Sir Thomas Dale - Encyclopedia




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SIR THOMAS DALE (d. 1619), British naval commander and colonial deputy-governor of Virginia. From about 1588 to 1609 he was in the service of the Low Countries with the English army originally under Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester; in 1606, while visiting in England, he was knighted by King James; from 1611 to 1616 he was actually though not always nominally in chief control of the province of Virginia either as deputy-governor or as "high marshall," and he is best remembered for the energy and the extreme rigour of his administration there, which established order and in various ways seems to have benefited the colony; he himself declared that he left it "in great prosperity and peace." Under him began the first real expansion of the colony with the establishment of the settlement of Henrico on and about what was later known as Farrar's Island; it was he who, about 1614, took the first step toward abolishing the communal system by the introduction of private holdings, and it was during his administration that the first code of laws of Virginia, nominally in force from 1610 to 1619, was effectively tested. This code, entitled "Articles, Lawes, and Orders - Divine, Politique, and Martiall," but popularly known as Dale's Code, was notable for its pitiless severity, and seems to have been prepared in large part by Dale himself. He left Virginia in 1616 with the intention probably of returning to the service of the Low Countries, but instead was given command of an English fleet sent against the Dutch, defeated the enemy near Batavia in the East Indies late in the year 1618, arrived at Masulipatam in July 1619, and died there on the 9th of the following month.

An account of Dale's career in Virginia is given in Alexander Brown's The First Republic in America (Boston, 1898); a scholarly discussion of "Dale's Code" by Walter F. Prince may be found in vol. i. of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1899 (Washington, D.C., 1900), and the code itself is reprinted in Peter Force's Historical Tracts, vol. iii., No. 11.

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