Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 13

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CHAPTER XIII

DOMESTIC ECONOMY OF THE PLANTER — continued

All the descriptions of Virginia in the seventeenth century transmitted to us go to show that the people of all classes in that age lived in the greatest abundance. Those conditions which had furnished the aboriginal tribes with an unlimited supply of food of extraordinary variety, with the need of but small effort in securing it, prevailed with little appreciable modification except in one or two particulars.[1] The soil, the air, the water, all contributed to the plenty so freely enjoyed by the great body of the English population. There were innumerable cattle that afforded butter, cheese,[2] milk, veal, and beef. The ice-house as yet did not enter into the household economy, and in consequence it was the custom of a planter on slaughtering an ox to send to his neighbors such portions of the carcass as could be spared, which the neighbor repaid in his turn.[3] At this time, the only means employed for the preservation of fresh meats was water flowing into a box house erected in the stream that issued from the spring, but this expedient did not serve to keep such meats in good condition for any great length of time. Beef both dried and fresh were included in the inventories of estates.[4] In some cases it had been salted. The beef of the Colony, while pronounced to be of excellent quality, was not as fat as that produced in England, where the cattle perhaps were more carefully provided for in winter. A cow or an ox designed for the butcher was there most frequently stalled as a preparation for its conversion into food. In Virginia, it was allowed to run wild in the woods even in December and January, or was scantily fed on straw, and when the spring arrived, bringing the grass back to the fields and the leaves to the forest, the animal was almost exhausted. With the improved nourishment it soon recuperated, but never acquired the fatness which made English beef one of the most nourishing of all varieties of food.

As has already been stated, the bacon of the Colony, many years before the close of the seventeenth century, was considered by impartial foreign judges to be equal to that of Westphalia, the most celebrated in the world in that age.[5] Clayton expressed the opinion that it very much excelled the English. The very causes that detracted from the quality of Virginian beef were favorable to the quality of Virginian bacon. The wandering existence of the colonial hog, by reducing its fat, was probably as effective in creating the superior flavor of its flesh as the mast, roots, and herbs upon which it fed while ranging in the woods. Clayton declared that shoats or porklets were the principal food of a large section of the population. Poultry were so numerous in the Colony even during the time of the Company that it was affirmed that only those planters who were bad husbandmen failed to breed an hundred a year, and that they formed a part of the daily meals of all who were in good circumstances.[6] As the general wealth increased, the use of domestic fowls as food was not confined to those who had comfortable means. Devries, a Dutch captain who visited the Colony in 1643, has recorded the fact that a carpenter, upon whose house he had stumbled when lost in the vicinity of Newport’s News, set before him a meal consisting of turkey and chicken, which had been killed for his use.[7]

The number of sheep in Virginia being comparatively small, mutton was more esteemed than venison, which was so commonly eaten in some parts of the Colony that the people had grown tired of it.[8] The other kinds of game furnished food at certain seasons of the year in great abundance. Not only were the flocks of wild turkeys very large, but the birds themselves often attained to an extraordinary weight. The wild fowls in the rivers, creeks, and bays were so numerous in autumn and winter that they were regarded as the least expensive food on the table of the planter;[9] the goose, the mallard, the canvas-back, the red-head, the plover, and other species of the most highly flavored marine birds were more frequently cooked in his kitchen than domestic poultry. Fish of the finest varieties were as easily obtained. Sheepshead, shad, breme, perch, soles, bass, chub, and pike swarmed in the nearest waters. Oysters could be procured in quantities as large as in the first years after the settlement of the country, while other species of shellfish were found in almost equal abundance.

It was thought by many good judges, that the fruit of Virginia was superior in flavor to that of England. This was in the most marked degree the case with the peach and quince, the quince of the Colony, unlike that of the mother country, being sufficiently palatable to be eaten raw, while the difference between the English and Virginian peach was said to be as great in favor of the latter as that between the best relished apple and the crab.[10] There were grapes, plums, and figs in all of the gardens, and in season, large quantities went to decay because there was no way of using the superfluity. Strawberries grew in such abundance in the deserted fields that it was considered unnecessary to cultivate the plant; baskets were with little difficulty filled with the wild berries.[11] Apple orchards were numerous and furnished a supply of this fruit both for the summer and the winter. There were ten varieties of peas and two varieties of potatoes, the sweet and the Irish; there were pumpkins, cymblins, melons, and roasting ears of Indian corn. All of the English vegetables flourished in the soil of Virginia. Walnuts, chestnuts, hickory, and hazel nuts were obtained from every forest. Honey was a common article of food, much attention being paid to apiculture; there were few householders who did not have hives under the eaves of their outbuildings, one planter owning as many as thirteen stocks.[12] Mr. George Pelton, who lived about the middle of the century, obtained from his bees an annual profit of thirty pounds sterling.[13] There were many wild swarms in the woods, the honeycombs, which were concealed in the hollows of trees, becoming very frequently the booty of the colonial bee-hunters.

Among the imported articles of food was rice and sweetmeats, and spices in large quantities were also brought in. There were pepper and cloves, mace and cinnamon, ginger, sugar,[14] and lime-juice, oranges, lemons, raisins, and prunes. Salt formed a part of the stores of every planter, being needed not only for giving flavor to the different dishes appearing on the table at meals, but also for the preservation of meats reserved for household consumption, or designed to be exported.[15] Wheat-bread was in common use among the members of the highest class, but bread made of Indian corn baked in large or small cakes in the pan, was equally as popular; it was most probably the only bread eaten by the servants and slaves. As early as 1621, it was generally recognized by the people of the Colony that Indian corn bread was more nourishing than wheat in the arduous life which at that time they were compelled to lead, and the same fact had been observed at a later period in the case of men who had been required to work with their hands.

Twenty years after the foundation of the Colony it was asserted, it would seem with considerable exaggeration, by a woman of prominence who had resided there, that from her own ground of a few acres in Virginia, she could provide for her household more abundantly than in London by an expenditure of three or four hundred pounds sterling,[16] which in that age was equal to several thousand dollars in our modern currency. The ease with which a subsistence was secured, the combined result of a fertile soil and a genial climate, was the principal explanation of the hospitality for which the people were distinguished before the country had been settled half a century.[17] Colonel Norwood, in describing his sojourn on the Eastern Shore after his shipwreck, relates that he was feasted not only by the host whom he happened to be visiting for the time being, but also by all the planters in the neighborhood. There seems to have been some rivalry as to who should be able to set before their guest the greatest variety of dishes. Norwood, who was not unfamiliar with the manner of life of the English court, commended the cooking in Virginia.[18] The gentry seem to have felt much pride in their tables, taking pains, we are informed by Beverley, to have their victuals cooked and served as if they were in London.[19]

It was the general habit of the colonists to charge nothing for the casual entertainment of a stranger, sufficient remuneration being derived from the enjoyment of his society, a pleasure of no small importance in the secluded life of the plantations. It was especially provided by law that unless there had been a distinct arrangement to pay for accommodations, both in regard to food and shelter, nothing could be recovered from a guest, however long he might remain under the roof.[20] The usual charge for board about the middle of the century was five pounds sterling for twelve months, or about one hundred and twenty-five dollars in American currency of the present age. Bullock stated, that by the expenditure of this sum in the Colony, any one might live in a manner which in England would entail an outlay of thirty pounds sterling, six times the amount required in Virginia.[21] The rates for victuals at all of the ordinaries were carefully prescribed by law. Previous to 1639, the cost of a meal was fixed at six pounds of tobacco, or eighteen pence in coin, but in the course of that year it was reduced to twelve pence; or its equivalent in the same commodity, the abundance of food of all sorts being unusually great.[22] Five years later, the charge for a meal at an inn was not allowed to exceed ten pounds. Only wholesome diet was to be furnished, and that in sufficient quantity.[23]

During the session of the Assembly in March, 1657-58, special rates for a meal and lodging at Jamestown were enforced by the authorities, a master being required to pay twenty pounds of tobacco and a servant fifteen.[24] The same charges were prescribed by an Act of Assembly a decade later, this Act extending to all parts of the Colony. So onerous were the rates adopted by the tavern keepers on their own motion, that it is stated to have had a serious effect in deterring persons having just claims from attending the General and County Courts and prosecuting their suits. The excessive demands had their origin not so much in the exorbitant spirit of the keepers of ordinaries as in the limited character of the local custom, and the great danger of depreciation in the leaf offered in payment. The rate fixed upon by law for a single meal, fifteen pounds for a master and ten for a servant, was very high, as fifteen pounds of tobacco at this time would bring, if its quality was good, not less than five shillings in modern English currency, which appears remarkable in a country distinguished for an extraordinary abundance of provisions.[25]

