Dinsmore Documentation  presents  Classics of American Colonial History

Author: Bruce, Philip A.
Title: Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Material Condition of the People, Based on Original and Contemporaneous Records.
Citation: New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896
Subdivision: Chapter II
HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added June 20, 2002
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The age of Elizabeth was for some reasons the most memorable in the history of English commerce. The great outburst of literary genius, which reflects so much splendor upon the closing years of the reign of that justly celebrated queen, was hardly more remarkable than the daring commercial spirit which, during the same period, pushed its ventures as far to the south as Guinea, to the north as Archangel, to the east as India and Persia, and to the west as Newfoundland and Roanoke. Hawkins and Drake, Cumberland and Raleigh, in their incursions upon the Spanish dominions in America, were really promoting the growth of a legitimate English foreign trade, not only in checking the power of the Spanish king by the destruction of his cities and fleets, but also in accustoming the English people to distant lands hitherto unknown or unregarded, although eminently fitted by nature to become the scene of an active and lucrative commerce. Some of the expeditions sent out combined purposes of barter and discovery with colonization, but whenever colonization was also designed, it was to enlarge the volume of English trade.


In the letters patent for the erection of the colonies, granted before the first charter of the Virginia Companies was issued, no attempt was made to define the local boundaries of the countries to be occupied by the patentees, unless the authority given to Cabot in 1498 to take possession of Baccalaos, the general region of the modern Newfoundland, can be considered as an exception. The charters of Gilbert and Raleigh conferred merely the right to discover and plant remote and barbarous lands which were not under the dominion of a Christian prince or people.1 There was no reference to America, notwithstanding the fact that it was clearly understood by the patentees that it was this part of the globe which was expected to be the scene of their explorations and the territory to be occupied by them. Although John Cabot was granted the right to erect a settlement in Baccalaos, yet as he took no steps to found it, so far as the records of his second voyage disclose, he cannot be looked upon as the father of English colonization in the Western Hemisphere; that enduring honor belongs to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the heroic sailor whose name should be invested with a greater degree of fame than it enjoys. He received his letters patent in 1578, and the powers which they contained are interesting in the light of those conferred many years afterwards on the London Company. Upon him was bestowed an absolute title to the countries which he should occupy. He was authorized to expel from these countries all persons who had not obtained

1 Letters Patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Hakluyt’s Voyages, Vol. III, pp. 174-176. Letters Patent to Sir Walter Raleigh, Ibid., pp. 297-300. In both charters, license was granted “to discover, find, search out and view such remote, heathen, and barbarous lands, countreys, and territories not actually possessed of any Christian prince or people.” The second patent to John Cabot, dated Feb. 3, 1498, will be found in Richard Biddle’s Memoir of Sebastian Cabot.


his permission to enter, and to seize upon every ship, the master of which was found trading in that jurisdiction without his special license, and to appropriate its cargo. Gilbert and those who would succeed him were left at liberty to adopt whatever regulations they should consider necessary for the government of their colony, in every branch of its affairs, provided that the enactments were not repugnant to the written or unwritten laws of England. They could give an ownership in the soil in fee simple, subject only to the condition that one-fifth of all the precious metals found in each plantation was to be reserved for the sovereign. Those religious doctrines were to be supported which were professed in the Church of England. The inhabitants were to enjoy the personal and political rights which the English people possessed in their native country.1

In the testamentary assignment which Gilbert made of the powers he acquired under these letters patent, in anticipation of a fatal ending to the new adventure he had then projected, he gave instructions as to how these powers were to be put into practice, which recall the various provisions that at a later period were enforced by the quarter courts of the London Company in carrying into effect the general rights conferred by its charter.2 The disastrous

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 174-176.

2 Close Roll, 24 Elizabeth, part VII, No. 8, British State Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1582, p. 22 et seq., Va. State Library. These instructions are of unusual interest as showing the freedom which a patentee enjoyed and exercised in disposing of the rights and privileges acquired under his charter. Gilbert directed his trustees to sell, for the benefit of his wife and children, the life offices to be created in his proposed colony, to distribute the lands and to disburse the revenues. As soon as his male children should arrive at maturity, they and also his wife, who in the interval was to receive a third part of the customs, rents, and royalties, the remainder going to the children, were to be placed in possession of seigniories extending over an area fifty miles square. The [footnote continues on p. 4] daughters were to have lordships over territories twenty miles square. The trustees were empowered to lease the soil subject to certain prescribed conditions: to every emigrant from England, a grant of sixty acres, with ample common for cattle in addition, was to be made, to hold good for a period of three lives. After he had been in the enjoyment of the property for three years, having in the meanwhile put it in a state of cultivation, he was to be permitted to buy it, if he wished, for a small sum. In order to acquire the right to become first a lessee, and afterwards a purchaser of land in the colony, it was necessary that the emigrant on his arrival should deliver to an officer, to be appointed for that purpose, one quarter of wheat, four bushels of barley and oats, and two bushels of peas and beans respectively, a hatchet, a pickaxe, one handsaw and one spade, the whole amounting in value to forty-three shillings. These different articles were to be redelivered before the end of six weeks, provided that the emigrant was over age. If not yet an adult, they were to be held until the person, if of the male sex, was in a position to support a family, and if of the female, until marriage. Every one who brought into the colony five men who intended to make a permanent settlement there, was to be entitled to two thousand acres in fee simple; each of the five men was also to receive one hundred and twenty acres, the tenure to be absolute. A quit rent of twenty shillings, to begin running three years after the acquisition of the patent, was to be imposed on every one thousand acres included in the tract taken up. The grant to a married woman on the basis of persons she had imported, was to be two-thirds less in the area allowed than it was to be in the case of a man adding the same number of persons to the population. In the case of a child, it was to be three-fourths. These conditions of tenure will be found of especial interest when we come to examine the similar conditions adopted by the London Company in the distribution of the soil of Virginia. They were the earliest provisions made by Englishmen for the conveyance of land in the region of country now known as the United States, and they are not the less significant because they were never carried into practice. See also Articles of Agreement between Gilbert and Sir George Peckham (Close Roll, 24 Elizabeth, part VI), and Gilbert and Sydney (Close Roll, 24 Elizabeth, part VII, British State Papers). Sainsbury Abstracts for 1582, p. 16 et seq., Va. State Library.


result of the voyage upon which he set out in 1583 is one of the most memorable events of the sixteenth century. Shaping his course towards Newfoundland, he, in the name of his sovereign, took possession of that country with imposing ceremonies; afterwards sailing southward,


his fleet was overtaken by heavy storms, and these causing much damage and destruction, he decided to return to England, and while on his way the ship which he occupied foundered with all on board.

The mantle dropped by Sir Humphrey Gilbert at his death fell upon the shoulders of his half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the most brilliant and versatile men who have performed a leading part in the annals of the world. In 1584 Raleigh obtained a charter which was the exact counterpart of the letters patent to Gilbert. It granted the same powers, privileges, and jurisdictions. In a spirit of prudence, he sent out a preliminary expedition to the coast of America, for the purpose of acquiring by actual observation the information necessary for the guidance of the greater expedition which was to follow. Unfortunately, Amadas and Barlow made a landing on the Hatteras coast, and were thus led to recommend that the territory at this point should be the site of the proposed settlement. If these two captains had first dropped anchor in the Chesapeake instead of in the modern Albemarle Sound, the successful colonization of Virginia would probably have been anticipated by a quarter of a century. The occupation by Raleigh proceeded somewhat further than the ceremony performed by Gilbert in taking possession of Newfoundland in 1583, but it was equally fruitless of a permanent settlement. In this unsuccessful attempt to secure an enduring foothold there, disasters appealing with peculiar force to the imagination occurred,1 but they were not sufficient to

1 There are few more melancholy incidents in history than the disappearance of the little band of colonists whom Sir Richard Grenville left on Roanoke Island in August, 1586. The discovery of their remains, as happened in the case of the members of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to the North Pole, would have rendered their fate less pathetic than it was, wrapped in a mystery which seemed to be made only deeper and more [footnote continues on p. 6] touching by the vague reports among the Indians of Virginia that came to the ears of the founders of Jamestown. The profound impression created in England by the loss of these colonists, who, to the popular imagination, appeared to have vanished like ghostly shades in the solemn silence of the primæval woods, is shown by the great anxiety of the London Company to discover some trace of them, which, on more than one occasion, found expression in energetic action.


weaken the determination of the English people to turn to their advantage the natural products of the empire which they claimed beyond the Atlantic. The letters patent of Raleigh expired with his attainder. Not long before that event, however, several voyages were made to America, which quickened the popular interest in England in its colonization. Gosnold in 1602, Pring in 1603, and Weymouth in 1605, were important forerunners of the emigrants of 1606.

All the ventures preceding the formation of the London Company went to show that the task of colonization was beyond the resources of a single individual or small associations of merchants looking to their private advantage. A short while before the charter of the two Virginia Companies was granted, there was issued a paper entitled “Reasons for raising a Fund for the Support of a Colony at Virginia,”1 which sought to prove the indispensableness in all enterprises for the foundation of settlements abroad, of that prince’s purse which Hakluyt had declared was necessary “to an action if it was to be fulfilled without lingering.” A brief statement of the substance of this paper throws much light upon the practical motives in which the memorable undertaking of 1606 had its origin.

1 “Reasons for raising a Fund for the Support of a Colony in Virginia,” Lansdowne MSS. 160, British Museum. This paper is given at length in Brown’s Genesis of the United States, and in the Rev. E. D. Neill’s Virginia Vetusta. There is no reason to doubt that it was drawn previous to the grant of the charter of April, 1606. See Mr. Brown’s remarks on this point, p. 36.


It was asserted by the author that all the previous attempts to colonize Virginia had failed because the persons who had participated in them had been worn out by the long delays, or had been disconcerted by jealousies, or had been unwilling to sustain any project not crowned with immediate success. It was more to the honor of a State, the author of the “Reasons” went on to say, to have a great enterprise which had first taken shape among its people carried through by public concert than by private monopoly. An undertaking having the public support was more likely to attract to it men of the highest qualities than one relying upon a small body of adventurers, inasmuch as it offered more opportunities of winning personal reputation, and was less subject to the distractions of fraud and envy. The safety of the commonwealth demanded that a discovery once begun should be advanced to completeness in order that the impression might not be spread abroad that the persons who started it were idle or lacking in resources to make their project fully successful. To stop half-way in a discovery was to give up the title acquired by what had been accomplished, and thus to leave to the next explorer the right to establish colonies in the country abandoned. The fact that a settlement was made by means of a public fund rendered it improbable that foreign states, however hostile, would venture to attack it, the consequences of such aggression being far more serious than if the interests of a few private individuals were trampled upon. The commonwealth was not only more able to hold and defend a colony which it had erected, but it was also in a more favorable position to promote the interests of such a community. The room for employment in a settlement established and sustained by the State was far greater for persons of high rank than if it owed its existence and advancement to a


few persons. A public fund, in prescribing the limit of individual investment, diminished the chance of heavy individual losses in carrying through all enterprise which had colonization in view. Such losses, if incurred at all, fell upon a large instead of a small number of persons, and being generally distributed, were borne without serious inconvenience.

