The Thomas Jefferson Papers

Virginia Records Timeline: 1553-1743



The Virginia government at Jamestown passes statutes and codes that differentiate between white indentured servants and blacks in permanent servitude. By the 1680s, permanent servitude has become even more identified with race.

Governor Sir Francis Wyatt issues a proclamation limiting tobacco cultivation to not more than one thousand plants. He insists that planters cultivate more corn.


Civil War begins in Great Britain after a long period of conflict between Charles I and Parliament over issues of religion, taxes, and land reform. Eventually Oliver Cromwell emerges to leadership of the Parliamentary party after leading military forces to victory over royalist armies.

Oliver Cromwell
enlarge image icon  [Oliver Cromwell, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing right, in oval], Photoprint reproduction of a painting by Robert Walker at Dublin National Gallery. created/published [between 1850 and 1890].

February. Sir William Berkeley becomes governor of the colony of Virginia. He serves until 1652, and then again from 1660 to 1677. Berkeley is a strong Anglican and attempts to establish the Anglican Church more firmly in Virginia.


October. English colonists murder Opechancanough, the great chief of the Powhatan confederation, after his most recent attack on colonists in April.


Governor Sir William Berkeley forces a treaty on the new chief of the Powhatan, Necotowance, in which the Powhatans must cede to the English all peninsular lands between the James and York Rivers as far inland as Richmond Falls.


January 20-27. King Charles I is tried for treason by Parliament. Although he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of trying a king on such a charge, he is found guilty and beheaded on January 30. The monarchy and the House of Lords are abolished and "parliamentarians" rule. War continues between Cromwell's forces and those of the Scots who support the restoration of the monarchy.




The Powhatan Indians suffer a major defeat at the hands of the English.

This year the death rate in the Virginia colony begins to decline.


Parliament passes the first Navigation Act affecting the colonies. Whatever their geographic origin, imports to England must be carried only in English ships.


July 8. England and the Netherlands go to war over England's 1651 Navigation Act.

March 12. Representatives of the new Parliamentary government in England arrive in Jamestown to establish their authority over the colony. Governor Berkeley offers the colony's submission. For the next eight years, the Virginia General Assembly dominates colonial government.


Parliament passes the second Navigation Act decreeing that the colonies can ship their products only to England. The initial list of products includes tobacco, sugar, wool, indigo, and other mainstays of the colonies. Molasses is later added to the list. Under the scrutiny of the Privy Council, the Lords of Trade oversee the American colonies and enforce the Navigation Acts.


May. The monarchy is restored and Charles II becomes king.

March. The Virginia General Assembly is elected but is often prorogued by Governor Berkeley and subsequent governors until 1676.


Jamestown loses its status as the sole port of entry for Virginia shipping.


August 27. The English take New Amsterdam from the Dutch. Charles II awards the colony to his brother James, Duke of York.


November 16. A Mr. Garroway, member of the House of Commons in England, argues in Parliament that the death rate in Virginia is still such that a constant influx of colonists is required to maintain a viable settlement.


Officers of the Anglican Church, called "commissaries," are established in the Virginia colony as a substitute for a full-fledged bishopric. The first commissary is James Blair, who in 1690 tries to set up ecclesiastical courts, but the General Assembly successfully opposes his efforts.


February 9. The English and the Dutch make peace, ending nearly ten years of hostilities.



April. Virginia frontier settlers choose Nathaniel Bacon to lead an expedition against nearby Indians. Bacon, a gentleman, has recently arrived in the colony. He decides not to wait for a formal commission from Governor Berkeley and kills Occaneechee Indians friendly to the colony, threatening the peace that Governor Berkeley has labored to maintain.

Nathaniel Bacon
enlarge image icon   [Nathaniel Bacon, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing right] Engraving by T. Chambars after a painting by Seipse. created/published [between 1760 and 1800].

May 10. Governor Berkeley declares Nathaniel Bacon a rebel and offers a pardon to all other members of the expedition if they will lay down their arms. He calls for elections to the General Assembly, which have not occurred for many years.

June 5. Nathaniel Bacon comes to Jamestown to take his seat in the upper legislative house, the Council, but instead goes into hiding with the assistance of William Drummond of Albemarle. The conflict broadens as backcountry settlers become increasingly discontented with Berkeley's administration, especially its Indian policy. Thomas Mathew, a Burgess from Stafford and witness to the ensuing events, writes an account of the rebellion for Lord Oxford in England in 1705. Thomas Mathew, The Beginning, Progress, and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in 1675 and 1676 (1705).

June 7. Governor Berkeley's men capture Bacon. The Governor pardons him and on June 10 allows him to return to his seat in the Council.

June 23. Bacon demands a commission to lead an expedition against Indians on the frontier and receives it on July 29, but after a subsequent events, Governor Berkeley regrets his decision and again declares Bacon a rebel.

August. Bacon and his supporters meet at Middle Plantation where they make plans to increase and consolidate their forces on the frontier. Governor Berkeley eventually flees Jamestown as the rebellion grows larger.

September 19. Nathaniel Bacon and his supporters enter Jamestown and burn it.

October 26. Nathaniel Bacon dies of illness. The rebellion dissolves and two of his supporters, William Drummond and Giles Bland, are executed. Berkeley steps down as governor in 1676.


October 10. King Charles II grants the Virginia colony a new charter in which the General Assembly has no autonomous rights or privileges but continues in existence only at the pleasure of the crown. Disappointment and anger is severe among Jamestown Assembly members. Proclamation on Virginia Colony, October 10, 1678 (Thomas Jefferson's copy)

Throughout 1678, royal power increases in the colony.


Thomas Jefferson (d. 1697), the great grandfather of the third president of the United States, is living in Henrico county.


Thomas Jefferson purchases land from William Byrd. Jefferson is married to Mary Branch, with whom he has a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Martha.


April 25. The General Assembly meets in Jamestown, barely rebuilt since Bacon and his supporters burned it. Governor Thomas Culpeper makes plans for the restoration of the colony's seat of government.


February. Lord Howard becomes governor of Virginia Colony. A struggle of several years follows between the governor and the Assembly.


February 6. Charles II dies and is succeeded by his brother, James II, who attempts to restore the country to Catholicism.



December 11. James II flees England. English leaders invite William of Orange to be king of England. The following year, William and his wife, Mary, daughter of James II, assume the throne and the "Glorious Revolution" is complete.

James II
enlarge image icon  [James II, half-length portrait, facing left], Engraving by J. Pass. created/published [between 1820 and 1830].

With the "Glorious Revolution," the Virginia General Assembly's legitimacy as a permanent branch of government is secured.


April 27. Jamestown celebrates the ascension of William and Mary to the throne of England.


April 23. Jamestown holds Olympic Games on St. George's Day, the feast day of England's patron saint.


The General Assembly charters the College of William and Mary at Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg) as a seminary for Anglican ministers.


Parliament opens the slave trade to British merchants, and the number of Africans brought to the colony begins to increase dramatically. Sugar and molasses are shipped from the West Indies to New England where they are distilled into rum. In West Africa, rum is traded for slaves, who are taken usually to the West Indies. This triangular trade becomes a mainstay of the American colonies.

October 31. A fire destroys Jamestown. Thereafter, only a few people continue to live there and the town declines and eventually ceases to exist. In 1699, the seat of government is moved to Williamsburg, formerly called "Middle Plantation."