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Laws concerning religion.

Virginia General Assembly. 1619.

The first representative assembly in the New World convened in Jamestown in 1619. Under a new charter, Government of the Virginia colony passed from the council in England to the colonial governor, council of state, and a general assembly. Martial law was abolished in the colony and each settlement was permitted to send representatives to the legislative assembly in Jamestown. The assembly first met on July 30, 1619, and included the governor, six councillors, and twenty burgesses.

In six days of meeting the assembly passed numerous laws regulating life in the colony. One regulation prohibited the selling or giving of any Engish dog to the Indians. Several regulations dealt with the practice of religion and morality and established penalities for various impious or immoral acts.

Although not a puritan colony, the influence of puritan thought is reflected in the Virginia laws in the concern to regulate morality and in the combined use of church and secular power to extirpate certain vices. The regulations also provided for an assessment by the Church for "excesse in apparell"-including the apparel of wives.

All Ministers in the Colony shall once a year, namely, in the moneth of Marche, bring to the Secretary of Estate a true account of all Christenings, burials and marriages, upon paine, if they faill, to be censured for their negligence by the Governor and Counsell of Estate; likewise, where there be no ministers, that the comanders of the place doe supply the same duty.

All ministers shall duely read divine service, and exercise their ministerial function according to the Ecclesiastical lawes and orders of the churche of Englande, and every Sunday in the afternoon shall Catechize suche as are not yet ripe to come to the Com. And whosoever of them shalbe found negligent or faulty in this kinde shalbe subject to the censure of the Governor and Counsell of Estate.

The Ministers and Churchwardens shall seeke to present all ungodly disorders, the comitters wherofe if, upon goode admonitions and milde reprooff, they will not forbeare the said skandulous offenses, as suspicions of whordomes, dishonest company keeping with weomen and suche like, they are to be presented and punished accordingly.

If any person after two warnings, doe not amende his or her life in point of evident suspicion of Incontincy or of the comission of any other enormous sinnes, that then he or shee be presented by the Churchwardens and suspended for a time from the churche by the minister. In which Interim if the same person do not amende and humbly submit him or herself to the churche, he is then fully to be excomunicate and soon after a writt or warrant to be sent from the Governor for the apprehending of his person ande seizing on all his goods.

Provided alwayes, that all the ministers doe meet once a quarter, namely, at the feast of St. Michael the Arkangell, of the nativity of our saviour, of the Annuntiation of the blessed Virgine, and about midsomer, at James citty or any other place where the Governor shall reside, to determine whom it is fitt to excomunicate, and that they first presente their opinion to the Governor ere they proceed to the acte of excomunication.

For the reformation of swearing, every freeman and Mr. of a family after thrise admontion shall give 5s or the value upon present demaunde, to the use of the church where he dwelleth; and every servant afte the like admontion, excepte his Mr. discharge the fine, shalbe subject to whipping. Provided, that the payment of the fine notwithstanding, the said servant shall acknowledge his faulte publiquely in the Churche.

All persons whatsoever upon the Sabaoth daye shall frequente divine service and sermons both forenoon and afternoon, and all suche as beare armes shall bring their pieces swordes, poulder andshotte. And every one that shall transgresse this lawe shall forfaiete three shillinges a time to the use of the churche, all lawful and necessary impediments excepted. But if a servant in this case shall wilfully neglecte his Mr's commande he shall suffer bodily punishmente.

Against Idlenes, Gaming, drunkenes and excesse in apparell the Assembly hath enacted as followeth:

First, in detestation of Idlenes be it enacted, that if any man be fonde to live as an Idler or renagate, though a freedman, it shalbe lawful for that Incorporation or Plantation to which he belongeth to appoint him a Mr. to serve for wages, till he shewe apparant signes of amendment.

Against gaming at dice and Cardes be it ordained by this present assembly that the winner or winners shall lose all his or their winninges and both winners and loosers shall forfaite ten shillings a man, one ten shillings whereof to go to the discoverer, and the rest to charitable and pious uses in the Incorporation where the faulte is comitted.

Against durnkenness be it also decreed that if any private person be found culpable thereof, for the first time he is to be reprooved privately by the Minister, the second time publiquely, the thirde time to lye in boltes 12 howers in the house of the Provost Marshall and to paye his fee, and if he still continue in that vice, to undergo suche severe punishment as the Governor and Counsell of Estate shall thinke fitt to be inflicted on him. But if any officer offende in this crime, the first time he shall receive reprooff from the Governour, the second time he shall openly be reprooved in the churche by the minister, and the third time he shall first be comitted and then degraded. Provided it be understood that the Governor hath alwayes power to restore him when he shall in his discretion thinke fitte.

Against excesse in apparell that every man be cessed in the churche for all pubique contributions, if he be unmarried according to his owne apparell, if he be married, according to his owne and his wives, or either of their apparell.