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Sir Edwin Sandys

Sir Edwin Sandys (pronounced "Sands") (9 December 1561 – October 1629) was an English statesman and one of the founders of the proprietary Virginia Company of London, which in 1607 established the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States in the colony of Virginia, based at Jamestown. 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. 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.


Born in Worcestershire, Sandys was 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 B.C.L. in 1589. In 1582 his father gave him the prebend of Wetwang in York Minster, but he never took orders. He was entered in the Middle Temple in 1589. At Oxford his tutor had been Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, whose life-long 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.

From 1593 to 1599 Sandys traveled abroad. When in Venice he became closely connected with Fra Paolo Sarpi, who helped him in the composition of 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.

In 1599 Sandys resigned his prebend and entered active politics. He had already been Member of Parliament for Andover in 1586 and for Plympton in 1589. After 1599, in view of the approaching death of Queen Elizabeth I, he 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. He sat in James's first parliament as member 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.

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. 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.[1] 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 member for Sandwich in 1621, and for Kent in 1624. 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.

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

See also

A History of the American People, Volume 1 by Woodrow Wilson Ph.D., Litt.D. LL.D & President of the United States


  • Alex. Brown, Genesis of the United States (London, 1890).
  • Theodore Rabb, Jacobean Gentleman: Sir Edwin Sandys, 1561-1629 (Princeton, 1998)
  1. ^ [1]


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