Front Page Titles (by Subject) 72: [Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly] - Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History
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72: [Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly] - Donald S. Lutz, Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History 
Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History, ed. Donald S. Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1998).
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[Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly]
Complete text, with original spelling, taken from W. H. Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in 1619, vol. 1 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 122–29.
March 5, 1624
Shortly after the Virginia General Assembly passed this code of laws, the king reorganized the colony government and officially placed all power in the hands of the Governor, although in fact all of the Governor’s actions had to be approved by the Crown-appointed Council of State. That the General Assembly was officially terminated might be explained in part by section 8 of the document below, in which the Assembly asserts that the Governor cannot levy taxes without Assembly approval. Although English common law had long held that there should be no taxes levied without the approval of Parliament, the king was not inclined to let parliamentary equivalents develop in the colonies. At the same time he did not assert that the colonists were represented in Parliament because he was engaged in a bitter struggle with Parliament that would eventually result in the temporary termination of the monarchy. This left the Virginia colonists in the anomalous position of not having the basic common law rights of Englishmen that had been guaranteed by their charter from the king. Resolution of the situation came only after the gradual reassertion of the power to tax by an Assembly was called back into official existence in 1638. A major factor in this development was the empty throne between 1640 and 1660.
1.that there shall be in every plantation, where the people use to meete for the worship of God, a house or roome sequestred for that purpose, and not to be for any temporal use whatsoever, and a place empaled in, sequestered only to the buryal of the dead.
2. That whosoever shall absent himselfe from divine service any Sunday without an allowable excuse shall forfeite a pound of tobacco, and he that absenteth himselfe a month shall forfeith 50lb. of tobacco.
3. That there be an uniformity in our church as neere as may be to the canons in England; both in substance and circumstance, and that all persons yeild readie obedience unto them under paine of censure.
4. That the 22nd of March be yeerly solemnized as holliday, and all other hollidays (except when they fall two together) betwixt the feast of the annuntiation of the blessed virgin and St. Michael the archangell, then only the first to be observed by reason of our necessities.
5. That no minister be absent from his church above two months in all the yeare upon penalty of forfeiting halfe his means, and whosoever shall absent above fowre months in the year shall forfeit his whole means and cure.
6. That whosoever shall disparage a minister without bringing sufficient proofe to justify his reports whereby the mindes of his parishioners may be alienated from him, and his ministry prove the less effectual by their prejudication, shall not only pay 500lb. waight of tobacco but also aske the minister so wronged forgiveness publickly in the congregation.
7. That no man dispose of any of his tobacco before the minister be satisfied, upon pain of forfeiture double his part of the minister’s means, and one man of every plantation to collect his means out of the first and best tobacco and corn.
8. That the Governor shall not lay any taxes or ympositions upon the colony their lands or comodities other way than by the authority of the General Assembly, to be levyed and ymployed as the said Assembly shall appoynt.
9. The governor shall not withdraw the inhabitants from their private labors to any service of his own upon any colour whatsoever and in case the publick service require ymployments of many hands before the holding a General Assemblie to give order for the same, in that case the levying of men shall be done by order of the governor and whole body of the counsell and that in such sorte as to be least burthensome to the people and most free from partialitie.
10. That all the old planters that were here before or came in at the last coming of sir Thomas Gates they and their posterity shall be exempted from their personal service to the warrs and any publick charge (church duties excepted) that belong particularly to their persons (not exempting their families) except such as shall be ymployed to command in chief.
11. That no burgesses of the General Assembly shall be arrested during the time of the assembly, a week before and a week after upon pain of the creditors forfeiture of his debt and such punishment upon the officer as the court shall award.
12. That there shall be courts kept once a month in the corporations of Charles City and Elizabeth Citty for the decyding of suits and controversies not exceeding the value of one hundred pounds of tobacco and for punishing of petty offences, that the commanders of the places and such others as the governor and council shall appoint by commission shall be the judges, with reservation of apeal after sentence to the governor and counsell and whosoever shall appeal yf he be there cast in suit shall pay duble damages, The commanders to be of the quorum and sentence to be given by the major parties.
