Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Ch. 5: Liberty, Slavery, and Tyranny

We left the colony at Jamestown emerging from thick darkness and much
tribulation toward the light. Some distance was still to be traversed
before full light and easement were attained; but fortune, upon the whole,
was kinder to Virginia than to most of the other settlements; and though
clouds gathered darkly now and then, and storms threatened, and here and
there a bolt fell, yet deliverance came beyond expectation. Something
Virginia suffered from Royal governors, something from the Indians,
something too from the imprudence and wrong-headedness of her own people.
But her story is full of stirring and instructive passages. It tells how a
community chiefly of aristocratic constitution and sympathies, whose
loyalty to the English throne was deep and ardent, and whose type of life
was patrician, nevertheless were won insensibly and inevitably to espouse
the principles of democracy. It shows how, with honest men, a king may be
loved, and the system which he stands for reverenced and defended, while
yet the lovers and apologists choose and maintain a wholly different
system for themselves. The House of Stuart had none but friends in
Virginia; when the son of Charles the First was a fugitive, Virginia
offered him a home; and the follies and frailties of his father, and the
grotesque chicaneries of his grandfather, could not alienate the
colonists' affection. Yet, from the moment their Great Charter was given
them, they never ceased to defend the liberties which it bestowed against
every kingly effort to curtail or destroy them; and on at least one
occasion they fairly usurped the royal prerogative. They presented, in
short, the striking anomaly of a people acknowledging a monarch and at the
same time claiming the fullest measure of political liberty till then
enjoyed by any community in modern history. They themselves perceived no
inconsistency in their attitude; but to us it is patent, and its meaning
is that the sentiment of a tradition may be cherished and survive long
after intelligence and experience have caused the thing itself to be
consigned to the rubbish-heap of the past.

So long as Sir Thomas Smythe occupied the president's chair of the London
Company, there could be no hope of substantial prosperity for the
Jamestown emigrants. He was a selfish and conceited satrap, incapable of
enlightened thought or beneficent action, who knew no other way to magnify
his own importance than by suffocating the rights and insulting the
self-respect of others. He had a protégé in Argall, a disorderly ruffian
who was made deputy-governor of the colony in 1617. His administration
was that of a freebooter; but the feeble and dwindling colony had neither
power nor spirit to do more than send a complaint to London. Lord Delaware
had in the meantime sailed for Virginia, but died on the trip; Argall was,
however, dismissed, and Sir George Yeardley substituted for him--a man of
gracious manners and generous nature, but somewhat lacking in the force
and firmness that should build up a state. He had behind him the best men
in the company if not in all England: Sir Edward Sandys, the Earl of
Southampton, and Nicolas Ferrar. Smythe had had resignation forced upon
him, and with him the evil influences in the management retired to the
background. Sandys was triumphantly elected governor and treasurer, with
Ferrar as corporation counsel; Southampton was a powerful supporter. They
were all young men, all royalists, and all unselfishly devoted to the
cause of human liberty and welfare. Virginia never had better or more
urgent friends.

Yeardley, on his arrival, found distress and discouragement, and hardly
one man remaining in the place of twenty. The colonists had been robbed
both by process of law and without; they had been killed and had died of
disease; they had deserted and been deported; they had been denied lands
of their own, or the benefit of their own labor; and they had been
permitted no part in the management of their own affairs. The rumor of
these injuries and disabilities had got abroad, and no recruits for the
colony had been obtainable; the Indians were ill-disposed, and the houses
poor and few. Women too were lamentably scanty, and the people had no root
in the country, and no thought but to leave it. Like the emigrants to the
Klondike gold-fields in our own day, they had designed only to better
their fortunes and then depart. The former hope was gone; the latter was
all that was left.

Yeardley's business, in the premises, was agreeable and congenial; he had
a letter from the company providing for the abatement of past evils and
abuses, and the establishment of justice, security and happiness. He sent
messengers far and wide, summoning a general meeting to hear his news and
confer together for the common weal.

Hardly venturing to believe that any good thing could be in store for
them, the burgesses and others assembled, and crowded into the place of
meeting. Twenty-two delegates from the eleven plantations were there, clad
in their dingy and dilapidated raiment, and wide-brimmed hats; most of
them with swords at their sides, and some with rusty muskets in their
hands. Their cheeks were lank and their faces sunburned; their bearing was
listless, yet marked with some touch of curiosity and expectation. There
were among them some well-filled brows and strong features, announcing men
of ability and thoughtfulness, though they had lacked the opportunity and
the cue for action. Their long days on the plantations, and their uneasy
nights in the summer heats, had given them abundant leisure to think over
their grievances and misfortunes, and to dream of possible reforms and
innovations. But of what profit was it? Their governors had no thought but
to fill their own pockets, the council was powerless or treacherous, and
everything was slipping away.

It was in the depths of summer--the 30th of July, 1619. More than a year
was yet to pass before the "Mayflower" would enter the wintry shelter of
Plymouth harbor. In the latitude of Jamestown the temperature was almost
tropical at this season, and exhausting to body and spirit. The room in
which they met, in the governor's house in Jamestown, was hardly spacious
enough for their accommodation: four unadorned walls, with a ceiling that
could be touched by an upraised hand. It had none of the aspect of a hall
of legislature, much less of one in which was to take place an event so
large and memorable as the birth of liberty in a new world. But the
delegates thronged in, and were greeted at their entrance by Yeardley, who
stood at a table near the upper end of the room, with a secretary beside
him and a clergyman of the Church of England on his other hand. The
colonists looked at his urbane and conciliating countenance, and glanced
at the document he held in his hand, and wondered what would be the issue.
Nothing of moment, doubtless; still, they could scarcely be much worse off
than they were; and the new governor certainly had the air of having
something important to communicate. They took their places, leaning
against the walls, or standing with their hands clasped over the muzzles
of their muskets, or supporting one foot upon a bench; and the gaze of all
was concentrated on the governor. As he opened the paper, a silence fell
upon the assembly.

