Primary Resource

"Instructions to George Yeardley" by the Virginia Company of London (November 18, 1618)

In a letter to the incoming Virginia governor, Sir George Yeardley, dated November 18, 1618, the Virginia Company of London provides instructions for running the colony, including the establishment of the headright system.

Transcription from Original

The Treasurer and Companie of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony in Virginia. To Captain George Yeardly Elect Governor of Virginia and to the Council of State there being or to be Greeting.

Our former cares and Endeavours have been chiefly bent to the procuring and sending people to plant in Virginia so to prepare a way and to lay a foundation whereon A flourishing State might in process of time by the blessing of Almighty God be raised. Now our trust being that under the Government of you Captain Yeardly with the advice and Assistance of the said Council of State such public provisions of Corn and Cattle will again be raised as may draw on those Multitudes who in great Abundance from diverse parts of the Realm were preparing to remove thither if by the late decay of the said public Store their hopes had not been made frustrate and heir minds thereby clene discouraged We have thought good to bend our present cares and Consultations according to the Authority granted unto us from his Majesty under his great Seal to the setling there of A laudable

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form of Government by Majestracy and just Laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting like as we have already done for the well ordering of our Courts here and of our Officers and accions for the behoof of that plantation And because our intent is to Ease all the Inhabitants of Virginia forever of all taxes and public burthens as much as may be and to take away all occasion of oppression and corruption we have thought fit to begin (according to the laudable Example of the most famous Common Wealthes both past and present) to alot and lay out A Convenient portion of public lands for the maintenance and support as well of Magistracy and officers as of other public charges both here and there from time to time arising We therefore the said treasurer and Company upon a solemn treaty and resolution and with the advice consent and assent of his Majesties Council here of Virginia being Assembled in A great and general Court of the Council and Company of Adventurers for Virginia require you the said Governor and Council of Estate to put in Execution with all convenient Speed a former order of Our Courts (which had been commended also to Captain Argal at his making Deputy Governor) for the laying and seting out by bounds and metes of three thousand Acres of land in the best and most convenient place of the territory of James town in Virginia and next adjoining to the said town to be the seat and land of the Governor of Virginia for the time being and his Successors and to be called by the name of the Governors Land which Governors Land shall be of the freed grounds by the common labor of the people sent thither at the Companies Charges And of the Lands formerly conquer'd or purchased of the Paspeheies and of other grounds next adjoining In like sort we require you to set and lay out by bounds and Metes other three thousand Acres of good land within the territory of James town which shall be convenient and in such place or places as in your discretions you shall find meet which latter three thousand Acres shall be and so called the Companies Land And we require you Captain Yeardley that immediately upon your arrival you take unto you the Guard assigned to Captain Argal at his going Deputy Governor or sithence by him assumed to be of your guard [for the better defence] of your Government and that as well the said guard as also fifty other persons now sent and transported with you you place as tennants on the said Governors land that all other persons heretofore transported at the Common Charge of the Company since the coming away of Sr Thomas Dale Knight late Deputy Governor be placed

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as Tennants on the said Companies Lands And we will and ordain that all the said Tennants on the Governors and Companies Lands shall occupy the same to the half part of the profits of the said Lands so as the one half to be and belong to the said Tennants themselves and the other half respectively to the said Governor and to us the said Treasurer and Company and our Successors And we further will and ordain that the half profits arising out of the said Companies Lands and belonging to us the said Treasurer and Company the one Moiety be imploied for the Entertainment of the said Councel of Estate there residing and of other public officers of the general Colony and plantation (besides the Governor) according to the proportion as hereafter we shall Express and in the mean time as you in your discretions shall think meet And the other moiety be carefully gathered kept and ship'd for England for the public use of us the said Treasurer and Company and our Successors And we will and ordain that out of the half profits of the said Companies Lands to us belonging one fifth part be deducted and alotted for the Wages of the Bailiffs and other Officers which shall have the oversight and Government of the said Tenants and Lands and the dividing gathering keeping or shiping of the particular moiety of the profits belonging Either to the said Council and Officer there or to us the said treasurer and Company and our Successors as aforesaid Provided alwaies that out of the said Companies Land A Sufficient part be exempted and reserved for the securing and Wintering of all sorts of Cattle which are or shall be in the public Stock and Store of the said Company And forasmuch as our intent is to Establish on Equal [blank of several lines] Plantations, whereof we shall speak afterwards, be reduced into four Cities or Burroughs Namely the cheif City called James town Charles City Henrico and the Burrough of Kiccowtan And that in all these foresaid Cities or Burroughs the ancient Adventurers and Planters which [were] transported thither with intent to inhabit at their own costs and charges before the coming away of Sr Thomas Dale Knight and have so continued during the space of three years shall have upon a first division to be afterward by us augmented one hundred Acres of land for their personal Adventure and as much for every single share of twelve pound ten Shillings paid [for such share] allotted and set out to be held by them their heirs and assigns forever And that for all such Planters as were brought thither at the Companies Charge to inhabit there before the coming away of the said Sr Thomas Dale after the time of their Service to the

