what were some negatives about Virginia's colonial government?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The colony of Virginia was first run by the Virginia Company of London, which chose a governor. In 1609, King James I issued a second charter that allowed private investors to chose a governor. At first, the governor exercised a great deal of control and even imposed a kind of martial law during the Starving Time of 1609-1610. Over time, the colonial government turned to strict racial laws and laws about slavery to maintain control--negative aspects of its leadership.

In 1619, the House of Burgesses became the first elected legislative body in the New World. This was the first year that slaves were also imported into Virginia. The governor chose a council of 6 citizens, and plantations (later counties) chose representatives to the House of Burgesses, which eventually grew in power. Still, wealthy planters generally controlled the power structure in the colony.

In 1676, a man named Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion of former and current indentured servants, who were both white and black, against the government under William Berkeley. This was in part because the indentured servants were angry at the government for not giving them enough protection against Native American attacks. In addition, they felt left out of the power structure. They ousted Berkeley for a time, though he was later reinstated (and finally recalled to England). As a result, the government turned to instituting stricter laws about slavery after the rebellion. Many historians believe that the idea was for the white power structure to convince poor whites to go along with them because black slaves were below poor whites. For example, the House of Burgesses cut off the means by which blacks could gain freedom in the 1700s, and denied freed blacks the right to vote. This turn to making slavery harsher was a negative aspect of the colonial government. 

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