Such, we may imagine, were the surroundings and circumstances of this
famous gathering, the transactions of which fill so bright a page in the
annals of the early colonies. The governor asked the clergyman for a
blessing, and when the prayer was done suggested the choosing of a
chairman, or speaker. The choice fell upon John Pory, a member of the
former council. Then the governor read his letter from the company in

The letter, in few words, opened the door to every reform which could
make the colony free, prosperous and happy, and declared all past wrongs
at an end. It merely outlined the scope of the improvements, leaving it to
the colonists themselves to fill in the details. "Those cruel laws were
abrogated, and they were to be governed by those free laws under which his
majesty's subjects in England lived." An annual grand assembly, consisting
of the governor and council and two burgesses from each plantation, chosen
by the people, was to be held; and at these assemblies they were to frame
whatever laws they deemed proper for their welfare. These concessions were
of the more value and effect, because they were advocated in England by
men who had only the good of the colony at heart, and possessed power to
enforce their will.

It seemed almost too good to be true: it was like the sun rising after
the long arctic night. Those sad faces flushed, and the moody eyes
kindled. The burgesses straightened their backs and lifted their heads;
they looked at one another, and felt that they were once more men. There
was a murmur of joy and congratulation; and thanks were uttered to God,
and to the Company, for what had been done. And forthwith they set to work
with life and energy, and with a judgment and foresight which were hardly
to have been looked for in legislators so untried, to construct the
platform of enactments upon which the commonwealth of Virginia was
henceforth to stand.

From the body of the delegates, two committees were selected to devise
the new laws and provisions, while the governor and the rest reviewed the
laws already in existence, to determine what part of them, if any, was
suitable for continuance. Among the articles agreed upon were regulations
relating to distribution and tenure of land, which replaced all former
patents and privileges, and set all holders on an equal footing: the
recognition of the Church of England as governing the mode of worship in
Virginia, with a good salary for clergymen and an injunction that all and
sundry were to appear at church every Sunday, and bring their weapons with
them--thus insuring Heaven a fair hearing, while at the same time making
provision against the insecurity of carnal things. The wives of the
planters as well as their husbands were capacitated to own land, because,
in a new world, a woman might turn out to be as efficient as the man. This
sounds almost prophetic; but it was probably intended to operate on the
cultivation of the silkworm. Plantations of the mulberry had been ordered,
and culture of the cocoon was an industry fitting to the gentler sex, who
were the more likely to succeed in it on account of their known partiality
for the product. On the other hand, excess in apparel was kept within
bounds by a tax. The planting of vines was also ordered; but as a matter
of fact the manufacture of neither wine nor silk was destined to succeed
in the colony; tobacco and cotton were to be its staples, but the latter
had not at this epoch been attempted. Order and propriety among the
colonists were assured by penalties on gaming, drunkenness, and sloth; and
the better to guard against the proverbial wiles of Satan, a university
was sketched out, and direction was given that such children of the
heathen as showed indications of latent talent should be caught, tamed and
instructed, and employed as missionaries among their tribes. Finally, a
fixed price of three shillings for the best quality of tobacco, and
eighteen pence for inferior brands, was appointed; thus giving the colony
a currency which had the double merit of being a sound medium for traffic,
and an agreeable consolation and incense when the labors of the day were

It was a good day's work; and the assembly dissolved with the conviction
that their time had never before been passed to such advantage. Yeardley,
knowing the disposition of the managers in London, opposed no objection to
the immediate practical enforcement of the new enactments; and indeed
Sandys, when he had an opportunity of examining the digest, expressed the
opinion that it had been "well and judiciously formed." The colonists, for
their part, dismissed all anxieties and shadows from their minds, and fell
to putting in crops and putting up dwellings as men will who have a stake
in their country, and feel that they can live in it. Their confidence was
not misplaced; within a year from this time the number of the colonists
had been more than doubled, and all troubles seemed at an end.

So long, however, as James I. disgraced the throne of England, popular
liberties could never be quite sure of immunity; and during the five or
six years that he still had to live, he did his best to disturb the
felicity of his Virginian subjects. He was unable to do anything very
serious, and what he did do, was in contravention of law. He got Sandys
out of the presidency; but Southampton was immediately put in his place;
he tried to get away the patent which he himself had issued, and finally
did so; but the colony kept its laws and its freedom, though the Throne
thenceforward appointed the governors. He put a heavy tax on tobacco,
which he professed to regard as an invention of the enemy; and he
countenanced an attempt by Lord Warwick, in behalf of Argall, to continue
martial law in the colony instead of allowing trial by Jury; but in this
he was defeated. He sent out two commissioners to Virginia to discover
pretexts for harassing it, and took the matter out of the hands of
Parliament; but the Virginians maintained themselves until death stepped
in and put a final stop to his majesty's industry, and Charles I. came to
the throne.

The climate of Virginia does not predispose to exertion; yet farming
involves hard physical work; and, beyond anything else, the wealth of
Virginia was derived from farming. Manufactures had not come in view, and
were discouraged or forbidden by English decree. But, as we saw in the
early days of Jamestown, the settlers there were unused to work, and
averse from it; although, under the stimulus of Captain John Smith, they
did learn how to chop down trees. After the colony became popular, and
populous, the emigrants continued to be in a large measure of a social
class to whom manual labor is unattractive. A country in which laborers
are indispensable, and which is inhabited by persons disinclined to labor,
would seem to stand no good chance of achieving prosperity. How, then, is
the early prosperity of Virginia to be explained? The charter did not make
men work.

