargrave was out to merely cause trouble and to draw attention away from the fact that it was Bargrave who owed the Virginia Company money, and not the other way around.[200] The timing of this petition is worth noting, as it is before the Company was officially dissolved, but only by two months. The Company was, at the time Bargrave wrote to the Council, in great disfavor with both king and Council.

The Company had not had a particularly illustrious relationship with the crown. In 1609 they had been granted the right to export goods to the colony duty-free,[201] but from then on did poorly by the king. He issued a second charter only weeks after the grant of duty-free exports, and a third charter was to follow three years later. Under that third charter, the king was still unhappy with the arrangements, though it took more time for problems to arise.

A fleet was beginning to be raised against pirates after about 1615. It was to protect merchant ships of all the companies from attack by raiders on the high seas. Companies had contributed money to funding the fleet; in April 1619 they petitioned for a refund from the Council.[202] By November they were again ready to pay to fight the pirates, and asked for royal aid, a warrant to raise men and ships, and for a relaxation of customs duties to help pay their expenses.[203]

But in the middle of September 1621 the king himself was complaining that the companies were not all paying for protection from the pirates![204] They replied on 5 October, claiming that they were in bad financial straits and could not pay.[205] Five days later, the Council responded with an order to raise the men and ships required.[206] On 15 October, the Council wrote to the companies, expressing annoyance with them and ordering them to borrow money to raise forces against the pirates.[207] The companies were still in arrears a further five days later,[208] and on 25 October the Muscovy Company complained that its expenses were so high that it could not pay an additional 1% tax,[209] which was most likely imposed on the companies to fund the protection fleet.

In February 1622, the companies who had paid complained that they were unable to support the forces that had been raised, and asked that the fleet be recalled until all of the companies had contributed their shares.[210] And in early August 1623, the fleet was still not ready to campaign against the pirates.[211]

Earlier in 1623, the king's pleasure with the Virginia Company had been further aggravated. In April, Chamberlain wrote to Carleton of 'a great faction in the Virginia Company'. One party was led by Southampton, and the other by the Earl of Warwick.[212] Southampton was backed by Lord Cavendish, Sir Ed. Sackville, and Sir Edwin Sandys, among others; Warwick was supported by Sir Thomas Smythe, Sir Nathaniel Rich, and others.[213]

On 14 April the factions were heard by the king himself, at which time tempers ran so high that the king was obliged to reprove Sackville for his impertinence.[214]

Three days later, by order of the Privy Council, a commission was to be appointed to 'enquire into the true state of the Virginia and Somers Islands plantations'. The order demanded that there be no private correspondence with the colonies except on personal business only, and ordered the companies to write general letters to the colonies 'to exhort and admonish the inhabitants to live together in concord and amity'.[215]

At the end of the month, the Council ordered that the letters of the companies to the colonies were invalid 'because they omitted to certify the King's grace and favour to those plantations'. In the same Order, they granted the companies 'the sole importation into the King's dominions' of tobacco.[216]

By 8 May 1623 the king had been petitioned by the Virginia Company and had thought about its contents.[217] His reply can be found five days later in the arrest of the members of Southampton's faction (this should not be confused with the arrest in 1621 of Southampton himself, among others).[218] The following day the king postponed the elections of officers for the Virginia Company;[219] Southampton himself was the Treasurer of the Company at that time,[220] and it is possible that the king wanted him to remain in that position.

On 25 June 1623 the king ordered Secretary Calvert to attend to the Virginia business,[221] and five days later he ordered the Council to 'sit daily on the Virginia business'. At the same time, he complained that the absence of Councillors from the meetings of the Council crippled the Council's business and its dignity.[222] James clearly wanted the full input and ability of the Council to be addressed to the affairs of the Virginia Company and colony. On 3 July 1623 there is reported royal mistrust of the Virginia Company,[223] and James was concerned about the welfare of his subjects abroad.

