Edwin Sandys (died 1629)

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File:Edwin Sandys.jpg
Sir Edwin Sandys, 1776 mezzotint by Valentine Green.

Sir Edwin Sandys (/ˈsændz/ SANDZ; 9 December 1561 – October 1629) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1589 and 1626. He was also one of the founders of the proprietary Virginia Company of London, which in 1606 established the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States in the colony of Virginia, based at Jamestown.


Sandys was born in Worcestershire, the second son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, and his wife Cecily Wilford. He received his education at Merchant Taylors' School, which he entered in 1571, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (from 1577). He graduated B.A. in 1579 and was admitted fellow in the same year[1] and B.C.L. in 1589. At Oxford his tutor was Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, whose lifelong friend and executor Sandys became. Sandys is said to have had a large share in securing the Mastership of the Temple Church in London for Hooker. In 1582 Sandys' father gave him the prebend of Wetwang in York Minster, but he never took orders, later resigning both his fellowship and prebendry.[1] In 1589 he was elected Member of Parliament for Plympton Erle. He was entered in the Middle Temple in 1589. In 1593 he was re-elected MP for Plympton Erle.[2]

From 1593 to 1599 Sandys travelled abroad. When in Venice he became closely connected with Fra Paolo Sarpi, who helped him compose the treatise on the religious state of Europe, known as the Europae speculum. In 1605 this treatise was printed from a stolen copy under the title A Relation of the State of Religion in Europe. Sandys procured the suppression of this edition, but the book was reprinted at The Hague in 1629.

After 1599, in view of the approaching death of Queen Elizabeth I, Sandys paid his court to King James VI of Scotland, and on James's accession to the throne of England in 1603 Sandys received a knighthood. In 1604, he sat in James's first parliament as MP for Stockbridge, and distinguished himself as one of the assailants of the great monopolies. He endeavoured to secure to all prisoners the right of employing counsel, a proposal which was resisted by some lawyers as subversive of the administration of the law. In 1614 he was elected MP for Rochester. He was appointed High Sheriff of Kent for 1615[2]-1616[1] - his country seat of Norbourn was there

Sandys had been connected with the East India Company before 1614, and took an active part in its affairs until 1629. His most memorable services were, however, rendered to the Virginia Company of London, to which he became treasurer in 1619 (succeeding Thomas Smythe. He promoted and supported the policy which enabled the colony to survive the disasters of its early days, and, he continued to be a leading influence in the Company until it was dissolved in 1624.[3]

He was a supporter of indentured servitude, which enabled many plantations to thrive. Sandys also strongly supported the headright system, for his goal was a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. Also accredited to Sandys is an increase in women sent to the colonies, for the purpose of encouraging men to marry and start families, which ostensibly would motivate them to work harder.

Sandys sat in the later parliaments of James I as MP for Sandwich in 1621, and for Kent in 1624.

On 16 June 1621 he and Selden[who?] was taken into custody by order of the House of Commons, and not released unit 18 July.[1] He wrote a book in 1599, on the state of the Church in Western Europe.[1]

His tendencies were towards opposition, and he was suspected of hostility to the court; but he disarmed the anger of the king by professions of obedience. He was member for Penryn in the first parliament of Charles I in 1625 and again in 1626.[2]

Sandys died in 1629 leaving a £1500 endowment to Oxford University to fund a lecture in metaphysics.

Sandys is buried in Northbourne Church in Kent with his last wife Katherine, the daughter of Sir Richard Bulkeley of Anglesey.

Sandys' grandson, Richard Sandys became a baronet in 1684.[1] His brother Sir Miles Sandys, 1st Baronet was also appointed a baronet, and sat as MP, and was High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.[4]

Role in the Virginia Company

Edwin Sandys was one of the men instrumental in establishing the first representative assembly in the new world at Jamestown by issuing a new charter calling for its establishment. In addition, he assisted the Pilgrims in establishing their colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts by lending them 300 pounds without interest.

In addition to seeking profits for the company's investors, history records that his goal was a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. In 1619, Sandys became the treasurer of the Virginia Company and instituted a program designed to give investors and settlers incentive to emigrate to the New World. His program granted some of Virginia's land to the people who chose to live there, providing planters who had arrived before 1616 with one hundred acres each with settlers coming after 1616 getting fifty acres. He also sent several hundred tenant farmers to world land set aside for the company while urging the production of more than just tobacco for export. In order to increase labor in Virginia, his program also promoted indentured servitude for the poor of England who could try to make a better life for themselves in the colony. These policies created a boom period of growth for Virginia. The large amount of labor available and the condition by which they made the journey led to exploitation of servants and tenants while allowing large farmer owners to also exploit the Virginia Company.[5] He never traveled to Virginia, but worked tirelessly in England to support the effort. Although the Virginia Company ultimately failed financially by 1624, Sandys' other visions for the Colony prevailed. It eventually grew and prospered until achieving independence late in the 18th century following the American Revolutionary War.

Additionally, in the process of sending additional supplies on the Third Supply mission to Jamestown, in 1609 the Virginia Company of London inadvertently settled the Somers Isles, alias Bermuda, the oldest-remaining English (since 1707, British) colony, following the shipwreck of the Virginia Company's new flagship, the Sea Venture.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 John Nichols (1828). The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First, His Royal Consort, Family and Court: Collected from Original Manuscripts, ..., Comprising Forty Masques and Entertainments, Ten Civic Pageants, Numerous Original Letters, and Annotated Lists of the Peers, ... who Received Those Honours During the Reign of King James : Illustrated with Notes. 1. p. 115-116.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>footnote 10
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 History of Parliament Online - Sandys, Edwin
  3. "Africans in America: The Virginia Company of London". pbs.org. Retrieved 14 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Nichols, p 116 footnote 2
  5. Morgan, Edmund S. (1975). American Slavery, American Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. pp. 93–95, 114–116. ISBN 978-0-393-32494-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Alex. Brown, Genesis of the United States (London, 1890).
  • Theodore Rabb, Jacobean Gentleman: Sir Edwin Sandys, 1561-1629 (Princeton, 1998)
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sandys, Sir Edwin". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>. The article is available here.

Further reading

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg George Bancroft (1879). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FThe_American_Cyclop%C3%A6dia_%281879%29%2FSandys%2C_Edwin "Sandys, Edwin" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). The American Cyclopædia.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Richard More
Jasper Cholmley
Member of Parliament for Plympton Erle
With: Richard Grafton 1589
Richard Southcote 1593
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George Southcote
Edward Hancock
Preceded by
Edward Savage
Thomas Grymes
Member of Parliament for Stockbridge
With: Sir William Fortescue
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Sir Henry Wallop
Sir Walter Cope
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Sir Edward Hoby
Sir Thomas Walsingham
Member of Parliament for Rochester
With: Sir Thomas Walsingham
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Sir Thomas Walsingham (younger)
Henry Clerke
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Sir Thomas Smith
Sir Samuel Peyton, 1st Baronet
Member of Parliament for Sandwich
With: Sir Robert Hatton 1621
John Burroughes 1621-1622
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Sir Robert Hatton
Francis Drake
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Viscount Lisle
Sir George Fane
Member of Parliament for Kent
With: Nicholas Tufton
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Mildmay Fane
Sir Albert Moreton
Preceded by
Edward Roberts
Sir Robert Killigrew
Member of Parliament for Penryn
With: Edward Roberts
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William Killigrew
Sir Thomas Edmunds