It was due to the employment of slave labor. Slaves in the Seventeenth
Century were easily acquired, and were of several varieties. At one time,
there were more white slaves than black. White captives were often sold
into slavery; and there was also a regular trade in indentured slaves, or
servants, sent from England. These were to work out their freedom by a
certain number of years of labor for their purchaser. Convicts from the
prisons were also utilized as slaves. In the same year that the Virginia
charter bestowed political freedom upon the colonists, a Dutch ship landed
a batch of slaves from the Guinea coast, where the Dutch had a footing.
They were strong fellows, and the ardor of the climate suited them better
than that of the regions further north. Negroes soon came to be in demand
therefore; they did not die in captivity as the Indians were apt to do,
and a regular trade in them was presently established. A negro fetched in
the market more than twice as much as either a, red or a white man, and
repaid the investment. There was no general sentiment against traffic in
human beings, and it was not settled that negroes were human, exactly.
Slavery at all events had been the normal condition of Guinea negroes from
the earliest times, and they undoubtedly were worse treated by their
African than by their European and American owners. They were born slaves,
or at least in slavery. There had of course been enlightened humanitarians
as far back as the Greek and Roman eras, who had opined that the principle
of slavery was wrong; and such men were talking still; but ordinary people
regarded their deliverances as being in the nature of a counsel of
perfection, which was not intended to be observed in practice. There are
fashions in humanitarianism, as in other matters, and multitudes who
denounced slavery in the first half of this Nineteenth Century, were in no
respect better practical moralists than were the Virginians two hundred
years before. But the time had to come, in the course of human events,
when negro slavery was to cease in America; and those whose business
interests, or sentimental prejudices, were opposed to it, added the chorus
of their disapproval to the inscrutable movements of a Power above all
prejudices. Negro slavery, as an overt institution, is no more in these
States; but he would be a bold or a blind man who should maintain that
slavery, both black and white, has no existence among us to-day. Meanwhile
the Seventeenth Century planters of Virginia bought and sold their human
chattels with an untroubled conscience; and the latter, comprehending even
less of the ethics of the question than their masters did, were reasonably
happy. They were not aware that human nature was being insulted and
degraded in their persons: they were transported by no moral indignation.
When they were flogged, they suffered, but when their bodies stopped
smarting, no pain rankled in their minds. They were treated like animals,
and became like them. They had no anxieties; they looked neither forward
nor backward; their physical necessities were provided for. White slavery
gradually disappeared, but the feeling prevailed that slavery was what
negroes were intended for. The planters, after a few generations, came to
feel a sort of affection for their bondsmen who had been born on the
estates and handed down from father to son. Self-interest, as well as
natural kindliness, rendered deliberate cruelties rare. The negroes, on
the other hand, often loved their masters, and would grieve to leave them.
The evils of slavery were not on the surface, but were subtle, latent, and
far more malignant than was even recently realized. The Abolitionists
thought the trouble was over when the Proclamation of Emancipation was
signed. "We can put on our coats and go home, now," said Garrison; and
Wendell Phillips said, "I know of no man to-day who can fold his arms and
look forward to his future with more confidence than the negro." We shall
have occasion to investigate the intelligence of these forecasts
by-and-by. But there is something striking in the fact that that country
which claims to be the freest and most highly civilized in the world
should be the last to give up "the peculiar institution." How can devotion
to liberty co-exist in the mind with advocacy of servitude? This, too, is
a subject to which we must revert hereafter. At the period we are now
treating, there were more white than black slaves, and the princely
estates of later times had not been thought of. Indeed, in spite of
their marriage to liberty, the colonists did not yet feel truly at home.
Marriage of a more concrete kind was needed for that.

This defect was understood in England, and the Company took means to
remedy it. A number of desirable and blameless young women were enlisted
to go out to the colony and console the bachelors there. The plan was
discreetly carried out; the acquisition of the young ladies was not made
too easy, so that neither was their self-respect wounded, nor were the
bachelors allowed to feel that beauty and virtue in female form were
commonplace commodities. The romance and difficulty of the situation were
fairly well preserved. There stood the possible bride; but she was
available only with her own consent and approval; and before entering the
matrimonial estate, the bridegroom elect must pay all charges--so many
pounds of tobacco. And how many pounds of tobacco was a good wife worth?
From one point of view, more than was ever grown in Virginia; but the
sentimental aspect of the transaction had to be left out of consideration,
or the enterprise would have come to an untimely conclusion. From one
hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds of the weed was the average
commercial figure; it paid expenses and gave the agents a commission; for
the rest, the profit was all the colonist's. Many a happy home was founded
in this way, and, so far as we know, there were no divorces and no
scandals. But it must not be forgotten that, although tobacco was paid for
the wife, there was still enough left to fill a quiet pipe by the conjugal
fireside. They were the first Christian firesides where this soothing
goddess had presided: no wonder they were peaceful!

Charles I. was a young man, with a large responsibility on his shoulders;
and two leading convictions in his mind. The first was that he ought to be
the absolute head of the nation; Parliament might take counsel with him,
but should not control him when it came to action. The same notion had
prevailed with James I., and was to be the immediate occasion of the
downfall of James II.; as for Charles II., his long experience of hollow
oak trees, and secret chambers in the houses of loyalists, had taught him
the limitations of the kingly prerogative before he began his reign; and
the severed head of his father clinched the lesson. But the Stuarts, as a
family, were disinclined to believe that the way to inherit the earth was
by meekness, and none of them believed it so little as the first Charles.

