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For The Colony in Virginea Britannia. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, &c

Of the fifty-one entries in the version of the Articles, Laws, and Orders, Divine, Politic, and Martial for the Colony in Virginia: first established by Sir Thomas Gates Knight, Lieutenant General, the 24. of May 1610. exemplified and approved by the Right Honorable Sir Thomas West Knight, Lord Lawair, Lord Governor and Captaine General the 12. of June 1610. Again exemplified and enlarged by Sir Thomas Dale Knight, Martial, and Deputy Governor, the 22. of June. 1611 that Jamestown secretary William Strachey took to the press in 1612, forty-eight are punishable by oblivion. A sampler of the capital crimes:

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 Gods holy name upon pain of death, or use unlawful oaths, taking the name of God in vain, curse, or ban, upon pain of severe punishment for the first offence so committed, and for the second, to have a bodkin thrust through his tongue, and if he continue the blaspheming of Gods holy name, for the third time so offending, he shall be brought to a martial court, and there receive censure of death for his offence.

No manner of person whatsoever, shall dare to detract, slander, calumniate, or utter unseemly, and unfitting speeches, either against his Majesty's Honorable Council for this Colony, resident in England, or against the Committees, Assistants unto the said Council, or against the zealous endeavours, & intentions of the whole body of Adventurers for this pious and Christian Plantation, or against any public book, or books, which by their mature advise, and grave wisdoms, shall be thought fit, to be set forth and published, for the advancement of the good of this Colony, and the felicity thereof, upon pain for the first time so offending, to be whipped three several times, and upon his knees to acknowledge his offence and to ask forgiveness upon the Sabbath day in the assembly of the congregation, and for the second time so offending to be condemned to the Galley for three years, and for the third time so offending to be punished with death.

No man of what condition soever shall barter, truck, or trade with the Indians, except he be thereunto appointed by lawful authority, upon pain of death.

No man shall rifle or despoil, by force or violence, take away any thing from any Indian coming to trade, or otherwise, upon pain of death.

No man or woman, (upon pain of death) shall run away from the Colony, to Powhathan, or any savage Weroance else whatsoever.

What man or woman soever, shall rob any garden, public or private, being set to weed the same, or wilfully pluck up therin any root, herb, or flower, to spoil and wast or steal the same, or robbe any vineyard, or gather up the grapes, or steal any ears of the corn growing, whether in the ground belonging to the same fort or town where he dwells, or in any other, shall be punished with death.

No man or woman whatsoever, members of this Colony shall sell or give unto any Captain, Mariner, Master, or Sailer, &c. any commodity of this country, of what quality soever, to be transported out of the Colony, for his or their own private uses, upon pain of death.

No man shall willingly absent himself, when he is summoned to take the oath of Supremacy, upon pain of death.

For the full text of Strachey's transcription, and other Jamestown history, go to

« Back to main article “Upon Paine of Death”