Turning from the special advantages to accrue from the assumption by the public wealth of the work of colonization, the author of the “Reasons” dwelt upon those aspects of an undertaking to throw open a virgin country to population and the arts, which were common to a private and public enterprise. It would enlarge the trade of the kingdom; it would increase the number of ships and mariners; it would create a field in the control of England where naval stores could be acquired; it would furnish a new market for the disposal of English clothing; it would disperse among kindred, instead of among enemies and lukewarm friends, the English gold used in purchasing the commodities which the English soil was incapable of producing.

Thirty years previous to the composition of this remarkable paper, a number of the citizens of the Western counties had entered a petition with the Lord High Admiral for permission to adventure themselves and their merchandise in a scheme looking to the discovery of new trades, which, in addition to enlarging the bounds of the Christian religion, would promote the beneficial utterance of the commodities of England, increase and maintain seamen, and give a vent to the overflowing population at home.1 The same general statement as to the advantages

1 Petition of Divers Gentlemen of the West Parts of England to the Queen. Domestic Elizabeth, vol. XCV, No. 64, British State Papers. Sainsbury Abstracts for 1573, p. 2, Va. State Library.


to result from colonization was set forth in the appeal which Captain Carlile made in 1583, when he was seeking the assistance of the English merchants in advancing his project for establishing settlements in America.1 Colonies in that quarter, said he, would raise up communities which would consume vast quantities of English woollen goods; they would supply an abundance of naval stores; they would draw off the idle people of the kingdom; they would offer a promising field for the discovery of mines of the precious metals; and would open up the most direct passage to the Indian Sea. Sir George Peckham, who was associated with Sir Humphrey Gilbert in the costs of the voyage of 1583, in his argument in favor of planting an English colony in the Western world, set forth substantially the same forcible reasons.2

It is interesting to find that these anticipated benefits were brought forward in a number of discourses that were either spoken or written after the first settlement in Virginia had been established. In enumerating the advantages which would flow to England from its American colony, the author of the Nova Britannia in 1609 dwelt at length on the supply of timber to be procured there, the wine and fruit, the silk, flax and hemp, the tar and soap ashes. Mines of gold and silver were to be found there. Virginia would become the home of myriads of English emigrants. It would furnish a market for English cloth. In enlarging the volume of English trade, it would increase the amount of English shipping.3

Crashaw, in the sermon which he delivered in 1610 before Lord Delaware and the Council for the Colony in

1 Brief and Summary Discourse, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 228; Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. III, p. 156.

2 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 218-222.

3 Nova Britannia, pp. 12-20, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. 1.


London, declared that the purposes the plantation was designed to accomplish were to enrich the nation by the discovery and development of mines and other natural sources of wealth; to enlarge the navy by increasing the demand for vessels and mariners, which would also strengthen the defences of the kingdom; to lessen the dependence of the English people upon foreign countries for certain commodities by their production in Virginia; to draw off the surplus population, this being now so great as to lead to many disorders; and finally to wipe away the stain inflicted upon the reputation of England by the refusal of Henry VII to accept the proposals of Columbus.1

William Strachey, in a like manner, summed up the reasons that should lead the English people to give their active support to the colonization of Virginia, declaring that it was a fertile and spacious country which would afford the amplest room and the most abundant sustenance for the growing multitude of those inhabitants of England who passed their lives in idleness and destitution; that it would offer a secure harbor for English ships in case England and Spain went to war and those seas became the scene of battle; that it would furnish the English ship-yards with a vast quantity of the finest timber, which could now be purchased only of foreign countries and at exorbitant rates; that it would pour into the lap of England a constant stream of the precious metals; and that it would assure the discovery of the nearest route to the South Sea.2 It will be seen from this testimony that the anticipations

1 Sermon of Rev. William Crashaw, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 368. This sermon in part will also be found in Anderson’s History of the Colonial Church, and in Neill’s Virginia Company of London, and English Colonization of America.

2 Letter of William Strachey to Sir Allen Apsley, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 562-565.


of Englishmen as to the advantages to result from the colonization of Virginia were substantially the same, however widely separated the periods in which the witnesses quoted lived. It will be interesting to examine in detail the most important of the reasons offered. The foremost in their influence upon the minds of the greater number of shareholders of the London Company when the enterprise was inaugurated were the probable presence of gold there and the supposed nearness of the country to the South Sea. So powerful in that age was the working of these two expectations in the breasts of Englishmen, that Ralph Lane, after describing in the most glowing language the fertility of the soil, the rareness, variety, and profusion of the products, and the wholesomeness of the climate, of the modern Carolina coast, admitted with evident reluctance, “that the discovery of a good mine by the goodness of God, or a passage to the South Sea, or some way to it, and nothing else, can bring this country in request to be inhabited by our nation.” Clearly foreseeing the consequences of such a far-reaching discovery, Lane listened with credulous eagerness to the Indian reports of a mine near the upper waters of the Moratoc, and of a salt sea at its fountain-head.1

The importance of the mine in association with colonization had been shown in the most striking manner only a few years before in the instance of Sir Humphrey Gilbert; from the first hour of his occupation of Newfoundland in 1583 it is said that he was deeply interested in the search for metals, commanding the mineral men and the refiners especially to be diligent.2 As soon as he supposed he had found silver ore, he declared that if he were to follow his private humor, he would remain in Newfoundland, but his promises to his friends and the

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 314-315.

2 Ibid., pp. 195-196.


necessity of his bringing the Southern coast within the scope of his patent by actual colonization, compelled him to extend his explorations in that direction. The ore dug up was carefully stored away in one of the ships of his fleet. This discovery of metal altered the opinion which he had entertained of the northern parts of America. He had previously regarded it with indifference; he now, refused to make any large grants of territory in that region, although he was warmly urged to do so. He reserved Newfoundland for himself, affirming that this voyage “had won his heart from the South and that he was now become a Northern man altogether.” There were few more pathetic spectacles in the sixteenth century than Sir Humphrey Gilbert, upheld in the stormy voyage which was his last and comforted for the interruption of his scheme of colonization, by the feeling of certainty that news of the mine would induce the Queen to lend him ten thousand pounds to equip a fleet to set out for America in the spring.1

The eagerness shown by the earliest promoters of colonization to discover gold mines in the countries which they claimed under the authority of their letters patent was not due entirely to an expectation on their part that they would be exclusive possessors of such sources of immense wealth. The enterprises of both Gilbert and Raleigh required the support of a large number of adventurers to arrive at a successful consummation. Gilbert sought and obtained the coöperation of others very soon after he received his letters patent, and Raleigh was forced in the end to procure the assistance of English merchants.2 Carlile spoke correctly when he said that

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 201.

2 Indenture between Sir Walter Raleigh and Thomas Smith, Edward Sanderson et al., Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 20.


for every person who laid out his money in the first enterprise, a hundred would invest in the second if the first had shown that even to a small extent the anticipation of gain had not been groundless. A full knowledge of this fact impelled Gilbert and the representatives of Raleigh in Virginia to display so much anxiety to discover indications of the precious metals in their several territories; such a discovery would have at once rendered it easy for these two great men to obtain not only all the funds which they needed for the establishment of their colonies, but also the whole number of settlers required for population.1

At no period in the history of the world has the thirst for gold been more fervid and inordinate than it was in the age of Elizabeth. The spread of the Spanish dominion in the southern portion of the Western Hemisphere had thrown the fullest light upon the wealth of the New World, and the knowledge of this wealth, which surpassed the most opulent dreams of the East., had excited the imaginations of men and made more feverish their desire for individual gain. Upon the English popular mind the success of the Spaniards in securing in such vast quantities the gold and silver of tropical America had made a profound impression, which revealed itself in a practical form in the voyages of English fleets to the Spanish Main for the purpose of sacking Spanish cities, or intercepting the Spanish ships transporting to Cadiz the glittering treasures of Peru and Mexico and the West Indies. The booty seized in these expeditions was often enormous. The less aggressive spirits were satisfied to have a chance of obtaining gold and silver by venturing

1 The history of the State of California and the colony of Victoria in Australia in recent times gives us some notion as to the increase of population which would probably have followed the discovery of gold in Virginia in the seventeenth century.


their money in the enterprises which Gilbert and Raleigh set on foot for the exploration and colonization of the country along the Atlantic coast of North America. Although the confidence of Gilbert and Lane as to the presence of the precious metals in the respective territories which they were occupying at the time they yielded to seductive dreams of inexhaustible mines, proved to be without foundation, the hope nevertheless lingered in the English mind that gold and silver would yet be found in Virginia. The well-known passage in the play of Eastward Ho! expressed in extravagant language the popular notion in England as to the physical character of that country; this play was written in 1605, about twelve months previous to the grant of the first charter of the Companies of London and Plymouth, but many years after the schemes of Gilbert and Raleigh for the promotion of colonization in America had ended in failure. “I tell thee,” exclaimed one of the personages, “golde is more plentifull in Virginia than copper is with us, and for as much redde copper as I can bring, I will have thrice the weight in gold. All their dripping pans and chamber potts are pure gould, and all the chaines with which they chaine up their streets are massie gould; all the prisoners they take are fettered in golde, and for rubies and diamonds, they goe forth in holidays and gather them by the seashore to hang on their children’s coates and sticke in their children’s caps as commonally as our children wear saffron, gilt brooches and groates with boales in them.”

