London

Locke’s 1698 Virginia Plan

As a leading member of the Board of Trade after the Glorious Revolution in 1688, John Locke investigated and wrote a lengthy plan to reform Virginia laws and policies, including polices of governance and that related to slavery.

Introduction

After the Glorious Revolution and the publication of his Two Treatises of Government as well as his other major treatises, especially his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), which justified those revolutions, Locke became very well known. Even though he refused, even on his deathbed, to publicly acknowledge authorship, it was widely acknowledged by many that he was the author.

As a consequence, when William III turned to reforming colonial governance in 1696, he appointed John Locke to a newly reorganized “Board of Trade” which was supposed to review all colonial laws and suggest reforms. William III also appointed Locke because of strong pressure from the radical “Whig Junto” that then controlled Parliament, led by Sir John Somers. They threatened to wrest control of the colonies away from King William if he did not make efforts to reform them.

Virginia was of great interest to Locke and the board, partly because it was the first colony, but also because it was one of the largest and most profitable colony for the crown (given that tobacco tax revenues collected in England were very high, even compared to sugar). Locke, along with other reforming members of the board, led a two-year investigation into Virginia on a wide range of topics, which involved a great deal of correspondence as well as close questioning of Virginians in London.

At the end of that time, Locke composed this Virginia Plan, which provided the basis for new royal instructions for a new Governor of Virginia, Francis Nicholson, in 1699.  Locke was very critical of the former Governor of Virginia, Edmund Andros.  Andros had been a favorite of James II’s, and Governor of the Dominion of New England from 1685-1689 before King William and Queen Mary transferred him to Virginia in 1693.

The following Virginia Plan was found rolled up in Locke’s desk when the Bodleian library acquired his papers after WWII, but scholars did not at first realize that Locke wrote it. It is a fascinating example of how the abstract debates about power translated into practical changes after the Glorious Revolution. In particular, pay attention to Locke’s observations and remedies related to the headright system, and consider how that perverted the distribution of power and contributed to the organization of governance and society.  Even with a new Governor in place, it was difficult to change everything in Virginia from above: Locke in particular did not wish to overrule the legislature. Why?

The plan grew out of deep investigation into corruption in Virginia, and included recommendations that Locke would proceed to try to implement as instructions to the new Royal Governor Nicholson, in 1699.  This document is particularly interesting because it represents a concrete set of proposals by which Locke tried to enact some of the principles of his Two Treatises.

One of the recommendations, to get rid of the bounty to masters for importing servants (including “negro servants”) led to a Virginia court decision by which Nicholson reversed the policy of granting a reward of 50 acres of land to masters who bought slaves, a reward that had originated in repeated monarchical proclamations, dating most recently to one by Charles II in 1682.  It thus in some respects challenged slavery. The plan also sought reforms to limit the power of appointed officials in Virginia, to increase the power of elected assemblies, and to limit corrupt justice (among many other things). After William III died in a hunting accident in 1702, many of these changes were reversed under Queen Anne.

Holly Brewer
Rachael Edmonston
Lauren Michalak

Further Reading
  • Holly Brewer; Slavery, Sovereignty, and “Inheritable Blood”: Reconsidering John Locke and the Origins of American Slavery, The American Historical Review, Volume 122, Issue 4, 1 October 2017, Pages 1038–1078, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/122.4.1038
  • Kammen, Michael G. “Virginia at the Close of the Seventeenth Century: An Appraisal by James Blair and John Locke.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 74, no. 2 (1966): 141-69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4247202.
  • Ashcraft, Richard. “Political theory and political reform : John Locke’s Essay on VirginiaWestern political quarterly.  22 (1969):742-758.
Sources

MS Locke e.9, ff. 1-39, Lovelace Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford

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Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire (October 4, 2022) Locke’s 1698 Virginia Plan. Retrieved from https://slaverylawpower.org/lockes-1698-virginia-plan/.
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Page 1

Some of the Cheif
Greivances
of the Present Constitution of
Virginia
with an Essay towards the
Remedies therof

1. Greivance
The country ill peopled
Supposeing the evil consequences hereof are
in great measure apparent. I shall pass them
lightly over. Only in a word for
want of people.
1. The Country cannot defend itself
against an Enemy.
2. So much less Tobacco is made, &
consequently somuch less Shipping em-
ployed; soemuch less English goods rended
& soemuch less Custom paid to the Crown
of Englande.
3. Many other usefull Improvements
for the Kingdom of England are neg-
lected, which if that country were well
peopled; might be made among the
English; & for which a great deal of Money
is now yearly exported out of this Nation