On 4 July 1623 the Council reported, after hearing from Lord Cavendish and others (Southampton's faction), that the colony was 'in great danger of perishing by famine',[224] and the next day the king demanded to know how the Virginia Company planned to improve the government of the colony.[225] This undoubtedly was a divisive issue, and by the end of the month the faction in the Company was very strong, to the extent that brawls between members were erupting in the streets of London.[226]

Lord President Mandeville almost immediately intervened, requiring the Company to relieve the colony and to give account to the Council for their efforts.[227] The king directly entered the dispute as well, directing for 'the better government of the colony', and noted that he was considering a new patent.[228]

In August 1623, while the Council was adjourned, Lord Treasurer Middlesex wrote to Secretary Conway that the king would see that his personal intervention could 'resettle' the company but was waiting for the Council to return before acting on that idea.[229]

The 1624 Parliament was called, and it began discussing the issues of the Virginia Company. The king wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons in April 1624 and asked that the Commons not discuss the Virginia Company, to avoid disturbances in the House, and to respect the settlement of the issues by the king and Council.[230] This implies the presence of strong numbers of both factions in the House; the request, however, seems to have had the opposite effect from its intended one, and on 6 May the Commons took up the discussion.

The company accused the Commission for Virginia of 'extreme partiality' and of trying to destroy the colony,[231] and thereby its profits. They accused the Lord Treasurer of sending Sandys away when he ought to have been 'examined on his own conduct, and that of the former Governor', Sir Thomas Smythe. The king reiterated his request that the Commons drop the issue, because it was before the Council at that time. His message was followed by 'a general silence' in the House, and then a considerable amount of dissent that the king could prohibit Commons from discussing any issues.[232]

At the end of June 1624 the king, fed up with divisions in the company, and concerned for the welfare of the colonists, announced that the charter was dissolved and that he would assume control of the colony. This, in the end, benefited the colony, as royal interference was minimal; of course, this also meant that royal aid was minimal.[233] Within a week of the announcement, the charter was officially overthrown by a proceeding of quo warranto, investigating 'by what warrant' the charter had been issued in the first place.[234]

The colony itself needed to be protected, for it was the only source of tobacco, which provided massive customs revenue for the crown.[235] To this end, a commission was immediately appointed to advise on a new patent for the Virginia Company, which was to be for trade only, and 'not for government of the country, of which the king will himself take care', 'the popular nature of which having displeased the king'.[236]

This is an allusion to the General Assembly, which had been set up in 1619. However it may have 'displeased' James, the letters patent he issued to Sir Francis Wyatt as the first royal Governor of Virginia included an implication of the existence of an assembly in the colony, and did not object to its presence.[237] The councillors in the colony were also to be royal appointees, but were in practice usually appointed on the advice of the Governor.[238]

Wyatt himself did keep in touch with the king, and expressed in his first petition as royal Governor the hope that declarations made of the well-being of the colony while overseen by Smythe's control of the company would be ignored; he also updated the king on the situation of the government, and asked again for the sole importation of tobacco,[239] which had been granted to the Virginia Company in May 1624, a month before its dissolution.[240]

In January 1625 the colony was becoming more organized, and a census was being taken. News of the census accompanied a letter to England with the muster list, a list of arrivals and the supplies they had brought with them, and a list of the dead.[241] The colony was proceeding well, and would continue to flourish.

It got a considerable boost on 9 April 1625, in the first entry of Charles's reign in the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, which was a 'Proclamation forbidding anyone to import, buy, sell, or use any tobacco which is not of the growth of Virginia or the Somers Islands.'[242] Finally the Virginia colony had the sole importation of tobacco; why they had to wait so long for it is unclear. It may be that James resisted the idea, despite Charles's and Buckingham's influence, and when James died, Charles acted as he had wanted his father to. Or it may be that James was waiting for the colony to be stable under royal control before giving it such an economic boost. Or, perhaps James wanted the colony to feel, as Elliott argues they already did, inferior to the mother country.[243]

A big break was made from England by the very act of crossing the Atlantic, particularly in the early voyages when the crew was not always experienced enough for the long trip.[244] The colony was also not particularly lucky, in that its chief crop, which ensured its survival, was tobacco, of which James disapproved.[245]

The colony, however, fared well. Its reports to England reveal its own perspective on its survival. Prior to 1612 and the new charter, colony events were vital; it was in its first six years of existence, fighting for survival. But in terms of royal interest and intervention, only one event survives in the records: in December 1609 the king made a request for a flying squirrel to be sent to him from the colony.[246]

In 1613, to move ahead to times when the colony was more stable in its foothold on the new continent, the colonists were still at odds with the natives. Captain Argall, the same man who would attack Quebec in October, captured the daughter of Powhatan, the native king nearest the Virginia colony, and secured a ransom for her release.[247]

