Dinsmore Documentation  presents  Classics of American Colonial History

Author: Bruce, Philip A.
Title: Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Material Condition of the People, Based on Original and Contemporaneous Records.
Citation: New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896
Subdivision: Chapter V
HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added June 27, 2002
◄Chapter IV   Directory of Files   Chapter VI►




The dissolution of the London Company in 1624 brought to a close the plantation era in the history of the Colony. Although the revocation of the letters patent was precipitated by the discontent of an unscrupulous faction, and by the anxiety of the King to suppress a corporation, the spirit of which was promotive of the growth of popular rights,1 still the effect of the step was ultimately highly favorable to the welfare of the planters. At first they were disposed to look upon the change as an unmixed calamity, anticipating that the destructive influences which had received a practical illustration in the administration of the Company during the earlier and greater part of its existence would again become dominant. So far did this apprehension extend that some of the planters offered their lands for sale, and made immediate preparations for abandoning the country, regarding this as the only means of saving their property from the rapacious hands of the Argolls, who, it was expected, would be appointed under the new form of government to the head of affairs in Virginia. The authorities of the Colony, when they were informed of the dissolution, drew up a petition to the King imploring him not to suffer them to be placed under the control of Sir

1 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1687, pp. 175, 176.


Thomas Smyth and his associates, and declaring in reply to the royal order commanding them to pay more attention to the cultivation of the staple commodities, that they only affected the contemptible weed, tobacco, as a present means of obtaining a subsistence, and that they hoped in time to substitute for it in large measure commodities more valuable.1 Before this petition reached England, James had appointed commissioners to assume charge of the affairs of the Colony, promising at the same time that the vested interests of both planters and stockholders should not in the remotest degree be infringed upon.2 One of the first acts of these commissioners was to request representatives of the Old Company to give their views as to what would be the terms of a contract with the King touching tobacco, which would maintain the volume of revenue he had been receiving from the amount of that product hitherto imported from Virginia, and yet not fall too heavily upon the resources of the planters. It had been recently proposed in Parliament that the introduction of the Spanish leaf should be prohibited. The representatives of the former Company recommended strongly that this proposition should be made a law, that the right to bring tobacco into the English ports should be confined to the inhabitants of Virginia and the Somers Isles,3 and that no one should be permitted to cultivate the plant in England. In return for the benefits which would result to them from these provisions, it was suggested that the people of the two Colonies should pay three pence a pound as customs on the whole quantity which they imported,

1 Petition of General Assembly to the King, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1624, p. 23, Va. State Library.

2 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1687, p. 178.

3 The Bermudas.


and that they should contribute to the royal treasury a round sum of ten thousand pounds sterling to be obtained from the sale of one-fourth part of the tobacco brought in, the proceeds from the sale of the remaining portion to be expended in defraying the charges that would arise in enforcing the terms of the agreement. The Old Company declared that they were ready to become the purchasers of the annual crop of the Colony. They proposed that upon its arrival in England it should be received by officers of the Company. In the hands of that body they recommended should rest the sole management of the contract. It alone should decide as to the volume of the leaf to be imported into the kingdom each year, and it should also have the power to assign to the King all debts created in its favor while the arrangement lasted. No licenses should be granted to the retailers of tobacco.1

The commissioners do not appear to have restricted their inquiries to the members of the Old Company. A contract much inure detailed than the one just described was propounded by Mr. Ditchfield and his associates. This contract required that the tobacco to be delivered should be made up in rolls, and when presented in this shape, the contractors were to bind themselves to purchase during the first two years two hundred thousand pounds of it, at the rate of two shillings and four pence for the higher grades, and one shilling and four pence for the lower, to be paid for in part in six months, and in part in twelve. The King was to receive during the same period the annual sum of ten thousand pounds. The contractors agreed to buy in the course of the following five years two hundred and fifty thousand pounds of the leaf at the

1 Discourse of the Old Company, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 40; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, pp. 306-309.


rate of three shillings a pound for that of the best quality, and of two shillings for that of only moderate excellence. Settlement was to be made at the same intervals as in the first and second years. The dues of the King were placed at fifteen thousand pounds. It was further provided by the contractors that the entire crops of tobacco produced in Virginia and the Somers Isles, for it was proposed to include the Somers Isles in the arrangement, should be conveyed to the port of London alone. If, in the course of either of the first two years, the importation should exceed two hundred thousand pounds, or two hundred and fifty thousand pounds during the succeeding five years, the planters were to have the privilege of transferring to the Turkish market whatever surplus remained in either case after the contractors had exercised their choice. Special pains, however, were to be taken that no part of this surplus should be sold to any purchaser who was likely to return it upon the English market, to depress the price of the quantity selected from the whole amount first imported.1

The reply made at a later date in the interest of the planters to this offer left no room for doubt as to how they regarded it. It was impossible for the population of the Colony, it was asserted, to subsist upon the proceeds of the sale of two hundred thousand pounds of tobacco. The disposal of four hundred thousand at a fair price would not furnish the whole number of people with the supplies which they needed for their support. The contract gave those who propounded it the fullest opportunity to show partiality to their particular friends, in which event, the great body of the colonists would suffer a loss on

1 Considerations Touching the New Contract, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 32; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 145, Va. State Library.


their crops, there being little if any encouragement to re-export their tobacco to Turkey, because the additional charges for freight would cut down the margin of profit to a point where it would hardly be appreciable. The leaf was also certain to shrink and decay in the course of such a long voyage. The planters computed the loss in transporting their crop to England, the falling off in weight entering as an element into the calculation as well as the freight, at four pence a pound, which amount, deducted from the sum that the contractors declared themselves willing to pay during the first two years, that is to say, two shillings and four pence, left a net profit of two shillings for tobacco of the first grade, and of one shilling for tobacco of the second. It was well known to the planters, from their experience in the past, that the disposition of the English purchaser was to rate very little of the imported leaf as belonging to the first grade; in consequence of which fact, if the offer of the contractors was accepted, the far greater proportion of this commodity that would be bought by them would be put down as belonging to the second, the division in determining the quality not being suffered to extend to more than two grades. Small as would be the amount which the planters would secure, the first instalment would not be payable until six months had expired. Twelve months, a period so long that a second crop of tobacco would be ready for market before its close, must pass before the second instalment fell due. The higher prices offered at the end of the first two years would be no inducement to enter into the contract, as in the interval the ruin of the Colony would be complete.

That the apprehensions of the planters, if they had been compelled to submit to the terms of the Ditchfield contract, were not exaggerated may be seen from the fact,


that if the two hundred thousand pounds of tobacco, which the contractors proposed to buy during the first two years, had been apportioned among the three thousand people who formed the united population of Virginia and Somers Isles at this time, the allowance to each person would have been only sixty-five pounds, a return of but three pounds and five shillings sterling for his labor. This sum, small as it was, would have been reduced one-half in every case in which the planter was simply a tenant. For him, the return would have been only thirty-two shillings and six pence, a sum that would not support one individual, and still more certainly not a family, even admitting that there were no expenses incurred in the production of his crop. The proportion of the proceeds of sales which the planters would receive would be equal to one-sixth, and of the contractors to four-sixths, a difference that suggested to the minds of the former, when they came to make their reply, the simile of an infant having forty ounces of blood drawn from its veins, of which about five ounces were subsequently restored to its body.1

One of the first acts of Charles on his accession to the throne in the course of the spring of 1625 was to adopt as his own the two proclamations of his father with reference to the exclusion of the Spanish leaf.2 He prohibited the importation into England of tobacco from the Spanish colonies, and all Spanish tobacco at that time to be found in the realm was to be carried out before the end of twenty-five days.3 A second proclamation, issued on the

1 Considerations Touching the New Contract, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 32; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 145, Va. State Library.

2 The Second Proclamation was issued in March, 1625.

3 Proclamations of Charles I, No. 6, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, p. 75, Va. State Library.


thirteenth of May, erected a committee upon which was imposed the duty of regulating the affairs of the Colonies, its power, however, to be subordinate to that of the Privy Council. This proclamation announced that the King had resolved to create in himself a monopoly of the main product of Virginia and the Somers Isles, but at prices which would be satisfactory to the planters. The provisions of his first proclamation as to the exclusion of the foreign leaf were to be rigidly enforced, and the punishment to be inflicted upon any one who violated it was to be exemplary.1

Before the second proclamation reached Virginia, the General Assembly had written a letter to the Privy Council reflecting the feeling of consternation and despair with which the news of the contract approved by James had been received in the Colony. This contract was condemned as certain to be pernicious in its influence, because entirely destructive of the good that might spring from the grant of the right of sole importation. It was said that instead of causing this right to operate to the advantage of the people of Virginia, such an arrangement would really divert it to the profit of a few individuals. A blow was struck at the welfare of the planters which would be irremediable, unless prompt redress was afforded. Already the supplies from England had fallen off and were only to be obtained at the most exorbitant prices.2

It shows how strong had become the habit of the colonists in the past of suspecting the motives of their

1 Proclamations of Charles I, No. 10, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, p. 110, Va. State Library.

2 Petition of General Assembly to King, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 42: Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, p. 114, Va. State Library.


rulers in England, that in this letter it was openly charged that some of the commissioners appointed by James, information as to whose displacement had not yet reached them, were to be secret participants in the profits of the contract. So deep was the concern of the people of Virginia that they dispatched Sir George Yeardley to England to protect their interests.1 In his petition to the Privy Council after his arrival, he urged upon that body the necessity of adopting some course that would uphold the price of tobacco until staple commodities could be set on foot. In order to bring this about, he recommended that an exemption from the payment of customs should be granted, and that all the privileges of the freest trade should be allowed.2 The appeal of Yeardley must have been successful, for it is stated in a communication from the Governor and Council to the New Commissioners for Plantations, written in January, 1626, that the contract had been annulled.3

Before twelve months had passed, the colonists had occasion to complain of a very serious modification of that part of the royal proclamation of April, 1625, which prohibited the importation of the Spanish leaf into England. A proclamation was issued in February, 1627, prescribing that fifty thousand pounds of this commodity should thereafter be admitted, but it was to be reserved for the

1 Petition of General Assembly to King, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 42; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, pp. 114-116, Va. State Library.

2 “Divers Heads wherein the Lords are to be Moved,” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 47; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, p. 120, Va. State Library.

3 Governor and Council to Lords Commissioners, British State Papers, vol. IV, No. 1, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1626, p. 124, Va. State Library. The petition of Yeardley to the King bears the date of October, 1625. See British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 46; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1625, p. 119, Va. State Library.


royal use.1 At the same time, the King seems to have approved of the terms of the offer which Mr. Amis and his associates propounded for the tobacco of Virginia and the Somers Isles. Representatives of the planters of the two Colonies who were in London in April of the same year, were summoned to meet at the house of Sir John Wolstenholme, and upon their assembling, the quantity which the contractors proposed to take and the price they would give were announced in the form of an order of the Privy Council. The representatives firmly refused to consent to either, on the ground that the amount was too small and the price too low to furnish the population of the Colonies an adequate subsistence.2

It is a striking indication of the feeling which the people of Virginia entertained towards all schemes for the purchase of their tobacco in a mass, that on this occasion, before they had been informed as to the particulars of the Amis contract, they exclaimed most earnestly against it. The Governor gave voice to this feeling in a communication which he addressed to the Privy Council, and which bears the date of the day preceding the meeting at the house of Sir John Wolstenholme. He declared that the inhabitants of the Colony would only consent to the arrangement if the quantity of their tobacco to be taken annually by the contractors was increased to three hundred thousand pounds, and the price advanced to three shillings a pound, payable either in bills of exchange when preferred, or in a standing magazine of necessary merchandise. All of that commodity which remained in excess of the amount fixed upon was to be disposed of in the open

1 Proclamations of Charles I, No. 61.

2 Answer of the Planters and Adventurers of Virginia, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 20; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, p. 154, Va. State Library.


market.1 When the full details of the Amis contract reached Virginia in private letters, the planters were thrown into a state of great dissatisfaction. A letter was dispatched to the Privy Council, begging that no agreement should be finally ratified unless it had been first approved by the people of the Colony, and above all, that the Spanish leaf should not be permitted to be brought into the kingdom even in the smallest quantities.2 These remonstrances, so earnestly pressed, appear to have been effective for the time being.