Page 2

such as 1. The Manufacture of
Iron, & all other Mynerals with which
the Country abounds. 2. The manu-
facture of Silks, for which it is very
proper, by reason of the plenty &
good thriving of Mulberry trees,
which is the food for Silk Worms. 3. The
Manufacture of Pot-ash for
Soap for which it is well fitted by rea-
son of the infinite number of trees.
4. The Manufacture of Pitch, Tarr,
masts & all Tymbers for Shipping.
5. The Manufacture of Wheat,
Ryce, Indian Corn, & all sorts of
grain, very usefull for the Supply
of our other English plantations.
6. The manufacture of Syder, Wine,
Oyle: Distilled Spirits, figs, raisons,
conserved fruits, for all which that Country
has great advantages. 7. The manu
factures of Flax, hemp, & Cotton which
grow there very fine. 8. The manu
facture of Salted Sturgeon, & seve-
ral other sorts of Fish, which are in
their Rivers
[great plenty. 9. A great between brackets part cut off in photo]

Page 3

Indian Trade for Skins, & furres,
if it were reduced into Rules under
a Company. 10. A Trade for dyeing
Woods, and Curious Simples. With many
other Improvements which I know not,
nor can readily remember; for the
makeing of which the Country wants
ten times the Number of people they
now have.
The Causes of this want of
people are.
1. The ancient Encouragement
of 50 Acres of Land per poll de-
signed & ordered by the King upon
the first seating of the Country, for all
that should come and settle there, has
been strangly perverted, & frustrated.
1. by granting the 50 Acres of every
Servant to his Master that buys him.
2. by granting 50 Acres to every
Seaman, & that for every time he ad-
ventures himself into the Country, tho’
he Never stays, nor settles there.
3. By yet a greater and constant abuse
at the Secretaries Office, where the

Page 4

Clerks sell to any Man Rights for
as much Land as he pleases at the
rate of five shillings, or less for
every right, that is every 50 acres.
By this trick the great men of the
Country have 20, 25, or 30 thousand
acres of Land in their hands, &
there is hardly any left for the
poor People to take upp, except
they will goe beyond the inhabitants
much higher up then the Rivers are
navigable, & out of the way of all
business.
2. No Care was taken in the begin-
ning to seat that Country in Townshipps
as in New England &c. By which means
they are deprived of the great Com-
pany of Citizens & Tradesmen that are
in other Countrys.
3. Whereas other Proprietors
have taken great Care in England
to procure Adventurers into their
several Countrys, by giveing a good
Character & Discription of them
in Books & Maps, by constituting
their Agents to lay out for such Tradesmen

Page 5

as want business; by advanceing
Money to defray the Charge of
their passage; & by helping them
to convenient means of Subsistance
when they are arrived in their
several Proprietorships, till they
got into a way of Settlement: On
the Contrary none of all these helps
are afforded to Virginia:but it
passes under a cursed bad Character
& poor people that have a Minde
to goe thither haveing none of these
assistances must become Servants
for 4 or 5 Years to pay for their
passage. And it seems to be a bad
step that forraigners (who ought more
to be encouraged to come & seat
there than the English themselves)
are by a late Act of Parliament
discouraged, by being made incapable
to hold any Office of Triest in
the Courts of Law or Treasury. There
are two reasons why I say forraigners
should be more encouraged to remove
into the Plantations, than the English them

Page 6

One is to keep these forraigners
from the thoughts & design of make-
ing Plantations, & Colonyes of their
own, independent on the Crown
of England; & the other is that by
every forraigner that Settles in the
English Plantations, the King
gains a new Subject without any
loss whereas by every Englishe
Man settling there he gains indeed
a new Subject to the plantations
but losses an old Subject for him
in England.
4. Noe doubt the Lordship of
the Government & constitution of
Virginia (which will appear in the
particulars hereafter mentioned)
hinders Several Men of Sense
& Estate from adventureing them-
selves & families into it or continu-
ing in it.
5. Governers are sent over
thither not such as are to stay &
Live with the people, but such as are
to make a little Money for 4. or 5.
years, & then to return again. Now

Page 7

it is not likely that men goeing with
this design will promote Towns
or any other Improvements, but
such as will quit cost, & pay them
for their pains, in their own time.
Remedies
These evils have been of soe
long standing, & are soe deeply
rooted, that it will be a very hard
matter to contrive any remedy
for them. But something I shall
offer, & with all humility submit
it to more Mature consideration,
suiting the Remedies in correspon-
dent Numbers to the preceeding caus-
es of the Grievance.
I. For the Encouragement of Land
it must be confessed, that that is almost
utterly & irrecoverably lost, the good
Land being all almost already
taken up. But to mend the matter:
1st. Let the King Strictly prohibit
all these coures for the future.
And let noe Land be bestowed (of
that which is now in his Majestie’s grant) but
upon the Adventurers that Settle in the Country

Page 8

and not to be claimed but by them-
selves when they are free. Let this
Rule be observed as well as to Lapsed
Land as to Land that was never
taken up;
2. Let a Strict enquiry be made
into the great Tracts possessed
already, & care taken, that the owners
of them doe duly pay their Quitrents
with all the Arrears from the Date of
their several Pattents, without any
compounding. And in case of Re-
fusal, let Lybertye be used allowed
to these owners to surrender the said
Tracts of Land into the Kings hands
again; which several of them would
doe rather than pay the utmost pen-
ny of Quitrents. And when they
are in the Kings hands, let them be
disposed of according to the former
method of Land never taken upp
or Lapsed.
3io. I think there is an old Law in
being as to frontier plantations, that they
shall be seated with four able hands (but
this Law is not observed in practise) Let this
practise

