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That the pretence, that the Government shall be made good to the King, that is, that the King shall nominate and appoint the Governour, we take, at best, to be but a fallacy and trap, not of capacity enough to catch men with eyes and forethought; for upon a supposition that the Governour shall be named and appointed by the King, yet his dependence, so far as respects his continuance or removal, will, by reason of their power and interest with great men, rest in the Company, which naturally brings with it conformity to their wills in whatever shall be commanded, and we leave it to the best judgments whether such dependence will not be pernicious to the Colony. These are the great reasons given by the Grand Assembly for refusing to submit to a Proprietary Government. But they did not content themselves with bare reasons for their refusal; they proceeded (with a firmness, resolution, and spirit, worthy the imitation of later times, when the rights and liberties of the Colony are invaded) to enforce their reasons by their positive declaration and protestation, in the following remarkable words: “We the Governour, Council, and Burgesses, of this present Grand Assembly, having taken into their serious consideration these and many other dangerous effects which must be concomitant in and from a company and corporation, have thought fit to declare, and hereby do declare, for ourselves and all the commonalty of this Colony, that it was never desired, sought after, or endeavoured to be sought for, either directly or indirectly, by the consent of any Grand Assembly, or the common consent of the people; and we do hereby further declare, and testify to all the world, that we will NEveR admit the restoring said Company, or any sor or in their behalf, saving to ourselves here in a most faithful and loyal obedience to his most sacred Majesty, our dread Sovereign, whose royal and gracious protection, allowance, and maintenance, of this our just Declaration and Protestation, we doubt not (according to his accustomed clemency and benignity to his Subjects) to find. “And we do farther enact, and be it hereby enacted and manifested by the authority aforesaid, that what person or persons soever either is, or shall HEREAFTER, any planter or adventurer, shall go about, by any way or means, either directly or indirectly, to sue for, advise, assist, abet, countenance or contrive, the reducing this Colony to a Company or Corporation, or to introduce a contract or monopoly upon our persons, lands, or commodities, upon due proof or conviction of any of the premises, (viz.: by going about by any way or means to sue for, advise, abet, assist, countenance, or contrive, directly or indirectly the reducing of this Colony to a Company or Corporation, or
to introduce a contract or monopoly as aforesaid, upon due conviction as aforesaid) shall be held and deemed an enemy to the Colony, and shall forfeit his or their whole estate, or estates, that shall be found within the limits of the Colony; the one half shall be and come to the publick use, the other moiety, or half, to the informer.” This act was passed upon the first day of April, 1642, with uncommon solemnity. It was signed by the Governour, the respective members of the Council of State, the House of Burgesses; the Seal of the Colony was affixed to it, in their presence; and they immediately applied to the King, by their humble petitions, for his Royal allowance and confirmation o it. - o Having thus passed their solemn declaration and protestation, in which they had employed much time, the Grand Assembly adjourned to the second day of June, the same year, by particular act for that purpose. At this meeting they entered upon a revision of the Constitution, abolished from it every vestage of the Company's authority, released the publick tenants from their servitudes, who, like one sort of villains, anciently in England, were, regardant to the lands appropriated by the Company's charter of Orders, for the support of the Governour and the other Officers of State; established rules and forms of proceeding in the Courts of Law, and regulated the several parishes, by fixing their respective limits. After the great business of the session was finished, and they had banished from the Constitution every appearance of the old Government, by regulating it upon the principles of the English Constitution, the Grand Assembly published a remonstrance, directed to the inhabitants of the Colony. In it they enumerate the several weighty matters that had employed their consideration, and occasioned the great length of their session; and they conclude with declaring their great motive for entering, at that time, upon a regulation of the Constitution, was to establish their liberties and privileges, and to settle their estates, which had been often assaulted and threatened, and were then invaded by the late Corporation; that to prevent the future designs of monopolizers, contractors, and pre-emptors, (ever incessant upon them, not only bereaving them all cheerfulness and alacrity, but usurping the benefit and disposition of their labours) they apprehend no time could be misspent, or labour misplaced; that a firm peace to themselves and their posterity, and a future indemnity from fines and impositions, they expected would be the fruits of their endeavours; to which end they thought it reasonable for them, liberally and freely, to open
their persons, not doubting but all well affected persons would, with all zeal and good affection, embrace the purchase, and pray to Almighty God for the success.
Within a few weeks after this Assembly broke up, their solemn declaration, protestation, and act against the establishment of a Proprietary Government in the Colony, was returned to them, with the Royal assent to it, in the following gracious and extensive words:
“Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. Whereas, we have received a Petition from you, our Governour, Council, and Burgesses, of the Grand Assembly in Virginia, together with a Declaration and Protestation, of the first of April, against a Petition presented in your names to the House of Commons in this our Kingdom, for restoring the Letters Patent for incorporating of the late Treasurer and Company, contrary to your intent and meaning, and against all such as shall go about to alienate you from our immediate protection; and whereas, you desire, by your Petition, that we should confirm this your Declaration and Protestation, under our Royal signet, and transmit it to that our Colony: These are to signify, that your acknowledgment of our Grace, Bounty, and Favour, towards you, and your so earnest desire to continue under our immediate protection, is very acceptable to us; and that, as we had not before the least intention to consent to the introduction of ANY company over that our Colony, so we are by it much confirmed in our resolution, as thinking it unfit to change a form of Government wherein (besides many other reasons given, and to be given,) our Subjects there, having had so long experience of it, receive so much contentment and satisfaction. And this our approbation of your Petition and Protestation we have thought fit to transmit to you, under our Royal signet.
“Given at our Court at York, the 5th of July, 1642.”
This Royal Declaration was thus directed:—“To our trusty and well-beloved, our Governour, Council, and Burgesses, of the Grand Assembly of Virginia.”
By this solemn act of legislation (which the Grand Assembly considered as the magna charta and palladium of their liberties) the Constitution of the Colony was established upon a foundation which could not be altered without their own consent; so that our history does not afford an instance of any farther attempt to dismember the Colony from their immediate dependence upon the Crown, except that in the year 1674 the Lords Arlington and Culpeper obtained a grant, for the term of thirty-one years, from Charles II, of all the lands, rights, jurisdictions, quitrents, and other royalties within the dominion of Virginia. But this grant was so vigorously and firmly opposed by the Grand Assembly that it was vacated and surrendered to the Crown, as will be more particularly related in the course of these Annals.