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 VI
HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added July 27, 2002
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At every stage in the history of agriculture in Virginia in the seventeenth century, it is necessary to take into careful account the effect upon its progress of English legislation. This legislation touched it principally in the restrictions imposed upon commerce and navigation. As the Colony at this time produced in large quantities but one commodity having an exchangeable value, its single agricultural interest of importance was very sensitive to any obstruction in the way of finding admission to the open markets of the world. As there was always a tendency among the planters to run ahead of the demand for tobacco in England, owing to the fact that their attention was practically confined to the cultivation of one crop, the need of the utmost latitude as to the countries where it could be disposed of was always urgent and dominant. Free trade, in the widest sense of the term, if not absolutely essential to the prosperity of the Virginian, was at least, for reasons which are obvious, highly promotive of his welfare. No one perceived this more clearly than he did himself. The more uncircumscribed the field for the sale of his tobacco, the more satisfactory the prices which he could obtain for it, and the larger the amount which he would be justified in producing.

In his celebrated essay on Plantations, Bacon laid down as a principle of action, that not only should exemption


from customs be granted to the people of a colony in importing their commodities into the mother country, but also that they should be allowed the privilege of conveying these commodities to the markets, whether of their own or a foreign nationality, where they would secure the highest prices. It is not necessary to enter into any discussion as to how far England, in return for the expense of founding Virginia and sustaining and protecting it in its infancy, had an equitable claim to a monopoly of its products. As was seen in the dispute between James and the Company in 1621, with respect to the shipment of tobacco to Holland without payment of the English duties, it was boldly affirmed that the planters had an inherent and immemorial right to transport their crops whithersoever they preferred. Not even citizens of the mother country, however, had possessed this right unconditionally. As far back as the age of Richard the Second, a law had been passed which provided, that no goods should be exported from or imported into England except in vessels that acknowledged allegiance to the English King.1 The object of this law was to increase the English mercantile marine, and a long course of legislation followed having the same purpose in view. In time, the principle embodied in this legislation was the ground for the absolute denial to the colonists of the right, which they insisted upon in 1621, of transporting their commodities to such markets as were most consonant with their interests. This right they did not necessarily have because they were Englishmen, since their first obligation when shipping their products may have been to the mother country, in consequence of the assistance and protection afforded them. The mother country, on the other hand, was an independent state, holding political and

1 5 Richard II, Stat. I, ch. 3.


commercial relations with all the civilized nations of the world. Native Englishmen, in asserting the right to transport their commodities to foreign lands, were not trenching upon their duty to the parent state, because they were the parent state itself, and it was obviously to the advantage of the parent state that its people should have an unhampered trade with all mankind. It was in reality equally to the advantage of the inhabitants of Virginia in the seventeenth century that they should be permitted to dispose of their products in the open markets of the world. If the mother country, however, was to be deprived of the customs which it levied upon the tobacco exported to England from the Colony, a result that was certain to spring from the diversion of the annual crop to foreign ports, and if the vessels of aliens were to be the vehicles of conveyance, and the aliens themselves should also be at liberty to supply the planters with merchandise, it can be plainly seen that England would derive no benefit from Virginia beyond the fact that it offered a place of settlement to her surplus population.1

The first ground of interference on the part of the English Government with the transfer of Virginian tobacco to the Continent was, that this course reduced the royal income by curtailing the volume of customs, and this continued to be the principal cause of objection down

1 In judging the restrictive policy of England in its commercial relations with Virginia in the seventeenth century, it should be carefully borne in mind, first, that England’s ability to afford Virginia the protection which it needed was in large measure dependent upon the customs which were laid on the tobacco imported from Virginia itself; and, secondly, that England not only prohibited the cultivation of tobacco on her own soil, but also excluded from her own markets the tobacco of all foreign countries, in doing which she necessarily increased the cost of the leaf to the English consumer. These sacrifices on her part called, in the opinion of the English people, for some sacrifices in return on the part of Virginia and the other English colonies producing tobacco.


to the passage of the first Act of Navigation in 1651, although the general plan of promoting the increase of English shipping never lost its hold on the public mind. There was previous to this date, however, no distinct policy resembling in consistency and firmness the famous mercantile system of a later period. Whether the reason offered for the opposition to the exportation of tobacco to foreign countries was that the diversion of this commodity from England cut down the revenue of the King or discouraged the building of English vessels, that reason was urged either in instructions to the Governor of the Colony when he assumed control of its affairs, or in a special command from the Privy Council to the authorities in Virginia, or through the medium of a Royal Proclamation. The order in Council bearing date October, 1621, required that the planters should transfer all of their products to England to assure the payment of customs. The instructions to Wyatt in 1639, and Berkeley in 1641, directed them to enforce the same regulations. As an encouragement to shipping, a proclamation was issued in 1624, prohibiting the introduction of tobacco into England in foreign bottoms, and an order in Council at a later date repeated the injunction.1 In 1641, a number of English merchants urged upon the Government the passage of an Act which should prescribe a clear and well-defined policy for the control of colonial exports.2 Such a policy had been incorporated in the grant of territory to Lord Baltimore in 1632, the charter obtained by that nobleman providing that all the commodities produced in the province of Maryland should be brought into the kingdoms of England and Ireland, with the reservation to the owners of the right to send out these

1 Rymer, XVII, pp. 623, 624.

2 Cunningham’s Growth of English Industry and Commerce, p. 112.


commodities in the same or other vessels after the expiration of a year.1

When Charles was executed, the act was denounced as treason by the people of Virginia and Barbadoes, and the son of that unfortunate monarch was proclaimed as their lawful sovereign. This bold conduct aroused the resentment of Parliament, which in retaliation adopted in October, 1650, an ordinance depriving them of all independent right to sell their commodities in the markets of any country whatever.2 The only modification of this severe measure was, that the Council of State was left at liberty to grant special licenses to English or foreign merchants and shipmasters to hold commercial relations with the inhabitants of the two Colonies.3 This ordinance, it will be observed, was adopted, not to confine the transportation of their products to English vessels, but to starve the planters into submission, by closing all the channels of exchange except so far as the English authorities permitted them to be opened. It was a punitive, and not a commercial measure. Twelve months later the first of the celebrated Acts of Navigation was passed, which provided that all goods of the growth or manufacture of Asia, America, or Africa, should be introduced into England only in ships of which the owner, master, and the greater number of mariners were English subjects; and that all foreign products brought into English ports should be conveyed directly thither from the place of growth or manufacture. The practical working of this Act was calculated to advance the interests of English shipping, but it had its origin in part in the desire to cripple the Dutch, against whom the Government was at the time incensed on account of the recent murder

1 Sharf’s History of Maryland, vol. I, p. 57.

2 Scobell, vol. II, p. 132.

3 Ibid.


of Dr. Dorislaus, and the failure of its overtures looking to the union of the two peoples. A large proportion of the commodities imported into England, even by English merchants, was conveyed in the vessels of Holland, and this included the tobacco of Virginia.1 The explanation of this fact was to be found in the greater cheapness of transportation in Dutch bottoms.2 The Dutch Government protested with much earnestness against the ordinance of 1650, and the Act of 1651, but in vain, and these causes of irritation finally precipitated a war between the two countries. Before it began, Virginia had surrendered to the Commissioners of Parliament, one of the terms of submission granting to her people the full right of free trade.

To what extent was this right enjoyed by the Colony during the supremacy of the Protector?3 That the right was claimed from the beginning is shown by the incident of Walter Chiles in 1652. Chiles had loaded his vessel on the Eastern Shore with a cargo of tobacco, which he intended to transport to Brazil. While lying in the waters of Accomac, the vessel was seized by Richard Husband, a shipmaster, on the ground that its owner had not obtained the license to trade with a foreign country which had been prescribed by the terms of the ordinance. Chiles at once presented a petition to the local court, alleging that the seizure of his property was wholly illegal, because, under the articles of submission, the right to an absolute free trade had been conferred on the people of the Colony. This reason was admitted by the judges

1 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 415.

2 Public Good without Private Interest, p. 14.

3 It would appear from the note to Virginia and Maryland, pp. 46, 47, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II, that the grant of free trade was confirmed by Parliament. The last but not the first part of article seven of the terms of surrender was denied. See p. 47.


to be sound and just, and Husband was commanded to restore both the ship and the cargo. He had stolen away, however, with the vessel before he could be intercepted, and in consequence, the court ordered all the papers relating to the case to be transmitted to England as a basis for his prosecution in the courts of that country.1

There are indications that Dutch ships set out for Holland from Virginia in the course of 1651 and 1652, having probably left subsequent to the surrender to Parliament, in which event they had been permitted to load without having first obtained a special license.2 In 1653, the need of such a license was recognized by the authorities of the Colony, doubtless, however, in consequence of the war which had now broken out between England and Holland.3 In that year the overtures of Stuyvesant for

1 Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1654-1655, pp. 126, 127. See also William and Mary College Quarterly, April, 1893, p. 152. The following is from the records of Northampton: “Agreement between the Master of the Farewell and Rowd from Amsterdam of one part, and John Johnson and John Makule, both of Graft, of ye other part, that the vessel now (1652) lying at Accomac shall go to Holland to load.” Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1651-1654, July 3, 1652, p. 95.

2 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, pp. 389, 395, 403. In a letter to Stuyvesant, Aug. 6, 1652, the Directors of the West India Company inform him that they had received his reports by way of English Virginia. Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. XIV, p. 185. See also p. 165.

3 There is in the Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1651-1654, folio p. 144, the entry of an Act of Assembly in which it is stated that Parliament had in January, 1653 (N. S.), instructed the Governor and Burgesses to take the proper steps to protect the Colony from the attacks of the Dutch. New England shipowners who were engaged in the Virginia trade do not appear, even when the war was in progress, to have admitted the legal necessity of securing a special license. See Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1651-1656, folio p. 161. The voyage here proposed was not carried out. The form of the special [footnote continues on p. 352] license will be found in Maryland Archives, Proceedings of the Council, 1636-1667, p. 382.


the establishment of commercial relations between Virginia and New Amsterdam were met with the reply, that no step could be taken by the former until a license had been obtained from the Council of State; and in the following year, two English merchants are found petitioning the English government for permission to sail from Holland to Virginia and Antigua.1 Another English merchant2 who was a resident of Amsterdam, applies for a license to transport a cargo from that city to the plantations on the James and York. In 1653, the ship Leopoldus, of Dunkirk, a Spanish Fleming, was seized in the Colony and confiscated, on the ground that its, master had violated the Act of Navigation. It is a fact of some significance, that the Governor was charged with having gone on board of this vessel and afterwards furnished her with supplies, an accusation which he warmly denied.3

After the close of hostilities, a renewed assumption by the Virginians of the right of free trade would seem to be shown by the petition that the owners of the Charles offered to Cromwell in January, 1655, in which a commission was sought, authorizing them in the person of their shipmaster to surprise the different vessels occupied contrary to the ordinance of October 3, 1650, in carrying the commodities of the Colony to foreign countries.4 This

1 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, p. 418. One of these merchants was Edmund Custis.

2 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, p. 419.

3 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 248. An interesting account of the manner in which the Leopoldus was captured will be found in the Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1651-1656, folio p. 52. The Leopoldus was doubtless one of the two Spanish Fleming ships which are known to have arrived in Virginia in 1653. Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 248.

4 Petition of the Owners of the Ship Charles to Lord Protector, [footnote continues on p. 352] British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XII, No. 33; Sainsbury Abstracts, vol. 1640-1691, p. 137, Va. State Library. There is recorded in Lower Norfolk County, for the year 1666, an agreement between a citizen of Plymouth, England, and a citizen of Lynhaven, Virginia, by the terms of which the latter was to furnish one hundred hogsheads of tobacco. If the cargo was landed at Plymouth or London, the freight charge under the contract was to be eight pounds sterling; if in Zealand or Holland, nine pounds. Vol. 1651-1656, folio p. 144. In 1663, Abraham Read was fined and imprisoned because, among other things, he had said that “no foreigners ought to have trade in Virginia,” which was declared to be contrary to the terms of the surrender to Parliament. Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 248.


doubtless referred to the total disregard, on the part of the owners of these vessels, of the rule requiring that a license should be obtained from the Council of State to make the transportation legal. It is a strong evidence that the Virginians did not enjoy, even in 1656, an unqualified free trade, that they found it necessary to protest against the ordinance of 1650, as well as the Act of 1651, both of which had been passed before the surrender to the Commissioners. It was doubtless in deference to the Navigation law that they placed, in 1658, a duty of ten shillings upon every hogshead of tobacco purchased in the Colony with Dutch goods and afterwards dispatched in a Dutch or English vessel bound for a foreign or American port.1 If, however, the tobacco was sent out in an English ship, which was to discharge its cargo in England, the duty was not to be laid. The impost of ten shillings on each cask, carried on board of a Dutch vessel to be transferred abroad, was possibly in addition to the two shillings levied upon every hogshead exported from the Colony, without regard to the nationality of the owner, or the point of destination which his vessel had in view, this new tax having its origin in a law passed at the same session. In the year following its enactment,

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 469.


the captain of the Dolphin, of Amsterdam, is found among the shipmasters who refused to give security for its payment, and in consequence a warrant was issued, requiring him to appear before the Assembly and justify his conduct. It would be inferred from this that either the impost of ten shillings, adopted in the previous March, had been repealed and the captains of Dutch vessels placed upon the footing of English shipmasters, or the impost of ten shillings remained, and the Dutch captains were compelled to pay two duties, amounting together to twelve shillings. The explanation is possible, that the Dolphin, of Amsterdam, was loaded with tobacco bought with English and not with Dutch merchandise, which would exempt her cargo from the impost of ten shillings, but not from the impost of two. It is also not improbable that the Dolphin, though accredited to Amsterdam, was owned by English merchants, and was sailing with a special license.1

The advance in the charges for the transportation of their main crop, which was observed as early as 1657, is an additional indication that the people of Virginia did not enjoy during the whole of the Protectorate all the benefits of open markets.2 The freight rate increased from four pounds sterling a ton to eight and nine pounds, and in some cases it ran up as high as fourteen. The Dutch had been in the habit of purchasing the tobacco of the planters at three pence a pound, giving for it bills of exchange, which had never failed to be honored; this

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 491, 513. It was the habit of many English traders at this time to purchase East Indian merchandise at Amsterdam, and export it directly to Virginia and the other American colonies. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New York, vol. XIV, p. 385. The Dolphin may have been chartered by an English merchant who had bought a cargo of this kind in Holland.

