Sunday, October 21, 2012

Accounts From Early Settlers- The Virginia Company

On April 10th, 1606, James I chartered a pair of English Joint Stock Companies with the intention of establishing a settlement on the coast of North America. These two Companies were the 'Virginia Company of London' and the 'Virginia Company of Plymouth'; seperated due to the different territories they were to withold (expect Plymouth never fulfilled its charter, as it later became New England).  Each called for a local council after becoming established, but with the ultimate authority residing with the current King of England.

The Plymouth Company was to establish settlements between the '38-45th parallel' which meant that it was between Chesapeake Bay and todays, US-Canada Border.  On the 13th August, 1607, this Company made the Popham Colony along the Kennebec River, which now resides as current Maine. Nevertheless, it was abandoned after 24 months which led to the Plymouth Company becoming dormant.

The London Company was allowed to make a colony of about 100 square miles, between the '34th and 41st parallel', which approximately today is Cape Fear and Long Island Sound.  They also owned a large area of the Atlantic Ocean and inland Canada.  The biggest settlement that this company created was the 'Jamestown Settlement', which was established on May 14th, 1607.  This was a large part of Chesapeake Bay and present day Virginia.  The leader of this Colony was Capt. John Smith, who was an explorer that created positive relations with the Native Americans.  In 1610 (after a very troublesome expedition to Jamestown), two ships arrived to find that 80% of the 600 Colonists had died due to 'starving time'.  The new settlers only survived as Sir Thomas Gates arrived leading a supply mission, acompanied by Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, better known as Lord Delaware just 3 weeks later.

Leader of the Jamestown Settlement, Captain John Smith, knew of the lack of certain resources in the New World, in which he therefore sent a letter to the Virginia Company in 1608.  After the quick percieved view (after only arriving in Virginia in 1607), around 480 Pilgrims that arived with him to settle could have been saved from the 'starving time'.

Smith's 'rude' letter to Thomas Gates (who arrives two years later) asks for the knighted gentleman;  'When you send againe I intreat you rather send but thirty Carpenters, husbandmen, gardiners, fisher men, blacksmiths, masons, and diggers up of trees, roots, well provided; then a thousand of such as we have: for except wee be able both to lodge them, and feed them, the most will consume with want of necessaries before they can be made good for any thing'.

This part of Smith's letter suggests the people are becoming weak due to the lack of resources; with 600 new people, who dont neccessarily have certain trades that are needed at this point are having to transition from an english culture that has been tried and tested to living in a completely new area, with new land and different and scarce resources.

He continues to depict toGates that they have '89 by this discovery lame and sicke, and but a pinte of Corne a day for a man, we were constrained to give him three hogsheads of that to victuall him homeward' which conveys that many people are becoming sick due to the lack of food and medicine.  This means that much of the land's nourishment is going to the sick, which then leaves other settlers destitute and hungry.  He compares the land to 'Germany and Poleland, for glasse-men & the rest, till we be able to sustaine our selves, and relieve them when they come. It were better to give five hundred pound a tun for those grosse Commodities in Denmarke', in which Smith is ambiguosly trying to persuade England to send their resources to them and not the other countries that could survive a bit longer without those commodities.

Sir Thomas Gates does reply and sails to Virginia with resources which does save the last 20% of the new settlers and this helps to reinvigorate and revive the New World.

He states 'when the passages by Sea are all open and discouered, when the climate is so fruitfully tempered; when the naturall riches of the soile are so powerfully confirmed: will any man so much betray his owne inconsiderate ignorance, and bewray his rashnesse; that when the same Sunne shineth, he should not haue the same eies to beholde it; when the same hope remaines, he should not haue the same heart to apprehend it?' as to persuade more people to help replenish and refresh Jamestown, as to bring more people and commodities to the New World.  This is to help them strive in the new community and Sir Gates himself leads the expedition to Virginia.

Therefore, Capt. John Smith's letter to Sir Gates portrays evidence of the new settlers struggle to begin a new Colony.  Even though the Captain crowns 'Powhatan', who is leader of the Native American tribe, he feels the new settlers are still his problem and wants the Colony to prosper, with the Native American's help.

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