This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
The colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in North America. It was settled under the grant made by James I, in 1606, to the London Company, a company of "noblemen, gentlemen, and merchants," of that part of North America lying between the thirty-fourth and thirty-eighth degrees of north latitude. A later charter provided for the government of this territory, naming a number of corporators, who were made a public corporation, and given power to take out such persons as colonists as they might choose, to admit or expel members, and to have the general power of governing the colony as to all local matters. The increasing dissatisfaction of the colonists with their entire lack of any share in the government finally induced Governor Yeadley, in 1819, to call a general assembly, composed of representatives from the various plantations in the colony, which was the first representative legislative body which ever sat in America. A further step in the direction of free government was taken in 1621, when a regular government was created by ordinance, composed of a Governor, Council, and a House of Burgesses elected by the people. To this General Assembly was granted free power as to all matters of local nature concerning the general welfare of the colony; with the power to enact such laws as appeared necessary or requisite. In 1623-24, the House of Burgesses assented by law that the Governor "shall not lay any taxes or imposts on the colonists, their lands or commodities, otherway than by the authority of the General Assembly, to be levied and employed as the said Assembly shall appoint. This law was re-enacted in 1631, in 1632 and (in a different form) in 1642. To this claim the people of Virginia always adhered, although it at times met with opposition from King and Governor. Virginia, which almost alone of the colonies had been largely settled by the upper classes of England, and which was Episcopal in religion, espoused the royal side in the great English Civil War of the seventeenth century. In spite of this, however, they were given a greater degree of self-government under the Commonwealth than they had ever enjoyed under the King, being allowed, during this period, to elect their governor. Under the restoration of Charles II, the government of Virginia reverted to its former condition and Virginia remained a royal province down to the time of the Revolution, except for a short experience as a proprietary colony toward the end of the reign of Charles II. Virginia was throughout the colonial period the largest and richest of all the colonies, and also one of the most tenacious of her rights and liberties. The laws of Virginia, which provided, among other things, for primogeniture and an established state church, bore a much stronger resemblance to those of England than did those of the New England states. The town or township organization was unknown, the country being the political sub-division possessed of all the powers of local government.