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Clerk Information:

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  • Full Name: Robert Beverley Sr.
  • Served: 1677-1682; 1685 - 1686
  • Bio Information: ROBERT BEVERLEY, SR., was born in Yorkshire and came to Virginia about 1663. He became a vestryman of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County, in December 1666 and served on the vestry until his death. By 1673 Beverley had been appointed justice of the peace in Middlesex, but on 17 November 1681 he left the bench in order to act as attorney in a case pending before the court. Beverley was loyal to Governor Sir William Berkeley during Bacon’s Rebellion, and was a member of several post-rebellion courts-martial. He became clerk of the House of Burgesses in February 1677.

    In April 1677 when Berkeley’s successor, Colonel Herbert Jeffreys, and the three royal commissioners investigating the rebellion demanded the Beverley give them the burgesses’ journals and papers, Beverley refused to do so without permission from the House. The commissioners seized the records by force, and at its next meeting, on 23 October, the House of Burgesses complained both to Jeffreys and to the crown of this breach of privilege. The Privy Council ordered Beverley barred from civil office, and ordered that copies of the journals of the House and Council be sent regularly to the Committee for Trade and Plantations. Governor Thomas Culpeper, baron Culpeper of Thoresway, who succeeded Jeffreys in 1678 and arrived in the colony in 1680, found that Beverley had served as clerk at the assembly of 1679 and that he remained popular among the burgesses and councilors. Despite the crown’s instruction, therefore, Culpeper concurred in the House’s choice of Beverley as its clerk and wrote to the Privy Council that by his action he had gained the power to appoint the clerk of the House, which no governor before him had done.

    Beverley continued as clerk through the April 1682 session of the assembly of 1680-1682, but in May (after the assembly had failed to improve falling tobacco prices) residents of Gloucester, Middlesex, and New Kent counties set out to raise prices by limiting tobacco cultivation themselves. Beverley, a leader in the tobacco-cutting riots of May 1682, was apprehended, deprived of civil offices, and held under arrest until early 1684.In May 1684 he was tried before the General Court, found guilty on vague charges, and immediately pardoned as he knelt before the councilors. After his release, Middlesex County returned him to the House of Burgesses in 1685, where on 3 November by a vote of nineteen to seventeen he defeated Thomas Milner in the election of clerk. Governor Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham, who succeeded Culpeper in 1683, identified Beverley as an instigator in the contentions between himself and the assembly of 1685-1686 about (among many other matters) the titles used and salaries paid to the “Clerk of the assembly,” as the House clerk then formally was styled, and the “Clerk of the General Assembly,” as the Council clerk was styled while the General Assembly was in session. As a direct result of this controversy, Governor Effingham appointed Beverley’s successor, Francis Page, in accord with a special command given by James II on 1 August 1686. Robert Beverley, Sr., died on 15 or 16 March 1687.

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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