Ten years later some important changes were made in the rates for food at the taverns. For a master, the amount for a single meal was fixed at twelve pounds of tobacco and for his servant at eight, if they were stopping at an ordinary in the town where the General Court or the Assembly had convened. Elsewhere it was to be ten for the master and six for the servant. The cost of lodging for each one was not to exceed three pounds, whether at Jamestown or at other places in the Colony. The charge for pasturing a horse, the owner of which was a guest of the inn, was fixed at six pounds for a period of twenty-four hours; if sheltered and supplied with hay and straw, the fee for the same length of time was to be eight. Grain was to be furnished at the rate of forty pounds of tobacco a bushel, and oats at the rate of sixty pounds.[26]

At different periods in the course of the seventeenth century, an attempt was made to arrange the general scale of prices at which articles of food were to be sold, without regard to their being disposed of in a tavern or not. This was often done in the early decades by the proclamation of the Governor and Council. The rates set by the owners were doubtless very much higher than those laid down in these proclamations, nevertheless the rates prescribed in the latter represented with substantial accuracy the true value of such articles at the time. In 1625, a pound of tobacco was worth about one shilling. In this year was renewed the proclamation that appeared in 1623, the year of the great dearth following the massacre, which led to exorbitant charges for the most ordinary articles. A pound of sugar was rated at one pound of tobacco or one shilling in coin, a firkin of butter at twenty pounds of tobacco or twenty shillings, Newfoundland fish at ten pounds of tobacco or ten shillings a hundred. Canada dry fish at twenty-four pounds of tobacco or twenty-four shillings a hundred, Canada wet fish at thirty pounds of tobacco or thirty shillings a hundred.[27]

In 1642, a tax was imposed upon every tithable person in the Colony for the benefit of Governor Berkeley, to be paid in provisions of different kinds. The rate prescribed for geese and turkeys was five shillings apiece; for hens, twelve pence; for capons, one shilling and six pence; for beef, three and a half pence a pound; for a calf in condition to be slaughtered and converted into veal, twenty-five shillings; for a goat, twenty shillings; for a roasting pig, three shillings; for butter and cheese, eight and six pence a pound.[28]

When, in 1676, English soldiers were sent to Virginia for the purpose of suppressing the insurrection which had broken out under the leadership of Bacon, an order was issued that the people should sell them the following articles at the prices named, the ratio of the purchasing power in the currency of the present day being obtained by multiplying the figures by four or five: fresh beef was to be sold at the rate of two pence a pound and dressed beef at the rate of three; fresh pork at the rate of two pence and salted pork at the rate of two and a half. The price set for dried bacon was five pence a pound; for a cock, hen, or pullet, ten pence; and for a capon, fifteen. Milk was to be sold at the rate of two pence a quart in the interval between September 30th and May 20th, and of one penny between May 20th and September 30th. During these two successive periods, the price of butter was to be six and five pence respectively. The price set for eggs was a penny for three. Indian corn was to be sold at the rate of two shillings and six pence a bushel, and wheat at the rate of four shillings. To this must be added the outlay in converting these grains into meal and flour.[29]

It will be seen from this general statement of prices that the cost of the principal articles of food had fallen in the interval since 1642 in some cases as much as fifty per cent. Allowance must be made for the fact that the rates laid down in this schedule had been arranged at military dictation. The charges for food at this time were very high, the suppression of the insurrection having left all the interests of the Colony in a state of confusion. The schedule was adopted to override this condition of affairs by force of law.

In the list of debts filed against the estate of John Griggs, in February, 1678-79, there is found an interesting statement of prices of certain provisions. For instance, a beef was appraised at four hundred pounds of tobacco, a turkey at forty pounds, two geese at eighty, two bushels of flour at ninety, and twenty pounds of butter at one hundred.[30] A pound of tobacco at this time was worth from one and a quarter to two pence. In 1682, the price of fresh beef was fixed at ten shillings or one hundred pounds of tobacco a hundred-weight; the price of fresh pork at twelve shillings or one hundred and twenty pounds of the same commodity a hundred, representing in both instances a value of one penny and one-fifth of a penny a pound.[31] Dried beef was higher by several pence.[32] The different figures quoted show very plainly that the rates for provisions gradually fell in Virginia with the progress of the seventeenth century; this was due to the increase in the number of plantations, and the enlargement of the volume of production in every department. The decline continued in the eighteenth century for the same reasons. When Beverley wrote his history of Virginia, a pound of beef or pork ranged in price as low as one penny. The fattest pullets were sold for six pence apiece, a turkey hen for fifteen or eighteen, and a turkey cock for two shillings.[33]

It is interesting to compare the rates for provisions in Virginia with the rates for the same articles of food in England during the seventeenth century; a just conception may be thus obtained of the relative expense of living in the two countries during this long period. In England, the price of beef at the beginning of the century was nearly two pence a pound, and at the close of it four pence. In the Colony, it was precisely the reverse. Three and a half pence in 1642, when the provision tax was imposed for the benefit of Sir William Berkeley, the price of one pound of beef was one penny and one-fifth of a penny in 1682, and at certain seasons one penny only in 1705. In 1645, veal was sold in England at two shillings and seven and a half pence a stone; in 1678, at two pence, two and a half pence, and two and three-quarter pence a pound. In these instances, the weight of the calf when slaughtered did not exceed ninety pounds. The price lists adopted by the Assembly in Virginia make no specific reference to veal, the rates for this meat doubtless being included in those for beef. The valuation laid down for a calf in 1642, namely, twenty-five shillings, conveys no definite idea as to weight, the age alone of the animal being taken into consideration. The Virginian price lists fail to include mutton, an indication of the small part which it played in the economy of the household. Some notion as to its cost in the Colony as compared with its cost in England may be obtained from the relative values of sheep in the two, which have been touched upon in the account of the agricultural development of Virginia at different periods. York in the mother country rose in price as time advanced, reversing, as in the case of beef, the history of the same article of food in the Colony, where it commanded, in the latter part of the century, a penny and one-fifth a pound. In England at this time three pence seem to have been the lowest rate, and in some cases it rose to six. The differences in the prices of bacon in England and Virginia were not so marked, five pence a pound being its value in the latter country in 1677, while in the former it sold not infrequently for seven.[34]

In England, the price of butter fluctuated very much in the seventeenth century. During the course of the first thirty years, it rose very steadily; then, with the exception of the interval between 1643 and 1652, when it was very dear, it declined during thirty years, then rose in price again, until in the last decade it was rated at a very high figure.[35] In 1600, it commanded five pence and one-seventh of a penny a pound, or four shillings eight and a half pennies a dozen pounds; in 1650, six pence and five-twelfths of a penny a pound, or six shillings and five pence a dozen pounds; in 1700, at seven pence a pound, or seven shillings a dozen pounds.[36] In 1642, butter was sold in the Colony at eight pence a pound;[37] in 1667, when food was dear, at six pence in winter and at five in summer.[38] By the end of the century, it had sunk to still lower figures. The same fact is observed in regard to butter as in the case of other forms of food, that is to say, it grew dearer in England as the century advanced and cheaper in Virginia. The rates for milk in 1677, the only year in which a record of its value exists, were two pence in winter and one penny in summer, adopting the quart as the standard of measurement. The only reference to the price of this article in England in the same century is in connection with the interval between 1643 and 1649; in the latter year, it, sold for five pence a gallon, or one and one-quarter pence a quart.[39] The probability is that it followed the ratio of increase in price observed in the case of other provisions. In England, the price of eggs fell from four shillings in 1600 to two shillings six and a half pence in 1645, one hundred or eight dozen being taken as the standard. For the rest of the century there appear to be no data. It would seem that, like butter, eggs rose in price towards the close of the century. The falling off in value for the first fifty years represented a decline from half a penny an egg to about one-third of a penny. In 1677, a year of great scarcity, the price of an egg was in Virginia fixed at one-third of a penny, but this doubtless was a much higher valuation than prevailed at a later date.[40] In 1642, a capon sold in England at one shilling five and a half pence, in Virginia at one shilling six pence; in 1678, in England at three shillings, in Virginia in the same year at one shilling five pence; in 1700, at two shillings six pence in England, in Virginia at eight or nine pence. A hen or pullet in England sold in 1642 at eleven and a half pence, in Virginia at twelve pence; in 1676, in England at two shillings, in Virginia at ten pence; in 1700, in England at two shillings and six pence, in Virginia at six pence. In 1642, a goose sold in England at two shillings and a half penny, in Virginia at five shillings; in 1678, in England at three shillings and six pence, in Virginia at forty pounds of tobacco, which were equal in value to about one and a half pence a pound; in 1700, in England at three shillings and six pence, in Virginia at ten pence or a shilling. The same difference was to be noticed with respect to turkeys and ducks.[41]

