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This collection of parts of lectures given before the students of Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pa., is published by request of President E. T. Jeffries, D. D.
The opinions expressed on disputed questions which arose in our history, I think, are not partisan. The student can investigate and judge for himself of their correctness.
I must express my gratitude to my honored teacher, Professor Henry W. Torrey, of Harvard College, for the interest he gave me in this study, and to the Honorable R. B. Carnahan, of Pittsburgh, for information on the practical working of our governments.
K. MCINTOSH. Pittsburgh, Pa.
I.--VIRGINIA AND ITS PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT.
During the reign of Elizabeth, Virginia was the name given to the southern part of North America. That enterprising Queen had desired the new world to be colonized, and her successor, James, proceeded to deed out to his subjects the vast unknown regions of the West. Letters patent were issued in April, 1606, to Sir Thomas Gates, Somers, Hackluyt and their associates, granting to them those territories in America lying on the sea-coast, between the thirty-fourth and forty-fifth degrees of north latitude, together with all the islands within one hundred miles of their shores. *
The patentees were required to divide themselves into two distinct companies—the one consisting of London adventurers, whose projected establishment was the first, or southern colony; the second, or northern colony, devolved on a company of merchants belonging to Plymouth and Bristol. The northern colony assumed the name of New England (1614), while the southern retained the name of Virginia.
The patentees were authorized to transport settlers to their lands, and the colonists were to enjoy the liberties and privileges of English subjects.
Grahame's U. S. History, vol. i., p. 44.
The supreme government of the colonies was vested in a Board, resident in England, which was to be nominated by the King, and ruled by such ordinances as he might enact. A subordinate jurisdiction, chiefly executive, was given to the colonists themselves. The colonies were to have freedom of trade with foreign nations, and liberty to search for and open mines, and power to levy duties on foreign commodities. America, thus being a part of the British Empire, the colonists were permitted to enact their own local laws, under certain restrictions and qualifications.
The first legal code, or constitution, of Virginia (if a few rude measures of expediency can be dignified by being called a constitution), was carried from England, carefully sealed up in a tin box, in 1606.* They consisted of instructions from King James for the government of the colony, and were read at Point Comfort, where the box was first opened. The King therein appointed seven Councilors, with powers to elect their President, and with other defined prerogatives, which were regulated with royal wisdom and authority.
Herein was the type of what has been known as Provincial Government, to which the Colonies of Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolinas, New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey were subject. A Governor and Council appointed by the Crown, together with a body of Representatives elected by the colonists, framed the laws and governed the colony. It was the system in which the King of England had the most power, and in which the republican spirit of America was the most thoroughly checked.
* Hildreth's U. S. History, vol. i., p.100.