Page 9

practise be revived, and if any will
not comply with it, the Land will be
Lapse to the King, & may be dispos-
sed to the Adventurers as above.
4.o Let endeavours be made used to
get a new Law passed in the
General Assembly of Virginia to
oblige all that have already taken
up Land to make a plantation
within 3 years upon every 500 Acres
of it.
II. The defect of Townes may
yet be supplyed tho’ with more diffi-
culty than in the beginning.
1.o If his Majesty would appoint
certain Ports, where Shipps shall
ride, & all Goods be entered whi-
ther exported or imported: which by
the by would mightily improve shis
Customs.
2.o If the Privileges of weekly
mercats, & some few fairs in a Year
(with such other privileges as used
to be granted to Corporations) were
granted to the Inhabitants of these places

Page 10

3.io If Tradesmen imported might
be set free, upon Condition that they
follow their Trades in some of these
townes. The fund for doeing this
might either be raised by the Country
(as the groat a Gallon on Liquors)
or at least be lent to these Trades
men, who would be glad to repay
it after they should come to earn
the money by their Trade, rather
than Serve 4 or 5 years as the Custome
now is.
4.o It would be well if the King
would order the Governour, & other
principal officers of the Government
to reside at the chief of these Towns
viz: the Secretary, the Auditor, the
Judges, (when they come to be ap-
pointed) the Atturney General, the
Clerk of the Council, the Clerk of the
General Court, the Clerk of the County
Court, the Collector & naval Officer
of that Port, & to keep their several
offices there, as also that the General
Assembly should sit there; & if this
were

Page 11

were the same place where the
Colledge is (wch for health & all
other Conveniences is the fittest
place in the Country for such a
Town). t This would make one good
Town at once.
5.o To Advance the Trade &
consequently the people of these
Towns, it will be necessary to
encourage Money dealings & the
remportation of Money, & to ascer-
tain the values of it by some
equal Standart, wch shall be com
mon to all the English plantations.
III. To encourage people
to Transport themselves thither.
1.o Let a little Book be written
giveing a good description & large
Mapp of Virginia; wherein with
a great dale of truth it may be
proferred for all the Naturall
Advantages of a Country to the best
Proprietorship of ‘em all. And
if the Governmt will supply wt it
wants of improved advantages, it
may

Page 12

may then truly be represented as
one of the best Countrys in the world.
2.o Let such Agents be imploy’d
to look out for Tradesmen that want
busines here, as are for the Proprie-
torships, to direct & assist them in
their passage to Virginia. And let
those Tradesmen be set free at their
first comeing over, & setting up
in a Town as above.
3.o It might be worth the while
to Consider whither multitudes
of poor people that are onely a
burthen to their parishes at home
here in England might not be
well spared; as also whither
several Delinquents had not
better be sent to the Plantations
(tho’ condemned to several Years
Servitude) than to be sent to
Tyburne: as also whither it might
not be fit to transport some of the
Native Irish or the poor French
Protestants, who might all Live
comfortably there, & have land at an
easie

Page 13

easie rate.
4.o As people of different
pswasions enjoy Lybertie of
Conscience, so let people of all
Nations be Naturalized, & en-
joy equal priviledges, with the
other English inhabitants residing
there.
IV. It may be hoped that the
hardships occasioned by the bad-
ness & arbitrarines of the Consti-
tution (hereafter to be mentioned)
will be remedied at leasure
much as they are in any propri-
etorship or other English planta-
tion. And if there be any differ-
ence in this respect it is but
reasonable the advantage should
be on the side of Virginia, the
King haveing noe Subjects what
soever that bring in soemuch to
the Treasury proportionably to their
Number as those of Virginia doe.
V. It is to be wished that in the
choice

Page 14

choice of a Governour the princi-
pal consideration were, that he be
a Man of a Generous publick
Spirit, & not some poor noble
Man, or great Gentleman of
a broken fortune, or if Men of
publick Spirits cannot be found
he might be induced with the hopes
of some reward to build towns.
II. Grievance
The Arbitrariness of the
Government.
The Government is in the hands
of a Governour, & twelve men
that are called the Council who (I
suppose) were designed at first
for a check to him, but by some
particular powers conferred
on the Governour, it is easy for
him to manage the Councill
that humanely speaking, it is never
to be expected that they will give
their opinions freely in any matter
but onely soe as to please him &
serve