13. That every privatt planters devident shall be surveyed and laid out in several and the bounds recorded by the survey; yf there be any pettie differences betwixt neighbours about their devidents to be divided by the surveyor if of much importance to be referred to the governor and counsell: the surveyor to have 10lbs. of tobacco upon every hundred acres.
14. For the encouragement of men to plant store of corne, the prise shall not be stinted, but it shall be free for every man to sell it as deere as he can.
15. That there shall be in every parish a bulick granary unto which there shall be contributed for every planter exceeding the adge of 18 years alive at the crop after he hath been heere a year a bushell of corne, the which shall be disposed for the publique uses of every parish by the major part of the freemen, the remainder yearly to be taken out by the owners at St. Tho’s his day and the new bushell to be putt in the roome.
16. That three sufficient men of every parish shall be sworne to see that every man shall plant and tende sufficient of corne for his family. Those men that have neglected so to do are to be by the said three men presented to be censured by the governor and counsell.
17. That all trade for corne with the salvages as well publick as private after June next shall be prohibited.
18. That every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden for planting of vines, herbs, roots, &c. subpoena ten pounds of tobacco a man, but that no man for his own family shall be tyed to fence above an acre of land and that whosoever hath fenced a garden and [ ] of the land shall be paid for it by the owner of the soyle; they shall also plant Mulberry trees.
19. The proclamations for swearing and drunkenness sett out by the governor and counsell are confirmed by this Assembly; and it is further ordered that the churchwardens shall be sworne to present them to the commanders of every plantation and that the forfeitures shall be collected by them to be for publique uses.
20. That a proclamation be read aboard every ship and afterwards fixed to the maste of such [ ] in, prohibiting them to break boulke or make privatt sales of any commodity until [ ] James City, without special order from the governor and counsell.
21. That the proclamation of the rates of commodities be still in force and that there be some men in every plantation to censure the tobacco.
22. That there be no weights nor measures used but such as shall be sealed by officers appointed for that purpose.
23. That every dwelling house shall be pallizaded in for defence against the Indians.
24. That no man go or send abroad without a sufficient parties well armed.
25. That men go not to worke in the ground without their arms (and a centinell upon them).
26. That the inhabitants go not aboard ships or upon any other occasions in such numbers, as thereby to weaken and endanger the plantations.
27. That the commander of every plantation take care that there be sufficient of powder and amunition within the plantation under his command and their pieces fixt and their arms compleate.
28. That there be dew watch kept by night.
29. That no commander of any plantation do either himselfe or suffer others to spend powder unneccessarily in drinking or entertainments, &c.
30. That such persons of quality as shall be found delinquent in their duties being not fitt to undergoe corporal punishment may notwithstanding be ymprisoned at the discretione of the commander & for greater offences to be subject to a ffine inflicted by the monthlie court, so that it exceed not the value aforesaid.
31. That every man that hath not contributed to the finding a man at the castell shall pay for himself and servants five pounds of tobacco a head, towards the discharge of such as had their servants here.
32. That at the beginning of July next the inhabitants of every corporation shall fall upon their adjoyning salvages as we did the last yeare, those that shall be hurte upon service to be cured at the publique charge; in case any be lamed to be maintained by the country according to his person and quality.
33. That for defraying of such publique debts our troubles have brought upon us. There shall be levied 10 pounds of tobacco upon every male head above sixteen years of adge now living (not including such as arrived since the beginning of July last).
34. That no person within this colony upon the rumur of supposed changed and alteration, presume to be disobedient to the present government, nor servants to their private officers, masters or overseers at their uttermost perills.
35.That Mr. John Pountis, counsellor of state, goin to England, (being willing by our intreatie to accept of that imployment) to solicite the general cause of the country to his majesty and the counsell, towards the charges of which voyage, the country consente to pay for every male head above sixteen years of adge then living, which have been here a yeare ffour pounds of the best merchantable tobacco, in leafe, at or before the last of October next.
Sir Francis Wyatt, Knt. Governor, &c.
r. hickman, Cl. Sec. off.