2 Public Good without Private Interest, p. 14.


tobacco they afterwards sold for six and seven pence, leaving them a profit after meeting every expense. On the other hand, the removal, at least in part for a time, of the competition of the Hollanders, signified a heavy decline in the local value of the staple of the Colony, and there was also but a small margin of gain for the English trader, as his market had been narrowed by the amount of the same commodity which the Dutch had, by 1657, been led to produce in territory under their own dominion.1 Irritated by these evils, and quite probably anticipating worse, the Assembly, in 1660, passed an Act which must, for the time being, have suppressed the masters of English vessels who were attempting, under the supposed protection of the provisions of the English Navigation law, to shut out all foreign commanders who sought to share with them in the transportation of tobacco, and had even gone so far as to seize a number of these alien ships for violating the Act. A regulation was instituted compelling every master of a vessel, who arrived in the waters of Virginia for the purpose of securing a cargo, to enter into a bond that he would not molest any person employed in trading in conformity with the requirements of the colonial laws, under a penalty of two thousand pounds sterling, a sum of enormous proportions in that age.2 So numerous were the vessels, engaged in the transportation of tobacco, which were not the property of Englishmen, that in the same year the Assembly, ostensibly with a view to reducing the taxes levied on the people of the Colony, but more probably out of continued deference to the Act of Navigation, reimposed a duty of ten shillings on every hogshead exported in a ship not required by the terms of its charter party to

1 Public Good without Private Interest, p. 14.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 535.


discharge its cargo in the English dominions in Europe. This duty was to be paid in the medium of coin, bills of exchange with good security, or in commodities rated at an advance of only twenty-five per cent on the original cost. Persons who transported their tobacco in vessels belonging to Virginians were exempted from this imposition, the principal object of which exception was to encourage the inhabitants of the Colony to purchase vessels, as well as to make it to the interest of mariners to take up their residence there.1 The provisions of this Act, unlike those of the Act of 1658, with which it is in many respects substantially identical, is expressed in general terms, and does not refer specifically to the traders of any foreign country; in the same year, however, the Assembly included the Dutch in their announcement that they would afford the amplest protection to the ships of all nations at peace with England arriving in Virginia, provided that they paid the impost of ten shillings which had been laid in 1658. This impost was to be reduced to two shillings upon every hogshead received in payment for slaves who had been acquired in exchange for tobacco.2

Whatever privileges of free trade had been enjoyed by the Virginians subsequent to their surrender to the Commissioners of Parliament in 1651, privileges which, in practice at least, appeared to spring chiefly from the laxness with which the Navigation Act was enforced in the time of Cromwell,3 they were destroyed by the second Act of Navigation passed in 1660, one of the first laws adopted after the Restoration. The main object of the Act of 1651, as we have seen, was to promote the increase

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 536.

2 Ibid., p. 540.

3 Brewster’s Essays on Trade and Navigation, p. 101.


of English shipping. The second Act, and the measures supplementary to it, aimed not only at preserving and advancing the interests of English shipping, but also at creating for the benefit of the people of England a monopoly in the principal commodities of the Colony. Both the shipowner and the merchant were to be protected and fostered by the same legislation; the shipowner, by the provision that all products imported into or exported from the colonial settlements of England were to be conveyed in vessels possessed or built by Englishmen, and manned by English masters and crews composed of English subjects in a proportion of three to one; the merchant, not only by the requirement that all goods sent to the Colonies, whether of the production or manufacture of a foreign or the mother country, should be exported from England, but also by the clause which prescribed that certain products of the Colonies were to be imported only into England or the English dominions. The most important of these enumerated articles, as they were called, was, with the exception of sugar, tobacco, which was the principal commodity of Virginia. There was no restrictive condition as to the markets in which the grain, fish, and naval stores of the Colonies might be sold.

It is quite evident that for several years after the passage of the second Act of Navigation, its provisions with reference to tobacco were evaded, not only by transporting it to New England and there transshipping it to Holland, but also by forwarding it directly to the Low Countries.1 There were two devices which at first were successfully used. Many ships, belonging to Dutchmen, claimed to have observed the regulations of the Act by employing a number of English mariners; other vessels,

1 Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New York, vol. III, pp. 44, 45.


which were owned and manned by English subjects, after leaving Virginia sailed at once to Holland, their captains declaring on their departure that they were bound for an English colony, or for the mother country itself. In the instructions given to Berkeley on his resuming executive control in Virginia in 1662, he was expressly commanded, with a view to suppressing further attempts to violate the terms of the Act, to transmit to England a full account of all the tobacco exported from Virginia, the names of the vessels in which it was loaded, the names of the masters of these vessels, and their points of destination. The object of this injunction was not only to inform the commissioners of customs in England of the extent to which the Navigation Act was disregarded, but also to disclose the persons who were guilty of trampling its provisions under foot.1 It was estimated in 1663, that the illegal

1 Instructions to Berkeley, Sept. 12, 1662, McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 417, Va. State Library. In a petition, offered by Colonel Edmund Scarborough and entered in the Records of Accomac for 1663, vol. 1663-1666, p. 48, it is stated, that at this time each planter was required to take an oath that he would give a true statement as to the amount of the tobacco which he had produced during the season just closed, “to whom it was disposed of and by what boat or other means, it was fetched away.” A short time before, five Dutchmen, who formed a part of the crew of the Northampton, having been put on shore in order to comply with the Act, which prescribed that three-fourths of the sailors manning an English vessel should be Englishmen, the court ordered the payment to these alien mariners of their full wages and an additional sum to meet the expense of their passage to Europe, Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1657-1664, folio p. 86. There is evidence that even the customs officers sometimes connived at the violation of the Act. Thus, in 1663, the Royal Oak was seized in the waters of Accomac because it had come directly from Holland with a cargo of merchandise. The owners appear to have made with little difficulty an arrangement, with Colonel Scarborough, the customs officer of the Eastern Shore, by which he consented to allow the vessel to be loaded with tobacco and to sail directly to the Low Countries. Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1663-1666, p. 46.


shipments to Holland deprived the English treasury annually of ten thousand pounds sterling.1 As a large part of this loss in revenue arose from the unlawful advantage taken of the intercolonial trade, it was decided, in 1672, to impose a duty of one penny a pound upon all tobacco imported from colony to colony,2 and it was subsequently held that after the payment of this duty, the owners of the commodity were not at liberty to transport it to a foreign country.3 In reshipping it, a bond was given by the shipmaster that he would convey his cargo to England,4 or if the point of destination, after reshipment, was another English colony, the duty of one penny was paid the second time.

The Act of Navigation was more strictly observed in Virginia, as time advanced, in spite of the fact that there was a deep sense in the public mind that it bore with great heaviness upon all the interests of the people. Berkeley, who was most subservient in his loyalty to the King, believed that the measure was very obstructive of any improvement in the condition of the Colony, and this opinion he expressed with great emphasis when answering the inquiries of the Royal Commissioners in 1671.5 One of the causes of the uprising under Bacon was the oppressive character of the Act, and the expectation that the success of the insurrection would bring relief from its burden to the participants.6 Hardly had this movement

1 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, 1667-1668, p. 172. See also Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. III, pp. 47-49.

2 25 Charles II, c. 7, § II.

3 Chalmers’ Political Annals, pp. 319, 323, 324.

4 7 & 8 William III, c. 22, § VIII. An example of the regular bond given by shipmasters in leaving Virginia, which required them to proceed directly to an English port, will be found in Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 48.

5 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 515, 516.

6 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 61.


been suppressed, in consequence of the removal by death of the guiding hand of Bacon himself, when one of the leading merchants of London, John Bland, acting as the representative of the people of Virginia and Maryland, addressed a singularly able and convincing petition to the English authorities in charge of the affairs of the Colonies, in favor of the repeal of the Navigation laws, and the statements marshalled in this skilful paper show how injurious to the prosperity of the planters these measures had proved to be after an operation of many years.1 He asserted that the Navigation Act of 1660 had its origin in the solicitations of the English wholesale and retail dealers in tobacco, to whose obvious advantage it was that England should receive all of this commodity produced in the Colonies, either for distribution among the English population, or for transshipment to Holland. In both instances the trader secured a large profit. As long as he was not contending with Dutch competition, he was in a position to purchase Virginian tobacco at the very lowest rates; thus he often bought it at half a penny a pound, and afterwards sold it at an advance of three or four shillings.

Mr. Bland declared that the Navigation Act was not passed for the benefit of English merchants alone. It was notorious that the vessels of Holland were handled so much more inexpensively than those of England, that they were able to underbid the latter in the charges for freight. It was an inability to compete with Dutch bottoms in an open contest which led the owners of English vessels to solicit, in company with English traders, the passage of an ordinance that would place the Dutch masters of ships

1 This document, now in the British Public Record Office, is printed in full in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 141 et seq.


and tobacco dealers at a great disadvantage. The appeal received a favorable reply on the ground that it would encourage the English sailor. To foster after this fashion the interests of the English merchant and the English shipowner, it was necessary to diminish the profits of the landholders on the James and the York and their tributaries, but the remunerativeness of tobacco culture was not sufficient to bear any considerable division. The Navigation Act resulted in inflicting serious damage upon the planters of Virginia without very greatly benefiting, so far as the Colony was concerned, either the English trader or the owners of vessels, although it substantially promoted their interests. It injured the Virginian planter, because it depressed the value of his only commodity by restricting its market. It increased his charges for ocean transportation by removing the competition of the Dutch bottoms, which were navigated more cheaply than the English. It raised the price of all the articles which he purchased from abroad by giving a monopoly of the sales to the English dealers, and finally, it deprived the public treasury of a large revenue derived from the duties on brandy exported from Holland to the Colony, and on tobacco exported from the Colony to Holland, all of which was devoted to keeping the forts in an effective condition.

Mr. Bland asserted further in his petition, that England at large had not been benefited by the operation of the Act upon the interests of Virginia, and for reasons that were obvious. During the last twelve years the people of Holland, having been shut out of this Colony, the tobacco of which, though still inferior to Spanish, had, in spite of this fact, become more popular with both the Dutch and the English, had been led to experiment in the culture of the plant in their own dominions. Any


deficiency in their crop was supplied by evasion of the Navigation Act, either in the way of smuggling or in navigating English bottoms with Dutch sailors, or by purchase from the importer in whatever English harbor the vessel containing the cargo acquired may have entered, the ship being directed to proceed upon her course. France had been forced, by her exclusion from Virginian waters, to engage in the production of the leaf, and already a large quantity was raised in the provinces of that country. England herself would only buy the amount for which she possessed a market. Her volume of consumption was well known. All in excess of this volume would be left to rot on the dunghills of the plantations, as it could not now be transported either to Holland or France. Bland urged upon the attention of the English Government the justice of allowing the colonists the privilege of exporting to foreign countries the tobacco not needed in England, and he proposed that the Dutch ships should be admitted into Virginia, on condition that they should submit to a tax that would cover the difference of cost between the Dutch and English shipping, and after giving bills of exchange for the settlement of such customs as would have been payable if the cargo were intended for the mother country. This suggestion, which was both reasonable and practicable, did not receive the slightest attention, and the whole petition created no impression on the minds of those whom its author was seeking to influence.1

1 Irregular trading, the natural consequence of the enforcement of the Navigation Act, continued to be a subject of complaint with the authorities in Virginia during the remainder of the century, although an armed vessel was granted by the English Government, to be used in patrolling the coast. One of the objects which this vessel was intended to secure, was to prevent the passage through the Capes of any ship which could not show possession of the usual bond requiring the transportation of its cargo to England. See Report on Ketch, dated Council Chamber, Oct. [footnote continues on p. 363] 31, 1683, McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 278, Va. State Library. Secretary Spencer declared that most of the irregular trading was carried on by shipmasters from New England. See letter to Sir Leolin Jenkins, 1684, British State Papers, Colonial, McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 310, Va. State Library. In 1686, the ship Crown, of London, was forfeited, its commander, Captain Daniel Hogbee, having been found guilty of violating the Navigation Act. Records of Middlesex County, original volume 1680-1694, Dec. 3, 1686. Governor Nicolson urged that the Colony should be supplied with frigates and fireships as the only means of suppressing the irregular trading which went on even as late as his administration. British State Papers, Va. B. T., vol. 29, pp. 29-33. See Petition of Joshua Brodbent, 1697, Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 56.


In passing the Navigation laws, common prudence suggested to Cromwell and Charles alike the wisdom of prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in England. It was anticipated that the production of this commodity there would augment the quantity to be vented at a time when the market had been restricted practically to the mother country, and would, therefore, by lowering prices, discourage attention to it in the Colonies, especially in Virginia; and to that extent would not only deprive the people there of their principal means of livelihood, but also reduce the volume of the national revenue from customs.1 We have seen that when it was proposed, in the time of James the First and Charles the First, to establish a monopoly in the leaf by contract, proclamations were issued to put an end to the cultivation of the plant in English soil; the same motive led to a similar prohibition when the monopoly rested with the English people, instead of with a few individuals as in previous reigns. Before the passage of the Act of 1651, tobacco was produced in large quantities in Gloucester, Devon, Somerset, and Oxford Shires, and its quality is represented to have been so fine, that it was frequently offered for sale and purchased in London as

1 Fuller’s Worthies of England, 1662, vol. I, p. 373.


coming from the Spanish provinces.1 The Act of 1651 was carried out with so little vigor, that a number of persons who were interested in its enforcement urged Parliament to put it in the strictest operation, as the people of some of the Colonies were already suffering the consequences of an overstocked market for their tobacco, upon the sale of which they were dependent for clothing and other necessaries of life.2 In conformity with this appeal, commissioners were, in 1654, appointed to execute the Act, and as a result of their interference, many hundreds of acres, which had been prepared for the cultivation of the plant, were converted into pastures or wheatfields. They met, however, with a strong opposition in performing their duty. Cromwell was even solicited to deprive them of their power, which called forth a counter request from those interested in the welfare of the Colonies, permission to produce the leaf in England being protested against as especially ruinous to Virginia.3 The most persistent refusal to obey the order came from persons who cultivated land in the vicinity of Winchcomb and Cheltenham.4 In 1655, Samuel Mathews stated in a petition to Cromwell, that in spite of previous Acts of Parliament and the proclamation of the Protector, the area of soil in the Commonwealth, which had at that time been made ready for tobacco, was more extensive than at any period in the history of the country.5 When, in 1658, it was attempted to execute the law, the officers whose duty it was to carry it into effect in Gloucestershire were so firmly opposed, that an order of state was issued to the justices of that

1 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 64.