In the course of the summer following the first suggestion of the Amis contract, Charles wrote to the Governor and Council in Virginia, and represented himself to be much annoyed at the small progress which had been made, in spite of the many years that had passed since the establishment of the Colony, in the production of solid commodities. It was to the dishonor and shame of its people, he declared, that their plantation was built upon smoke alone, a foundation which would sink into ruin if permission was granted to landowners in England to cultivate tobacco, or to English traders to import the Spanish leaf. He urged them to develop the resources of the country in tar and pitch, soap and pot ashes, salt, iron, timber, and lastly in vines. It was not, however, his wish, he asserted, that the production of tobacco should be abandoned; he desired merely that it should be carefully ordered and the quantity tended diminished, in which event, he proposed to become the purchaser of the whole annual crop, being willing to give for it, when delivered in the port of London,

1 Governor Yeardley to the Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 21; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, p. 155, Va. State Library.

2 Governor and Council to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 34; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, p. 167, Va. State Library.


three shillings a pound.1 More particular instructions were dispatched to Virginia in November as to the methods that should be adopted to improve its quality and to moderate its volume. The plants were to be set four feet apart, and the leaves to each plants were not to exceed six in number. The master of a family was to be allowed to produce only two hundred pounds, and each servant only one hundred and twenty-five. In preparing the tobacco for shipment, the stalks were to be carefully excluded. The quality of the leaf was to be examined by viewers who had been sworn to a strict performance of their duty, and all found to be of a very mean grade was to be thrown out.2

The Governor and Council in February, 1628, expressed their approval of the projected sale of the tobacco of the Colony to royal commissioners,3 and in the following month the General Assembly took the same position in replying to the royal letter of August, 1627, but their consent was subject to certain conditions. They proposed that, for a period of seven years, the King should purchase annually five hundred thousand pounds at the rate, of three shillings and six pence a pound, to be delivered in Virginia, no charge to be made for freight and duty; or four shillings if it was to be delivered in London, the planters to bear the expense of transportation but to be exempt from the payment of customs. They were to enjoy the right to sell in Holland, Ireland, Turkey, and other foreign parts, all tobacco produced by them in excess of five hundred thousand pounds. The leaves to a plant

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 82; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, pp. 163, 164, Va. State Library.

2 Attorney-General Heath to Governor Yeardley, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 33; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, p. 165, Va. State Library.

3 Governor and Council to Attorney-General Heath, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 40; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627-28, p. 171, Va. State Library.


were to be restricted to twelve, the number now permitted amounting to thirty. As the population of the Colony at this time was close upon three thousand, the quantity prescribed by the King for each master of a family and for each servant, that is to say, two hundred, and one hundred and twenty-five pounds respectively, was insufficient to maintain the people in comfort and ease. The number of plants allowed to each head was reduced to the lowest point consistent with this end, and to ensure the excellence of the tobacco to be exported, sworn triers were appointed to pass upon the quality of the leaf produced, and to destroy what was inferior in character.1

The conditions advanced by the colonists do not seem to have been acceptable to Charles, as there is nothing to show that the proposed arrangement was consummated. It is doubtful whether at heart they were more eager to enter into a contract with him than they had been with Mr. Ditchfield and Mr. Amis and their associates. In the letter to the King bearing date March 28, 1628, to which reference has been made, the General Assembly declared that during the last six years they had “perpetually labored in the confused paths of labyrinths” of tobacco contracts.2 In the same month they had expressed to Lord Delaware their grateful sense of his earnest and successful efforts to annul the different arrangements which had been made for the disposition of their only staple.3 Influenced by this feeling, it is not likely that they looked upon an

1 Answer of the General Assembly to Proposition of the King, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 45; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1628, pp. 176-179, Va. State Library.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 45; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1628, p. 176, Va. State Library.

3 Governor and Council to Lord De La Warr, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 47; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1628 [,] p. 181, Va. State Library.


agreement with Charles with unreservedly favorable eyes, although a mingled fear and loyalty prevented them from giving free utterance to their views beyond stating firmly what they considered to be the only provisions consistent with the prosperity of the people, provisions expected quite probably to be unacceptable to the King.

It was not until near the close of the fourth decade of the century that another important attempt was made by private individuals, acting with the countenance of the English Government, to enter into a contract for the tobacco of Virginia. It was proposed at that time by Lord Goring and his associates, to purchase from the planters sixteen hundred thousand pounds at the rate of six pence a pound, delivered in the Colony, or at the rate of eight pence, delivered in England, an offer which shows how great had been the decline in the value of the commodity since 1628, when the prices had been under the same circumstances three shillings and six pence in Virginia, and four shillings in London. The terms of the Goring proposition received the approval of a number of planters who were in England at the time, including such men as George Sandys, William Tucker, John West, William Claiborne, Samuel Mathews, and William Pierce. The grounds upon which their approval rested were, that the planters would by the terms of this contract secure a profit of four pence on their tobacco, which would amount in the aggregate to nearly twenty-seven thousand pounds sterling; that one-half of the usual labor in the production of a crop would be saved, and finally, that the quality of the leaf would be so much improved as to make it difficult to distinguish it from the highest grades of the Spanish.1 In spite of the great weight

1 Humble Remonstrance of Divers of the Principal Planters in Virginia, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 100; Winder Papers, vol. I, [footnote continues on p. 289] p. 124, Va. State Library. In 1684, Charles appointed commissioners who were to make an offer to the planters of Virginia for all the tobacco they should produce for sale. He gave as his reason for this action that the people being “heavily muleted in their dealings with the English merchants,” were influenced to enter into trade with foreign countries, thus depriving the King of the full amount of the customs to which he was entitled.


which the action of men as well and as favorably known in the Colony as these were, might have been expected to have under any circumstances, the Goring contract met with the strongest opposition in Virginia, Secretary Kemp going so far as to say that if it were carried into effect, the shipping engaged in the trade between England and the Colony would decline to the small proportion of the very few vessels which the contractors would require.1

In 1627, the cultivation of tobacco in England was again prohibited.2 It was admitted that at this time large quantities were grown in several parts of the kingdom, and so determined were many persons engaged in this branch of agriculture, that in some cases the officers who were sent out to destroy the plants were, when they attempted to do so, severely beaten by the owners.3 The efforts to enforce the law were only partially successful; in 1630, so much tobacco was produced in England that a memorial was addressed to the English authorities by the Governor of Virginia, urging the passage of an Act of Parliament to suppress its cultivation, as the royal proclamation had proved so ineffective. The amount planted in England was represented to be increasing, and it was asserted that if this were permitted to continue, the English settlements in America would fall into permanent ruin; already the sale of the leaf

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 96; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1638, p. 7, Va. State Library.

2 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 321.

3 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 85.


imported from Virginia had been seriously obstructed by the volume of the English crop.1 The object which this memorial had in view had the warm approval of the King. No customs were payable upon the tobacco produced in England; in discouraging the importation from Virginia and the Bermudas by weakening the market, the volume of the royal revenue was diminished. In January, 1631, Charles issued a second proclamation forbidding the cultivation of the plant in England, and prohibiting the introduction of the foreign commodity unless the person bringing it in could show a royal license.2 New duties were now imposed upon all the tobacco imported. The charge for the Spanish product was two shillings a pound, for that of Barbadoes and the other English possessions in the West Indies, twelve pence, while for the product of Virginia and the Bermudas it was nine pence, three of the nine being levied as customs, and six as imposts.3 The duty was reduced at a later date to two pence for subsidy, and two pence for impost.4

In spite of the earnest protests and the prohibitory measures of the English Government, the exportation of tobacco to Holland continued. As early as 1627, the masters of all vessels departing from the Colony with cargoes made up of this commodity were required to deliver to the authorities before weighing anchor invoices of their loading, and to give security that they would convey it to the port of London. The necessity of this was strongly enforced in a letter from the Privy Council to the

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 84; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1630, p. 214, Va. State Library.

2 Proclamations of Charles I, No. 138.

3 British State Papers, Sign Manuals, Charles I, vol. XII, No. 44; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1630-31, p. 235, Va. State Library.

4 British State Papers, Sign Manuals Charles I, vol. XIII, No. 86; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1631, p. 29, Va. State Library.


Governor of Virginia written in the winter of 1631.1 There was at this time no objection on the part of the English Government to the exportation of tobacco from the Colony in Dutch bottoms, provided that it was brought to the mother country and passed through the custom house previous to its re-exportation. The object which the Privy Council had in view was to secure the full amount of the duties.2 The instruction to Harvey to require the masters of all vessels leaving Virginia to transfer their cargoes to England, under penalty of a heavy fine if they failed to do so, was repeated in 1633,3 although he had earnestly requested in the name of the planters, in the previous year, that entire liberty should be allowed them in seeking a market. Special orders were given to Captain John Pennington, who was in command of the English ships in the Channel, to stop all vessels from the plantations which were making their way towards the North and to compel the masters to bind themselves to land their cargoes in some port of the kingdom.4 It will be seen from the tenor of this order that the requirement laid down in the proclamation of Charles in 1630-31 that all the tobacco brought from Virginia was to be imported into

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VI, No. III.

2 The language used in the letter of the Privy Council was as follows: “You are to give order that none, either English or stranger, be suffered to take any tobacco from thence without giving sufficient bond with sureties to bring it all to the Port of London and to no other port or place within or without this kingdom.” A royal proclamation, issued in 1624, had declared that all tobacco imported into England in foreign bottoms should be confiscated. Rymer, XVII, pp. 623, 624. This provision, it would seem from the use of the word “stranger,” was disregarded by the colonists.

3 See Letter of Sir John Wolstenholme to Privy Council, Aug. 14, 1633, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VI, No. 80; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1633, p. 46, Va. State Library.

4 Proclamations of Charles I, No. 138.


London alone, had now been withdrawn. It seems to have been the common practice for ships arriving from the Colony to touch at Cowes in the Isle of Wight for the purpose of making a nominal compliance with the terms of their bonds, and then, after changing masters, to direct their course towards the Low Countries. It was these vessels chiefly which Captain Pennington was instructed to intercept, in some instances, they were detained at Cowes until they could give good security that they would convey their cargoes to the port of London and there submit to the imposition of the regular customs.1 Governor Harvey himself was charged with permitting Dutch vessels to take tobacco on board in Virginia without requiring the legal assurance that they would proceed to England, but this he denied with great earnestness.2 in 1635, the Admiral in command of the English Channel, the Earl of Lindsay, received the same orders as Captain Pennington in 1633, with reference to the stoppage of all ships from the English plantations which sought to carry their cargoes to Holland without having paid the duties prescribed.3

In 1636, there was a disposition on the part of the English Government to prevent the Dutch from becoming exporters of Virginian tobacco, even though the fullest security as to the payment of the customs due upon their loading was given, the encouragement of shipping being alleged as one of the principal reasons for restricting the

1 Francis Brooke to Farmers of Customs, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 6; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1634, p. 58, Va. State Library.

2 Proceedings of Privy Council, Dec. 11, 1635, Dom. Cor. Charles I, vol. 303, No. 19; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1635, p. 139, Va. State Library.

3 Lords of the Admiralty to Earl of Lindsay, Dom. Cor. Charles I, vol. 264, folio 128; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1635, p. 100, Va. State Library.


conveyance of all the commodities of the colonies to English bottoms. The instructions transmitted to both Wyatt and Berkeley,1 whose terms of administration preceded the surrender to Parliament in 1651, directed them to take bonds of the masters of vessels leaving Virginia which would compel them to land their cargoes in England. It required special permission to make it legal for shipmasters to stop at any of the English colonies in the course of their outward voyage; this was sometimes asked when the planters or merchants did not have a sufficient number of vessels in which to transfer their tobacco to England, and in consequence were forced to transport it first to the North.2 In spite of these precautions, a large quantity found its way to Holland, thus evading the customs to which it would have been subject had it been conveyed directly to London.3

In the years immediately following the publication of the first proclamations which prohibited the bringing of Spanish tobacco into England, a great quantity of this commodity was drawn from the Spanish West Indies and secretly carried into the port of London along with the cargoes from the Bermudas. Just as the importation of the Virginian leaf into Holland affected the royal revenues injuriously by diminishing the customs, so the importation of the Spanish leaf into England lowered the price of the Virginian product, not only by increasing the quantity of tobacco offered for sale in the English markets, but also by introducing a grade of better quality. The opinion was prevalent for a long time after the dissolution of the

1 Berkeley’s first term.

2 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 233.

