English Settlement of  Virginia and Maryland

A brief review of English history is in order to understand events and circumstances that led to settlement and governance of the English Colonies.

After the death of Elizabeth I, James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned James I of England in 1603. (Elizabeth never married, and had no heirs. In fact, Sir Walter Raleigh named Virginia in honor of "Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.") James was the first Stuart king, and was the first King of the United Kingdom. He inherited a kingdom that was well on its way to a modern state. The old feudal system had gradually disappeared under Tudor rule, and the middle class had become important. Government bureaucrats and local governing officials were typically chosen from this middle class. The monarchy was a limited monarchy; taxes could only be imposed with the consent of Parliament, and even the King himself was not above the law. A number of liberties developed which transformed themselves into later American political thought:

The advent of English personal liberty gave rise to a spirit of enterprise. This spirit of enterprise was in part a result of the English practice of primogeniture: only the oldest son inherited the family estate. Younger sons, who during the middle ages often became churchmen, became entrepreneurs and adventurers out to make money. Quite often, money making ventures were in the form of Joint Stock Companies, similar to a modern day corporation. Under this system, investors would invest in a single venture and share in the risks and profits of this venture. The investment, usually in cash, was the capital investment.

The ventures of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and others were along similar lines. Although not strictly Joint Stock Companies, they were funded by investors who risked their investment in return for a share of the profits if the venture were successful. Columbus and the other explorers were, first and last, businessmen out to make a profit.

Joint Stock companies normally began with a small initial capital investment, and many made fantastic profits in a short period of time. Over time, Companies operated on a more and more permanent basis. By the 16th century, many had royal charters that allowed them to operate monopolies in certain areas. Among these were:

· The British East India Tea Company – chartered by Elizabeth I in 1600. It was commonly known as the "John Company." This company traded in spices and tea, and was responsible for the founding of Singapore and Hong Kong as British protectorates, hired Captain Kidd to fight pirates, and was even responsible for the incarceration of Napoleon at St. Helena Island. Its primary import was tea, and its tea shipment was the target of the raiders of the Boston Tea Party. The flag of the company was the model for the Stars and Stripes. It was given power to wage war, and often intervened in local politics in India.

The British were not alone. There were Dutch and French East India Companies, all engaging in trade in Asia, all with power to wage war.

  •  The British West India Company
  •  The Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670 to exploit the fur trade. This company is still in existence and operates out of Toronto, Canada.
  •  The Russia Company

Not all such ventures were successful of course; many lost everything. However, the joint stock companies did provide the capital investment for a large number of exploration and settlement ventures. The larger Joint Stock Companies became the first implements of colonization in America.

At the same time that Joint Stock Companies were earning enormous wealth for their investors, the plight of the poor in England increased. Many people who in earlier times would have been serfs tied to the land were evicted, and resorted to a life of begging and robbery. The needs of this displaced populace created yet another argument for expansion into foreign colonies, where these persons could be shipped, out of sight, out of mind.

The plight of beggars often colors English literature of the period. Even a Mother Goose poem describes them:

Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark

The beggars are coming to town.

Some in rags,

And some in tags,

And one in a velvet gown!

James I was a very learned man, but not a wise one. He was aptly described as the "wisest fool in all Christendom." He was prone to lecture the people on many topics, but was Scot to the core, often oblivious to English customs and values. He managed to offend the Anglican majority by ending the war with Spain begun by Elizabeth, and alienated the Puritans when he said he would "harry them out of the land." James’ primary concern was himself.

James was succeeded by Charles 1 in 1625. He was even more stubborn than his father about absolute rule, and his divine right. (All of this seems in keeping with the motto inscribed on the Stuart Coat of Arms: Dieu et mon Droit: "God and my Right.") Charles dissolved Parliament in 1629, and ruled alone until 1640. His Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, persecuted Puritans but went to far when he tried to impose Anglican worship on the Scot Presbyterians. Scotland rebelled, and James was forced to summon Parliament to raise money to fight the war. This was his undoing. When Parliament impeached Laud and took other steps to restrain Charles power, civil war broke out in 1642 between the backers of Parliament, the "Roundheads," and the Kings supporters, the "Cavaliers."

The rebellion ended in 1646 when the royalist forces collapsed, and Charles was taken prisoner. In 1648, Parliament, dominated by Puritans, tried and convicted Charles of treason. On January 30, 1648, he was beheaded.