The second conviction he entertained was that he must have revenues, and
that they should be large and promptly paid. His whole pathetic career
--tragic seems too strong a word for it, though it ended in death--was a
mingled story of nobility, falsehood, gallantry and treachery, conditioned
by his blind pursuit of these two objects, money and power.

Upon general principles, then, it was to be expected that Charles would
be the enemy of Virginian liberties. But it happened that money was his
more pressing need at the time his attention first was turned on the
colony; he saw that revenues were to be gained from them; he knew that the
charter recently given to them had immensely increased their
productiveness; and as to his prerogative, he had not as yet felt the
resistance which his parliament had in store for him, and was therefore
not jealous of the political privileges of a remote settlement--one, too,
which seemed to be in the hands of loyal gentlemen. "Their liberties harm
me not," was his thought, "and they appear to be favorable to the success
of the tobacco crop; the tobacco monopoly can put money in my purse;
therefore let the liberties remain. Should these planters ever presume to
go too far, it will always be in my power to stop them." Thus it came
about that tobacco, after procuring the Virginians loving wives, was also
the means of securing the favor of their king. But they, naturally,
ascribed the sunshine of his smile to some innate merit in themselves, and
their gratitude made them his enthusiastic supporters as long as he lived.
They mourned his death, and opened their arms to all royalist refugees
from the power of Cromwell. When Cromwell sent over a man-of-war, however,
they accepted the situation. Virginia had by that time grown to so
considerable an importance that they could adopt a somewhat conservative
attitude toward the affairs even of the mother country.

The ten years following Charles's accession were a period of peace and
growth in the colony; of great increase in population and in production,
and of a steady ripening of political liberties. But the conditions under
which this development went on were different from those which existed in
New England and in New York. The Puritans were actuated by religious
ideals, the Dutch by commercial projects chiefly; but the Virginia
planters were neither religious enthusiasts nor tradesmen. Their tendency
was not to huddle together in towns and close communities, but to spread
out over the broad and fertile miles of their new country, and live each
in a little principality of his own, with his slaves and dependants around
him. They modeled their lives upon those of the landed gentry in England;
and when their crops were gathered, they did not go down to the wharfs and
haggle over their disposal, but handed them over to agents, who took all
trouble off their hands, and after deducting commissions and charges made
over to them the net profits. This left the planters leisure to apply
themselves to liberal pursuits; they maintained a dignified and generous
hospitality, and studied the art of government. A race of gallant
gentlemen grew up, well educated, and consciously superior to the rest of
the population, who had very limited educational facilities, and but
little of that spirit of equality and independence which characterized the
northern colonies. Towns and cities came slowly; the plantation system was
more natural and agreeable under the circumstances. Orthodoxy in religion
was the rule; and though at first there was a tendency to eschew
narrowness and bigotry, yet gradually the church became hostile to
dissenters, and Puritans and Quakers were as unwelcome in Virginia as were
the latter in Massachusetts, or Episcopalians anywhere in New England. All
this seems incompatible with democracy; and probably it might in time have
grown into a liberal monarchical system. The slaves were not regarded as
having any rights, political or personal; their masters exercised over
them the power of life and death, as well as all lesser powers. The bulk
of the white population was not oppressed, and was able to get a living,
for Virginia was "the best poor man's country in the world"; there was
little or none of the discontent that embarrassed the New Amsterdam
patroons; the charter gave them representation, and their manhood was not
undermined. Had Virginia been an island, or otherwise isolated, and free
from any external interference, we can imagine that the planters might at
last have found it expedient to choose a king from among their number, who
would have found a nobility and a proletariat ready made. But Virginia was
not isolated. She was loyal to the Stuarts, because they did not bring to
bear upon her the severities which they inflicted upon their English
subjects; but when she became a royal colony, and had to put up with
corrupt and despotic favorites of the monarch, who could do what they
pleased, and were responsible to nobody but the monarch who had made them
governor, loyalty began to cool. Moreover, men whose ability and advanced
opinions made them distasteful to the English kings, fled to the colonies,
and to Virginia among the rest, and sowed the seeds of revolt. Calamity
makes strange bedfellows: the planters liked outside oppression as little
as did the common people, and could not but make common cause with them.
The distance between the two was diminished. Social equality there could
hardly be; but political and theoretic equality could be acknowledged.
The English monarchy made the American republic; spurred its indolence,
and united its parts. Man left to himself is lax and indifferent; from
first to last it is the pressure of wrong that molds him into the form of
right. George I. gave the victory to the Americans in the Revolution as
much as Washington did. And before George's time, the colonies had been
keyed up to the struggle by years of injustice and outrage. And this
injustice and outrage seemed the more intolerable because they had been
preceded by a period of comparative liberality. It needs powerful pressure
to transform English gentlemen with loyalist traditions, and sympathies
into a democracy; but it can be done, and the English kings were the men
to do it.

Until the period of unequivocal tyranny arrived, the chief shadow upon
the colony was cast by its relations with the Indians. Powhatan, the
father of Pocahontas, and chief over tribes whose domains extended over
thousands of square miles, kept friendship with the whites till his death
in 1618. His brother, Opechankano, professed to inherit the friendship
along with the chieftainship; but the relations between the red men and
the colonists had never been too cordial, and the latter, measuring their
muskets and breastplates against the stone arrows and deerskin shirts of
the savages, fell into the error of despising them. The Indians, for their
part, stood in some awe of firearms, which they had never held in their
own hands, and the penalty for selling which to them had been made capital
years before. But they had their own methods of dealing with foes; and
since neither side had ever formally come to blows, they had received no
object lesson to warn them to keep hands off. Opechankano was intelligent
and far-seeing; he perceived that the whites were increasing in numbers,
and that if they were not checked betimes, they would finally overrun the
country. But he did not see so far as his brother, who had known that the
final domination of the English could not be prevented, and had therefore
adopted the policy of conciliating them as the best. Opechankano,
therefore, quietly planned the extermination of the settlers; the familiar
terms on which the white and red men stood played into his hands. Indians
were in the habit of visiting the white settlements, and mingling with the
people. Orders for concerted action were secretly circulated among the
savages, who were to hold themselves ready for the signal.