In the letters patent of 1606, special provision was made for the proportion in which the gold, silver, and copper that might be found in Virginia should be divided; one-fifth part of the two metals first named and one-fifteenth part of the third were to be reserved for the use of the King. In his spirited invocation addressed to the voyagers


in 1606, Drayton expressed the hope that success would continue “to entice them to get the pearl and gold.”1 The order in council framed for the guidance of the colonists after they reached Virginia directed that Newport and Gosnold, who were specially detailed to explore the river upon which the settlement was to be made, should, as soon as they observed hills, send out a band of twenty men for the purpose of using pickaxes to discover the presence of the precious metals.2 The adventurers easily cheated themselves with the belief that the high ground seen along the upper stretches of the Powhatan gave indications of gold. In the letter which the President and Council at Jamestown despatched to England by Newport on his return in 1607, the Company was urged to forward a supply with the utmost expedition, “least the all-devouring Spaniard lay his ravenous hands upon these gold-showing mountains, which if we be so enhabled, he shall never dare to think on.”3 When Captain Newport arrived at Plymouth, he made haste to write to Salisbury that Virginia “was very rich in gold and copper.” He had brought over with him specimens of auriferous ore. I will not deliver the expectance and assurance we have of great wealth,” he declared in the letter already quoted, “but will leave it to your Lordship’s censure when you see the probabilities,” adding, “I wish I might have come in person to have brought these glad tidings.”4 Newport had nothing to say as to the commonplace elements of

1 “Cheerefully at sea
  Successe you still entice
  To get the pearle and gold.”

Drayton’s Poems, 1619-20.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxv. Drayton’s Poems, 1619-20.

3 Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 108. It is also printed in Neill’s Virginia and Virginiola, pp. 10, 11. See also Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Third Report, p. 53.

4 Royal Hist, MSS. Commission, Third Report, p. 54.


natural wealth which Virginia possessed. He knew very well that the information which would be most acceptable to the persons who were interested in the enterprise was that there were unmistakable outcroppings of the precious metals in the country lying along the Powhatan. The supposed ore that Newport had brought into England must have been soon tested and found entirely lacking in value, for Dudley Carleton, in August of the same year, in a letter to Chamberlain, alluded to the settlement at Jamestown, from which place he stated that Newport had recently returned, and remarked that the “aire and the soil and commodities” of Virginia were highly commended by the colonists, “but gold and silver have they none.”1

Hope again triumphed over all discouragements. When Captain Newport set out for Virginia in charge of the First Supply, he was accompanied by two goldsmiths, two refiners, and one jeweller. The colonists, quickened in their thirst for gold and silver by the zeal of Newport and the English experts whom he had brought over, entered with the utmost ardor into the search for these metals; it was reported that at this time there were among the English in Virginia “no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, loade gold.”2 When the ship sailed, she carried away a cargo of shining dirt, which, after its arrival in England, was shown to be wholly worthless. For a period of fourteen weeks, Captain Newport had lingered in the Colony at a heavy expense in victuals and wages in order that his seamen might have an opportunity to say that they had assisted the settlers at Jamestown in discovering gold. Not long after the departure of his vessel, the Phœnix, her consort in the outward voyage, came in, having been delayed by violent

1 Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 111-113.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 407.


storms which drove her out of her course. It was debated for some time among those who were in authority at Jamestown as to whether this ship should also be loaded with a cargo of the supposed ore and sent back to England. In the end it was decided to fill her with cedar.

In the autumn of 1608 the Second Supply arrived in charge of Captain Newport, who had received private instructions from the Council in England to remain in Virginia until he had found a lump of gold, or was assured of the true route to the South Sea, or had recovered at least one of the lost colonists of Raleigh.1 Among the persons who accompanied him on the occasion of this voyage were several foreigners, who were to be employed in the manufacture of pitch, tar, glass, and soap ashes, and in the erection of saw-mills. One of them, an Helvetian, Faldoe by name, attended Newport in the expedition made under his command into the Monacan country for the purpose of finding a way to the South Sea, and in the search for metals entered upon after the original, purpose of the exploration had been abandoned, and which, it seems, led to the discovery of two mines, this man, who must have wandered somewhat from the main body, flattered himself that he had found the site of valuable veins of silver. He was permitted, doubtless on account of his knowledge of this supposed deposit of ore, to return to England with Newport, and laying news of it before the merchants of the London Company, he produced such an impression upon that body that they rewarded him substantially, and sent him back to the Colony with Lord Delaware.2

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 434.

2 “Our people in their first discovery into the Monacan country discovered two mynes, the one within six miles of the head of the falls which takes the name of Namantack, the fynder of it: which is conceaved wil be worth the exploring and with little charge; the other lyes in the myd-waie betweene twoo townes of Monacan, the neerest called [footnote continues on p. 18] Mowhemincke, the furthest, Massinnacock, distant one from another fourteen miles, of whose goodness there is no doubt since the sparre only taken no further then two or three foote into the earth affourdes mettall worth the labour. And concerning a silver myne, not far from the same place, an Helvetian, one William Henrick Faldoe, . . . made earnest suit unto our treasourer and his Majestie’s Counsaile resident for Virginia, with whom he contracted and ent’red into condicons for one yeare and a halfe for the full performance of this worke.” Strachey’s Historie of Travaile into Virginia, p. 131. See, also, Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 487. Strachey mentions that he had seen a map of the English “seat” in Virginia drawn by a Portuguese, on which the “two silver mynes were pricked downe,” p. 132. Whitaker, in his Good Newes from Virginia, states that three days’ journey from a point twelve miles west of the Falls in the Powhatan, a “stonie hill covered all over with a perfect and most rich silver oare” was found in the course of the first exploration of the country. “Our men that went to discover those parts had but two iron pickaxes with them, and those so ill-tempered that the points of them turned againe and bowed at every stroke, so that we could not search the entrails of ye place, yet some triall was made of that oare with good successe and argument of much hope.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 584.


Before Delaware and Faldoe reached Virginia, the Third Supply arrived with the information of the impending change of officers. A mutinous spirit now arose among the soldiers of Captain West, who were stationed near the Falls of the Powhatan. They threw off the authority of Smith, the President of the Colony at that time, on the ground that the commission of Delaware had superseded his right to the command. This rebellious impulse revealed itself most strikingly in their announcement that no one would be permitted to pass into the country west of the Falls, which they thought to be very rich in gold.1

The thirst for the precious metals shown by the common soldiers was shared by Delaware on his arrival. To such an extent was the Colony during a part at least of his

1 The words “rebellious” and “mutinous” are used because, until Delaware arrived and presented his commission, Smith’s authority as President was paramount. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 482.


administration absorbed in the search for the mines which Faldoe reported to exist in the Monacan territory, that there was a grave omission of those duties which it was absolutely necessary to perform to insure the perpetual existence of the community. Delaware had been urged to this course by special instructions from the Council in London, who thus showed the plainest determination to subordinate the practical development of the Jamestown settlement to a search for gold. The foundation of a plantation was not “the full and utmost intention” advised from England, but rather, says Dale, the discovery of the mines of Faldoe, the Helvetian.1 Faldoe perished before he was able to point out the exact spot where he had found gold in the previous year; search was, therefore, uncertain and confused, if made at all, and in the end wholly barren of any favorable result.2

In the midst of these groundless notions that gold and

1 Dale to the Council, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 490. See also Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, p. 79.

2 The manner in which Faldoe met his death is involved in some doubt. According to Smith’s General Historie, in which he is referred to as “Valdo,” he was discovered to be an impostor and soon “dyed most miserably.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 487. Strachey informs us that the Helvetian died of a burning fever, and with him passed away all knowledge of “the myne which, in his lifetime, he would not be drawn to reveyle unto any one ells of the colony.” Historie of Travaile into Virginia, p. 132. In the “Breife Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia during the first Twelve Years,” it is declared that the design of Delaware in leading an expedition into the Monacan country, Captains Brewster and Yeardley being his subordinates in command, was defeated, in spite of the fact that the expedition reached “the head of the River,” by “the unfortunate losse of all of our chieffe men skilfull in findeinge out mines, who weare treacherously slaine by the Salvadges (inviteinge them ashoare to eat victuells which they wanted) even when the meate was in theire mouthes, they careinge only to fill their bellies, foresaw not to prevent this danger which befell them.” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I. Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 73.


silver existed in Virginia in great quantities, the dissipation of which weakened the interest of a large and influential number of the members of the London Company in the Virginian colony,1 John Smith alone of the prominent leaders had a proper conception of what were the true elements of wealth in the new country, although he acknowledged that the indications of the presence of the precious metals in Virginia were so strong as to justify the indulgence of the hope that they could be drawn from its soil. In 1608, however, when the colonists were wholly absorbed in the search for gold and silver, he offered a warm and impatient remonstrance in his deep vexation that all necessary business should be deferred until the ship, which was to sail to England, had been loaded with a cargo of the supposed ore.2 When Captain Martin proposed, in the spring of 1609, to fill the Phœnix with a great quantity of the sparkling dirt, Smith urged that cedar should be substituted for it. He strove to impress upon the shareholders of the Company the fact that their expectations of an immediate profit were without reasonable ground to rest on. The letter, which he,

1 Velasco the Spanish Ambassador in London, writing in May, 1613, to Philip III, said that they (i.e. the supporters of the Virginia enterprise) were discouraged, “on account of the heavy expenses they have incurred and the disappointment that there is no passage from there, i.e. Virginia, to the South Sea, as they had hoped, nor mines of gold or silver.” Again, in July of the same year, “this plantation has lost much ground, as it was sustained by companies of merchants, who were disappointed at finding no gold nor silver mine, nor the passage to the South Sea, which they had hoped for.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 634, 638.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 408. “I have heard him (Smith) oft question with Captaine Martin and tell him except he could shew him a more substantiall triall he was not inamoured with their dusty skill, breathing out these and many other passions; never did anything more torment him than to see, all necessary business neglected to fraught such a drunken ship with so much guilded dirt.”


as President of the Colony, addressed in 1608 to the Treasurer and Council for Virginia in London, although written with soldierly brusqueness, is a lasting monument of his practical wisdom in grasping the conditions that had to be conformed to if the settlement was to be placed on a permanent footing. It stamps him as the real founder of Virginia, the one man who early recognized, and who labored hard while in power to carry out the true principles of action which should have been followed by the small band of colonists planted on the Powhatan, principles only adopted by his successors after a useless waste of life and treasure.1

The sound judgment prompting Smith to oppose, in the situation of the Colony at that time, the search for gold, impelled him also to discourage for the present all attempts to find the South Sea by sending expeditions into the Monacan country. The hope that the settlers in Virginia would discover an overland route to that sea was hardly less vivid in the minds of the members of the London Company than that gold and silver would be found in the Colony. A desire to throw open a new highway to the Indies by sailing westward was the principal motive governing Columbus when he set out on his immortal voyage from Palos, and that motive in a modified form remained dominant in the Spanish mind until Magellan penetrated the Straits which bear his name. The determination to discover a passage to the Orient

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 442. These principles were, first, to keep the savages always in awe of the settlers, and, second, that the settlers should rely upon the fertility of the Virginian soil and their own industry for their subsistence, instead of looking to England for support, as was the case for so many years. If these two principles had been strictly followed, the massacre of 1622 would not have occurred, and the growth of the Colony in all the elements of strength and prosperity would have been steadily maintained from the beginning.


by the northwest arose among the English because the Spaniards were in possession of Cape Horn, and the Portuguese of the Cape of Good Hope. All the efforts to find a water highway to the China seas by the northeast clear of obstruction from ice had by 1576 ended in melancholy failures. A company, afterwards designated as the Russia or Muscovy, had been organized in 1554 for the ostensible purpose of exploring “lands, countries and islands hitherto removed from the knowledge of or unfrequented by the English,” but really to obtain access to Asia by way of the stormy headlands of Norway and Siberia. The true character of the Northern Seas was at that time unknown. The fate which overtook a portion of the little fleet participating in the first expedition is one of the most tragic in the whole record of the voyages in the Arctic Ocean, calamitous as so many of these voyages have been.1 The crews of two of the ships perished in the floes of the North. The third vessel made its way into the White Sea, and its commander disembarking upon the coast near Archangel, travelled overland to Moscow, and there holding an interview with the Emperor, laid the foundation of a great trade with the Russian Empire and through Persia with the East. The subsequent expeditions to discover the Northeast Passage were equally unsuccessful in accomplishing that purpose.