During the ensuing Interregnum ("between the kings"), England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. He ruled with dictatorial power and extended tolerance to all religious groups except Catholics and Anglicans. He was first and last a Puritan, and imposed strict, arbitrary moralistic rules upon the people, which they deeply resented. Cromwell died in 1658, and his son was too weak to continue his rule. Subsequently, the army took control of the government, called for election of a new Parliament, and Charles II, son of Charles I was restored to the monarchy.

Under the terms of the Restoration settlement, Charles agreed that he must rule jointly with Parliament.

Charles was not without his detractors. The following verse by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, often called the "Epitaph of Charles II, was presumably written on the King’s Bedchamber Door:

Here lies our sovereign lord the King

Whose word no man relies on;

Who never says a foolish thing,

Nor ever does a wise one.

Charles was succeeded in 1685 by his younger brother, the Duke of York, who became James II. Although Charles II had been rather flexible and managed to hold on to his throne, James was stubborn and intransigent. He was an openly avowed Catholic, and as stubborn and unyielding as his father and grandfather had been. He had two daughters, Mary and Anne, both of whom were Protestant, and were expected to succeed him, and for this reason, the English people put up with his antics. However, in 1688, a son was born who was baptized Catholic. Under English law, the son would inherit, and this was more than Parliament could bear. As a result, Parliament invited the older daughter, Mary and her husband William of Orange, a Dutch prince to take the throne. James took the hint and fled. This was the "Glorious Revolution of 1688."

The Glorious Revolution gave Parliament freedom from Royal Control. A number of enactments which later became important in American history ensued.

This latter provision proved troubling also. Anne died in 1714. She had born thirteen children, but survived all of them, and thus died without an heir. The nearest Protestant Heir was Sophia, Electress of Hanover (who held one of the seven votes to elect the Holy Roman Emperor). Sophia also died before Anne. The English throne thereby devolved to Sophia’s son, George Hanover, who became George I. Although King of England, he spoke not a word of English, and never attempted to learn the language.

· The Act of Union combined England and Scotland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

All but one of the thirteen American colonies were founded during the events described above. The events described were often influential in the founding of the colonies. 

Settlement of the Chesapeake Colonies 

In 1606, James I issued a royal charter for a Joint Stock Company to be known as the Virginia Company for investment in America. It had two divisions:

  • First Colony of London - were to settle between 34th and 38th parallels.
  • Second Colony of Plymouth - 41st and 45th parallel.

Read The Charter of the Virginia Company

Both were stock companies, comprised of investors, out to make money. Hoped for a return on their investment. This is Capitalism. They were hoping for a return on their investment in gold, wine, citrus, etc. for which they would normally depend upon Spain. They also hoped to trade with Indians for pitch, tar, forest products, (used for shipbuilding). All of this, of course, was to be a money making enterprise. They were not in it because of any spirit of adventure; in fact the stockholders themselves had no intention of emigrating to America. They rather put up the capital to make it work.

Ironically, the Virginia Colony only survived because of the introduction of tobacco as a cash crop some years later. The founders and original investors in the company never envisioned such a thing.

There were substantial differences in the English method of colonization and the Spanish method.

The Spanish conquered a sophisticated people, then controlled all aspects of colonial life. Their system was highly autocratic, with governance from above. They attempted to regulate all aspects of life in their colonies.

English had previously planted "settlements" in Ireland. There, they had attempted to transplant their own way of life. They applied this same principle to their American colonies. Also, Indian populations were scarce in areas of English settlement. There were no vast empires to conquer or rule, as the Spanish had encountered in Mexico and Peru. The setting for their colonies was largely a wilderness, and thus they were required to build their own communities from the ground up.

The Settlement of Virginia

The first group of 100 men, sent by the London group, reached Chesapeake Bay on May 6, 1607. They traveled upriver about 40 miles and built a settlement there on the River which they named the James. They hoped to find a northwest passage to Asia (there was still the prevailing belief that some rivers ran from one coast to the other—they had no conception of the vastness of North America); plus they hoped to hide from the Spanish, who still protected their treasure shipments jealously.

The Virginia Company

Built a palisade, huts, and storehouse, and began planting, but problems arose:

  • Some settlers were townspeople, not familiar with farming.
  • Others were "gentlemen" who had come to find gold, get rich quick; too proud to plow.
  • No hunting skills; woods were full of game, but they couldn’t utilize it.
  • Supplies from England were undependable.

