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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Life in Colonial Virginia- Law and Order

The House of Burgesses

From 1619 until 1643, Henrico County had 2 representatives in the House of Burgesses which met with the royal governor and the governor's council, which was appointed by the King. After 1643 the burgesses met in the General Assembly. Most burgesses were members of the gentry.

The Womack's neighbor, William Hatcher, was elected most years from 1644-1652 and again in 1659. He was known for having a temper, and his ancestors had fought against the crown with Cromwell. He was often in trouble for his fiery words, calling the speaker of the house an atheist and blasphemer, and saying "the mouth of this house is a Devil!" and was made to kneel and apologize, paying fees for his indiscretion.

He was in trouble again during Bacon's Rebellion, for "uttering divers mutinous words" but as he was at that point an "aged man" Governor Berkeley fined him 8,000 pounds of dressed pork or 8,000 pounds of tobacco, rather than a harsher punishment.

Henrico County elected Nathaniel Bacon to the House of Burgesses despite his disagreements with his uncle, Governor Berkeley. The assembly voted to create a 1,000 man army with Bacon as the commander. After Bacon's Rebellion, the King sent a number of new governors to Virginia, with the intent of limiting the power of the elected burgesses, including eliminating annual sessions and enforcing many vetoes from the governor or the King. During this time the governor  and his council (appointed by the King) wielded greater power than the elected burgesses.

1631/2- Capt. Tho. Osborne, Francis Epes, Walter Aston
1639-Capt. Tho. Harris, Christopher Branch, Edward Turnstall
1641- Mr. John Baugh, Mr. Francis Fulford
1642/3- Capt. Matthew Gough, Arthur Bayly, Daniel Luellin
1644- Dan. Llewellin, Richard Cocke, Abra. Wood, William Hatcher
1644/5- John Baugh, Abra. Wood
1645- Abra. Wood, William Hatcher
1646- Capt. Abra. Wood, William Cocke
1647- Capt. Tho. Harris
1649- William Hatcher
1652 April- William Hatcher
1652 Nov- Capt Wm. Harris (note for Charles City- Capt. Dan Llewellin, Maj. Abra. Wood)
1653- Capt. Wm. Harris
1654- Richard Cocke
1655/6- Thomas Lyggon, Maj. Wm. Harris
1657- 1659 Maj. Wm. Harris
1659/60- Theorick Bland, speaker Wm. Farrar (Theodoric Bland also representing Charles City)
1663, 1666- Capt. Wm. Farrar
1676- Nathaniel Bacon Jr.
1677- Wm. Byrd, Thomas Cocke
1679- Wm. Byrd, Abel Gower
1680, 1682- Wm. Byrd, John Farrar
1684- Wm. Randolph, John Farrar
1685- Capt. Wm. Randolph, Richard Kennon
1688- Wm. Randolph, Peter Field
1691, 1692- Wm. Randolph, Francis Eppes
1692/3 John Pleasants (quaker- declined to take oath- Capt Wm Randolph elected in his stead, Capt Peter Field
1693- Wm. Randolph, Francis Epes
1695- Wm. Randolph, Wm. Soane
1696- Wm Byrd (out of country) Wm. Randolph, James Cocke
1698- Wm. Randolph, speaker, Tho. Cocke
1699- Wm. Randolph (served 3 days- Tho. Cocke in his stead) James Cocke
1700- Tho. Cocke, Wm. Randolph
1701-2- Wm. Farrar, Tho. Cocke
1704- Wm. Randolph, Francis Epes
1705-1706 Wm. Randolph
1710- Wm. Randolph, John Bolling
1714- John Bolling, Francis Epes, Jr.
1718- Wm. Randolph, John Bolling
1720-22- Wm. Randolph, Thos. Randolph
1723-1726- Wm. Randolph, John Bolling
1742-1748 Richard Randolph and John Bolling
1749- Peter Randolph and John Bolling
1750's- Wm. Randolph, Bowler Cocke

The burgesses continued to try to exert influence, mostly representing the interests of the wealthy planters and tobacco trade. In 1713, the governor, supported by the assembly, made a law requiring a public tobacco warehouse in each county, where all tobacco would be graded in order to ensure high quality exports and good prices to planters. Certain burgesses were paid to be official inspectors. Smaller planters feared that some burgesses were focusing on their own interests rather than that of the common man, and many existing burgesses were replaced. The new members tried to replace the law, and two years later succeeded in a royal veto of the law. In 1730, when another tobacco inspection law was proposed, the assembly required that no burgesses could be paid to be inspectors.

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