2 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, p. 417.

3 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XII, Nos. 36, 37; Sainsbury Abstracts, vol. 1640-1691, pp. 138, 139, Va. State Library.

4 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, p. 423.

5 Ibid., p. 422.


county to command the militia to assist in suppressing any disturbance which would arise in enforcing the statute.1 After the Restoration, petitions were offered by the leading planters and merchants of Virginia, begging that the sternest measures should be adopted to enforce the prohibitory Acts. As late as 1677, there are many evidences that these Acts were still evaded.2

Turning from the English legislation, which had a direct bearing upon the agricultural growth of the Colony at this time, to the growth itself, it will be found that the long interval between the establishment of the Protectorate and the deposition of James the Second in 1688, was marked by a steady progress in Virginian agriculture, but also by many events which temporarily, at least, exercised a reactionary influence upon this interest. In the early part of this period, an unusual degree of attention was given to the culture of the silk-worm. Edward Digges, a man of wealth and prominence, was especially active in making experiments in silk husbandry, Denbigh, on James River and Bellefield in the vicinity of the modern Williamsburg, being the scenes of these experiments. He was in constant communication with John Ferrer and the latter’s sister in England, who probably supplied him with seed, and he mentions in a letter to the former in 1654, that he had produced four hundred pounds of bottoms, from which he had extracted about eight pounds of silk. In order to make a beginning, he had imported at his own cost two Armenians, who enjoyed a high reputation in their native country for their skill and experience. In 1654, he informed Mr. Ferrer that he had in the course of that year secured from his own preserve ten pounds

1 Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1574-1660, p. 467.

2 Petition of Merchants, Planters, and Traders to English Plantations, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1677, p. 137, Va. State Library.


of eggs, which he intended to present to several of his friends who wished to become silk masters. The great trouble and expense which he incurred in his effort to revive the culture of silk in Virginia, led in after years to his nomination to the office of Auditor, on the ground that he deserved well of the Colony on this account.1 Mr. Ferrer, his correspondent, was very anxious to make use of the natural silk bottoms of Virginia, and devised a means by which they could be unwound with ease in spite of their gummy hardness; this consisted in boiling them in very hot lye until nearly dissolved, and then immersing them in scalding clean water. After this had been done, the texture of the bottoms could be drawn out without injury. Ferrer was of a rhyming turn of mind, and left to posterity a series of doggerel lines, which has transmitted the names of the planters giving most attention to silk culture. Besides Mr. Digges, Sir Henry Chichely, Colonels Ludlow and Bernard, Major Westrope, and Mr. George Lobs were very much interested in the industry, and had experimented at length in connection with it.2 The production of silk was not confined to male Virginians; Mrs. Garrett and Mrs. Burbage, two women of prominence in the Colony, were also engaged in its culture.3

The Reformed Virginian Silk-Worm, a pamphlet which

1 Governor Berkeley to Secretary Williamson, June 13, 1670, British State Papers, Colonial; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1670, p. 154, Va. State Library. The inscription on the tomb of Digges, at Bellefield, described him as “the only promoter of silk manufacture in this Colony,” a claim which, it would seem, was too broad.

2 There is an interesting letter from Francis Yeardley, dated May 8, 1654, to John Ferrer, in which he asks for a present of silk-worm seed. See Richmond (Va.) Standard, Feb. 11, 1882.

3 Reformed Virginian Silk-Worm, p. 34, Force’s Historical Tracts, Vol. III.


aroused the interest of many English merchants and travellers of reputation in the advancement of silk husbandry in Virginia, seems to have been issued merely to set forth the great advantages that would flow to the planters should they follow Miss Ferrer’s example in allowing their silk-worms to feed on mulberry leaves in the open air. Not only would these insects in this situation enrich the colonists without making an outlay of labor on their part necessary, or interfering with the cultivation of their present commodities, but it would even divert the Indians from their rude occupations, as they would find that they could obtain from the settlers the coats, bells, beads, and hatchets which they desired, by exchanging for these articles the silk bottoms which they had gathered from their mulberry trees or in the forest.1 If the native silk-worm had been equal to the description given of it in this pamphlet, it would not, if it had been cultivated, have fallen short of the glowing expectations of Miss Ferrer, its anticipated influence in civilizing the Indians alone excepted. Its outer bottom was ten inches in circumference and six inches in length. Enclosed within this was a second bottom, in which the worm was wrapped, the whole being embedded in the silk filling the outer bottom, the second bottom concealing the worm being also full of the same material. The Virginian worm in seeking its food did not confine itself to the mulberry, as the silkworm of all other countries did, but fed with equal avidity upon the leaves of the crab, plum, poplar, oak, apple, cherry, and hickory. Miss Ferrer had received, from friends in Virginia, specimens of worms taken from each of these trees, and they were as large as if they had been nourished by the mulberry. While a thousand English bottoms produced only one pound of silk, from the same

1 See title page of the Reformed Virginian Silk-Worm.


number of Virginian bottoms it was said that at least ten pounds could be obtained, and the care of the worm and the manipulation of the silk were so much less expensive, that the Virginian silk-maker could afford to sell one-third more cheaply than his English rival. The egg in the Colony was hatched in nine days, while in England it required nine months for the insect to make its appearance. In one month the Virginian worm had reached its full development, and in forty-five days was spinning a sill, so strong in its texture, that it could be extended in a line for several miles without danger of breaking. The estimated production to a man and boy was sixty pounds, the only tool they required being a twelve-penny reel; the freight was necessarily small, as five hundred pounds of silk occupied in a ship the space filled by only ten pounds of tobacco.1

In spite of the enthusiastic hope of this charming advocate of silk culture in Virginia and her disposition to promote it in a practical way, and in spite also of the example which was set by Digges and other wealthy and influential citizens, no real progress seems to have been made towards its general development. The Assembly, in order to induce the Armenian George, who was probably one of the two men who were brought to Virginia by Digges, to remain in the Colony, and to devote himself to the production of silk, gave him four thousand pounds of tobacco. As an additional means of fostering interest in the industry, some form of special encouragement being found absolutely necessary, it was provided that a very

1 Reformed Virginian Silk-Worm, pp. 25, 26, 33, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. It is very plain that the ordinary caterpillar of Virginia was at first mistaken for the silk-worm. The statements given in the text, in the form of a synopsis, are interesting as showing how exaggerated were many of the early notions as to the capabilities of Virginia.


large premium should be granted to any one who succeeded in making during the course of a single year an amount of this commodity that could be sold for two hundred pounds sterling; at the same session, it was further enacted that five thousand pounds of tobacco should be presented to any person who could show that he had produced one hundred pounds of merchantable silk. So little effect did this measure have, that in the following session the Assembly, in despair, offered to pay ten thousand pounds as a prize for the manufacture of every fifty pounds of silk, thus doubling the reward and diminishing the amount to be made by one-half.1 Every owner of land in fee in Virginia had, four years previous to this, been required by a special law, for every one hundred acres in his possession, to plant ten mulberry trees, which were to be inserted in the ground twelve feet apart and protected by a fence. This work was to be finished by the close of 1658. In 1659, this law was repealed because it was found to be more burdensome and troublesome than advantageous to the country.2 The mere fact that it was necessary to provide for a compulsory planting of mulberry trees was a strong indication that silk culture had no hold upon the inclinations or the interests of the people of the Colony. The repeal of the statute was in itself an admission that no substantial good was accomplished by it. The real explanation of the indifference to silk husbandry in Virginia at this, as well as at every other period in her history, was to be discovered in the statement which Lord Culpeper made in 1682, that her inhabitants

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 470, 487, 521.

2 Ibid., pp. 420, 520. The Directors of the Dutch West India Company, writing to Governor Stuyvesant in 1657, mention that a few bales of silk had arrived recently from Virginia. Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. XIV, p. 388.


would lay aside all thought of producing silk if there was the smallest reason for anticipating a narrow margin of profit in the cultivation of tobacco.1 The quality was not a ground for discouragement. While it was never likely to be equal to the expectations of the Ferrers, it was nevertheless so excellent in its texture as to call forth, in 1662, from King Charles the Second, no mean judge of articles of comfort and luxury, the encomium that he had found the Virginian product to be as fine as any of which he had ever made trial.2

It is an evidence of the abundance of cattle in the Colony at this time, that a cow was given to every chief, the members of whose tribe had brought to the proper authorities the heads of eight wolves.3 It was solemnly stated in the text of this regulation, that its principal object was to civilize and Christianize the aborigines. The cow has performed both a conspicuous and a useful part in the history of the human race, but probably never before or since has so high a compliment been paid to her capacity for accomplishing good, as in this expression of confidence in her power to change even the wild nature of the Indian by the softening influence of her presence. A more notable instance of benignant faith is not recorded in the annals of the Colony. The notion which our legislators had in mind was probably that the Indians might be induced to become herdsmen, and in this peaceful occupation some of their savage instincts would be substantially modified. If the testimony of a later witness can be relied on, they did not attach special importance to

1 Instructions to Lord Culpeper, 1681-82. His Reply, § 71, British State Papers, Virginia, vol. LXV; McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 169, Va. State Library.

2 Instructions to Berkeley, 1662, McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 79, Va. State Library.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 395.


such gifts or derive from them much advantage, for we are informed that they were generally too lazy to milk their cows, and were quietly satisfied to see them perish in winter for the want of food. The inducement offered did not appeal very strongly to the cupidity of the Indians, their love of beef and milk not being as great as their love of pork, for we discover that two years after the novel method of Christianizing them by means of the cow had been tried, the wolves had become so numerous that the Assembly was compelled to authorize the commissioners of the county courts to employ Indian hunters to destroy the packs at stated wages of a nature more valuable in Indian estimation than the gift of a cow.1

It was not the wolves alone that diminished the number of cattle belonging to the planters. It had grown to be a habit at this time for owners of land, who had become involved in debt, to withdraw beyond the Chesapeake Bay or to the remotest plantations, and in doing this to carry off with them, not only their own live stock, but the live stock of their neighbors, the two generally running together, as the ranges were unenclosed. To prevent the serious losses incurred in this way, it was provided that a notice of the intention to emigrate to other parts of the Colony should be announced at the county court, and a certificate of the fact obtained from the clerk.2 By this requirement all of the planters residing in the immediate vicinity of a person who had decided to abandon his home were put on their guard, so that they might take every precaution against the driving away of their cattle. As an additional protection, a severe penalty was imposed upon whoever should seize and use stray horses, cows, and oxen without reporting the fact to the county court, and

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 457

2 Ibid., p. 466.


it was subsequently provided that all such animals should be cried in the churches and chapels of the county.1 The passage of these laws would seem to show that differences in the proprietorship of live stock running at large were clearly recognized and carefully enforced.

In the winter of 1673, which was the hardest season experienced in the history of the Colony, fifty thousand cattle in Virginia are said to have perished,2 doubtless from exposure to the excessive coldness, and from the complete ruin of every form of vegetation upon which they relied for subsistence. Three years later, owing to the insurrection which took place then, there was a further destruction of live stock.3 In spite of frequent losses, the individual holdings of neat cattle were often large. In 1677, John Russell of York was in possession of twenty-eight head, and Edward Lockey of the same county of eighty-four. In 1655, the number of neat cattle owned by the Calthorpe estate, which was situated in York, was sixty-seven, and by the Croshaw estate, seventy-seven; in 1670, Mathew Hubbard of the same county possessed sixty-five head, and in 1675, Francis Mathews forty-five.4

In 1654, Simon Hancock of Lower Norfolk owned seventy-six head of neat cattle, and John Sibsey forty-nine. Cornelius Lloyd, in 1655, owned fifty-three head, and Thomas Willoughby, in 1672, one hundred and seventeen. In 1685, Adam Thoroughgood was in possession of the same number. In the following year, the number of neat cattle belonging to Henry Woodhouse was placed at

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 124.

2 Governor and Council to the King, July 16, 1672, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XXX; Winder Papers, vol. I., p. 284, Va. State Library.

3 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 69.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, pp. 215, 256, 258, 330, 464; vol. 1671-1694, p. 131, Va. State Library.


one hundred and ten. These were the largest owners of live stock in the county in the course of this interval.1

The custom was general at this, as well as at a subsequent period, of giving names to favorite cows, among which may be mentioned Broadhorn, Crumple, Brownie, Minx, Blackbird, Redbird, Whitebelly, Whiteface, Whiteknee, Spot, Modesty, Pink, Rosebud, Violet, Daisy, Blossom, Plum, Cherry, Chestnut, Strawberry, Sloe, Marigold, Lily, Primrose, Nightingale, Madcap, Pudding, Dumpling, Pride, Frost, Pretty Maid, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cinnamon, Daggletail, Everywhere, Sweeting, Mouse, Mealy Mouth, Golden Locks, Truelove, and Scatterall.

The habit of furnishing but little food to cattle in winter still prevailed, the provender which they received, when it was supplied at all, being the shucks of Indian corn, to which occasionally a small quantity of wheat straw was added.2 There are still indications that in some instances, when plantations were rented, it was provided in the contract that the lessee should furnish fodder for the live stock.

In many of the outlying counties herds of wild cattle were still found; the Assembly, in 1661, declared that no one should have the right to hunt them unless he had first obtained a public license to do so. Governor Moryson, in 1662, granted this privilege to several planters in Lower Norfolk County, in which such cattle were numerous,3 including both those that were private property and those which no one could claim as his own. In 1675, Antony Lawson admitted, in a petition offered in court, that

1 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1651-1656, f. pp. 53, 146, 168; original vol. 1666-1675, f. pp. 126, 224; original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 25.

