The Magna Carta of the Seas
By Jeannette Holland Austin
The Navigation Act of 1660, the Staple Act of 1663 and the Act of 1673 imposing Plantation Duties were the foundation of the old colonial system of Great Britain. During the seventeenth century colonies were referred to and treated as plantations by England. It was a situation which enabled the mother country to regulate trade and industry across the seas to their colonies. The Navigation Act itself followed a policy laid down in the Statute of 1651 by the Commonwealth, and was directed at the Dutch, who traded goods more cheaply with the colonists in the Atlantic and Wst Indies. In fact, they were fast monopolizing the merchant vessels. The Act explicitely forbade that any goods be imported into or exported from His Majesty's plantations except in English, Irish, or colonial vessels. Also, the master of the ship and three fourths of his crew must be English as well. Hence, with no attempt made to disguise its trading regime, contemporary Englishmen of that age hailed this Act as the Magna Charta of the Sea. The result was that the colonies were almost solely dependent upon England and it toe-tailed other countries from an accumulation of wealth. Thus, the English, Irish and colonials possessed a shipping monopoly of the carrying trade within the Empire. The Act also aided English merchants in the requirement that goods of foreign origin should be imported directly from the place of production and that certain plantation commodities such as sugar, tobacco, cotton, wool, Indicoes, ginger, fustick and other dyeing wood should be carried only to English ports. From the inception of Parliament's first trading Acts to the many others later imposed, the taxes and duties imposed upon the colonies made life more difficult, even up the Acts of 1764 and 1765 which were described as the "The Eve of the Revolution."
An Act was passed in 1633 requiring that all contracts and bargains should be kept in money sterling and not in tobacco, which was the custom at that time. A large proportion of these sales were based on credit in anticipation of the next year's crop. In the course of time, however, prices could drop rather dramatically, leaving the planter with a heavy loss. Business has always had it risks and the planters also took their chances. The idea was to make a better world than the one they'd left. Property was conveyed as collateral. In the event that the debt was not settled in a timely manner (when the tobacco crop was in), the merchant or creditor could take possession of the landed property. If the crop were sufficient to pay the debt, the planter could claim a release in full.
Pictured is the Pagan River near Jamestown. Smithfield was first colonized in 1634 and occupied an Indian site called Warascoyak, also spelled Warrosquoyacke, which was first a county of that name. It was renamed Isle of Wight County in 1637. The town itself was established as a seaport ca 1752 by Arthur Smith IV. An area called "Wharf Hill" was established as a waterfront for industries and served during the Revolutionary War as a harbor for patriots to receive arms and supplies. Its dock was used in the "Show Boat" a famous drama of the 20th century. The famous landmark of the Old Brick Church near Smithfield, built ca 1632, features a graveyard vandalized during the Revolutionary War as an insult to the Loyalists of Great Britain. During the reign of King George, Virginians were required to attend church and pay a tithe in tobacco.
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Sprinkle Vinegar About the Cabin
Ships transporting emigrants a path between Europe and America. The vessels were small and crowded, the cabins close, and the voyage required from six to ten weeks. "Betwixt decks," writes a colonist, "there can hardly a man fetch his breath by reason there ariseth such a funke in the night that it causeth putrifacation of the blood and breedeth disease much like the plague." After William Penn came to America and his ship lost a third of its passengers by smallpox, he urged those who came to keep as much upon deck as may be, "and to carry store of Rue and Wormwood, or often sprinkle Vinegar about the Cabbin." Actually, this was an old sailor's yarn; considering the health hazards onboard vessels. Rats were a real issue and arsenic was sprinkled around the barrels. Needless to say that arsenic caused sickness and death, such as the first colonists in Jamestown. In 1639 the wife of the governor of Virginia writes that the ship on which she had come out had been "so pestered with people and goods and so full of infection that after a while they saw little but throwing people overboard." One vessel lost 130 out of 150 souls. One sixth of the three thousand Germans sent over in 1710 perished in a voyage that lasted from January to June. In 1686, Huguenot refugees left Rotterdam with 150 Palatines and when they landed 24 weeks later, only about fifty persons survived. Again, in 1738, a malignant fever anf flux left only 150 survivers out of 400 Palatines. It was estimated that during the years of 1750 and 1755 200,000 corpses were thrown overboard from the ships plying out of Rotterdam. This voyage is described by Mittelberger a year later: "During the voyage there is aboard these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, vomiting, many kinds of sickness, fever, dysentery, scurvy, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.Many hundred people necessarily perish in such misery and must be cast into the sea. The sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day." All vessels had such casualties even up until 1775 when a brig reached New York, having lost a 100 Highlanders in passage. Source: The Old World in the New: The Significance of Past and Present Immigration to the American People (1914).