The colony was not totally secure in and of herself, either: in May 1614 Governor Gates reported that the colony would 'fall if not supported' though it could be 'wonderfully productive if cultivated'.[248]

By June 1616, and the arrival of Pocahontas in England, there was still no profit expected from the colony in the immediate future.[249] By January 1617, though, the colonists were 'living by their own industry',[250] an important start to commercial productivity. The same month, Pocahontas met with the king, who made her return home to Virginia against her will.[251] The very fact, though, that James was interested enough in the colony to summon Pocahontas to his presence is indicative of his concern. Later in 1617, the first major shipment of tobacco, 20,000 pounds of it, was sent from the colony to England.[252]

By the summer of 1619, the colony was prosperous enough to be able to support its own General Assembly. All of the plantations and towns in the colony sent representatives, whose title was 'burgess'.[253] All freemen were given the franchise, and all of them were also taxed.[254] The assembly assumed to itself the right to determine the eligibility of burgesses to sit, as well as the right to receive and discuss petitions, to make laws, and to act as a criminal court.[255]

At the time of the assembly, the population of Virginia was around 2400 people, 500 cattle, 'some horses and goats, and infinite number of swine'.[256]

Three years later, the massacre of the colonists by the natives killed 350 English; the report of the massacre, as related by Chamberlain to Carleton, was significant. It pointed out that the colonists were not living together in grouped settlements for security; instead they were spread out in 'supine negligence' of their safety. The natives were reported to have firearms, which could only have been procured from the colonists; fortunately, they had proved to have no skill with the new weapons. Chamberlain lamented 'the disgrace and shame as much the loss; no other nation would have been so grossly overtaken'.[257]

In February 1623 a damaging report was issued by Captain Nathaniel Butler, entitled 'The unmasking of Virginia'. It praised the land, and put forth several incriminating allegations which the Governor, Council, and Assembly of Virginia denied, including the statement that the laws and customs of England were ignored in the colony.[258]

They replied that 'Butler's spleen proceeded from not being admitted one of the Council' and reported that the governorship of the colony under Sir Thomas Smythe had been 'more than Egyptian slavery and Scythian cruelty' enforced by 'laws written in blood' which were contrary to the charter of the colony.[259] They did admit, though, that the houses that had been built were of poor quality, and that there were no fortifications against the enemy. But with regard to the Company governorship of Smythe, the Assembly insisted 'that rather than live under the like government, they would desire the King to send Commissioners with authority to hang them'.[260]

The colony saw the 'unmasking' as a serious danger, and by March 1623 had taken steps to remedy the situations it complained of. They had accepted the Indians' offer of an exchange: the natives would return prisoners taken during the 1622 massacre in return for land taken from the Indians. The colony had plans to cut down the Indians' corn when the natives felt secure. Also, they were beginning to build a fort that would control the river, but that was very hard work, and the Governor and Council explained that work was slow because of the poverty of the colony.[261]

The Council for Virginia, in England, wrote to Lord President Mandeville at the end of March 1623, expressing their happiness that the king had taken control of the tobacco trade, thanking Mandeville for his help in overthrowing 'the former contracts', asking for 'the continuance of his favour', and telling Mandeville they were glad that he was biased toward the colony.[262]

The colony was in need of high-placed bias, as Wyatt's April 1623 account to John Ferrar, an officer in the Company, shows. It was hard work planting and guarding the tobacco, and there was no room for colonists and natives to live side by side. Discipline, too, was needed, and Wyatt asked for a commission for a martial court in the colony, as well as for prisoners to be sent from England to augment the labor force in Virginia. In closing, he lamented that 'Advices from the colony are ill believed and received' in England.[263]

Ferrar was the recipient of two other letters written that month: one from Sir Edwin Sandys, and the other from a Christopher Davison. Both letters, the former from Newport News and the latter from James City, describe the sad state of the colony's harvest that year. There was no tobacco, nor was there any food: the planters were too busy recovering from the massacre and the winter, and could not raise any crops. The colony had 'hardly a grain of corn to sustain' it, and needed not only food but ordnance from England.[264]

No food had been sent by the following January, and the Governor and Council of Virginia wrote again to the Virginia Company, telling of both war and building taking place in the colony, expressing hope that new settlers would be sent, and with them food; they also were grateful to the king for restraining the tobacco trade and for his favor in general.[265]