3 Instructions to Governor Berkeley, 1641, McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 387, Va. State Library. See also Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 287.


Company, that the tobacco of the Spanish colonies was of a finer texture than that of the English. Twenty years later, the greatest praise a writer of that date could pass upon the Virginian product and the improvement that had taken place in its character, was to say that there were several varieties of it equal to the most delicate exported from the American possessions of Spain.1 This was undoubtedly an exaggeration, the superiority of the tobacco of the West Indies in at least one of its manufactured forms being maintained to the present day. The record of the prices of smoking tobacco in England throughout the greater part of the seventeenth century shows that the Spanish leaf was considered to be of the finer quality, in 1633, it commanded in England, when sold for smoking purposes, twelve shillings and three pence a pound; in 1652, seven shillings; in 1657, ten; in 1674, eight; in 1685, six; in 1687, seven. The average price was nine shillings and three and a half pence. The average price of smoking tobacco manufactured from the leaf of Virginia was two shillings and two and one quarter pence. This striking difference was far from being due entirely to the heavier duty laid on the Spanish product in the English custom houses, amounting to six pence a pound up to 1685. On Virginian tobacco, the impost was one penny. Subsequent to this year, it was increased, in the instance of Spanish, to one shilling, and of Virginian, to four pence.2

1 Leah and Rachel, p. 19, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. John Bland, in his well-known “Remonstrance on behalf of the colonists of Virginia and Maryland” against the Navigation Act of 1660, asks: “Have we not in this Nation by reason of the dearness and sophistication of Virginia’s tobacco, accustomed ourselves so to Virginia’s, that little Spanish, though much better, is spent amongst us at this day?” See Virginia and Act of Navigation, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 147.

2 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p.468.


The tobacco of Virginia was shipped to England in general bound up in loose bundles, or packed in casks of different sizes. It is stated that when Captain Grey in 1629 sold to the colonists the negroes whom he had seized on board an Angola slaver, he obtained in return for them eighty-five hogsheads and five butts.1 The roll, however, was not uncommon at this time or a few years later.2 One of the strongest grounds of opposition to contracts was that such agreements required that the tobacco should be prepared for transportation in this shape. It would seem that there were several reasons for objecting to the roll, both on the part of the planter and of the English or foreign purchaser. To compress the leaf into this form made necessary a degree of manipulation that prolonged the process beyond the time to which its shipment was by law restricted; it not only led to great delay and imposed serious labor, but it also caused much waste. The interests of the buyer were impaired by the fact that the shape of the roll allowed worthless leaf to be introduced with it in a position difficult to detect without breaking the whole mass; foreign substances could also be inserted with a view to increasing its weight.3 The wrapper was a recognized term as early as 1625, tobacco of the finest quality bearing this name being doubtless used for the outer covering of the roll. It is not strange to find that the leaf when tied in bundles sold more readily, and at higher prices in all of the foreign markets than when made up in a more compact form.4

1 Dom. Cor. Charles I, vol. 105, No. 35. See Chapter on Slaves.

2 Records of Lower Norfolk County, Court Orders, May 25, 1640, folio p. 16.

3 Governor Yeardley to the Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 21; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, pp. 155, 156, Va. State Library.

4 Considerations Touching new Contract of Tobacco, British State [footnote continues on p. 296] Papers, vol. III, No. 32; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 150, Va. State Library.


The exclusion of the Indians from the valley of the lower James, which was complete almost as early as 1627, by making them more dependent on the chase, led to the destruction of the numerous droves of hogs that at one time roamed in the forests.1 So scarce had those running wild become by 1631, that a law was passed prohibiting any one from killing them beyond the boundaries of his own plantation, but the strictness of this provision was modified in the instance of a person who could show that he had recently destroyed a wolf.2 To such a person alone was the right to kill a wild hog allowed, and it was allowed to him only on account of the great importance of reducing the number of wolves in the ranges of the settlements, where they inflicted great damage upon every kind of live stock. The planters, however, still had a great abundance of tame swine. No householder at this period was so sunk in poverty as not to possess a few of these animals.3

Cattle of all kinds in Virginia were now supposed to number from two to five thousand.4 The price of an ox in the Colony at this time was three hundred shillings, a difference of many shillings as compared with the lower price of the same animal in England.5 The herd of Governor Yeardley during his last administration was composed of twenty-four head, each cow or ox, since so large a herd must have included individuals of both sexes, being worth fifteen pounds.6 In England at this

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 885. 2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 190.

3 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 885.

4 Ibid., p. 887.

5 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 349.

6 Certificate of Thomas Gibbes and Samuel Wrote, British State [footnote continues on p. 297] Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 15, I; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1629, p. 197, Va. State Library. This document in full will be found in McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 10, Va. State Library. The details given in it throw light on cattle-raising in the Colony at this time. In 1629, a claim was entered against the estate of Sir George Yeardley by one Rossingham. It was referred by the Privy Council to Messrs. Gibbes and Wrote, who reported, “Whereas the petitioner relyed upon accompt for his stock then remaining in Sir George Yeardley’s possession, as is testified by a postscript in a letter under his own hand, March 5th 1621, in these words: ‘My ladie gends you word your stock of cattle increaseth well, your old having calved this tyme this year &c.,’ and also by the testimonie of Mr. John Martyn, servant to said George Yeardley, and then resident in Virginia, testifying the petitioner then to have had lower neate beasts, three of them cowes and heyfers, and the fourth a calf, of what kind he knows not, the offspring whereof in seven years (for then they were all sold) in an ordinary increase allowing some loss for casualties, notwithstanding it is testified by John Pory and John Martyn that cattle then doth both increase and prosper exceeding well, would with themselves have well amounted unto twenty-four, every head being worth in Virginia 15£, and so bought and sold the whole number amounting to 360£, and we are of opinion that the said Sir George Yeardley might well allow him a herdsman to keep his cattle, considering the petitioner was employed by him most part of said time.”


period, the average value of female horned cattle did not exceed one-half the average value of oxen; Governor Yeardley himself is represented as having bought in his native country a cow for seven pounds sterling, eight pounds less than the valuation at which the same animal would have been held in Virginia.2 Three hundred and seventy-five dollars for fully grown horned cattle, for such was approximately the purchasing power of fifteen pounds sterling in the early part of the seventeenth century, was an extraordinary price, only to be explained by the comparative scarcity of these beasts, and the usefulness

1 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 338.

2 Certificate of Thomas Gibbes and Samuel Wrote, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 15, I; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 14, Va. State Library.


of the purposes which they served in the Colony. There the cow was in as much demand as the ox, and in consequence its price was as high. The great desire felt among the settlers that every means should be adopted to promote the increase of their live stock is shown in the passage of the law, that no female cattle were to be killed unless they had ceased to breed, or were stricken with a disease or infirmity that would inevitably end in death. The term “cattle” was here intended to apply to horses and sheep as well as to hogs, cows, and oxen.1 Already neat cattle were occasionally drawn away from the older parts of Virginia. In 1631, William Claiborne transferred to Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay a small herd which had been ranging at Kecoughtan.2 It is probable that no oxen had as yet been sent from the Colony to Barbadoes, but in a few years, when the need of draught animals for the sugar-mills in that island had become urgent, petitions were entered in the House of Lords asking permission, in order to meet this need, to export from Virginia as many as a hundred head in a single cargo.3

The number of horses in the Colony at this time must have been very insignificant. Among the commodities which Charles the First, in 1627, urged the people of Virginia to produce were pitch and tar, but the Governor and Council replying in the following year to the royal communication, declared that the planters were unable to comply with the King’s commands because they lacked horses with which to transport the wood to sites where the kilns could be erected.4 Sheep must have been still fewer in number, not only because the original stock was

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 153.

2 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1687, p. 222.

3 Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Sixth Report, Appendix, p. 203.

4 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 212.


small, but also because the pasturage was limited, and the danger of attack by wolves was always present. No law had as yet been passed offering a reward for the destruction of the latter; the only means adopted by the colonists as a protection against them was to appoint servants to look after all the cattle in the possession of their masters. The cattle of William Pierce1 and Adam Thoroughgood2 were guarded in this manner, their keepers being men of matured years, who had the strength and courage to resist the depredations of wild animals upon the herds in their charge. Many of the planters were owners also of large numbers of goats. Captain Thoroughgood left to his heirs one hundred and seven, for the safety of which a man of thirty years of age and a boy of sixteen had been constantly employed by hint.3 In 1637, Joseph Ham, of York County, bequeathed to his children thirty kids, to be divided equally among them, and to his wife twenty-one goats.4 The full-grown animal at this time was valued at ninety-five pounds of tobacco, or fifteen shillings, and the kid at seventy-five pounds of tobacco, or twelve shillings.

As a barrier against bands of marauding Indians, it had

1 Governor Harvey to Secretary Dorchester, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VI, No. 11; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 68, Va. State Library.

2 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original volume for the years 1642 and 1643, folio page 19. The name of the keeper in the employment of Captain Thoroughgood was Rowland Morgan, who was twenty-five years of age.

3 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original volume for the years 1642 and 1648, folio page 38.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1633-1694, pp. 11, 12, Va. State Library. When, in 1633, the Dutch captain Devries set sail from Jamestown on his return voyage, he was presented by the Governor of the Colony with six goats and one ram. Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 52.


been suggested, as early as 1623, that a pale should be built from a point on James River, in the limits of Martin’s Hundred, to Cheskiack on the Charles, a distance of six miles; by this means, an area that was three hundred thousand acres in extent would be enclosed, furnishing a vast body of land, to serve as a range for cattle. It could also in part be used for supporting a large population. In 1626, Samuel Mathews and William Claiborne offered to erect the palisade, and to build houses at a short interval along its line; they calculated the whole cost of construction at twelve hundred pounds sterling, and the expense of maintaining the houses and the palisade in good repair at one hundred pounds sterling a year. They required, as a condition of their contract to carry out this project, that a grant should be made to them of the soil along the line of the palisade to the extent of six score poles on either side. Within these limits, they were to seat men, who would perform the important service of guards. The design at the time was to raise a large stock of oxen, horses, and asses in this protected enclosure, to be used in expeditions against the Indian tribes inhabiting the surrounding country.2 The proposition of Mathews and Claiborne, which was made to the Governor and Council, was reduced to writing, and in the same year forwarded to the authorities in England for approval.3

In 1630, the price of Virginian tobacco sank to less than one penny a pound.4 The planters had for several years found themselves cultivating this crop at little if any

1 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 172.

2 A Proposition Concerning the Winning of the Forest, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 10, II; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1626, p. 145, Va. State Library.