The search for the Northwest Passage began in earnest in 1576 with the first voyage of Martin Frobisher,2 who had secured with some difficulty from the Russia Company a license to sail towards the northeastern parts of

1 The nearest approach to it in horror is to be found in the history of the Jeannette Expedition. Some of the companions of the heroic De Long escaped, while the crews of the two vessels which remained with Sir Hugh Willoughby perished to a man.

2 A full account of Frobisher’s voyages will be found in the third volume of Hakluyt. See also Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 143.


America, with a view of disclosing to the world the new route to India which was confidently supposed to lie in that direction. The utmost diligence was also to be shown in looking for indications of gold in the new lands to be visited on the way. The discovery of Frobisher’s Straits was the only substantial result of this costly voyage, although the commander for a time flattered himself that he had found ore of extraordinary richness. In the second voyage, which was made in 1577, he returned to the spot in the vicinity of the Straits where he imagined there were deposits of metal, and leaving there the miners he had brought with him, he penetrated into Hudson’s Bay under the impression that it was the open passage to the South Sea. Further exploration showing the incorrectness of this notion, he reversed his course, and loading his ships with cargoes of worthless stones, thinking that they were rich in gold, sailed for England. In 1578 he set out upon his third voyage in company with a large band of miners, and returned home with three hundred tons of material supposed to contain the precious metals, but which proved to be without value. The enormous sum of twenty thousand pounds sterling, equal in purchasing power to about five hundred thousand dollars in modern currency,1 was subscribed to sustain these three voyages of Frobisher, Queen Elizabeth alone furnishing four thousand pounds of this amount, while among the other

1 It is almost impossible to give with exactness the purchasing power of a pound sterling in the long period covered in this work, as compared with the purchasing power of the pound sterling or American dollar in the present age. I have adopted the ratio of 6 to 1 as approximately correct only. See Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 810. A pound sterling is there given as equal in value to $20 or $25. This was in the early history of Virginia. The decline in the purchasing power of the pound sterling as the century progressed, could not have been very great. In the sixteenth century the ratio was probably as high as 7 to 1.


celebrated persons who invested in them were Burleigh, Leicester, Sydney, Gresham, and Walsingham. One hundred and twenty men were dispatched in the third voyage to erect a temporary settlement on the shores of Frobisher’s Straits, but so eagerly did the members of the expedition throw themselves into the search for gold that all thought of a colony was forgotten.

In 1583 special letters patent for the discovery of a Northwest Passage were granted to Adrian Gilbert and his associates, but this scheme had no practical results.1 Beginning his exploration in 1585, Captain John Davis, like Martin Frobisher, made three voyages to the Northwest, the only valuable fruit of which was the discovery of Davis’ Straits; these Straits, Davis himself confidently thought, were the main entrance to the South Sea in that part of the globe. The second and third voyages proved to be entirely barren, the explorer remaining under the impression that the magnificent sheet of water, to which his name has been given, was a highway for ships to the India seas. In 1593, after an interval of a few years, the Russia and Turkey Companies united in sharing the expense of sending out two vessels of light tonnage for the discovery of the Northwest Passage; Captain Weymouth, who was placed in command of the expedition, was instructed to sail as far into Davis’ Straits in the general direction of China as the waters were navigable. This expedition proved to be fruitless. In 1602 Captain Weymouth was sent upon a second voyage in search of the passage by a number of London merchants. In 1606 the Russia and Turkey Companies dispatched Captain Knight towards the Northwest, but part of his mission was to explore for gold and silver mines.2

1 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 157.

2 In the year (O. S.) in which Jamestown was founded, James granted [footnote continues on p. 25] a license to Richard Penkevel to discover a passage to the east by the north, northeast, or northwest (Fœdera, vol. XVI, pp. 660-663). In 1609 Henry Hudson, moved by a suggestion which Captain John Smith had made to him, to the effect that the Atlantic and Western oceans were connected north of Virginia by means of an open sea, explored the coast line as far as the river now bearing his name. He was finally left to perish, by a mutinous crew, while engaged in the attempt to find the passage to the Indies through American waters.


It was entirely reasonable that the London Company should have looked upon the discovery of a route to the South Sea through Virginia as one of the principal objects to be accomplished by their enterprise. Doubtless the fact that so many members of the East India Company were also interested in the London, had a marked influence in creating and sustaining the determination to find a passage to the Indies by way of the Powhatan, but it can be easily seen that apart from the benefit which would result to those members who wished to carry on in their own private capacity a direct trade with the East, it would have been an incomparable advantage to the London Company as a body to have had in its territory the shortest highway to all the wealthiest nations of Asia. The words of Ralph Lane, already quoted, were just as applicable to the colony at Jamestown as to that at Roanoke; nothing, he declared, but the discovery of a good mine or a passage by water or land to the South Sea could bring the country in request in England as a desirable place for settlement.1 The managers of the London Company were fully aware of the force of these words, independently of the immediate profit that would flow to the members of their organization from the possession of a mine, or the entrance to the East by way of the West. The instructions given to the leaders of the first voyage in 1606 were

1 The correctness of this statement is confirmed by the letters of the Spanish Ambassador, Velasco, written many years afterwards. See Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 634, 638.


most explicit on this point. They were commanded to observe whether the river on which they were ordered to establish themselves, sprang from mountains or from a lake. If from a lake, the journey to the South Sea could be accomplished with ease and dispatch, as it was most probable that a river ran into the lake from the direction of the sea. Reference was made to the coincidence of the Volga, Tanis, and Dwina; these famous streams had their fountains near the same spot, but emptied into seas lying widely apart. In selecting a river upon which the plantation was to be placed, the colonists were instructed, in case it had two main branches, to follow the one that bent most towards the northwest, since it was by going towards this point of the compass that the other sea would be the soonest reached.1

The belief in England that the South Sea lay only a short distance overland from the Chesapeake Bay had, probably, been created by the reports which Ralph Lane recorded in his account of the Roanoke Colony. Lane had been informed by the Indians that from one of their villages, not far from Roanoke, it required only a journey of thirty days to arrive at the head of the Moratoc River, and that its waters there gushed out of an enormous rock situated so near to the sea that the waves of the latter very often, in heavy storms, mingled with the stream as it poured from the rock, causing it to become brackish to the taste. The hope of gazing upon this sea with his own eyes had prompted Lane to make a voyage of one hundred and sixty miles into the country by way of the river, he and his companions enduring unexampled hardships before they were forced to abandon their design. In undertaking this expedition, they had the active encouragement of Mr. Hariot, a member of the Colony, and among the most celebrated

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxv.


men of his age for scientific attainments, and one who was thought to be especially trustworthy in his geographical views.1

Lane was anxious to discover a harbor on that part of the coast where the Chesapeake Bay lies, and his recommendation as to the course to be pursued, in case such a harbor was found, evidently made a strong impression on those who were interested in the voyage of 1606.2 He declared that the journey in the search of the South Sea should begin from this harbor. It would require four days to pass to the river Choanoke, at which point in the route a fort should be erected; entrance should then be made into the Choanoke province, and a day would be consumed before the town of the Mangoaks could be reached; the journey should then proceed along the line of the Moratoc until its fountain-head and the salt sea had been arrived at, care being taken to build forts also on this part of the course for the defence of all the expeditions which hereafter should go that way. Lane asserted that by following this route, a gain of four days would be secured in travelling into the heart of the country.3

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 314, 316.

2 Lane had visited the modern Hampton Roads, “To the Northward” (i.e. from Roanoke), he wrote, “our furthest discovery was to the Chesepians distant from Roanoke about 130 miles; the passage to it was very shallow and most dangerous by reason of the bredth of the Sound and the little succour that upon any flawe was there to be had.” The Chesapeake tribe was seated upon the southern side of the great body of water situated at the mouth of the Powhatan. It is evident that Lane, in making his way in, failed to discover the channel, which lies close to the northern shore (Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 312). For this reason he did not consider it a “safe harbor.”

3 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 317. It is interesting to note that this suggestion of Lane was carefully borne in mind by the English when they had many years afterwards established themselves permanently in Virginia. In the report which Francis Maguel made in 1610 to the Spanish Council of State, as to what he had observed in the course of his [footnote continues on p. 28] recent residence in that country, he declared that the colonists, in order to acquire mastery of the South Sea, had “determined to erect a fort at the end of every day’s march of the ten days’ march which lay between the head of their river and the South Sea * * * This they hope to accomplish in a short time, because they do not intend to fortify them very strongly, but only so much as would suffice to defend themselves against these savages.” Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 397.


