1629 Virginia Assembly Decides How to Fight Indians and Levy Taxes

Dateline: Virginia, 16 October 1629: After the English were massacred in 1622, the General Assembly (in this specific meeting) decides not to hold back against the Natives. Plus, how does one pay for the daily business of governing? Is church attendance required? These Anglicans decide.

The Grand Assembly means that the Governor and Council were present with the Burgesses. It’s a plenary session.

Restricting tobacco planting is a way to keep prices high. The more supply, the lower the price. Could the planters stick to the order? Is this command economy the right way to go?

A Hundred is a smaller unit of land division—a small district.

This is a modern transcription of the original printed edition, except the section titles in bold font (those are mine). Without them, it is one continuous document.

Modern transcription begins:

The Oaths First

The oaths of Supremacy and allegiances were administered to the Governor and Council and afterwards to all the Burgesses.

New Territory Opened Up

After debate of many matters, it was thought a business of great benefit and good consequence to send and maintain a company of men to plant at Kiskyack, the charges of building to be borne equally by all that should the adventurers and to be there seated by the 15th of November, next.

Whereupon voluntarily the Governor offered to find 3 men.

Shares of Land

Capt. Mathews 4

Mr. Farrar 1

Mr. Thorowgood 4

Mr. English 2

Mr. Flint 4

Mr. Rowlston 2

Capt. Basse 1

Mr. Harwood 1

Mr. Bennett [blank]

Goodman Tree 1

Thos. Seely 1

Capt. Peirce 2

It is ordered they should have shares of land to them and their heirs.

Marches against the Indians

It is ordered that every commander of the several plantations appointed by commission from the governor shall have power and authority to levy a party of men out of the inhabitants of that place, so many as may well be spared without too much weakening of the plantations and to employ those men against the Indians, when they shall assault us near unto our habitations, or when they in their discretion shall deem it convenient to clear the woods and the parts near adjoining when the Indians shall be a-hunting or when they have any certain knowledge of the Indians’ abode in those places. And if there shall be cause that the commander in person cannot attend these services, then in such cases and in his absence he is to appoint his deputy.

It was the opinion of the whole body of the assembly that we should go three several marches upon the Indians, at three several times of the year, viz. first in November, secondly in March, thirdly in July.

To effect this, the colony and inhabitants are to be divided into four division.

The plantations of the upper parts as far downwards as Weanoacke Marsh, and Flower Dew Hundred Creek on both sides the river to clear those parts and territories and to do all manner of spoil and offence to the Indians that may be possibly effected.

The second division to extend from Flower Dew Hundred Creek and Weanoacke Marsh, as far downwards as the Creek below Hogg Island and to include the whole corporation of James City [Jamestowne] and Martin’s Hundred and the plantations of Mulberry Island under the command of CAPT. SMHYTH.

The third division to be the plantation of Warsquoyacke and those inhabitants to clear the grounds and lands between Hogg Island Creek and Nansemond River.

There remain for a fourth division Elizabeth City, Warwick river, Nutmeg Quarter, Accomack, the plantation at Kiskyacke and the places adjoining;

To go twice upon the Indians in Pamunky River, viz. once before the frost of Christmas and the other in June, July or August, as also upon those lands between Nansmond River and the River of Chesapeake.

And it is concluded that the plantations of Accomack shall assist them against the Pamunky Indians in the summertime with every fifth man out of the inhabitants.

Restricting Tobacco Planting

It was put to the question whether all newcomers shall be restrained from planting tobacco the first year and they to be exempted from all such taxes and marches for that year. The major part [of the Grand Assembly] would have no restraint made to newcomers.

It was put to the question whether for this year there should be an ordinance made and established for stinting of the planting of tobacco. To this the opinion of the most voices was that no persons working the ground, which are all to be tithable, should plant above 3000 plants upon the head.

An exception is made where family consists of children and women which do not work the ground and they to plant not above 1000 plants per poll. In case any family shall be aggrieved by this order consisting of some number of women and children, it is though fit that in special cases the Governor and Council to order them a further portion.