The colony would not have survived, if it had not been for (1) Help from the Indians, and (2) Effective Leadership

Indians: Pumunkey Indians were under the leadership of Wahunsonacock lived in area. The English called him Powhatan, after the name of the confederation of Indians which he led. There were roughly 10,000 Indians in area under his leadership. Powhatan was shrewd leader, and had organized a loose confederation.

The Indians were basically agricultural, and grew several varieties of corn. They were not happy about the Englishmen being in area ("yankelish") but decided to take a "wait and see" attitude. They showed the colonists how to plant corn, and traded with them for hatchets, swords, and muskets. This was very lucrative for the Indians at first, but it was a slippery slope which Indians did not see. Colonists had come to take over their land, and were willing to wait until they could.

Leadership: The colonists were led by Captain John Smith. Smith was a soldier of fortune; had fought Turks in Hungary (or so he told people,) claimed to have been imprisoned, escaped by killing his overseer, beheaded three Turks in hand to hand combat, sailed on a pirate ship until he befriended a "gentlemen" who helped him get back nto England.

That was his version of events, anyway. Some historians have maintained that Smith was a notorious liar, an accusation given credence by the Pocahontas story. Presumably his charm saved him when Powhatan ordered him beheaded; he claimed to have sweet-talked Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, who asked Powhatan not to kill him. Actually, it was a bit of play-acting to convince Smith of Powhatan’s power. (Her real name was Matowaka; Pocahontas was a nickname that translates into "frisky.") At the time, Pocahontas was about eleven, so if it was love at first sight, Smith would have been the first truly American pedophile.

Smith shipped with the others to Virginia, and started a row on ship. He was hard nosed, disciplined, and not out to make friends (nor did he).While on ship, he couldn’t get along with anyone. At one point, he was placed under arrest and put in chains below decks. BUT, when they reached Virginia, and opened the sealed orders issued by the Company, Smith was named as the leader of the colony. So out of the chains he came.

Because of their inexperience or unwillingness to work, the colonists were about to starve. They couldn’t grow food, didn’t know how to hunt, and were generally in a mess. Smith imposed strict discipline, and made everyone work. His rule was "He that will not work shall not eat." He made several good deals with the Indians, mapped the area around the Chesapeake, and was largely responsible for keeping the colony from starving. However, he made enemies along the way. The "Gentlemen" whom he made work had no use for him. One called him "ambitious, unworthy, and vainglorious."

1609, with only 80 men left in the colony; the Virginia Company (back in London) changed its policy. It decided that it could only make money in Virginia by selling land. If the company made the colony grow, the value of land would grow also, and the land could be sold for a profit. Remember: The Company’s motive was profit.

The London Company appointed Lord De la Warr (Delaware) as Governor; he sent as Interim Governor Sir Thomas Gates. (no relation)

Gates shipped out in 1609 with nine vessels and 500 passengers and crew, but was shipwrecked in Bermuda. He stayed on Bermuda Island for a year; and lived large (lots of fish, wild pigs, game birds). Shakespeare wrote The Tempest based on Gates stay in Bermuda.

The other ships reached Jamestown with about 400 settlers; a complete swamp of the 80 who were originally living in the colony. Smith might have been able to control things, but he was injured in Gunpowder explosion, and had to go back to England for medical treatment. The Colony fell into anarchy, with no strong leadership. The colonists again refused to work, and preferred stealing food from the Indians (they no longer had goods to trade) than growing it themselves. The result was the "starving time," when the colony almost failed. During the Winter of 1609-1610); all but 60 died.

When Gates arrived in May 1610, all poultry and livestock had been eaten, even horses. (There was a rumor that one man had actually killed his wife and salted her down.) It was decided that the best policy would be to chalk the whole thing up to experience, pack up and go back home. As a result, the Jamestown settlement was abandoned.

BUT on their way down river, they ran into Lord Delaware with three ships and 150 men. So they went back to Jamestown, and also started several new settlements. One of the new settlements was named Henrico (Richmond).

Delaware went back to England in 1611 and left Gates in charge. Gates was also hardnosed and uncompromising (a true Gates). He drew up a strict disciplinary code known as Lawes Divine, Moral and Martiall. The Lawes were extremely severe, even by early seventeenth century standards.

NOTE: The Lawes were often erroneously called "Dale’s Code," after Thomas Dale, the Marshall who was responsible for enforcing them. They were quite severe, and made no friends for Dale or Gates.

The colonists also attacked Indians and stole their corn and food, etc. Any crops that were not stolen were destroyed. In one reported incident, a commander claimed to have captured an Indian Queen and children, marched them to the river, threw the children in water, and shot their brains out. Needless to say, this did NOT make for friendly relations with the Indians.

The colony limped along like this for seven years, with no real raison d’etre. Finally, in 1612, John Rolfe began experimenting with tobacco. Virginia tobacco was harsh; (King James called it the "awful stinking weed," For years, "weed" was slang for tobacco, cigarettes, even in my lifetime, until another "weed" came along.) Rolfe found some varieties from Spanish territory that was much milder, and by 1616, tobacco had become an export staple crop. This gave the colony a reason to exist.

Rolfe also proposed to marry Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, as a way of sealing a peace treaty with the Indians. In 1613, in an expedition to steal Indian corn, a group of colonists had kidnapped Pocahontas and held her for ransom. An Indian massacre was imminent, but Rolfe proposed the marriage as a political maneuver to seal peace.

It was NOT a torrid love affair; it was a political marriage of convenience, similar to royal marriages in Europe.

Pocahontas was baptized as a Christian, and given the name "Rebecca." She bore a son to Rolfe, named Thomas; IN 1616, both went to London, where she was quite a hit; but she soon got sick, as she was not used to the European climate. She died on a ship on the River Thames which was to carry her home. She was only twenty at the time of her death.

Highbrow Virginians still trace their ancestry back to Pocahonta’s son. Laws prohibiting interracial marriages had special provisions to protect the descendants of Pocahontas.

In 1618 Sir Edwin Sandys (M.P.) became head of London Company and instituted reforms:

A new Governor was appointed and charged to put the new system into operation. On July 30, 1619, first General Assembly of Virginia convened. It became known as the House of Burgesses, and was the first legislative assembly in America. The Assembly consisted of the Governor, six councilors, and 22 "burgesses."

At the same time, company promoters determined that wives for the men were needed if the colony were to survive. The same year the Burgesses convened (119), the company sent 90 young women to be sold as wives for men. The price of a wife was the cost of her passage; roughly 125 pounds of tobacco.

Also, in 1619, Rolfe’s Journal notes that a Dutch Man-of-war stopped and unloaded "20 Negars." There is some argument that they arrived as Indentured Servants, rather than slaves, although the distinction is very slight. The importance of this incident is it is the first recorded evidence of the arrival of Blacks in North America.

Blacks had previously been imported as slaves by the Spanish for many years in Central and South America. The English had resisted slavery as they considered this to be another element of the "Catholic" Spanish. Black slaves had been imported when Indians proved to be unreliable workers in the mines and sugar cane plantations of the area. Rolfe’s Journal entry is the first evidence of the arrival of blacks on the North American continent, although it is entirely likely that a number of creoles (persons of mixed blood) were present in New Amsterdam earlier.  Creoles in New Amsterdam had considerably more rights than African slaves in British or Spanish America .

In the meantime, tobacco proved to be very profitable, which increased demand for land. The colonists soon realized that the more land they cultivated with tobacco, the more money they could make selling tobacco in England. The problem was, the land was occupied by the Indians, and an uneasy arrangement had previously existed in which the colonists and Indians respected each others’ territorial integrity. They were still averse to anything like clearing land, particularly when land previously cleared by the Indians was close by; so they simply confiscated theIndian lands, which were already cleared. The Indians had done the hard work for them.

Indians had traditionally practiced a form of crop and field rotation. They cleared an area for planting by burning an area of forest. The ashes from the burned wood added nutrients to the soil. They planted the area for a number of years, and then cleared a new area. The previously cleared area was allowed to grow up with brush and hedges, which fruitful habitat for deer and wild turkeys. In this way, the land was always productive. The settlers saw no reason to clear land when cleared land was readily available, so they simply took the land from the Indians by force.

In 1622, the Indians finally had enough Led by Openchancanough (Powhatan’s brother and successor) they attacked Jamestown and killed 347 settlers, including Rolfe.