  1. ,The Manufacture of Iron and all other Mynerals with which the Country abounds. 2. The manufacture of Silks, for which it is very proper, by reason of the plenty and good thriving of mulberry trees, which is the food for Silk Worms. 3. The Manufacture of Pot-ash for Soap for which it is well fitted by reason of the infinite number of trees. 4. The Manufacture of Pitch Tarr masts and all Tymbers for Shipping. 5. The Manufacture of Wheat, Rye, Indian Corn, and all sorts of grain, very usefull for the Supply of our other English plantations. 6. The manufacture of Syder, Wine, Oyle, Distilled Spirits, figs, raisons, conserved fruits, for all which that Country has great advantages. 7. The manufacture of Flax, hemp, and Cotton which grown there very fine. 8. The manufacture of Salted Sturgeon, and several other sorts of Fish, which are in their Rivers [great plenty. 9. A great between brackets part cut off in photo] Indian Trade for Skins, and furres, if it were reduced into Rules under a Company. 10. A Trade for dyeing Woods, and Curious Simples. With many other Improvements which I know not, nor can readily remember; for the makeing of which the Country wants ten times the Number of people they now have.
  2. The Causes of this want of people are.
    1. The ancient Encouragement of 50 Acres of Land per poll designed and ordered by the King upon the first seating of the Country, for all that should come and settle there, has been strangly perverted, and frustrated. 1. by granting the 50 Acres of every Servant to his Master that buys him. 2. by granting 50 Acres to every Seaman, and that for every time he adventures himself into the Country, tho’ he Never stays, nor settles there. 3. By yet a greater and constant abuse at the Secretaries Office, where the clerks sell to any man Rights for as much Land as he pleases at the rate of five shillings, or less for every right, that is every 50 acres. By this trick the great men of the Country have 20, 25, or 30 thousand Acres of Land in their hands, and there is hardly any left for the poor People to take upp, except they will goe beyond the inhabitants much higher up then the Rivers are navigable, and out of the way of all business.
    2. No Care was taken in the beginning to seat that Country in Townshipps as in New England etc. By which means they are deprived of the great Company of Citizens and Tradesmen that are in other Countrys.
    3. Whereas other Proprietors have taken great Care in England to procure Adventurers into their several Countrys, by giveing a good Character and Discription of them in Books and maps, by constituting their Agents to lay out for such Tradesmen as want business; by advanceing money to defray the Charge of their passage; and by helping them to convenient means of Subsistance when they are arrived in their several Proprietorships, till they got into a way of Settlement. On the Contrary none of all these helps are afforded to Virginia; but it passes under a cursed bad Character and poor people that have a minde to goe thither haveing none of these assistances must become Servants for 4 or 5 Years to pay for their passage. And it seems to be a bad stop that forraigners (who ought more to be encouraged to come and seat there than the English themselves) are by a late Act of Parliament discouraged, by being made incapable to hold any Office of [Trust] Triest in the Courts of Law or Treasury. There are two reasons why I say forraigners should be more encouraged to remove into the Plantations, than the English themselves. One is to keep these forraigners from the thoughts and design of makeing Plantations, and Colonyes of their own, independent on the Crown of England; and the other is that by every forraigner that Settles in the English Plantations, the King gains a new Subject without any loss whereas by every English Man settling there he gains indeed a new Subject to the plantations but losses an old Subject for him in England.
    4. Noe doubt the Lordship of the Government and constitution of Virginia (which will appear in the particulars hereafter mentioned) hinders Several Men of Sense and Estate from adventureing themselves and families into it or continuing in it.
    5. Governers are sent over thither not such as are to stay and Live with the people, but such as are to make a little money for 4 or 5 years, and then to return again. Now it is not likely that men goeing in this design will promote Towns or any other Improvements, but such as will quit cost, and pay themselves for their pains, in their own time.

Remedies
These evils have been of soe long standing, and are soe deeply rooted, that it will be a very hard matter to contrive any remedy for them. But something I shall offer, and with all humility submit it to more Mature consideration, suiting the Remedies in correspondent Numbers to the preceeding causes of the Grievance.

    1. For the Encouragement of Land it must be confessed, that that is almost utterly and irrecoverably lost, the good Land being all almost already taken up. But to mend the matter:

1st. Let the King Strictly prohibit all these courses for the future. And let noe Land be bestowed (of that which is now in his Majestie’s grant) but upon the Adventurers that Settle in the Country and not to be claimed but by themselves when they are free. Let this Rule be observed as well as to Lapsed Land as to Land that was never taken up;

2nd. Let a Strict enquiry be made into the great Tracts possessed already, and care taken, that the owners of them doe duly pay their Quitrents with all the Arrears from the Date of their several Pattents, without any compounding. And in case of Refusal, let Lyberty be allowed to these owners to surrender the said Tracts of Land into the Kings hands again; which several of them would doe rather than pay the utmost penny of Quitrents. And when they are in the Kings hands, let them be disposed of according to the former method of Land never taken upp or Lapsed.

3rd. I think there is an old Law in being as to frontier plantations, that they shall be seated with four able hands (but this Law is not observed in practise) Let this practise be revived, and if any will not comply with it, the Land will be Lapse to the King, and may be disposed  to the Adventurers as above.

4th. Let endeavours be used to get a new Law passed in the General Assembly of Virginia to oblige all that have already taken up Land to make a plantation within 3 years upon every 500 Acres of it.

    1. The defect of Towns may yet be supplyed tho’ with more difficulty than in the beginning.

            1st.If his Majesty would appoint certain Ports, where Shipps shall ride, and all Goods be entered whither exported or imported: which by the by would mightily improve ship Customs.

