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Page 134 text:
Later vve find the work that Smith laid down was picked up and carried on by Lord Delaware, who brought supplies and aid to the colonists when they were in destitute circumstances. The colony became stronger in a few years and prospered under the governorship of Dale and George Yeardley. In the year 1619 the first real legislative body was established in Virginia, which is usually termed the House of Burgesses and was a law-making body that has been used as a pattern for almost all of the State legislatures and may be called the “pioneer law making body” in the new country. Thus from the very beginning we find Virginians establishing principles and ideals which years later a nation would follow. When Charles II came to the throne in England, the first direct opposition to royal tyranny occurred in Virginia. Governor Berke- ley, a favorite of Charles II, was Virginia’s royal governor. Berke- ley, an ardent royalist and a harsh and self-opinionated man, refusing to protect the colonists from the depredations of the Indians, the young Virginian, Nathaniel Bacon, defied the royal authority and raised troops to protect the plantations, and, in an indirect way, caused the removal of Berkeley from the governorship. From that time on we find the attitude of the colonists in general was hostile, and this condition was constantly growing worse. All during these pre-Revolutionary days, when things were darkest, we find the liberty loving Virginians leading in protests, holding up the principles of right and justice against the tyranny and oppression of the British king. The very first serious opposition came from Virginia in the form of Patrick Henry’s resolutions which in general stated : “That the general assembly of this colony has the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any person or persons whatsoever, other than the general assembly aforesaid, has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom.” These resolutions caused an angry debate in the Virginia assem- bly which gave rise to Patrick Henry’s famous speech in which, after denouncing the tyranny of the Stamp Act, he exclaim ed: “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.” Thus a Virginian dared to challenge the authority of an Empire when he knew he was right. Also in our own Southwest Virginia we find opposition against the oppression of the king in the form of the Fincastle Resolutions, which were signed at Fort Chiswell. According to the account given 128
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0 irginia s S. art in the uilJing the 0 J ahon Prize Essay FTER making a study of history and of that outstand- ing and all important part Virginia played in opening up and establishing this nation of ours, as one, if not the greatest, of the world powers today, we cannot help but feel a deeper love and respect for our beloved State, Virginia — the State which has proudly given her sons, her daughters, and her resources to every noble and righteous cause, the State which rightly deserves those immortal and endearing terms “Mother State” and “The Old Diminion.” In order that we may better understand the subject let us make a brief survey of the different fields through which Virginia and Virginians have exerted their influence and treat of each separately. The first of these which we would naturally think of would probably be the period of colonization. Here we find Virginia leading- all the other colonies; in fact it was on Virginia soil that the first per- manent English colony, Jamestown, was founded in 1607. The success of that colony may be said to be due largely to that dynamic and courageous character, Captain John Smith. Smith, facing great difficulties and with keen foresight and strict discipline, enforced law and order in the small colony. We find that one of the greatest dangers that the earlier colonists faced was the attacks of the Indians. At one time when Smith was away the Indians raided the colony and might have killed all the settlers had it not been for the protection of the ships on the bay. Finally, by means of kindness and diplomacy, Smith befriended the Indians and we find that they became so loyal to him and to the colonists that they brought them food when the colonists were near starvation. No sooner was the Indian question settled than we find other troubles with which Smith had to cope, the greatest of these being an insurrection among the colonists themselves, led by President Wingfield, who, being jealous of Smith, wanted all the power for himself. All of these troubles and man},- others we find Smith settling in a satisfactory way, being at all times a brave and valiant soldier and at the same time a perfect gentleman. 127
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in the History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia by Pendle- ton, the Fincastle Resolutions are as follows: “Resolved, that the spirited and meritorious conduct of Patrick Henry, Esq., and of the rest of the gentlemen volunteers attending him on the occasion of the removal of the gunpowder out of the magazine at Williamsburg, very justly merits the very hearty appro- bation of this committee, for which we return them our thanks, with an assurance that we will, at the risk of our lives and fortunes, sup- port and justify them with regard to the reprisals they made. “Resolved, that the council of this colony, in advising and co- operating with Lord Dunmore in issuing the proclamation of the 3rd of May last, charging the people of this colony with an ungovern- able spirit and licentious practices, is contrary to many known mat- ters of fact, and but too justly shows to us that those who ought to be mediators and guardians of our liberties are become the abject tools of a detested administration. “Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee that the late sanguinary attempt and preparation of the king’s troops, in the colony of Xarragansett Bay, are truly alarming and irritating, and loudly call upon all, even the most distant and interior parts of the colonies, to prepare and be ready for the extreme event, by a fixed resolution and a firm and manly resolve to avert ministerial cruelty in defence of our reasonable rights anti liberties.” At the same time in another section of the country we find Vir- ginia citizens opposing the royal authority in the famous “Parson’s Cause.” Since tobacco was the staple crop of Virginia the ministers of the Established Church were paid in tobacco. As a result, the ministers charged immense fees for their services, shipped the to- bacco to England and received large sums of money in return. The colonists objected to these excessive charges and wished to lower the rates. Of the many different protests offered by the colonists, we find the protest of the York County citizens, who, led by Patrick Henry, had the greatest influence, in the York Hampton parish we find the citizens rebelling against the exorbitant sums charged by the Reverend John Camni. Camm sued the colonists and even went to England in favor of his cause, but after a long trial and heated debate, the colonists won their case. This protest of the York County citizens is considered to be one of the earliest protests against the oppressions of the king. Later on the Virginia assembly suggested a general congress to consider what should be done. This suggestion met with much
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