Only a few days after the colonists of 1606 selected Jamestown Island as the place of settlement, Newport began to fit out a shallop to continue the exploration of the Powhatan towards the west in obedience to instructions received from the Council in England. The party who were chosen to accompany him were five gentlemen, four mariners, and fourteen sailors. The insignificance of the vessel, and the smallness of the number of persons forming the force, show very plainly that both Newport and his companions supposed that the journey from sea to sea would be short, and, therefore, required no elaborate preparations for its successful performance.1 This impression,

1 The object which the Council in England had immediately in view in instructing Newport to explore the river upon which the settlement was to be made, as far as it was navigable, was not to discover the distance to the South Sea, but to enable the colonies to choose the “strongest, most wholesome, and fertile place” as a site of their proposed town. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxiv. It is impossible, however, not to believe that in the state of geographical knowledge prevailing at that time, the principal hope animating Newport and his companions in the voyage to the Falls related to the existence of the South Sea at a point attainable from the head of the stream which they were navigating. This is to be inferred from the account given in the Relatyon of the Discovery of our River (p. xli), written by one of the persons who took part in it. In an interview with an Indian, who laid out the course of the river, he told us (that is, Newport and his company) of two Iletts in the Ryver we should passe by, meaning that one whereon we were, and then come to an overfall of water, beyond that of two Kyngdomes, which the Ryver runs by, then a great distance off the Mountains Quirauk as he named them, beyond which by his relation is that which we expected. (That is, the South Sea.) This fellow parting from us promised to procure us [footnote continues on p. 29] wheate if we would stay a little longer, but we coming by the place where he was with many more very desirous of our Company, stayed not, as being eagre of our good tydinges.” When the Falls were reached, Newport decided to return to Jamestown, in opposition to his own wishes and the earnest request of his companions, simply to please the Indian king (“with whome and all of his command, he had made so faire way”), who objected to the English passing into the country of his enemies, the Monacans. The order of the Council had directed Newport to follow the river only as far as it was navigable. It will be seen that he does not give this as his reason for turning back, but merely his desire to gratify his Indian host.


which seems to have been shared by Englishmen (if that age in general, appears remarkable when it is recalled that Sir Francis Drake had, many years before, in his circumnavigation of the globe, sailed along the western coast of North America. It can only be adequately explained on the ground that the knowledge of longitudes at that time was grossly defective. Interrupted in their voyage by the Falls,1 the members of the expedition returned to Jamestown. Newport, on his arrival in England, having no certain report to make as to the proximity of Virginia to the South Sea, contented himself, as we have seen, with announcing the discovery of gold in the Colony.

The unfavorable issue of the voyage to the Falls did not seriously diminish the hope which the Company had of finding a route to the East through Virginia. This hope was afterwards sustained by further information received from the Indians. Captain Smith, who, at a later period, deprecated so earnestly and so properly the subordination of the practical interests of the Colony to the advancement of schemes looking to the discovery of the South Sea, was, in the beginning, one of the chief instruments in giving substantial ground to these sanguine expectations. During his captivity, which occurred only a few months after the

1 The expression used is, “Having ended thus of force our Discovery.” A Relatyon of the Discovery of our River, p. xlvii.


landing on Jamestown Island, he was informed by Opechancanough that a salt sea was to be found within four or five days’ journey of the Falls. This statement was confirmed by Powhatan, who declared that some asserted that it was five days’, some six, some eight days’ journey from the Falls to the place where the salt waters, dashing in the fury of great storms against the boulders, among which the river had its fountain, had often caused that stream to be brackish in its flavor. Powhatan gave a description of the dress worn by the inhabitants of these countries towards the setting sun, and the ships in which they travelled, showing that they belonged to civilized nations. An Indian prisoner of Powhatan, who was probably one of the tribe of Monacans, occupying the territory above the Falls, also reported the presence of a salt sea in the West.1 It might be supposed, at first, that the same spirit which, perhaps, led Smith to suppress, in his earliest account of his captivity, all allusion to the attempt of his captors to beat out his brains,2 also

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, pp. 17, 19, 20.

2 The colonists of 1607 were specially instructed in the Orders in Council which they carried over to Virginia with them, not to transmit to England “any letter of anything that may discourage others.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxvii. It is not improbable that this is the explanation of the omission by Smith of all reference to his rescue by Pocahontas, in the Newes from Virginia, the only fact, coupled with the failure of contemporaneous writers to record, even casually, this striking incident, upon which any serious attack upon the truthfulness of Smith in his account of that incident in the True Relation, written at a later date, can rest. It is not necessary here to make a defence of Smith. That has been done with a degree of learning and ability by Mr. William Wirt Henry, the distinguished author of the Life of Patrick Henry, in his address before the Virginia Historical Society at their annual meeting, Feb. 24, 1882, which leaves but little to be said. This address has been published by the Society, and it is but one of the many grounds which entitle the author to the grateful appreciation of all who are interested in the history of Virginia. Special reference may also be made to [footnote continues on p. 31] Captain John Smith and his Critics, by Mr. Charles Poindexter, late librarian of the State Library of Virginia, in which strong evidence is advanced to show that the Newes from Virginia is in a garbled form in its present shape. The conclusions reached by Professor Edward Arber, the English editor of Smith’s works, should carry great weight as being those of a man entirely free from the sectional feeling which has colored the attacks upon, as well as the defence of, Captain Smith on this side of the Atlantic. His point of view was impartial and disinterested. “Posterity will see in Smith,” he wrote in the introduction to his edition, “a noble example of what a Christian Gentleman and Officer may be, may do, and may endure.” The introduction, as far as made up by contributions from Professor Arber’s pen, is a most striking tribute to the character and services of Captain Smith in his career in Virginia. It has been the curious fate of this remarkable man to be pursued, after death, by an animosity as unrelenting as that from which he suffered in life. His faults were upon the surface, but these faults, which are to-day reflected in his writings, were such as to excite the keenest antagonism in the minds of many persons who were thrown with him. His enemies during his life were not more bitter than his enemies have been since his death. The spirit animating the most persistent detractors of Smith has been at once puerile and ignoble. That this great man was egotistic and self-assertive, it is impossible to deny, but that he was brave, steadfast, sagacious, and far-seeing, no one will question who approaches the study of his career with the critical faculty free from all prejudice. His example and his teachings were in every instance marked by the highest practical wisdom. His services in the first settlement of Virginia were of incalculable value in their influence, and the general voice of the Colony and the State has not been incorrect in proclaiming him the real founder of the community.


prompted him to exaggerate the prevalence among the Indians of the report that the South Sea was situated not far from Jamestown; that is to say, he desired not only to pass over in silence all that was calculated to injure the prospects of the Colony in the English mind, but also to bring out in the broadest light every fact that would increase public interest in the Virginian enterprise. The interviews with Opechancanough and Powhatan, recorded in the Newes from Virginia, recall very forcibly the information which Ralph Lane obtained from the Indians


on the Moratoc, the modern Roanoke, as to the salt sea in the West. That Smith, however, was stating precisely what he had been told, uncolored either by the previous relation of Lane or a natural eagerness to advance the fortunes of the Colony in England, is disclosed in the report of Francis Maguel, a Spanish subject who had passed eight months at Jamestown sometime previous to 1610. According to Maguel, the Indians asserted that on the other side of Virginia, close to the sea, there was a land, the inhabitants of which wore wide silk dresses and bright colored buckskins; that they had much gold; and that ships were in the habit of coming to that country to get from them these precious materials. Maguel even affirmed that the aborigines had shown to the English in Virginia, knives and other articles obtained by them in barter from these strangers in the West.1 Molina another Spanish subject who resided as a captive in the Colony for several years, stated, in 1611, that the Indians held the belief that it was only sixteen or eighteen days’ journey from Virginia to the South Sea.2

There were three routes which might be followed in an attempt to reach its shores. The first led directly from the head of the Powhatan to the salt water and lay entirely on land. The second, after leaving the Powhatan, ran to a second river, which emptied into the South Sea. The overland journey front river to river would only consume a day and a half in its accomplishment. The third route took the direction of the northwest. At a distance of twelve days’ journey from the head of the Powhatan, there were found four large rivers, fourteen leagues from

1 Report of Francis Maguel, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 398.

2 Report of the Voyage to Virginia, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 519.


the furthest of which, there was a fifth stream that emptied into the sixth, and this in turn debouched into the South Sea.1

When Smith visited Powhatan in the fall of 1608, the Indian monarch gravely informed him that his people had been deceiving the English in declaring that a salt sea was to be found in the West, and he proceeded to draw upon the ground the true map of the territories in that region.2 Powhatan probably wished to divert the attention of the colonists from the exploration of the western countries. The sincere belief in the existence of the salt sea beyond the mountains, entertained by the Indians of Virginia, is confirmed by too many witnesses among the Europeans to be controverted by a single statement of the wily Powhatan, and one in contradiction of his own previous assertions. One reason for this belief on the part of the Indians was probably a vague report of the great lakes,3 which to the view of the tribes dwelling on their shores were almost unlimited in the area covered by them, being considered even by their European discoverers to be inland seas of vast extent. The copper in possession of

1 Report of Francis Maguel, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 397. Whitaker, in his Good Newes from Virginia, 1612, has this to say in this connection: “Sixe daies Journey beyond the mine (that is, three days journey from ‘Christal Rocke,’ which was situated twelve miles beyond the Falls), a great ridge of high hils doe runne along the maine land, not farre from whom the Indians report a great Sea dothe runne, which we commonly call a South Sea.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 584.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 124.

3 “Beyond the mountains from whence is the head of the river Patawomeke, the Savages report inhabit their most mortall enimies, the Massawomekes upon a great salt water, which by all likelyhood is either some Part of Commada (i.e. Canada) some great lake or some inlet of some sea that falleth into the South Sea.” These are the words of Smith. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 71.


the aborigines of Virginia had been obtained from natives of the lands lying to the northwest of the country occupied by the subjects of Powhatan, and doubtless information of these great bodies of water had by the same agents been transmitted to the Indians in the territory along the coast. Powhatan was also in constant communication with the inhabitants of the Northeast, among whom a knowledge of the existence of the lakes was generally diffused.1 It is not improbable that some of the reports had reference to the Gulf of Mexico. In stating that one route to the South Sea was by way of the Powhatan to a certain point in its upper course, and thence by a short overland journey to a second river, which emptied into that sea, the Indians perhaps had the Kanawha and Ohio in mind. There seems to have been some intercourse between the tribes of Virginia and those inhabiting the country in the far Southwest. From this quarter, Opechancanough is reported to have come. It was the annual custom of Powhatan to send messengers to the “West India” to keep him informed as to the progress of events in that region.2

The news as to the South Sea which Smith brought back to Jamestown on his return from captivity did not at the time produce much impression upon his associates. Captain Newport arrived in Virginia during the same month, having the First Supply in charge, and he became so deeply absorbed in the search for gold in the country in the immediate neighborhood of Jamestown that he made no attempt to explore the wilderness lying to the west of the Falls. All thought of the South Sea was for

1 Report of Francis Maguel, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 396.

2 Report of Francis Maguel, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 396. By the term “West India,” Maguel, the authority for this statement, probably meant Mexico, and that general region of country, for the messengers are represented as “proceeding by land.”


