Constitutional Government

CHAPTER 17 | Document 2

Ordinance and Constitution for Council and Assembly in Virginia

24 July 1621Jamestown 126--28

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 consideracion the present state of the said Colony in Virginia, and intending by the Devine assistance to settle such a forme of government 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 fitt to make our entrance by ordaining & establishing such supreame Counsells as may not only bee assisting to the Governor for the time being in administracion 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 of all inconveniencies groweing from time to time as also for the advancing of encrease, strength, stabillitie and prosperitie 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 deliberacion doe hereby order & declare that from hence forward ther bee towe supreame Counsells in Virginia for the better government of the said Colony as aforesaid: the one of which Counsells to bee called the Counsell of State and whose office shall chieflie bee assisting, wth ther care, advise & circomspection, to the said Governor; shall be chosen, nominated, placed and displaced from time to time 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 Yeardley, 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; [and] Mr. Samuel Macocke. Which said Counsellors and Counsell wee earnestlie pray & desier, and in His Majesties name strictlie charge and command, that all factious parcialties and sinister 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 amongste those heathen people; and next in the erecting of the said Colonie in one obedience to His Majestie and all lawful authoritie from His Majestis dirived; and lastlie in maitaining the said people in justice and Christian conversation among themselves and in strength and habillitie 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 yeerly, of course, & no oftner but for very extreordinaire & important occasions, shall consist for present of the aid Counsell of State and of tow burgesses out of every towne, hunder [hundred] and other particuler plantacion to bee respetially chosen by the inhabitants. Which Counsell shalbee called the Generall Assemblie, wherein as also in the said Counsell of State, all matters shall be decided, determined & ordered by the greater part of the voices 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 pupliqe weale of the said Colony and evrie 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 time 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 administracion of justice used in the realme of England, as neere as may bee even as ourselves by His Majesties lettres patents are required; provided that noe lawes or ordinance made in the said Generall Assembly shalbe and continew in force and validitie, unlese the same shalbe sollemlie ratified and confirmed in a generall greater court of the said court here in England and so ratified and returned to them under our seale. It being our intent to affoord the like measure also unto the said Colony that after the government 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 afterwarde shall binde [the said] Colony unles they bee ratified in like manner in ther Generall Assembly.

In wittnes wherof wee have hereunto sett our common seale the 24th day of [July] 1621, and in the yeare of the raigne of our governoure, Lord James by the ... of God of England, Scotland, France & Ireland, King, Defendor of the ... vizt., of England, France and Scotland the nineteenth and of Scotland the fower and fiftieth.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 17, Document 2
The University of Chicago Press

The Three Charters of the Virginia Company of London. Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet, no. 4. 1957

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