It might after all never have been given, but for an unlooked for
incident. A noisy and troublesome Indian, who imagined that bullets could
not kill him, fell into a quarrel with a settler, and slew him; and was
himself shot while attempting to escape from arrest. "Sooner shall the
heavens fall," devoutly exclaimed Opechankano, when informed of this
mishap, "than I will break the peace of Powhatan." But the waiting tribes
knew that the time had come.

On the morning of March 22, 1622, the settlers arose as usual to the
labors of the day; some of them took their hoes and spades and went out
into the fields; others busied themselves about their houses. Numbers of
Indians were about, but this excited no remark or suspicion; they were not
formidable; a dog could frighten them; a child could hold them in check.
Indians strolled into the cabins, and sat at the breakfast-tables. No one
gave them a second thought. No one looked over his shoulder when an Indian
passed behind him.

But, miles up the country from Jamestown lived a settler who kept an
Indian boy, whom he instructed, and who made himself useful about the
place; and of all the Indians in Virginia that day he was the only one
whose heart relented. His brother had lain with him the night before, and
had given him the word: he was to kill the settler and his family the next
morning. The boy seemed to assent, and the other went on his way. The boy
lay till dawn, his savage mind divided between fear of the great chief and
compassion for the white man who had been kind to him and taught him. In
the early morning he arose and stood beside his benefactor's bed. The man
slept: one blow, and he would be dead. But the boy did not strike; he
wakened him and told him of the horror that was about to befall.

Pace--such was the settler's name--did not wait for confirmation of the
tale; indeed, as he ran to the paddock to get his packhorse, he could see
the smoke of burning cabins rising in the still air, and could hear, far
off, the yells of the savages as they plied their work.

He sprang on the horse's back, with his musket across the withers, and
set off at a gallop toward Jamestown. Most of the colonists lived in that
neighborhood; if he could get there in time many lives might be saved. As
he rode, he directed his course to the cabins, on the right hand and on
the left, that lay in his way, and gave the alarm. Many of the savages,
who had not yet begun their work, at once took to flight; they would not
face white men when on their guard. In other places, the warning came too
late. The missionary, who had devoted his life to teaching the heathen
that men should love one another, was inhumanly butchered. Pace arrived in
season to avert the danger from the bulk of the little population; but, of
the four thousand scattered over the country-side, three hundred and
forty-seven died that morning, with the circumstances of hideous atrocity
which were the invariable accompaniments of Indian massacre. The colonists
were appalled; and for a time it seemed as if the purpose of Opechankano
would be realized. Two thousand settlers came in from the outlying
districts, panic-stricken, and after living for a while crowded together
in unwholesome quarters in the vicinity of Jamestown, took ship and
returned to England. Hardly one in ten of the plantations was not
deserted. The bolder spirits, who remained, organized a war of
extermination, in which they were supported and re-enforced by the
company, who sent over men and weapons as soon as the news was known in
England. But the campaign resolved itself into long and harassing attacks,
ambuscades and reprisals, extending over many years. There could be no
pitched battles with Indians; they gave way, but only to circumvent and
surprise. The whites were resolved to make no peace, and to give no
quarter to man, woman or child. The formerly peaceful settlement became
inured to blood and cruelty. But the red men could not be wholly driven
away. Just twenty years after the first massacre the same implacable
chief, now a decrepit old man, planned a second one; some hundreds were
murdered; but the colonists were readier and stronger now, and they
gathered themselves up at once, and inflicted a crushing vengeance. The
ancient chief was finally taken, and either died of wounds received in
fight, or was slain by a soldier after capture. After 1646, the borders
of Virginia were safe. There is no redeeming feature in this Indian
warfare, which fitfully survives, in remote parts of our country, even
now. It aided, perhaps, to train the race of pioneers and frontiersmen who
later became one of the most remarkable features of our early population.
Contact with the savage races inoculated us, perhaps, with a touch of
their stoicism and grimness. But in our conflicts with them there was
nothing noble or inspiring; and there could be no object in view on either
side but extermination. Our Indian fighters became as savage and merciless
as the creatures they pursued. The Indian must be fought by the same
tactics he adopts--cunning, stealth, surprise, and then unrelenting
slaughter, with the sequel of the scalping knife. They compel us to
descend to their level in war, and we have utterly failed to raise them to
our own in peace. Some of them have possessed certain harshly masculine
traits which we can admire; some of them have showed broad and virile
intelligence, the qualities of a general, a diplomatist, or even of a
statesman. There have been, and are, so-called tame Indians; but such were
not worth taming. As a whole, the red tribes have resisted all attempts to
lift them to the civilized level and keep them there. Roger Williams, and
the "apostle," John Eliot, were their friends, and won their regard; but
neither Williams' influence nor Eliot's Bible left any lasting trace upon
them. The Indian is irreclaimable; disappointment is the very mildest
result that awaits the effort to reclaim him. He is wild to the marrow; no
bird or beast is so wild as he. He is a human embodiment of the untrodden
woods, the undiscovered rivers, the austere mountains, the pathless
prairies--of all those parts and aspects of nature which are never brought
within the smooth sway of civilization, because, as soon as civilization
appears, they are, so far as their essential quality is concerned, gone.
To hear the yelp of the coyote, you must lie alone in the sage brush near
the pool in the hollow of the low hills by moonlight; it will never reach
your ears through the bars of the menagerie cage. To know the mountain,
you must confront the avalanche and the precipice uncompanioned, and stand
at last on the breathless and awful peak, which lifts itself and you into
a voiceless solitude remote from man and yet no nearer to God; but if you
journey with guides and jolly fellowship to some Mountain House, never so
airily perched, you would as well visit a panorama. To comprehend the
ocean, you must meet it in its own inviolable domain, where it tosses
heavenward its careless nakedness, and laughs with death; from the deck of
a steamboat you will never find it, though you sail as far as the Flying
Dutchman. But the solitude which nature reveals, and which alone reveals
her, does but prepare you for the inaproachableness that shines out at you
from the Indian's eyes. Seas are shallow and continents but a span
compared with the breadths and depths which separate him from you. The
sphinx will yield her mystery, but he will not unveil his; you may touch
the poles of the planet, but you can never lay your hand on him. The same
God that made you, made him also in His image; but if you try to bridge
the gulf between you, you will learn something of God's infinitude.

