Sir William Berkeley – Interview with Dr. Warren Billings

Virginia history is filled with many important names, dates, and events. One of those great names who influenced much of 17th Century Virginia is Sir William Berkeley. John Smith is more famous and certainly influenced Jamestown’s early survival, but Berkeley took the struggling colony and moved it into a position that the later First Families of Virginia inherited and made into a powerhouse.

Berkeley is a bridge. But he’s no ordinary bridge. For the time in question, he was an ornate spectacle that shined in a bleak world. His work ensured that the rule of law would expand and remain. He instigated building, better crops, better production, and expanded liberty through local courts and free trade. His work attracted a higher class that might otherwise have never come to the colony, but that class soon plagued him. They ultimately brought him down in the end.

Berkeley’s life spans many worlds, pre-Commonwealth England, the English Civil War, The Interregnum, the Restoration, the Powhatan Wars, Matthews-Claiborne Virginia, Dutch Wars, and Bacon’s Rebellion. He played a part in it all, and above all else, he left his mark on Virginia’s landscape.

No one speaks of this pivotal figure more completely than Dr. Warren Billings, my guest for this episode. Tune in and learn more about this amazing 17th Century figure’s influence on Virginia’s History.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

DR BILLING’S WORK:

  1. Billings, Warren M. Magistrates and Pioneers: Essays in the History of American Law. Clark, New Jersey, 2011.
  2. Billings, Warren M. The Papers of Sir William Berkeley, 1606–1677. Richmond, Va., 2007.The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1700. Revised edition. Chapel Hill, N.C, 2007.
  3. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, La., 2004.
  4. Billings, Warren M. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, Va., 2004.
  5. Billings, Warren M. A Law Unto Itself? Essays in the New Louisiana Legal History. Edited with Mark F. Fernandez. Baton Rouge, La., 2001.
  6. Editor, Robert Joseph Pothier, A Treatise on Obligations Considered from a Moral and Legal View. Union, N.J, 1999. (Facsimile reprint of a classic early American legal work, for which Dr. Billings wrote an introductory essay and furnished the source text.)
  7. An Uncommon Experience: Law and Judicial Institutions in Louisiana, 1803–2003. Edited with Judith Kelleher Schafer. Lafayette, La.: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1997.
  8. Billings, Warren M. In Search of Fundamental Law: Louisiana’s Constitutions, 1812–1974. Edited with Edward F. Haas. Lafayette, La, 1993.
  9. Billings, Warren M. Virginia’s Viceroy: Their Majesties’ Governor and Captain-General, Francis Howard, Baron Howard of Effingham. Fairfax, Va. 1991.
  10. Billings, Warren M. Jamestown and the Founding of the Nation. Gettysburg, Pa., 1990.
  11. Billings, Warren M. The Papers ofFrancis Howard, 5th Baron ofEffingham, 1643–1695. Richmond, Va., 1989.
  12. Colonial Virginia: A History. Written with John E. Selby and Thad W. Tate. White Plains, N.Y, 1986.
  13. Billings, Warren M. Historic Rules of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, 1813–1879. Lafayette, La., 1985.
  14. Billings, Warren M. The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1689. Chapel Hill, N.C, 1975.
  15. Billings, Warren M. “Virginia’s deploured condition”, 1660-1676 : The Coming of Bacon’s Rebellion. DeKalb: Norther Illinois University, 1968. Dr. Billing’s 1968 Thesis and where to access it.

SPECIAL LINKS:

Berkeley Signature

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Billings.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “La Rejoussiance” from George Frideric Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks HWV 351 performed by Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra, also available on iTunes.

Governor Berkeley Is Undone

The English Civil war claimed victims in Virginia, and the most prominent casualty was William Berkeley.

Berkeley’s first administration has been painted as rather successful, and for good reason. He had made peace with the Powhatan Confederation, increased trade with other colonies, as well as other countries, such as the Dutch, and he greatly aided in solidifying Virginia’s colonial government. For at least these major reasons Berkeley earned high praise from his Virginian constituents. But though high praise often followed Berkeley, there were still those who fell afoul of the Governor.

Much opposition accounts also had what seemed to be valid issues. The most prominent of those issues centered around religious freedom. Berkeley was a staunch Royalist, who supported the Anglican Church, but his increasingly powerful opponents were Puritans that sided with the Parliamentarian cause. That being the case, when King Charles I lost his head in 1649 the English government had to address their Royalist supporting Virginia governor.

The Mathews-Claiborne faction moved to spearhead Parliament’s response. Religious freedom certainly influenced their cause, but Berkeley’s decision to spurn the Navigation Acts which forbade Virginia to trade with anyone other than the English fueled the faction’s fire. In the end, Berkeley could not withstand his enemies combined weight, nor would Berkeley lead the colony into a bloody war. He submitted, to a point, and retired to his Green Spring Plantation, a subject of Cromwell’s England with powerful Royalist connections.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

Green Spring
Governor Berkeley’s Green Spring Plantation as seen by Benjamin Latrobe during the plantation’s Ludwell ownership

SOURCES:

  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2004.
  3. Billings, Warren. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 2004.
  4. Craven, Wesley Frank. White, Red, and Black: The Seventeenth Century Virginian. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1977.
  5. Craven, Wesley Frank. The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century: 1607-1689. LSU Press, 1949.
  6. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  7. Horn, James. Adapting to A New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  8. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  9. Neill, Edward D. Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles The First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s and Sons, 1886.
  10. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  11. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  12. Wallenstein, Peter. Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
  13. Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607-1763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  14. Washburn, Wilcomb E. Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell 1625-1660. Kindle Edition.
  15. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Under the Stuarts: 1607-1688. New York: Russell and Russell, 1959.
  16. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. The Planters of Colonial Virginia. Kindle Edition.

BONUS LINKS:

Berkeley Signature

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is Governor Berkeley’s addressing the Virginia Assembly regarding the new Parliamentary government following the English Civil War.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Facade” by Sons of the East, also available on iTunes.