Primary Resource

"The order about Jayle birds" (1670)

On April 20, 1670, Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley and the governor's Council issued the following order, glossed in the record as "The order about Jayle birds," prohibiting the importation of certain English convicts as servants. The concern in part stems from the Gloucester County Conspiracy of 1663, in which a group of servants that included convicts allegedly plotted an insurrection. Some spelling has been updated and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

— page 209 —

The Complaints of severall of the Councell … Inhabitants in the Countyes of Yorke Gloster and middlesex … apprehensions and fears least the honor of his majestie and the … of the Collony be too much hazarded and Endangered by the great number of fellons & other desperate … sent hither from the severall prisons in England being this Day read in Counsell, we have upon most serious and carefull consideracon of the same thought fitt to order and doe hereby accordingly order that for the prevention and avoiding danger which apparently threatens us from the barbarous designes and felonious practices of such wicked villaines that it shall not be permitted to any person tradeing hither to bring in and land any Jaile bird or such others who for notorious offenses have deserved to dye in England from and after the twentieth Day of January next upon paine of being forced to keepe them on board and carry them to some other Country where they may be better Secured, And we have been the more induced to make this order by the horror yet remaining amongst us of the barbaourous designe of such villaines in September 1663 who attempted at once the Subversion of our religion laws

— page 210 —

libertyes rights and proprietyes the sad effect of which desperate Conspiracy we had undoubtedly felt to the ruine or at least the very great hazard of the peace and welfare of this Collony and neighbor plantations had not god of his infinite mercy prevented it by a tymely and wonderfull discovery of the same, nor hath it been a small motive to us to hinder and prohibite the Importation of such dangerous and Scandalous people Since thereby we apparantly loose our reputacon whilest we are believed to be a place only fitt to receive such base and lewd persons, It is therefore resolved that this order Shall remaine in force untill his majestie shall Signify his pleasure to the contrary or that it be reversed by an order from his most Honorable privy Counsell and that it be forthwith published that all persons concerned therein may take notice of it accordingly: