"So passed the darkest hour . . . .Stern Governors Laid on the land their will."
Sir John Harvey, with commission as Governor and captain general, arrived at Jamestown March 24, 1630.
He brought with him a Proclamation Charles had issued defining his policy towards the colony-, in which he declared that"After mature deliberation, he had adopted his father's opinion, that the misfortunes of the colony had arisen entirely from the popular shape of its late administration, and the incapacity of a mercantile company to conduct even the most insignificant affairs of state; that he held himself in honor engaged to accomplish the work that James had begun; that he considered the American colonies to be a part of the royal empire devolved to him with the other dominions of the crown; that he was fully resolved to establish a uniform course of government, through the whole British monarch-; and that henseforward the government of the colony of Virginia should immediately depend upon himself."
Charles considered the colony of Virginia to stand in a very different relation to him from that enjoyed by Great Britain, as the colony had been (he asserted) inherited, as a personal estate, independent of the crown or political capacity.
He declared that the whole administration of the Virginia government should be vested in a council nominated and directed by his royal self, and responsible to himself alone.
While holding the Virginia Company up to scorn as a mercantile corporation, he prohibited the colonists "under the most absurd and frivolous pretenses," from selling their tobacco to other than his accredited personal agents. Professing a disgust at the use of the weed, he established a monopoly for his personal gain. The colonists found themselves subjected to vices of both previous administrations. They were to suffer from the "unlimited prerogative of an arbitrary prince," added to "the narrowest maxims of a mercantile corporation, and mast see their Legislature superceded, their laws abolished, all profits of their industry engrossed and their only valuable commodity monopolized by the sovereign who pretended to have resumed the government of the colony only in order to blend it more perfectly with the rest of the British empire."
The Great Charter, secured by- Sandys and Southampton and the granting of suffrage to the people, permitting them to have a voice in the affairs of the colony-, through the General Assembly, had sown the seed of liberty that might have become dormant and unproductive had they found peace and prosperity under the sunshine of royal good-will and favor. It required the storm and rain of adversity- to properly nourish and germinate that which had been planted. Thus, the tyrrannical proceedings of James and Charles did much toward inculcating an adhorrence of monarchial government and contributing toward weaning the colonists away from an inherent desire to remain subject to the royal will.
Charles could not have selected a better minion than Sir John Harvey. The colony could not have had a better teacher.
Sir John Harvey was a fit instrument in the hands of Charles I. to enforce the arbitrary will of a despotic King. He was cruel, haughty and rapacious. With offensive insolence he conducted his administration with a rigor and severity that was so entirely unnecessary it instilled into the hearts of the colonists, not only repugnance for his own person, but, to many, an intense abhorrence of Charles Stuart, his master.
Unfortunately, there was no Assembly elected by the people to wield its restraining influence, as had been the case under company- administration after the great charter had been granted; no Edwin Sandys, no Southampton to whom the people could appeal.
Harvey carried his arbitrary exactions and forfeitures to such an extreme, the Royal Council for the colonies, in England, even thought it prudent to send a note of warning. In July, 1634, he received a letter from the King, stating that "for the encouragement of the planters, he desired that the interest which had been acquired under the corporation should he exempted from forfeitures, and that the colonists, for the present, might enjoy their estates with the same freedom and privileges as they did before the recalling of the patent." Graham, in his history of North America, asserts, "We might suppose this to he the mandate of an Eastern Sultan to one of his bashaws; and indeed, the rapacious tyrrany of the Governor seems hardly more odious that the cruel mercy of the prince who interposed to mitigate oppression only when it had reached an extreme, which is proverbially liable to inflame the wise with madness and drive the patient to despair."
The reader will note the significant phrase, "for the present," and that there was no word of censure for Harvey, nor threat of his removal for the excesses of which he had been guilty.
If this letter was designed to stifle the growing unrest of the colonists, the desired effect was completely nullified, or counterbalanced, by patents, issued to his favorite courtiers Arlington and Culpeper-granting them, for thirty-one years, Virginia and "Accomack" in fee simple. No opportunity was granted the colonists to register humble protest. It gave rise to encroachments in great number "upon; established possessions, excited universal distrust of the validity of titles and the stability of property."
Under the charter, the Virginia colony had held jurisdiction along the Atlantic Coast north of Cape Fear, in common with the Northern Virginia Company, later designated as the New England Company yet, Charles, by virtue of his royal prerogative, hesitated not to make a gift of great stretches of territory, to whom he willed. He considered Virginia his personal inheritance, notwithstanding the property rights already acquired by his loyal subjects. It was in this manner that the Maryland d Charter was promulgated, dismembering from Virginia a large territory previously- acknowledged as within its borders, and in part of which (Kent Island especially) Virginia planters had seated themselves.
Not only- did the Maryland grant prove disastrous to Virginians who had settled within its borders, but was to prove a source of discontent and serious injury to the whole Virginia colony, owing to refusal of the Maryland colonists to restrict the exportations of tobacco to grades of superior quality, thereby depriving the Virginians of the opportunity, previously enjoyed, of holding up the exportation of lower grades, which tended to glut the only market (England) legally open to them.
Lord Baltimore, an estimable English nobleman, with his family-, visited Jamestown during the governorship of Harvey. He was received very coldly by the colonists, but cordially by the Governor, possibly in order to show contempt for the planters under his care. Lord Baltimore desired to secure a grant of land south of the James on which he intended seating a colony of fellow Catholics.