Isle of Wight County, Virginia Genealogy, Wills, Estates, Marriages, Court House Records
History: In 1662, the site of Patesfield was selected for a new town. As an inducement to build on these sites, a lot, half an acre in extent, was granted in fee simple to any one on condition of erecting a residence and store on it, this conveyance being subject to the additional condition that the beneficiary should pay one hundred pounds to the county. In 1698, Robert Scot willed the whole amount of the sums due him by different persons, in the form of tobacco or coin, to indigent persons in Isle of Wight County. The only persons allowed to furnish friendly Indians with match-coats, hoes and axes were such as had been nominated by the county courts and the right of absolute free trade was granted to the Indian population on the Eastern Shore. As a result, certain places were appointed as public marts, to which the Indians who were at peace with the white were invited to come at a specified time. These marts were situated in Henrico, Isle of Wight, New Kent, Rappahannock, Lancaster, Stafford, Accomack and Northampton Counties.
Sources: Records of Lower Norfolk County (1695-1703), page 123; Hening's Statues, vol. II, pp. 337, 350, 351, 403; Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, Vol. II, by Philip Alexander Bruce.
The following Images of Wills and Estates have been added. Names are not listed due to lack of space:
- Marriages (found in Gates County, North Carolina Marriages
- Marriages 1774, 1793-1794, 1800
Transcripts and Abstracts of Wills and Estates
- 1636 to 1767
- 1661 to 1719 (also deeds, estates, inventories)
- 1726 to 1734
- 1733 to 1745
- 1745 to 1752
Bennett, Robert (1603 LWT)
Brantley, Edward (1739 estate)
Clark, Humphrey (1656), LWT
Cobbs, Joseph (1653), LWT
Cooper, Justinian, LWT
Dunster, Robert (1656), LWT
Gent, John (1728)
Hardy, John, LWT
Elijah Holland, LWT (1857)
Holland, Job, transcript of LWT (1789)
Jewry, William, LWT
Jones, Anthony, LWT
Pitt, Thomas, LWT
Pitt, William, LWT
Reynolds, Christopher, LWT
Rows, John (1734)
Smith, Arthur, LWT
Sugars, John (1726), transcript
Taberner, Joshua, LWT
Valentine, John, LWT
Watson, Robert, LWT
Wilmoth, Edward, LWT
Digital Images of Wills 1794 to 1803
Blaney, David Boon, Radcliff Bowzer, James
Giles, John Sr.
Godwin, Henry Bert
Harrison, John, estate
Taylor, Charles B.
Digital Images of Wills 1804 to 1808
Atkins, Susanna Beale, James
Boykin, Thomas Sr.
Gay, William Sr.
Tallows, James Sr.
West, John Pitt
West, Priscilla Pitt
Indexes to Probate Records
- Wills and Estates 1636-1767; 1661 to 1719; 1726 to 1734; 1733 to 1745; 1745 to 1752; 1794 to 1802; 1804 to 1808
- 1704 Quit Rent Rolls
- Western Branch Meeting of Quakers
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