Primary Resource

An Ordinance and Constitution of Treasurer and Company in England for a Council and Assembly in Virginia (1621)

In "An Ordinance and Constitution of Treasurer and Company in England for a Council and Assembly in Virginia," passed on July 24, 1621, the Virginia Company of London revised Virginia's General Assembly from a unicameral to a bicameral body, consisting of a lower House of Burgesses and an upper house comprised of the governor and the governor's Council. Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

— page 482 —

To all people to whom these presents shall come bee seen or heard, the Treasuror, Council and Company of Adventurers and planters of the Citty of London for the first Collony in Virginia send greeting Knowe yee That wee the said Treasuror Counsell and Company takeing into our Carefull Consideraccon the present state of the said Colony in Virginia: And intending by the devine assistance to settle such a forme of goverment ther as may bee to the greatest benifitt and comfort of the people and wherby all Injustice grevance and oppression may bee prevented and kept of as much as is possible from the said Colony have thought fit to make our Entrance by ordayning & establishing such supreame Counsells as may not only bee assisting to the Governor for the time being in administraccon of Justice, and the executing of other duties to his office belonging, but also by ther vigilent Care & prudence may provide as well for remedy

— page 483 —

of all inconvenyencies groweing from tyme to tyme, As also for the advancing of Encrease strength stabillitie and prosperytie of the said Colony

Wee therefore the said Treasuror Counsell and Company, by authoritie directed to us from his Majestie under his great seale upon mature deliberaccon doe hereby order & declare, That from hence forward ther bee towe Supreame Counsells in Virginia for the better goverment of the said Colony as aforesaid. The one of which Counsells to bee called the Counsell of State and whose office shall Cheiflie bee assisting wth ther Care advise & circomspection to the said Governor shall be Chosen nominated placed and displaced from tyme to tyme by us the said Treasurer Counsell & Company and our successors, which Counsell of State shall Consiste for the present onlie of those persons whose names are here inserted vizt Sir Francis Wyatt governor of Virginia Captaine Francis West Sir George Yeardly knight Sir William Newce knight Marshall of Virginia Mr George Sandys Tresuror Mr George Thorpe deputy of the Colledge Captaine Thomas Newce deputy for the Company Mr Christopher Davison secretarie, Doctor Potts phesition to the Company Mr Paulet Mr Leech Captaine Nathaniell Powell Mr Roger Smith Mr John Berkley Mr John Rolfe Mr Ralfe Hamer Mr John Pountus Mr Michael Lapworth, Mr Harwood Mr Samuel Macocke. Which said Counsellors and Counsell wee Earnestlie pray & desier, and in his Majestie name strictlie charge and Comand, That all factious parcialties and sinester respects laid aside they bend ther care and Endeavors to assist the said Governor first and principallie in advancement of the honor and service of almightie god, and the Enlargement of his kingdome amongst those heathen people, And next in the erecting of the said Colonie in one obedience to his Majestie and all lawfull Authoritie from his Majestie dirived, And lastlie in maytayning the said people in Justice and Christian Conversation among themselves and in strength and habillytie to wth stand ther Ennimies, And this Counsell is to bee alwaies or for the most part residing about or neere the said Governor, The other Counsell more generall to bee called by the Governor and yearly of Course & no oftener but for very extreordynarie & Important occasions shall consist for present of the said Counsell of State and of Tow Burgesses out of every towne hunder and other particuler plantaccon to bee respetially Chosen by the inhabitants. Which Counsell shalbee called the generall Assemblie, wherin as also in the said Counsell of State, all matters

— page 484 —

shall be decyded determined & ordred by the greater part of the voyces then present, Reserveing alwaies to the Governor a negative voice, And this generall assembly shall have free power, to treat Consult & conclude as well of all emergent occasions concerning the puplique weale of the said colony and everie parte therof, as also to make ordeine & enact such generall lawes & orders for the behoof of the said colony and the good govermt therof as shall time to tyme appeare necessarie or requisite. Wherin as in all other things wee requier the said gennerall Assembly, as also the said Counsell of State to imitate and followe the policy of the forme of goverment, Lawes Custome manners of loyall and other administraccon of Justice used in the Realme of England as neere as may bee even as ourselves by his Majesties Letters patents are required. Provided that noe lawes or ordinance made in the said generall Assembly shalbe and continew in force and validytie, unlese the same shalbe sollemlie ratified and Confirmed in a generall greater Court of the said Court here in England and so ratified and Confirmed returned to them under our seale. It being our intent to affoord the like measure also unto the said Colony that after the goverment of the [said Colony, shall once have been well framed & settled accordingly, which is to be done by us as by authoritie derived from] his Majestie and the sa[me shall] have bene soe by us declared, No orders of our Court afterward shall binde [the said] colony unles they bee ratified in like manner in ther generall Assembly.

In wittnes wherof wee have hereunto sett our Comon seale the 24th day of [July] 1621, and in the yeare of the raigne of our governoure Lord James by the [Grace] of God of England Scotland ffrance and Ireland King defendor of the [faith] vizt of England ffrance and Scotland the Nyneteenth and of Scotland the fower and ffiftieth.