2 Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 630.

3 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, f. p. 348.


he had a stock of untamed cows and oxen running at the head of Lynhaven River, but it would be possible to gather only a few into one body.1 The law inflicting a fine on all who killed wild cattle, without having the proper authority, was strictly enforced in this county.2 In 1659, cows were valued in York at two pounds and five shillings apiece; yearling steers at thirty-five shillings, and bulls, three years of age, at one pound and fifteen shillings.3 In 1682; fourteen cows, belonging to Robert Hodges of Lower Norfolk, were appraised at fourteen pounds sterling, or one pound apiece, but there was probably a special reason for so low a figure.4 In 1674, a bull was valued in Lancaster County at two pounds sterling.5 In 1649, the number of horses in Virginia, as has been already stated, was only three hundred, and their subsequent increase seems to have been at a moderate rate. In 1665, there were two hundred and sixty-eight of these animals in York,6 and in Lower Norfolk, sixty-four.7 The extraordinary esteem in which they were held was shown by the appraisement, in the former county in 1659, of a gelding, fifteen years old, at thirteen pounds sterling.8 A mare and a foal in that county were entered, in 1688, as equal in value to eight cows.9 A yearling colt was listed at four pounds sterling, an excess of three

1 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 12.

2 Ibid., 1666-1675, f. p. 74.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 195, Va. State Library.

4 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1671-1686, f. p. 116.

5 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1674-1689, Feb. 8, 1674. In 1663, cows were valued in Rappahannock at two pounds and ten shillings apiece; heifers at two pounds; steers at three, and bulls at one pound and fifteen shillings; original vol. 1656-1664, p. 294.

6 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 37, Va. State Library.

7 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, f. p. 313.

8 Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 195, Va. State Library.

9 Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 332, Va. State Library.


pounds in comparison with the price put upon a two year old bull in the same county at this time.1 The value of a horse in Lower Norfolk, in 1682, was about three pounds sterling. In 1660, a horse in Lancaster was sold as high as fifteen pounds.2

The proportion of these animals in the inventories of estates in York may be seen from a few references. Edward Lockey, who, in 1657, owned fifty-seven head of neat cattle, had only eleven horses. Joseph Croshaw had eleven horses to seventy-seven head of neat cattle, and Mathew Hubbard twelve horses to sixty-five head of neat cattle. In 1675, Francis Mathews, who possessed forty-five head of neat cattle, was the owner of only three horses.3 The proportion seems to have been substantially the same in Lower Norfolk County. William Moseley, who owned sixty-three head of neat cattle, had only six horses. Thomas Willoughby possessed one hundred and seventeen head of neat cattle and seven horses. Henry Woodhouse owned two horses to one hundred and ten cows, steers, calves, and bulls. The proportion in the estate of Adam Thoroughgood was much larger; he possessed one hundred and seventeen head of neat cattle and forty-two horses.4

The number of horses in other parts of Virginia must, by 1669, have grown notably larger, for in that year they were referred to in an Act of Assembly as being a burden rather than an advantage to the people, owing to their depredations, and in consequence of this fact their importation was prohibited. In every instance in which this

1 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 12, Va. State Library.

2 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1654-1702, p. 127.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, pp. 261, 330, 331, 401; Ibid., vol. 1671-1694, p. 130, Va. State Library.

4 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1666-1675, pp. 107, 126; original vol. 1686-1696, f. p. 25; original vol. 1676-1686, f. p. 224.


provision was violated, those brought in were seized and devoted to the public use.1 The law forbidding their exportation had been revoked during the previous year. In 1662, a tax had been laid upon these animals in order to supply funds for the payment of the rewards offered for the destruction of wolves, but as this tax was felt more heavily in the frontier counties, where the wolves were greatest in number and the horses were fewest, its repeal was considered to be advisable.2 The owners of horses were thought to be more or less easy in fortune, and were, therefore, required to confine them between July 20th and October 20th, as it was looked upon to be too much of a hardship for a poor man to be compelled to erect high fences to keep out those which were suffered to run at large. It is difficult to see what advantage could accrue to the small planters from such a regulation as this as long as hogs were allowed to have the free range of the woods, unless horses roaming as they chose were peculiarly disposed to encroach upon the cultivated fields, not finding their food in the forests with the same facility as other kinds of live stock.

As late as 1672, there were but a few sheep in the Colony in proportion to its area.3 Many planters in York were the owners of small flocks, being encouraged to devote some attention to sheep husbandry by the fact that the wolves had been very much diminished in number. In 1666, there were enumerated as a part of the Crouch estate, six ewes, five lambs, and two wethers. The Seabrell inventory, which bears the same date, included eight sheep.4 In 1667, Colonel Joseph Croshaw of York owned forty

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 271. At this time some appear to have been imported from New England

2 Ibid., p. 215.

3 Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 630.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, pp. 151, 176, Va. State Library.


ewes; nineteen lambs, seven wethers, and one ram.1 William Barber, in 1668, bequeathed seven sheep to his heirs, while Colonel Thomas Ludlow had fifty-four in his possession at the time of his death. Mathew Hubbard, who died in 1670, owned twenty-four ewes, two lambs, three wethers, and six rams.2

The planters of Lower Norfolk, whose estates in neat cattle and horses have already been referred to, owned the following number of sheep: William Moseley, seven; Thomas Willoughby, twenty-two; Henry Woodhouse, forty, and Adam Thoroughgood, forty-nine. Robert Smith, who possessed thirty-two head of horned cattle, owned seventeen sheep; and the flock of Robert Hodges, who owned forty-six horned cattle, was of the same size.3 Robert Beckingham of Lancaster, in 1677, was in possession of seventy-six;4 William Fauntleroy of Rappahannock, of forty, and Major Henry Smith of the same county, of forty-one.5 Henry Randolph of Henrico owned eighteen;6 George Watkins of Surry, forty-six;7 Southey Littleton of Accomac, ninety-six,8 and Peter Wilkins of Northampton, thirty-six.9 In several cases sheep formed an important part of the estates seized by the authorities after the suppression of the Insurrection of 1676.10 The

1 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 401, Va. State Library.

2 Ibid., p. 464, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 24; original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 116.

4 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1674-1687, f. p. 36.

5 Records of Rappahannock County, original vol. 1677-1682, pp. 39, 40, 313.

6 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 429, Va. State Library.

7 Records of Surry County, vol. 1671-1680, p. 73, Va. State Library.

8 Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1676-1690, p. 296.

9 Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1654-1655, p. 110.

10 Warrant of Governor Berkeley to seize the estate of Robert Kay; [footnote continues on p. 378] Letter of Humphrey Harwood, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1676, pp. 110, 114, Va. State Library.


Assembly adopted, from time to time, regulations that were likely to increase the number of these animals, which, at this period, were valued at six shillings apiece.1 One of the most effective was to prohibit their exportation,2 and this was followed by offers of large inducements for the destruction of wolves. In 1666, rewards were paid in York at one levy for the heads of seventeen. In 1668, the same county paid twenty-two hundred pounds of tobacco for eleven heads. In 1672, twelve hundred pounds were expended. In the levy for November, 1675, in Middlesex County, allowance was made for the payment of rewards for four wolves’ heads, and in one of the levies for 1681, there was a similar allowance for five heads. In 1656, the November levy in Lancaster County provided rewards for twenty-one. By an Act of Assembly passed in 1669, the Indian tribes were required to deliver annually one hundred and forty-five wolves’ heads.3 The destructiveness of these animals was not confined to sheep; in many cases the planters had reason to lament the fact that young calves owned by them, which were running in the woods, had been devoured by wolves.4

Abundant as hogs were at this time, it is common to find among the debts enumerated in the inventories, specialties for so many pounds of pork.5 An attempt was made by many of the planters to mark their swine, but in the appraisement of their estates the number in their possession was frequently returned as unknown.

1 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 116.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 463; vol. II, p. 128.

3 Ibid., vol. II, p. 275.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, pp. 230, 342.

5 See, for one among many instances, Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 469, Va. State Library.


There are indications that shelter was given to sows with litters of young pigs, the tobacco houses being thrown open to them for this purpose.1 It was acknowledged in an Act of Assembly, passed in March, 1662, that the crime of stealing and killing hogs was rarely punished, although it was very frequently committed, a proof that swine had now increased to large numbers, and that they were the cause of no expense to their owners on account of the facility with which they discovered food while running wild in the forests and marshes. It was thought necessary to make the hog-stealer suffer for his disregard of the rights of others, but instead of defining his act as a felony, the law simply mulcted him one thousand pounds of tobacco, and if he was unable to pay such an amount, compelled him to go into the service of the owner of the hog which had been stolen, for a period of twelve months. This enactment had so small an effect in curing the evil to be removed, that it was provided at a later date that for the second offence of hog-stealing, the guilty person should be placed in the pillory for two hours with his ears nailed to the beam, and at the end of that time they should be cut loose with a knife.2 This severe punishment was prescribed a few years after the suppression of the Insurrection of 1676, which, as has been pointed out, had been highly destructive of all kinds of live stock. It is to be noted, however, that not until the third offence had been committed was the act declared to be a felony. As the Indians were very much disposed to kill the swine of the colonists, and it was difficult to detect them, it was provided that all persons of that race should be considered competent to give testimony when they had been witnesses of the crime. Every tribe owning hogs was

1 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 212, Va. State Library.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 440-441.


required to distinguish them by a mark peculiar to the tribe.1 In 1655, twenty head of swine belonging to the estate of John Thomas, of York, were valued at the rate of thirteen shillings apiece, ten shoats at the rate of three shillings, and four at the rate of five.2

It is an interesting fact, that every tithable person was still required to cultivate two acres in maize; this regulation was originally established to prevent the recurrence of the famines which were so liable to follow from the gross inattention to every product except tobacco, and the repeated reenactments of the law indicate that, although the Colony had expanded so much in population and wealth, it was still subject to the influences and vicissitudes observed thirty years earlier. It is, however, worthy of attention, that in the same Act the planter was allowed, if this was his preference, to substitute one acre in English wheat for the two acres in Indian corn. The object of this was stated to be to promote the sowing of the former grain.3

If the prices of grain in 1666 are compared with the prices in 1682, as prescribed by law, it will be seen that there was in this interval no substantial change in them.4 Wheat sold at four shillings a bushel both in 1666 and 1682, barley at three shillings and six pence in 1666, and three shillings seven and one-quarter pence in 1682, oats

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 317.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 78, Va. State Library.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 123. There are entries in the county records showing that this Act was strictly enforced. Many planters were from year to year prosecuted for neglecting to comply with its requirements. See Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, pp. 195, 362; original vol. 1675-1686, p. 197.

4 Hening’s Statutes, pp. 233, 506. Figures in money sterling were used merely to measure the quantity of tobacco, which was the real consideration in the sales.


at three shillings in the former year, and three shillings seven and one-quarter pence in the latter, while shelled Indian corn commanded two shillings during the whole of this period. The appraisements of grain in contemporaneous inventories disclose, that the prices fixed by the Assembly were not strictly followed, but it should be remembered that such valuations were governed by the present condition of the articles. In 1665, nine bushels of beans, forming a part of the personal property of John Thomas of York, were entered at eighteen shillings, seven bushels of barley at sixteen shillings and three pence, ten bushels of wheat at one pound and ten shillings, three bushels and one peck of oats at six shillings and six pence.1

A comparison of the prices of wheat in Virginia in 1666 and 1682, with the prices of the same cereal in England in these years, reveals that there was no great difference between the two countries, the charge for a quarter weight in England in 1666 being twenty-eight shillings and one and one-fourth pence, and in 1682, thirty-four shillings and five and three-fourths pence, that is to say, three and one-half shillings a bushel in one instance, and four and one-fourth in the other.2 The superiority of these last figures over the four shillings a bushel prescribed by law in Virginia in 1666 and 1682, represent very probably the enhancement in the price of wheat in the Colony when sold without regard to the provisions of the statute. In 1665, barley was disposed of in the mother country at the rate of eighteen shillings a quarter, or two shillings and one-fourth a bushel; in 1682, at nineteen shillings a quarter, or two and three-eighths a bushel.3 This, as we have seen, was less than the prices

1 Records of Pork County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 78, Va. State Library.

2 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 272.

3 Ibid., p. 272.


demanded for the same grain under the provisions of the statute in Virginia in these two years, the difference between the prices in the Colony and England being attributable to the small amount of barley produced in the former.

In 1666, the price of a quarter of oats in England was thirteen shillings and eleven pence, and in 1682, fifteen shillings two and one-fourth pence, or, measuring by the bushel, about one and three-fourths in each of the years referred to. This was very much lower than the value of this grain in Virginia in 1666 and 1682, the explanation of which fact, as in the instance of barley, is to be sought in the comparative scarcity of oats in the Colony. The approximate equality of the prices of wheat in Virginia and England at this period, reveals how impossible it was for the planters to derive any profit from its conveyance to the mother country, even if the new duties laid on imported grain there had been removed. The great advance in English wheat in 1673, 1674, and 16781 would not have enabled them to surmount the barrier which the customs created. There was not the smallest ground for hoping that either barley or oats could become profitable articles for exportation to England, as their value was higher in Virginia than in the former country.

All the barrels in which Indian corn was sold were stamped by the commissioners of the county courts with the letters V. C. They were required to be sufficiently large to contain forty gallons according to Winchester measure.2 The size of the tobacco casks was also established by law in consequence of the numerous complaints on the part of the masters of ships as to the variation in the dimensions of the hogsheads, which in some instances

1 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 272.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 473.


were of extraordinary bulk, and in others of very small, thus making it difficult to place a load in the hold of a vessel to the greatest advantage in point of space. The hogsheads were required to be forty-three inches in length, with a head twenty-six inches in width.1 The gross weight of the full cask at this time was about four hundred and seventy-five pounds,2 but the complaints of the shipmasters show that it was very frequently in excess of these figures.3 Many years subsequent to this time, the masters of vessels, in order to store away in their ships cargoes as large as could be crowded into the hold, deliberately mutilated the hogsheads,4 diminishing the quantity of tobacco in them and damaging its quality. To such an extent was this illegal practice carried, that it had to be expressly prohibited by an act of legislation.