Sir George Yeardley and Sir Francis Wyatt both held the office of
governor twice, and with good repute; in 1630, Sir John Harvey succeeded
the former. He was the champion of monopolists; he would divide the land
among a few, and keep the rest in subjection. He fought with the
legislature from the first; he could not wring their rights from them, but
he distressed and irritated the colony, levying arbitrary fines, and
browbeating all and sundry with the brutality of an ungoverned temper. His
chief patron was Lord Baltimore, a Roman Catholic, and therefore
disfavored by the Protestant colony, who would not suffer him to plant in
their domain. He bought a patent authorizing him to establish a colony in
the northern part of Virginia, which was afterward called Maryland, being
cut off from the older colony; and this diminution of their territory much
displeased the Virginians. But Harvey supported him throughout; and
permitted mass to be said in Virginia. He likewise prevented the settlers
from carrying on the border warfare with the Indians, lest it should
disturb his perquisites from the fur trade. Violent scenes took place in
the hall of assembly, and hard words were given and exchanged; the
planters were men of hot passions, and the conduct of the governor became
intolerable to them. Matters came to a head during the last week in April
of 1635. An unauthorized gathering in York complained of an unjust tax and
of other malfeasances; whereupon Harvey cried mutiny, and had the leaders
arrested. But the boot was on the other leg. Several members of council,
with a company of musketeers at their back, came to his house; Matthews,
with whom the governor had lately had a fierce quarrel, and the other
planters, tramped into the broad hall of the dwelling, with swords in
their hands and threatening looks, and confronted him. John Utie brought
down his hand with staggering force on his shoulder, exclaiming, "I arrest
you for treason!" "How, for treason?" queried the frightened governor.
"You have betrayed our forts to our enemies of Maryland," replied several
stern voices. Harvey glanced from one to another; in the background were
the musketeers; plainly this was no time for trifling. He offered to do
whatever they demanded. They required the release of prisoners, which was
immediately done, and bade him prepare to answer before the assembly. They
would listen to no arguments and no excuses; he was told by Matthews, with
a menacing look, that the people would have none of him. "You intend no
less than the subversion of Maryland," protested Harvey; but he promised
to return to England, and John West, who had already acted as ad-interim
governor while Harvey was on his way to Virginia, was at once elected in
his place.

This incident showed of what stuff the Virginians were made. It was an
early breaking-out of the American spirit, which would never brook
tyranny. In offering violence to the king's governor they imperiled their
own lives; but their blood was up, and they heeded no danger. When Harvey
presented himself before Charles at the privy council, his majesty
remarked that he must be sent back at all hazards, because the sending him
to England had been an assumption on the colonists' part of regal power;
and, tobacco or no tobacco, the line must be drawn there. If the charges
against him were sustained, he might stay but a day; if not, his term
should be extended beyond the original commission. A new commission was
given him, and back he went; but this shuttlecock experience seems to have
quelled his spirit, and we hear no more of quarrels with the Virginia
council. Wyatt relieved him in 1639; and in 1642 came Sir William
Berkeley. This man, who was born about the beginning of the century, was
twice governor; his present term, lasting ten years, was followed by a
nine years' interval; reappointed again in 1660, he was in power when the
rebellion broke out which was led by Nathaniel Bacon. Little is known of
him outside of his American record; in his first term, under Charles I.,
he acted simply as the creature of that monarch, and aroused no special
animosities on his own account: during the reign of Cromwell, he
disappeared; but when Charles II. ascended the throne, Berkeley, though
then an old man, was thought to be fitted by his previous experience for
the Virginia post, and was returned thither. But years seemed to have
soured his disposition, and lessened his prudence, and, as we shall see,
his bloodthirsty conduct after Bacon's death was the occasion of his
recall in disgrace; and he died, like Andros more than half a century
later, with the curse of a people on his grave.