Reimbursing Leading Colonists

These charges following were allowed by the General Assembly, viz.

Imprimis. To MR MARSHART for 16 carriages for ordinance, there is allowed for his account of £208.04s.02d four thousand five hundred weight of tobacco, so that the remainder that was not paid unto him last year shall be fully paid and delivered unto him this year or his assigns, lbs 4500

Item. Six barrels of powder, bought of CAPT. CRAMPTON and yet unspent, 0900;

Item. One hundred of wine, spent in the march 0255;

Item. One anchor lost in the march out of Lt. THOMPSON’S boat 0050;

[Item.] For shot which SIR GEORGE YEARDLEY bought of Mr. MAYHOW [sic] and provision to set out his ship, 0050;

[Item.] For 300 of fish bought of MR MENIFEE 0090;

[Item] For one barrel of peas spent in the ship, 0050;

[Item.] To MR CLAYBOURNE for shot spent in the marches in SIR GEORGE;s [YEARDLEY’S] time and this year 1629, 0500;

[Item.] For one hundred of shot more bought of MR BARRINGTON and 1-2 of biscuit for Chickahominy, 0047;

[Item.] FOR CAPT. POOLE’S entertainment [support] this year, 1200;

[The lines following the above are so obliterated as not to be legible till we come to the words “his leg which he received in the country’s service”; from which we may infer that the above item is on account of a wound received by CAPT. POOLE]

Three Resident Indians

It is also ordered that the three Indians here residing shall be maintained by the general charge of the whole colony.

Tobacco Levies

To defray all the charges above said, the whole Assembly concluded that there should be five pounds of tobacco per poll levied throughout the colony.

It is further concluded and ordered that every master of a family and every freeman that is to pay five pounds of tobacco per poll as aforesaid for the defraying of public charges shall bring the same unto the House of Burgesses of the plantations within two days after notice thereof given unto them.

And if any shall fail to bring in the same, it is thought fit that by virtue of this order the said Burgesses shall have power to levy the same by distress upon the goods of the delinquents and to make sale of the said goods and to detain such tobacco which shall be due by this order and for their fees in making this distress, restoring to the owner of said goods the residue and remainder. And if the burgesses shall make neglect herein, they shall be fined by the governor and Council.

The Burgesses do undertake to provide cask to put up the same, and if any damage shall befall unto the tobacco, it shall not light upon the Burgesses, unless they shall be faulty therein.

All the Burgesses are with all convenient speed to send to the Governor a list of the tithable persons within their plantations that thereby the Governor may appoint those that are the creditors for this tobacco to receive it and that he takes order to have an account kept of the same.


At this time the matter of fortification was taken into consideration and there was long debate had concerning the place the fort should be erected, especially Point Comfort was spoken of and was thought the most convenient place; but the great and many difficulties therein and the want [lack] of means and materials for effecting thereof do almost make it impossible for our weak abilities to bring to perfection;

Therefore [the lines of the original are not legible] both the assistance of their persons and estates to accomplish so good a work as to raise fortifications which shall be both a safety and reputation unto this colony.

Required Church Attendance

It is ordered that there be an especial care taken by all commanders and others that the people do repair [go] to their churches on the Sabbath day and to see that the penalty of one pound of tobacco for every time of absence and 50 pounds for every month’s absence set down in the act of the General Assembly 1623, be levied and the delinquents to pay the same;

As also to see that the Sabbath day not ordinarily profaned by working in any employments or by journeying from place to place.

It is thought fit that all those that work in the ground of what quality or condition [class hierarchy] shall pay tithes to the ministers.

Transcription ends.

The fort at Point Comfort was built, and the Grand Assembly in March 1631/32 supported it by giving the land adjoining it to the fort commanders.

It is widely believed that the Virginia adventurers were greedy, swashbuckling profiteers who didn’t care about religion (as distinct from the pilgrims and puritans in New England), and maybe many individuals were careless about it. However, the required church attendance mentioned here, though not in accord with our religious freedom today, proves the colonial leadership cared about the Christian faith.


Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/59, ed. H. R. McIlwaine (Richmond: 1915).

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