3 This communication is printed in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, pp. 50-55.

4 Governor Harvey to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 95; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1630, [footnote continues on p. 301] p. 221, Va. State Library. This extraordinary decline was said to have been due to the increase in the area under cultivation in tobacco in Barbadoes, Mevis, St. Christopher, and Bermudas.


profit, and this had the effect which the numerous proclamations and instructions previously issued to discourage its production had failed to bring about; there was now for the first time in the history of the Colony a voluntary disposition among the people to devote some attention to other commodities that had hitherto aroused but little interest. There was a considerable extent of land in Virginia which, from a previous course of tillage, had been sufficiently deprived of its fertility to be left in an excellent condition for the growth of wheat; it now occurred to many of the planters that instead of allowing this land to revert to forest, or instead of putting it down in a succession of crops of maize until wholly exhausted, it would be advisable to sow it in English grain. This course had already for several years been followed by Abraham Piersey, who in one year alone, 1627, had two hundred acres in wheat and as many in barley, the product of this area of soil being so great that he was able to furnish food daily at his own charge to sixty persons.1 The authorities sought to confirm this disposition to give less attention to tobacco. In 1628, there was issued a proclamation that only so much of this commodity should be cultivated as would not interfere with the production of grain;2 in 1629, the amount to be raised was restricted to three thousand plants a head, workers in the ground alone being considered, but as this would have been unjust to families composed in large part of women and children, who were incapable of laboring in the fields, one thousand plants additional per poll were allowed in the

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 885.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 130.


latter instances. The supreme importance of tobacco as a means of securing a livelihood was indicated in the refusal of the Assembly, in 1629, to prohibit new corners from cultivating it, although at this time the authorities had the strongest desire to diminish the quantity produced.1 The heaviest punishment which the Assembly supposed they could inflict upon the French vine-dressers, who had been brought into Virginia in the time of the Company, and who had been subsequently accused of concealing their knowledge, was to refuse to grant them permission to cultivate tobacco, to which the vine-dressers, who had leased some of the public lands, had probably turned as the most direct means of earning a subsistence.2 The use of the leaf as a substitute for specie, a use rendered necessary by the fact that the planters did not receive money for their products, but articles for consumption, or bills of exchange payable in England in coin, which rarely found its way back to the Colony, was one of the most powerful influences leading the Virginians to give such absorbing attention to the cultivation of this staple. It was not simply a perishable crop which sold at varying rates in the English and Dutch markets; it was money with an intrinsic value, like gold and silver, and as necessary for exchange as any kind of currency.

One of the most notable results of the fact that an important proportion of the tobacco of the Colony was produced by planters who had recently arrived in Virginia, was the reduction in the average quality of each annual crop. The servants of the new planters were as a rule as ignorant as themselves in the beginning. While some of the immigrants were prudent enough to wait until they had acquired by actual observation, or personal experience in the field, a knowledge of the proper manner

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 141.

2 Ibid., p. 161.


of tending tobacco, and of manipulating it after it had been removed from the hill, the largest number proceeded immediately after their arrival to cultivate it, although it was a plant foreign to any agricultural training which they had previously received in England. This was only one of the many causes of the production of so much of the commodity belonging to the lowest grades.

The finest tobacco was spoken of as the long sort, which the colonists were especially commanded to cultivate, all ether kinds being strictly prohibited.1 The manner of curing the leaf was still defective, because the experience of the oldest planters did not extend over the course of a generation, and the great body of that class had been engaged in the culture of tobacco only for a few years. There were as yet no extensive set of rules founded upon comparative observation, and transmitted with constant enlargement from decade to decade. Knowledge acquired during a long course of time has shown, that half the virtue of the plant lies in its manipulation after the leaves are gathered, and it may be easily seen that the rude methods of the early Virginian planters would do little to improve the original quality of the commodity.

It was thought by the English merchants that the inferiority of the Virginian to the Spanish leaf was due entirely to the ignorance and carelessness of the planters, and their repeated complaints led to the passage of a strict inspection law. The first statutory regulation established in Virginia, looking to the destruction of the lowest grades, was adopted at the meeting of the first Assembly in 1619. It was then enacted that all the tobacco brought to the Cape Merchant, to be exchanged for goods of various sorts, should be carefully examined by four viewers, two of whom were to be appointed by

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I. p. 205.


the Cape Merchant, and two by each corporation in whose boundaries a branch magazine was seated. The leaves found to be worse in quality than those appraised at eighteen pence a pound, which were the most inferior that the adventurers of the general magazine were willing to purchase, were to be burnt on the spot.1 This provision, although well adapted to improve the character of the tobacco exported, does not appear to have been enforced after the abolition of the general magazine in the following year. In 1621, the Company urged upon the attention of the authorities in Virginia the necessity of destroying the meanest grades, and allowing only what was excellent in quality to be shipped to England.2 No inspection law, even in a greatly modified form, seems to have been in operation in the interval of ten years preceding 1630. At the meeting of the General Assembly in the spring of that year, in order to prevent the exportation of bad tobacco, it was provided that the commander of each plantation should summon two or three men, of sound judgment and extensive experience, to inspect whatever leaf had been offered in payment of debts, and had been found to be mean by the creditor, and that if the viewers should reach the same conclusion, it was to be burnt. The delinquent should be disbarred from planting a second crop unless his disability was removed by the General Assembly.3

This law contained a number of serious defects which led to its amendment. It was not to be expected that the commander would be very rigid in passing upon the quality of his neighbor’s tobacco. Not only was it always likely that a feeling of personal kindness and friendship

1 Lawes of Assembly, 1619, Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 24.

2 Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 244.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 152.


would come in to soften his judgment, but an impulse of humanity, also, would probably not infrequently cause him to be extremely lenient, the planter producing the inferior crop, perhaps from no fault of his own, being absolutely dependent upon its sale for the necessaries of life for himself and his family. By the terms of the amended law of 1682, the commander was to take no direct part in the inspection, his duty extending only to the appointment of two competent viewers, who were to report to him the result of their examination. To compel him to make this appointment, even when his inclinations were strongly averse to doing so, he was, in case of failure to conform to the statute, to be deprived during the course of twelve months of all right to hold office.1

The law was amended still more radically at the session of the General Assembly held in the winter of 1632-33. It was stated, that the object of the additional change was to raise the price of the exported tobacco by improving its quality. Inspection was to be made at five different points in the Colony, that is to say, at James City, Shirley Hundred Island, Denbigh, Southampton River in Elizabeth City, and Cheskiack. At each of these places, a store or warehouse was to be erected. Hither all the tobacco produced was to be brought by the planters previous to the last day of December in each year. Here it was to be carefully inspected, and all belonging to the meanest grade was to be taken from the great mass and burnt. This duty was to be performed once a week by men who were acting under oath, one of whom was always to be the member of the Council whose home was nearest to the particular warehouse. The tobacco judged to be vendible was to be stored away, the ownership to be recorded in the list of accounts to be kept for that

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 190.


purpose; and it was only to be withdrawn to be carried on board ship and transported out of Virginia. All tobacco found in the barns of the planters, after the thirty-first day of December, was to be confiscated, unless reserved for the use of their families, a fact to which they were required to swear before the proper officers previous to the closing day of the year. The warehouses appear at this time to have been designed wholly for the storage of leaf, as by the provisions of the law under the authority of which they were to be erected, the goods imported into the Colony were to be landed only at Jamestown, where all the contracts, bargains, and exchanges for any part of this merchandise were to be made. The right, however, was granted to the planters to pay their debts at the warehouses.1

At the session of the General Assembly held in the course of the summer following the passage of these amendments of the inspection law, further changes were introduced. The number of warehouses to be erected was increased from five to seven, the additional two to be built, one at Warrasquoke, and the other at a point lying between Wyanoke and the Falls. The viewers to serve at each warehouse were to include not only the member of the Council whose residence was situated the nearest to it, but also the commissioners of the local court, with whom assistants duly appointed were to be joined, and they were to make an inspection of the leaf brought in as often as its volume required.2 Each warehouse was to be in charge of a storekeeper, whose remuneration for his superintendence was to be one per cent of what was placed in his official care.3

It would appear that the requirements of the inspection

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 204.

2 Ibid., pp. 209-213.

3 Ibid. p. 221.


law, as to the condemnation to the fire of all unmerchantable tobacco, were to some extent enforced,1 but the proof as to whether the warehouses were erected is not so positive. In 1638, only a few years after the provision as to the construction of the seven buildings for storage was adopted, the burgesses are found objecting to the great inconvenience of transporting their annual crop to different warehouses, which would have been necessary if the contract with the King for the purchase of the whole product of the Colony, at that time under advisement, had been carried out.2 They proposed that, instead, inspectors should be named for each neighborhood. The suggestion does not seem to have been favorably received, for there is evidence that in 1641, a storekeeper was appointed for the limits of Lynhaven in Lower Norfolk, and also one for Elizabeth City, and in both instances they were required to give security that the tobacco placed in their respective warehouses would be carefully guarded.3

The effort to improve the quality of the tobacco exported was not confined to regulations making the burning of the meanest grades compulsory. Not only were the number of plants to be cultivated to the head prescribed

1 Letter of Governor Harvey to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 82; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1637, p. 216, Va. State Library. The expression used by Harvey is: “He can give many instances of his strictness in that course, (i.e. condemning to the fire) both last year and this.” This letter was written Jan. 29, 1637-38.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 96, II; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 109, Va. State Library.

3 “Whereas Robert Smith hath petitioned to this Court to be Storekeeper for the Limits of Linhaven . . . it is, therefore, ordered that the said Smith shall supplie ye place of ye said storekeeper according to acts of Assembly, provided that he puts in security for ye safe keeping of the tobacco after it is put in the store.” Records of Lower Norfolk County, 1637-1642, folio page 46. This reference is also the authority for the statement as to the appointment of a storekeeper in Elizabeth City.


in the inspection law of 1629-30, but also in the different amendments which from time to time were made to it. The law itself restricted the number to be raised to two thousand for every individual in a family, women and children inclusive.1 A subsequent Act prohibited those who were not engaged in the cultivation of the leaf to transfer to persons who were, their right of planting. The landholder was required to procure either a neighbor, or some competent stranger, to count the plants in his fields, and to certify the result to the commander of the place, and if he was found to have exceeded the number allowed, the commissioners were to order the destruction of his whole crop.2 The leaves were to be limited to nine in the gathering, and under no circumstances were the suckers springing up from old stalks to be tended. In 1633, the number of plants to the poll to be cultivated was reduced to fifteen hundred.3

The effect of these various regulations, whether strictly enforced or not, must have been on the whole very influential in improving the quality of the tobacco, the need of which, at the beginning of the fourth decade of the seventeenth century, was just as urgent as it was in the middle of the third. In a proclamation issued in 1631, it was stated that an increasing quantity of the commodity was imported secretly into England from the Brazils and the Spanish provinces in America, and this was most probably in response to a continued demand for the highest grades, because Virginia, independently of the Bermudas, could easily have furnished the whole amount required by English consumers.

Harvey began his administration of the affairs of Virginia in the spring of 1630. He had brought over the usual instructions to promote a diversification of the commodities

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 152.

2 Ibid., p. 104.

3 Ibid., p. 205.


of the Colony. When he arrived, he found that the people were suffering from a great dearth of grain, owing to the excessive attention paid to the culture of tobacco.1 In March, 1629-30, a stringent regulation had been adopted, requiring that at least two acres of grain for every person who was engaged in actual work in the ground should be planted. In the interval preceding the harvest of the crop of 1630, Harvey dispatched a vessel as far as Cape Fear to procure a supply of Indian corn, and he also sent an agent on a voyage in the Chesapeake Bay, with a cargo of merchandise of various sorts to be used in trading for maize with the Indians. Three hundred bushels were obtained by this means, which were devoted to the present relief of the colonists, thus assuring the preservation of the grain in the fields until it had fully ripened. The danger of the famishing people falling upon the unmatured maize, and thus not only exposing themselves to the risk of sickness in eating it, but also exhausting the store which ought to be kept for the following winter, was in this way entirely removed.2 In consequence of this prudent management, the crop of Indian corn in Virginia in a short time amounted to many thousand bushels, furnishing an abundance even for new comers.3 Maize now commanded two shillings and six

1 Governor Harvey to Secretary Dorchester, April 15, 1630, British State Papers, Colonial, No. V; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 31, Va. State Library.

2 Governor Harvey to Secretary Dorchester, May 29, 1630, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 94; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1630, p. 218, Va. State Library. In McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 44, Va. State Library, there will be found a full copy of Governor Harvey’s letter to the Privy Council, October, 1630 (British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 95), from which some of these details were obtained.

3 Council of Virginia to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 3; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1634, p. 52, Va. State Library.


pence a bushel.1 In a commission which Governor Harvey gave to Nathaniel Basse in 1631, he was authorized to visit New England, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies, and to offer to the inhabitants of those plantations, grain at twenty-five shillings a barrel delivered there, or fifteen shillings delivered in the Colony. Similar commissions with the same orders were granted to persons to trade in Canada and the Dutch settlements.2 According to one authority, ten thousand bushels of Indian corn were shipped to New England alone in 1634. So abundant did grain become in the Colony, that Governor Harvey described Virginia as bearing the same relation to the northern provinces as Sicily bore to Rome.3 Special regulations were adopted with respect to the boats employed in its transportation; they were to be of a burden of ten tons at least, and to be built with flush decks, unless fitted with grating and tarpauling.4 It is not probable that wheat formed an important part in this exportation of grain, in 1632, seed wheat was so scarce in Virginia that Harvey, who was anxious to show unusual zeal in enlarging the number of its agricultural products, admitted that he was dependent on a supply from the mother country if he was to carry out the instructions of the English authorities with reference to sowing it.5 He had but a short time before expressed a determination to restrict his own

1 Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Fourth Report, Appx., pp. 290, 291.

