From Colony to Constitution

Hariot, Thomas. Merveillevx et estrange rapport, tovtesfois fidele, des commoditez qvi se trovvent en Virginia . . . .   Frankfurt am Main: Theodori de Bry, 1590.

The image seen here depicts the arrival of Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 expedition to present-day Outer Banks of North Carolina. On this expedition were Thomas Hariot and John White‹two men sent along to record their findings in the newly discovered land. Hariot kept a chronicle of his two years in the New World which he abbreviated and published as A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia in 1588. White was sent along to make maps and prepare drawings of the land and its inhabitants.

In 1590, Flemish publisher and engraver Theodore de Bry published an elaborate and popular edition of Hariot's Briefe and True Report, adding thirty-one engravings based on the watercolors of White. De Bry published the work simultaneously in Latin, German, English, and French. The French edition, on display, was the only version of the four lacking from the University of Virginia's collections.



Hamor, Ralph. Dreyzehente Schiffahrt darinnen ein warhafftiger vnd gruendtlicher Bericht von dem jtzigen Zustandt der Landtschafft Virginien. Hanau: in Verlegung der Hulsischen, 1617.

When the second charter for Virginia was issued in 1609, twenty-one-year-old Ralph Hamor set sail for the New World. After living in the Jamestown Colony from 1610 to 1614 and serving as clerk to the Council, Hamor returned to England and published A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia. In the Discourse, Hamor gives a realistic portrayal of the state of the Jamestown Colony, describing the discord, chaos, famine, and disease. Hamor also tells the love story of Pocahontas and John Rolfe and describes how their marriage led to good relations with Powhatan, Pocahontas's father. The Discourse includes a convincing and sympathetic portrait of Powhatan.

This German translation published by Levinus Hulsius in 1617 contains the first printed notice of Pocahontas's death. This notice appears in the final three lines of the displayed page. The final margin note can be translated: "Dies in the year 1617 in the month of March."



His Maiesties Counseil for Virginia. A Declaration of the State of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia: with the Names of the Aduenturors, and Summes Aduentured in That Action. London: Printed by T. S., 1620.




Madison, James. Autograph letter, signed, to Alexander Hamilton. 25 June 1788.


Madison announces the ratification of the Constitution in the Virginia Convention by a vote of 89 to 79 and adds that the Convention will recommend some amendments.

Nine states were needed to ratify the Constitution in order to create the new federal government of the United States of America. Virginia and New York were holdouts. Patrick Henry led the opposition in Virginia but the Constitution carried by ten votes. Meanwhile, Alexander Hamilton was waging an uphill battle in anti-Federalist New York. Madison, upon receiving the news of ratification in Virginia, dashed off this letter and, without even bothering to address it, gave it to a courier who raced for New York. It was all water under the bridge. New Hampshire had ratified five days before Virginia, giving the Constitution its nine necessary ratifications.


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