By 16 February 1624, the population had fallen to 1275 people, plus 22 negroes, who were new arrivals in the colony.[266] The Governor, Council, and Assembly wrote to the Privy Council, having seen the lack of effect of their letter to the Company, and explained about the war and the shortages. They noted that fortification of the colony was taking place, and highlighted their obedience to royal orders.[267] They then made their requests: that the Governors sent over 'not have absolute authority' but be required by their patents to be guided by the council; also they wanted more autonomy for the Governor and council, and to 'retain the liberty of their General Assembly', as 'Nothing can more conduce to our satisfaction or the public utility.'[268]

In March, after the Commission for Virginia was formed and was in the colony, letters flew between the Commission, Governor, Council, and the General Assembly. The Commissioners, on 2 March 1624, proposed to the General Assembly the idea of a new charter for the colony. The same day, the Governor, Council, and Assembly issued a unanimous objection to surrendering the current charter,[269] probably fearing that a new one would not permit the Assembly to continue. In a separate letter that day, the General Assembly pointed out that the Commission had no right to ask for the surrender of the colony's patent. The next day the Commissioners responded, saying that the idea for a new patent had been only an idea, and that indeed they had no authority to require the surrender of the colony's patent.[270]

That authority rested in the king, though the Privy Council also had a right to set rules and administer the colony. Like Parliament, they largely limited themselves to issues relating to colonial trade. On 24 October 1621 they ordered that all commodities from Virginia, expressly including tobacco, be imported to England and pay customs duties before being further shipped abroad.[271] In November 1622 the Virginia Company was given a monopoly on trade to New England, due to the hindrance of the plantation by illegal trading and bad trading practices of both colonists and traders.[272] But despite the restrictions on the goods trade, the Privy Council found it necessary in March 1623 to reiterate the necessity of landing colonial produce and paying customs in England before shipping it to foreign countries.[273]

The primary commodity produced by the Virginia colony was, of course, tobacco, and it is to this that we will now turn to look at the royal hand in the economic relationship of the colony to England. The crown had always set customs rates, and those for tobacco were no exception, prior to 1623.[274] In February 1623, though, a deal was struck 'between the Lord Treasurer on behalf of the King and the Virginia Company, touching the importation of tobacco'.[275]

This did not, however, guarantee the colony the sole importation of tobacco, and the 1624 Parliament, whose interests in the Virginia Company have been shown previously, petitioned the king against the importation of foreign tobacco; the Virginia planters were also asking for either the sole importation or help from the crown in the area of trade advantages. The king wrote to Solictor General Heath in July 1624, asking him to prepare a contract for the importation of all of the Virginia tobacco crop.[276] Soon Heath wrote that the king was ready to grant the sole importation of tobacco to the Virginia and Bermuda colonies, 'under certain specified conditions'.[277]

In August he wrote to Buckingham, asking for help in settling the tobacco contract which he was drawing up. And in October 1624, at the recommendation of the Commission for Virginia, Heath was issued a warrant to appoint officers to search and seal tobacco and to give those officers half of all fines, or of the tobacco itself, for tobacco illegally imported.[278]

The tobacco trade benefited the investors in the company quite well, but only those who had stayed with the company long enough to reap its late-in-coming rewards, or those who were new investors. There were over 1600 names on the list of total investors in the Virginia Company from its inception in 1606 to its end in 1624. Most of these people were gentry, and the half of those who did not hold seats in Parliament at one time or another were largely spectators and speculators, rather than participants in the actual business of the Company.[279] The members of the Company who sat in Parliament saw fit, as in 1624, to conduct Company-related business in the House, as well as in Sir Thomas Smythe's central house in Philpot Lane, London.

The dissolution of the Virginia Company 'marked the end of widespread interest in expansion' of the realm, but commercial support really only began to decline after the colonies and trade were well-established.[280]

Royal support was not financial, but was economic and political. Economic support came in the form of customs rates, which were altered as the king saw fit, and with the royal grant in 1612 of a lottery to raise funds for the plantation in Virginia. The lottery was a decent fund-raising institution for the Company until its suspension by order of the Privy Council, followed shortly by a royal proclamation formally ending the lottery in March 1621.[281]

The political support of the crown was in the issuance of charters and the choosing of the governors of the colony, in which the crown had a hand before the assumption of royal control, and of which the crown had total control after June 1624.