            2nd. If the Privileges of weekly [markets?] mercats and some few fairs in a year (with such other privileges as used to be granted to Corporations) were granted to the Inhabitants of these places.

            3rd. If Tradesmen imported might be set free, upon Condition that they follow their Trades in some of these townes. The fund for doeing this might either be raised by the Country (as the groat a Gallon on Liquors) or at least be lent to these Trades men, who would be glad to repay it after they should come to earn the money by their Trade, rather than Serve 4 or 5 years as the Custome now is.

            4th. It would be well if the King would order the Governour, and other principal officers of the Government to reside at the chief of these Towns viz: the Secretary, the Auditor, the Judges, (when they come to be appointed) the Atturney General, the Clerk of the Council, the Clerk of the General Court, the Clerk of the County Court, the Collector and naval Officer of that Port, and to keep their several offices there, as also that the General Assembly should sit there; and if this were the same place where the Colledge is (which for health and all other Conveniences is the fittest place in the Country for such a Town) this would make one good Town at once.

            5th. To Advance the Trade and consequently the people of these Towns, it will be necessary to encourage money dealings and the emportation of money, and to ascertain the value of it by some equal standart, which shall be common to all the English plantations.

III.       To encourage people to Transport themselves thither.

            1st. Let a little Book be written giveing a good description and large Mapp of Virginia; wherein with a great dale of truth it may be preferred for all the naturall Advantages of a Country to the best Proprietorship of ‘em all. And if the Government will supply what it wants of improved advantages, it may then truly be represented as one of the best Countrys in the world.

            2nd. Let such Agents be imploy’d to look out for Tradesmen that want business here, as are for the Proprietorships, to direct and assist them in their passage to Virginia. And let those Tradesmen be set free at their first comeing over, and setting up in a Town as above.

            3rd. It might be worth the while to Consider whether multitudes of poor people that are onely a burthen to their parishes at home here in England might not be well spared; as also whither several Delinquents had not better be sent to the Plantations (tho’ condemned to several years Servitude) than to be sent to Tyburne: as also whither it might not be fit to transport some of the Native Irish or the poor French Protestants, who might all Live comfortably there, and have land at an easie rate.

            4th. As people of different perswassions enjoy Lybertie of Conscience, so let people of all Nations be naturalized, and enjoy equal priviledges with the other English inhabitants residing there.

    1. It may be hoped that the hardships occasioned by the badness and arbitrariness of the Constitution (hereafter to be mentioned) will be remedied at leasure much as they are in any proprietorship or other English plantation. And if there be any difference in this respect it is but reasonable the advantage should be on the side of Virginia, the King haveing noe Subjects what soever that bring in soemuch of the Treasury proportionably to their number as those of Virginia doe.
    2. It is to be wished that in the choice of a Governour the principal consideration were, that he be a Man of a Generous publick Spirit, and not some poor noble Man, or great Gengleman of a broken fortunte, or if Men of publick Spirits cannot be found he might be induced with the hopes of some reward to build towns.
    3. Grievance: The Arbitrariness of the Government.

The Government is in the hands of a Governour, and twelve men that are called the Council who (I suppose) were designed at first for a check to him, but by some particular powers conferred on the Governour, it is easy for him to manage the Councill that humanely speaking, it is never to be expected that they will give their opinions freely in any matter but onely soe as to please him and serve his interests. For he has the conferring of all places of proffit belonging to the Government and it is now such a constant practice to bestow them upon the Gentlemen of this Councill that if any of these places falls for the Officiating whereof there is none of the Council Lives convenient, yet it is always bestowed on one of the Council, and he is allowed to officiate it by a Deputy. Then upon the least dissatisfaction the Governour cannot onely turn them out of all these places but also suspend them from the Council it self at his pleasure; from which it follows that all the power lodged in him and them is really and in effect lodged in him alone; and that they depending soe precariously upon him it cannot in any reason be expected that they will be a check to him; So that the Common use of his Council is only to bear a share of the odium, and to give him courage to doe these things which he would never venture upon, if he had the Government solely Lodged in himself without any Council. Nor is there any relief to be hand any where in that Country against the oppressions of a Governour, and Council; for if any should think of relief by Law, this is utterly in vain, for that same Governour and Council are the Judges at Common Law, Chancery, Exchequer, Admiralty in all causes not excepting even Criminal and Spiritual Causes, and noe appeal lies from them but to the King in England and that onely in such cases where the cause shall be judged by them to exceed £300 value. Besides the Council sets in soe many other, and some of ‘em so inconsistent capacities as are enough to enable them both to cheat the King and oppress the Country; for besides what is already mentioned viz: their [there] being.

            1st. The Administrators of the Government and Council of State.

            2nd. The Judges in all causes, they are likewise

            3rd. The House of Peers

            4th. The Comissioners of the King’s Customs which they sell to one another.

            [5th omitted] (No 5th given)

            6th. The Collectors of all publick Duties.

            7th. Naval Officers, which two last should be a Check upon each other.

            8th. Secretary, Treasurer and Escheatours.

