Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/139

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The Colonial Virginian. 133

tination was at the period deemed quite a general one south of New England, there are more lists ostensibly for New England than Virginia. The lists themselves seem to offer no more foundation for the stigmatizing term convict than in some instances that they were " rebels " or political offenders. Dishonor can scarcely be held to attach to such. The magnanimous New Englander would vouch- safe us all of the felons as he would the entire depravity of man.

The following descriptive prefix to the lists given constantly ap- pears in evidence of character as Christians and law abiding persons:

" They have been examined by the minister of of their con-

formitie, and have taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacie. " The severity of the penal laws of England makes it patent for what trivial causes the stigma " felon" or "convict" was adjudged and affixed. " It is a melancholy truth [laments Blackstone] that among the variety of actions which men are daily liable to commit no less than one hundred and sixty have been declared by an act of Parlia- ment to be felonies without the benefit of the clergy, or, in other words, to be worthy of instant death. 22

All persons guilty of larceny above the value of twelve pence were by the common law subject to the death penalty. 23 It would appear that the transportation of felons to America was first authorized by Parliament in 1663, when an act was passed sending hither the " Morse Troopers of Cumberland and Northumberland." a *

The presence of these Puritans in Virginia was speedily felt. An insurrection among the white servants of the colony in September, 1663, led, states Beverley, by Oliverian soldiers," 25 gave so great an alarm that measures were taken by vigorous enactment to " prohibit the importation of such dangerous and scandalous people, since thereby we apparently lose our reputation." 26 In 1671 Captains Bristow and Walker were made to give security in the "some of 1,000,000 pounds of tobacco and cask" that certain " Newgate birds " be sent out of the colony within two months. 87

Smith, in his "Historic" gives evidence largely as to the character and social condition of the early settlers of Virginia, and the colony

22 Tucker's Blackstone, Volume IV, page 18.

23 Tncker, Volume IV, page 236.

24 Blackstone, Philadelphia Edition, i84j, Volume I, side note 18, page 137.

25 Beverley, pages 5-8.

26 Hening, Volume II, page 510.

27 Ibid, page 511.