The omission of references to the common law in the charters permitted the Company to act on its mistrust of the colonists, and subject them to arbitrary rule, the better to survive. With this in mind, the Company gave its Governors powers similar to those of an army general,[282] which helped to contribute to their unhappiness and complaint in the colony.

James's subjects both at home and in the Virginia colony were unhappy for the larger part of his reign. He didn't like this, for no sane king would, and tried to meet their needs and to appease their grievances.

Indeed, it seems unlikely that such division at home should permit the establishment of a functioning, and even prospering, colony. As does it seem impossible that such an unhappy, starving group of people as unwilling to work as the colonists both were portrayed and described themselves should be able to survive, much less find a cash crop that would pay off until the end of the twentieth century.

The anger latent in England, however, did not transfer to the colony until it was brought there by Cromwellian ships and troops during the Interregnum. Until then, the divisions regarding the colony were oceanic, while those which occupied society in England were less significant in Virginia.

In England, the divisions between levels of society were old and deep, but did not touch the king's power to deal with the colonies until the 1624 Parliament, by which time James was about to claim royal control by proclamation and thereby keep Parliament out of colonial affairs by precedent of the common law. In fact, the concentration of so much effort on crown-Parliament disputes probably kept occupied the efforts of those who would have interfered with the colony's affairs.

The merchants, interested in their capital, remained removed from politics and promoted the colony. The politicians invested their capital in companies but did not insist on controlling its use for the colony though they insisted on controlling the expenditure of tax money in England. The monarch, besieged at home, was relieved to find that the colonists were not complaining about issues which were so central that their concession would bring about the downfall of the king; the opposite was true, and James used the complaints of the colonists as justification for the exercise of royal control over the capital and persons of influential people in England, as with Southampton and Smythe. The situation of the average people was aggravated by economic conditions which pushed many out of their familial homes and into vagrancy. These people, often by force, though sometimes by choice, were sent to the colony to work.[283] Others went by choice, and all had an opportunity that could not have been considered had they remained in England: land. They could become freeholders far more easily in Virginia than ever was possible in England. This of course did not mean that many more than a small minority could become large freeholders, or even freeholders at all. But opportunity is a strong motivating force, and with other freedoms not available in England (such as religious toleration, which could not be found in England, and a General Assembly, officially recognized in 1628,[284] which was very localized if not totally representative) the colonists were in good stead psychologically.

And so the colony survived, with its peace lasting longer than that in England. At home, Charles acceded to a hostile nation, and his reign ended in revolution. The colonial revolution was not to happen until after the Stuart fall, the Williamite invasion, and the Hanoverian accession, but it was to have its own bloody revolution, one which would also topple a king of England.


Andrews, Charles M., The Colonial Period of American History: the Settlements I (New Haven, Connecticut: 1941).

Andrews, Kenneth R., Trade, Plunder and Settlement: Maritime enterprise and the genesis of the British Empire, 1480-1630 (Cambridge: 1984).

Billings, M., 'The transfer of English law to Virginia 1606-50' Chapter 11 in Kenneth R. Andrews, Nicholas P. Canny and Paul E. H. Hair (eds.), The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America 1480-1650 (Liverpool: 1978).

Calendar of State Papers, Colonial: 1574-1660 (Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London: 1860).

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic: 1603-1610 (Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London: 1857).

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic: 1611-1618 (Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London: 1858).

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic: 1619-1623 (Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London: 1858).

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic: 1623-1625 (Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London: 1859).

Canny, Nicholas P., 'The Permissive Frontier: the problem of social control in English settlements in Ireland and Virginia 1550-1650' Chapter 2 in Kenneth R. Andrews, Nicholas P. Canny and Paul E. H. Hair (eds.), The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America 1480-1650 (Liverpool: 1978).

Cuddy, Neil, 'The revival of the entourage: the Bedchamber of James I, 1603-1625' in David Starkey (ed.), The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (London: 1987).

Davies, Kenneth Gordon, The North Atlantic World in the Seventeenth Century (Minneapolis, Minnesota: 1974).

Elliott, John H., 'Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World' in Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden (eds.), Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World 1500-1800 (Princeton, New Jersey: 1987).

