Almost from the start, investors in the Virginia Company in England were unhappy with the accomplishments of their Jamestown colonists. They therefore sought a new charter, which the king granted in May 1609. They took immediate steps to put the company on a sounder financial footing by selling shares valued at 12 1/2, 25, and 50 pounds (English monetary unit, originally equivalent to one pound of silver). Investors were promised a dividend from whatever gold, land, or other valuable commodities the Company amassed after seven years.
History of Virginia
The Capital and the Bay
Meanwhile, the charter allowed the Company to make its own laws and regulations, subject only to their compatibility with English law. To avoid the disputes that had characterized Virginia in its first years, the Company gave full authority and nearly dictatorial powers to the colony's governor. These changes were nearly too little and too late, for Jamestown was just then experiencing its "starving time." The Company, however, was bent on persevering and sent a new batch of ships and colonists in 1611. Over the next five years, Sir Thomas Gates and then Sir Thomas Dale governed the colony with iron fists via the "Lawes Devine, Morall, and Martiall."
The harsh regimes of the Virginia governors were not especially attractive to potential colonists. What was more, the colonists who did go to Virginia often did not have the skills and knowledge to help the colony prosper. The colonists not only found little of value, they were remarkably unable even to feed themselves. As a result, huge numbers of colonists perished from disease (many of which they brought with them), unsanitary conditions, and malnutrition. Between 1614 and 1618 or so, potential colonists were much more attracted to the West Indies and Bermuda than they were Virginia.
By 1618, the Virginia Company was forced to change course again. The Company had not solved the problem of profitability, nor that of settlers' morale. Sir Edwin Sandys became Company Treasurer and embarked on a series of reforms. He believed that the manufacturing enterprises the Company had begun were failing due to want of manpower. He embarked on a policy of granting sub-patents to land, which encouraged groups and wealthier individuals to go to Virginia. He sought to reward investors and so distributed 100 acres of land to each adventurer. He also distributed 50 acres to each person who paid his or her own way and 50 acres more for each additional person they brought along. This was known as the Virginia headright system.
Finally, Sandys thought it essential to reform the colony's governing structure. He hit upon the idea of convening an assembly in the colony, whose representatives would be elected by inhabitants. The assembly would have full power to enact laws on all matters relating to the colony. Of course, these laws could be vetoed by either the governor or the Company in London.
It may be said that some things improved, while others did not. With the experiments of John Rolfe, the colony finally discovered a staple product--tobacco. The colonists wanted to plant tobacco because it was a cash crop, even though the King opposed the use of the weed. But the Company constantly discouraged the cultivation of tobacco because its production seduced the colonists away from planting corn. The colony also continued to face the problem of lack of laborers and inability to feed itself. The ultimate answer to the labor problem was ominously foreshadowed in a little-noticed event that Rolfe described to Sandys in 1619: the arrival of a Dutch man-of-war carrying a group of captive Africans, for by the end of the century, African slave labor would become the colony's economic and social foundation. Indian relations, which seemed quiet for a time, finally spelled the end to the Virginia Company. In 1622, Indians rose up and massacred a large number of Virginia colonists. This led to an inquiry into Company affairs and finally the revocation of its charter.
For additional documents related to this topic, the most pertinent to the evolution of early Virginia, the Records of the Virginia Company (in the Thomas Jefferson Papers). Captain John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia and the four volumes edited by Peter Force in the mid-19th century are also essential resources. Both of these sources are full-text searchable via The Capital and the Bay.
The purposes of the representatives of the Virginia Company of London, who landed at present-day Jamestown in May 1607, were not only to colonize but also to Christianize, to open new areas for trade, and to guard against further inroads by the Spanish, who already had colonized what is now Florida. Hunger, poor shelter, hostility from the indigenous peoples, and rampant disease plagued the company’s early years, but, while the settlement tottered constantly on the brink of dissolution, a tobacco industry was established by John Rolfe and a representative assembly was convened. Rolfe’s marriage in 1614 to Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, brought temporary peace between the indigenous populations and the English; however, after the death of Pocahontas and her father, a war broke out between the two groups. In 1624 the company’s charter was revoked, and Virginia was established as England’s first royal colony. In the following years new settlements were made, and local administrative systems were developed.
The governorship of Sir William Berkeley—begun in 1642, interrupted from 1652 to 1660 by Puritan rule in England, and ended in 1677—marked the solidification of the colony. The many anti-Puritan supporters of Charles I who fled to Virginia after the king’s death in 1649 added an important element to the population, much of which consisted of indentured servants of European or African descent. The first Africans had been taken to Virginia in 1619, but race-based began to grow rapidly only after the 1660s. Soon the institution was protected by Virginia law, and the number of enslaved people in the colony rose steadily until the American Revolution (1775–83). (For a more detailed account of the nature of slavery in the colonies, see .)
In 1676 a rebellion of colonists led by Nathaniel Bacon, though short-lived, led to Berkeley’s recall and signaled a growing desire for more self-government among the colonists. This sentiment intensified during the century that followed, when England attempted to govern fairly but did not allow the inhabitants of its American colonies the full rights of the English at home.
Colonial Williamsburg: restored Capitol
In 1699 the colony’s capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. The next several decades were a period of expansion as well as of internal strengthening. Virginia had the largest population of any American colony, and, as tobacco crops wore out the soil, Virginians began to move steadily westward in search of new land. Settlers from the Tidewater region spilled over into the Piedmont, across the Blue Ridge, and, by the 1740s, into the Ohio country beyond, there running afoul of French ambitions for that region. For decades the popularly elected assembly of colonial Virginia, the House of Burgesses, led the way in opposing royal prerogatives in the colony, and, following England’s prohibition of westward expansion in 1763, a concerted drive to rationalize rebellion began. On the eve of the American Revolution, Virginia had more than 120,000 residents, many of them persons of considerable sophistication and learning, and a stable—if narrowly based—economy.
What was the name of the representative government in Virginia who was allowed to vote?
Only adult white men who owned property and a few who rented substantial farms were permitted to vote for representatives in the lower house of the General Assembly. The only elected officials in colonial Virginia were the members of the House of Burgesses.
How had political equality in Virginia actually decreased by 1670?
How had political equality in Virginia actually decreased by 1670? Only male landowners and heads of households could vote. How did indentured servitude differ between women and men? Women servants could not marry.
What drove the shift from the use of indentured servants to slaves in Virginia quizlet?
The english civil war affected Virginia because the problems in England allowed the colony to control itself without the king of England allowed the colony to control itself. This began the transition from indentured servants to slavery.
Why did the social and political distance between planters and small farmers decrease between 1660 and 1700?
Why did the social and political distance between planters and small farmers decrease between 1660 and 1700? The colony increased its dependence on slave labor.