History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVI.
VIRGINIA PROCLAIMS THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND PROPOSES INDE-
PENDENCE.
MAY–JUNE 1776.

ON the sixth of May forty-five members of the house of burgesses of Virginia met at the capitol in Williamsburg pursuant to their adjournment; but, as they were of the opinion that the ancient constitution had been subverted by the king and parliament of Great Britain, they dissolved themselves unanimously, and thus the last vestige of the king’s authority passed away.

The delegates of Virginia who on the same morning met in convention were a constituent and an executive body. Not less than one hundred and thirty in number, they represented the oldest of the colonies, whose institutions had been fashioned after the model recommended by Bacon, and whose inhabitants for nearly a hundred and seventy years had maintained the church of England as the establishment of the dominion, and had been heartily loyal to their kings.

Its people, having in their origin a perceptible but never an exclusive influence of the cavaliers, had sprung mainly from adventurers, who were not fugitives for conscience’ sake, or sufferers from persecution. The population had been recruited by successive infusions of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians; Huguenots, and the descendants of Huguenots; men who had been so attached to Cromwell or to the republic that they preferred to emigrate on the return of Charles II.; Baptists and other dissenters; and in the valley of Virginia there was a very large German population.

-412-

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