Evans, E., 'Of the Antiquity of Parliaments in England: Some Elizabeth and Early Stuart Opinions' in History, vol. 23, no. 91 (December 1938), 206-221.

Flippin, Percy Scott, The Royal Government in Virginia 1624-1775 (New York: 1919).

Hill, Christopher, The Century of Revolution 1603-1714 (London: 1961).

Lockyer, Roger, Tudor and Stuart Britain 1471-1714 (Essex, England: 1992).

Loades, David M., Politics and the Nation 1450-1660 (Glasgow: 1979).

Parry, J. H., 'The English in the New World' Introduction to Kenneth R. Andrews, Nicholas P. Canny and Paul E. H. Hair (eds.), The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America 1480-1650 (Liverpool: 1978).

Pocock, John Greville Agard, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (New York: 1987).

Pollard, A. F., The Evolution of Parliament (London: 1964).

Quinn, David Beers, England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620 (London: 1974).

Rabb, Theodore K., 'Investment in English Overseas Enterprise, 1575-1630' in The Economic History Review, second series, vol. xix (1966), 70-81.

Scammell, Geoffrey Vaughan, The World Encompassed: The first European maritime empires c. 800-1650 (London, 1981).

Shammas, Carole, 'English commercial development and American colonization 1560-1620' Chapter 8 in Kenneth R. Andrews, Nicholas P. Canny and Paul E. H. Hair (eds.), The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America 1480-1650 (Liverpool: 1978).

Starkey, David, 'Court history in perspective' in David Starkey (ed.), The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (London: 1987).

Stone, Lawrence, The Crisis of the Aristocracy 1558-1641 (Oxford: 1965).

Tanner, J. R., English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century 1603-1689 (London: 1928).

Zuckerman, Michael, 'Identity in British America: Unease in Eden' in Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden (eds.), Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World 1500-1800 (Princeton, New Jersey: 1987).

[1]Rabb, 77. Full reference information may be found in the bibliography at the end of this paper; in footnotes the author's or editor's last name (and initials, in the case of K. R. and C. M. Andrews) and page numbers will be provided. The Calendars for State Papers will be designated as follows: CSPD for the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, with the relevant years following; and CSPC for the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, for the years 1574-1660.

[2]Scammell, 460, 462.

[3]Quinn, 482.

[4]Scammell, 486.

[5]Scammell, 481-484.

[6]Scammell, 483.

[7]Hill, 24-25.

[8]Lockyer, 7-9.

[9]Stone, 473-474.

[10]Quinn, 484, 486, 487.

[11]Quinn, 484.

[12]Hill, 19.

[13]Hill, 19; Lockyer, 204-207.

[14]Lockyer, 208.

[15]Lockyer, 208.

[16]Scammell, 458.

[17]Pocock, 284-285.

[18]Pocock, 371.

[19]Pollard, 336.

[20]Tanner, 6; Pollard, 336; Pocock, 47-48.

[21]Tanner, 18-21.

[22]Scammell, 458.

[23]Stone, 74-77, 100-101.

[24]Hill, 19.

[25]Scammell, 468.

[26]Davies, 54.

[27]Tanner, 28-29; Hill, 61, 77-78.

[28]Hill, 19.

[29]Stone, 90.

[30]Tanner, 26-28; Lockyer, 203-206.

[31]Shammas, 165.

[32]Lockyer, 208.

[33]Lockyer, 205-206.

[34]Loades, 336; Hill, 51.

[35]Evans, 217.

[36]Hill, 52-54; Lockyer, 200-201.

[37]Starkey, 206-207.

[38]Starkey, 207.

[39]Starkey, 207-208; Lockyer, 200.

[40]Hill, 76-77; Pollard, 179-179; Tanner, 35.

[41]Tanner, 46-47; Loades, 338; Lockyer, 221.

[42]Stone, 89-90.

[43]Stone, 104.

[44]Loades, 359.

[45]Lockyer, 202.

[46]Loades, 357.

[47]Buckingham's rise will be discussed later in this paper.

[48]Hill, 39.

[49]Loades, 357.

[50]Lockyer, 225.

[51]Pocock, 49.

[52]Hill, 61.

[53]Loades, 358.

[54]Tanner, 49.

[55]Loades, 358.

[56]Loades, 358.

[57]Lockyer, 225-226.