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Company on the common Land agreed shall be expired there be set out One hundred Acres of Land for each of their person Adventurers to be held by them their heirs and Assigns for ever. paying for every fifty Acres the yearly free Rent of one Shilling to the said treasurer and Company and their Successors at one Entire payment on the feast day of St Michael the archangel for ever And in regard that by the singular industry and virtue of the said Sr Thomas Dale the former difficulties and dangers were in greatest part overcome to the great ease and security of such as have been since that time transported thither We do therefore hereby ordain that all such persons as sithence the coming away of the said Sr Thomas Dale have at their own charges been transported thither to inhabit and so continued as aforesaid there be allotted and set out upon a first division fifty acres of land to them and their heirs for ever for their personal Adventure paying a free rent of one Shilling yearly in manner aforesaid And that all persons which since the going away of the said Sr Thomas Dale have been transported thither at the Companies charges or which hereafter shall be so transported be placed as tenants on the Companies lands for term of seven years occupy the same to the half part of the profits as is abovesaid We therefore will and ordain that other three thousand Acres of Land be set out in the fields and territory of Charles City and other three thousand Acres of Land in the fields and territories of Henrico And other three thousand Acres of land in the fields and territory of Kiccowtan all which to be and be called the Companies lands and to be occupied by the Companies Tenants for half profits as afore said And that the profits belonging to the Company be disposed by their several moieties in the same manner as before set down touching the Companies lands in the territory of James town with like allowance to the Bailies and reservation of ground for the common Store of Cattle in those several places as is there set down And our will is that such of the Companies tenants as already inhabite in those several Cities or Burroughs be not removed to any other City or Burrough but placed on the Companies Lands belonging to those Cities or Burroughs where they now inhabite Provided alwaies that if any private person without fraud or injurious intent to the public at his own charges have freed any of the said Lands formerly appointed to the Governor he may continue and inhabite there till a valuable recompence be made him for said Charges And we do hereby ordain that the Governors house in James town first built by Sr Thomas Gates Knight at the charges and

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by the Servants of the Company and since enlarged by others by the very same means be and continue for ever the Governors house any pretended undue Grant made by misinformation and not in a general and quarter Court to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding And to the intent that godly learned and painful Ministers may be placed there for the service of Almighty God & for the spiritual benefit and comfort of the people We further will and ordain that in every of those Cities or Burroughs the several quantity of one hundred Acres of Land be set out in quality of Glebe land toward the maintenance of the several Ministers of the parishes to be there limited and for a further supply of their maintenance there be raised a yearly standing and certain contribution out of the profits growing or renuing within the several farmes of the said parish and so as to make the living of every Minister two hundred pounds Sterling p annum or more as hereafter there shall be cause And for a further Ease to the Inhabitants of all taxes and Contributions for the Support and Entertainment of the particular magistrates and Officers and of other charges to the said Citys and Burroughs respectively belonging We likewise will and ordain that within the precincts or territories of the said Cities and Burroughs shall be set out and alotted the several Quantities of fifteen hundred Acres of Land to be the common Land of the said Citie Or Burrough for the uses aforesaid and to be known and called by the name of the Cities Or Burroughs Land And Whereas by a special Grant and licence from his Majesty a general Contribution over this Realm hath been made for the building and planting of a college for the training up of the Children of those Infidels in true Religion moral virtue and Civility and for other godly uses We do therefore according to a former Grant and order hereby ratifie confirm and ordain that a convenient place be chosen and set out for the planting of a University at the said Henrico in time to come and that in the mean time preparation be there made for the building of the said College for the Children of the Infidels according to such Instructions as we shall deliver And we will and ordain that ten thousand acres partly of the Lands they impaled and partly of other Land within the territory of the said Henrico be alotted and set out for the endowing of the said University and College with convenient possessions Whereas also we have heretofore by order of Court in consideration of the long good and faithful Service done by you Captain George Yeardley in our said Colony and plantation of Vir-

