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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Evolution of the Virginia Colony, 1610-1630
For the Colony of Virginea Britannia: Lawes Devine, Morall, and Martiall, 1612

One of the lessons the Virginia Company learned during the first five or six years of colonization in Virginia was that clear lines of authority had to be established. To avoid disputes within the colony, the Company chose to concentrate authority and powers in the governor. Sir Thomas Gates governed from 1611-1613 and Sir Thomas Dale governed from 1614-1616. Gates drafted a code of laws "Devine, Morall, and Martiall" to help manage the colony. Both Gates and Dale took full advantage of these laws. Based on the excerpts from these laws below, would you consider these laws harsh? From what you know of the development of Virginia to this time, would you consider them necessary? Do you think these laws would attract or repel potential colonists?

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2  That no man speake impiously or maliciously, against the holy and blessed Trinitie, or any of the three persons, that is to syay, against God the Father, God the Son, and God the holy Ghost, or against the knowne Articles of the Christian faith, ypon paine of death.

3  That no man blaspheme Gods holy name upon paine of death, or use vnlawful oathes, taking the name of God in vaine, curse, or banne, vpon paine of seuere punishment for the first offence so committed, and for the second, to haue a bodkin thrust through his tongue, and if he continue the blashemeing of Gods holy name, for the third time so offending, he shall be brought to a martiall court, and there receiue censure of death for his offense.

4  No man shall vse any traiterous words against his Maiesties Person, or royall authority vpon paine of death.

5  . . . Nor shall any man vnworthily demeane himselfe vnto any Preacher, or Minister of the same, but generally hold them in all reuerent regard, and dutiful intreatie, otherwise be the offender shall openly be whipt three times, and ask publike forgiueness in the assembly of the congregation three seueral Saboth daies.

6  Euerie man and woman duly twice a day vpon the first towling of the Bell shall vpon working daies repair vnto the Church, to hear deuine Service vpon pain of losing his or her dayes allowance for the first omission, for the second to be whipt, and for the third to be condemned to the Dallies for six Moneths. . . .

8  He that vpon pretended malice, shall murther or take away the life of any man, shall bee punished with death.

9  . . . & he or she that can be lawfully conuict of Adultery shall be punished with death. No man shall rauish or force any woman, maid or Indian, or other, vpon paid of death, and know ye that he or shee, that shall commit fornication, and euident proofe made thereof, for their first fault shall be whipt, for their second they shall be whipt, and for their third they shall be whipt three times a weeke for one mopnth, and aske publique forgiuenesse in the Assembly of the Congregation. . . .

11  Hee that shall take an oath vntruly, or beare false witnesse in any cause, or against any man whatsoeuer, shall be punished with death.

12  No manner of person whatsoeuer, shall dare to detract, slaunder, calumniate, or vtter veseemely, and vnfitting speeches, either against his Maiesties Honourable Councell for this Colony, resident in England, or against the Committies, Assistants vnto the said Councell, or against the zealous indeauors, & intentions of the whole body of Aduenturers for this pious and Christian Plantation, or against any publique booke, or bookes, which . . . shall be thought fit, to be set foorth and publisht, for the avuancement of the good of this Colony, and the felicity thereof, vpon paine for the first time so offending, to bee whipt three seuerall times, and vpon his knees to acknowledge his offence and to aske forgiuenesse vpon the Saboth day in the assembly of the congregation, and for the second time so offending to be condemned to the Galley for three yeares, and for the third time so offending to be punished with death.

13  No manner of Person whatsoeuer . . . shall detract, slaunder, calumniate, murmur, mutenie, resist, disobey, or neglect the commaundments, either of the Lord Gouernour, and Captaine Generall, the Gieutenant Generall, the Martiall, the Councell, or any authorised Captaine, Commaunder or publike Officer, vpon paine for the first time so offending to be whipt three seuerall times, and vpoin his knees to acknowledge his offence, with asking forgiuenesse vpoin the Saboth day in the assembly of the congregation, and for the second time so offending to be condemned to the Gally for three yeares: and for the thired time so offending to be punished with death. . . .

15  No man of what condition soeuer shall barter, trucke, or trade with the Indians, except he be thereunto appointed by lawful authority, vpon paine of death.

16  No man shall rifle or dispoile, by force or violence, take away any thing from any Indian comming to trade, or otherwise, vpon paine of death. . . .

21  . . . Now know yee therefore, these promises carefully considered, that it is our will and pleasure, that euery one, of what quality or condition soeuer hee bee, in this present Colony, to take due notice of this our Edict, whereby wee do strictly charge and command, that no man shall dare to kill, or destroy any Bull, Cow, Calfe, Mare, Horse, Colt, Goate, Swine, Cocke, Henne, Chicken, Dogge, Turkie, or any tame Cattel, or Poultry, of what condition soeuer; whether his owne, or appertaining to another man, without leaue from the Generall, upon paine of death in the Principall, and in the accessary, burning in the Hand, and losse of his eares, and unto the concealer of the same foure and twnety hourse whipping, with addition of further punishment, as shall be thought fitte by the censure, and verdice of a Martiall Court.

22  There shall no man or woman, Launderer or Launderesse, dare to wash any vncleane Linnen, driue bucks, or throw out the water or suds of fowle cloathes, in the open streete, within the Pallizadoes, or within forty foote of the same, nor rench, and make cleane, any kettle, pot, or pan, or such like vessell within twenty foote of the olde well, or new Pumpe: nor shall any one aforesaid, within lesse then a quarter of one mile from the Pallizadoes, dare to doe the necessities of nature, since by these vnmanly, slothfull, and loathsome immodesties, the whole Fort may bee choaked, and poinsoned with ill aires, and so corrept (as in all reason cannot but much infect the same) and this shall they take notice of, as shall be thought meete, by the censure of a martiall Court.


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