The attack came at a time when investors in the Virginia Company were already disgruntled about the lack of profit from their investment, and had sent investigating committees to determine why the colony was in such poor financial shape. When the attack occurred, the colonists blamed the company, saying that it had failed to protect them from the Indians. To defend themselves against charges of neglect, company officials issued "The State of the Colony in Virginia" (1622) which blamed the entire "massacre" upon the Indians:

That all men may see the impartial ingenuity of this discourse, we freely confess, that the country is not so good, as the natives are bad, whose barbarous selves need more cultivation than the ground itself, being more overspread with incivility and treachery, than that with briars. For the land, being tilled and used well by us, deceive not our expectation but rather exceeded it far, being so thankful as to return a hundred for one. But the savage, though never a notion used so kindly upon so small desert, have instead of that harvest which our pains merited, returned nothing nut briars and thorns, pricking even to death many of their benefactors. Yet doubt we not, but that as all wickedness is crafty to undo itself, so these also have more wounded themselves than us, God Almighty making way for severity there, where a fair gentleness would not take place.

The report suggested that the Indians wasted the land and its resources, that the number of deer and turkeys would actually increase if the Indians were eliminated, and the land could be made more fruitful. The attack was, of course, entirely the Indians fault and unprovoked, which meant the colonists should now be free to attack them, and the Indian lands rightfully the land of the colonists. In essence, by killing colonists, they reasoned, the Indians had forfeited their right to the land:

[B]ecause our hands, which before were tied with gentleness and fair usage, are now set at liberty by the treacherous violence of the savages, not untying the knot, but cutting it. So that we, who hitherto have had possession of no more ground than their waste, and our purchase at a valuable consideration to their own contentment gained, may now, by right of war and law of nations, invade the country, and destroy them who sought to destroy us. Whereby we shall enjoy their cultivated laces, possessing the fruits of other’ labors. Now their cleared grounds in all their villages (which are situated in the fruitfulest places of the land) shall be inhabited by us, whereas heretofore the grubbing of woods was the greatest labor.

The report called the Indians "rude, barbarous, and naked," and described means of subduing them:

[B]ecause the way of conquering them is much more easy than of civilizing them by fair means, for they are a rude, barbarous, and naked people, scattered in small companies, which are helps to victory, but hindrance to civility. Besides that, a conquest may be of many, and at once; but civility is in particular and slow, the effect of long time, and great industry. Moreover, victory of them may be gained many ways: by force, by surprise, by famine in burning their corn, by destroying and burning their boats, canoes, and houses, by breaking their fishing wares, by assailing them in their huntings, whereby they get the greatest part of their sustenance in winter, by pursing and chasing them with our horses and bloodhounds to draw after them, and mastiffs to tear them.

Using the "State of Virginia" Report as their justification, the English attempted to wipe out Indians in the area. In one notable incident in 1623, Captain William Tucker and a group of soldiers met with Indians to negotiate a settlement. A treaty was signed, and Tucker invited the Indians to drink a toast to celebrate the settlement. He offered them wine to celebrate treaty. The Indians realized too late that the wine was poisoned; 200 Indians died from the poisoning. Then the soldiers they burned Indian villages, plundered fields, killed another 50 Indians, and "brought home part of their heads." Incursions into Indian territory in this suddenly righteous cause continued for several years.

Even with all this, the English settlement in Virginia was not stable. Between 1607 -1624, 14,000 people had migrated, but in 1624, the population was only 1,132. By 1617, a group of company insiders had accrued large estates and monopolized Indentured servants.

Indentured Servitude is described in more detail in another entry. Essentially, one who could not pay his own passage to America agreed to work for a term, normally seven years, for the person who paid his passage. At the end of his indenture, he was entitled to the same fifty acres as the person who had paid his passage. Of course, the "good" land was already taken at this point, and he was forced to take land near the frontier, closer to Indian areas, and more prone to attack.

Some few people became quite wealthy, but thousands died before they were able to establish themselves. In the meantime, Sir Edmund Sandy’s political enemies in England persuaded the King to investigate the London Company’s operation, and in 1624, a British Court dissolved the Company’s charter. Virginia then became a royal colony.

Although no Colonial Assembly was provided for when Virginia became a royal colony, the assembly remained in place.  The Assemblies were not officially recognized until 1639, even though they continued to meet. 