            9th. The Lords Lieutenants of the Several Counties.

And which ruins all, they are all this onely Dureing the Governours pleasure.1Imagine if the president of the United States could dismiss the judges of the US Supreme court in the middle of the night and appoint new ones whenever he wanted, without anyone’s approval.  That is what it means to hold a seat “at his pleasure.” In this manuscript, Locke is horrified by how much power Virginia governors held. So that in all these great trusts they are under the greatest one and restraint; and if the Governour happens to be an ill man (as uncontrouled power is apt to corrupt him) then the whole frame of Government is quite out of order; and there is noe other prudent restraint to keep things right.

Remedies

            1st. Let great care be taken in the choice of the men that shall be named to be of this Council, that the Lords of the Council for Trade and plantations have their Characters from the best hands. The best constant Rule I can think of in this matter, is that the Generall Assembly, especially the house of Burgesses be appointed from time to time to transmit a List of such men as they judge to have the best reputation, and the fittest to be recommended to be of the Council.

            2nd. Let the Gentlemen who shall be named to be of the Council hold their places (not dureing the Governours but) dureing the Kings pleasure. And let it not be in the Governours power to suspend them, but onely to give his and the Councils advice concerning their suspension to the Lords of the Council for Trade and Plantations, and that after an accusation of some mal-administration alledged and proved against them. And let the [here the amanuensis appears to have made an inadvertent omission] who[whole?] process in writing be transmitted to the Said Lords, who may pass such judgment upon it as they shall think most proper.

            3rd. It is a thing of very evill consequence that the Council should out in soe many, and some of ‘em soe inconsistent capacities. I should advise (because I would not alter the Constitution it self, only remove the abuses of it) that they may be the house of Peers, and the Council of State, and the Lord Lieutenants of the Counties. Nor doe I see any great inconvenience if the Secretary and the Auditor be chosen out of their number, provided they be named by the King and hold their places independant of the Governour; and if they were recommended by the Generall Assembly it would be soemuch the better. But for the other places belonging to the Justice, and the Revenue which are now in the hands of the Council, these want great Regulations which I shall not mention in this place to avoid repetitions, for they will come better in by and by under the following Grievances, about the Justice and the Revenue.

III. Grievance: Concerning the Administration of Justice

It is a great Grievance that this weighty matter is in the hands of the Governour, and Council; Men utterly ignorant of the Law, impatient of contradiction apt to threaten Lawyers and parties with imprisonment, if they use freedom of Speech, men that cannot be called to account for acts of injustice, Men that take noe Oath to doe Justice, Men that have made an order that they themselves shall not be arrested, and Men that are under strong temptations to a bypass in giveing their opinion by reason of the places of proffit they hold dureing the Governours pleasure, who is always there and by his great power, can easily run down the barr, and sway the bench, and direct the Judgement what way he pleases.

Remedies

The best Remedy would be, if this whole business of Judging, for which the Governour and Council are utterly unqualified, were taken out of their hands and comitted to a Chief Justice, and any two men more well Skilled in the Law.  But if this cannot be obtained.  Let at least the Governour himself be forbid sitting in Judgement. Let the Council hold noe places dureing his pleasure, but dureing the Kings.  Let them all take the Oath of Judge according to Law.  And let that base order be abolished which exempts them from Arrests, that they may be Subject to the same Laws with other men.

    1. Grievance: Concerning the management of the Council.
    2. The precarious way by which the Gentlemen of the Council hold their places of proffit, onely by the Governours gift and Dureing his pleasure, and the power he has to suspend any of them from sitting in Council as an effectual way to hinder all freedom of Councils or debates there. For with out of hope of getting, and fear of looseing a place, they all endeavour to out strip one another in ready compliances, and flatteries, and give their advice noe further, for the King’s or Countrys Service then the Governour is pleased to permit and dictate.
    3. As the Governour can thus get any thing voted in Council he has minde to; soe when the vote is once passed they give themselves noe trouble to see the wording of it; but leave that matter intirely to the Clerke who writes whatsoever the Governour is pleased to order and dictat. And those orders so clandestinely drawn, are never afterwards soe much as read in Council.
    4. The Governour keeps the Council soe much in the dark, that he conceals his Instructions from them, and communicates them by piece meal, now and there one, as he finds it may make for his Interest. Whereas the exact understanding of the whole purport of the Governours Instructions seems to be the most essential Accomplishment of a good Councellor.
    5. In short the whole Government is soe administered as if the Governour represented the King, and for his own satisfaction and security took advice of his Council; but after all might chuse or refuse their Council as he thinks fit.