In the True and Sincere Declaration,[42] issued in December, 1609, by the Governor and Council for Virginia, there was an advertisement for two brewers, who as soon as they were secured were to be dispatched to the Colony; and in a broadside published about this time the advertisement was repeated.[43] Brewers were also included among the tradesmen who were designed by the Company to go over with Sir Thomas Gates.[44] This indicated the importance in the eyes of that corporation of establishing the means in Virginia of manufacturing malt liquors on the spot instead of relying on the importations from England. The notion arose that one of the principal causes of the mortality so prevalent among those arriving in the Colony in the period following the first settlement of the country was the substitution of water for the beer to which the immigrants had been accustomed in England. The Assembly, in the session of 1623-24, went so far as to recommend that all new comers should bring in a supply of malt to be used in brewing liquor, thus making it unnecessary to drink the water of Virginia until the body had become hardened to the climate.[45]

Previous to 1625, two brew-houses were in operation in the Colony, and the patronage which they received was evidently very liberal. The population of Virginia at that time had, with the exception of a small proportion of the inhabitants, not only been born but also reared in England, and had, therefore, the English thirst for strong liquors. It was not long before they discovered the adaptability of the persimmon to beer.[46] It was even sought to make wine of sassafras.[47] Barley and Indian corn were planted to secure material for brewing, the ale produced, both strong and small, being pronounced by capable judges to be of excellent quality.[48] Twenty years after the dissolution of the Company, there were six public brew-houses in Virginia, the malt used being extracted from the barley and hops which had in considerable quantities been raised for this purpose.[49] In 1652, George Fletcher obtained the monopoly of brewing in wooden vessels for a period of fourteen years.[50] In some places, beer was, about the middle of the century, the most popular of all the liquors drunk in the Colony,[51] the great proportion of it being brewed at this time in the houses of the planters. With the progress of time, the cultivation of barley practically ceased. In the period of the English Protectorate, there were offered a number of petitions from English merchants who were anxious to obtain licenses to export malt to Virginia;[52] the quantity brought in steadily increased, the landowners in good circumstances purchasing it to be used in making beer. They also imported the beer itself. The poorest class of people had recourse to various expedients as a substitute for malt. They brewed with dried Indian corn or with bran and molasses; or they brewed with the baked cakes of the fruit of the persimmon tree; or with potatoes; or the green stalks of maize chopped into fine pieces and mashed; or with pumpkins; or the Jerusalem artichoke, which was planted like barley to be consumed in the manufacture of spirits. It is said, however, that the liquor made from this vegetable was not very much esteemed.[53] There are many references in the county records to malt-mills and also to malt-houses,[54] which were the private property of planters. Some owned distilleries,[55] others worms and limbecks.

Cider was in as common use as beer; in season it was found in the house of every planter in the Colony. In the opinion of English judges, like Hugh Jones, it was not much inferior in quality to the most famous kinds produced in Herefordshire.[56] Fitzhugh, however, does not appear to have entertained this opinion, although, like Jones, he had in early life been in a position to compare English with Virginian cider on the ground where it was made. On one occasion, he sent to George Mason of Bristol a sample of the cider of the Colony, accompanying it with a somewhat apologetic letter: “I had not the vanity,” he wrote, “to think that we could outdo, much less equal, your Herefordshire red stroke, especially that made at particular places. I only thought because of the place from where it came, it might be acceptable, and give you an opportunity in the drinking of it to discover what future advantages this country may be capable of.”[57]

Large quantities of cider were frequently the subject of specialties; thus Peter Marsh of York County about 1675 entered into a bond to pay James Minge one hundred and twenty gallons.[58] It was also the form of consideration in which rent was occasionally settled.[59] The instance of Alexander Moore of York shows the quantity often bequeathed; he left at his decease twenty gallons of raw cider and one hundred and thirty of boiled. Richard Moore, of the same county, kept on hand as many as fourteen cider casks.[60] Richard Bennett made about twenty butts of cider annually, while Richard Kinsman compressed from the pears growing in his orchard forty or fifty of perry.[61] These liquors seemed to have been kept in butts, hogsheads, and runlets. A great quantity of peach and apple brandy was also manufactured.

In addition to beer and ale, the liquors most generally used by the wealthier planters in the early history of the Colony were sack and aquavitæ.[62] With the passage of time, madeira became the most popular form of spirits with the members of this class in use at meals, and punch, manufactured either from West Indian rum or apple or peach brandy, at other times.[63] The people at large drank rum or brandy if a strong drink was desired.[64] Mathegelin, a mixture of honey and water, was also consumed.[65] Among the lighter wines in use were claret, fayal, and Rhenish.[66] It is a fact of curious interest, from our present point of view, that the rarest French, Portuguese, and Spanish wines and brandies were found in the ordinaries of Virginia in the seventeenth century, and the rates at which they were disposed of were carefully fixed by law. Where now only the meanest brands of whiskey can be bought, madeira, sherry, canary, malaga, muscadine, fayal, and other foreign wines were offered for sale. Had there been no popular demand for them, they would not have been imported. Descended from a race of hearty and liberal drinkers, the English, it would have been remarkable had the Virginians of the period shown no strong tendency to indulgence in liquor. It is highly probable that the comparative loneliness of plantation life and the absence of exciting amusements had a powerful influence in stimulating the love of spirits prevailing in the Colony from the earliest time. The authorities of the Company in England, writing in 1622 to the Governor and Council in Virginia, attributed the massacre by the Indians, which had recently taken place, to the anger of Providence, who thus sought to punish the inhabitants “for enormous excesses in apparel and drinking.”[67] In 1638, Governor Harvey declared in an official communication dispatched to England, that one-half of the principal commodity of the country, tobacco, was thrown away in a superfluity of wines and strong waters.[68] One of the most cogent reasons for requiring all shipmasters to keep the bulk of their cargoes unbroken until they arrived at Jamestown, a standing regulation for many decades, was to prevent a waste of the people’s substance in purchases of liquors, to the neglect of the necessary articles of life. Fitzhugh states that in malting bargains for the acquisition of the main crop of the planters, a certain percentage of expense had to be allowed by the trader for the spirits which would be consumed before the agreements were closed.[69] So intemperate was the indulgence at funerals, more especially in cider and rum, that some testators left instructions in their wills that no liquors were to be distributed on the occasion of their burials.[70]

A supply of spirits was provided for the members of public bodies when they convened. The character of the liquors used depended somewhat on the nature of the assemblage. When Charles Hansford and David Condon, as the executors of the widow of the unfortunate Thomas Hansford, who lost his life on account of his participation in the insurrection of 1676, leased her residence in York to the justices of the peace of that county to serve as a court-house, they bound themselves to furnish not only accommodations for horses, but also a gallon of brandy during each session of the bench. It is not stated whether this brandy was consumed by the honorable justices in the form of the drink which has become so famous in later times in Virginia, the mint julep, but if mint was cultivated in the Colony in that age, it is quite probable that a large part of this gallon was converted into that mixture, the kindly effects of which were certainly not promotive of a harsh disposition in the enforcement of the law by the magistrates of York.[71]

In 1666, the justices of Lower Norfolk County rented the tract of land on which the court-house was situated, on condition that the lessee, in part consideration for the use of the houses and orchards each year, would pay ten gallons of ale brewed from English grain.[72]