[58]Lockyer, 228; Hill, 20.

[59]Hill, 20.

[60]Hill, 20.

[61]Hill, 59.

[62]Loades, 355.

[63]Hill, 20.

[64]Hill, 78.

[65]Hill, 76.

[66]Hill, 77.

[67]Loades, 350.

[68]Lockyer, 208.

[69]Pollard, 13.

[70]Hill, 75.

[71]Hill, 77.

[72]Lockyer, 209.

[73]Lockyer, 208.

[74]Hill, 20; Lockyer, 202.

[75]Loades, 364.

[76]Loades, 364.

[77]Hill, 31; Loades, 344-345.

[78]Stone, 309.

[79]Stone, 309.

[80]Hill, 26.

[81]Hill, 27.

[82]Rabb, 70-71.

[83]Rabb, 74.

[84]Rabb, 75.

[85]Rabb, 75.

[86]Hill, 29-30.

[87]Rabb, 70.

[88]Hill, 39; Evans, 217.

[89]Hill, 35.

[90]Hill, 40-41.

[91]Hill, 37, 39.

[92]Cuddy, 174.

[93]Cuddy, 185, 187.

[94]Stone, 122.

[95]Stone, 478.

[96]Stone, 665-666.

[97]Loades, 361.

[98]Loades, 359.

[99]Loades, 357.

[100]Stone, 436.

[101]Loades, 335.

[102]Pocock, 35.

[103]Lockyer, 215; Pocock, 35, 41.

[104]Pollard, 178-179; Tanner, 35.

[105]Tanner, 35-36.

[106]Tanner, 38-39.

[107]Tanner, 39-40.

[108]Pocock, 45.

[109]Cuddy, 197.

[110]Cuddy, 197.

[111]Cuddy, 208.

[112]Cuddy, 209.

[113]Cuddy, 209.

[114]Cuddy, 210.

[115]Cuddy, 211.

[116]Cuddy, 211-212.

[117]Cuddy, 212.

[118]Cuddy, 213.

[119]Cuddy, 213.

[120]Cuddy, 215.

[121]Cuddy, 215-216.

[122]Cuddy, 216.

[123]Cuddy, 217.

[124]Cuddy, 217.

[125]Cuddy, 217.

[126]Cuddy, 218-222.

[127]Cuddy, 222.

[128]Cuddy, 217.

[129]CSPD, 1619-1623, 16.

[130]CSPD, 1619-1623, 25.

[131]CSPD, 1619-1623, 41, 43.

[132]CSPD, 1619-1623, 162.

[133]CSPD, 1619-1623, 188.

[134]CSPD, 1619-1623, 265, 267.

[135]CSPD, 1619-1623, 267.

[136]CSPD, 1619-1623, 269.

[137]CSPD, 1619-1623, 277.

[138]CSPD, 1619-1623, 286.

[139]CSPD, 1619-1623, 312.

[140]CSPD, 1619-1623, passim; CSPD, 1623-1625, passim.

[141]Hill, 25, 47.

[142]Tanner, 6.

[143]Pocock, 47-48.

[144]Loades, 360.

[145]Pollard, 119, 126; Hill, 61.

[146]Lockyer, 199-201; Tanner, 7-9, 34-50.

[147]Pollard, 309.

[148]Cuddy, 202.

[149]Parry, 7.

[150]CSPC, 4.

[151]K. R. Andrews, 312.

[152]K. R. Andrews, 312.

[153]K. R. Andrews, 313.

[154]Flippin, 150.

[155]K. R. Andrews, 312.

[156]Quinn, 483.

[157]Billings, 216.

[158]Quinn, 483.

[159]CSPC, 5-7.

[160]K. R. Andrews, 338.

[161]K. R. Andrews, 323.

[162]Flippin, 150-151.

[163]Billings, 216.

[164]Rabb, 78.

[165]Rabb, 79.

[166]K. R. Andrews, 321.

[167]K. R. Andrews, 322.

[168]CSPD, 1611-1618, 48.

[169]CSPD, 1603-1610, 515.

[170]CSPC, 13.

[171]CSPC, 13.

[172]K. R. Andrews, 322.

[173]Billings, 218; C. M. Andrews, 114.

[174]Rabb, 80.

[175]Davies, 37.

[176]Rabb, 80.

[177]Rabb, 80.