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ginia and in reward thereof as also in regard of two single shares in money paid to our treasury granted unto you the said Captain Yeardley all that parcel of Marsh ground called Weynock and also one other peice and parcel of Land adjoining to the same Marsh called by the Natives Konwan one parcel whereof abutteth upon a Creek there called Mapscock towards the East and the other parcel thereof towards a creek there called Queens Creek on the West and extendeth in breadth to landward from the head of the said Creek called Mapscock up to the head of the said Creek called Queens Creek (which creek called Queens Creek is opposite to that point there which is now called the Tobacco point and abutteth south upon the River and North to the Landward) all which several Lands are or shall be henceforward accounted to be lying within the territory of the said Charles City and exceed not the quantity of two thousand and two hundred acres We therefore the said Treasurer and Company do hereby again grant ratifie and Confirm unto you the said Captain George Yeardley the said several Grounds and Lands to have and to hold the said Grounds and Lands to you the said Captain George Yeardley your heirs and Assigns for Ever And for the better Encouragement of all sorts of necessary and laudable trades to be set up and exercised within the said four Cities or Burroughs We do hereby ordain that if any artizans or tradesmen shall be desirous rather to follow his particular Art or trade then to be imploied in husbandry or other rural business It shall be lawful for you the said Governor and Councel to alot and set out within any of the precincts aforesaid One dwelling house with four Acres of Land adjoining and held in fee simple to every said tradsman his heirs and Assigns for ever upon condition that the said tradesman his heirs and Assigns do continue and exercise his trade in the said house paying only a free rent of four pence by the year to us the said Treasurer and Company and our Successors at the feast of St Michael the archangel for ever And touching all other particular Plantations set out or like to be set out in convenient Multitudes either by divers of the ancient Adventurers Associating themselves together (as the Society of Smiths hundred and Martins hundred) or by some ancient Adventurer or Planter associating others unto him (as the plantation of Captain Samuel Argall and Captain John Martin and that by the late Lord La warre advanced) or by some new Adventurers joining themselves under one head (as the plantation of Christopher Lawne Gentleman and others now in

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providing) Our Intent being according to the Rules of Justice and good government to alot unto every one his due yet so as neither to breed Disturbance to the Right of others nor to interrupt the good form of Government intended for the benefit of the people and strength of the Colony We do therefore will and ordain that of the said particular plantations none be placed within five Miles of the said former Cities and Boroughs And that if any man out of his own presumption or pleasure without special direction from us hath heretofore done otherwise a convenient time be Assigned him and then by our Discretions to remove to Some farther place by themselves to be chosen with the Allowance and Assent of the Governor for the time being and the Council of Estate And that the Inhabitants of the said City or Burrough too near unto which he or they were placed make him and them a valuable recompense for their Charges and expence of time in freeing of Grounds and building within those precincts In like sort we ordain that no latter particular plantation shall at any time hereafter be seated within ten Miles of a former We also will and ordain that no particular plantation be or shall be placed straglingly in divers places to the weakening of them but be united together in one seat and territory that so also they may be incorporated by us into one body corporate and live under Equal and like Law and orders with the rest of the Colony We will and ordain also for the preventing of all fraud in abusing of our grants contrary to the intent and just meaning of them That all such person or persons as have procured or hereafter shall procure grants from us in general Words unto themselves and their Associates or to like Effect shall within one year after the date hereof deliver up to us in writing under their hands and seals as also unto you the said Governor and Councel what be or were the names of those their first Associates And if they be of the Adventurers of us the Company which have paid into our treasury money for their shares that then they express in that their writing for how many shares they join in the said particular Plantation to the End a Due proportion of Land may be set out unto them and we the said Treasurer and Company be not defrauded of Our due And if they be not of the Adventurers of the Company which have paid into our treasury money for their shares yet are gone to inhabit there and so continue for three years there be allotted and set out fifty Acres of Land for every such person paying a free rent of twelve pence the year in