No tobacco was allowed to be planted after the 10th of July. If planted after that date, it could hardly ripen fully before the arrival of frost, and would only go to swell the volume of inferior grades. This was already sufficient to lower the prices of the annual crop.5 As a further means of improving the general character of the product, there were stringent regulations to prevent the tending of seconds, which, putting forth after the original leaves had been pulled from the stalk, were not only mean in texture, but, as a rule, had to be cut before

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 456.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 278, Va. State Library; see also pp. 40, 307. The net average weight of 189 hogsheads entered in 1657 in the inventory of Hugh Stanford, was 390 pounds. Records of York, vol. 1657-1662, p. 64, Va. State Library.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 456.

4 Spotswood refers to this fact in his official letters, published by the Virginia Historical Society.

5 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 496; repealed September, 1663; vol. II, p. 202.


maturity, like tobacco planted after the 10th of July. Careful measures were adopted to put a stop to the passing of ground leaves as a merchantable commodity.1 The original law on the subject was for some time systematically evaded, this inferior sort being sold secretly in small quantities at different times to sailors, who were either ignorant of its quality, or were tempted to buy it on account of its excessive cheapness. An additional penalty in consequence was imposed; for every hogshead of ground leaves sold in the Colony, three hogsheads of good tobacco were to be forfeited by the party guilty of the act, and for every hogshead of ground leaves shipped to England, the owner was to be mulcted ten hogsheads by way of punishment. This law was subsequently changed by the adoption of a provision altering its terms without diminishing its severity. It was declared that the detection of five pounds of ground leaves in a cask should expose its owner to a forfeit of five thousand pounds of tobacco, and the Grand Jury was specially enjoined to enforce the strictest observance of this Act.2 Many years later, the same regulations and a penalty equally as great were adopted in the instance of stalks, stalks being even more objectionable than ground leaves as a part of the contents of a hogshead, or intermingled with a cargo shipped in bulk.3

In 1665, the ships sailing from Virginia with cargoes of tobacco represented the following English towns: Bristol, Weymouth, Dartmouth, Hull, Plymouth, London, Biddeford, and Barnstaple. Nine of these outgoing vessels were from Bristol alone.4 In the latter part of

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 524.

2 Ibid., vol. II, p. 119.

3 Ibid., vol. III, p. 35.

4 “Twenty-one Bonds of Shipmasters,” British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1666, p. 87, Va. State Library.


May, 1666, eighteen hailing from this city, and thirteen from other ports departed from the Colony. In 1667, in addition to several Dutch men-of-war which had made their way into James River, there were anchored in that stream nine merchantmen from Bristol, two from London, and seven from other river or seaboard towns in the mother country.1 The number of English and Irish vessels, annually engaged in transporting tobacco from Virginia to England and Ireland, was eighty on the average. In some years this number increased, and in others fell off. Thus, in 1689, it is probable that not more than thirty-nine ships sailed from England to Virginia and Maryland together.2

In 1662, a petition signed by persons who were interested, as planters, merchants, shipowners, or masters, in the tobacco crops of Virginia and Maryland, was offered to the King for the purpose of forcing those in control of the vessels engaged in this trade to leave the two Colonies only in the months of May, June, July, and August.3 This petition was denied. A few years later it was brought forward again, and again refused on the ground that the proposed regulation would be a source of great inconvenience to the mass of planters, and would be injurious to the interests of the customs.4 When, however, war broke out between England and Holland

1 James Hayes to John Fitzherbert, Domestic Charles II, vol. 213, No. 103; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1666, p. 120, Va. State Library.

2 See list of those sailing in convoy in November, 1689, which was probably the whole number setting out in the autumn of that year. British State Papers, America and West Indies, No. 512; McDonald Papers, vol. VII, pp. 257-258, Va. State Library; Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 336.

3 British State Papers, Colonial Papers, Jan. 8, 1662; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1662, pp. 13, 19, Va. State Library.

4 Memorandum for the Order in Council for stinting Tobacco, British State Papers, Colonial Papers, Nov. 25, 1664; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1664, p. 66, Va. State Library.


in 1666, orders were given that all ships which were to sail from Virginia should depart only at one of three dates, namely, the twenty-fourth of March, June, or September; the object of this instruction was to require such vessels to set out together, which would enable them to furnish protection to each other even if unaccompanied by a convoy.1

The duty of two shillings a hogshead, which had been repealed in 1659, was revived in 1662, and became for a long time a source of large revenue. It was expected that this duty would take the place of the poll tax, which was considered to be unequal in its operation; that in increasing the volume of revenues it would ensure the better payment of the public officers; that it would promote the influx of coin into the Colony; and finally, that it would direct the attention of the planters to a diversification of their crops. This, it would seem, was hardly probable, unless the effect of the duty would be to diminish the demand for tobacco abroad by augmenting its price; if this were to occur, it was not likely that the revenues would show an increase in spite of the amount of the duty imposed on each hogshead. The duty itself was to be paid in coin, bills of exchange, or goods valued at an advance of thirty per cent upon the original cost.2 Ample security for the integrity of the bills was to be given when delivered. After the repeal of the tax of ten shillings, so far as it bore upon the exportations to the northern communities in northern ships,3 the tax of two shillings was practically the only one in force, with the exception of the penny imposed upon every pound of

1 King to Governor Berkeley, Nov. 15, 1666, Domestic Entry Book, vol. 24, pp. 32-34; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1666, p. 99, Va. State Library.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 491.

3 Ibid., vol. II, p. 218.


tobacco conveyed from Virginia to the other Colonies. The duty of two shillings was, in 1662, approved by the authorities in England.1 In 1670, it became inconvenient to receive from the masters of vessels merchandise in settlement of it, and, in consequence, payment was restricted to coin and bills of exchange.2 As a large amount of tobacco was, by 1671, shipped in bulk, the tax was fixed at two shillings upon every five hundred pounds transported in this loose state, with a sliding scale for smaller quantities.3

During the interval between 1662 and 1679, it was found necessary to pass a special law for the collection of this duty in the counties of Northumberland and Westmoreland on the Potomac, Northampton on the Eastern Shore, and Lower Norfolk on the James. Many ships arriving in the Potomac came to anchor in the waters of Maryland, and sloops and shallops were dispatched by the masters to the other side of the river to bring over the tobacco. In order to put a stop to the loss of revenue resulting from this, the planters in Westmoreland and Northumberland were required to inform the collectors in those counties as to the amount of their crops, and the persons to whom these crops had been sold. No tobacco was to be delivered to the purchaser until the collector of the district in which it was lying had given his certificate that the duty had been paid, the penalty for the violation of this provision being a fine of twenty shillings for every hogshead wrongfully exported.4 The same regulation was extended to Northampton and Lower Norfolk, because a considerable quantity of the same commodity was transferred from those counties to Maryland to be reshipped abroad. It was not

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 177.

2 Ibid., p. 283.

3 Ibid., p. 413.

4 Ibid., p. 132.


until seventeen years had elapsed that these provisions were repealed.1

In many instances, when the public enemy had seized cargoes of tobacco, the duties upon which had been paid, the owners were afterwards permitted to carry out of the Colony the same quantity without being compelled to meet the usual tax.2 In 1680, the duty was again fixed at two shillings, payable only in the current coin of England; and the whole amount collected was to be devoted exclusively to the support of the government in Virginia. Stringent regulations were again adopted to prevent the evasion of the law. The boatswain’s book was to be delivered to the collector by the shipmaster, who was to take oath as to the accuracy3 of the number of hogsheads shown by its entries to have been brought on board; for every part of his cargo which he concealed, he was to forfeit one hundred pounds sterling and treble the amount of the tax, and he might even be compelled to give bond for any possible excess in the quantity of tobacco really exported by him over what he had sworn he had placed in the hold of his vessel. It reveals not only the disposition of shipmasters to brush aside the requirements of the statute, but also the great number of opportunities open to them to do so, that a special allowance of considerable value was made them for returning a perfectly accurate statement as to the size of their cargoes.

The duty of receiving the tax imposed on the hogsheads of exported tobacco fell upon an officer known as the collector, who gave security for its proper performance. This officer was, before the second Navigation Act, appointed by the Assembly.4 After the passage of that Act, he was empowered to carry out the functions of his

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 443.

2 Ibid., p. 309.

3 Ibid., p. 466.

4 Ibid., vol. I, p. 492.


office by the Commissioners of Customs in England.1 The Naval Officer filled a position which was created by the Act of Navigation, although he seems to have received his commission from the Governor, being required, however, to give security to the English Commissioners of Customs. He was expected to make entry of vessels, to furnish clearances, and to compel the shipmasters to fulfil all the conditions embodied in their bonds.2

From 1655 to 1662, the average value of a pound of tobacco in Virginia would seem to have been barely two pence,3 and when sold in England brought hardly four pence.4 This left so small a margin of profit that, in 1662, a paper signed by many planters and merchants was offered to the King in Council, begging him to command a total cessation of tobacco culture in Virginia and Maryland during the year 1663. Following the customary line of argument, the petitioners alleged that this would be an effective means of directing the attention of the people of those Colonies to the staple commodities. It is a remarkable commentary on the change of feeling towards tobacco on the part of the authorities in England that this appeal was rejected, and express instructions given s that no similar document should be presented to the Council again,

1 Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 51.

2 Letters of Governor Spotswood, vol. I, pp. 96, 97.

3 Reformed Virginia Silk-Worm, p. 36, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 83; McDonald Papers, vol. VII, p. 90, Va. State Library. In one instance, in 1661, a planter of York County obtained three pence a pound, but this was undoubtedly exceptional. Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 430, Va. State Library; see also p. 259 of the same volume.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 115, Va. State Library; Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1666-1675, p. 64.

5 Petition of Planters and Merchants of Virginia to the King and Order in Council, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1662, pp. 17, 19, Va. State Library.


but this action was subsequently recalled, probably because it was considered to be both illegal and intemperate.

The Privy Council seems to have so far yielded to the wishes of the people of Virginia as to issue an order on the 29th of June in the same year, authorizing the Assembly to appoint commissioners to hold a conference with representatives of Maryland. This body convened in May, 1663, at Mr. Allerton’s at Wicocomico, and recommended that all planting after the 20th day of June should be prohibited,1 but the proposition, although it received the approval of the Assembly of Virginia, was rejected by the Assembly of Maryland.2 It would appear that at the meeting of the commissioners, the representatives of the latter Colony had urged that there should be a total cessation for one year, but this had been opposed by the Virginians on the ground, first, that without tobacco, the planters would be unable to give those of their servants, whose terms had expired, the prescribed quantity of grain, clothes, and tools, because these articles could only be purchased with that commodity; and secondly, that shipowners having no freight to look forward to transporting to England would not visit those parts, and, therefore, all foreign supplies would be cut off.3 The refusal of the Maryland Assembly to accede to the proposition of the Virginians as to the prohibition of planting after the 20th day of June, was based partly on the disadvantage which the people of Maryland would suffer, their more northerly situation not permitting them to transplant at as early a date as persons living further to the south; partly, on their present inability to obtain a livelihood except by the production of tobacco; and partly, on the

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 200

2 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of the Council, 1667-1688, p. 5.

3 Ibid., 1667-1688, p. 16.


uselessness of stinting the quantity cultivated in the two Colonies unless the curtailment was extended to the English dominions in the West Indies.1

This was not the first suggestion as to a prohibition of planting after a certain day which had been offered by the Virginians. In the previous year this plan of remedying the evil of over-production had been brought forward in the Assembly at Jamestown, it being then enacted that no tobacco should be transferred from the bed to the field after the month of June, provided that the consent of the people of Maryland to follow the same course could be obtained. In case it could not, then the existing rule restricting planting to the season preceding July 10th was to remain in force.2 The earnestness of the colonists in establishing the regulation was shown in their refusal to admit that the royal pardon could be extended to an offence against its provisions.3

In 1664, the tobacco gathered in Virginia and Maryland amounted in volume to fifty thousand hogsheads. As the population of both Colonies was about forty thousand at this time, the production to the individual was equal to a hogshead and a half; the average cask was now valued at three pounds sterling, which made the whole crop worth one hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling, or three pounds and three-quarters for every person. It is not surprising to find that the smallness of this price brought the planters in debt to the extent of fifty thousand pounds sterling. These facts were set forth in a petition offered to the King in the course of this year by the Governor and Council of Virginia, who complained that the people of Maryland had disobeyed the order of 1662 commanding a curtailment of production in the two

1 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1688, pp. 15, 16.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 32.

3 Ibid., p. 36.


Colonies. They prayed that this order should be enforced.1 The appeal of the Virginian authorities was transmitted by the King to Lord Baltimore, then in England, in order to obtain his reply. This reply was well calculated to produce the effect upon the minds of the King and Council which it was designed to have. Baltimore declared that a partial cessation would not accomplish the object desired, and that its only result would be to cut down the royal customs; that the proceeds from tobacco culture were not so contemptible as represented, a proof of which was to be discovered in the great plenty in which the colonists lived; that the limitation of planting to a certain day would operate to the disadvantage of the people of Maryland, as that province was three degrees further to the north than Virginia, which led to a difference of three weeks in the seasons; that violation of the restriction could only be disclosed to the proper officers by one neighbor informing against the other, thus causing dangerous antagonisms.2

Baltimore’s reply was read to the Privy Council in August, 1664, and on the 16th of the following August, the arguments in support of the side of the Virginians were delivered by the agents of the Colony. After consideration of the questions involved and a consultation with the farmers of the revenue, the Privy Council decided that a cessation, stint, or limitation of planting in Maryland and Virginia would be injurious to the interests of the people there, and destructive to the customs of the King. In order to encourage the production of hemp, pitch, and tar in the two Colonies, as a means of affording to those planters who found tobacco unprofitable, products that could be sold to advantage, the Council, with the

1 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1636-1667, p. 504.

