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“Instructions to George Yeardley” by the Virginia Company of London (November 18, 1618)

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The Thomas Jefferson PapersThe Thomas Jefferson PapersThe Thomas Jefferson PapersThe Thomas Jefferson PapersThe Thomas Jefferson PapersThe Thomas Jefferson Papers
SUMMARY

In a letter to the incoming Virginia governor, Sir George Yeardley, dated November 18, 1618, the Virginia Company of London provides instructions for running the colony, including the establishment of the headright system.

FULL TEXT

The Thomas Jefferson Papers

The Treasurer and Companie of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony in Virginia. To Captain George Yeardly Elect Governor of Virginia and to the Council of State there being or to be Greeting.

Our former cares and Endeavours have been chiefly bent to the procuring and sending people to plant in Virginia so to prepare a way and to lay a foundation whereon A flourishing State might in process of time by the blessing of Almighty God be raised. Now our trust being that under the Government of you Captain Yeardly with the advice and Assistance of the said Council of State such public provisions of Corn and Cattle will again be raised as may draw on those Multitudes who in great Abundance from diverse parts of the Realm were preparing to remove thither if by the late decay of the said public Store their hopes had not been made frustrate and heir minds thereby clene discouraged We have thought good to bend our present cares and Consultations according to the Authority granted unto us from his Majesty under his great Seal to the setling there of A laudable

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The Thomas Jefferson Papers

form of Government by Majestracy and just Laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting like as we have already done for the well ordering of our Courts here and of our Officers and accions for the behoof of that plantation And because our intent is to Ease all the Inhabitants of Virginia forever of all taxes and public burthens as much as may be and to take away all occasion of oppression and corruption we have thought fit to begin (according to the laudable Example of the most famous Common Wealthes both past and present) to alot and lay out A Convenient portion of public lands for the maintenance and support as well of Magistracy and officers as of other public charges both here and there from time to time arising We therefore the said treasurer and Company upon a solemn treaty and resolution and with the advice consent and assent of his Majesties Council here of Virginia being Assembled in A great and general Court of the Council and Company of Adventurers for Virginia require you the said Governor and Council of Estate to put in Execution with all convenient Speed a former order of Our Courts (which had been commended also to Captain Argal at his making Deputy Governor) for the laying and seting out by bounds and metes of three thousand Acres of land in the best and most convenient place of the territory of James town in Virginia and next adjoining to the said town to be the seat and land of the Governor of Virginia for the time being and his Successors and to be called by the name of the Governors Land which Governors Land shall be of the freed grounds by the common labor of the people sent thither at the Companies Charges And of the Lands formerly conquer’d or purchased of the Paspeheies and of other grounds next adjoining In like sort we require you to set and lay out by bounds and Metes other three thousand Acres of good land within the territory of James town which shall be convenient and in such place or places as in your discretions you shall find meet which latter three thousand Acres shall be and so called the Companies Land And we require you Captain Yeardley that immediately upon your arrival you take unto you the Guard assigned to Captain Argal at his going Deputy Governor or sithence by him assumed to be of your guard [for the better defence] of your Government and that as well the said guard as also fifty other persons now sent and transported with you you place as tennants on the said Governors land that all other persons heretofore transported at the Common Charge of the Company since the coming away of Sr Thomas Dale Knight late Deputy Governor be placed

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The Thomas Jefferson Papers

as Tennants on the said Companies Lands And we will and ordain that all the said Tennants on the Governors and Companies Lands shall occupy the same to the half part of the profits of the said Lands so as the one half to be and belong to the said Tennants themselves and the other half respectively to the said Governor and to us the said Treasurer and Company and our Successors And we further will and ordain that the half profits arising out of the said Companies Lands and belonging to us the said Treasurer and Company the one Moiety be imploied for the Entertainment of the said Councel of Estate there residing and of other public officers of the general Colony and plantation (besides the Governor) according to the proportion as hereafter we shall Express and in the mean time as you in your discretions shall think meet And the other moiety be carefully gathered kept and ship’d for England for the public use of us the said Treasurer and Company and our Successors And we will and ordain that out of the half profits of the said Companies Lands to us belonging one fifth part be deducted and alotted for the Wages of the Bailiffs and other Officers which shall have the oversight and Government of the said Tenants and Lands and the dividing gathering keeping or shiping of the particular moiety of the profits belonging Either to the said Council and Officer there or to us the said treasurer and Company and our Successors as aforesaid Provided alwaies that out of the said Companies Land A Sufficient part be exempted and reserved for the securing and Wintering of all sorts of Cattle which are or shall be in the public Stock and Store of the said Company And forasmuch as our intent is to Establish on Equal [blank of several lines] Plantations, whereof we shall speak afterwards, be reduced into four Cities or Burroughs Namely the cheif City called James town Charles City Henrico and the Burrough of Kiccowtan And that in all these foresaid Cities or Burroughs the ancient Adventurers and Planters which [were] transported thither with intent to inhabit at their own costs and charges before the coming away of Sr Thomas Dale Knight and have so continued during the space of three years shall have upon a first division to be afterward by us augmented one hundred Acres of land for their personal Adventure and as much for every single share of twelve pound ten Shillings paid [for such share] allotted and set out to be held by them their heirs and assigns forever And that for all such Planters as were brought thither at the Companies Charge to inhabit there before the coming away of the said Sr Thomas Dale after the time of their Service to the