       1642, Sir William Berkeley was appointed Royal Governor. He served for 34 years during which time the colony grew and was stable. Tobacco prices topped off, and larger planters began to consolidate political power to protect their own interests.  Many became justices of the peace and sheriffs. They were largely responsible for the construction of roads and bridges, collection of taxes, organization of a militia (to protect against Indian attacks), and the collection of taxes.  Among the notable family names of the era were the Byrds, Carters, Masons, and Randolphs.  The Assembly (Burgesses) continued to assert authority, despite presence of Royal Governor, and  was quite independent minded.

      As the profitability of the tobacco market peaked, landowners began planting corn and raising cattle. This actually helped the colony, as food supply increased, and the mortality rate dropped considerably.  Freed Indentured servants became planters themselves after completing their indenture.  By 1650, 15,000 people lived in Virginia.

      A woman could claim her husband’s property if she outlived him; could marry several times, be widowed several times, and increase her estate considerably.

   But problems arose: The Increase in population placed demand on Indian lands. As the number of plantations and cultivated land increased, land prices went through the ceiling; produce prices went through the floor.  The largest planters bought up most fertile lands along coast to maintain their advantage. They left poorer lands, land nearer Indian land, for the lower class, typically freed indentured servants.  The former indentured servants then faced the devil’s dilemma: accept the less fertile land near the Indian frontier, or become tenant farmers working for the large plantation owners. This is the earliest beginnings of a class system in America. It was the living proof of the cynical adage that: “them who has, gets.”

     By 1660, the situation went from bad to worse.  Charles II, newly restored, imposed new trade regulations on the colonies. The end result: by 1676; one- fourth of free white men in Virginia were landless.  They worked odd jobs, poached, stole, or anything else they could do to stay alive. The situation was untenable, and large planters, who controlled the House of Burgesses, attempted to stabilize the situation by lengthening the term of indentures, passing laws against vagrancy, and depriving those with no land of any political rights:  only those who owned land were allowed to vote for the Assembly.  Rather than solve the problem, however, they simply made it worse.  

Bacon’s Rebellion

      The decline in tobacco prices and the number of former indentured servants who wanted to seize Indian land caused the situation to finally boil over. There were other problems as well:  

 It was only a matter of time until the situation boiled over.  When it did, it resulted in armed revolt, the first rebellion against authority in English America.  (NOTE:  The first true rebellion had been the Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish, led by Popé).  

Said Berkeley:  How miserable that man is that governs a People where six parts of seven at least are poor, indebted, discontented, and armed.

      The misery of the colonists, particularly the fringe group living on the frontier, looked for a scapegoat for their misery, and the Indians offered an easy target for their frustration. In 1675, a petty argument with a group of Doeg Indians and a planter named Thomas Matthews led to the killing of Matthew’s foreman. (Presumably, Matthews had bought some items from the Doegs, and had not paid for them).  The colonists, in retaliation, raided Indian camps, but attacked the wrong Indians: the Susquehanaugs.  The Indians counterattacked in a series of large scale raids.  

    Governor Berkeley, at this point seventy years of age, ordered an investigation and set up a meeting between colonists and the Indians, but the meeting resulted in the murder of several Indian chiefs.  In an attempt to defuse the matter, he seized the gunpowder and ammunition of all local Indians, and called the Assembly to declare war on all “bad” Indians.  Taxes were raised to pay the cost of the Indian wars, which further led to discontent.    

    The problem was a planter named Nathaniel Bacon.  Bacon was a spoiled brat, 29 years old, and a Cambridge University Graduate.  He was Berkeley’s cousin by marriage. Bacon’s father had sent him to Virginia hoping that he would mature, but that didn’t happen.  Bacon was intelligent and eloquent, but also lazy and considered himself above manual labor.  Berkeley had dealt with him respectfully upon his arrival, by giving him a substantial land grant and a seat on the Governor’s Council.  Bacon was neither appreciative nor reformed.  At the time of the problems described above, he had been in the colony only two years  

    Berkeley established a commission to monitor trade with the Indians, and to prevent the sale of arms to them. Only certain interests were allowed to trade, many of whom were Berkeley’s friends.  This led to accusations of corruption in the Assembly.  Bacon was among those adversely affected, and also resented the fact that Berkeley had denied him a commission as leader of the local militia.   