2 Ibid., pp. 508, 509.


concurrence of the King, declared that for a period of five years these commodities should be admitted into England without being subject to the ordinary duties.1 To extend such a privilege as this, at a time when tobacco had fallen so low in price that it would hardly bear the charge of freight alone, would appear to show the grossest indifference to the welfare of the colonists but for the fact that the English were still importing hemp, tar, and pitch, together with other naval stores, from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. As the English carried little merchandise into these kingdoms, they were forced to purchase such indispensable materials principally with coin, thus establishing a balance of trade against their own country, a condition which in that age was considered to be fruitful of many evils, including the impoverishment of the people by the withdrawal of money and the certain interruption of necessary supplies in the event of a war. The suggestion that the Virginians should furnish pitch, tar, and hemp in place of the inhabitants of Northern Europe, a suggestion made, as we have seen, when the colonization of American territory by the English first began, was only extraordinary in the light of the inability of the landowners to obtain these materials from their forests at a cost that would leave some room for profit.

In 1666, the quantity of tobacco remaining in the hands of the planters was so large, being that portion of the crop of 1665 which was undisposed of and a mere drug in the market, that the General Assembly decided to send messengers to Maryland to induce the authorities there to unite with the authorities of Virginia to enforce a cessation in planting, in spite of the order of the King in 1664.2

1 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1636-1667, p. 511.

2 Ibid., 1667-1688, p. 18.


To this they assented, and both Colonies resolved to prohibit the cultivation of tobacco in their boundaries from February, 1666, to February, 1667.1 The authorities of Carolina agreed to follow the example of those of Virginia and Maryland.2 Their delay in doing so, however, was considered by Maryland to be a justification for withdrawing from the agreement with Virginia, but in October the arrangement was adopted by the three Colonies.3 It came to nothing because disapproved by Baltimore.4 In 1667, the year in which the cessation ought to have taken place, tobacco only brought half a penny a pound, and as the average crop of the individual did not exceed twelve hundred pounds, it will be seen that the condition of most of the planters was deplorable. Ludwell, writing to the authorities in England, declared that there were but three influences restraining the smaller landowners of Virginia from rising in rebellion, namely, faith in the mercy of God, loyalty to the King, and affection for the Governor.5

The crop of 1666 was so enormous that it required one hundred vessels to remove only a part of it to England. In 1667, when the production had been so much curtailed by the storm that made that year one of the most memorable in the history of the Colony, eighty ships were employed in the transportation of tobacco, but it was estimated at the time that at least fifty of these vessels carried out cargoes belonging to the crop of 1666. It would be inferred from this fact that Virginia was now

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 225, 229-232, 250-252.

2 Records of North Carolina, vol. I, p. 117.

3 Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1688, pp. 6, 7, 18.

4 Ibid., p. 18.

5 Thomas Ludwell to Lord Berkeley, June 24, 1667, British State Papers; Colonial, vol. XXI, No. 62; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 223, Va. State Library.


producing as much of this commodity in two years as England could consume in three.1

If all the descriptions of the storm in 1667 which have come down to us are correct, it is remarkable that a single tobacco plant survived its fury.2 Its violence as well as its length surpassed anything of the kind observed since the settlement of the country. First, there arose a tempest of hail, in which there fell to the earth many stones as large as a turkey egg. So prodigious was the force with which these stones were propelled, that they destroyed the fruit, beat down the grass, smashed the glass in the windows, perforated the tiles in the roof, and killed many of the cattle. As soon as the hail-storm passed away the rain began to fall, and for forty days it continued with more or less steadiness, spoiling the remnant of grain which had escaped the hailstones. On the 27th of August there arose a hurricane which, for twenty-four hours, blew with unexampled fury. It began at the northeast and gradually moved around the north, until it roared directly from the west. It then veered to the southeast and there spent its force. This terrific wind was accompanied by a heavy rain, but there were no thunder and lightning. The great floods in the upper sections of the rivers were distinctly perceptible in the lower in spite of their width, and, to make the rise more destructive, the hurricane, in the beginning and at the end of its career, rolled the waters in the Bay and the mouths of the rivers back into the creeks, causing them to swell to such an unprecedented height that the families

1 Thomas Ludwell to English Secretary of State, July 20, 1668, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. 23; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 249, Va. State Library.

2 Thomas Ludwell to Lord Berkeley, Nov. 8, 1667, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1667, p. 129, Va. State Library.


of many planters who did not reside in sight of a stream were compelled to seek refuge upon the tops of their houses in order to escape destruction. Large vessels were swept over bars of sand where, at ordinary tide, a small boat would run aground, and at places where vessels could float at ease at the usual flood, the water was too shallow to keep them off the bottom. A vast quantity of Indian corn, not drowned in the rain which had been falling for forty-five days, was laid flat, the tobacco in the exposed places was torn to shreds, while that which had been cut and stored away was destroyed with the barns in which it had been deposited. The fences were either blown down or crushed out of shape by the falling trees, leaving the cattle at liberty to enter and devour the crops as they lay scattered over the fields. It was estimated that ten thousand houses were ruined by the hurricane, this number including, doubtless, barns and stables as well as the cabins of slaves and servants and the residences of planters. It was impossible for all of the crops to have been swept away, since much corn and tobacco were planted in spots more or less sheltered from winds by a heavy growth of forest. According to one calculation made at the time, the amount saved was about one-third only of the expected product;1 according to another, only one-fifth.

Throughout the period between 1660 and 1670, an extraordinary degree of attention was paid to a number of commodities besides tobacco, an indication that the value of the latter staple was in a state of great depression. In the session of 1661-62, the former law, which had been expressly repealed as inconvenient and troublesome, requiring that every owner of land in fee simple should

1 So reported in England in 1668 by the master of a New England ship, which arrived there from Virginia in the course of that year. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New York, vol. II, p. 523.


plant ten mulberry trees for every one hundred acres in his possession, was reënacted, and, in order to make it more stringent in its operation, the Grand Jury were called upon to report with the utmost strictness all infringements of it, both in the failure to plant and in the failure to protect by a proper fence when a plantation had been made. As a means of promoting the culture of silk, the extraordinary reward was offered of fifty pounds of tobacco for every pound of that commodity produced, the tobacco to be raised in the public levy and to be paid in the county where the silk-maker happened to reside.1 These provisions were adopted to some extent under the influence of instructions from the Privy Council.2 The limit allowed for planting, under the Act of 1661-62, was December 30th, 1663, but it was found so difficult to obtain the required number of mulberry trees in this interval, that the Assembly extended the period to December 30th, 1666.3 The effect of all these regulations must have been favorable, for we find that Secretary Ludwell, in writing to Secretary Bennett in the year 1665, refers to the fact that the industry was making satisfactory progress in Virginia. Governor Berkeley was still more sanguine in the expression of his views. He assured the authorities in England that so many mulberry trees had been planted in the Colony that in four or five years, at the furthest, its inhabitants would be in a position to furnish as much silk as could be expected of a community of forty thousand people.4 He spoke in a despondent

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 121.

2 Minutes of the Council for Foreign Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XIV, No. 59, pp. 18-21; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1661, p. 7, Va. State Library.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 191.

4 Governor Berkeley to the King, Aug. 1, 1665, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XIX, No. 86; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 187, Va. State Library.


strain of the prospects of flax culture. There was no disinclination on the part of the planters to pursue it, but a lack of laborers who were skilled in it. Many persons, who would have turned their attention to the production of this commodity, were deterred from doing so by their pecuniary inability to undergo the losses which were certain to accompany an unsuccessful experiment. Governor Berkeley acknowledged that he himself had incurred an expense of one thousand pounds in flax culture, but had accomplished nothing on account of the wilfulness of the Frenchmen whom he had employed to attend to it, and he requested the Council in England to consider the advisability of transporting a number of experts to the Colony in order to impart to its inhabitants information as to the proper method of developing this industry. In the following year he wrote to Secretary Bennett, who had been created Lord Arlington, that he had a present of three hundred pounds of silk for the King, but was prevented from forwarding it by his apprehension lest it should be captured by the hostile ships cruising off the Capes in expectation of outward bound merchantmen.1

In the autumn, silk husbandry had reached such a stage of development, and so many persons had demonstrated its profitableness, that the Assembly, with a view to reserving for the public funds the tobacco which was in the course of distribution in the form of premiums, recalled the substantial inducements extended to those who would engage in it, and repealed the law making the planting of mulberry trees compulsory.2 This step was

1 Governor Berkeley was the spokesman of the General Assembly. British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1666, p. 136, Va. State Library.

2 The Journal of the Assembly for October, 1666, contains the following entry:

“This is to certify those it may concern that upon request of [footnote continues on p. 399] Major Thomas Walker of Gloster County: there caused to be counted “these white mulberry trees under mentioned, viz.: planted by him or his order, which are now growing and tender:

Planted in 1664





This above account, I found to be agreeable and just.
Witness my hand 17 May 1666 in Virginia.

P. M.


In Major Walker’s petition for encouragement for planting 50,000 mulberry trees out of the fines of delinquents according to order of Assembly, it is answered the time of forfeiture of fines not being yet expired, the House is of opinion that no cognizance yet can or ought to be taken of the petition.” Robinson Transcripts, pp. 254, 255.


taken under the impression that silk culture no longer needed; the support of the Government, and that its propagation offered now a remunerative prospect. In 1668, Berkeley succeeded in sending to the King his proposed gift of three hundred pounds of this commodity, but he accompanied it with a special request that men skilled in the industry should be transported to Virginia, to reside there permanently for the purpose of instructing the natives in it, for this would divert their attention from tobacco.1 This was a different tone on his part from what the recent action of the Assembly would have led one to expect. Nor was it the last appeal from the Governor, who was in a position to comprehend fully the progress which the Colony was making in the production of silk; at a somewhat later date he wrote, that its culture in Virginia was retarded by the fact that men who could hardly procure for themselves the coarsest clothes by the hardest labor in tending a crop which they understood and were accustomed to, were not disposed to adventure

1 British State Papers, Colonial, July 22, 1668; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1668, p. 136, Va. State Library.


upon designs which, however hopeful in their character, required a special knowledge that they did not possess. In a subsequent letter, after mentioning that sixty or seventy pounds of silk were made in his own house, he asserts that the Colony would show an annual exportation of five hundred bales if experts from Sicily, Naples, or Marseilles were sent out by the English consuls residing in those places.1 In answering the inquiries of the English Commissioners, he boldly complained that the inability to establish the silk industry in Virginia on a sound footing was due to the operation of the Navigation Act, which shut the people off from a direct trade with countries interested in the production of this commodity.2 No fault could be found with him upon the failure of silk husbandry in the Colony, for not only did he seek to promote its growth by every form of official encouragement, but he even went so far as to express an intention of going in person to France and procuring the special experts who were needed.3 Only two years after the premiums on silk were withdrawn on the ground that its culture did not now require to be fostered, the Assembly found that the interest in the industry was declining so rapidly in the absence of the specific inducements which had been recalled, that it was compelled to revive the large premium of fifty pounds of tobacco for every pound of silk produced.

In 1677, the year succeeding the uprising under the leadership of Bacon, Virginia was paying into the English

1 Governor Berkeley to Committee for Trade and Plantations, June 20, 1671, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury-Abstracts for 1671, p. 174, Va. State Library.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 515, 516.

3 Governor Berkeley to the King, July 22, 1668, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1668, p. 137, Va. State Library.


treasury one hundred thousand pounds sterling,1 but notwithstanding this fact, which shows great agricultural productiveness, the condition of its people was one of desperation. In vain they petitioned for the revocation of the Navigation laws, in vain sought permission to export a part of their tobacco to Madeira and the Canaries, which enjoyed a special privilege in the enforcement of the Act of 1660 in not being required to import into England first their wines designed for shipment to America. Now began a period of several years in which the population of Virginia sank into a state of poverty unprecedented in their history, although the crop in the ground was unusually large. The number of plants in 1680 was the greatest in the annals of the Colony. There was already a vast quantity of tobacco in the country, the surplus product of the preceding season; it was estimated in 1680 that this quantity, with the amount to be gathered in the course of that year, would supply the markets of England for over two years even if not a single plant were set out in 1681.2 Unless there was a cessation in the latter year, the labor of the Virginians would not only be in vain, but they would be brought still more deeply in debt. Recognizing the deplorable condition of the people, which the future promised only to aggravate, the Council wrote to the English Government, and after dwelling upon the ruinous prices of tobacco, described the extreme poverty of the Colony, and implored that measures should be adopted at once which would raise the value of its only commodity.3 This urgent petition was

1 Petition of Sir William Berkeley to the King, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1677, p. 132, Va. State Library.

2 Secretary Spencer to Secretary Coventry, British State Papers, Entries of Papers Concerning Virginia, vol. II, No. 80; McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 358, Va. State Library.

3 Council of Virginia to Committee for Trade and Plantations, British [footnote continues on p. 403] State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 80, p. 410; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1680, p. 46, Va. State Library.


followed by a direct address to his Majesty on the part of the Assembly, called together by Lord Culpeper, praying for a cessation of planting in 1681 as the only means of affording relief. Secretary Spencer, who was familiar with every feature of the situation, in a letter to Lord Coventry, declared that it was no longer possible under the conditions then prevailing for the people to support themselves by tobacco, and that the crop of one year would not return an amount sufficient for the purchase of even the clothes which they needed. So intense was the desire for relief that it was admitted in this letter that the system of isolated estates had grown unpopular, and that there was now a universal wish that towns should be established in all of the counties where imported goods might be landed, and that other industries besides planting should spring up, and thus furnish the colonists with a new means of earning the subsistence which they had formerly secured from the cultivation of their only staple.1

The pathetic appeal of the authorities of the Colony for a cessation was refused by the Commissioners of Customs in London, on the ground that if approved, the area of the plantations in the Spanish, Dutch, and French possessions would be sufficiently enlarged to supply the people of the continent of Europe with tobacco, and the trade of Virginia would be proportionately diminished. The speciousness of this argument was disclosed in the improbability that a change in the tastes of the inhabitants of these countries would have been caused by so brief a period of non-production, but also in the fact that

1 Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Coventry, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 80, pp. 381-385; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1680, p. 74, Va. State Library.


under the operation of the Navigation laws, the planters of the Colony were to a large extent shut out, even indirectly, of all the transatlantic markets except those of England. If any persons would be damaged in consequence of cessation, they would be the wholesale and retail dealers in tobacco in the English cities. The second Navigation Act was only too well adapted to promote the extension of the culture of the plant in the foreign possessions of the Continental nations; the trade in this commodity with these nations remaining to the Colony by way of England, after that Act had been on the statute-book for nearly a generation, was not likely to be destroyed by a stoppage of planting for one year. The real motive of the Commissioners of the Customs, in refusing to comply with the request of the authorities, was revealed in their statement that the royal revenue from the Virginian leaf maintained an annual average in the course of every three years of one hundred thousand pounds sterling, and if a cessation were allowed, the whole of this large amount would, for a time at least, be lost, while the navigation of the kingdom would suffer very severely, as so many vessels were employed in transportation from Virginia.