When Baltimore returned to England, the colonists dispatched Claiborne also, to represent them in opposition to such a grant being made. Lord Baltimore left his family at Jamestown, where they- were treated with courtesy and consideration, for the settlers held no grievance against the individuals represented, but were antagonistic only to the seating of another colony in their midst of a different religious faith. Argall had protested, on behalf of the colony, against the Pilgrims being brought to Virginia; Quakers and dissenters were not welcomed.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
Argall protested that the colony needed producers not religionists who would have to be fed."> The Puritans of New England were even more antagonistic of other sects than the Jamestown colony. Taking a leaf from the King's Book of Discipline, they were compelled to obey in England, they added several other leaves for the guidance of those who would dwell among them and not accept their interpretation of religious freedom.
Either Harvey, King Charles, or both of them, seem to have had a sense of grim humor. The protest of Claiborne against the settlement south of the James was acceded to, and the grant made so as to include Kent Island, previously patented by that worthy individual. Did Harvey suggest it to the King knowing of Claiborne's grant? The Virginia planters thought he did, and it served as a torch applied to tinder. Meetings of protest were held. Harvey raved, cried "Treason!" and threatened arrest to the principal men of the colony, but, in a transport of general rage and impatient at further suffering, the Virginians turned the tables on the royal Governor and, to his consternation and amazement, arrested and shipped him off to His Majesty in England. A taste of liberty had been given by the great charter; an appetite created, that now, for the first time, asserted itself.
Not only was Harvey deposed and sent to England as a prisoner, but two deputies charged with the duties of representing the grievances of the colony and the misconduct of the Governor went with him.
The planters of Virginia had never disputed with the King, like their fellow-subjects in England, the validity of his edicts, nor had they entered into the controversies nor claimed privileges which could awaken his jealousy. They had borne his oppressions with patience.
"Defenseless and oppressed, they appealed to him as their protector, and the appeal was enforced by every circumstance that could impress a just, or more generous mind."
Yet, Charles, instead of commiserating their sufferings, "regarded their conduct as an act of presumptions audacity little short of rebellion; and all the acts of their deputies were rejected with calm injustice and inflexible disdain." He refused to admit the deputies to his presence; would not read a single article of their charges, reinstated Harvey, and "semi him back to Virginia, with an ample renewal of the pourer which he had so grossly abused."
Graham states that, "Elated with his triumph and inflamed with rage, Harvey resumed and aggravated a tyrannical sway that has entailed infamy on himself, disgrace on his sovereign and provoked complaints so loud and vehement that they began to penetrate into England, and produce an impression on the minds of the people, which could not be safely disregarded. Enjoying absolute power over Virginia, Charles has inscribed his character more legibly on the history of that province than of any other portion of his dominions."
Thus blinded, the despotic King added fuel to a flame that was to spring into conflagration, sweep him from the throne he had desecrated and compel him to bow in submission to the headsman's axe.
Claiborne was to be avenged. The germinated seed of liberty had begun to sprout.
Harvey did not retain the governorship long after his return to Jamestown. Had he been permitted to continue the tyrannical course he was pursuing, the colony would have been plunged into open rebellion and probable ruin. Every- ship clearing for England carried letters and messages of protest that caused much bitter feeling on the part of relatives and friends of the settlers in Virginia.
At last the Icing, already harassed by the growing sentiment at home against his arbitrary edicts and exercise of his royal prerogative, found it necessary to accede to the demands of his distressed Colonial subjects and give them relief There was trouble enough at home.
Harvey was recalled and Sir Francis Wyatt appointed Governor ad interim. His administration (1639-42) was uneventful, but, furnishing a relaxation from the bitterness engendered by Harvey, paved the way for Sir William Berkeley-, who succeeded him.
Berkeley, who was a brother of Lord Berkeley, a proprietor in the New Jersey grants, was only 32 years of age when he arrived at Jamestown. He was a graduate of Oxford University, handsome, polished in manner and possessed an exquisite taste in dress that befitted one of the most gifted cavaliers of his day. He was possessed of every popular virtue in which Harvey was deficient, and being mild of temper and honorable in character, he soon became the beau ideal of his fellow colonists.
He brought with him, among other suggestions for reform, instructions for restoration of the General Assembly, with permission "for it to enact a body of laws for the province, and improve the administration of justice by introduction of the forms of English judicial procedure." "Thus, all at once, and when they least expected it, was restored to the colonists the system of freedom which they had originally derived from the Virginia Company, which had been involved in the same ruin with that corporation and the recollection of which had been additionally endeared to them by the oppression which had succeeded its overthrow."<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2
Graham's Hist. of U. S."> Joy was unconfined. A grateful people responded gladly to the liberal sentiments expressed. Meetings were held, addresses made, resolutions passed and forwarded to the Governor and King.
The germ of democracy, apparently was crushed and dead. In truth, the little plant drooped its leaves and ceased to grow, but, deep-rooted in its native soil, it bided its time, until the now popular Berkeley, yielding to the promptings of self-love, intolerance, bigotry and greed, would fallow it again.
Never has American history presented a similar character : the liberal-minded youth, loved and revered by all, was to become the hated and despised despot of later years. Berkeley, as Governor before the Commonwealth, was beloved and respected; after the restoration, a blight and a disgrace to civilization. Some historians assert that, as an old man, he was dominated and swayed by a young and ambitious wife; a modern version, forsooth, of the old, old excuse, "the woman thou gayest me." Virginians who read the story of Bacon, Hansford, Drummond and others can pay little credence to such nonsense.
But, as this phase of the history of the colony will be discussed' later, let us now consider, in the next chapter, Berkeley's early administration, when yet a friend in deed and in truth.