« ZurückWeiter »
may safely be transported any where. Any of these volumes which you do not possess, are at your service for the purpose of republication. But the unprinted laws are dispersed through many MS. volumes, several of them so decayed that the leaf can never be opened but once without falling into powder. These can never bear removal farther than from their shelf to a table. They are as well as I recollect from 1622 downwards. I formerly made such a digest of their order, and the volumes where they are to be found, that under my own superintendance they could be copied will once handling. More they would not bear. Hence the impracticability of their being copied but at Monticello. But independent of them the printed laws, beginning in 1662, with all our former printed collections, will be a most valuable publication, and sufficiently distinct. I shall have no doubt of the exactness of your part of the work, but I hope you will take measures for having the typography and paper worthy of the work.
At the session of 1807, the editor submitted a memorial to the General Assembly, stating his object and requesting that some mode might be adopted to give authenticity to the laws which he was about to publish. An act was accordingly passed, in pursuance of which, the work has been proceeded on. That he has executed it to the entire satisfaction of every one, cannot be expected ; but illat he has spared no pains to render it worthy of the approbation of an enlightened public, he is perfectly conscious.
It may be an objection with some, that the orthography in which the laws were written has been strictly preserved : But the sligitest reflection will evince the propriety of this measure. In no other way can the history of a language be accurately traced ; nor is there any circumstance which more clearly distinguishes a genuine from a spurious paper. To the mind of the editor nothing can be more improper, in transcribing from an original, than to vary the spelling of the words, to suit the fluctuations of a living language. It would be just as proper for a painter, in copying the picture of an ancient Turk with his mustachoes, to give liim the beardless face of a modern American Indian.
Until the reigo of queen Anne, the English language was extremely variable and unsettled. The best informed men, writing at the same period, would spell the same words very differently. This is particularly remarkable in Ilaynes's, Murdin's and Thurloe's state papers, which are truly copied from the originals. When that bright constellation of writers, composed of Addison, Pope, Swili, &c. &c. made their appearance, it was supposed that our language was unalterably settled ; succeeding writers have taken them as a
model; and lexicographers in abundance lave sprung up, who have been satisfied if they could trace a word to such respectable authorities. But it should be recollected that, during the constant muta tions of a living lauguage, corruptions are in perceptibly creeping in; and that whenever we stop at any particular period and at tempt to fix a standard, as of the language then used, we necessari ly embrace some of those corruptions. Thus, it will be seen in the present volume, that from the year 1623, till towards the restoration in 1660, the word “ governor” was generally spelt without the “u," in the termination ; afterwards that superfluous letter was introduced, and being in general use during the reign of queen Anne, the word “ governour” became the standard of orthography. But the “ u" is now universally exploded. The same remark applies to the words “Iland” and “ massaker,"v which were thus written in our ancient statutes. They were afterwards changed to Island and massacre, which is still in general use; but a modern writer of celebrity, who seems to have carried his researches into the history and origin of our language much farther back than any of his predecessors, has shewn that these are mere anomalies to Many other instances might be adduced, in which the words were much more correctly written nearly two liundred years ago, than at the period when the English language was snpposed to have been carried to its utmost degree of perfection : But it would occupy too much space to point them out. Others, whose conrse of study is more particularly directed to that object, may avail themselves of the materials which this work so abundantly supplies. Perhaps in no other single publication will there be found a more regular and connected history of the English language, for upwards of a century. Nor will the authority of the book be lesscned by the consideration that it contains only the laws and state papers of the age, the public transactions of which it records. In every nation which has attained any degree of civilization, men of the best talents have been usually employed in the formation of their Jaws, and in the various public departments. Hence it is, that in the laws and state papers of a country, we may reasonably look for the best models of language.
But it is not merely to trace the history of our language that reference may be had to these volumes. They will be found to contain a rich treasure of information relative to the state of society among the first settlers; their religious intolerance ; the rise, progress and establishment of our civil institutions; and generally such political events as afford a lesson to posterity of something worthy to be
i See pa. 148, 178-9.
v Sre act. LXVII. pa, 177. 20 See preface to Webster's compendious dictionary pa. VIII, XVII.
Emitated and something to be shunned. Much of the present work las existed until now, only in manuscript, and in single copies ; and has been inaccessible to all our historians. To this cause may be ascribed some of the errors with which all the histories of Virginia aboond; but too many of them may be traced to the gross ignorance or wilful misrepresentations of the English historians. Except the rays of light reflected by Mr. Burk, (from the scanty materials in his possessión,) on that portion of our history which comprises the existence of the commonwealth of England, the whole of that period is either enveloped in total darkness, or has been most inaccurately represented by every historian who prosess ed to depict it.z in detailing the leading events of that day, it has been saidy "that the governors of Virginia were appointed by the commonwealth or by Cromwell; that the people, tired of the restraints imposed on their commerce, and strengthened in principles of loyaliy by the royalists who flocked hither from England, were impatient to shake off the yoke of Cromwell; and dragging Sir William Berkeley from his retirement, unanimously appointed him governor, and proclaimed Charles II, with all his titles, before the restoration had been effected in England.” There is not one word of truth in any part of this relation. Not a single governor was appointed either by the parliament or by Cromwell; but they they were all elected by the House of Burgesses in pursuance of the powers vested in them by the provisional articles of government, adopted at the surrender of the country to the commissioners appointed on behalf of the parliament.z The coınınerce of Virginia was even more free than that of the mother country. None of the restrictions of the act of navigation were felt. The vessels of all nations were admitted into their ports; and a duty of ten shil. lings a hogshead imposed on all tobacco exported, and shipped to any part of America or elsewhere except in English vessels directly bound to England :a from the payment of which duty, vessels belonging to Virginians were afterwards exempted.b Finally the assembly passed an act asserting the right of the colony to a free trade with all nations in ainity with the people of England, and compelled all masters of vessels to give bond, in the penalty of two thousand pounds sterling, not to molest any person trading here under the protection of the laws.c So far were the assembly from