The members of the Council appear to have been fastidious in their tastes. It was one of the duties of the Auditor-General to have a large quantity of wine always ready at hand for this body; thus on one occasion, William Byrd, who filled the office in the latter part of the century, ordered for their use, twenty dozen of claret and six dozen of canary, sherry, and Rhenish respectively. A quarter of a cask of brandy was also to be added.[73]

This unrestrained indulgence in liquor, which previous to 1624 had excited the criticism of the Company, called down on the Colony on several occasions the animadversion of the Royal Government after it had taken charge of affairs in Virginia. In 1625, Governor Yeardley was instructed to suppress drunkenness by severe punishments, and to dispose of the spirits brought into the Colony in such manner that it would go to the relief and comfort of the whole plantation, instead of falling into the hands of those who would be most likely to abuse it. He received additional orders to return to the importers all liquors shown to be decayed or unwholesome.[74] In 1638, the latter instruction, which had also been given to Wyatt, who was Governor at this time, was modified to the extent of requiring him to stave every vessel or cask containing spirits shown to be unfit for drinking. The injunction as to withholding all liquors imported into the Colony from persons who were guilty of excess in the use of them was repeated.[75]

The attempts to prevent drunkenness were not confined to instructions to the Governors, given by the authorities in England; from the first session of the earliest Assembly, no legislative means were left unemployed to accomplish the same object. In 1619, it was provided that the person guilty in this respect should for the first offence be privately reproved by his minister; and for the second, publicly; for the third, be imprisoned for twelve hours, and if still incorrigible, be punished as the Governor directed.[76] In March, 1623-24, the church wardens in every parish were ordered to present all persons guilty of drunkenness to the commander of his plantation. In 1631-32, the penalty of the English law was imposed, that is to say, the offender was required to pay five shillings into the hands of the nearest vestry, and this fine could be made good by a levy upon his property. In 1657-58, the most stringent regulations were adopted in suppression of this among other vices specially named; not only was the person guilty of inebriety to be punished by a very heavy fine, but he was to be rendered incapable of being a witness in court, or bearing office under the Government of the Colony.[77] In 1691, the penalty for the offence of drunkenness was fixed at ten shillings, and if the guilty person was unable to pay this sum, he was to be exposed in the stocks for the space of two hours. Eight years subsequently, the fine was reduced to five shillings.[78]

The opportunities of obtaining liquor were very much increased by the large number of ordinaries in the Colony, in all of which a great variety of spirits was sold. It is probable that most of these establishments were mere tippling-shops, an inference justified by the strict regulations as to the prices at which liquors were to be disposed of by innkeepers. It is interesting to examine these prices as showing in part the expense of living in Virginia. Previous to 1639, beer alone was rated at the taverns, from which it is to be supposed that this was the only form of spirits to be had in the ordinaries at that time. The amount prescribed by law was six pounds of tobacco, or eighteen pence in coin. About the year 1639, a condition of great plenty prevailed, and in consequence the charge was reduced to twelve pence or one shilling.[79] Five years later, not only was the sale in the taverns of all liquors except strong beer and ale prohibited, but no debts, made by the purchase of imported wines or other spirits, could be enforced in a court of justice. This was found to be so inconvenient that the Act of Assembly in which it had its origin was repealed.[80]

The Act does not seem to have at any time applied to wine manufactured from grapes produced in the Colony, or to cider or perry compressed from apples or pears of Virginian growth, an exception being made in the case of these spirits in order to encourage the planting of orchards and vineyards. It was stated that beer and ale were also excepted for the purpose of promoting the cultivation of English grain.[81]

To check exorbitant charges on the part of innkeepers, special rates were now laid down for retailers of the different wines and strong waters. The price by the gallon for canary, malaga, sherry, muscadine, and allegant was fixed at thirty pounds of tobacco; for madeira and fayal, at twenty pounds; for French wines, at fifteen for the finest brands of English spirits, at eighty; and for brandy or aquavitæ, at forty.[82] It is a fact worthy of attention that keepers of ordinaries were allowed to retail wines and other liquors at Jamestown when the merchants were expressly forbidden to do so. It was important to the public that the taverns at the seat of the Colonial Government should not fall into decay, and the exclusion of the merchants from the local traffic in strong waters shows how dependent the innkeepers of that community were upon the sale of spirits for their prosperity.[83] This regulation was put in operation at the close of the year 1645. In November, 1647, the old law which rendered all debts for wines and strong waters not pleadable in a court of justice was revived without regard to the business of the creditor.[84] The transfer of spirits by the wholesale on shipboard was expressly excepted from the scope of this prohibition. Although it was stated that the rule that such debts should not be pleadable was to be perpetual, ten years had barely passed away before it was found necessary to establish rates for the sale of liquors by retail, which undoubtedly gave validity to obligations thus created. The interval between 1645, when the first schedule of prices was adopted, and 1657, when the second, covered only the period of a decade, and yet it is found that in this length of time, the rates for malaga, canary, sherry, muscadine, and allegant had doubled, while madeira and fayal had advanced from twenty pounds of tobacco a gallon to fifty; French wines, from fifteen to thirty; English spirits, from eighty to one hundred and twenty; and brandy or aquavitæ from forty to sixty. The decline in the price of the leaf in this interval was a partial explanation of the increase in the rates.[85]

We have evidence that the retailers were in the habit of mixing the cheaper with the dearer, and of adulterating it still more grossly with a view to a larger profit. In the event that the fraud was discovered, the Commissioners of the Court in the jurisdiction of which the act was committed were authorized to order the constable of the county to stave the casks containing the liquor condemned.[86] Special rates were permitted in the sale of spirits by retail at Jamestown during the session of the Assembly in the spring of 1658. The keepers of ordinaries could dispose of their Spanish wines for thirty pounds of tobacco a quart, or one hundred and twenty pounds a gallon, this being a quadruple advance upon the rates at which these wines were allowed to be sold in 1645, and double the rates permitted in 1657. The price laid down for French wines was twenty pounds of tobacco a quart and eighty pounds a gallon, representing, when compared with previous charges, the same ratio of increase. A rate for beer was now quoted for the first time since 1639, when it was the only liquor that could be legally disposed of by retail. In that year, it was valued at less than six pounds of tobacco. It was now valued at twenty.[87]

The permission to sell at these high figures, which, as we have seen, was granted to the keepers of ordinaries at Jamestown, only had their justification in circumstances wholly local in character and entirely confined to one occasion. The Assembly was compelled to admit that the stringent laws adopted to restrain exorbitant charges for liquors in the ordinaries had failed of their purpose; this was largely on account of the extreme fluctuation in the prices of tobacco, which led to the establishment of a regulation apparently well adapted to protect the interests of the retailer of liquor, as well as those of the purchaser: the judge of each county court was authorized to apply from time to time a sliding scale to the rates, as the value of tobacco rose or fell.[88] In order to ensure its strict observance, every ordinary keeper was compelled to give bond, and had also to obtain a special license, paying three hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco to the Governor for it.[89]

After 1663, all retail sellers of liquors were required to use only the English sealed measures of pints, quarts, or gallons. Spirits imported in bottles were allowed to be disposed of without breaking the seal. It is an indication of the heavy exactions to which buyers had been exposed under the lax system previously prevalent, that a failure to introduce the English measures as directed by law exposed the retailer of liquor to the enormous fine of five thousand pounds of tobacco, and if he was also an innkeeper, to the cancellation of his license.[90]

In 1666, the difficult matter of placing the rates upon an exactly just footing to the buyer and seller of liquors alike was settled by the adoption of an entirely new regulation; this consisted of allowing the seller by retail to charge treble the amount which the spirits he disposed of had cost him, provided that this general rate was not in excess of the figures prescribed by law. Thus the charge for Spanish and Portuguese wines was not to exceed ten shillings, or one hundred pounds of tobacco a gallon; the charge for French wines was not to exceed eight shillings, or eighty pounds of tobacco a gallon; for rum, ten shillings, or one hundred pounds of tobacco; for brandy and English spirits, sixteen shillings, or one hundred and sixty pounds of tobacco. Permission was granted to ordinary keepers to secure as large a profit from the sale of beer as they could within a limit of four shillings a gallon, or forty pounds of tobacco. This price was extremely high, the privilege of larger gain in the case of this liquor being allowed on the specific ground that it was of domestic manufacture. What were described as “Virginia drams,” that is to say, apple and peach brandies, were to be sold within the restriction of the rates laid down for English spirits.[91]