    Bacon then organized group of vigilantes and began attacks on the Indians regardless of tribal affiliation. (Bacon hated ALL Indians; he said they were “wolves, tigers and bears” that preyed upon “our harmless and innocent lambs.”)  Berkeley made several attempts to resolve problems with Bacon, but all failed.  

Read Bacon's Declaration.

     Berkeley indicated he would pardon Bacon if he turned himself in, whereupon he would be sent to England for trial before the King’s Bench.  The House of Burgesses, refused this plan, and insisted the Bacon must surrender and beg the Governor’s pardon.  At the same time, Bacon himself was elected to the Assembly by landowners who supported his campaign against the Indians.  

     Bacon was arrested when he arrived to take his seat, and was pardoned by Berkeley; but support for Bacon was growing among the populace.  He left the Assembly, returned with an armed militia, and surrounded the State House, screaming demands that he be commissioned as commander of all campaigns against the Indians.  Berkeley called his bluff, and demanded that Bacon shoot him:

    Berkeley: “Here, shoot me before God, fair mark shoot.”

   Berkeley ultimately gave in, and fled Jamestown.  Bacon controlled the town from July to September, 1676.  On July 30, 1776, he issued his Declaration of the People stating the Berkeley was corrupt and had protected the Indians for his own selfish purposes. He issued an oath that required the subscriber to promise loyalty to him (Bacon) in any manner necessary.  However, the tide soon turned.  Berkeley’s men captured Bacon’s fleet, which made Berkeley strong enough to retake Jamestown.  Bacon attempted to regain the control by kidnapping the wives of several prominent citizens (including his own mother) whom he placed on the ramparts in the clear line of fire, and burning the Jamestown to the ground.  He also ordered Berkeley arrested, but this failed.  He no longer had control of the extreme elements of his militia; and support among the general populace had weakened because of his extreme measures.

     Then suddenly, on October 26, 1676, Bacon suddenly died, apparently of Swamp Fever. (Records of the time said he died of the “bloodie flux,” and “lousey disease [body lice].  His body was never found, which led many to believe that his men burned it because of its contamination.  A ditty was soon heard around Jamestown:

                        Bacon is dead; I am sorry at my hart

                       That lice and flux should take the hangman’s part.

     With the death of Bacon, Berkeley quickly regained control, hanged 23 men, and confiscated several estates.

      When one of Bacon’s closest associates was captured, Berkeley told him, “I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia, Mr. Drummond, you shall be hanged in half an hour.

     An investigating committee from England issued a report on Berkeley’s handling of the revolt. The King (Charles II) recalled Berkeley for his harshness; A royal commission was appointed to settle affairs with the Indians; today, some descendants of the Indians still live on the land agreed to as theirs in 1677.  



    In 1625, Sir Charles Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore had converted to Catholicism and asked to found a colony in America as a refuge for English Catholics.  Catholics were subject to persecution in England, largely as a result of the persecutions inflicted by Mary Tudor on English Protestants some seventy years before.  

     Lord Baltimore had been an investor in the Virginia Company at Jamestown, and in 1623 had obtained a charter to found a private colony in Newfoundland.  The colony, named Avalon, was to be medieval in character, which gave him the power to confer titles of nobility.  Newfoundland was not to his liking, and he was not liked in Virginia, probably because of his Catholicism,  so he applied for a land grant north. He died before the grant was issued, so it was issued to his son, Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, in 1634.  Cecilius named the colony Maryland, after the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. The similarity in name to England’s last Catholic Monarch, Mary Tudor, is ironic.  

     Maryland was founded as a proprietary colony.  Its original borders began at the Potomac River, and encompassed all of modern Delaware, as well as parts of present day Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The land was not granted to a Stock Company, as had been Virginia, but rather it was a grant to an individual, very similar to the land grants made by medieval monarchs to loyal vassals.  A feudal lord under these circumstances was given almost regal authority over his domain, and for that reason, Lord Baltimore was given powers over Maryland similar to those of an independent monarch. This was one of several attempts to create a limited feudalistic system in America, although it never evolved that way.  Baltimore’s charter gave him “as ample rights, jurisdictions, privileges, prerogatives, ...royal rights... as used and enjoyed ...within the bishopric or county palatine of Durham."  As payment for this grant, Baltimore was to furnish the King two Indian arrows per year, and one fifth of any gold found in the colony.     