2 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 219.

3 Governor Harvey to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, vol. VIII, No. 22; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1634, p. 71, Va. State Library. See also letter of John Winthrop, Jr., in Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. VIII, 5th series, Winthrop Papers, Part IV.

4 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 175.

5 Governor Harvey to Privy Council, Feb. 20, 1632-33, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VI, No. 73; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1632, p. 41, Va. State Library.


agricultural operations to the cultivation of English grain and vines.1

The shipments to the North were not confined to grain; the commissions granted to Nathaniel Basse and others, in 1631, instructed them to offer for sale in the countries with which they were authorized to trade, COWS, oxen, hogs, and goats at favorable rates.2 Devries has recorded that, in 1633, he met Captain Stone making his way from Virginia towards New England, with a cargo of grain and young cattle; a few years later, Samuel Maverick, of Massachusetts, visited the Colony, and purchased four heifers and eighty goats, which he conveyed to Boston in two pinnaces.4 So numerous had the hogs, goats, and poultry become by the fourth year of Governor Harvey’s administration, that the planters were able to furnish large supplies of meat to the crews of ships lying at anchor in the river.5 The vessels engaged in the transportation of tobacco offered, even at this time, an important market, as may be inferred from the fact that they numbered from thirty to forty, manned by many sailors, the tonnage ranging from four hundred upwards.6 When Devries arrived in the James, in the autumn of 1635, he found thirty-six sail at Blunt Point alone.7 At this time, pork

1 Governor Harvey to Lords Commissioners, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VI, No. 54; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1632, p. 35, Va. State Library.

2 Randolph MSS. vol. III, p. 219.

3 Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 64.

4 Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 131.

5 New Description of Virginia, p. 4, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II; Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 127, note.

6 Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 53.

7 Ibid., p. 112. The number of ships leaving James River for the port of London alone in 1636, with cargoes of tobacco, was twenty-one. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 9; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1636, p. 154, Va. State Library. The author of the New Description [footnote continues on p. 312] of Virginia estimated the number of sailors a few years later at seven or eight hundred. See p. 5 of this tract, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.


was sold for twenty shillings an hundred pounds.1 It illustrates the sudden changes taking place in the condition of the planters according as their crops for a single year flourished or failed, that in 1636, two years after the large shipments of grain to New England, corn was so dear in Virginia, that it was only to be bought at twenty shillings a bushel, a large number of the poorer inhabitants being reduced for subsistence to purslane and other garden vegetables.2 At a somewhat later period, Devries, who was acquainted by actual experience with these sudden fluctuations in the annual fortunes of the people, warned one of his countrymen, who proposed to make a trading voyage to the Colony, that it would be prudent for him to carry with him ample provisions, as the planters of Virginia produced supplies sufficient only for themselves.3

During the first part of the term of Governor Harvey, the palisade, which, a few years before, Mathews and Claiborne had proposed to erect from Martin’s Hundred to a point on the York, was built, thus establishing at the lower end of the peninsula between the two rivers, a secure refuge for live stock, covering ground almost as extensive as the county of Kent in England.4 Within the boundaries of this range, the cattle wandered at liberty, finding their food in wood, marsh, and field during every season. If fed at all in winter, they received only the husks of maize with a few grains.5 The Indians hardly dared

1 Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Fourth Report, Appx., 290, 291.

2 Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 131.

3 Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 177.

4 Governor Harvey to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 22; Sainsbury, Abstracts for 1634, p. 72, Va. State Library.

5 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 887.


to venture into this area in sufficient numbers to inflict serious injury. Remnants of the palisade were in existence a quarter of a century later.1 The country in the immediate vicinity of Jamestown, however, formed the principal cattle reserve of the Colony. All the forest in the general neighborhood had now been removed, and it was converted into pastures and gardens. But little grain or tobacco was planted there. Here the greater number of the live stock of the surrounding plantations were kept throughout the year, being fed on hay in winter, instead of being suffered to browse at large in the woods, or to devour the refuse of the cornfields.2 The rate of increase was not extraordinary; there is a record of a herd in Virginia which numbered fifteen head in 1628, and which had grown to fifty only in 1636, eight years later.

The first legal provision, looking to the enclosure of land as a barrier against the depredations of cattle, was adopted in 1626 by the General Court. It was ordered in the course of this year that in those parts of the Colony where cattle were preserved, such as Hog and James City Islands, the planters, in seeking to protect their grain, should be careful not to run fences across narrow necks of land, as this would deprive the animals of a wide area in which to browse, but instead to enclose the fields in which their crops were growing, leaving the live stock to wander at liberty outside. If in violation of this regulation a fence was erected, shutting them out of a range not under cultivation, it was to be destroyed, and the loss which might follow from the entrance of cattle was not to be made good.3 In February, 1631-32, the General Assembly

1 Records of York County, vol. 1683-1694, pp. 65, 75, Va. State Library.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 887.

3 General Court Orders, Oct. 12, 1626, Robinson Transcripts, p. 55.


briefly declared, that every man should enclose his ground with sufficient fences, and in case of a failure to do so, should suffer the consequences without legal remedy.1 This regulation as not adopted without opposition. It as urged that to encourage the owners of swine to dispense with keepers, whose services had been required to prevent the hogs from roaming in the cornfields, had the effect of making the latter wild by allowing them to wander about without any one to watch them, and furthermore, in the absence of a herder, they were exposed to a great number of casualties.2 In the order of court of 1626, and the statute of 1631-32, there is to be found the beginning of the provision that, substantially in its original form, has been transmitted to the present age, and which has from its very inception been the cause of innumerable personal and political altercations. The fact that a statute passed in the first part of the seventeenth century should remain in the local law of Virginia, with practically no modification in its principle, shows how little the agricultural conditions of the community have changed in the course of that extended period.3 While it was in its essence a regulation that worked for the benefit, of the small planter, and has continued to operate to his special advantage by throwing open a boundless range for his cattle, it was in the eyes of the large planter to be preferred to a measure requiring the enclosure of all land in each tract, which would have imposed upon him a very heavy burden, as many tracts included several thousand

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 176.

2 Review of the Old Acts of Assembly, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 98; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 128, Va. State Library.

3 See Report of the State Board of Agriculture of Virginia for 1893, p. 58, for a valuable summary of the different local regulations at the present time.


acres, and miles of expensive fencing would have been necessary to raise a sufficient protection on every side. Land unenclosed became a common, upon which it was not a trespass for any person in the neighborhood to permit his cattle to run. If the owner desired to prevent such incursions, it was in his power to erect a line of fence, and as long as he failed to do so, it was argued that he had no right to complain of a damage which his own live stock was liable at any time to inflict upon the unprotected crops of his neighbors.

In 1639, however, the fence law was modified in its application to swine, probably in compliance with the objections urged against it some years before. Hogs had now grown to be very numerous, and it was anticipated that they would break into the grain fields, the barrier raised against their encroachments being only too frail in many instances. It was decided, in consequence of this fact, to require that the owners of swine should confine them securely in pens at night, and provide keepers for them during the day; those persons who failed to observe these directions were to be held responsible for the damage inflicted by their hogs upon the property of their neighbor. The provisions of the Act of 1632, as well as of the Act of 1636, were still in force with respect to the depredations of other animals.1 In 1642, only two years later, swine were again placed upon the old footing in their relation to the law as to enclosures.2

The fence law of the seventeenth century could only have been passed in a country where the soil was valued very cheaply, and where live stock were not carefully provided for. As the population of the Colony expanded, and the number of plantations increased, the original

1 Act of Assembly, Robinson Transcripts, p. 222; Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 228.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 244.


statute was only made more stringent in its terms, the provision being introduced that in case hogs, goats, and other cattle were killed, either through wantonness or carelessness in the effort to drive them from unenclosed land upon which they were trespassing, the person guilty of the act should pay double their value as a compensation to the owner. A legal fence was four and a half feet in height, and closed to the bottom. The owner of live stock breaking through this fence, and inflicting serious injury to crops, was compelled to make the amplest satisfaction for the damage committed.1

It can only be inferred, that the principal fence in use in Virginia in the seventeenth century was the worm fence. There are references to rails as early as 1621; in that year, Mr. Whitaker, a leading planter, is stated to have “railed” in one hundred acres as a protection to the vines, grain, and other crops which he had under cultivation in this area of ground.2 An order of the General Court in 1626, required all who lived in those parts of the Colony where the cattle ranges were situated, to “rail, pale, or fence” their tilled lands, a clear recognition of a distinction in the methods of enclosure. At a much later date, the charge was brought against Robert Beverley, that instead of using a troop of soldiers under his command as a guard for the Governor, he had set them to felling trees, and making and “toating rails.”3 Among the terms

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 244, 332. An instance is given in the records of York County of a man who had failed to fence his land properly, injuring to such a degree the sow of a neighbor, which had broken into his grain field, that it was “utterly lost.” He was compelled by order of court to replace this sow by two sows, each two years of age. Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 281, Va. State Library.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 136.

3 Grievances of Gloster County, 1676, British State Papers, Colonial; Winder Papers, vol. II, pp. 153-156, Va. State Library.


which Mr. Reeves of Henrico inserted in the contract by which he leased a part of his estate to William Arrington in 1695, was one requiring the latter to maul six hundred fencing rails.1 The abstraction of such material was a frequent cause of criminal prosecution and civil suit.2

The worm fence, in the construction of which rails were used, was the invention of the settlers of a new country where wood was extremely abundant, and sawmills were few in number. The scarcity and, as a consequence, the costliness of nails in the early years of colonization were doubtless an element of importance in its popularity. Whenever it was decided to build an enclosure, there, in close proximity to the line selected, was a very heavy growth of timber, only requiring the application of the axe and maul to convert it into rails for the immediate erection of a fence. No posts were to be fashioned, no holes to be dug, no nails to be driven in.3 The worm fence is still one of the most familiar features of the Virginian plantation, a monument, like the fence law itself, of the perpetuation of agricultural conditions beginning with the very foundation of the Colony. In spite of its angular character, it is not devoid of picturesqueness in the plantation landscapes. In the colonial age, as in the present day, it became, after standing for several years, a trellis for the vines of the

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 578, Va. State Library. The references to fence rails in the county records are very numerous. See Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1695-1699, p.176, Va. State Library; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 123, Va. State Library; Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 109.

2 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 93, Va. State Library; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 123, 125, Va. State Library.

3 The first reference to this fence as the “worm fence,” which I have found, is in Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 39.


woods and fields, the grape, the morning-glory, the honeysuckle and the Virginia creeper, which, with their vernal or autumnal leaves and blossoms, decorated its ugliness with their beauty.

Not all of the fences to be found in Virginia in the seventeenth century were erected in a zigzag shape. Fitzhugh mentions in one of his letters, that his orchard was protected by an enclosure of locust wood; this was doubtless a straight fence constructed of panels, the ends of which were inserted in posts standing at regular intervals. The durability of locust was already recognized. Fitzhugh declared that a fence of this material would last almost for the same length of time as a brick wall.1 There were also brush fences, which were chiefly used for the protection of the maize and wheat fields, but which very frequently failed to accomplish that purpose.2

The year 1684 was a memorable one in the history of Virginia, as that in which a separate province was formed of its northern parts.3 The erection of Maryland proved in a few years to be a fertile source of embarrassment and loss to the planters of the parent colony. Tobacco was as much the principal crop of the new province as it was of the old, but as Maryland and Virginia were now under different administrations, the quantity to be planted could

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 22, 1686. The following is from the Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1682-1697, f. p. 129: “Richard Johnson, Mulatto, doth by these presents forthwith impower you in my name to confess a judgment unto John Cole to fall, mall, and set up for John Cole upon his plantation where he shall appoint 400 panels of sufficient post and rails, every pannell ten foot distance and five rails of pine to every pannell, and every post to be seven foot and half, one foot and a half in ye ground, the said post to be all of chestnut and whiteoak.” This fence was intended to serve as a protection for a cornfield.