It would seem that, for many years, the accounts of innkeepers for the liquors furnished to their customers had not been pleadable, although they had been charging at established rates. The right was now granted to them to sue upon these accounts in a court of justice and to recover judgment, but it was required that the action should be brought within a year after the debt was contracted. Twelve months later, the same schedule was readopted, except that the rate for cider and perry was fixed at two shillings six pence, or twenty-five pounds of tobacco a gallon.[92]

In 1668, there were so many taverns and tippling-houses in the Colony, that it was found necessary to reduce the number in each county to one or two, unless, for the accommodation of travellers, more should be needed at ports, ferries, and the crossings of great roads, in addition to that which was erected at the court-house. All persons who conducted drinking-shops without license were fined two thousand pounds of tobacco.[93] The rates adopted for liquors in 1666, and readopted in 1667, having been found in 1671 to be too high in some instances, were materially lessened; those for Portuguese, Spanish, and French wines were retained, while those for brandy, English spirits, and “Virginia drams” were cut down from sixteen shillings, or one hundred and sixty pounds of tobacco a gallon, to ten shillings, or one hundred pounds. The price of beer, which had been valued at four shillings a gallon, and of cider and perry, which had been valued at two shillings and six pence, was fixed at two shillings, or twenty pounds of tobacco a gallon. If the beer had been brewed with molasses, one shilling, or ten pounds, was the charge.[94]

In 1676, during the supremacy of Nathaniel Bacon, at which time so many laws were passed for the purpose of suppressing long-standing abuses, a legislative attempt was made to enforce what practically amounted to general prohibition. The licenses of all inns, alehouses, and tippling-houses, except those at James City, and at the two great ferries of York River, were revoked. The keepers of the ordinaries which were permitted to remain open at the latter places were allowed to sell only beer and cider. This regulation was the more remarkable from the fact that it was adopted by the action of the people at large, who must have been the principal customers of the tippling-houses, if not of the inns. Not content with putting a stop to sales in the public places, the framers of the regulation further prescribed that “no one should presume to sell any sort of drink or liquor whatsoever, by retail, under any color, pretence, delusion; or subtle evasion whatsoever, to be drunk or spent in his or their house or houses, upon his or their plantation or plantations.”[95]

After the suppression of the insurrection, this sweeping measure was substantially modified by a substitute restricting the number of ordinaries allowed in each county to two, Jamestown for obvious reasons being excepted from its scope. The rates for “Virginia drams” were fixed at ten shillings, or one hundred pounds of tobacco a gallon; for beer, at two shillings, or twenty pounds a gallon; for perry and cider, at twenty pounds if boiled, and at eighteen if raw. Tobacco at this time commanded about one and a half pence a pound. The prices of the foreign wines and spirits were to be fixed for each county in the months of May and November by the justices according to the market values then prevailing; and a failure on the part of these officers to set the rates subjected the court of which they were members to a very heavy fine.[96]

This system of establishing rates for foreign wines and spirits continued in operation during the remainder of the century and was embodied in the code of 1705; it was so eminently proper it seems surprising that it should not have been put in force from the beginning. Not only were the prices of foreign liquors when thus sold made to accord with the prices at which they were purchased before their importation into the Colony, but they were also, and this was a matter of still greater consequence, kept in touch with the fluctuating value of tobacco, in which form of currency the wines and spirits were rated. Promptness in raising or lowering the schedule as circumstances demanded was ensured by the frequent sessions of the justices. The records of the county courts subsequent to the passage of the Act of 1676-77 contain regular reports of the prices established by them. From one of these entries, it is learned that in 1688 the charge for brandy by the gallon was fixed at sixty pounds of tobacco; of rum and madeira, at fifty pounds; and of other island wines, at forty. This was in Henrico.[97] In York County, at this time, the rates were calculated in coin. Canary was to be sold at eight shillings a gallon, sherry at six, Rhenish at four and six pence, claret and white wines at four, rum, madeira, and fayal wines at two shillings and six pence.[98] In the schedule adopted by the justices of the same county six years later, the only change made was in the price of claret, this wine being reduced from four to three shillings and six pence, an indication that it was now imported in larger quantities.[99]

It was required that the rates at which liquors were to be sold should be set in all the counties. Those which have been given are representative. The tables from which these quotations were drawn show that the conditions referred to in regard to spirits offered for sale in the ordinaries at an earlier day existed also in the latter part of the century, that is to say, that liquors which in more recent times have been looked upon as among the luxuries of the rich alone, were in that age in the reach of the whole people, and could be bought in the Virginian taverns as readily as beer, cider, and perry of local manufacture. Madeira, malaga, canary, and fayal wines were probably much more abundant in the Colony than in England at this time, and were drunk by classes which in the mother country were content with strong and small beer. In England, beer was in such common use that no quotations as to the rates at which it was sold are given by Professor Rogers in his great work on the history of prices in that kingdom. In Virginia, its value seems to have steadily advanced, as it commanded twelve pence a gallon in 1639, and two shillings in 1671; the latter price, however, was for the finest brands, since it is stated that beer brewed with molasses was still rated at one shilling a gallon.

The rise in the price of beer was perhaps due to the fact that in the early part of the century, the greater proportion of the whole quantity in the Colony was produced in local breweries, either public or private, while towards the end of the century, liquor of this kind of the best quality was imported, thus materially increasing the outlay to the consumer. Cider being of local manufacture altogether, did not vary substantially in value after the orchards in Virginia had become numerous. Two shillings and six pence a gallon seems to have been the highest figure at which it was sold. In England, about the same time, it was retailed at a very much lower rate.[100] It will be of interest to compare the prices of the spirits imported into the Colony with the prices of the same spirits as sold in England in the same age. In Virginia, the Spanish and Portuguese wines; madeira, canary, malaga, and fayal were, in 1666, as has been seen, set down at ten shillings a gallon as the very highest figure at which it was legal to sell them. In 1671, this regulation was readopted. It is not probable that the innkeepers disposed of these wines at rates as advanced as were allowed by law except in unusual instances, six or seven shillings a gallon being perhaps the average amount under ordinary circumstances. That this supposition is substantially correct appears from the prices fixed by the justices of the Henrico county court in 1688, when madeira was assessed at fifty pounds of tobacco and the other island wines at forty pounds. If we apply the ratio of values prescribed by Act of Assembly in 1682, a pound of tobacco being accepted in that statute as worth one and a fifth pence, which is a high rather than a low figure for a year of large crops, like 1688, it will be seen that the cost of madeira was about five shillings a gallon, and of other Spanish and Portuguese island wines about four shillings. In England, madeira sold in 1697 at six shillings eight pence a gallon, a difference in its favor in Virginia of one shilling and eight pence. The average rate of canary in the mother country throughout the seventeenth century was five shillings eight and a quarter pence,[101] which was higher than the price of the same wine in the Colony in 1688, and probably than its average price from the time when it was first imported. Sherry rose in value in England from three shillings eight pence in 1617 to eight shillings in 1698 a gallon. In 1688, the same quantity of sherry was sold in Virginia at the rate of four shillings; before this, the highest figure allowed by law had been ten, which, however, was specified merely as a limit without being necessarily the amount fixed for the ordinary charge.[102] In 1688, sack was sold in the Colony at four shillings a gallon, the highest rate prescribed for it at any previous time being half a pound sterling. This limit also was probably never reached, except occasionally by exorbitant keepers of ordinaries. In England, the average price of a gallon of sack in the seventeenth century was five shillings and three pence.