[178]CSPD, 1611-1618, 126.

[179]CSPD, 1611-1618, 137.

[180]CSPC, 13.

181Billings, 218.

[182]Billings, 218-219.

[183]CSPD, 1619-1623, 422.

[184]CSPC, 31.

[185]CSPD, 1619-1623, 461.

[186]CSPD, 1619-1623, 477.

[187]Davies, 205.

[188]CSPC, 15.

[189]CSPC, 26-27.

[190]CSPC, 14.

[191]CSPC, 24.

[192]CSPD, 1619-1623, 162.

[193]CSPC, 35.

[194]CSPC, 32.

[195]CSPC, 28.

[196]CSPC, 30.

[197]CSPC, 31.

[198]CSPC, 31-32.

[199]CSPC, 60.

[200]CSPC, 60.

[201]CSPD, 1603-1610, 508.

[202]CSPD, 1619-1623, 38.

[203]CSPD, 1619-1623, 96.

[204]CSPD, 1619-1623, 289.

[205]CSPD, 1619-1623, 289.

[206]CSPD, 1619-1623, 298.

[207]CSPD, 1619-1623, 299.

[208]CSPD, 1619-1623, 300.

[209]CSPD, 1619-1623, 302.

[210]CSPD, 1619-1623, 347.

[211]CSPD, 1623-1625, 48.

[212]CSPD, 1619-1623, 561-562.

[213]CSPC, 44.

[214]CSPC, 44; CSPD, 1619-1623, 562.

[215]CSPC, 44.

[216]CSPC, 45.

[217]CSPD, 1619-1623, 578.

[218]CSPC, 45-46.

[219]CSPD, 1619-1623, 583.

[220]CSPD, 1619-1623, 583.

[221]CSPD, 1619-1623, 620.

[222]CSPD, 1619-1623, 624.

[223]CSPD, 1623-1625, 4.

[224]CSPC, 49.

[225]CSPD, 1623-1625, 7.

[226]CSPD, 1619-1623, 30.

[227]CSPD, 1623-1625, 35.

[228]CSPD, 1623-1625, 35.

[229]CSPD, 1623-1625, 45.

[230]CSPD, 1623-1625, 227.

[231]CSPD, 1623-1625, 237.

[232]CSPD, 1623-1625, 237.

[233]K. R. Andrews, 339.

[234]CSPC, 63.

[235]CSPC, 65.

[236]CSPC, 63; CSPD, 1623-1625, 292.

[237]Flippin, 102, 189.

[238]Flippin, 152.

[239]CSPC, 65-66.

[240]CSPD, 1623-1625, 250.

[241]CSPC, 72.

[242]CSPC, 72.

[243]Elliott, 11.

[244]Zuckerman, 115-118.

[245]Davies, 144, 146.

[246]CSPD, 1603-1610, 573.

[247]CSPC, 5; CSPD, 1611-1618, 197.

[248]CSPD, 1611-1618, 234.

[249]CSPD, 1611-1618, 375.

[250]CSPD, 1611-1618, 425.

[251]CSPD, 1611-1618, 428.

[252]C. M. Andrews, 127.

[253]CSPC, 22.

[254]CSPC, 22; Flippin, 190.

[255]CSPC, 22.

[256]CSPC, 22.

[257]CSPC, 31.

[258]CSPC, 38-39.

[259]CSPC, 39.

[260]CSPC, 40.

[261]CSPC, 41.

[262]CSPC, 41.

[263]CSPC, 42.

[264]CSPC, 42-43.

[265]CSPC, 56-57.

[266]CSPC, 57.

[267]CSPC, 58.

[268]CSPC, 58.

[269]CSPC, 59.

[270]CSPC, 59.

[271]CSPC, 26.

[272]CSPD, 1611-1623, 460.

[273]CSPC, 40.

[274]CSPD, 1619-1623, 236, 239.

[275]CSPC, 37.

[276]CSPD, 1623-1625, 290.

[277]CSPD, 1623-1625, 290.

[278]CSPD, 1623-1625, 356.

[279]Rabb, 72, 73, 76.

[280]Rabb, 72, 76.

[281]CSPD, 1611-1618, 120; CSPC, 25.

[282]Canny, 18.

[283]CSPC, 12, 33; CSPD, 1611-1618, 545, 584.

[284]Flippin, 189.

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