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William Kendall

Member From: 1685 - 1686

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  • Birth Date: Unknown Birth Place:
  • Death Date: 1686
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
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  • Bio: WILLIAM KENDALL was Speaker of the House of Burgesses at a November 1685 meeting of the assembly of 1685-1686. The House of Burgesses met on 1 October 1685 but was prorogued immediately because Governor Effingham was ill. Reconvened on 2 November, the assembly sat until prorogued again on 13 December 1685. Speaker Kendall died before the House of Burgesses reassembled on 20 October 1686. Kendall's experience in the House spanned nearly two decades, for he had represented Northampton County in the assemblies of 1658, 1661-1676, and 1684.
    Little is known of Speaker Kendall's earliest years; probably he was born in Norfolk, England, and came to Virginia a widower. In 1657 he purchased a 600-acre plantation in Northampton County, and in time he rose to prominence as a planter and merchant with more than 12,000 acres on the Eastern Shore that he patented, bought, and sold at his convenience. Kendall traded tobacco with New Netherlands, operated a tannery, and in 1666 was responsible for fourteen tithables: two slaves, two seamen, nine other male servants, and himself.
    Active in county affairs, Speaker Kendall was a member of the court in April 1657 and by 1680 had become presiding officer. In 1660 he was county collector of revenue. He was also active in parish life, and in 1678 the vestry assigned him the ''uppermost pew on the east and over against the chancel'' in recognition of his generous gift of 1,000 pounds of tobacco toward the construction of a new church.
    Unlike his immediate predecessors, Speaker Kendall was not closely associated with the late Governor Sir William Berkeley's Green Spring faction. In fact, after Bacon's Rebellion both he and Charles Scarborough, of Accomack County, had been fined for uttering "Divers Scandalous and mutinous words Tending to the dishonor of the Right Honorable Governor.'' Nearly a decade after the rebellion, however, the old differences had been eclipsed by the common threat Governors Culpeper and Effingham posed to the House of Burgesses' claims of privilege.
    In April 1684 the five nominees for Speaker revealed the factional alignment within the assembly. Two were members of the Green Spring faction, Thomas Ballard and Edward Hill, Jr. Another nominee was the exceptionally able lawyer William Fitzhugh, an adherent of the Stuart cause whose partnership with Roman Catholic lawyer George Brent was cause for suspicion in some Whig minds. The remaining nominees, William Kendall and Charles Scarborough, based their opposition to Governor Effingham not only on politics but also on religion. Both were firm Protestants. Scarborough later was barred from civil office for saying that James II ''would wear out the Church of England.'' Governor Effingham, like James II, was a Roman Catholic. Many Virginians, already wary of his political views, were further alarmed when he arbitrarily removed several officials who were not subservient to him and appointed Roman Catholics in their places.
    On 12 October 1685, Governor Effingham issued a proclamation forbidding "all Seditious Discourses," in an attempt to end criticism of James II and himself on political or religious grounds. Three weeks later the House of Burgesses convened and pointedly elected Kendall as its Speaker. The governor and burgesses joined combat without delay and fought to a deadlock. The burgesses gained no redress for grievances, but neither did the governor advance on their privilege. He refused to sign any of the bills that had been passed and the House refused to pass a general tax levy. Effingham finally chastised them for their obstinancy, prorogued the House, and immediately wrote asking the king himself to dissolve the House-as a mark of his displeasure and a means to bring the burgesses to heel. Effingham's hopes were fulfilled when the royal letter arrived during the 1686 session, which was thereby dissolved on 17 November 1686.
    Based on an English parliamentary precedent set in 1614 by the Addled Parliament, because the 1685 meeting of the House of Burgesses over which Speaker Kendall presided produced no legislation, it was not a bona fide session of the General Assembly, but rather a convention or meeting. Implicitly applying English parliamentary usage to the colonial assembly, Governor Effingham opened his 10 February 1685 letter to the Committee for Trade and Plantations of the Privy Council:
    I take the first opportunity to present your Lordship the proceedings, I cannot say of the Last Session but of the last meeting of the Assembly; for when, after tedious time matters were brought towards a conclusion, there happened a dispute between them and mee, soe that I was forced to dismiss them before any thing was perfected, unless I would pass away his Majestys Sovereign Right of His Negative Voice.
    An anonymous contemporary observer (quoted more fully below) also referred to the burgesses' "meet' g." Application of the 1614 English parliamentary precedent to the House of Burgesses apparently was widely accepted in Virginia. Ironically, then, Governor Effingham contributed a measure of recognition to the Virginians' habit of claiming for their General Assembly the usages and privilege of Parliament.
    William Kendall died before the House reassembled in 1686. His will was proven on 28 July 1686 in Northampton County. At the October 1686 session, according to an anonymous observer, "the Governor sent for the house, and tells [them tha]t he finds their Speaker absent and desires to know w[hat] was become of him. They answer since their meet' g they were unhappy in the death of their Speaker; [the]n the Governor Commands them to elect another, which they did ([Arthur] Allen) and presented him.''
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Speaker of the House of Burgesses:1685; was replaced in that office by Arthur Allen during the 1686 session. Kendall was not present during the 1686 session.
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1685-1686 Accomack Speaker of the House

*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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