But his energies were mainly devoted to the Virginia Company. He had been appointed a member of the council for Virginia on 9 March 1607. In 1617 he was chosen to assist Sir Thomas Smythe [q. v.], the treasurer, in the management of the company. In this capacity he warmly supported the request of the Leyden exiles [see Robinson, John, (1576?–1625)] to be allowed to settle in the company's domains. On 12 Nov. 1617 he addressed a letter to Robinson and Brewster, expressing satisfaction with the ‘seven articles’ in which the ‘exiles’ stated their political views (Neill, Virginia Company, pp. 125–6). It was largely owing to his influence that a patent was granted them.
Meanwhile Smythe's administration, coupled with Argall's arbitrary measures, threatened to ruin the infant colony, and created a feeling of discontent in the governing body of the company. On 28 April 1619 a combination of parties resulted in the almost unanimous election of Sandys to the treasurership; but the ascendency of Sandys and his party dates from the beginning of the year (Doyle, English in America, iii. 210), and his tenure of the treasurership made 1619 ‘a date to be remembered in the history of English colonisation’ (Gardiner, iii. 161). His first measure was to institute a rigorous examination of accounts which convicted Smythe of incompetence, if not worse (cf. Sandys to Buckingham in Cal. State Papers, America and West Indies, 7 June 1620). Yeardley was sent to replace Argall as governor, and in May Sandys procured the appointment of a committee to codify the regulations of the company, to settle a form of government for the colony, to appoint magistrates and officers, and define their functions and duties (Abstract of Proceedings of the Virginia Company, Hist. Soc. of Virginia, i. 2–15; Neill, Hist. Virginia Company, passim; Stith, Hist. Virginia, 1747, pp. 156–76). Acting on the company's instructions, Yeardley summoned an assembly of burgesses, which met in the church at Jamestown on 30 July 1619. It was the first representative assembly summoned in America; the English House of Commons was taken as its model, and an account of its deliberations is preserved among the colonial state papers in the Record Office. On 6 June Sandys obtained the company's sanction for the establishment of a missionary college at Henrico. Ten thousand acres were allotted for its maintenance (Holmes, American Annals, i. 157); but the project was subsequently abandoned. Sandys also carried out the transhipment of a number of men and women for the colony, secured the exclusion from England of foreign tobacco in the interests of the Virginia trade, and introduced various other manufactures into the colony. These measures resulted in a marked increase in the population and prosperity of Virginia, and when Sandys's term of office as treasurer expired, on 27 May 1620, the company was anxious to re-elect him. At the quarterly meeting of the company on that date a message arrived from the king demanding the election of one of four candidates whom he named. The company, alarmed at this infringement of their charter, asked Sandys to retain the office temporarily, and sent a deputation to James to remonstrate (cf. Peckard, Memoirs of the Life of Nicholas Ferrar, 1790, pp. 93–100). The king received it with the declaration that the company was a seminary for a seditious parliament, that Sandys was his greatest enemy, and concluded with the remark, ‘Choose the devil if you will, but not Sir Edwin Sandys’ (A Short Collection of the most remarkable passages from the Originall to the Dissolution of the Virginia Company, London, 1651, pp. 7, 8). Sandys accordingly withdrew his candidature, and on 28 June his friend Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton [q. v.], whom Sandys is said to have converted from popery (Peckard, p. 102), was elected treasurer, and Nicholas Ferrar [q. v.] his deputy. Both were staunch adherents of the Sandys party, and Sandys himself was given authority to sign receipts and transact other business for the company. During the frequent absences of Southampton he took the leading part in the proceedings of the company, and in February 1620–1621 he prepared, with Selden's assistance, a new patent whereby the title of the chief official was to be changed from treasurer to governor. On 28 June following he laid before the company ‘Propositions considerable for the better managing of the business of the company and advancing of the plantation of Virginia’ (Proceedings, i. 79–86).
These reforms, however, were soon forgotten in the struggle for existence which the company had to wage against its internal and external enemies. Smythe and Argall had naturally resented their exposure, and they now made common cause with Warwick [see Rich, Robert, (1587–1658)] against the dominant party in the company and their policy. Sandys's position as leader of the popular party in parliament alienated the support of the court. He was suspected of harbouring designs to establish a republican and puritan state in America, of which he and his friends would have com-