I. See notes to pages 429, 513 and 526.
: See pages 371, 428, 431, 502, the articles of the provisional government; ind pages 371, 408, 431, 502, 504,516, 530, the election of governors by the house of burn gesses.
a See act LXXIV of March, 1657-8, pa. 469 and acts X and XVI of March, 1639-60 pa 536.
6 See pa. 537. c See act IX, pa. 535.
erecting the royal standard and proclaiming Charles II. at the time when they elected Sir William Berkeley, governor, that, by the very first act of the same session they expressly took the powers of go, vernment into their own hands; and directed that all writs should issues in the name of the Grand Assembly."d By the second acts they appointed Sir William Berkeley, governor; enjoined it on him. to call an assembly once in two years at least, or oftener if necessary; gave him the power of making choice of a secretary and council of state, with the approbation of the assembly; and restrained him from dissolving the assembly without the consent of the ma jor part of the house.e These acts passed at an assembly held in March, 1659-60, between the resignation of Richard Cromwell (on the 22d of April, 1659) and the restoration of Charles II. (org the 29th of May, 1660 ;) at a time when, as the assembly express themselves, " there was no resident, absolute and general confessed power in England." They were unquestionably the offspring of necessity, and arose from that state of interregnum which existed in England, when the cautious proceedings of General Monck left it uncertain what kind of government would be ultimately adopted.
In contemplating the laws of every infant state, progressing in civilization, the niind is struck with the remarkable coincidence it their objects and tendencies. To promote the increase of population, supply the wants of the people, improve the agriculture and staple commodities of the country, provide for the due administration of justice, and guard against the incursions of the aboriginal inhabitants are among the first subjects which claim and receive the attention of the legislature; and not unfrequently the establishment of some particular system of religion, in exclusion of all others, has had but too much share in their deliberations. Nor will it be an useless lesson to posterity to review the various measures which have been adopted by their ancestors to insure these ends, and the success with which they have been attended.
The first pages of our statute book, of the acts of each of the early sessions, and of every revisal prior to the American Revolution are devoted to the cause of religion and church government: not that religion which every man might think proper to profess, or that Jiberal system which permitted every individual to worship lois God according to the dictates of his own conscience; but the religion of the church was the religion of the ruling party in the state, and none other was tolerated.
From the settlement of the colony to the death of Charles I. and the commencement of the commonwealth thereupon, an uni
See act I. of March, 1659-60, p. 530.
e See act II. of March, 1659-60, pa 531
brmity to the doctrines and discipline of the church of England Was strictly enjoined ;f. all non-conformists were compelled to leave the colony, with all convenience;s popish recusants were disabled from holding any office, and their priests not suffered to remain more than five days in the country.h During the commonwealth, che affairs of the church were left to the discretion of the parishtoners ji but no sooner did the Quakers, who had fled from the persecutions in England, arrive on our shores than they were met by the terrors of an act“ for suppressing them;"k masters of vessels were subjected to a penalty of one hundred pounds sterling for each Quaker brought into the colony; all Quakers were imprisoned without bail or mainprize, till they found sufficient security to depart the colony; for returning they were directed to be proceeded against as contemners of the laws and magistracy, and punished accordingly; and if they should come in a third time they were to be prosecuted as felons. All persons were prohibited, under the penalty of one hundred pounds sterling, from entertaining them, or permitting their assemblies in or near their houses; and no person was permitted to dispose of, or publish, any books or pamphlets contaiping the tenets of their religion.l
It is worthy of observation that a similar principle to that which has obtained in Kentucky with respect to compensation for improvements made upon lands by one man, the title of which appeared, from investigation, to be in another, existed in a law of Virgiuia, so long ago as the year 1643. And as this law has never before been published, we can only account for the coincidence, by supposing that mankind, in every age, placed in similar situations, will generally pursue the same course. The act, after reciting that many suits had been commenced, founded on controversies relating to land,“ to the great trouble and molestation of the whole colony," goes on to declare, that if any man should settle on a tract of land, which, on a just survey, should prove to be the property of another, a valuable consideration should be allowed by the judgment of twelve men upon oath, to the first who seated it, for clearing and improving it; but if the charge should amount to more than the real owner was willing to give, the person in possession was bound to keep the land, and pay the owner what it should be judged by twelve men to be worth, “ before the seating thereof;" and, of course, without regard to the improvements. An exception was made in favour of orphans ;m and afterwards a further
See pa. 123, 144, 149, 155, 180, 240, 277.
& Sec pa. 277.
| See pa. 533.