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manner aforesaid and All such persons having been planted there since the coming away of Sr Thomas Dale And forasmuch as we understand that certain persons having procured such Grants in general Words to themselves and their Associates or to like Effect have corruptly of late endeavoured for gain and Worse respects to draw many of the ancient Planters of the said four Cities or Burroughs to take grants also of them and thereby to become associated unto them with intent also by Such means to overstrengthen their party And thereupon have adventured on divers Enormous Courses tending to the great hurt and hindrance of the Colony Yea and have also made Grants of like Association to Masters of Ships and Mariners never intending there to inhabit, thereby to defraud his Majesty of the Customs due unto him We to remedy and prevent such unlawful and greedy Courses tending also directly to faction and sedition Do hereby ordain that it shall not be lawful for the Grantees of such Grants to associate to any other unto them then such as were their Associates from the first time of the said grants without express licence of us the sd Treasurer and Company in a great General and Quarter Court under our seal obtained And that all such after or under Grants of Association made or to be made by the said Grantees shall be to all intents and purposes utterly void And for as much as we understand that divers particular persons (not members of our Company) with their Companies have provided or are in providing to remove into Virginia with intent (as appeareth) by way of Association to shroud themselves under the General Grants last aforesaid which may tend to the Great disorder of our Colony and hinderance of the good Government which we desire to Establish We do therefore hereby ordain that all such persons as of their own Voluntary Will and authority shall remove into Virginia without any Grant from us in a great general and Quarter Court in writing under our seal shall be deemed (as they are) to be occupiers of our Land that is to say of the Common Lands of us the said Treasurer and Company And shall yearly pay unto us for the said occupying of our Land one full fourth part of the profits thereof till such time as the same shall be granted unto them by us in manner aforesaid And touching all such as being Members of our Company and Adventurers by their monies paid into our Treasury shall either in their own person or by their agents Tennants or Servants set up in Virginia any such particular Planation tho with the privity of us the

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said Treasurer and Company yet without any grant in Writing made in our said General Quarter Courts as is requisite We will and ordain that the said Adventurers or Planters shall within two year after the arrival of them or their Company in Virginia procure our grant in writing to be made, in Our General Quarter Court and under our seal, of the Lands by them possessed or occupied or from thenceforth shall be deemed only Occupiers of the Common Land As is aforesaid till such times as our said grant shall be obtained We also not more intending the reformation of the Errors of the said [blank space] than for advancing of them into good Courses and therein to assist them by all good means We further hereby ordain that to all such of the said particular [blank space] as shall truly fully observe the orders Afore and hereafter specified there be alotted and set out over and above Our former Grants One hundred Acres of glebe land for the Minister of every [blank space] and fifteen hundred Acres of Burough Land for the public use of the said Plantation Not intending yet hereby either to abridge or enlarge such grant of glebe or common Land as shall be made in any of our grants in writing to any of the said particular plantations We also will and ordain that the like proportion of maintenance out of the [blank space] and profits of the Earth be made for the several Ministers of the said particular Plantations as have been before set down for the Ministers of the said former Cities and burroughs We will and ordain that the Governor for the time being and the said Council of Estate do justly perform or cause to be performed all such grants Covenants and Articles as have or shall be in writing in Our great and general Quarter Courts to any of he said particular Plantations Declaring all other grants of Lands in Virginia not made in one of our great and general Quarter Courts by force of his Majesties Letters patents to be void And to the End aforesaid we will and ordain that all our grants in writing under our seal made in our great and general Quarter Courts be Entered into your records to be kept there in Virginia Yet directly forbidding that a Charter of Land granted to Captain Samuel Argal and his Associates bearing date the twentieth of March 1616 be entered in your Records or otherwise at all respected forasmuch as the same was obtained by slight and cunning And afterwards upon suffering him to go Governor of Virginia was by his own voluntary act left in our Custody to be cancelled upon Grant of a new