A more selfish reply perhaps was never in history returned to a reasonable demand. The interests of the planters were to be subordinated as long as the royal revenue from tobacco was not seriously diminished. Such a diminution could only take place when there was a falling off in the volume of production, as the customs remained the same, however extreme the fluctuations in the value of the commodity upon which they were levied. The prosperity of the shipowners, it may be safely inferred, was considered to be of secondary importance as compared with the question of the King’s income. In this emergency, Lord Culpeper and representatives of the


Muscovy Company were summoned before the officials charged with the affairs of the Colony, to discuss the best method of introducing tobacco into Russia. The result of their deliberations was, that it was recommended that an ambassador should be sent to the court of that empire with special instructions to secure the privileges desired.1 The length of the journey and the delays in diplomacy would have prevented the Virginians from receiving relief with the required degree of promptness, even if the Muscovites had been very much addicted to the use of tobacco, and their ports had been as near at hand as those of England, and their custom duties merely nominal. The committee also decided to call the attention of the King to the propriety of sending to the Colony two or three hundred pounds’ worth of flax and hemp seed for general distribution.2 The situation there had now become so desperate in consequence of the low price of tobacco, that apprehension was felt even in London, lest the servants should, under the pressure of want, rise and plunder the stores of the planters and rifle the ships upon their arrival in port.3 In the spring of 1682, the year in which Culpeper declared that the only hope of relief lay in the exportation of beef, pork, grain, and provisions to the West Indies,4 the people of several counties petitioned

1 Report of the Committee for Trade and Plantations to the King, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1681, p. 133, Va. State Library.

2 Minutes of a Committee for Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 106, pp. 320-322; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1681, p. 129, Va. State Library.

3 Minutes of a Committee for Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 106, pp. 297-298; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1681, p. 120, Va. State Library.

4 Instructions to Culpeper, with an account of his compliance therewith, § 71, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. LXV; McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 169, Va. State Library.


the Governor to call together the Assembly for the purpose of forbidding planting for a time. The Assembly met, and after a stormy debate which led to nothing, adjourned.1 A second Assembly was summoned, but before it convened a large number of the inhabitants of New Kent, Gloucester, and Middlesex determined to make away with the tobacco in the hill. Suddenly a tumult arose, and a cry went forth among the discontented population that not only their own plants but all plants whatever must be cut down.2 The necessities of the people had driven them to desperation, and they had resolved upon a forcible cessation. The growing tobacco of one plantation was no sooner destroyed than the owner, having been deprived either with or without his consent of his crop, was seized with the same frenzy and ran with the crowd as it marched to destroy the crop of his neighbor.3 The infection spread with great rapidity, and it was feared lest it should diffuse itself into all parts of the Colony. The tumult reached its height in Gloucester. In that county, two-thirds of the tobacco in the ground were cut down, and two hundred plantations were left in desolation. One-half of the plants in New Kent were ruined, and many estates in the

1 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 400. The following entry is found under date of Dec. 5, 1681, in Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1694, p. 51: “Petition of the people of this county about moving the governor to call an assembly. The people earnestly pressing and thronging into ye Courte house until it was full, and a greate many remaining at ye doors and windowes impatiently expecting ye Courte’s answer.” This was the Assembly which was expected to demand a cessation.

2 Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Jenkins, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 82, pp. 69-74; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1682, p. 167, Va. State Library.

3 It is recorded that much of the damage was committed by the crowd after nightfall.


lower part of Middlesex and in York suffered very much. The rioters were careful to destroy the sweet-scented tobacco, as it only grew in this part of Virginia. The tumults were finally overawed by the militia. The two companies of regular soldiers which had been sent over to the Colony to suppress the Rebellion of 1676 had been billeted upon the people, but as they had not been promptly paid, they were in a mutinous condition, and were suspected of leaning very strongly towards the plant-cutters.1 The militia cavalry of Gloucester and New Kent were for some time kept in motion to discourage the slightest disposition on the part of the population to rise again, to which they were inclined upon the smallest pretext.2

There were many forebodings as to what the planters whose tobacco had been ruined would do in their despair. In Gloucester and New Kent alone, the ordinary crop had been curtailed to the extent of four thousand hogsheads, and in the Colony at large, to the extent of ten thousand.3 The country had fallen into such impoverishment at this time, that one of the leading citizens in a letter to the authorities in England declared that he could only describe its condition in the language of the prophet, “the whole body is sick and the whole heart is faint, from the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it.”4

1 Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Jenkins, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 82, pp. 69-74; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1682, pp. 167-171, Va. State Library; Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 74.

2 Ibid., Aug. 12, 1682, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1682, pp. 174, 200, Va. State Library.

3 Nicholas Spencer to Lords of Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1682, pp. 173, 175, Va. State Library; Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, 1667-1688, p. 362.

4 Charles Scarborough to Secretary Jenkins, British State Papers, [footnote continues on p. 407] Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1682, p. 180, Va. State Library.


There now occurred one of those wonderful transformations which were so common in the history of Virginia in the seventeenth century, and which have repeated themselves at still later periods, the state of the community being one of poverty or wealth according to the prices of its only staple.

In 1682, tobacco was selling at the lowest rates, and had been selling at these rates for a number of years, with the result of reducing the people to extremities. In 1683, a prodigious crop was planted, and as the production of the previous year had been so much shortened, tobacco now commanded more remunerative returns: in consequence of this fact, the inhabitants of the Colony were, in 1684, contented and peaceful, the insurrectionary impulse having been entirely allayed. Lord Culpeper, writing to the English Government, declared that this disposition would be maintained as long as their only commodity continued at its present value, which he hoped would be for two years at least; and Secretary Spencer of the Council confirmed this opinion, remarking at the same time, that his unthrifty countrymen preferred to live miserably by tobacco rather than be put upon a new undertaking, however advantageous.2 All thought of a cessation had been deferred.

There now arose a question which presents more than one aspect of curious interest. In the instructions given to the Governors of the Colony by the English authorities, there had for sixty years been invariably inserted a distinct command that they should use every means in their power to encourage the production of silk, wine,

[There is no footnote 1 on this page.]

2 Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Jenkins, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1683, p. 3, Va. State Library.


hemp, flax, pitch, and pot ashes. Wyatt, Harvey, and Berkeley especially, as has been seen, had striven most energetically to conform to this command, and in doing so, they were conscious that they were commending themselves to the peculiar favor of their sovereign. All conditions had now changed. When Lord Howard of Effingham was on the point of setting out to Virginia in 1685, the King was consulted as to whether the customary clause in previous instructions should not be omitted in the instructions to the new Executive, and he decided affirmatively on grounds that appear rather singular in the light of the small impression made on the minds of the colonists in the past by the effort to promote the development or cultivation of what were known as the staple commodities. The usual direction that the Governor should foster the production of these commodities was ordered by the King to be left out because the Virginians might be influenced by its insertion to neglect tobacco, advancing in justification of their action the burdensome character of the additional duty which had been recently imposed upon it.1 If an inference could be drawn from their previous history, it was that they would continue to plant tobacco as long as it afforded them a livelihood, and even after it failed to assure them the barest subsistence. To suppose that they would abandon its culture because of a purely conventional clause in a set of official instructions was to show great ignorance of the economic conditions prevailing in the Colony.

The omission of this clause marks a distinct era in the annals of Virginia, for it signified that thereafter the English Government was satisfied to rely exclusively

1 Minutes of a Committee for Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 108, p. 179; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1685, p. 194, Va. State Library.


upon the ability of the Colony to produce tobacco, as the revenue from it had already grown to be of extraordinary proportions. The crop of 1686 was an unusually large one1 and must have been sold at remunerative prices, as it is stated that in 1687 the planters enjoyed great peace and plenty.2 Nothing illustrates more clearly the strict supervision of the English authorities over the agricultural interests of Virginia than the apology which Lord Howard addressed to the English Government in defence of the Act of Assembly, passed at the session of this year, prohibiting all planting after June 30th. The object which the Act had in view was eminently wise, as its enforcement would have prevented the production of a large quantity of inferior leaf, there not being a sufficient length of time after this date before the arrival of frosts to allow it to mature very thoroughly[.] Without discussion, the Commissioners of the Customs, who looked only to the revenues of the King, irrespective of the welfare of the Colony, positively refused to recommend that the Act should be permitted to stand.

A curious scheme for the improvement of the quality of Virginian tobacco was brought to public attention at this time.3 A person who had had an opportunity of studying the methods of curing the leaf in Brazil, which rendered it more valuable in Europe and on the coasts of Africa than the product of other countries, arrived in the Colony and tried an experiment with the Virginian staple which convinced him that, by the employment of the Brazilian methods, the sweet-scented variety particularly could be

1 Nicholas Spencer to Secretary Sunderland, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1686, p. 13, Va. State Library.

2 Nicholas Spencer to Lords of Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 83, pp. 125-133; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1686, p. 31, Va. State Library.

3 Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 25.


converted into a commodity as fine in its quality as that derived from Brazilian soil. This person, with a boldness which showed great confidence in his own knowledge, suggested that all the planters should place themselves under his instruction, or, if that should be considered impracticable, a large number of them should form a company for the purpose of curing their tobacco in the manner which he should recommend, this tobacco to be afterwards vended in Europe or on the coast of Guinea, where it was in great demand. The proposition was made to the Governor and Council, and the hope was expressed that they would report upon it favorably to the King, and that his Majesty would be pleased to grant the special patent desired for a period of fourteen years. The company was to purchase the leaf in large quantities, and also as many slaves as would be required to manipulate it. It is unnecessary to say that this scheme came to nothing. The indisposition of the planters to cooperate, as well as the absence of all facilities for carrying on the necessary work of a joint-stock association of the kind proposed, were sufficient to render the proposition impracticable, even if it were admitted that there was any substantial basis for its successful consummation in the quality of Virginian tobacco. The scheme itself was doubtless the hair-brain notion of some wandering adventurer with little to recommend him beyond a firm belief in his own abilities. What became of the stranger when his proposition failed to secure the approval which he was seeking is a question involved in obscurity, but it may be taken for granted that he did not remain long in the Colony where he had received so little encouragement.

Jones, writing in 1721, at a time when agriculture in Virginia was making a notable progress, declared1 that it

1 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 61.


was uncommon to find persons leasing lands, not only because there were unusual facilities for acquiring such property in fee simple, in consequence of which the great body of the planters owned the soil that they tilled, but also because men who possessed no estates preferred to earn their livelihood by serving as overseers, or by following other occupations rather than by becoming tenants. This statement was as correct in its application to the Colony throughout the whole of the seventeenth century as it was in the early part of the eighteenth. The reason for this was the same at both periods. Not only was there in the seventeenth century an abundance of land to be taken up in fee simple, but it was also so difficult and expensive to open new grounds that, when the forest had been once removed from the soil, it was the habit of the owner, as it was of all of his fellow-planters in the same situation, to cultivate it until it was incapable of producing a profitable crop. There were comparatively few persons who were willing to rent to tenants fertile land which had been cleared and was in fine condition; and there were probably still fewer who were ready to lease from the owners fields that had been overworked. The man who could afford to rent an area of ground in forest and remove the trees from its surface, would generally prefer to sue out a patent to a tract of his own and expend the same labor in putting it in a proper state for tillage. It is doubtful whether one crop of tobacco would remunerate the tenant for the expense of hewing down the woods covering the soil which he had leased. The owner of the average estate would hardly allow the free use of his new grounds for a period longer than a year, as they were so easily exhausted as to become in three years worthless for all products but wheat and maize, which were of subordinate importance in the eyes of the ordinary


planter. It is quite probable that in consideration of the destruction of a portion of the vast extent of forests covering the largest tracts, the proprietors were ready to rent them in part if only to comply with the law as to seating, but the inducement to persons to become tenants on such estates was very small, as has been pointed out. Occasionally, however, it was specially provided that the lessee should not have the right to clear new land.1 In many cases, it is perhaps safe to say in a majority of cases, it will be found that the soil under cultivation by tenants was owned by persons who resided in England or elsewhere, and who, therefore, were unable to superintend the tillage of their own properties in the Colony.2 In other instances, the land was held by planters who were in possession of large tracts widely separated, which made it difficult for them to give their personal supervision to all.3

After the dissolution of the Company in 1624, there was a large area of soil in the Colony which had belonged to that corporation, and this the Governor and Council were soon instructed by the Privy Council to plant and seat.4

1 Records of York County, vol. 1691-1701, p. 118, Va. State Library.

2 Records of Elizabeth City, vol. 1684-1699, p. 333, Va. State Library; Records of General Court, pp. 218, 243. See lease from Leonard Claiborne, then residing in Jamaica, to John Waugh of Stafford County, Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1680-1688, p. 427, Va. State Library; also lease from Martin Becker of Plymouth, England, to John Penrose, Records of York County, vol. 1633-1694, p. 9, Va. State Library; also lease from John Sadler of England to Thomas Jackson of a tract, in Martin Brandon, New England Historical and Genealogical Register for October, 1892, p. 431. Reference may also be made to a lease from Mrs. Robert Vaulx, acting as the attorney of her absent husband, to Jarratt Hawthorne, Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 142, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 184, Va. State Library.

