The Legislature of the Province of Virginia: Its Internal Development

The Legislature of the Province of Virginia: Its Internal Development

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The Legislature of the Province of Virginia: Its Internal Development

The Legislature of the Province of Virginia: Its Internal Development

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Excerpt

Any attempt at tracing the growth of the legislature in an American colony meets with many difficulties. One of these is that commonly the records for the early period are very incomplete. In a few of the colonies we have no records of some of the earliest forms of government save the charters. These are necessarily very general, and therefore show very little of what plans were attempted, and how far they were successful. A second difficulty is that the few contemporaneous accounts which have been preserved, written chiefly by those who took part in the affairs of those times, are, generally, partisan. In fact they are usually attempts to justify the persons writing them. Another difficulty is that copies of many of the earlier laws are no longer extant. The importance of the laws is stated by Hening in his first volume of the Statutes at Large of Virginia, when he says, "Indeed, until we come to the laws of a nation, it is impossible to form a correct idea of its civil polity, or of the state of society." In addition to having lost some of these laws, we are handicapped by the fact that we do not know the reasons the legislators had for making certain other laws which we do possess, the arguments used to secure their adoption, and how fully they were enforced. Occasionally, but only occasion- ally, tradition throws a sidelight on the actual success or failure of the laws.

To trace the growth of the legislature of Virginia is not . . .

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