gotten for the moment. This exclusive attention to the discovery of the precious metals was perhaps chiefly due to the instructions which he had received from the Company in England. The “glad tidings” he had carried back in 1607 had no reference to the South Sea. They related to gold and silver alone. When Newport reached Plymouth in 1608, he not only had in the hold of his vessel a cargo of what he supposed to be ore, but he had also brought with him the reports that Smith had heard during his captivity, as to the proximity to Jamestown of the sea in the west; indeed, the Newes from Virginia, in which Smith had recorded these reports, was one of the documents that Newport took to England when he returned after the delivery of the First Supply. The cargo of gilded dirt proving to be worthless, the Company were disposed to attach a greater value to the reports as to the western sea than they would have done if the dirt when tested had shown favorable results. The most careful provisions were adopted to enable Newport, on his arrival in Virginia with the Second Supply, to penetrate to this sea by one of the routes which the Indians had referred to in their interviews with members of the Colony. There was constructed for him a barge specially devised to overcome the obstacles of the journey; it consisted of five pieces that could be taken apart and transported on the shoulders of men when mountains were to be crossed, or a portage was to be made from the head of one river to another, or falls in the streams were to be avoided.1

In passing up the Powhatan towards Jamestown, Captain Newport ran unexpectedly upon Captain Percy, who had been sent out to procure grain from the Indians; he ordered Percy to turn back without having performed his mission, as his boats would be needed in the exploration

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 434.


which was to be made towards the west in search of the South Sea. Newport felt, no doubt, as lively an interest in the discovery of a highway through Virginia to that sea as his present employers in England did, for he was a detached officer of the Russia Company, which, as we have seen, had gone to much expense to find a passage to the East Indies both by the northeast and by the northwest. If he had succeeded in discovering this passage along the line of the Powhatan, he would have entitled himself to the gratitude of both the Russia and the London Companies, and would have received a reward in proportion. He was instructed by the London Company on this occasion, as I have already pointed out, to remain in Virginia until he could bring back to England a lump of gold, or one of the lost colonists of Sir Walter Raleigh, or could report a certainty of the South Sea. Every influence, therefore, united to cause him at this time to subordinate the real interests of the settlement at Jamestown to the pursuit of the latter purposes, which the event was to prove to be so wholly impracticable.

As soon as the coronation of Powhatan had taken place,1 Newport set out for the Monacan country, accompanied by one hundred and twenty picked men, only eighty or ninety men being left at Jamestown to prepare a cargo of clapboards for the ship on its homeward voyage. Whether or not there is good reason to think that Smith was

1 The coronation of Powhatan took place in 1608, after the return of Newport to Virginia with the Second Supply, who brought over for the king a crown, bason and ewer, bed and furniture, and a “scarlet cloke and apparell.” “Foule trouble there was to make him kneele to receive his crowne . . . . At last by leaning hard on his shoulders, he a little stooped and three having the crowne in their hands put it on his head . . . to congratulate their kindness, he gave his old shoes and his mantell to Captaine Newport.” Powhatan was crowned at Werowocomoco, his place of residence on York River.


doubtful as to the existence of a sea at a comparatively near point in the west,1 he was certainly frank and emphatic in his condemnation of the search for it at the expense of the welfare of the Colony at that time. He held the very just opinion that the attention of all should be exclusively directed to the establishment of the Jamestown settlement on a permanently safe footing before an expedition should be dispatched to penetrate the wilderness in the west. When the Phœnix was on the point of returning to England in 1608, Radcliffe, who was then the presiding officer in Virginia, was desirous that the commander of the vessel should be able to carry over favorable reports as to the country beyond the Falls; he therefore ordered Smith to train a body of sixty men for the exploration of the territory, but to the satisfaction of the latter, the project was frustrated by the obstinacy of Captain Martin, Smith himself preferring to make the expedition to the west when he had “less charge and more leisure,” believing that an uncertain discovery ought to be deferred to a time when the needs of the Colony had been fully supplied.2 In December, 1608, instead of leading a band of men into the Monacan forests, in which direction the South Sea was only to be found, but where there was either little maize, or if much, no means of transporting it to Jamestown, he, proceeded by water with a large company to Pamunkey in the hope that he might, in spite of the late season, secure the grain needed for the support of the settlers.3 It was said at the time that had the same voyage been made in October, November, or the early part of December, a ship of forty tons might have been freighted,

1 See his opinion, already quoted, as to the character of the water which the Indians reported as lying in the west or northwest. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 71.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 409.

3 Ibid., p. 463.


and twice as much obtained on the Rappahannock, Potomac, and Patuxent Rivers; as it was, Smith and his companions, on their return to Jamestown, were only able to deliver to the Cape Merchant, the person in charge of the public store of provisions, two hundred pounds’ weight of deer suet, and four hundred and seventy-nine bushels of maize.

The earnest opposition which Smith showed to the expedition into the Monacan country, undertaken by Newport, was attributed by the latter to a secret desire to prevent the discovery of the South Sea then, in order that Smith might enjoy the honor at a later date,1 but whether this suspicion as to his motives was just or not, the ground which he took was in keeping with his practical good sense, and the wisdom of his views was fully borne out by the issue.

By 1613, the expectation in England that a route to the South Sea would soon be found by exploration of Virginia towards the west had greatly declined,2 but the hope of such a discovery lingered in the Colony for many years. One of the reasons which caused the Company to congratulate itself on hearing in 1621 that the Indian emperor had entered into a league of friendship with the settlers was, that this would offer an opportunity to make a further search for this sea, and in the expedition of Pory, in the course of the same year, into the territory towards the south, the proximity of that sea was always in his mind.3

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 435.

2 Velasco to Philip III, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 634, 638.

3 Purchas, Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 1784, 1622, N. S. An account of this expedition was printed in a broadside by the London Company, which was afterwards embodied in the text of Purchas. The following may be quoted from it: “Some of the English (i.e. the members of the expedition accompanying Pory) have made relation of a China box, seen at one of the king’s houses, who declared it was sent him from the west by a [footnote continues on p. 39] king whose country is near the sea, he having that box from a people who come thither in ships, wear clothes, and dwell in houses.”


As late as 1623, George Sandys, the treasurer, referred to the extreme likelihood of its being situated not far from the plantations in Virginia, and he declared that if he were furnished with a sufficient escort, he would gladly risk his life in the attempt to reach it.1 The belief in its comparative nearness was still universal, the General Assembly in this year going so far as to say that it was only six days’ journey from Jamestown.2 In May, 1669, sixty years after the memorable expedition of Newport into the Monacan country, Berkeley, at that time the Governor of the Colony, wrote to the authorities in England that two hundred gentlemen had agreed to accompany him in an expedition to the west, which he had arranged for the discovery of the East India Sea, but that unusually heavy and prolonged rains had for that season disconcerted his plans. He petitioned that a commission should be sent to him, which would empower him to undertake the expedition

1 George Sandys to John Ferrer, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 27; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 91, Va. State Library.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 7; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 203, Va. State Library. It is interesting in this connection to note that when in 1626 the Governor and Council recommended the erection of a palisade from Martin’s Hundred on the Powhatan to Kiskiack on the Charles or the modern York, it was urged that one benefit to result from this would be the creation of a protected area of ground, in which might be bred horses and asses that could be used in extending knowledge of the western country, and thus opening up a route to the South Sea. See Affairs in Virginia in 1626, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 53. This is a copy of the original report of the Governor and Council, now in the British Public Record Office. It was believed by many that Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador in England in 1624, had been largely instrumental in inducing James to revoke the letters patent of the London Company, because he thought that the Colony would thus be destroyed, and the gateway to the South Sea forever closed. New Description of Virginia, pp. 8, 9, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.


in the following spring.1 This commission, it seems, was obtained, for in a letter written June 13, 1670, he mentions that he had recently dispatched a party of “valient and resolute” men towards the west, the infirmities of old age probably preventing him from leading them as he had at first intended. This little band was instructed to turn back as soon as they had found a rivulet running in a westerly direction, for this would be an indication that there were streams in that region which emptied into the South and East India Seas. “If the distance by land,” remarked Governor Berkeley, “be not too great for traffic and commerce, nothing would be more advantageous to the wealth of England.” That it was anticipated that this distance would not be very great, was shown in the fact that thirty days was the length of time prescribed for the journey to the head-waters of the first river flowing into those great oceans and for the return of the expedition to Jamestown.2

All hope of discovering a short and unobstructed route to the South Sea by way of Virginia was in time dispelled by a juster notion of the true physical dimensions of the North American continent. In spite of the enormous width of that continent, the modern railroad has brought the South Sea practically as near to Virginia as Newport

1 Berkeley to English Secretary of State, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XXIV; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 252, Va. State Library.

2 Berkeley to English Secretary of State, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XXV; Winder Papers, vol. I, pp. 260, 261, Va. State Library. The party were sent out May 22, 1670. They returned “after 18 dayes, twelve of which, they were goeing and 6 retourning.” See for an account of the country they traversed, the letter of Thomas Ludwell to the English Secretary of State in same volume of State Papers; also Winder Papers, vol. I, pp. 263, 264, Va. State Library. It is not improbable that this expedition anticipated the famous passage of the Blue Ridge by Spotswood and the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe in the following century.


hoped, on the strength of the Indian reports, to find it. The Atlantic and Pacific now lie only a journey of six days apart; the expedition which set out in the fall of 1698 to explore the Monacan country was hardly expected even by its most sanguine members to accomplish its object in a briefer period. The reasons making it so desirable for the English people to secure a highway to the east by way of the west have passed away. In the Canadian Pacific Railway they possess every facility for transporting merchandise across the continent for transhipment to the East, but at the present time, not only is there no bar to navigation around the Cape of Good Hope by the vessels of all nations, but the Suez Canal has shortened very much the length of the route to the modern South Sea. The passage to that sea by the North Cape has been traversed in recent years by Nordenskiold, while in 1852 McClure made his way from Behring Straits through Melville Sound into Baffin Bay, thus accomplishing what for over two centuries had thwarted the determined efforts of the bravest and most skilful seamen. The success of these two navigators was the triumph of an historic sentiment which had long come to have little practical meaning.

The third important motive, in which the colonization of Virginia had its origin, was the expectation that the new country would supply a large number of articles which the English people at that time were compelled to buy from foreign nations. The Muscovy Company had always derived the greatest part of its profits from the transportation to England of tar, pitch, rosin, flax, cordage, masts, yards, timber, and other naval stores, and also glass and soap ashes. These were the products of Russia and Poland, a, large portion of the surface of these countries being covered with magnificent forests. The


area of the English forests was small and was steadily diminishing. Coal as yet had not come into use as a fuel for manufacturing. Copper at this time was imported from Sweden; iron and steel, figs and raisins, were brought from Spain. France supplied the English people with wine, salt, and canvas; Italy furnished silk and velvets.1 Spices were introduced from the East. The acquisition of these articles, which were growing to be more and more essential to the English as their wealth expanded and their luxury increased, was subject to numerous casualties and interruptions. The Muscovy Company especially, which was the principal agent in the accumulation of naval stores in England, was exposed to many obstructive influences. First, it had to contend with the fickleness of the population and government of Muscovy; little reliance could be placed upon the stability and fidelity of either in private contracts or public treaties. The Dutch had now enlarged the volume of their trade with Russia, thus introducing a competition that curtailed the English dealings and lowered the profits of all bargains made. It was a serious drawback that the company could only send out an expedition to Russia at one season in the year, the ice of the northern waters offering at other times impassable obstacles to navigation. There was a constant danger that the King of Denmark would increase the tax imposed upon the cargoes of all foreign vessels passing into or out of the Baltic, while the Hanse communities south of Denmark were always seeking to deprive the Russia Company of the right of way in the northern seas.2

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 360.

