Page images

abouts in the civil history of the State, the events, here recorded, find their place and give their moulding influence. The writings of Captain John Smith are an exception. The sources of traditionary information have been examined. Over these the grave is rapidly closing; already the memory of what was done and said in the Revolution speaks out, at distant intervals, from here and there a solitary representative of the last century. Traditions have been compared with written documents, and nothing has been received from conjecture, or pre concieved hypothesis. The sources of information are faithfully given, in all cases, where the knowledge of the source is supposed to be of any importance.

No invidious comparisons are designed in these sketches, whose object is to rescue from oblivion the names and virtues of noble men,-“Sons of Liberty”—of that liberty which rejoices all good men. In making this rescue, facts and characters will be brought into view worthy of the study of the aged and the young, of the minister of the gospel and the statesman. The principles of liberty, in matters of religion and the State, will be seen struggling against error and misconceptions, gaining the ascendency step by step, conflict by conflict,—“the blood of the slain multiplying the martyrs,”-till at last the groans are lost in the shouts of victory. And if in doing this, the names of men not yet recorded in their proper place in history, and the relation of events, not hitherto noticed, or slightly passed over, hold a prominent place, there can be no complaint. Truth is stronger and more strange than fiction. Every writer gives what he supposes, or wishes others to suppose, the most important in the past. Political writers seem to labour under a great difficulty in making record of the principles and doings of religious men,—at least of some religious men,—and also in stating the proper influence of religion, either in principle or in practice. It has of late years become a matter of earnest inquiry,—What has the religious principle done? That strange, abused, inexplicable Carlyle has turned the current of English history for generations. The obscure past outshines the present. The clouds that overhung the Puritans are dissolving, and long defamed names are resplendent in letters of glory.

The labours of the man, who uncheered by any companions, through many years of toil and suffering, unstimulated by applause, in the colony or the mother land, laid the corner stone of a majestic spiritual building to the honour of the Lord Jesus, in the New World, are not now appreciated, because unknown. The importance of the congregations, gathered by his sufferings and solitary labours, is not felt because not understood. To understand these, and to appreciate the labours of such men as Davies, Robinson, Waddel, Craig, Brown, Henry, and Todd, and the congregations gathered by them, and multiplied by the Smiths and Grahams and Hoge, and the men trained by their teaching and their example, it will be necessary to take a view of the civil and religious condition of Virginia during the first seventy years of her colonial existence. Reference must be made to the condition of Ulster, Ireland, during the same period, and some preceding and some succeeding years, because so many Virginia families and Virginia principles claim Ireland, and through her Scotland, as their Mother Land.

The cavaliers of Virginia and the Puritans of New England agreed in thinking religion an essential part of the State; and that the will of the majority should decide in all ecclesiastical concerns. They each established their forms, and resolutely defended them. They each drove out from their borders, as far as practicable, all dissenters, and called it self-defence, the liberty of the majority. The emigrant from Ulster, contended for the liberty of the minority, and in this differed from the Cavaliers and the Puritans. On the subject of civil liberty, the Puritan and the Presbyterian agreed, and both for a time disagreed with the Cavalier. The union of the three wrought the American Revolution, and established the liberty of law. The part of history, not yet written, contains the developement of the principles of these people, modified by education and circumstances. And if these sketches shall throw any light on important facts hitherto imperfectly known, they will have fulfilled the object for which they were designed.

To a great extent, and generally as far as practicable, or useful, the important facts are given in the words of the original writer, or author of the tradition, that the reader may make his own construction. By this means numerous footnotes are avoided, the searching out authorities for verification less necessary, and the liability to misconstruction greatly lessened. Due acknowledgment is made, or intended to be made, of the assistance rendered by friends of truth, in the chapters in which their assistance was given. The reader will perceive that the treasury, from which these sketches have been drawn, is not exhausted. Whether another volume shall follow in succession will depend, other things being equal, much upon the reception this may meet with from an indulgent public.

It is proper to state that great use has been made of Hening's Statutes at large. The laws of Virginia that appear in the following sketches have been taken from that work. They are quoted by their number, and the year. It will be understood without continual reference, that the Extracts are from the laborious collections of W. W. Hening.

I have also made frequent use of the labours of the Rev. Richard Webster, where an acknowledgment of the obligation was inconvenient. His collections are a treasury of facts for an American Ecclesiastical historian. It is not impossible there may be valuable papers, illustrating particular facts, hereafter brought to light, which may modify or strengthen the statements made in these sketches. All things bow to the majesty of truth.



The year 1688 is an epoch in English history. The protestant succession was then secured to the crown of England. The protestant religion was established as the religion of the State; in England, under the form of prelacy, in Scotland, of presbytery. Civil liberty made a great advance, and the anglo-saxon race ascended in the sight of all Europe, regaining what had been lost after Cromwell, and thenceforward holding the balance of power.