The wines of France appear to have been dearer in Virginia than in England. The only French liquor much used in the Colony was claret, which, in 1666 and 1671, was rated at eight shillings a gallon, as the highest figure at which it was to be sold. Modifying this charge in order to reach the probable general average, and the price of claret still remains greater in Virginia than in the mother country, where the general average for the whole of the seventeenth century was only three shillings a gallon. The explanation of the costliness of French wines in the Colony as compared with those of the Spanish and Portuguese islands, is to be found in the fact that in conformity with the Navigation laws, which did not apply to the island wines, they were imported first into England and from thence into Virginia. English spirits were of course dearer in the Colony, to which they had to be transported, than on the spot where they had been manufactured. In 1671, English brandy commanded in Virginia ten shillings a gallon; in England in 1674, four shillings.[103] The prices of liquor in the Colony were probably affected somewhat by the imposition of a duty of three pence upon every four quarts of it brought in, unless it had been conveyed from the mother country. English importations were excepted from the scope of the Act.[104] In 1691, the general tax was increased to four pence; if introduced in a vessel belonging wholly to Virginians, the duty upon the gallon was to be only two pence.[105]

The liberal use which was made of spirits by all classes was not simply due to the indulgence of an appetite for liquor inherited with that English blood which has always gratified itself so freely in this respect under English skies. It was supposed to have a favorable influence upon the body from a medical point of view. The “morning draught” was a popular expression in the Colony long before the close of the seventeenth century.[106] This was the draught with which the day was begun, and it was the popular belief, a belief doubtless formed with the most delightful facility, that such a draught was the surest means of obtaining protection against the miasmatic exhalations of the marshes. The taint of sickness in summer lingered about the oldest settlements, and at all seasons followed in the track of settlers on the frontier engaged in cutting down the forest, who thus set free the germs that invariably lurk in a mould created by rotting leaves and decaying wood. This assured a large practice to all who made any pretensions to the art of the physician. It is evident, from the number of medical bills entered upon record in the seventeenth century, that the expense of illness was an important drain upon the resources of the colonial families in the course of that long period. The experience of Richard Longman, who was residing in Virginia in the years 1661, 1662, and 1664, where he was acting as the attorney of his father, an English merchant, probably represents the experience of all who remained in the Colony only temporarily, and, therefore, not long enough to become inured to the climate. He was not content to engage the services of one practitioner, but in succession employed three who were distinguished for their skill. First, there was Dr. Robert Ellyson, who presented a bill of twelve pounds sterling; secondly, Dr. Haddon, whose charges amounted to eleven pounds and four shillings; and thirdly, Dr. Napier, whose bill was only a few shillings smaller.[107] That Longman should have called in so many physicians in turn was due, very probably, not to dissatisfaction with their learning and ability, but to the fact that, in selling merchandise and collecting debts belonging to his father, he was compelled to remove from place to place. In 1670, Dr. Haddon charged a patient one thousand pounds of tobacco for twenty days’ attendance, the distance he had to ride each day being fourteen miles; this bill was increased to fourteen hundred and sixty pounds by the medicines which he furnished,[108] the whole representing in value a sum slightly less than fifteen pounds sterling. In 1695, the account of Dr. William Ellis of Elizabeth City against William Harris, including the costs of visits, physic, and advice, ran to seven pounds and ten shillings.[109] In all of these instances, the number of miles which the practitioner had to travel were carefully noted. On the other hand, in the account of Dr. George Glover against Edmund Dil, a seaman, there were entries for supplies of food and for lodging as well as for medicine and attendance, the amount of this bill being seven pounds sterling.[110] In some cases, the patient, in consideration of the fact that his physician agreed to attend him and his family during his life, granted him a tract of land covering as much as one hundred acres in area.[111]

There are indications in different parts of the seventeenth century that the charges of practitioners were considered to be grossly immoderate. So excessive were their rates previous to 1630, that masters were tempted to suffer a servant to perish for want of proper advice and medicines rather then submit to their exactions. It was now provided that in every case in which a patient had just cause to think that the account of his medical attendant was wholly unreasonable, he should have that attendant summoned to the court of the county in which the patient resided. Here the physician was required to state upon oath the quantity and value of the medicines which he had administered, and the judges then decided what satisfaction was to be allowed him. These provisions remained in force during a long course of years.[112] The accounts of physicians were, in 1661, made pleadable against the estates of deceased persons, and these accounts, in case the patient recovered, were barred unless sued upon before the end of six months.[113] In 1661, the rule was adopted that when a practitioner was summoned to court to answer for immoderate charges, he should be allowed fifty per cent advance upon the value of the medicines administered to the plaintiff, his patient, and such a sum for his visits and advice as they were decided to be worth.[114] Thirty years later, he was permitted to obtain an hundred per cent upon the full value of his drugs as sworn to in court.[115] These drugs represented a considerable variety of preparations, which it appears the physicians were only too ready to give, however slight the indisposition. A very popular course in the case of the most common disease of the country, ague and fever, seems to have been to prescribe first, several spoonfuls of crocus metallorum, and then for the purpose of purging, fifteen to twenty grains of rosin of jalap; this was followed by Venice treacle, powder of snakeroot or Gascoin’s powder.[116] Powders, ointments, plasters, and oils were among the medicines most generally used.

The items in a bill of Dr. Haddon of York for the performance of an amputation have been preserved. They included one highly flavored and two ordinary cordials, three ointments for the wound, an ointment precipitate, the operation of letting blood, a purge per diem, two purges electuaries, external applications, a cordial and two astringent powders, phlebotomy, a defensive and a large cloth. Dr. Haddon prescribed on another occasion a purging glister, a caphalick and a cordial electuary, oil of spirits and sweet almonds, a purging and a cordial bolus, purging pills, ursecatory, and oxymell. His charge for six visits after dark was a hogshead of tobacco weighing four hundred pounds.[117] In a case of cancer which Dr. Napier of York in 1666 attended, he had recourse to copious bleeding and numerous cordials. The same physician, in a different disease, contented himself with administering almost exclusively a considerable number of the latter mixtures.[118]

The expenses attending the preparation for the grave and the burial of a corpse were probably more serious in the seventeenth century in proportion to the means of the people in that age than they are to-day. About 1650, the charge for a coffin was about one hundred pounds of tobacco;[119] in 1667, it was fifty pounds more, which was equivalent to one pound and a quarter sterling.[120] Thirty years subsequent to this, the coffin in which the remains of Thomas Jefferson, an ancestor of the celebrated statesman of the same name, were laid, cost twelve shillings and six pence, the larger part of which was represented in the charge for carpenter’s work.[121] In several cases, the price was ten shillings.[122] The charge for a winding-sheet of holland was one hundred pounds of tobacco in 1652,[123] and in the same year the charge for making a grave was twenty pounds.[124] In 1696, it was thirty.[125] The assistance needed by the digger in filling in the grave increased the outlay on this account to ten shillings.[126] The funeral sermon added very materially to the funeral expenses, the cost of this part of the ceremonies varying apparently at different periods; in two instances in York County in 1667, it was two pounds sterling,[127] and in 1690, it amounted to five pounds.[128]

The stones above the graves were often imported from abroad. Thus in 1657, Mrs. Sarah Yeardley in her will directed that after her death, her necklace and jewels were to be sent to England, and there sold, the proceeds to be used in the purchase among other things of two black tombstones to be conveyed to Virginia.[129] Mrs. John Page desired her grave might be covered with a brick tomb on which a polished black marble slab was to rest.[130]

The outlay which custom required to be made in food, but more especially in liquors, for the funeral was often very heavy. Sheep, poultry, hogs, and heifers, and even an ox, were not infrequently killed to satisfy the hunger of the friends of the deceased who attended, and who, with few exceptions, had been compelled to come a long distance, owing to the fact that the plantations were so widely separated. Spirits were dispensed in large quantities. At a funeral which took place in York in 1667, twenty-two gallons of cider, five gallons of brandy, twenty-four gallons of beer, and twelve pounds of sugar were consumed;[131] sixty gallons of cider, four gallons of rum, and thirty pounds of sugar were consumed by the company present at a funeral in Lower Norfolk in 1691.[132] The amount that was drunk was indeed only limited by the resources of the estate. Some testators gravely calculated the quantity of liquor which would be needed at their own obsequies, and made provision in the minutest details for this part of the outlay. When Mr. John Bracegirdle, a factor of Captain Philip Foster of England, residing in Virginia, came to draw his will, he not only specified the sum of money to be expended in his burial, but also directed that the spirits to be drunk in commemoration of that event should be drawn from “the quarter cask of drams,” which at that time was lying in his store.[133] The personal estate of Walter Barton amounted to fifty-four pounds and fifteen shillings; the cost of his funeral exceeded eight pounds.[134] The expense of Mr. William Vincent’s funeral was equal to fifteen hogsheads of tobacco.[135]