But his first appearance was auspicious; he brought instructions designed
to increase the reign of law and order in the colony, without infringing
upon its existing liberties. Allegiance to God and the king were enjoined,
additional courts were provided for, traffic with the Indians was
regulated, annual assemblies, with a negative voice upon their acts by the
governor, were commanded. The only discordant note in the instructions
referred to the conditions of maritime trade, afterward known in history
as the Navigation Acts. The colony desired free trade, which, as it had no
manufactures, was obviously to its benefit. But it was as obviously to the
interest of the king that he alone should enjoy the right of controlling
all imports into the colony, and absorbing all its exports; and his
rulings were framed to secure that end. But for the present the Acts were
not carried into effect; and, on the other hand, the prospect was held out
that there should be no taxation except what was voted by the people
themselves; and their contention that they, who knew the conditions and
needs of their colonial existence, were better able to regulate it than
those at home, was allowed. By way of evincing their recognition of this
courtesy, the assembly passed among other laws, one against toleration of
any other than the episcopalian form of worship; and when Charles was
beheaded, in 1649, it voted to retain Berkeley in office. But when in the
next year, the fugitive son of the dead king undertook to issue a
commission confirming him in his place, Parliament intervened. Virginia
was brought to her bearings; and the Navigation Acts were brought up
again. Cromwell, no less than Charles, appreciated the advantages of a

Restrictions on commerce, first imposed by Spain, were first resisted by
the Dutch, with the result of rendering them the leading maritime power.
Cromwell wished to appropriate or share this advantage; but instead of
adopting the means employed for that purpose by the Dutch, he decreed that
none but English ships should trade with the English colonies, and that
foreign ships should bring to England only the products of their own
countries. The restriction did little harm to Virginia, so long as England
was able to take all her products, and to supply all her needs; but it
brought on war with Holland, in which both the moral and the naval
advantage was on the side of the Dutch. But England acquired a foothold in
the West Indies, and her policy was maintained. Virginia asked that she
should have representatives to act for her in England, and when a body of
commissioners was appointed to examine colonial questions, among them were
Richard Bennett and William Clairborne, both of them colonists, and men of
force and ability. In the sequel, the liberties of the colony were
enlarged, and Bennett was made governor by vote of the assembly itself,
which continued to elect governors during the ascendency of Parliament in
England. When Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded the great Protector,
resigned his office, the Virginia burgesses chose Sir William Berkeley to
rule over them, and he acknowledged their authority. Meanwhile the
Navigation Acts were so little enforced that smuggling was hardly illegal;
and, in 1658, the colonists actually invited foreign nations to deal with
them. This was the period of Virginia's greatest freedom before the
Revolution. The suffrage was in the hands of all taxpayers; in religious
matters, all restrictions except those against the Quakers were removed;
loyalists and roundheads mingled amicably in planting and legislation, and
the differences which had arrayed them against one another in England were
forgotten. The population increased to thirty thousand, and the
inhabitants developed among themselves an ardent patriotism. It is not
surprising. Their country was one of the richest and loveliest in the
world; everything which impairs the enjoyment of life was eliminated or
minimized; hucksters, pettifoggers and bigots were scarce as June
snowflakes; indentured servants, on their emancipation, were speedily
given the suffrage; it might almost be said that a man might do whatever
he pleased, within the limits of criminal law. Assuredly, personal liberty
was far greater at this epoch, in Virginia, than it is today in New York
City or Chicago. The instinct of the Virginians, in matters of governing,
was so far as possible to let themselves alone; the planters, in the
seclusion of their estates, were practically subject to no law but their
own pleasure. There was probably no place in the civilized world where so
much intelligent happiness was to be had as in Virginia during the years
immediately preceding the Restoration.

What would have been the political result had the absence of all
artificial pressure indefinitely continued? Two tendencies were
observable, working, apparently, in opposite directions. On one side were
the planters, many of them aristocratic by origin as well as by
circumstance; who lived in affluence, were friendly to the established
church, enjoyed a liberal education, and naturally assumed the reins of
power. The law which gave fifty acres of land to the settler who imported
an emigrant, while it made for the enlargement of estates, created also a
large number of tenants and dependants, who would be likely to support
their patrons and proprietors, who exercised so much control over their
welfare. These dependants found the conditions of existence comfortable,
and even after they had become their own masters, they would be likely to
consult the wishes of the men who had been the occasion of their good
fortune. Neither education nor religious instruction were so readily
obtainable as to threaten to render such a class discontented with their
condition by opening to them hitherto unknown gates of advantage; and the
suffrage, when by ownership of private property they had qualified
themselves to exercise it, would at once appease their independent
instincts, and at the same time make them willing, in using it, to follow
the lead or suggestion of men so superior to them in intelligence and in
political sagacity. From this standpoint, then, it seemed probable that a
self-governing community of the special kind existing in Virginia would
drift toward an aristocratic form of rule.

But the matter could be regarded in another way. Free suffrage is a power
having a principle of life within itself; it creates in the mind that
which did not before exist, and educates its possessor first by prompting
him to ask himself of what improvement his condition is susceptible, and
then by forcing him to review his desire by the light of its realization
--by practical experience of its effects, in other words: a method whose
teachings are more thorough and convincing than any school or college is
able to supply. The use of the ballot, in short, as a means of instruction
in the problems of government, takes the place of anything else; it will
of itself build up a people both capable of conducting their own affairs,
and resolved to do so. The plebeians of Virginia, therefore, who began by
being poor and ignorant emigrants, or indentured servants, to whom the
planters accorded such privileges because it had never occurred to them
that a plebeian can ever become anything else--these men, unconsciously to
themselves, perhaps, were on the road which leads to democracy. The time
would come when they would cease to follow the lead of the planters; when
their interests and the planters' would clash. In that collision, their
numbers would give them the victory. With a similar community planted in
the old world, such might not be the issue; the strong influence of
tradition would combat it, and the surrounding pressure of settled
countries, which offered no escape or asylum for the man of radical ideas.
But the boundaries of Virginia were the untrammeled wilderness; any man
who could not have his will in the colony had this limitless expanse at
his disposal; there could be no finality for him in the decrees of
assemblies, if he possessed the courage of his convictions in sufficient
measure to make him match himself against the red man, and be independent
not only of any special form of society, but of society itself. The
consciousness of this would hearten him to entertain free thoughts, and to
strive for their embodiment. It was partly this, no doubt, which, in the
Seventeenth Century, drove hundreds of Ishmaels into the interior, where
they became the Daniel Boones and the Davy Crocketts of legend and
romance. So, although Virginia was as little likely as any of the colonies
to breed a democracy, yet even there it was a more than possible outcome
of the situation, even with no outside stimulus. But the old world,
because it desired the oppression of America, was to become the immediate
agent of its emancipation.