Remedies

    1. The places of profit bestowed on the Council, (viz: Collectors, Naval Officers, farmers of the Quitrents) might here bestowed to be very hurtfull to the King and the Country’s Service.  But it will fall in better hereafter when I speak of the Revenue.  What is farther hurtfull in this first Article might be remedied if all the Council were named by the King, not by the Governour, and held their places dureing the Kings, not dureing the Governours pleasure, and if a List of Candidates for the Council were given in, not by the Governour alone, as now is, but by the whole General Assembly, out of whom, or any others, the King thinks fit, he might name for his council whom he pleases.  And let the Suspensions of the Councill as above p. 11 [i.e., section II, remedies, para. 2].
    2. The Governour’s Instructions out [ought] to lye before the Council, as being the Ground of all their advices. The orders of the Council ought not onely to be voted but also worded and entered to their satisfaction.  And the Governour should be obliged to follow, as well as to ask their advice, and the Constitution such that it may be understood, that the Council has a share in the Government.  Perhaps it may be fit to give the Governour a negative voice and noe more.
    3. Grievance: Concerning the Generall Assembly
    4. Often when a Governour is not well with the Country for many Years together, he calls noe General Assembly; soe that not onely the Countrys Grievances are not redressed, but the King is kept ignorant of the true State of the Country all the while.
    5. If the Country and the House of Burgesses, who represent them have never soe many Grievances they have noe way to represent them at the Court of England nor to Sollicit the redress of them without the concurrence of the Governour and Council. And it is not to be expected that they will concurr being most commonly the occasion of these Grievances themselves.  For noe business can be done in England without money, and noe Money can be raised but by the joint concurrence of the whole Generall Assembly, i.e., Governour, Council, and Burgesses.
    6. The Governour who has one Negative Vote of himself in passing their Laws, yet sits commonly with the Council, while the Laws are under Consideration among them and directs and overules their Councils.
    7. If the Assembly raises any money for the necessary occasions of the King or Country, the Governour will not suffer them to name any Collectors or Treasurers of it, but will oblige them to take a Treasurer of his nomination, and it must be all issued it by warrants from himself. The Standing on this point raises great jealousies that he has a minde to finger the money, and doth often hinder the raising of Money upon very necessary occasions.

Remedies

    1. It would be a good Constitution, if the Governour had in his Instructions to call an Assembly once a Year. For there is noe way to keep up a good understanding with the Country, or to Know the true State of the Country, or to try the fitness of a Governour, to manage the people like that of frequent Assemblys.
    2. It seems very necessary that the way should be made easy for the House of Burgesses to represent their Grievances to the King or to the Lords of the Comittee for Trade and Plantations. And therefore that the said house may have Lybertie not only to make addresses to the Government but also to raise money upon the Country for defraying the Charge of presenting and soliciting the same.
    3. The Governour ought not to sit with the Council, when the Laws are under Consideration, but to leave them to the freedome of their own Consultations, and debates, as the King does the House of Lords.
    4. Soe that noe money be raised but according to Law. I see noe harme in gratifying the Assembly with the nomination of their own Collectors and Receivers.  It is certain that they will give much more freely for the service of the King and Country if they have leave to nominate these Officers, and can oblige them to part with none of the said money, but for the true use for which it was raised.

 

    1. Grievance: Concerning the Clergy and Religion
    2. There is soe little care taken to provide the Country with ministers, that there is commonly a third part of the Parishes altogeather destitute not out of any different principles as to Doctrine or Worship; but merely to save the Ministers dues in their own Pockets.
    3. The Ministers we have, are not presented nor induced into their Livings but are in the Nature of hyred Servants agreed with from year to year, and dismissed at the Vestryes pleasure, without any Crime proved or soe much as alledged against them. This Custome is the occasion of the utter contempt and poverty of the Ministers, of the dilapidation of the mansion houses, of such a precarious dependence on vestries that the Ministers dare not soe much as preach against the reigning vices, for fear of being turned out and in short that few worthy Ministers will come into, or continue in the Country.
    4. The Ministers are too comonly vitious and Scandalous in their Lives, partly out of Complyance with the humers and vices of their parishes; and partly because there is noe body that has sufficient authority to call them to account, and censure them as they deserve.
    5. The Country is very ill Stocked with Books, and the Ministers allowance is soe short, that they are not able to buy them.
    6. Little Care is taken to instruct the Indians and Negroes in the Christian Faith.

Remedies

    1. If the Sallarys of Vacant Parishes, were bestowed upon the Colledge, or put to any other good use in that Country, and not saved in the peoples own Pockets, their Vestries would be more carefull to fill upp the Vacancies. Some encowragements likewise might be contrived to induce good ministers to accept of missions into the plantations; And the Colledge there if duty encouraged will nurse up a Seminary of Young Divines for that Country who will have this to recomend them beyond their present Ministers that their Life and Conversation may easily be known from their very infancy.
    2. Let the Ministers there be presented and inducted as they are in all other Protestant Churches. And if the Vestry neglect to present let the power of presentation for that time devolve to the Ordinary.  Only it may be very reasonable to give the vestries at least a Years tryall of a Minster, before they be obliged to present him.
    3. It is necessary that some Clergy man be impowered to make visitation of Churches; and that the Church wardens upon Oath make their presentments to him; and that care be taken to see the fabricks of Churches and Mansion Houses kept up; and that the Parish is provided of a Minister and that he doe his Duty as he ought with power to suspend him if he is proved to be scandalous.
    4. The encouraging of Dr. Brays project of Parochial Libraries would in a great measure supply the want of Books.
    5. The Conversion, and Instruction of Negroes and Indians is a work of such importance and difficulty that it would require a Treatise of it self. At present I should advise. 1. That all Negroes be brought to Church on Sundays—2. That a Law be made, that all Negroes Children be baptized—catechized, and bred Christians—3. That as many Indian children be educated at the Colledge as may be; and these well instructed in the Christian Faith, (but with all keeping their own language) and made fit to Evangelize others of their nation and language.

