Virginia & the New World

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First American Expeditions

In 1584 Walter Raleigh dispatched an expedition across the Atlantic; one of the ships was commanded by Philip Amadas.

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Virginia Company Charter

In 1602 Benjamin Gosnold explored New England and discovered Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, which he named after his first daughter. Gosnold would in 1606 work with Sir John Popham on the foundation of the two Virginia ‘colonies and companies’. The companies’ charter was drafted by Edwin Sandys and Edward Coke. It guaranteed to the colonists and their children all rights and liberties ‘to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been abiding and born, within this our realm of England’. The first five of these men were members of Middle Temple; Coke was a member of Inner. All were fired by dreams of Virginia.

William Crashaw, Reader (Preacher) of the Temple Church, 1605-15, and fervent supporter of the Virginia Colony, owned a prestigious library, housed next to the Church and ‘one of the fairest paire of globes in Englande’. In 1613 he gave presents to each Inn ‘for a farewell and poor remembrance of my long service and longer lastinge love to these societyes’. His gift to Middle Temple, which did not yet have an established library, was perhaps his pair of globes.


Of the six (majestic) globes by Molyneux known to survive, Middle Temple has the only pair: one celestial (dated 1592) and one terrestrial (1603). The terrestrial globe records discoveries up to 1597: the search for a Northern Passage, the voyages of Drake and Cavendish; and the settlement of Virginia.

In February 1609/10, William Crashaw preached a sermon in praise of the Virginia Colony. Near its end he addressed Virginia itself:

And thou Virginia, whom though mine eyes see not, my heart shall love; how hath God honoured thee! Thou hast thy name from the worthiest Queen that ever the world had: thou hast thy matter from the greatest King on earth: and thou shalt now have thy form from one of the most glorious Nations under the Sun… But this is but a little portion of thy honour: for thy God is coming towards thee, and in the mean time sends to thee, and salutes thee with the best blessing heaven hath, even his blessed Gospel. Look up therefore, and lift up thy head, for thy redemption draweth nigh; and he that was the God of Israel, and is still the God of England, will shortly I doubt not bring it to pass, that men shall say, Blessed be the Lord God of Virginia; and let all Christian people say Amen.

The great clauses of Magna Carta were about to inform the constitutional life of the New World.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. Magna Carta (1215), 39-40

The General Assembly of Maryland, 1639.

The inhabitants of this Province shall have all their rights and liberties according to the Great Charter of England.

The Body of Liberties, Massachusetts, 1641.

No man’s life shall be taken away, no man’s honour or good name shall be stained, no man’s person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any ways punished … unless it be by virtue or equity of some express law of the Country warranting the same.

Acts and Orders for the Colony … of Providence, 1647.

That no person, in this colony, shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseized of his lands or liberties, or be exiled, or any otherwise molested or destroyed, but by the lawful judgement of his peers, or by some known law, and according to the letter of it, ratified and confirmed by the major part of the General Assembly lawfully met and orderly managed.




John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence: the Drafting Committee presenting its Work (painted in 1818). From Inner or Middle Temple: 1. Thomas Lynch, at the right-hand end of the seated group. 2. William Paca, standing on the left. 3. Arthur Middleton, standing at the right-hand end of the group. 4. Thomas Heyward, sitting in front of and slightly to the left of Middleton. 5. John Dickinson (not a signatory), standing between two others. 6. Edward Rutledge. 7. Thomas McKean, sitting to their right.Caption and key

George Sandys (1578-1644) of Middle Temple, Treasurer of the Virginia Colony, visited Jerusalem. He was so touched by the Holy Sepulchre that he composed this hymn then and there.

Saviour of mankind, Man, Emmanuel:
Who sinless died for Sin, who vanquished hell.
The first fruits of the grave. Whose life did give
Light to our darkness: in whose death we live.
O strengthen thou my faith; correct my will,
That mine may thine obey: protect me still.
So that the latter death may not devour
My soul sealed with thy seale. So in the hour
When thou whose Body sanctified this tombe,
Unjustly judged, a glorious judge shalt come
To judge the world with justice; by that sign
I may be known, and entertained for thine.

The artist of this Three Shillings note was Paul Revere, the printer was Benjamin Franklin.  The inscriptions: 'Issued in defence of American Liberty'; 'Ense petit placidam sub Libertate Quietem' (With the sword he seeks peaceful quiet under liberty).  The militiaman holds a sword in one hand, 'Magna Charta' in the other.

Magna Carta, clause 14, lays down the consulation that must take place, 'to obtain the common counsel of the realm', before the levying of tax.  Bishops, barons and others were to be summoned by letters that specified the cause of the summons, forty days before the consultation. Centuries later, the American colonists would demand the same right: no taxation without representation.