2 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 14, Va. State Library.

3 Maryland was erected March 27, 1634.


not be controlled throughout the area of cultivation by the establishment of a regulation proceeding from a single assembly, and in consequence of this inability to enforce concert of action, the price of the leaf was often depressed by the amount produced in the two colonies, where it would have been maintained, if there had been only one, by a compulsory reduction of that amount. Nothing was to be gained by stinting the crop in Virginia if the planters north of the Potomac cultivated their usual area in tobacco the same year; this would only work to the advantage of the latter, and it was hardly to be expected that the planters south of the Potomac would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the purpose of increasing the profits of the planters of Maryland.

When the division took place, it was thought that the population of Virginia did not exceed five thousand.1 It is interesting to note the local distribution of the planters at this time. In the country situated on both sides of the James River, between Arrahattock and Shirley Hundred, the census of 1635 disclosed that there were four hundred and nineteen persons. All of these were citizens of the county of Henrico. The county of Charles City, also on both sides of the river, extending from Shirley Hundred Island to Wyanoke, was inhabited by five hundred and eleven persons; the county of James City, extending on the south side from Chippoak to Lawnes Creek, and from the Chickahominy River on the north side to a point nearly opposite the mouth of the creek, by eight hundred and eighty-six persons; the county of Warrasquoke, extending

1 Statement of William Pierce, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 21, Va. State Library. The census of 1635 places the population at 4914. Harvey, in 1630, estimated the number of inhabitants at 2500 or more. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. V, No. 95; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1630, p. 220, Va. State Library.


from the southern limit of the county of James City to Warrasquoke River, by five hundred and twenty-two. The counties of Warwick River and Elizabeth City, which included all the remaining settlements on the James River, contained sixteen hundred and seventy. The plantations lying on the modern York formed the county of Charles River, and had a population of five hundred and ten. The county of Accomac had a population of three hundred and ninety-six. It will be seen from this brief enumeration, that the plantations continued to be more thickly grouped in the county of James City than in any other part of the Colony.1

In spite of the fact, that the enlargement of the area under cultivation in tobacco in Virginia, in consequence of the steady encroachment of the cleared estates upon the line of forest, was rapidly increasing the volume of the English customs, Charles still persisted in allowing no opportunity to pass without urging upon the attention of the planters the advisability of diversifying their crops. In 1636, the addition to the royal revenue from the importation of tobacco by one ship alone amounted to three thousand three hundred and thirty-four pounds sterling,2 and yet in the ensuing year the King addressed a letter to the Governor and Council in which he declared, that the assertion that the Colony would be ruined, if the culture of tobacco was abandoned, was false, if any conclusion was to be drawn from what was to be observed in the English West Indies. The inhabitants of these islands had ceased to plant it, and had directed their

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 55; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 91.

2 Secretary Kemp to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 9; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1636, p. 154, Va. State Library.


energies to the production of other commodities.1 The people of Virginia were, however, in a different position from the people of the English colonies in the tropics. Tobacco was the only profitable crop which at that time was adapted to the situation as well as to the agricultural conditions of the Virginian settlements. When the leaf declined in price to one penny a pound, a depression largely due to the amount exported from Barbadoes, Mevis, and St. Christopher to the English market, the planters of these islands directed their attention to cotton. It was also admitted that the character of the tobacco produced in their soil was not very good. In a few years, the cultivation of sugar and indigo, ginger and oranges, was added to that of cotton. In Barbadoes, the sugar-mills were turned by oxen which had been imported from Virginia. So great had the prosperity of that Colony become by 1649, that one hundred vessels were employed in its carrying trade; a very much larger number than were plying at this time between England and the Virginian plantations.

The plan of reducing the volume of the annual crop by restricting the number of plants to the head had, by the end of 1637, led to some important results which had not at the time of the establishment of the regulation been foreseen. The limitation caused many persons to forsake their estates in search of lands offering the virgin loam in which tobacco attained its largest growth.2 If they

1 King to Governor and Council of Virginia, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 47; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1637, pp. 191-194, Va. State Library.

2 Burgesses to Governor and Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 96, II; Winder Papers, vol. I, pp. 114, 115, Va. State Library. One effect of the limitation of planting, it was said, was to discourage the use of the plough, because, in creating a disposition to desert old estates, it led to the abandonment of the only soil in which that implement could [footnote continues on p. 322] be employed, newly cleared lands being obstructed by roots and stumps. Another effect was to induce the planters to gather the inferior leaves near the ground, and thus lower the average quality of the tobacco secured.


had remained on the plantations abandoned, they would have been compelled to cultivate a soil more or less exhausted, and only capable of producing that commodity in profitable quantities by the application of manure. This could only have been obtained from the live stock. In spite of the greater attention which by 1637 was paid to the increase of the cattle, the manure to be gotten from them was comparatively small, as they were suffered to wander very much at large. Even if an abundant supply, however, could have been secured by penning them, the improvement of the ground by this means would not have been as satisfactory in its effect as the natural fertility of the mould of newly cleared land. It was early observed that tobacco taken from a field enriched by its conversion into a cow-pen was very rank in its flavor, which diminished the value that it would otherwise have derived from its bulkiness. The leaf grown in the bottoms along the streams was to be preferred not only in point of weight, but also in quality. It was not entirely greed of land, or even an inordinate desire to raise tobacco, that led to the rapid extension of the settlements; it was largely the necessity imposed upon the tiller of the ground to secure, in the restricted number of plants allowed him by the terms of the law, the heaviest weight which the soil under the most favorable conditions would impart to that number. In the absence of such a law, there would have been a strong disposition among the colonists to sue out patents to new land, but stimulated by the operation of such a regulation, there were but two influences likely to restrain that disposition, the expense of hewing down the forests, and the danger of attack


from the lurking savages. So constant was the apprehension of Indian incursions, that it is stated that one-third of the laborers were at this time engaged in performing the duties of guards.

The inclination to abandon old plantations and to take up new ones, which was promoted by the restrictive laws referred to, had both a beneficial and an injurious effect; it encouraged a more active destruction of the woods, but at the same time it fostered a spirit of indifference in the owners of land as to the manner in which they used it. They neglected the fencing of their grounds, they failed to establish pastures for their cattle, or to lay off orchards and gardens, or even to plant corn. So frail were many of the dwelling-houses in consequence of the purpose of the occupants to desert their estates as soon as exhausted by the culture of tobacco, that special instructions were sent to the Governor to discourage by every means in his power the erection of such temporary habitations. The tendency to go elsewhere was, however, not to be rooted out by instructions or laws. The same motives in a modified form were to be seen in the disposition of many persons to sue out patents to new lands without having any intention of abandoning the estates upon which they were residing. The influences leading to the expansion by purchase of the boundaries of plantations in subsequent times, when the whole surface of the country had been appropriated, were at work at this early period, but it exhibited itself not so much in enlarging single tracts as a means of securing a virgin soil, as in obtaining patents to entirely separate lands which remained unreclaimed, and which were frequently situated at a great distance from the first estate.

In 1639, in spite of the efforts to curtail the production of tobacco with a view to increasing its value, the price


of the highest grades declined to such a point that the planters were hardly able to gain a bare subsistence. In this emergency a law was passed,1 requiring that all the mean product should be destroyed and one-half of the good, the object being to reduce the volume of the crop to one million five hundred thousand pounds. That amount, as experience had shown, always commanded a price which left some margin for profit, because the quantity was not in excess of the demand in the English markets. It was further provided that during the course of the following two years, the amount of tobacco to be cultivated to the head should not run over two hundred and seventy pounds.

The details of this Act are interesting as showing how carefully considered were the regulations which the authorities of the Colony adopted to enforce a reduction in the quantity of the leaf produced as well as an improvement in its quality. Three viewers were appointed to serve in each district as laid off by the provisions of the statute, the whole number being two hundred and thirteen, including many of the most prominent and influential planters in Virginia. The tobacco belonging to the inspectors themselves, growing in the limits of their respective jurisdictions, was to be examined by persons who had been chosen to perform this duty by the commanders of the different counties. The penalty inflicted upon a viewer for neglecting to carry out the requirements of the law was the forfeiture of five pounds sterling. The planter was to be allowed several days, after the publication of the intention of the inspectors to examine the tobacco in their districts, to make an assortment of the different grades of his crop, and if he took advantage of the opportunity to convey the whole, or a part of it secretly on

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 224, 225. The Act in full is copied in the Robinson Transcripts, pp. 197-209.


board ship, or if he had already done this previous to the public announcement by the viewers that they would proceed upon their rounds by a designated time, he was, if detected in this violation of the statute, compelled to pay double the quantity of leaf which he had sought to remove out of sight, one-half to be sold for the benefit of the public treasury, and the other to be appropriated by the viewers in whose limits the fraudulent act was committed. If the planter had crops in different precincts, he was permitted to burn on one of his plantations the whole proportion of the fine grades which he was commanded to destroy, and to reserve the entire quantity of good leaf on another plantation for sale. The inspectors were authorized to break down the doors of any building in which they had reason to think that tobacco was concealed, and in doing this, they were not compelled to show the ordinary search-warrant in justification.

While the Acts for curtailing the area under cultivation in tobacco and improving the quality of the leaf offered for sale, were doubtless evaded to an important extent, nevertheless they must have accomplished their object substantially. Tobacco was constantly fluctuating in value, and not infrequently sank below the cost of producing it, but in the main, it sold at rates that promoted the rapid advance of Virginia in all the elements of material wealth. If the competition of other British possessions had been removed, and the introduction into England of the Spanish leaf by illegal methods had been successfully obstructed, the restrictive statutes passed by the Assembly would have easily kept the supply of the commodity on an equality with the demand, in spite of the growth of population in the Colony, and the increase in the number of plantations. In applying the rigid inspection law, it can be easily seen that the crops of many


persons could not successfully stand the test except in small part, and thus the labor of the year would practically go for nothing. It was largely apprehension that tobacco obtained from the comparatively exhausted soil of the estate that had been under cultivation for some years would not pass inspection, which led so many of the planters to show such eagerness in suing out patents to virgin land that was certain to bring forth the highest grades of the leaf. The small planter in particular was absolutely dependent each year upon the proceeds of his crop, and any cause which destroyed it altogether, or even diminished its volume very seriously, was a blow from which it was difficult for him to recover. One of the objections urged against the passage of the inspection law was, that the transportation of tobacco by boat, the only means which was then used for moving it (the plantations being situated on navigable streams), would expose it to a great variety of risks, which if realized would signify the temporary ruin of the owners who should happen to suffer the loss that would thus be incurred.

Secretary Kemp declared that the customs upon the tobacco of Virginia, in 1636, ought to have amounted to twenty thousand pounds sterling, and he recommended, as a means of showing the annual volume of the shipments, that a custom house should be established in the Colony.1 The English authorities approved the suggestion, although they had practically rejected it when offered by Harvey.2 Instructions were sent to the Governor and Council to select some place in Virginia which was fitted to be a port

1 Secretary Kemp to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 9; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1636, p. 154, Va. State Library.

2 Letter of Governor Harvey and Council to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 3; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1633, p. 53, Va. State Library.


of entry. Here all the articles to be sent out were to be carefully scrutinized, and an account of them kept in detail. A yearly statement was to be transmitted to the Lord Treasurer in England of the various commodities that had been actually exported. The officer appointed to supervise the cargoes and keep a record of them, was to receive as his remuneration two pence upon each cask of tobacco put on shipboard. This charge was only indirectly a duty.1

These instructions were, in February, 1637, embodied by the General Assembly into a law, and Kemp was chosen Register;2 to him the fee of two pence on each cask of tobacco, and at the same rate on other commodities, was to be paid by the masters of the vessels upon their delivering their invoices into his hands. During the first year following the formal adoption of this regulation, no fees were received, because the ships had already taken on board their loading when the rule went into effect; in the second year, however, payment was made, and made in the form of tobacco, coin, and bills of exchange. The Treasurer of the Colony, Jerome Hawley, had now been substituted for Secretary Kemp as Register, but dying soon after, Kemp was reappointed to the position. In 1639, instead of settling this tax either in coin, tobacco, or bills as formerly, the shipmasters were permitted to give bonds as security for the amount due by them.3

The great depression in the prices of tobacco in 1638 and 1639 had, hike the similar depression in 1629, already

1 King’s Letter, August 4, 1636, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, No. 60, I; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 233, Va. State Library.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 40; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1637, p. 186, Va. State Library.