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Charter which [blank space] We do also hereby declare that heretofore in one of our said general and Quarter Courts we have ordained and enacted and in this present Court have ratified and Confirmed these orders and laws following. That all Grants of Lands privileges and liberties in Virginia hereafter to be made be passed by Indenture A Counterpart whereof to be sealed by the Grantees and to be kept [blank space] the Companies [blank space] Evidences And that the Secretary of the Company have the Engrossing of all such Indentures That no patents or Indentures of Grants of Land in Virginia be made and sealed but in a full General and Quarter Court the same having been first thoroughly perused and Approved under the hands of A Select Committee for that purpose [blank space] That all Grants of [blank space] in Virginia to such Adventurers as have heretofore brought in their money here to the treasury for their several shares being of twelve pounds ten shillings the share be of one hundred Acres the share upon the first division and of as many more upon A Second Division when the land of the first division shall be Sufficiently peopled And for Every person which they shall transport thither within seven years after Midsummer Day One thousand six hundred and Eighteen if he continue there three years or dye in the mean time after he is Shiped it be of fifty Acres the person upon the first Division and fifty more upon a second Division the land of the first being Sufficiently peopled without paying any rent to the Company for the one of the Other And that in all such Grants the names of the said Adventurers and the several Number of Each of their Shares be Expressed Provided alwaies and it is ordained that if the said Adventurers or any of them do not truly and Effectually within One Year next after the Sealing of the aid Grant pay and discharge all such Sums of money wherein by subscription (or otherwise upon notice thereof given from the Auditors) they stand indebted to the Company or if the said Adventurers or any of them having not lawful Right either by purchase from the Company or by Assignment from some other former Adventurers within one year after the said Grant or by Special Gift of the Company upon merit preceding in A full Quarter Court to so many shares as he or they pretend Do not within one year after the said Grant satisfie and pay to the said Treasurer and Company for every share so wanting after the rate of twelve pounds ten shillings the share That then the said Grant for so much as

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concerneth the [blank space] part and all the shares of the said person so behind and not satisfying as aforesaid shall be utterly void Provided also and it is ordained that the Grantees shall from time to time during the said seven years make a true Certificate to the said Treasurer Councel and Company from the Chief Officer or Officers of the places respectively of the Number names ages sex trades and conditions of every such person so transported or shiped to be entered by the Secretary into a Register book for that purpose to be made That for all persons not comprised in the order next before which during the next seven years after Midsummer day 1618 shall go into Virginia with intent there to Inhabite If they continue there three years or dye after they are shiped there shall be a grant made of fifty acres for every person upon A first division and as many more upon a second division (the first being peopled) which grants to be made respectively to such persons and their heirs at whose charges the said persons going to Inhabite in Virginia shall be transported with reservation of twelve pence yearly Rent for every fifty acres to be answered to the said treasurer and Company and their Successors for ever after the first seven years of every such Grant In which Grants a provisoe to be inserted that the Grantees shall from time to time during the said Seven years make A true Certificate to the said Treasurer Councel and Company from the Chief Officer or Officers of places Respectively of the Number names ages sex trades and Conditions of every such person so transported or shiped to be entred by the Secretary into a Register book for that purpose to be made that all Grants as well of one sort as the other respectively be made with equal favours and grants of like Liberties and immunities as near as may be to the End that all Complaint of partiality [or] differencie may be prevented All which said orders we hereby will and ordain to be firmly and unviolably kept and observed And that the Inhabitants of Virginia have notice of them for their use and benefit Lastly we do hereby require and Authorize you the said Captain George Yeardley and the said Council of Etats Associating with you such other as you shall there find meet to Survey or cause to be Survey'd all the Lands and territories in Virginia above mentioned and the same to set out by bounds and metes especially so as that the territories of the said Several Cities and Buroughs and other particular plantations may be conveniently divided

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and known the one from the other Each survey to be set down distinctly in writing and returned to us under your hands and seals In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our Common Seal Given in a great and general Court of the Council and Company of Adventurers of Virginia held the Eighteenth Day of November 1618 And in the years of the Reign of Our Soverain Lord James by the grace of God King of England Scotland France and Ireland Defender of the Faith &c Vizt of England France and Ireland the Sixteenth and of Scotland the two and fiftieth.

Novr 18. 1618