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Laws of Virginia (1610-1611)
Whereas his Majesty, like
himself a most zealous prince, has in his own realms a principal care of
true religion and reverence to God and has always strictly commanded his
generals and governors, with all his forces wheresoever, to let their
ways be, like his ends, for the glory of God.
And forasmuch as no good
service can be performed, or were well managed, where military
discipline is not observed, and military discipline cannot be kept where
the rules or chief parts thereof be not certainly set down and generally
know, I have, with the advice and counsel of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight,
Lieutenant-General, adhered unto the laws divine and orders politic and
martial of his lordship, the same exemplified, as addition of such
others as I found either the necessity of the present state of the
colony to require or the infancy and weakness of the body thereof as yet
able to digest, and do now publish them to all persons in the colony,
that they may as well take knowledge of the laws themselves as of the
penalty and punishment, which, without partiality, shall be inflicted
upon the breakers of the same.
First, Since we owe
our highest and supreme duty, our greatest, and all our allegiance
to him from whom all power and authority is derived and flows as
from the first and only fountain, and being especial soldiers
impressed in this sacred cause, we must alone expect our success
from him, who is only the blesser of all good attempts, the king of
kings, the commander of commanders, and lord of hosts, I do strictly
command and charge all captains and officers, of what quality or
nature soever, whether commanders in the field or in town or towns,
forts or fortresses, to have a care that the Almighty God be duly
and daily served and that they call upon their people to hear
sermons, as that also they diligently frequent morning and evening
prayer themselves by their own exemplar and daily life and duty
herein, encouraging others thereunto, and that such who shall often
and willfully absent themselves be duly punished according to the
martial law in that case provided.
That no man speak
impiously or maliciously against the holy and blessed Trinity or any
of the three persons, that is to say, against God the Father, God
the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, or against the known articles of
the Christian faith, upon pain of death.
That no man blaspheme
God's holy name upon pain of death, or use unlawful oaths, taking
the name of God in vain, curse, or bane upon pain of severe
punishment for the first offense so committed and for the second to
have a bodkin thrust through his tongue; and if he continue the
blaspheming of God's holy name, for the third time so offending, he
shall be brought to a martial court and there receive censure of
death of his offense.
No man shall use any
traitorous words against his Majesty's person or royal authority,
upon pain of death.
No man shall speak
any word or do any act which may tend to the derision or despite of
God's holy word, upon pain of death; nor shall any man unworthily
demean himself unto any preacher or minister of the same, but
generally hold them in all reverent regard and dutiful entreaty;
otherwise he the offender shall openly be whipped three times and
ask public forgiveness in the assembly of the congregation three
several Sabbath days.
Every man and woman
duly, twice a day upon the first tolling of the bell, shall upon the
working days repair unto the church to hear divine service upon pain
of losing his or her day's allowance for the first omission, for the
second to be whipped, and for the third to be condemned to the
galleys for six months. Likewise, no man or woman shall dare to
violate or break the Sabbath by any gaming, public or private abroad
or at home, but duly sanctify and observe the same, both himself and
his family, by preparing themselves at home with private prayer that
they may be the better fitted for the public, according to the
commandments of God and the orders of our church. As also every man
and woman shall repair in the morning to the divine service and
sermons preached upon the Sabbath day in the afternoon to divine
service and catechizing, upon pain for the first fault to lose their
provision and allowance for the whole week following, for the second
to lose the said allowance and also to be whipped, and for the third
to suffer death.
All preachers and
ministers within this our colony or colonies shall, in the forts
where they are resident, after divine service, duly preach every
Sabbath day in the forenoon and catechise in the afternoon and
weekly say the divine service twice every day and preach every
Wednesday. Likewise, every minister where he is resident, within the
same fort or fortress, towns or town, shall choose unto him four of
the most religious and better disposed as well to inform of the
abuses and neglects of the people in their duties and service of God,
as also to the due reparation and keeping of the church handsome and
fitted with all reverent observances thereunto belonging. Likewise,
every minister shall keep a faithful and true record of church book
of all christenings, marriages, and deaths of such our people as
shall happen within their fort or fortress, towns or town, at any
time, upon the burden of a neglectful conscience and upon pain of
losing their entertainment.
He that, upon
pretended malice, shall murder or take away the life of any man,
shall be punished with death.
No man shall commit
the horrible and detestable sins of sodomy, upon pain of death; and
he or she that can be lawfully convict of adultery shall be punished
with death. No man shall ravish or force any woman, maid or Indian,
or other, upon pain of death; and know that he or she that shall
commit fornication, and evident proof made thereof, for their first
fault shall be whipped, for their second they shall be whipped, and
for their third they shall be whipped three times a week for one
month and ask public forgiveness in the assembly of the congregation.
No man shall be found
guilty of sacrilege, which is a trespass as well committed in
violating and abusing any sacred ministry, duty, or office of the
church irreverently or prophanely, as by being a church robber to
filch, steal, or carry away anything out of the church appertaining
thereunto or unto any holy and consecrated place to the divine
service of God, which no man shall do upon pain of death. Likewise,
he that shall rob the store of any commodities therein of what
quality soever, whether provisions of victuals, or of arms, trucking
stuff, apparel, linen, or woolen, hose or shoes, hats or caps,
instruments or tools of steel, iron, etc., or shall rob from his
fellow soldier or neighbor anything that is his, victuals, apparel,
household stuff, tool, or what necessary else soever, by water or
land, out of boat, house, or knapsack, shall be punished with death. . . .
Every minister or
preacher shall, every Sabbath day before catechising, read all these
laws and ordinances publicly in the assembly of the congregation
upon pain of his entertainment checked for that week.
From "Articles, Lawes, and
Orders, Divine, Politique, and Martiall for the Colony of Virginea,"
in William Strachey, For the Colony in Virginea Britannia: Lawes,
Divine, Morall and Martiall, Etc. (London: Walter Barre, 1612),