In the early history of the Colony, legal steps were taken to afford to the people of each parish a public graveyard, and the church wardens were required to impale and to keep it in decent order.[136] From the beginning, however, it was the custom of numerous persons to bury the deceased members of their families in the immediate vicinity of their homes. Abraham Piersey, the wealthiest citizen of Virginia of his time, was buried near his dwelling-house. So common did this habit become that in a memorial drawn up by the Bishop of London in 1677, he complained that the public places for burial were neglected, and that the dead among the planters were interred in their gardens.[137] The bodies of many were buried in the graveyards or in the chancels of the parish churches.[138]

It would be inferred from the inventories of that period that there was no vehicle in Virginia in the seventeenth century resembling a carriage, but from other sources it is learned that this means of locomotion was not unknown in the Colony. Such a vehicle seems to have been in the possession of a few very wealthy persons. William Fitzhugh owned what was known in that age as a calash, which had been imported from England; Governor Berkeley possessed a coach.[139] When the average planter attended the meetings of the county court, or went to church, or was present at the funerals of deceased friends, or visited the homes of his neighbors, he was compelled to rely upon his horse for conveyance, unless he was willing to travel in the ordinary farm cart:[140] the imperfections of the highways, and in some parts of the country the entire absence of passable roads, made the use of the horse almost a necessity in journeying from place to place. Among the most common entries in the appraisements of estates were the pillion and side-saddle, which were kept in readiness for the female members of the family. The equipments of the stables were complete. The saddle was often bound in hogskin.[141] A well-known planter of Elizabeth City County had in his possession, in 1690, one article of this kind covered with purple leather, and another made of plush in the seat.[142] Ralph Wormeley owned a crimson velvet saddle with broadcloth saddle-cloth and silk spring holsters, valued at fifteen pounds.[143] Hackney and troop saddles were in general use. The curb bridle was also common. There are frequent references to riding stockings. The horses were allowed to remain unshod, which caused no damage or inconvenience, as the road beds were for the most part level and sandy. The ordinary pace of the Virginian riders was a sharp hand gallop; this led to the expression, “a planter’s pace,” an indication of the energy with which they travelled, and the fleetness of their steeds.[144] When the public authorities had occasion to transmit a message or to send a packet, instructions were given to their agents to impress relay horses, and also men and boats in the performance of their orders. These agents in their accounts itemized the costs of the food and drink which they consumed in the course of their journeys.[145] About the middle of the century, the principal means of conveying public letters was to superscribe them with the line “for public service,” and then to require the planters in turn to pass the envelope on to its destination under penalty of forfeiting a hogshead of tobacco in case of neglect.[146] In 1692, a royal patent was granted to Thomas Neale to establish post-offices in America for the transportation of private and public mails; and this patent was recognized by an Act of Assembly in 1692 to be operative in Virginia.[147] Neale was required by the terms of this Act to erect a post-office for the Colony at large, and a post-office for each county. Permission was given him to charge three pence per day for every letter which covered only one sheet of paper and which had to be carried a distance not in excess of four score English miles; and six pence when the letter covered a space of two sheets or less. When the number of letters was sufficient to form a packet, the charge for every one not exceeding two sheets was to be five pence, and if the packet consisted of deeds, writs, and other bulky papers, the amount of postage was to be twelve pence an ounce. When the distance to be covered in the transmission was greater than four score English miles, the rate was four pence halfpenny for every letter not exceeding one sheet, and nine pence for every one exceeding one sheet but not exceeding two. When a number were made up in a packet, to be sent to a longer distance than four score miles, the charge for every one covering more than two sheets was to be four pence halfpenny. If the packet was composed of writs, deeds, and similar documents, the charge was to be eighteen pence an ounce. The privileges granted to Neale were not to interfere with the transmission of letters by private hands if the writers preferred this means of conveyance.[148]