2 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 229. These obstacles to freedom of trade between England and the northern parts of Europe were enumerated by Captain Christopher Carlile in his discourse, written in 1583, in [footnote continues on p. 43] order to induce English merchants to purchase shares in his intended voyage to America. They were just as serious in 1606 as they had been twenty-three years before; and this may also be said of the difficulties and dangers attending all commercial intercourse between England and the other countries referred to in the text. The interval of time between the composition of Carlile’s discourse and the formation of the London Company had increased instead of diminishing them. See a True Declaration of Virginia, 1610, pp. 22-25, Force's Historical Tracts, vol. III. A clause in this document shows that Denmark levied a custom in 1610 on all goods passing out of the Baltic, p. 23. In addition to the True Declaration of Virginia, see Virginia Richly Valued, Ibid., vol. III.


The English trade with Turkey, in addition to being subject to the sentimental objection, which had extraordinary force in that age, of being carried on with barbarous infidels, was exposed to unusual risks in the passage from England, many hostile people sweeping the intervening seas with their craft. When the Turkish ports had been safely reached, the profits of the voyage were seriously diminished by the expense of the gifts that had to be made before any bargains could be closed, the value of these presents in one year, 1582, amounting, it was calculated, to nearly two thousand pounds sterling. The English trade with Italy was open to similar perils in the voyage through the Mediterranean, the Algerian pirates especially taking advantage of every opportunity to seize upon the merchandise in the English ships, and to carry off the mariners with the view of securing large ransoms in their release. In their commercial relations with some parts of Italy, the English merchants were compelled to pay heavy customs both upon the English goods which they imported into those territories, and also upon the Italian goods which they exported.1

The English trade with Spain and Portugal was in that age very large and profitable on account of the varied

1 Brief and Summary Discourse of Christopher Carlile, Hakluyt's Voyages, vol. III, p. 229.


products of their vast colonial territories, in return for which the English transferred to these two kingdoms a great quantity of merchandise to be disposed of by these nations in America. Twice a year an English fleet sailed to the Spanish and Portuguese ports to make this exchange. Upon the smallest provocation, it was in the power of Spain and Portugal to lay hands upon this fleet and the sailors who manned it, and also upon the vessels of English merchants bound for Italy and Turkey. The prospect of such a seizure was always imminent in the reign of Elizabeth on account of the mutual ill-will felt by the Spanish and English nations even in intervals of peace, and at the time of the formation of the London Company, little had occurred to remove the underlying distrust existing between the two peoples. In addition to the practical drawbacks in the commercial relations with Spain, Italy, and Portugal at this time, there was a sentimental objection of a graver character than the one referred to in connection with the Turkish trade, namely, the English children, servants, and factors who were employed in these Catholic territories, were forced, it was said, to deny their own profession, and were made to acquaint themselves with that which their parents and masters utterly refused, or their own hearts abhorred as a detestable and wicked doctrine. In other words, they were compelled to submit to the Roman Church.1

1 Brief and Summary Discourse of Christopher Carlile, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 229. It was characteristic of the sixteenth century that at the very time the Dutch were engaged in their struggle for national independence with the Spanish Power, Dutch fleets made periodical voyages to the Spanish dominions and carried on a lucrative traffic with the merchants of Spain. See Professor Rogers’ Holland in the Story of the Nations Series, p. 163. The strained relations between England and Spain in the reign of Elizabeth do not appear to have affected for any length of time the commercial intercourse of the two nations.


So numerous were the obstacles in the way of the importation into England of the many articles produced in foreign countries, which were required by the English people, that it was asserted in 1609 that there was danger that the merchants of the kingdom would grow weary of meeting the cost of introducing these articles, and in consequence would cease to put forth any effort to obtain them. This statement had special reference to copper, iron, steel, timber, yards, masts, cordage, and soap ashes, but it was equally applicable to many other wares.1 This fact was used as a strong argument in favor of the promotion of the Virginian enterprise, the ability of Virginia to supply England with the commodities in which it was lacking, being regarded as certain by those who were interested in the Colony, provided that it was steadily developed. As early as 1582 the hope had been entertained, and on grounds apparently entirely reasonable, that America, if settled by the English, would take the place of foreign countries in furnishing the English people with the imported articles which they needed. It was recognized very clearly at the same time that these articles were not to be obtained from that region in the greatest abundance unless plantations were established there.2 Every voyage to North America had only enlarged the popular conception of its natural productiveness. The description which the Huguenots, the survivors of the terrible massacre in Florida in 1565, had given of the commodities of the southern part of the continent, had been confirmed by the observations of Sir John Hawkins, while the commodities of the northern part had become known by the reports of the

1 A True and Sincere Declaration, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 340.

2 Sir George Peckham’s True Report of the Late Discoveries, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 221.


English sailors who annually visited the banks of Newfoundland to fish for cod. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in his voyage to this coast in 1584, found it to be rich in a great variety of articles which England was in the habit of importing from foreign countries. Not only could turpentine, rosin, pitch, tar, soap ashes, masts, deal board, and wainscoting be manufactured in those lands in unlimited quantities on account of the vast extent of the pine forests, but there were unmistakable indications of iron, lead, and copper ores in the soil. It only required the skill of the refiner to convert these ores into salable bars. Copper at this time, as has been pointed out, was brought into England from Sweden and iron from Spain. The production of iron in England was limited, principally in consequence of the small area in the kingdom remaining in wood. There was no obstruction to smelting in North America on this account, the whole surface of the greater part of the country being covered with trees of enormous height and girth. Newfoundland was as rich in furs as Muscovy, otters, bears, beavers, martins, ounces, and foxes roaming the forests or haunting the streams in incalculable numbers. In procuring valuable skins from this region, there would be none of those difficulties which always impeded and sometimes put an end altogether to the trade with Russia and Poland in the same commodities.1

The part of the continent next explored by the English offered still more reasonable ground for the expectation that the people of England would be able to rely upon American soil for an important proportion of the supplies which they then obtained from Northern and Southern Europe and the East. The first object to strike the attention of Captains Amadas and Barlow, whom Raleigh had

1 Sir George Peckham’s True Report of the Late Discoveries, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 219-221.


sent out to make a preliminary survey, on landing at Hatteras, was the wild grape, which grew in extraordinary profusion along the shore, on the hills and on the plains, now running over a small shrub, now climbing to the top of a towering cedar. The chronicler of the voyage declared that he had visited those parts of Europe in which this fruit was most abundant, but that the difference in quantity in favor of Roanoke was quite incredible. The adventurers were also deeply impressed by the magnificence of the trees and the variety of the natural products. The cedars surpassed the cedars of the Azores or the Indies. The oaks were larger in girth and of a greater height than the English oaks. Fields of flax were found in many places. The natives wore bracelets of pearl and pendants of copper.1

In the subsequent expedition, the observation of the country was more extensive, and therefore led to a fuller knowledge of its physical character. Ralph Lane, in his letter to Hakluyt, pronounced the grapes of Virginia to be larger than those of France, Spain, or Italy. Many kinds of apothecary drugs and sweet gums were to be found there, and also several species of flax and silk grass. Terra sigillata was also discovered. In short, Lane declared that “what commodities soever, Spaine, France, Italy or the Easte partes doe yeeld unto us in wines of all sortes, in oyles, in flaxe, in rosens, pitch, frankensence, corrans, sugers and such like, these parts doe abound with the growth of them all,” and he added, “and sundry other rich commodities that no parts of the world, be they West, or East Indies, have, here wee finde great abundance of.”2

1 First Voyage to Virginia, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, pp. 301-306.

2 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 311. In a letter written to Sir Francis Walsingham a few weeks earlier, Lane had expressed himself to[footnote continues on p. 48] the same effect with equal enthusiasm. “So rare, so singular the commodities of this her majesty’s new kingdom of Virginia,” he exclaimed, “as all the kingdoms and states of Christendom, their commodities joined together, do not yield either more good or more plentiful whatsoever, for public use is needful or pleasing for delight.” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. I, No. 3; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1585, p. 73, Va. State Library.


Hariot, in a treatise which must have produced a distinct impression in England in regard to the advisability of establishing colonies in America, gave a detailed statement as to the merchantable commodities the newly explored country afforded. These commodities were silk grass, resembling the kind imported in a manufactured form into Europe from Persia; worm silk, as excellent in texture as the silk of the same origin which the English purchased from the Italians, Spaniards, Persians, and Turks; nitre, alum, and copperas, terra sigillata, pitch, tar, rosin, and turpentine; sassafras, which had been found to be a specific for many diseases; oaks, firs, maples, hollies, and elms; cedars, which were specially adapted to the manufacture of bedsteads, tables, desks, lutes, and virginals; wines, oil of walnuts and acorns; otter and deer skins in vast quantities; iron, that could be made at the most profitable rates on account of the abundance of wood and the cheapness of labor; copper, silver, pearl; sweet gums and dyes of different kinds. And lastly, the soil and climate seemed to be favorable to the growth of sugar canes, oranges, quinces, lemons, and other tropical fruits, if the seeds were planted and properly attended to.1

The persons who participated in the voyages to America subsequent to the failure of the Roanoke Colony, but previous to the grant of the letters patent to the London Company, were equally impressed with the ability of the

1 Discourse of Thomas Harlot, Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 326.


new region to displace foreign nations in furnishing England with many of the commodities that its people were compelled to import. It is not at all surprising in the light of this concurring testimony, which only grew stronger as Virginia was more fully explored, that one of the main objects the London Company had in view in its formation, was to secure the trade in the articles enumerated, now carried on with Russia, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and even Persia. It was impossible, however, for that corporation to absorb a large part of this trade until the Colony had been firmly established, and the population had increased to considerable proportions. Eager for the immediate profit which Smith had so justly condemned,1 the Company permitted itself to be diverted from the steady development of its true sources of gain by expectations of finding gold or discovering a route to the South Sea. During the time it was under the spell of these hopes, it seems to have made only a small attempt to turn to account the natural elements of wealth in the Colony apart from the precious metals. In 1608 eight Dutchmen and Poles were dispatched to Virginia, who were to be employed in the manufacture of glass, pitch, tar, and soap ashes. When Captain Newport returned to England in the same year, he brought back, as a part of his cargo, the accumulation of these commodities which had been provided for him, and in his frame of mind at that time, they must have appeared to him rather poor substitutes for the lump of gold, the members of the lost colony, or the proof of the nearness of Virginia to the South Sea which he had, in leaving England, been commanded to find by the Company, the Company having been led to give him these