There was rejoicing in Virginia when Charles II. acceded to power; on the
part of the planters, because they saw opportunity for political
distinction; on the part of the plebeians, as the expression of a loyalty
to kingship which centuries had made instinctive in them. Berkeley,
putting himself in line with the predominant feeling, summoned the
assembly in the name of the king, thus announcing without rebuke the
termination of the era of self-government. The members who were elected
were mostly royalists. They met in 1661. It was found that the Navigation
Acts, which had been a dead letter ever since their passage, were to be
revived in full force; and the increase of the colony in the meanwhile
made them more than ever unwelcome. The exports were much larger than
before, and unless the colony could have a free market for them the
profits must be materially lessened. And again, since England was the only
country from which the Virginian could purchase supplies, her merchants
could charge him what they pleased. This was galling alike to royalists
and roundheads in Virginia, and quickly healed the breach, such as it was,
between the parties. Charles's true policy would have been to widen the
gulf between them; instead of that, he forced them into each other's arms.
It was determined to send Berkeley to England to ask relief; he accepted
the commission, but his sympathies were not with the colonists, and he
obtained nothing. Evidently, there could be no relief but in independence,
and it was still a hundred years too early for that. The exasperation
which this state of things produced in the great landowners did more for
the cause of democracy than could decades of peaceful evolution. But the
colonists could no longer have things their own way. Liberal laws were
repealed, and intolerance and oppression took their place. Heretics were
persecuted; the power of the church in civil affairs was increased; and
fines and taxes on the industry of the colony were wanton and excessive.
The king of England directly ruled Virginia. The people were forced to pay
Berkeley a thousand pounds sterling as his salary, and he declared he
ought to get three times as much even as that. His true character was
beginning to appear. The judges were appointed by the king, and the
license thus given them resulted in a petty despotism; when an official
wanted money, he caused a tax to be levied for the amount. Appeals were
vain, and ere long were prohibited. The assembly, partisans of the king,
declared themselves permanent, so that all chance for the people to be
better represented was gone, and as the members fixed their own pay, and
fixed it at a preposterous figure, the colony began to groan in earnest.
But worse was to come. The suffrage was restricted to freeholders and
householders, and at a stroke, all but a fraction of the colonists were
deprived of any voice in their own government. The spread of education,
never adequate, was stopped altogether. "I thank God there are no free
schools nor printing," Sir William Berkeley was able to say, "and I hope
we shall not have, these hundred years; for learning has brought
disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has
divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from
both!" This was a succinct and full formulation of the spirit which has
ever tended to make the earth a hell for its inhabitants. "The ministers,"
added the governor, "should pray oftener, and preach less." But he spake
in all solemnity; there was not the ghost of a sense of humor in his whole
insufferable carcass.

The downward course was not to stop here. Charles, with the
freehandedness of a highwayman, presented two of his favorites, in 1673,
for a term of one and thirty years, with the entire colony! This act
stirred even the soddenness of the legislature. At the time of their
election, a dozen years before, they had been royalists indeed, but men of
honor, intending the good of the colony; and had tried, as we saw, to stop
the enforcement of the Navigation Acts. But when they discovered that they
could continue themselves in office indefinitely, with such salary as they
chose to demand, they soon became indifferent about the Navigation Acts,
or anything else which respected the welfare and happiness of their
fellows. Let the common folk do the work, and the better sort enjoy the
proceeds: that was the true and only respectable arrangement. We may say
that it sounds like a return to the dark ages; but perhaps if we enter
into our closets and question ourselves closely, we shall find that
precisely the same principles for which Berkeley and his assembly stood in
1673, are both avowed and carried into effect in this same country, in the
very year of grace which is now passing over us. A nation, even in
America, takes a great deal of teaching.

But the generosity of Charles startled the assembly out of their porcine
indifference, for it threatened to bring to bear upon them the same
practices by which they had destroyed the happiness of the colony. If the
king had given over to these two men all sovereignty in Virginia, what was
to prevent these gentlemen from dissolving the assembly, who had become,
as it were, incorporate with their seats, and had hoped to die in them--
and ruling the country and them without any legislative medium whatever?
Accordingly, with gruntings of dismay, they chose three agents to sail
forthwith to England, and expostulate with the merry monarch. The
expostulation was couched in the most servile terms, as of men who love to
be kicked, but hope to live, if only to be kicked again. Might the colony,
they concluded, be permitted to buy itself out of the hands of its new
owners, at their own price? And might the people of Virginia be free from
any tax not approved by their assembly? That was the sum of their petition.

The king let his lawyers talk over the matter, and, when they reported
favorably, good-naturedly said, "So let it be, then!" and permitted a
charter to be drawn up. But before the broad seal could be affixed to it
he altered his mind, for causes satisfactory to him, and the envoys were
sent home, poorer than they came. But before relating what awaited them
there, we must advert briefly to the doings of George Calvert, Lord
Baltimore in the Irish peerage, in his new country of Maryland.

Julian Hawthorne