  1. Colonel Norwood in his Voyage to Virginia declares that Northampton was “the best county of the whole for all sorts of necessaries for human life,” p. 48, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  2. The inventory of the personal estate of Nathaniel Bradford of Accomac included among its items fifty pounds of “Virginia cheese.” Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1682-1697, f. p. 214.
  3. Leah and Rachel, p. 19, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  4. One of the items in the inventory of Robert Drury of York County was “forty pounds of dried beef,” this being in addition to other meats. Records, vol. 1684-1687, p. 333, Va. State Library. The inventory of Margery Bullington included eighty-seven pounds of beef. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 306, Va. State Library. There were professional butchers in the Colony in the seventeenth century, some of whom, if an inference can be drawn from the case of William Johnson, were the owners of extensive tracts of land. See Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1703, p. 230.
  5. Clayton’s Virginia, p. 36, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. Burnaby, writing nearly an hundred years later (1759), remarked: “The Virginia pork is said to be superior in flavor to any in the world.” See his travels printed in Va. Hist. Register, vol. V, No. 1, p. 38. Large quantities of pork are enumerated in the inventories of the seventeenth century.
  6. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 865. Poultry, probably because they were so abundant, were rarely enumerated in the inventories. See Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p.161; also Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 163, Va. State Library.
  7. Devries’ Voyages from Holland to America, p. 188.
  8. Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts; vol. III; Leah and Rachel, p. 13, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  9. Among the twenty-one guns owned by Ralph Wormeley were five fowling pieces. See Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, p.128. Lands were frequently posted. See Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 251, Va. State Library.
  10. Leah and Rachel, p. 18, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  11. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 104.
  12. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 446, Va. State Library. See also Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 354, Va. State Library. New Description of Virginia, p. 4, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II. Mr. Nicholas Seabrell of York owned seven hives. Vol. 1664-1672, p. 162, Va. State Library.
  13. New Description of Virginia, p. 15, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.
  14. In a letter to John Cooper of London in 1685, Fitzhugh writes: “I have only in my former sent for 100 pounds of sundrey sugars, and about 60 or 80 pounds of powdered sugar.” June 1, 1685.
  15. Among the articles in household use owned by Giles Mode in 1657 were two hogsheads of salt, one of white, the other of bay salt. Records of York, 1657-1662, p. 48, Va. State Library.
  16. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 887.
  17. Leah and Rachel, p. 15, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  18. Norwood’s Voyage to Virginia, p. 48, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  19. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 236.
  20. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 192.
  21. Bullock’s Virginia, p. 37.
  22. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 229.
  23. Ibid., p. 287.
  24. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 490.
  25. Ibid., vol. II, p. 263.
  26. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 394.
  27. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 1.
  28. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 281.
  29. Acts of Assembly, Feb. 20, 29th year of Charles II Reign, Winder Papers, vol. II, p. 99, Va. State Library. In 1631, milk sold at Kecoughtan at the rate of twelve pence a gallon. Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, vol. 1667-1688, p. 235.
  30. Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 87, Va. State Library.
  31. Ibid., vol. 1671-1694, p. 104; Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 507.
  32. Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 45.
  33. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 236.
  34. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, price of beef and veal, pp. 334, 388; pork and bacon, p. 343.
  35. Ibid., p. 358.
  36. Ibid., pp. 373-378.
  37. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 281.
  38. Acts of Assembly, Feb. 20, 29th year Charles II Reign, Winder Papers, vol. II, p. 99, Va. State Library.
  39. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 362.
  40. Acts of Assembly, Feb. 20, 29th year Charles II Reign, Winder Papers, vol. II, p. 99, Va. State Library; Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, pp. 372, 376.
  41. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, prices of capon, pp. 374, 378; hen, p. 378; goose, p. 375. For Virginian prices, see Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 281, vol. II, p. 506. Beverley’s History of Virginia, pp. 236, 237.
  42. Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 353.
  43. Ibid., p. 356.
  44. Ibid., p. 470.
  45. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 7.
  46. Broadside, 1621, Purchas’ Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 1784.
  47. This was the project of a Mr. Russell, a chemist, who proposed, in consideration of £1000 to be paid by the Company, to demonstrate that wine could be produced from the sassafras. The proposition was accepted by the Company with some modification, but as nothing more is known of the matter, it is to be inferred that Mr. Russell failed to show what he had undertaken. Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Fifth Report, Appx., p. 341.
  48. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 886. George Thorpe, writing to John Smith of Nibley in 1020, comments on the fact that the colonists had found a way to make a good drink from Indian corn, which he preferred to English beer. Cholmondeley MSS., Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Fifth Report, Appx., p. 341.
  49. Perfect Description of Virginia, p. 3, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.
  50. Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 231.
  51. Leah and Rachel, p. 13, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  52. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XIII, No. 12.
  53. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 238. The following letter relating to the importation of malt is preserved in the York Records:
  54. Reference has been made to the malt-house of Francis Page. Edmund Scarborough had also erected a house for this purpose. Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1666-1676, p. 31. The malt was generally kept in the cellars. Giles Mode writes in 1657 to Mr. Bushrod as follows: “I am sensible the mault you had in ye sellar was betwixt six and seven bushels. . . .” Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 48, Va. State Library.
  55. Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1664-1673, p. 83, Va. State Library.
  56. Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 41.
  57. Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 17, 1695.
  58. Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 63, Va. State Library.
  59. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 106, Va. State Library.
  60. Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 64, Va. State Library.
  61. New Description of Virginia, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II. This was, perhaps, as already stated, Kingsmill, not Kinsman.
  62. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 886. It is stated in this reference that “few of the upper planters drink any water.”
  63. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 238. A liquor was also made from the quince. See Newell Inventory, Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 142, Va. State Library.
  64. Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 52.
  65. New Description of Virginia, page 15, Force’s Historical Tracts, Vol. II.
  66. Fitzhugh, writing in 1694 to Mr. George Mason of Bristol, said: “I thank you for your half dozen of claret, and should have in gratification returned you a hamper of cider, but on examination found none worth the sending.” July 20, 1694. Under date of July 25, 1690, Byrd wrote to one of his English correspondents and thanked him for a large quantity of Rhenish wine which he had sent. “The wine, although the cask was somewhat leaky, was extraordinarily good, better than any I had in bottles, and if we could find a way to settle our trade, it would do well, especially in this scarcity of claret.”
  67. Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 322. See, however, the pathetic denial of this charge in a letter of the Governor and Council, dated Jan. 20, 1623, p. 367.
  68. Harvey and Council to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, No. 5; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 145, Va. State Library.
  69. Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 8, 1687. In the account of Richard Longman, as attorney of his father, an English merchant, preserved in the Records of York County (vol. 1664-1672, p. 115, Va. State Library), six pounds sterling is entered as the amount expended in drink in making sale of the goods represented in the account.
  70. Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 165, Va. State Library. The language of the testator in this case was as follows: “Having observed in the daies of my pilgrimage the debauches used at burialls tending much to the dishonour of God and his true Religion, my will is that noe strong drinke bee p’vided or spirits at my burialls.”
  71. Ibid., 1675-1684, p. 35. I have not been able to find any reference to the mint julep in the seventeenth century. It was doubtless the of a later period. Licenses were issued for the sale of cider at the meetings of citizens in attendance on the local courts. This is shown in the following extract from the Records of Lancaster County (original vol. 1680-1686, orders July 12, 1682): “George Mayplis, petitioning the court to have ye privilege of selling of cider at ye courthouse in court time, the court doth order, provided it be no ways injurious or prejudicial in ye disturbing of ye court in their time of sitting, have admitted him so to do for this season.” That the justices were not entirely proof against the attractions of the cider and the other liquors sold on court days is seen in the provision for the punishment of those members of the bench who should become intoxicated. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 384.
  72. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1666-1675, p. 35.
  73. Letters of William Byrd, June 4, 1691. Under date of June 10, 1689, Byrd wrote: “If claret is not to be had, we must be content with port (that is, for the Council). . . . I desire you to send me a hogshead of claret wine. . . .”
  74. Instructions to Governor Yeardley, 1626, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, vol. LXXIX, p. 248; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 395.
  75. Instructions to Governor Wyatt, 1638-39, Colonial Entry Book, vol. LXXIX, pp. 219-236; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1638, p. 47, Va. State Library.
  76. Lawes of Assembly, 1619, Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 20.
  77. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 126, 193, 433.
  78. Ibid., vol. III, pp. 139, 170.
  79. Ibid., vol. I, p. 229.
  80. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 295.
  81. Records of Lower Norfolk County, vol. for the years 1642, 1643, f. p. 34.
  82. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 300.
  83. Ibid., p. 319.
  84. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 350.
  85. Ibid., p. 446.
  86. Ibid.
  87. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 489.
  88. Ibid., p. 522.
  89. Ibid., vol. II, pp. 19, 20.
  90. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 113.
  91. Ibid., p. 234.
  92. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 234, 263, 287.
  93. Ibid., p. 269.
  94. Ibid., p. 287.
  95. Bacon’s Laws, 1676, Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 361.
  96. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 394. The alternative “ten shillings or one hundred pounds of tobacco” would seem to show that 1 1/5d. a pound was now the price of tobacco. It would be safe to place its value a little higher, as the lowest figure was probably adopted by the Assembly.
  97. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 31, Va. State Library.
  98. Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 321, Va. State Library.
  99. Ibid., vol. 1690-1694, p. 225.
  100. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 327.
  101. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 445.
  102. Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, pp. 445, 446.
  103. Ibid., p. 450.
  104. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 23.
  105. Ibid., p. 88. If the vessel had been built in Virginia, no duty was imposed.
  106. Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 71, Va. State Library. Deposition of William Clopton: “That coming to the French ordinary on March 9, he happened to meet with Mr. Thomas Walkinson, who asked your deponent to give him a morning draught. . . .”
  107. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 117, Va. State Library.
  108. Ibid., p. 444.
  109. Records of Elisabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 92, Va. State Library.
  110. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 143, Va. State Library. See Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 8; see also Ibid., p. 367, Va. State Library.
  111. Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 272, Va. State Library.
  112. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 316, 450.
  113. Ibid., vol. II, p. 26.
  114. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 109, 110. An instance of this in actual practice is preserved in the Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1694, orders July 4, 1687.
  115. Ibid., vol. III, p. 103.
  116. Clayton’s Virginia, p. 6, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  117. Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 212, Va. State Library.
  118. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 169, Va. State Library.
  119. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1651-1656, f. p. 78; Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 270, Va. State Library.
  120. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 221.
  121. See Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 212.
  122. Records of York County, vol. 1694-1702, p. 141; Ibid., vol. 1687-1691, p. 568, Va. State Library; Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 171.
  123. Records of Lower Norfolk County, 1651-1656, f. p, 78.
  124. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 266, Va. State Library.
  125. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 117, Va. State Library.
  126. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 471, Va. State Library.
  127. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, pp. 217, 221, Va. State Library.
  128. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. II.
  129. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, p. 117.
  130. Records of York County, vol. 1694-1702, p. 64, Va. State Library.
  131. Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 221.
  132. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 171.
  133. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 549, Va. State Library.
  134. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 171.
  135. Ibid., original vol. 1651-1656, f. p. 120. The following itemized statement was entered of record in proving the estate of John Griggs (Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 87, Va. State Library.) It covered his funeral expenses:
  136. Lawes and Orders, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 9; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 93, Va. State Library.
  137. Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. III, p. 253; see also will of Richard Kemp, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 174.
  138. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 169, Va. State Library; see also Records of Accomac County, 1632-1640, p. 53, Va. State Library.
  139. Will of William Fitzhugh, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 276, refers to his “coaches.” Hugh Jones, writing in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, said that “most females (in Virginia) had a coach, chariot, Berlin or chaise.” Present State of Virginia, p. 32. See the reference to Lady Berkeley’s coach in a letter of the English Commissioners, May 4, 1677, Colonial Entry Book, No. 81; Winder Papers, vol. II, p. 318, Va. State Library. Fitzhugh on one occasion ordered what he called a “Running chair,” which probably resembled a modern sulky. See Letters, July 10, 1690.
  140. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, pp. 77, 453, Va. State Library; Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, pp. 429, 672, Va. State Library.
  141. See inventory of Robert Beverley, Sr., on file in Middlesex County.
  142. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 254, Va. State Library.
  143. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, p. 121.
  144. Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
  145. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 336, Va. State Library; Hening’s Statutes at Large, vol. II, p. 250; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1689-1690, p. 206, Va. State Library; Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 98, Va. State Library.
  146. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 436. A letter of Sam’l Mathews, dated Aug. 24, 1659, written to Governor Fendall, took a month to reach its destination. Robinson Transcripts, p. 270.
  147. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 112. The Council, it seems, had proposed a post-office in 1689. Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 447. In 1692, Peter Heyman was appointed deputy postmaster. Ibid., p. 455.
  148. This project came to nothing. See Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 81.