VII. Grievance: The mismanagement of the Revenue

    1. The Gentlemen that are of the Kings Council there, as they have every thing else heaped upon them, soe they comonly enjoy the proffitable places of Collectors and Naval Officers, which Custom is attended with these evil Consequences. 1. These places being in the Governour’s gift, and bestowed onely dureing his pleasure are the great Engines for enslaving these Gentlemen of the Council, and makeing the Country miserable by their means: for not dareing to use any freedome of opinion or debate, neither as they are Peers, Councellour, nor Judges, for fear of losing these places, it follows that they can be noe check to the Governour, and serve onely by their Votes to incourage him to doe such ill things as he would not adventure to doe of himself and to bear a part of the odium together with him. 2. These being great men think it below them to doe the Duty of Collector, i.e., to goe on board of the Ships, and to examine the passengers and inspect the Cargoes to wait the leasure of merchants and marriners for entering and clearing of Shipps and to give an account when required to produce their Books and accounts to the Comptrollers.  3. It often happens that these places are inconsistent with their other Circumstances for when a Collector or Naval Officer informs against a Ship, as being an unfree bottom; these very men the Collectors and Naval Officers, are the Judges of this Cause, when it comes to be tryed in their General Court.  Then the Office of Collector and Naval Officer being a Check on each other, ought to be in distinct Persons.
    2. Several of these Collectors and Naval Officers Live inconvenient to the precincts of which they are constituted the Collector and Naval Officers; and are allowed the favour of officiating their Places by Deputyes. Yet they themselves swear to the accounts, and if there be any errour, the Deputy is a good cloake for it.
    3. The same Persons viz: the Governour and Council sell and buy the Kings Quitrents, and so may well be supposed to sell good bargains to themselves to the Kings great Damage.
    4. The Accounts of Virginia are inspected by soe few, and these soe partial hands, that it is noe wonder if great abuses be comitted that way, for those same men that depend so precariously on the Governour (and therefore dare not finde fault with any of his accounts) and the same men who as Collectors and farmers of the Kings Duties have occasioned the abuses are set to examin and pas them.
    5. There are several super numerary Collectors which onely serves to put the King to a great needles charge. The Collection of the two shillings per hogshead, and of the penny per pound, which togeather would make in every precinct a very sufficient Sallary for a Collectiz, being lately separated are not sufficient for 2 Collectors in every precinct.  And therefore the Collectors of the penny per pound are paid annual Sallarys out of the Treasury here in England which is a very Supfluous expence.

Remedies

    1. 2. 3. The 3 first Articles of this Grievance may easily be remedied by expres Instructions to the Governour. 1. That none of the Council be made a Collector or Naval Officer. 2. That the Offices of Collector and Naval Officer be bestowed on distinct persons. viz: 3. On such men as will not think it below them to goe on board, and to examin Marriners—Cockets, and Cargoes: and to wait at Their office for entering and clearing of Shipps, and will be ready to exhibit their Books and accounts as often as thereunto required by the Comptrollers.  4. That every Collector, and naval Officer shall officiate his place in his own person and not by a Deputy.  5. That neither the Governour nor Council, by themselves nor by others in their name buy the Kings Quitrents, seeing they are the Persons that must sell them.  But that the sale be made by way of publick victory to any responsible Person or Persons that will give most for them.
    2. It would be an excellent way (to prevent all cheats and abuses in the accounts of the Kings revenue) if those accounts were ordered yearly, to be laid before the House of Burgesses,[MISSING BOTTOM OF P. 37] with power to them, to examine all persons upon Oath, and to make their report to the Lords of the Council of Trade and plantations. This would have two good Effects.  1. Noe false articles would be charged where there are soe many unbyassed men upon the Spot to Finde them out.  2. It is very probable that the House of Burgesses would be soe obliged with this favour, that if they found by the accounts that money is really wanting to defray the charge of the Government they would be ready to make it up out of other funds which they could raise.
    3. Let the Collection of the two shillings per hogshead, and of the penny per pound be in every precinct put into the hands of one Collector. And then he will have a good place being allowed ten per cent. for the one, and 20 per cent: for the other by the present settlement in the Country.  Soe that all the money the King pays now out of the Treasury here on that account (which in Virginia and Maryland is about £1,000 a year) may be easily saved.

EARLY ACCESS:  Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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  • 1
    Imagine if the president of the United States could dismiss the judges of the US Supreme court in the middle of the night and appoint new ones whenever he wanted, without anyone’s approval.  That is what it means to hold a seat “at his pleasure.” In this manuscript, Locke is horrified by how much power Virginia governors held.