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under the heel of pitiless power, — of power responsible only to a distant monarch, who lolled in the laps of courtesans, and flung thoughtlessly to titled beggars, the rights and properties of thousands, for a new beauty or a purse of gold.
How, then, was Virginia bettered by her struggle against oppression ? To overawe her spirits, an armed force had been imposed upon her soil and billeted upon her citizens, and was not disbanded until 1682. The Navigation Act, enforced by a frigate cruiser in their waters, still kept the people poor; the doubling of the Governor's salary, upon the accesion of Culpepper in 1680, besides his bonus for house-rent and his perquisites, made them poorer; his unblushing rapacity and inventive extortion made them poorer still, until tobacco fell to a penny a pound, the people lacked the common necessaries of life, and it was thought necessary, in 1682, to curb their starving restlessness by new executions on the gallows. The grants to Arlington and Culpepper were not annulled until 1684, when Virginia again became a province of the Crown. Still the system of exaction and oppression went on, and was unmitigated. Colonial office was sought by profligate courtiers, only for the sake of making money ; and the British nobleman, too proud and too lazy for honest trade, could stoop to wring from his storehouse the hard earnings of the planter, to defraud the hireling soldier of his wages, to extort exorbitant and even arbitrary fees, and to haggle with his own clerks for a share in their perquisites of office. Not Culpepper only, but his successor, Effingham, and his successors, were taskmasters and pickpockets to the planter, while the Crown made him a tributary to the tradesman and artificer of London. What did God give England colonies for? To enrich her merchants and her nobles, to be sure! The profit of England was - the colonist's chief end. He was made for it. He could conduce to it. He must work for it. Such, from the beginning, were the axioms of the mother country, and they were maintained for a century longer, until Virginia, with her sister colonies, had disbursed her wealth, and poured out her blood like water, in loyalty to the Crown; until, impoverished and depleted as she was, she drew the sword upon tyranny, and flung the scabbard away.
And the struggle of Bacon and his peers was bootless ? Not so. The leaven which they had infused remained. It was hidden, but it wrought. The tyranny which sought to suppress, only diffused it. Even the aristocratic class became affected, and the royalist Burgesses kicked against the goads, even before Bacon had lain in his unknown grave a year; and again in 1681; and yet again in 1685, so vigorously, that James the Second told them to stop " their unnecessary debates, their unquiet dispositions, and their tumultuous proceedings”; and even alarmingly did they repeat their behavior in 1688. The chains not only cut deep into the flesh of the poor, but began to chafe the rich ; and they who could savor their banquet with the oil and olives of the Mediterranean, the sugar and the coffee of San Domingo, and the choice wines of Southern Europe, grumbled at the convivial board about the overbearing encroachments of the Crown. Bacon's movement had indeed taught Virginia a lesson of vengeance which she long remembered with horror ; but it had also given her a relish and a passion for civil freedom which she never lost. If we estimate the events of 1676 only by their immediate results, we err. Their influence did not perish in a day. Every now and then its hidden presence and strength were shown by the bubbling upon the waters, all along the lapse of years while the Siuarts were passing away, and the childless Prince of Orange, and the parricide Anne, and the first and second Georges. The generation taught, for so short a time only, by the youthful patriot to resent and to resist oppression, transmitted their temper with their blood. Not that Virginia had not before been jealous of arbitrary rule. She had long been, and it has been our pleasure to record it. But not until 1676 had she risen up. The babe first balancing upon its feet may fall, and its mishap may make it timid; but it never forgets its discovered power : it yearns for its exercise, until it can run alone.
An intelligent review of the early history of Virginia cannot be made without enthusiastic admiration. It may be questioned whether that meed of honor has yet been rendered to her which is her due. The profligacy and worthlessness of her pioneer settlers, with the exception of a few rare and devoted men, — Smith, and Hunt, and Gosnold, and Percy, — are seldom equalled, never surpassed. But their depravity was their bane. They were but the menial scouts, not the fathers, of the new commonwealth ; and when they had done their drudgery, they died. Hardier and better men entered into their labors, —
men who loved the broad wilderness and virgin Nature, not for licentiousness' sake, but for that sense of manhood and healthful freedom which they give; who breathed an untainted air with delight, yet deferred to civil rule as salutary. The alphabet of self-government was, indeed, sent to Virginia by her fosterers in England, who might not use it there themselves. The New World had given her a new instinct; and she learned so rapidly to read and write, that she outstripped her patrons, and first framed a Bill of Rights. That which the British Parliament extorted from Charles the First, which historians have venerated and lauded as the original charter of constitutional liberty, was but the successor and the transcript of Virginia's in 1624. Nor was this the only memorable instance in which the aged mother was fain to learn wisdom from the despised and youthful daughter. In 1688, when England was at her wit's end to reconcile her fundamental doctrine of hereditary succession with her craving for a new dynasty ; when she had scared James the Second to France; when she was at the crisis of her glorious Revolution, - glorious in its results, though infamous in its prosecution, - she piously compromised with her conscience, her will, and her constitution, and cunningly cut the knot which she could not untie, by declaring that her legitimate monarch was not, while he was yet alive and claimed allegiance, — that her realm was kingless, — that flight was abdication. Whether absurd or rational, whether a truth or a lie, was not essential. It was gravely adopted by the Convention of 1688–9; for it suited their purpose, it resolved their perplexity. Were they sages above all others ? Although it was a figment, a trick upon common sense, it was an admirable expedient for a worthy end. But they did not originate it. Virginia did. Twelve years before, she had done it. When Berkeley had been scared to Accomac, she had declared " that flight was abdication.” England availed herself of so shrewd a precedent, — for James in France was like Berkeley in Accomac, — and demurely avowed a notion for which she had chastised her daughter. Would she, of herself, have divined so odd a doctrine? “Honor to whom honor."
But Virginia was not only the first to propound to England a Petition of Right, and the first to show her how she might make a Revolution. She was the first to tell her bluntly, that tyranny would not do for Anglo-Saxons in America; the first to draw the sword of Liberty, and the first to furnish martyrs. The elder sister of the Colonies, she had sustained the dignity of her birthright. It was meet, therefore, that by her it should first be “proposed” that the Congress of the Colonies should declare their independence. It was meet that by a son of her's that Declaration should be drawn; that from her should arise the Father of the Country, the first chief magistrate of the new republic. And it was also meet, that on her soil, where revolution was first attempted, the grand drama of triumphant Revolution should be closed; that where the first blow had been struck for Freedom, there, a century after, should be struck the last; that, on the very spot where Drummond was martyred on the gallows, Cornwallis should surrender to Washington. So God orders.