The civil and ecclesiastical condition of Virginia, at that time, cannot fail to be interesting to those, who take pleasure in noticing the progress of the human race, in the discovery, the possession, and the defence of the rights of man. Virginia, as she was then, and as she is now, exhibits strongly by contrast, colonial dependence on arbitrary power, and republican liberty. About that time, commenced in Virginia, a contest for religious liberty, which, after a hundred years of conflict, ended in the famous law entered on her statute book in 1785, declaring the citizens of the commmonwealth as free in mind as in body, in religion as in politics. Four score and two years had passed since the little fleet of three ships, whose whole capacity for burden did not exceed one hundred and sixty tons, set sail from Blackwall in England on the 19th of December, 1606, under the command of that experienced navigator, Christopher Newport, bearing a company of adventurers to the wilderness of Virginia. Three of these enterprising men will be famous to all posterity, Bartholomew Gosnold, Rev. Robert Hunt, and Captain John Smith. The names of the others have been saved from absolute oblivion by the famous Smith in his history of Virginia.

On the 26th of April 1607, the fleet, driven by a storm, entered the Chesapeake. On the 30th they cast anchor at a

[blocks in formation]

point well known in modern times. The voyagers named it Point Comfort, because after their long voyage and the late storm it had—“put them in good comfort." On the 13th of May the colony was landed on a peninsula, on the north side of James' river, about forty miles from its mouth. There they commenced the first permanent colony in North America. In honour of the king, James I., the place was called Jamestown, Here was a theatre, on which the enterprise, courage, and magnanimity of Smith, and the piety and patriotic devotion of Hunt displayed themselves. Here was the residence of the Governor, and the place of the meeting of the Burgesses, who claimed and exercised in the wilderness all the privileges of Englishmen. Here at the time of the accession of the Prince of Orange, in 1688, was the only place in the colony that might be called a town.

In 1688 the plantations in Virginia were scattered along the shores of the Chesapeake,—across the narrow strip of land, that separates the bay from the ocean,—along the banks of the rivers and creeks that fall into that noble bay, and on their tributary streams to the head of tide water. No settlement had been made above the falls where the river Powhatan, “falleth from the rockes farre west.” The neighbourhood of some navigable water being esteemed essential to the successful operations of planters, the most fertile portions of land between the rivers, were occupied only in scattered positions. The expectation of finding abundant mines of the precious metals had allured multitudes, of the early adventurers, to Virginia. This had passed away, and the more sober, and ultimately more enriching, pursuits of agriculture occupied the public mind. The colony had become permanent in its inhabitants, and in its occupations. Few emigrants came, as at first, , with the expectation of sudden wealth, and a speedy return to England. A cheerful independence, in the new country, in preference to poverty in the old, was the more reasonable expectation and desire. The emigrants also came in families, or sought to unite themselves, by marriage, with the older colonists. They were encouraged to do this, by the patrons in England, to give importance to the colony and increase their income; and by the colonists, to add to their numbers, their pecuniary strength and warlike means. The importation of wives by the cargo, that stroke of policy in the patrons, had long ceased, and men wooed and won their wives, according to the usages of civilized life.

of civilized life. Children, grand children, and great grand children claimed Virginia as their home, England as the fatherland.

Of all the productions, which the earth brought forth in abundance, tobacco received the greatest attention. The first

specimen of this plant peculiar to America was taken to England, from Carolina, by Ralph Lane, in 1586. It met the entire reprobation of the Queen. In less than ten years after the settlement of the colony, at Jamestown, tobacco was the principle article of export. The demand increased with the consumption, and the cultivation with the demand. The making of tar, pitch, and turpentine, and the hunting of mines, the objects of the first emigrants, were abandoned for the occupation of the planter. Governor Berkely says, in 1671, “commodities of the growth of our own country we never had any, but tobacco, which yet is considerable that it yields his Majesty a great revenue.” The planters, being absorbed in the cultivation of tobacco, repeatedly suffered the evils of famine through their neglect to cultivate corn in sufficient quantities for home consumption. The supply from the savages, always scanty and precarious, became wilfully less, as the wants of the planters increased. The Indians desired by all, and every means, to drive the intruders from their fields and rivers. Laws were passed by the House of Burgesses to enforce the production of corn, and limit the amount of tobacco. In 1624, at the first Assembly, whose records have been preserved, it was resolved, by act 16th-" That three sufficient men of every parish shall be sworne to see that every man shall plant and tende sufficient corne for his family. Those men that have neglected so to do are to be by the said three men presented to be censured by the Governour and Counsell.” By act 18th—“Every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden for planting vines, herbs, roots, &c. sub poena ten pounds of tobacco a man. The evil not being remedied by these enactments, it was ordered, in the year 1630, by act 6th-“That two acres of corne or neere thereabouts bee planted for every head that worketh in the ground, and the same to bee sufficiently tended weeded and preserved from hoggs cattell and other inconveniences. And if any planter shall be found delinquent therein, hee shall forfeit all his tobacco, which bee made of his cropp that yeare the one halfe to the informer, the other to bee employed to publique uses for the good of the country.” In the revisal of the laws in 1632 the wording of this law was altered, but the spirit retained. In the revisal of 1642, Act 8th, the penalty was changed to—"five hundred pounds of tobacco per acre defective. In 1647 the act for enforcing the planting of two acres,-“either in Indian or English grayne"-is renewed. Act 6th with the additional penalty"and for the neglect of any constables in not presenting both the planting and sufficient tending thereof, that the commissioners of the county doe impose a fine of five hundred pounds

« PreviousContinue »