3 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IX, No. 110; vol. X, No. 5 Sainsbury Abstracts for 1638, p. 19, Va. State Library; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 242, Va. State Library.


referred to, the effect of directing the attention of the planters of Virginia to products to which they had previously given only a small part of their thoughts and energies. In 1638, the Burgesses forwarded a special communication to the Privy Council in England, in which they declared that the interest in the culture of silk had revived very much, and their messenger presented to the Secretary of that body a considerable quantity of the Virginian product to show the excellence of its quality.1 On the other hand, the interest in the culture of the vine had declined so far, that the law of 1632, requiring that twenty slips to the head should be annually planted, was expressly repealed, and it was provided instead that each landholder should produce a certain amount of flax and hemp.2 Governor Harvey had sowed a large quantity of rape seed not long after his arrival in the Colony. He also made an attempt to cultivate olives, lemons, oranges, pomegranates, and figs.3 He was probably only successful with the latter, a fruit which had been shown already to be adapted to the soil of Virginia; in a garden owned by Mrs. Pierce at Jamestown, extending over an area of three or four acres, as much as one hundred bushels of figs had been gathered in one year.4

Influenced by repeated instructions from England, Harvey continued to promote by his own example the production of English grain in Virginia. In the closing year of his administration, he wrote to the English authorities that four of the members of the Council

1 Governor Harvey to English Secretary of State, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, No. 5; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 147, Va. State Library.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 218.

3 Governor Harvey to Secretary Windebank, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. VIII, No. 22; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1634, p. 71, Va. State Library.

4 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 887.


would begin to sow wheat as soon as the proper season arrived to prepare the land for the reception of the seed, and that there was reason to think that in this step they would be followed by others.1 When Devries visited Virginia in 1643, he found that the planters were putting down in English grain the lands which had been exhausted by successive crops of tobacco.2 The attention paid to wheat led to its production in such large quantities, that for the first time in the history of the Colony it became an important part of the commodities exported. For some years, Indian corn had been sent from Virginia to New England, and also to the West Indies; now, in addition, both wheat and maize were disposed of to the traders of Maryland, Manhattan, and Carolina. The obstacles overcome in cultivating English grain proves that there must have been a growing market for its sale. It was calculated by Williams, that it required a month to turn over twelve acres with a single plough, although, by exercising great industry, a man and boy might accomplish this work in twelve days; it was, however, safer, in his opinion, to allow a margin more than equal to this period, the length of time necessary being due as much to the inefficiency of the plough as to the roughness of the soil to be broken up. Two able-bodied laborers were sufficient to sow sixty acres in wheat in the course of one season, and to reap the grain when it was in a condition to be harvested. Such an area of land would bring forth a quantity amounting in value to four hundred

1 Governor Harvey and Council to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, No. 5; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1638-39, p. 57, Va. State Library.

2 Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 183.

3 Virginia Richly Valued, p. 13, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. See also Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 54.


and eighty pounds sterling. The fifteenth Act of Assembly, in the session of 1639, permitted “corn,” in which term both wheat and maize were doubtless included, to be exported whenever the price sank below twelve shillings a bushel.1 Any one shipping grain from the country had to secure special permission to do so. In February, 1639, John Stratton was authorized to transport grain and cattle presumably to New England, and instructions were given to the Captain of the fort at Point Comfort to grant him free egress, provided that he bore away no prohibited commodity; similar commissions were subsequently issued to William Hunt and Edward Robins, to enable them to export to the same quarter a quantity of grain and pork.2 Precautions were taken that the ships carrying these articles to the northern colonies should convey all tobacco which they had on board to London, as directed in the order of the Privy Council, bearing the date of July 2, 1634.3 No one was allowed to purchase maize from the Indians for less than sixteen shillings a barrel, the contents of a barrel being forty gallons; this regulation was perhaps designed to prevent the acquisition of Indian corn at a very reduced price from the aborigines, as this would have enabled the buyer to dispose of it afterwards at a lower rate than the planter was willing to sell the grain produced by himself.4

Berkeley, like his predecessors Harvey and Wyatt, had, upon his appointment as Governor, been specially directed to encourage a diversification of the agricultural products of Virginia, and he proceeded soon after his arrival to

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 227.

2 General Court Orders, January, 1639, Robinson Transcripts, p. 180.

3 Ibid., May 6, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, p. 183.

4 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 227.


carry out his instructions by urging the passage of the necessary laws, as well as by setting an example in his own person. He planted at an early day a considerable area of land in flax, hemp, and cotton. A few years afterwards he began an experiment with rice, and from half a bushel of seed sown harvested fifteen bushels; the result was looked upon as being so satisfactory, that the anticipation was confidently entertained that rice would soon be cultivated in such abundance in the Colony that it could be bought for two pence a pound. The notion was prevalent that the climate and soil were well adapted to the grain, this notion being largely based on the assertions of the African slaves, who stated that they found the conditions in Virginia as favorable to the production of rice as in the country from which they came.1 Subsequent experience has, however, gone to show that while the deep soil of the river bottoms is sufficiently fertile for the plant, the climate is not hot enough for its development in perfection. It was provided by law, that whoever obtained a patent for an hundred acres of land should be required to establish a garden and orchard, carefully protected by a fence, ditch, or hedge.2 In the immediate vicinity of his house at Green Spring, Governor Berkeley had fifteen hundred apple, peach, apricot, quince, and other fruit trees.3 It had been observed by those who had had an opportunity of making the comparison, that the flavor of Virginian fruit was superior to the flavor of that of England, this being true in the most marked degree of the peach and quince, which in Virginia grew on standing

1 New Description of Virginia, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.

2 Instructions to Berkeley, 1641, § 25, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 287. Act of Assembly, 1639, Robinson Transcripts, p. 216.

3 Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 204.


trees instead of against walls as in England. The Menifie plantation was famous in the Colony for the quantity and variety of its fruits, herbs, and vegetables, the garden containing rosemary, sage, marjoram, and thyme, the apple, the pear, and the cherry, while the house itself was surrounded by peach trees.1 A large orchard was owned by Mr. Hough of Nansemond; Richard Bennett had also planted many apple trees, and from the fruit annually expressed about twenty butts of cider, while Richard Kinsman obtained from his pears every year from forty to fifty butts of perry. It was the habit of some persons at this time to graft upon the indigenous crabstocks.2

There are many indications that during the course of Governor Berkeley’s first administration, which began in 1641, and lasted until the surrender of the Colony to the commissioners of the Commonwealth in 1651, there was a very great increase in the number of neat cattle in Virginia. In 1640, it was provided that only the seventh head should be exported.3 At the same time, few steps seem to have been taken to furnish the live stock with food in winter, when they were always likely to need it.4 Neat cattle, however, were thought to be so valuable, and

1 Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 50. The first peach trees referred to in the history of Virginia were at Kecoughtan. See Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 887. This was in 1629. The date of Devries’ reference to the peach trees at Menefie’s was 1633.

2 New Description of Virginia, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II. This was probably Kingsmill, not Kinsman.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 227.

4 This, however, was not unusual, as time following from the Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 278, Va. State Library, will show: “These presents Witnesseth that I, William Thornton, do bind Myself to look after the Cattle for the use of John Liptrott until such time that he doth come to age and carefully provide fodder for them as I do for my own.”


in consequence of the fence law there was so much danger of their going astray, that the branding iron was used very freely in marking them. The gift or assignment of a cow or heifer and her future offspring became now very common, and the transfer was as a rule considered important enough to be placed on record;1 if the beneficiary of the present was under age, as was so often the case, overseers were appointed to take charge of the animal until the minor reached maturity.2

In 1645, cows were sold in New England as high in some cases as thirty pounds sterling, which explains the exportation of so large a number from Virginia to the northern colonies.3 The price afterwards fell to five pounds. At this time the value of horned cattle seems to have varied but little in different parts of Virginia itself. In 1644, cows were appraised in York at five hundred pounds of tobacco apiece, which was equivalent to sixty-two shillings.4 In 1647 and 1648, they were appraised in the same county at three hundred and twenty pounds, and this was maintained on the average until the close of the century.5 In 1648, a full-grown cow belonging to the Yates estate in Lower Norfolk was valued at four hundred pounds, but this was exceptional.6 In 1640, a bull in Virginia, which had been wantonly killed, was decided by the General Court to be worth seven hundred pounds, which at three pence a pound was equivalent to

1 An example will be found in Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 63, Va. State Library.

2 See, for instance, Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 127, Va. State Library.

3 Bishop’s History of American Manufactures, vol. I, p. 431.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 186, Va. State Library.

5 Ibid., p. 295, Va. State Library.

6 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1681, f. p. 95.


eight and a third pounds sterling. This valuation was to some extent punitive.1 In 1644, when tobacco was worth one and a half pence a pound, a bull was appraised in York at four hundred, and fifty pounds.2 In 1648, a stoned calf was appraised in the same county at eighty pounds. In 1645, a bull was valued in Lower Norfolk at five hundred, and a few years afterwards at three hundred.3 In 1644, a steer was appraised in York at three hundred pounds; two years later, there is an instance, both in York and Lower Norfolk, of the valuation of an animal of the same kind at six hundred. Heifers in York ranged in the same interval from two hundred and sixty pounds of tobacco to four hundred.

The records covering the period immediately previous to 1649, do not indicate that the number of horned cattle belonging to individual planters was very large. Edward Perceval of York owned ten head; John Sakers of the same county, twenty-three; William Stafford, also of York, twenty-seven.5 Robert Glasseock of Lower Norfolk owned seven head; the May estate in the same county, twelve; and the Yates estate, thirteen.6 These holdings were probably fairly representative of the different parts of the Colony, although in the aggregate the number of cattle was very large. In all of these instances, a considerable number of hogs must be added. There appear

1 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 232.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 186, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 95.

4 Ibid., f. p. 95; Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 186. Va. State Library.

5 Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, pp. 59, 61, 186, Va. State Library.

6 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. pp. 46, 95, 140.


to have been no sheep in some of the counties, but very many goats. It was not until the middle of the century had passed that the records of Lower Norfolk contain references to sheep, but the listed property in live stock reveals from an earlier date the presence of a large number of goats in each district of that county.1

The references to horses in the county records just previous to 1649 are rare, because at this period there were still very few in the Colony. The returns from the districts of the several collectors in Lower Norfolk show, that in 1647 only five were enumerated in that county for taxation.2 Robert Evelyn, in mentioning the kinds of live stock which the settlers of New Albion could export from Virginia, named only cows, goats, and hogs.3 With a view to increasing the number of horses, the Quarter Court convening at Jamestown in March, 1639, granted to Thomas Stegge and Jeremy Blackman the right to import these animals into the Colony from abroad,4 and a few years later the General Assembly, having the same object in view, permitted, as an exception to the general regulation, that all debts contracted for horses and, sheep, to be paid in coin, should be recoverable upon suit.5 in 1645, however, the poll tax, which bore very heavily upon the poorer section of the population,6 was abolished temporarily, and in its place four pounds of tobacco were levied for every cow the age of which exceeded three years;

1 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 56.

2 Ibid., p. 56.

3 New Albion, p. 32, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.

4 Privy Council to Governor and Council in Virginia, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, No. 57; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1639, p. 90, Va. State Library.

5 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 268.