4 See preamble of the patent recorded in Virginia Land Patents, vol. 1623-1643, p. 144.


About twenty-nine leases of tracts, ranging from fifty to one hundred and fifty acres, were granted, which were to continue for seven years in some cases and ten in others,1 at a nominal rental of one pound of tobacco an acre. In 1632, the General Court passed an order allowing the tenant’s interests in the lands of the Old Company which were then unexpired to be renewed for twenty-one years.2 All new leases were to be acquired for the same length of time, and in both cases the rental for every fifty acres was to be two barrels or six bushels of grain.3 In 1634, their number exceeded twenty.4 After this they do not appear to have been so many. Terms of years in soil which had been assigned by the Company for the use of the Governor were granted as late as 1647.5

In examining the provisions of leases which owners of land in the Colony had made, whether they resided in England, or on the estates which they had rented out, or on plantations which were situated at some distance from these estates, we find that these provisions were not drawn according to any general rule, but were controlled by the wishes of the persons immediately concerned. The period covered by the ordinary term showed a very material variance. In some instances it extended to twenty-two years,6 but continuation for so great a length of time was probably uncommon. In Elizabeth City County in 1695, an estate known as Fort Field was rented for sixteen years,7 and in 1661, a plantation in Lancaster

1 Virginia Land Patents, vol. 1623-1643, pp. 76, 90, 98.

2 Ibid., p. 135.

3 Ibid., pp. 132, 133, 135.

4 Ibid. See year 1634.

5 Ibid., vol. 1643-1651, p. 103.

6 Records of York County, vol. 1691-1701, p. 205, Va. State Library.

7 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 57, Va. State Library.


for ten.1 In York, Mr. Peter Starkey leased landed property, which he owned, for eight years; in the same county, in 1640, a tract of fifty acres was rented for thirteen years.2 Another tract, which was situated in Henrico, was leased at a later period for six.3 Fitzhugh recommended that if the owner of an estate desired to rent it to a tenant who would bind himself to make improvements, seven years should be the length of the term.4

The provisions of the agreements with reference to what the tenants were expected to do are found to be as varied as the length of time which the leases were to cover. In most instances the rent was to be paid in tobacco; in some, in grain; in others, in part at least, in cider; in others still, in coin.5 It is impossible to discover the average proportion between the amount of the rent and the size of the estates. In some cases the rent was regulated by the number of freemen residing on the plantation;6 in others, it was fixed at twenty shillings to the one hundred acres, but this was in a division of the Colony which had not yet been fully settled.7 Thomas Curle leased a tract in Elizabeth City County at the rate of two pounds of tobacco to the acre. A plantation of forty acres was in 1640 leased in York for two capons annually. In some instances the only consideration was the payment of quit-rents.8

1 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1654-1702, p. 225.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 46; vol. 1638-1648, p. 129, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 127, Va. State Library.

4 Letters of William Fitzhugh, January 30, 1686-1687.

5 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 525, Va. State Library. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 144, Va. State Library.

6 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 127, Va. State Library.

7 Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 20, 1686.

8 Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 129; vol. 1657-1662, p. 126, Va. State Library.


In an agreement between Mr. Reeves, a citizen of Henrico, and a fellow-countyman named Bridgewater, it was covenanted1 that during the occupation of the land of the former by the latter, the houses, orchards, and other properties were to be kept in good condition, and that upon the failure to comply with these requirements, the lessor should have the power to oust the tenant. Reeves at a later date entered into a contract with William Arrington,2 which gave Arrington the right to cultivate tobacco in any part of Reeves’ plantation except in that part which the owner himself had in tillage; he was also to be permitted to keep six head of cows and calves, two horses or two breeding mares, and to appropriate both fodder and grain for their maintenance. He bound himself further to lease an additional tract containing one hundred acres, for which he was to pay annually one ear of corn, and his tenure was to continue for his life, and after his death, his holding was to be transferred to his wife if she happened to survive. On this land he was to be allowed to erect a house, and to plant an orchard of one hundred apple trees. Reeves agreed to furnish Arrington, when he entered under the lease, with eight barrels of maize and three hundred pounds of meat; and he was also to have the use of a dwelling-house, which was at that time standing. All the crops produced by Arrington during the first year of his tenancy were to belong exclusively to himself; in return for this, he was to help Reeves for a period of thirty days in the cultivation of his maize, and to supply his household with wood and water, servants of Reeves to aid in transporting these articles. Arrington further bound himself to assist in ploughing in several bushels of wheat, and also to maul six hundred rails. Reeves, on

1 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1682-1701, p. 322.

2 Ibid., vol. 1683-1697, p. 578, Va. State Library.


the other hand, agreed to furnish Arrington and his family during the first year with food, and also with workmen, whether free or bond; he was also to supply all the wheat and corn that would be required, and this arrangement was to be renewed as often as Arrington desired it. If, on the other hand, Arrington decided at the end of the year to settle on the hundred acres of land which were to be granted to him at a nominal rent, these privileges were to cease, and he could only claim a certain proportion of the fodder and nubbins which he had aided in producing.

In 1691, Thomas Cocke, of Henrico, rented to Thomas East of the same county a tract of land in consideration that he would seat and fence it, there being already a house standing on it. East also bound himself to pay one ear of Indian corn annually until the term of the contract came to an end, at which time he was to have the option of becoming the purchaser.1

In 1661, William Wraughton of Currotoman, in Lancaster County, leased for a period of ten years an extensive tract of land to two tenants, who agreed to erect a fence around the apple orchard growing on the estate and to keep the dwelling-house in good repair. They were also to deliver to Wraughton, at the beginning of the first year of the contract, a man-servant who had recently entered into indentures, and a maid-servant who had been provided with apparel; at the beginning of the second year a second man-servant was to be delivered, and at the beginning of the third, two men-servants fully supplied with clothing. At the beginning of the fourth year, the tenants were to pay four thousand pounds of tobacco, and an additional

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 245, Va. State Library. See advertisement of Cocke that he had land to rent or sell, Ibid., p. 487, Va. State Library.


four thousand at the beginning of the fifth, the whole to be produced on the plantation leased.1

In 1693, John Tucker, of Norfolk County, leased for a period of eight years a plantation in that county to Thomas Watkins, who agreed by way of consideration to pay the quit-rents and a nominal sum of tobacco each year. In further return for the use of the land, he bound himself to plant an orchard of apple, peach, cherry, and pear trees, to be protected from depredations by the erection of a fence. He was to be permitted to use the timber in repairing houses and constructing casks.2

In a lease of five hundred acres in York County, near the end of the century, the tenant was required to plant an orchard of apple trees, to build a house thirty feet in length and eighteen in width, with a chimney on the outside and one on the inside, and with the chambers ceiled. A tobacco barn, thirty feet long and twenty wide, was also to be erected.3

Colonel William Fitzhugh owned twenty-one thousand nine hundred and ninety-six acres in a single tract in the Northern Neck. Being anxious to lease this body of land to a colony of Huguenots, whom one of his friends had proposed to transport to Virginia, he offered to enter into an agreement which would assure them possession for a period of three lives, with the right to renew the leases for three additional lives, or for one life as they might prefer. Fitzhugh declared his readiness to furnish the whole number of settlers during the course of the first year with meat and corn at reasonable prices, and also the other supplies which would be thought necessary, and bound

1 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1654-1702, p. 225.

2 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 204.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1691-1701, p. 205, Va. State Library.


himself to secure naturalization for each one at the rate of three pounds sterling the head.1

In the instances in which contentions arose as to the damage committed by a tenant, the points at issue were referred to a jury of the neighborhood. Such an altercation took place, in 1673, between Thomas Lenior and William Thompson. The jury appointed to inquire into the differences between them was directed to visit the plantation, which was at the time in the possession of Thompson under the terms of a lease, and after a careful examination of the premises, report upon the condition of the buildings when the estate was rented, and whether they had been blown down by a great storm recently occurring, or had fallen in consequence of the carelessness of Thompson. The conduct of the tenant in other respects was also to be strictly investigated.2

Although throughout the seventeenth century the principal ways of communication from plantation to plantation and from one part of the Colony to another were the streams upon which the settlements stood, it became necessary at an early period to provide public roads to some extent. In 1632, the year in which the first general regulation looking to a system of highways seems to have been adopted, the authority was conferred by the General Assembly upon the Governor and Council, the Commissioners of the County Courts, and the inhabitants of each parish, acting separately, to establish such roads as the public convenience demanded.3 It was thought that those were most imperatively needed which should lead from one county to another, or to the different churches in each county. It was not until 1662 that a very strict law was passed with

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 20, 1686.

2 Records of the General Court, p. 164.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 199.


a view to keeping the highways in a permanently good condition. Previously there had been much complaint that when the course of a road was altered by the large trees blown across it, the land of the adjacent plantations had been encroached upon and the fences ruthlessly broken down. Under an Act of Assembly passed in this year,1 surveyors were appointed whose duty it was to establish a system of highways in their districts wherever lacking; first, a convenient road to the church was to be made, and this was to be followed by the construction of roads to the court-house, to Jamestown, and finally from county to county. These highways were required to be forty feet in width. The surveyors had the assistance of laborers, who upon an appointed day were sent to them by the owners of the adjacent estates, the planters being compelled, upon the call of their vestries, to furnish as many persons for this public service as they had tithables in their families. Each surveyor was assigned certain limits and his proportion of tithables. If he showed indifference to the performance of his duty, the County Court, upon complaint being offered, instructed the clerk to communicate the fact to the church wardens of the parish through the minister, and to command them to enforce the provisions of the law.2 There were instances in which a private citizen was granted a certain amount of tobacco

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 103.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 89, Va. State Library. There were frequent presentments by grand juries of delinquent surveyors. See Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 40; Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1679-1694, p. 672. In some cases the highways were only thirty feet wide. See Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1694, orders March 3, 1683-1684. The instructions of court sometimes merely required that the road should be cleared to the breadth of a cartway. Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1657-1664, p. 85.


in consideration of keeping a public highway in order; in 1670, an annual allowance was made to Mr. Thomas Hunt of one thousand pounds under an arrangement binding him to maintain a good roadbed for horse, foot, and cart over the milldam at Portan.1

As late as 1667, there appears to have been no regular system of gates on a very considerable number of estates.2 So obstructive of the public business did this become, that it was found necessary to compel the owner of every plantation to provide a gate in his fence which would enable a man and horse to reach the house of the proprietor without delay, but it is highly probable that the demand for this improvement existed chiefly on tracts of land to which patents had been recently obtained. The bridle path which the law had special application to was characteristic both of the settled and the outlying regions, but even here some means of making a comparatively easy passage through a line of fence was necessary, and doubtless the draw-bar was a common substitute for the ordinary gate.3 Hinges and nails were procurable, but only at considerable expense, an expense which the owners of even the estates that had been under cultivation the longest were disposed to avoid. The draw-bar is one of the familiar features of the Virginian plantation to-day, when nails and hinges can be bought so cheaply, and two hundred and twenty-five years ago it must have been in almost universal use, as the reasons for its employment were much more urgent.

The bridges that spanned the streams intersecting the

1 Records of General Court, p. 16.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 261.

3 Records of Henrico County, vol., 1688-1697, pp. 239, 240, Va. State Library. See also Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 194, Va. State Library.


public highways were built at the cost of the counties in which they were situated, and were maintained by means of the county levies, the justices of the peace prescribing the amount of tobacco needed to keep them in repair.1 In some instances these structures seem to have been erected at the expense of private individuals. In 1648, Oliver Segar was presented by the minister and church wardens of the new Pocosan parish, on the ground that in fishing on the Sabbath he had disregarded the sacred character of the day, and to expiate this offence against good morals they required him to build a bridge over a swamp lying between the plantations of Lieutenant William Would and Captain Christopher Calthorpe, and crossed by a public road. When the structure to be erected was situated partly in one county and partly in another, an order was obtained from the Governor and Council, by the authority of which the court of each county appointed commissioners, who were to assemble at a designated place and confer about the work to be executed.2

There is evidence that public ferries were established in Virginia as early as 1640. A petition was offered in that year by Henry Hawley, in which he prayed for the right to keep a ferry at the mouth of Southampton River, and the request was granted; he received the concession for life under a patent stamped with the seal of the Colony, on condition that he should impose only a penny for the transportation of each passenger.3 Free ferries were formally established in 1641-43 by an Act of Assembly, which required a levy to be made by each county for the remuneration of every ferryman engaged in the public service in its boundaries. Where a ferry united two

1 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 53.

2 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1699, p. 158, Va. State Library.

3 General Court Entries, Robinson Transcripts, p. 14.


counties, it was to be maintained by the equal contribution of both. No fee was to be asked of any passenger in crossing, and the man in charge was expected to perform his duties from the rising to the setting of the sun.1 A few years later, as the expense of maintaining ferries fell very heavily upon the planters of small means, the power was conferred upon the County Courts to establish them only where absolutely essential to the convenience of the people, and the commissioners were authorized to prescribe such rates and to lay down such conditions as to time of service and to appoint such persons as the interests of the population at large dictated. As the counties were not to be called upon to support these ferries by the public levy, it is to be inferred that each passenger was to be required to pay his own charge.2 In some instances the ferryman was instructed to be at his post only at stated hours of the day, as ten o’clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, and if he failed to attend at these times, without a sound excuse, he was liable to be heavily fined for his negligence.3 In some cases it was also his duty to take people on board ships.4

In 1673, it was determined by the General Assembly to establish free ferries again, and commissioners were appointed to designate the most convenient places in the different counties.5 Two thousand pounds of tobacco appear to have been the amount of the wages paid in Henrico for a service of twelve months, the term generally extending over a period of seven years.6 In case of gross neglect, the ferryman forfeited whatever was due

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 269.

2 Ibid., p. 348.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 431, Va. State Library.

4 Ibid., vol. 1657-1662, p. 204, Va. State Library.

5 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 310.

6 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 257.


him for that year.1 In 1696, there were but two ferries in Henrico. The one at Varina was in operation only on Sundays and on the days on which the justices convened: the wages of the persons who in turn were in charge were eight hundred pounds of tobacco. The second ferry was situated at Bermuda Hundred. Keepers of ferries were now allowed to ask a fee for the transportation of both horse and passenger. For rider and horse this fee was twelve pence, and for a foot passenger, six.2 At Jamestown, the rate for man and horse was three shillings and six pence, and for a foot passenger one shilling. In Lancaster County at this time the fee for foot passengers was two shillings and six pence.3 The remuneration granted to keepers of ferries in this county was, in 1687, twelve hundred pounds of tobacco.4

1 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 151.

2 Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 52.

3 Ibid., pp. 50, 51.

4 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1686-1696, f. p. 28.

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