     Feudalism did not fit well in America.  Everyone had to work for a living, and the availability of land was not conducive to the development of a monarchical form of government. The great distance from England tended to lessen any reverential awe of the King, and the frontier nature of the place lent itself to ideas of individual freedom and democracy.  

   Although Baltimore had planned to offer large manorial estates, and had about sixty such estates originally; however this system did not easily attract settlers, and Baltimore was forced to offer small farms.  

     It is important to note that the charter of the colony did offer rights to the settlers. It stated that laws were to be made by the proprietor and the freedmen.  The charter specifically provided that the laws of Maryland must be in accordance with the laws of England:

                We will also, and of our more abundant Grace, for Us, our Heirs and Successors, do firmly charge, constitute, ordain, and command…that all and singular the Subjects and Liege-Men of Us, our Heirs and Successors, transplanted, or hereafter to be  transplanted into the Province aforesaid, and the Children of them, and of others their Descendants, whether already born there, or hereafter to be born, be-and shall be Natives and Liege-Men of Us, our Heirs and Successors, of our Kingdom of England and Ireland; and in all Things shall be held, treated, reputed, and esteemed as the faithful Liege-Men of Us, and our Heirs and Successors, born within our Kingdom of England; also Lands, Tenements, Revenues, Services, and other Hereditaments whatsoever, within our Kingdom of England, and other our Dominions, to inherit, or otherwise purchase? receive, take, have, hold, buy, and possess, and the same to use and enjoy, and the same to give, sell, alien and bequeath; and likewise all Privileges, Franchises and Liberties of this our Kingdom of England, freely, quietly, and peaceably to have and possess, and the same may use and enjoy in the same manner as our Liege-Men born, or to be born within our said Kingdom of England, without Impediment, Molestation, Vexation, Impeachment, or Grievance of Us, or any of our Heirs or Successors; any Statute, Act, Ordinance, or Provision to the contrary thereof, notwithstanding.

        The first Maryland settlement was founded in 1634, by a group of Catholic gentlemen and Protestant commoners, indentured servants. The first Governor was Leonard Calvert, Baltimore’s brother.  Maryland was free of the divisiveness that had marked Virginia, and also enjoyed better relations with the Indians.  As a result, the colony progressed more in six months than Virginia had in many years.  Protestants as well as Catholics were welcomed. The original plan had been for Maryland to consist of small farms, but it soon became predominantly reliant on tobacco as a staple crop, as had Virginia. 

     The first Maryland assembly met in 1635, and in 1649, the same year in which Charles I was beheaded, the Maryland Toleration Act was passed.  By seventeenth century standards, it was rather lenient; by modern standards, it would seem harsh. It provided that “no person or persons whatsoever within this Province, or the Islands, Ports, Harbors, Creeks, or havens thereunto belonging  professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any way troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free  exercise thereof within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging nor any way compelled to the belief or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent, so as they be not unfaithful to the Lord Proprietary, or molest or conspire against the civil Government.”  One who did not express a belief in the Trinity was subject to death; one who spoke ill of the Virgin Mary or Apostles was subject to a fine, or if the fine were not paid, punishment was to be whipping or imprisonment.  Also, a fine of ten shillings was imposed for calling any person a “heretic, schismatic, Puritan, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anabaptist, Calvinist,..or any other name or term relating to matter of religion. It also provided that:

       [E}very person and persons within this Province that shall at any time hereafter prophane the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday by frequent swearing, drunkenesse or by any uncivill or disorderly recreacion, or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require it shall for every such first offence forfeit 2s 6d sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s sterling or the value thereof, and for the third offence and soe for every time he shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s sterling or the value thereof. And in case such offender and offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattells within this Province to satisfy  any of the said Penalties respectively hereby imposed for prophaning the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday as aforesaid, That in Every such case the partie soe offending shall for the first and second offence in that kinde be imprisoned till hee  or shee shall publickly in open Court before the cheife Commander Judge or Magistrate, of that County Towne or precinct where such offence shal be committed  acknowledge the Scandall and offence he hath in that respect given against God and  the good and civill Governement of this Province, And for the third offence and for every time after shall also bee publickly whipt.   

                 The historical importance of the Act of Toleration is that it was the first provision in America for freedom of worship, although some minimum standards were imposed.

             In 1650, the legislature divided into two houses, largely at the behest of Protestant freedmen, many of whom had been indentured servants in Virginia and had become landowners.  The governor and council sat separately from the legislature.