The State of Virginia in 1721
[On September the 8th 1721, the Lord
Commissioners for Trade and Plantations in London sent a Representation
to the King (George I) upon the State of His Majesty’s Colonies &
Plantations on the Continent of North America. Herewith are given the
introductory paragraphs and the sections pertaining to Virginia.]
To The King’s Most Excellent Majesty
May it please your Majesty.
In obedience to your Majesty’s
commands, we have prepared the following state of your Majesty’s
Plantations on the Continent of America; wherein we have distinguished
their respective situations, Governments, strengths and Trade, and have
observed of what importance their commerce is to Great Britain,
whereunto having added an account of the french settlements, and of the
encroachments they have made in your Majesty’s colonies in those parts,
we have humbly proposed such methods, as may best prevent the increase
of an evil, which, if not timely prevented, may prove destructive to
your Majesty’s interest; and have likewise offered such considerations,
as, in our opinion, may contribute to the improving and enlarging your
Majesty’s dominions in America.
Your Majesty’s plantations on the
Continent of America, being from the North, are Nova Scotia, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New
Jersey, Pensylvania, Maryland, Virginia, & Carolina.
And although Newfoundland, and
Hudson’s Bay are both of them parts of your Majesty’s Territories in
North America, yet neither of them being a Colony under civil
Government, or lying contiguous to your Majesty’s other Plantations on
the continent, we have made no mention of them in this representation.
The Government of this Colony was at
first under the direction of a Company; but they being dissolved upon
their mal-administration, in the year 1626, His Majesty King Charles
the first took the Government into his own hands, & settled such
laws & constitutions in that province, as were agreeable to those
in this Kingdom.
Accordingly the nomination &
appointment of the Governors, as well as the Council (which consists of
twelve persons) is in your Majesty, & the General Assembly
(consisting of fifty two Burgesses) has been always chosen by the
The strength & security of this
Colony, in a great measure, depend upon their Militia, their
plantations being usually at too great a distance from one another to
be covered by forts or towns.
James Town and Williamsburg are the
only Towns in the whole Country; & there is no Fort of any
consequence for the security of their great navigation & trade, but
at James Town.
However for their protection against
the Indians, who inhabit among them, & that live to the Westward
they have erected Christianna, & some other Forts, & the
Council & Assembly have lately proposed to your Majesty a scheme
for securing the passes over the great ridge of Mountains which on the
back of this Province, dividing them from the french & Indian
Nations in the french interest, whereupon we have sometime since
reported our humble opinion to your Majesty, & beg leave upon this
occasion to repeat, that we conceive their proposal to be deserving of
all reasonable encouragement.
Their militia in the year 1690,
consisted of 6,570 horse & foot. In the year 1703, there were
mustered 1403 Officers, 2161 Horse, 1794 Dragoons, and 5198 Foot for a
total of 10,556. And in the year 1715, they were increased to about
14,000 in all:
from whence we compute, supposing the
Militia to be a sixth part of the whole, that the total number of the
inhabitants (exclusive of negroes) amounts to about 84,000 souls.
The province is divided into 25
Counties, & the proprietors of all the lands that have been taken
up in 20 of the said Counties, pay an annual quit-rent to your Majesty,
of two shillings in money, or 24 pounds weight of tobacco for every
But the propriety of the northern neck
(containing the other five Counties) was granted by King Charles the
Second, & King James the Second, to the late Thomas Lord
Colepepper, upon a quit rent of £6.13s.4d per Annum.
The Lands in the aforesaid twenty
Counties, on which the said Quit rent to your Majesty is paid,
contained, in 1704, 2,238,143 acres and in 1714, 2,619,773
However the produce of this revenue is
very much governed by the price of tobacco in the country: for example:
On a medium of ten years, ending in 1713, (during which time the
tobacco was low) the proceed amounted to £1411.7s.7d per Annum.
And in the medium of the four following years (when the price of
Tobacco was high) £2270.11s.8d per Annum.
There is another revenue in this
province, that is settled and appropriated by the Assembly for the
constant support and charge of your Majesty’s government. This consists
of several Duties, viz., On
every hogshead of Tobacco exported 2s.0d; On every ton of Shipping
1s.3d; and On every Poll imported 6d. Besides the rights of taking up
lands, and fines & forfeitures.
On a medium of six years, ending the
25th of October 1710, the whole produce, clear of all charges
£2,845.15s.11p per Annum. And upon the same medium, the
established Salaries & etc. amounted to (per Annum)
£2821.12s.3d; The ordinary Charges of £176.12s.5d; And the
Contingent Expenses of £97.3s.2d. The total Annual Charge, as
aforesaid, is £3,095.7s.10d which exceeds the amount of the
revenue by £249.11s.11d.
And this excess hath been generally
allowed by your Majesty, as well as by your Royal Predecessors, out of
the produce of the quit-rents.
But besides the said standing and
certain charges, for which provisions made, as aforesaid, this province
has been always obliged, for maintaining their guards & garrisons
on the Indian frontiers, for erecting several publick magazines, &
buildings & discharging other necessary expense, to levy certain
quantities of tobacco, at so many pounds of tobacco per head, or every
tythable, which comprehends all persons exceeding sixteen years of age,
except white women.
The number of the said tythables,
according to their respective lists: In 1698 amounted to 20,523; In
1705 to 27,053; In 1714 to 31,540.
The principal product of Virginia is
tobacco; & in general it’s of a better quality than that of
Maryland. Before the conclusion of the last peace with france, the
Virginia planters exported to this Kingdom at least 30,000 hogshead per
Annum; but about that time, the trade declining, for want of foreign
consumption, an Act was in the 12th year of Her late Majesty’s reign
for encouraging the tobacco trade, & your Majesty hath been since
graciously pleased to give your Royal Assent to an Act for continuing
But as this commodity is of such
consequence to the trade of Great Britain, not only with respect to our
home consumption, but likewise to our foreign exportations, all further
occasions should be laid hold of, for giving some ease &
encouragement to the same, by a further reduction of the duty, so soon
as it may be done, consistent with the present appropriations thereof.
The other branches of the trade
between this kingdom & Virginia consist in pitch & tar, pipe
& hogshead staves, skins & furs, & a few drugs. They also
export to the other Plantations some small quantities of tobacco,
provisions, & lumber, but their dependence is almost wholly on the
produce of tobacco.
[The text was taken, with slight
rearrangements, from J.R. Brodhead, Documents
Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York,
edited by E.B. O’Callaghan, v.V, p.591, Albany, 1855. Essentially the
same material was printed in Beyond
Germanna, v. 8, n.2, p. 436.]