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The Thomas Jefferson Papers

Company on the common Land agreed shall be expired there be set out One hundred Acres of Land for each of their person Adventurers to be held by them their heirs and Assigns for ever. paying for every fifty Acres the yearly free Rent of one Shilling to the said treasurer and Company and their Successors at one Entire payment on the feast day of St Michael the archangel for ever And in regard that by the singular industry and virtue of the said Sunder the hands of A Select Committee for that purpose [blank space] That all Grants of [blank space] in Virginia to such Adventurers as have heretofore brought in their money here to the treasury for their several shares being of twelve pounds ten shillings the share be of one hundred Acres the share upon the first division and of as many more upon A Second Division when the land of the first division shall be Sufficiently peopled And for Every person which they shall transport thither within seven years after Midsummer Day One thousand six hundred and Eighteen if he continue there three years or dye in the mean time after he is Shiped it be of fifty Acres the person upon the first Division and fifty more upon a second Division the land of the first being Sufficiently peopled without paying any rent to the Company for the one of the Other And that in all such Grants the names of the said Adventurers and the several Number of Each of their Shares be Expressed Provided alwaies and it is ordained that if the said Adventurers or any of them do not truly and Effectually within One Year next after the Sealing of the aid Grant pay and discharge all such Sums of money wherein by subscription (or otherwise upon notice thereof given from the Auditors) they stand indebted to the Company or if the said Adventurers or any of them having not lawful Right either by purchase from the Company or by Assignment from some other former Adventurers within one year after the said Grant or by Special Gift of the Company upon merit preceding in A full Quarter Court to so many shares as he or they pretend Do not within one year after the said Grant satisfie and pay to the said Treasurer and Company for every share so wanting after the rate of twelve pounds ten shillings the share That then the said Grant for so much as

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The Thomas Jefferson Papers

concerneth the [blank space] part and all the shares of the said person so behind and not satisfying as aforesaid shall be utterly void Provided also and it is ordained that the Grantees shall from time to time during the said seven years make a true Certificate to the said Treasurer Councel and Company from the Chief Officer or Officers of the places respectively of the Number names ages sex trades and conditions of every such person so transported or shiped to be entered by the Secretary into a Register book for that purpose to be made That for all persons not comprised in the order next before which during the next seven years after Midsummer day 1618 shall go into Virginia with intent there to Inhabite If they continue there three years or dye after they are shiped there shall be a grant made of fifty acres for every person upon A first division and as many more upon a second division (the first being peopled) which grants to be made respectively to such persons and their heirs at whose charges the said persons going to Inhabite in Virginia shall be transported with reservation of twelve pence yearly Rent for every fifty acres to be answered to the said treasurer and Company and their Successors for ever after the first seven years of every such Grant In which Grants a provisoe to be inserted that the Grantees shall from time to time during the said Seven years make A true Certificate to the said Treasurer Councel and Company from the Chief Officer or Officers of places Respectively of the Number names ages sex trades and Conditions of every such person so transported or shiped to be entred by the Secretary into a Register book for that purpose to be made that all Grants as well of one sort as the other respectively be made with equal favours and grants of like Liberties and immunities as near as may be to the End that all Complaint of partiality [or] differencie may be prevented All which said orders we hereby will and ordain to be firmly and unviolably kept and observed And that the Inhabitants of Virginia have notice of them for their use and benefit Lastly we do hereby require and Authorize you the said Captain George Yeardley and the said Council of Etats Associating with you such other as you shall there find meet to Survey or cause to be Survey’d all the Lands and territories in Virginia above mentioned and the same to set out by bounds and metes especially so as that the territories of the said Several Cities and Buroughs and other particular plantations may be conveniently divided

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The Thomas Jefferson Papers

and known the one from the other Each survey to be set down distinctly in writing and returned to us under your hands and seals In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our Common Seal Given in a great and general Court of the Council and Company of Adventurers of Virginia held the Eighteenth Day of November 1618 And in the years of the Reign of Our Soverain Lord James by the grace of God King of England Scotland France and Ireland Defender of the Faith &c Vizt of England France and Ireland the Sixteenth and of Scotland the two and fiftieth.

Novr 18. 1618

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TIMELINE
November 18, 1618
The Virginia Company of London issues its "Instructions to George Yeardley," which include the establishment of the General Assembly and the headright system. These instructions come to be known as the Great Charter.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Virginia Company of London. “Instructions to George Yeardley” by the Virginia Company of London (November 18, 1618). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/instructions-to-george-yeardley-by-the-virginia-company-of-london-november-18-1618.
MLA Citation:
Virginia Company of London. "“Instructions to George Yeardley” by the Virginia Company of London (November 18, 1618)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 15 May. 2021
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