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1619-1624. First Legislature of Virginia—Establishment of the Church-Whole Num
ber of the Clergy-Encouragement to Emigration of Ministers-Efforts in behalf of Education-Henrico College-East India School-Plans defeated by Indian Massacre-Chanco, a converted Native; his Christian conduct-General Character of the Clergy-Legislature of 1624—Laws made for the Advancement and Permanency of the Church.
The year 1619 is memorable in the annals of Virginia, as being the period at which a legislative body, taken from among the inhabitants, convened for the first time in the colony.* The tyranny of Argall was not permitted to continue long. Advised by private letters that his official conduct was about to be made the subject of rigid scrutiny by a new governor, clothed with authority for that purpose, he precipitately left the colony, and in this year was succeeded by Sir George Yeardly. The colony, it will be remembered, was still under the control of the Company in England; and as upon the representations of Brewster, they had decided, with but one dissenting voice, against the enforcement of martial law in a time of peace, it became necessary to make provision for the government of Virginia under some milder code. The new governor, therefore, brought with him a new charter ; by which, among other matlers, it was provided that the clergy should have in each borough a glebe, to consist of one hundred acres, and should receive from the profits of each parish a standing revenue, to be worth at least two hundred pounds.
The population was increased by the introduction of
* 1 Hening's Virginia Statutes, at large, 119.
one thousand new settlers; and there had been no previous period, in the history of the colony, when its affairs were in a more prosperous condition. Under these auspicious circumstances, the governor called an assembly, which met at James Town. It consisted of “two burgesses chosen for every town, hundred, and plantation ;” and from the number of representatives, the fact is gathered that the colony then consisted of eleven corporations.
Among the first enactments of the legislature were those which concerned the church. The general provisions of the charter, which have already been mentioned, were imbodied in a statutory form; and it seems probable that the mode of obtaining the competent support which was thus granted, was also the subject of enactment. Tobacco was the chief article of produce; and the dues of the minister were paid for the most part in that commodity. In the legislature of 1621-2, it was enacted that each clergyman should receive from his parishioners fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco and sixteen barrels of corn. Ten pounds of tobacco and one bushel of corn were the utmost that any individual could be compelled to pay: and to this assessment every male inhabitant, who had reached the age of sixteen, was liable. And if this levy should prove unequal in value to two hundred pounds, the law proceeded to declare that “ the minister was to be content with less."
Up to this period the inhabitants of the colony had always been attached to the Church of England. There is reason, however, to believe that about this time a small number of puritans sought refuge in the colony;t but it was too inconsiderable to introduce any change in the religious opinions of the people, and public worship continued to be conducted, as it always had been, in conformity with the ritual of the Church of England. That church, however, could not claim for itself the privileges
Stith's Virginia, 173; Beverly's Virginia, 36.
* 1 Graham's Hist. of the United States, 219.
of an establishment, in Virginia, prior to the legislation of 1619; for the general declaration contained in the charter of James, that the mode of worship in the intended colony should conform to that of the English church, simply im. posed a duty, but conferred no temporal benefit. It is from this period, therefore, that we are to date the establishment of the Episcopal Church in Virginia ; and at this time the whole colony contained but five clergymen ;* who are believed to have been Messrs. Whitaker, Stockham, Mease, Bargave, and Wickham. This scarcity of clergymen induced the Company to encourage the emigration of ministers by directing six tenants to be placed on every glebe, for the purpose of making it an immediate source of revenue: and the then Bishop of London undertook to exert himself to procure suitable clergymen to settle in the colony.t Whether this circumstance gave rise to the jurisdiction of the prelate of that see over the American church prior to the revolution, is not known; but this, it is believed, is the first instance in which his connection with the church on this continent is mentioned in history.
The importance of education, as intimately connected with the preservation and dissemination of Christianity, also seems to have been impressed at an early period on the minds of the members of the Company. The king (probably at the solicitation of the Company) had, prior to this time, issued his letters to the several bishops of the kingdom for collecting money to erect a college in Virginia. The object of this measure, when first adopted, was stated to be “the training up and educating infidel children in the true knowledge of God.”I Nearly fifteen hundred pounds had been obtained for carrying into effect this benevolent design; and Henrico had been selected as the site of the proposed seminary. The Company, at the
Chalmer's Political Annals, b.i.
suggestion of its treasurer, now granted ten thousand acres of land to be laid off for the new “ University of Henrico;" and the original design was enlarged by a resolution to make the seminary a school for the English as well as for the natives.* of the eleven corporations, already mentioned as being represented in the first assembly, four had been recently created, and among them was the university; and for the management of its lands, which had been thus granted by the Company, two agents were sent over by that body.
Under the care of these agents, added to that of Mr. George Thorpe, a very respectable and pious man, whose benevolent exertions for the intellectual and spiritual improvement of the natives entitle him to honourable remembrance, the college lands were brought into cultivation ; and the flattering appearance of affairs held forth to the inhabitants the prospect of education for their children, and of clergymen from the college who, though ordained in England, would still be sons of the colony, acquainted with its habits, and familiar with its wants.
So far as the church alone was concerned, had there been nothing more in view, the establishment of Henrico University was a measure full of wisdom. Experience would seem to intimate to the church in America that, though united throughout the confederacy by a common bond, yet the different portions of that church must, for the most part, respectively depend, for a permanent supply in the ministry, upon those, who having been born within certain territorial limits, are therefore bound by strong local attachments, constitutionally adapted to the peculiarities of climate, and familiar with national habits and feelings.
The interest felt in the mother country, in the prosperity of the college, was attested by many donations, among which is recorded one of a thousand pounds, by the Bishop
• 1 Holmes's Annals, 167.
of London. An unknown friend, also, sent many excellent religious works, and a very valuable map of the American coast ; from another was received “a communion cup, with a cover and case, a trencher plate for the bread, a carpet of crimson velvet, and a damask tablecloth for the college.” The solicitude felt for the salvation of the natives was exhibited in a gift of five hundred pounds from some person unknown, to maintain and educate in Christianity young Indians; and three hundred pounds were left to the college by the will of Mr. Nicholas Ferrar, for the same pious object.* At home, also, the college found liberal friends. The Rev. Mr. Bargave, who was then the minister at Henrico, gave his library, and the inhabitants of the place made a contribution of fifteen hundred pounds to build a hostelry for the entertainment of strangers and visiters.t
The efforts in the cause of education were not limited, however, to the establishment of the university. Such an institution of learning would be of little value without the aid of a preparatory school; and for the introduction of this, the colony was indebted to the exertions of a clergyman.
In 1621, an East India ship having returned to England from India, the crew were prevailed upon, by the representations of their chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Copeland, to contribute seventy pounds towards building a church or freeschool in the colony of Virginia : to this, one unknown benefactor added thirty pounds, and another twenty-five pounds. It was determined by the Company to apply these gifts to the erection of a free-school. Charles City was selected as its site, being the spot most convenient to all parts of the colony; and in commemoration of the circumstances in which it originated, it was called the East India School. Nor was the Company less attentive
• Stith, 172, 173.
+ 1 Holmes's Annals, 173,