Ordinances for Virginia;
July 24-August 3, 1621 (1)
An Ordinance and Constitution of the Treasurer, Council, and Company in England, for a Council of State and General Assembly. Dated July 24, 1621
TO all People, to whom these Presents shall come, be seen, or heard, The Treasurer, Council, and Company of Adventurers and Planters for the City of London for the first Colony of Virginia, send Greeting. KNOW YE, that we, the said Treasurer, Council, and Company, taking into our careful Consideration the present State of the said Colony of Virginia., and intending, by the Divine Assistance, to settle such a Form of Government there, as may be to the greatest Benefit and Comfort of the People, and whereby all Injustice, Grievances, and Oppression may be prevented and kept of as much as possible from the said Colony, have thought fit to make our Entrance, by ordering and establishing such Supreme Councils, as may not only be assisting to the Governor for the time being, in the Administration of Justice, and the executing of other Duties to this office belonging, but also, by their vigilant care and Prudence, may provide, as well for a Remedy of all Inconveniences, growing from time to time, as also for advancing of Increase, Strength, Stabllity, and Prosperity of the said Colony:
II. WE therefore, the said Treasurer, Council, and Company, by Authority directed to us from his Majesty under the Great Seal, upon mature Deliberation, do hereby order and declare, that, from hence forward, there shall be TWO SUPREME COUNCILS in Virginia, for the better Government of the said Colony aforesaid.
III. THE one of which Councils, to be called THE COUNCIL OF STATE (and whose Office shall chiefly be assisting, with their Care, Advise, and Circumspection, to the said Governor) shall be chosen, nominated, placed and displaced, from time to time, by Us, the said Treasurer, Council, and Company, and our Successors: Which Council of State shall consist, for the present, only of these Persons, as are here inserted, viz. Sir Francis Wyat, Governor of Virginia, Captain Francis West, Sir George Yeardley, Knight, Sir William Neuce, Knight Marshal of Virginia, Mr. George Sandys, Treasurer, Mr. George Thorpe, Deputy of the College, Captain Thomas Nence, Deputy for the Company, Mr. Pawlet, Mr. leech, Captain Nathaniel Powel, Mr. Christopher Davison, Secretary, Doctor Pots, Physician to the Company, Mr. Roger Smith, Mr. John Berkeley, Mr. John Rolfe, Mr. Ralph Harrier, Mr. John Potuntis, Mr. Michael lapworth, Mr. Harwood, Mr. Sarrvuel Macock. Which said Counsellors and Council we earnestly pray and desire, and in his Majesty's Name strictly charge and command, that (all Factions, Partialities, and sinister Respect laid aside) they bend their Care and Endeavours to assist the said Governor; first and principally, in the Advancement of the Honour and Service of God, and the Enlargement of his Kingdom amongst the Heathen People; and next, in erecting of the said Colony in due obedience to his Majesty, and all lawful Authority from his Majesty's Directions; and lastly, in maintaining the said People in Justice and Christian Conversation amongst themselves, and in Strength and Ability to withstand their Enemies. And this Council, to be always, or for the most Part, residing about or near the Governor
IV. The other Council, more generally to be called by the Governor, once yearly, and no oftener, but for very extraordinary and important occasions, shall consist, for the present, of the said Council of State, and of two Burgesses out of every Town, Hundred, or other particular Plantation, to be respectively chosen by the Inhabitants: Which Council shall be called THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, wherein (as also in the said Council of State) all Matters shall be decided, determined, and ordered, by the greater Part of the Voices then present; reserving to the Governor always a Negative Voice. And this General Assembly shall have free Power to treat, consult, and conclude, as well of all emergent Occasions concerning the Publick Weal of the said Colony and every Part thereof, as also to make, ordain, and enact such general Laws and Orders, for the Behoof of the said Colony, and the good Government thereof, as shall, from time to time, appear necessary or requisite;
V. WHEREAS in all other Things, ire require the said General Assembly, as also the said Council of State, to imitate and follow the Policy of the Form of Government, Laws, Customs, and Manner of Trial, and other Administration of Justice, used in the Realm of England, as near as may be, even as ourselves, by his Majesty's Letters Patent, are required.
VI. PROVIDED, that no Law or Ordinance, made in the said General Assembly, shall be or continue in Force or Validity, unless the same shall be solemnly ratified and confirmed, in a General Quarter Court of the said Company here in England and so ratified, be returned to them under our Seal; It being our Intent to afford the like Measure also unto the said Colony, that after the Government of the said Colony shall once have been well framed, and settled accordingly, which is to be done by Us, as by Authority derived from his Majesty, and the same shall have been so by us declared, no Orders of Court afterwards shall bind the said Colony, unless they be ratified in like Manner in the General Assemblies. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto set our Common Seal, the 24th of July 1621, and in the Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, JAMES; King of England, &c., the * * * and of Scotland the * * *
(1) The text is from the History of the First Discovery and settlement of Virginia, by William Stithe (Sabin's edition, New York, 1865), Appendix IV. The Commission to Sir Francis Wyatt, Governor of Virginia, in regard to the ordinance is printed in Hening's Statutes at Large (Richmond, 1809), I. 113-114. The first Assembly of Virginia was convened July 3-Aug. 9, 1619, at Jamestown by Governor Yeardley under the authority of the Virginia Company, executed in November, 1618. This document, either a commission or instructions to Yeardley, has not been found, but probably was similar to the later ordinance of 1621. For report of the proceedings of the first assembly see Colonial Records of Virgina, Senate document, Extra, (Richmond, 1874.).
The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America.
Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe
Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909.
Founding Documents Index