6 Ibid., pp. 305, 306.


thirty-two pounds for every horse, mare, or gelding; four pounds for every breeding sheep; and two pounds for every breeding goat. This tax, as long as it remained in force, must have had a discouraging influence on the live stock interests of the Colony; in 1648, it was repealed, on the ground that it had been created only to raise funds for carrying on the war with the Indians then in progress, an emergency which had now passed.1

In 1649, there were about fifteen thousand people in Virginia independently of the slaves, who were three hundred in number.2 There were twenty thousand calves, cows, bulls, and oxen. One authority calculates that their number at this time was thirty thousand.3 The cheese and butter produced in the Colony was thought to be excellent. There were only two hundred horses and mares, but many were sprung from blooded stock. The sheep had increased to three thousand, and the flocks would have been very much larger had not the wolves continued so destructive in spite of the prize that was offered for heads, this having been increased from fifty7 to one hundred pounds of tobacco, payable by the commissioners of the county courts. It shows the multitude of these animals, as well as the activity of the colonists in killing them, that at one meeting of the justices of Lower Norfolk in 1649, twenty-one heads were presented to secure the reward.5 There were about five thousand

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 356.

2 This statement, and those that follow, except when a different authority is given, are taken from the New Description of Virginia, pp. 1-16, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.

3 Bullock’s Virginia, p. 7. Bullock estimated the number of horses in Virginia at two hundred. See p. 8.

4 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1637-1642, f. p. 12, Order of Court, Oct. 28, 1639.

5 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 128.


goats and a still larger number of hogs, both domestic and wild. There were many hundred acres in wheat, producing from eight to twelve quarters an acre.1 This grain was now sold at the rate of four shillings a bushel. Many persons also raised oats and barley. A very large quantity of maize was cultivated, the increase being two hundred and fifty quarters for every quarter planted.2 The law still remained on the statute-book requiring that each landholder should put down two acres in grain for every individual in his service, and in order to enforce this law with the utmost strictness, it was provided that each constable should periodically view the fields of all the planters in his bailiwick, and in case of a shortage in acreage, or inattention to the removal of weeds, should report the default to the commissioners of the County Court, who were to impose a heavy fine for each acre that was lacking, or open to condemnation.3 In the production of tobacco it was calculated that the labor of one man would ensure twenty or twenty-five pounds sterling, rating the value of the leaf at three pence a pound. The hops that had been planted throve well. There was a great abundance of potatoes, asparagus, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, and artichokes, and a large store of Indian peas and beans. At this time, rice was cultivated,4 and indigo flourished to such a degree that the Virginians were anxious to obtain an amount of seed which might enable them to supply the whole of Christendom, the supposition being that one laborer could produce two thousand pounds of the plant in one year. Larger expectations

1 Bullock’s Virginia, p. 9.

2 Ibid.

3 An instance of the enforcement of the law is given in the Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 358, Va. State Library.

4 New Albion, p. 32, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II; New Description of Virginia, p. 14, Ibid., vol. II.


than usual were now entertained as to the advantages to accrue from silk culture, and by some enthusiasts it was even anticipated that silk would supersede tobacco.1 Wine also was expressed from three varieties of grape;2 it was even proposed to introduce into the Colony highly skilled vine-dressers from Southern Europe.3 As the number of ploughs going in Virginia in 1649 did not exceed one hundred and fifty, and these were probably in the possession of a few persons,4 the greater proportion of the soil planted must have been prepared for culture with the hoe, the probability of which is increased by the fact, that so large a part of the land under cultivation had only recently been cleared of forest, leaving the surface of the ground interspersed with stumps, and the earth beneath interlaced with enormous roots, which would have destroyed any plough of that age.

There have been transmitted to us several interesting accounts of what was necessary, about the middle of the

1 Leah and Rachel, p. 19, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

2 Bullock’s Virginia, p. 8.

3 Virginia Richly Valued, pp. 16, 17, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. “Before the Greek vigneroons go over,” remarks the author of this treatise, “they shall be consulted as to what ground is proper, what season fit, what prevention of casualties by bleeding or splitting, what way to preserve or restore wine when vesseled, what species of wine is fittest for transportation or retention in the Country, which for duration, which for present spending; it being in experience manifest that some wines refine themselves by purge upon the sea; others by the same means, suffer an evaporation of their spirits, joyne to this that some wines collect strength and richnesse, others contract feebleness and sowernes by seniority. These consultations, drawne to a head by some able person and published, to be sent over in severall copies to Virginia, by the inspection of which people might arrive at such competent knowledge in the mystery that the reservation or jealousies of the vigneroons could not but be presently perceived and prevented.”

4 James Stone of York County was the owner of three of these implements. Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 391, Va. State Library.


seventeenth century, for the equipment of a person who had decided to remove to Virginia, or the country adjacent to that Colony, with the intention of becoming a planter. According to Robert Evelyn,1 he should carry over a considerable amount of merchandise to be invested on his arrival in cattle. With six pounds sterling worth of goods he would be able to purchase a cow, an ox, two goats, and two sows. He should be careful to take with him provisions to supply the needs of himself and the persons who accompanied him, until he was in a position to obtain from the ground the food which he and his companions would require; these provisions should consist of biscuit, peas, oatmeal, acquavitæ, malt, pork, beef and fish, two bushels of roots, and five pounds of butter. He should carry over a hogshead of wheat, and also vegetables, hemp, and flaxseed. The tools which he would want were art axe, spade, and shovel, together with a considerable quantity of steel and iron to be used in repairing. Nails should also be taken along. The emigrant should not forget to carry with him weapons of defence and attack, and a supply of ammunition. Evelyn computed that the whole cost of the equipment described would not exceed ten pounds and five shillings.

Williams, the author of Virginia Richly Valued, recommended2 that every emigrant, before setting out for Virginia, should provide himself with a monmouth cap and waist-coat, bands, shirts, shoes and stockings, and a suit, canvas to make sheets, blankets and a rug. He should carry over for household use, a large iron pot, big and small kettles, skillets, frying-pans, a gridiron and spit, platters, dishes, spoons, knives, sugar, spice, and fruit; and, also, for plantation purposes, broad and

1 New Albion, p. 32, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.

2 Virginia Richly Valued, p. 10, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


narrow hoes, axes, hand, whip, and band saws, hammers, shovels, and spades, augers, piercers, gimlets, hatchets, bills, frows, pickaxes, nails, grindstones, and ploughs; and also nets, hooks, and lines. He would need in addition a complete suit of light armor, a sword, musket or fowling piece, with a sufficient quantity of shot and powder. The cost of these various articles would not for each individual exceed eleven pounds sterling.

Bullock declared1 that the emigrant going over to Virginia with two servants would need a plough, three spades, three shovels, three mattocks, two axes, two hatchets, one large and one small hand-saw, all of which could be procured at an expense of three pounds and eight shillings; three gallons of liquor and a case, which would cost one pound; a fowling-piece, with powder and shot, and a casting-net with hooks and lines, which would entail an outlay of two pounds and twenty shillings; an iron pot and frying-pan, wooden platters, dishes and porringers, which could be bought for one pound; and lastly, a miscellaneous collection of linen and woollen clothing, shoes, ironware, and other articles, not to exceed twenty pounds in value. An additional expenditure of twenty-four pounds and eight shillings would be ample for the purchase of the number of cows, oxen, pigs, and poultry, as well as the quantity of seed of different sorts, that would be needed.

During the first year following the arrival of the new comer, in case he did not proceed at once to the culture of tobacco, which was doubtless the course pursued by the great majority of the immigrants at this time, the usual plan was for him to secure lodgings for himself and his servants in the house of a planter who had long resided in Virginia, and to rent a body of land that had

1 Bullock’s Virginia, p. 35 et seq.


been too much exhausted to produce tobacco further. Soil of this character was so abundant, that the owners were generally willing to allow it to be tilled by others without charge, or to lease it at a rate nearly nominal. After his seed had been sown, the new colonist had an opportunity to select a place of permanent settlement, and when he had secured his crops, he was in a position to remove his servants, tools and implements, utensils and household goods to the tract which he had decided to take up under patent. In choosing a plantation, he was governed not only by the fertility of the ground, but also by its proximity to a navigable stream, and to neighbors, and by its freedom from ague and fever. The rule followed by the small farmer, who decided to continue in Virginia the cultivation of the products with which he had been familiar in England, was to put down about twenty acres in wheat and three in flax. At this time the Dutch method of ploughing had been partially introduced, and wherever it had been adopted, one man was able to break up the soil, while the master and the other servants erected fences around the fields as a protection against wandering cows, horses, and hogs, as well as deer. When the earth had been turned over, the seed planted and the enclosures completed, there was nothing to be done until the wheat and flax had ripened. The flax was the first to be harvested, the seed having been sown in May. It was liberally calculated that the sowing and the beating out of this crop would cover the space of three weeks; twenty-five were allowed for the dressing of nine hundred stone, this being a much more ample provision in point of time than the same process was permitted to occupy in England. Three weeks constituted the period allotted for reaping the wheat, the operation of securing it even from so small an area as twenty acres


being extremely slow, because the implements employed were still the immemorial sickle and hook. Where the grain was trodden out by oxen, it required a fortnight to finish the threshing, and as much as ten weeks if other means were used. The average amount of wheat to be produced to an acre was computed at five quarters, while for the same area there were expected three hundred stone of flax, in addition to fifteen bushels of flaxseed. From twenty acres of wheat one hundred quarters would be reaped, which, at twenty shillings a quarter, would signify a return of one hundred pounds sterling. Three acres in flax would yield on an average nine hundred stone, which, valued at the rate of one shilling and four pence a stone, the price it commanded at this time in the English market, would ensure sixty pounds sterling, to which should be added twelve pounds for the forty-eight bushels of seed that this number of acres sowed in flax would produce. The twenty acres would thus bring forth crops of a salable value of one hundred and seventy-two pounds sterling.

Bullock, to whom I am indebted for these details, believed from his own personal observation at this period, that there was no country offering more numerous opportunities than Virginia to a man of industry, to improve his condition in life. He dwells upon the hypothetical instance of a small planter recently established in the Colony, who sends to England a cargo of tobacco valued at one hundred pounds sterling, representing what remains to him as profit after the payment of all the expenses of his agricultural operations during the previous twelve months. The sum coming to him from its sale is disposed of by his agent in the mother country under, instructions from him as follows: fifty pounds sterling in buying clothing for six men who had been


secured as agricultural servants, and in paying the charges entailed in their transportation to Virginia; six pounds sterling in purchasing two guns, and the necessary amount of powder and shot, and also tips and shares for ploughs, and iron tools of different sorts; thirty pounds sterling in buying merchandise to be exchanged in the Colony for cattle; eleven pounds sterling in paying commissions and the like fees, and the remainder in covering the rates of insurance. At the end, of the operations of the second year, the planter, who in the beginning had invested barely fifty pounds sterling, finds himself in possession of an estate worth six hundred, in which the value of his live stock is included. Our author compares the condition of such a man with that of the English farmer, whose only aim was to secure enough by his exertions to enable him to pay the rent of his landlord, and to earn a bare subsistence for himself and his family, his life being made up of an unbroken round of grinding labor, unrelieved by even a fleeting hope of accumulating a small pecuniary independence. So great was the confidence of Bullock in the success of the English farmer who, would emigrate from his native country, to become a planter in Virginia, that he thought it proper to warn all who entertained such an intention, against that inflation of mind which follows the acquisition of riches, and to urge upon them in anticipation of the certain good fortune to which they would attain in the Colony, to hold Providence always in remembrance, as the cause of their happy condition.

Bullock did not restrict to the English farmer the alluring prospect of the great advantages to be obtained by removing to Virginia. The yeoman who drew an annual income of ten, fifteen, or twenty pounds sterling from his fields in England, could rely upon securing an income of


three hundred pounds in the Colony. To the younger son of the great landowner, whose principal estate had descended to his eldest, Virginia offered an excellent opportunity for the investment of what property he had inherited; instead of remaining in the mother country to eke out support of his family on fifty, sixty, or a hundred pounds sterling a year, he could make a settlement in the Colony, and so use his little fortune that in a few years he would be in as easy circumstances as his eldest brother. To the eldest brother himself, Bullock suggested the wisdom in those violent times of not keeping all that he possessed in the kingdom, where it was subject to diminution or entire destruction at any moment, but of dividing it into two parts, and investing one in land in Virginia, in which shape he predicted that in a short time it would become more valuable than the whole of the remainder in England, besides offering a safe harbor to which the owner could fly in case he was overtaken by the storms that the civil distractions of that age were so constantly creating.

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