1 Letter to Treasurer and Council of Virginia in England, Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 442.


instructions by his own exaggerated descriptions and promises.1

In 1610 the Council for Virginia became so much discouraged as to the prospects of the Colony, that they called Sir Thomas Gates before them, and abjured him to state with entire candor whether or not it would be wisest to abandon the action. The reply of Gates revealed that he had a just notion as to what constituted the true value of Virginia to the Company and England. “All men,” said he, “know that we stand at the devotion of politick princes and states, who for their proper utility, devise all courses to grind our merchants, and by all pretences, to confiscate their goods and draw from us all manner of gaine by their inquisitive inventions, when in Virginia, a few years’ labor by planting and husbandry, will furnish all our defects with honor and securitie.”2 These were also the views of Smith as to the ultimate destiny of the Colony, but he lost no opportunity to assert that it should be placed on a footing of permanency before there was any attempt to make use of its natural products in supplying the wants of England. In his memorable letter addressed to the Treasurer and Council in England in 1608, he said with reference to the manufacture of pitch, tar, glass, soap ashes, and clapboard in Virginia at that time, that it was a waste of money, as the factors of the Company could buy in Northern Europe in a week as much of these commodities as would be required to load a ship. “It were better,” he declared, “to give five hundred pounds a tun for them in Denmarke than send for them hither, till more necessary things be provided, for in over toyling our weake and unskilful bodies to satisfie this desire of present profit, we can scarce ever recover ourselves from one Supply to another.”3

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 435.

2 Ibid., p. 504.

3 Ibid., p. 445.


It is plain that Smith approved of the sentiment which Bacon expressed in his Essay on Plantations, “that a plantation is like the planting of woods, for you must make account to lose almost twenty years’ profit and expect your recompense in the end.” With a sufficient period allowed for the growth of its interests, he perhaps believed with Daniel Price, that Virginia “was not unlikely to be equal to Tyrus for colors, Basan for woods, Persia for oils, Arabia for spices, Spain for silks, Narsis for shipping, Netherlands for fish, Bonoma for fruit, and by tillage, Babylon for corn.”1 Before these fortunate conditions could be brought about, it was found that the soil was adapted to tobacco as a staple crop. The attention of the settlers was soon diverted to this plant, to the practical exclusion of all other products except sassafras, and even sassafras soon ceased to be thought of. The Company, finding that the colony expanded and prospered, did not attempt for any great length of time to subordinate tobacco to those various commodities with which the new country had in the beginning been expected to furnish the English people, although, as will be seen, it took the most careful steps to establish vineyards and foster silk-worms, with a view of filling the place of Spain and France in supplying the wine and silk needed in England. It was the opinion of Bacon that tobacco culture had turned the thoughts and energies of the English inhabitants of Virginia away from the real objects sought in the erection of the Colony.2 It will be discovered again and again hereafter that this opinion was entertained by James I and Charles I, and the committee in charge of the affairs of the plantations.3

1 Price’s Sermon, Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, p. 46.

2 See the Essay on Plantations.

3 “The carefull and dilligent prosecucon of Staples Comodities wch we [footnote continues on p. 50] promist; we above all things pray you to p’forme so as we may have speedily the reall proof and testimonies of yor cares and endeavours therein, especially in that of iron, of Vines and Silk, the neglect and delay whereof so long: as it is of much shame and dishonor to the plantation, so it is to us here cause of infinite grief and discontent; especially forbearance is not yet Sattisfied, whereby although we might deservedly feare a diminution of his royall grace and love to the plantation, wch after so long a time and so long a supplie by his myts favor have brought forth no better fruits than tobacco, yett by the goodness of God inclyning his princely heart, etc.” Extract from Letter prepared for the Colony in 1623 by order of Privy Council, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 393. Numerous additional quotations might be made in further confirmation of the correctness of the statement in the text.


It was only finally abandoned when the volume of duties on the imported leaf had become enormous, and the increase in British shipping through the operation of the Navigation Acts, as well as by the growth of the kingdom in power, had put England in a position in which most of the serious drawbacks attending the introduction of so many articles from foreign countries had been removed or materially diminished. The urgent commands of the English authorities to successive governors and councils in Virginia, repeated again and again even after the middle of the century had been passed, that more attention should be paid to what were called the staple commodities, can only be clearly understood in the recollection of the historical fact, that one of the most powerful reasons for the establishment of the Colony was that it would supply the English people with the principal articles which they were compelled to purchase from nations not always friendly, and at rates that afforded little profit to the English merchants.

In trading with foreign nations, it was necessary to use coin to a considerable extent, not only in the course of actual exchange, but also in promoting a disposition to enter into bargains. It was calculated that the members


of the Muscovy Company expended eighty thousand pounds sterling before they began to derive any gain from their transactions. The costly features of the commerce with Turkey have already been remarked upon. One of the most important grounds of complaint against the East India Company was, that it annually carried out of England thirty thousand pounds in the form of coin and bullion. It had a right under the terms of its charter to withdraw this amount, as it was needed for the purchase of merchandise in the East. The fancied evil of this drainage of specie was in time thought to be removed by the heavy exportation to other countries in Europe of the East Indian goods which had first been imported into the kingdom by the East India Company. The sale of these goods directed towards England a stream of gold and silver far greater than the original outflow.1 It was firmly believed in that age that whenever the balance of trade was against a nation, its condition was one of great danger. The supposed constant withdrawal of coin from England in settlement of the balance in favor of the continental and eastern countries in their commercial dealings with the English people was a source of profound apprehension to English statesmen. These countries, in delivering the commodities that the English people needed, were, it was thought, unwilling to take a large amount of English goods in return, and in consequence the difference had to be covered by payment in coin. One of the strongest reasons for the formation of the London Company was, that in the future commercial relations of Virginia and England there would be little demand for money sterling, as a result of the fact that the balance of trade between the two would be in favor neither of the one nor the other, but would be kept exactly even. The anticipation of the adventurers was that the commodities of the

1 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 200.


Colony would be exchanged for the merchandise sent over, first by the Company, and afterwards, when the Colony required a greater volume of supplies than the Company could furnish, by private traders. The principal article to be exported to Virginia by England would be woollen goods. Captain Carlile, in his discourse upon the voyage to America projected by him in 1583, after dwelling on the natural advantages offered by that country to English merchants who would invest their capital in the enterprise in which he was interested, declared that the success of the proposed action signified “a very liberall utterance of our English clothes into a maine country described to bee bigger than all Europe, the larger part whereof bending to the Northward, shall have wonderful great use of our sayde English clothes after they shall come once to knowe the commoditie thereof.”1

Sir George Peckham, in enumerating the benefits to arise to the whole realm of England from the establishment of colonies beyond the Atlantic, wrote that it would be especially promotive of the trades of clothiers, woolmen, carders, spinners, weavers, fullers, shearmen, dyers, drapers, cappers, and hatters, and he predicted that the former prosperity of the towns now gone to ruin on account of the increased export of raw wool to continental Europe would be revived to its original proportions.2 Ralph Lane, in his statement of the peculiar advantages which the country in the vicinity of Roanoke possessed, which should induce the English to colonize it, was careful

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 231.

2 Ibid., p. 218. The same hope was entertained by the author of the Nova Britannia, who wrote many years later, “Cloth will always have to be brought from England. . . . When the colonies are well grown and the savages are brought to civilization, they will need a great abundance of cloth and this business will once more flourish in England.”


to say that the “natives were very desirous to have clothes but of coarse cloth rather than silke. Coarse canvas they also like well of.”1 The significance of these words lies in the term “coarse cloth,” as this made up at this time the great bulk of English woollen manufactures, the English looms not being yet able to compete with those of the Netherlands in the production of the finest stuffs.

The future importance of Virginia as a market for the sale of woollen goods was touched upon in the paper to which reference has already been made, namely: “Reasons for raising a Fund for the Support of a Colony at Virginia.” The author of that able and practical document evidently thought this to be one of the weightiest considerations in favor of its settlement. “It is publicly knowne,” he remarked, “that traffique with our neighbor countries begins to be of small request, the game seldom answering the merchantes’ adventure, and forraigne states either are already or at this presente are preparing to inrich themselves with woolle and cloth of their owne, which heertofore they borrowed of us, which purpose of theirs is being achieved in Fraunce, and it hath been already in Spayne and Italy; therefore, we must of necessity foregoe our greater showing if wee doe not wish to prepare a place fit for the vent of our wares.”2

Virginia, it will be seen, was not only to take the place of the old markets England at this time was losing in continental Europe, but it was to create new markets in which a vast quantity of English goods was to be disposed of in return for natural commodities. The anticipations of those speculative reasoners who, according to David Hume, foretold that the American colonies, after partially draining the mother country of inhabitants,

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 311.

2 Lansdowne MSS., Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, pp. 29, 30.


would shake off her yoke and erect an independent government of their own, have been shown to be correct by the issue of subsequent events. But England gained incalculable advantages from the erection of these colonies. From the foundation of the settlement at Jamestown in 1607 until the present day, she has, in spite of the protective system of the United States, possessed a market in this country which has added in the course of that long period of time countless millions to her accumulated wealth.

It was very justly anticipated by those who were interested in the London Company, that the growth of the Colony on the Powhatan would promote the growth of British shipping by swelling the volume of ocean freight. The more prosperous that Colony became, the greater would be the demand for English vessels in the transportation of merchandise from England to Virginia, and in the transportation of agricultural products from Virginia to England. A new school for the training of sailors would thus be created, an advantage that would be felt not only by the merchant marine of the kingdom, but also in its naval defence in case of an attack by a foreign power.1 At the time when the formation of the Virginia Companies was under consideration, the complaint was publicly urged that the English seamen were daily running to other nations “for wante of employment and cannot be restrained by anie law when necessatie in-forseth them to serve, and hire of a stranger rather than serve at home.”2 In consequence of the unprofitableness of shipping, the merchants were disposing of their large vessels and retaining only their

1 Nova Britannia, p. 17, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. I.

2 Reasons for the Raising of a Public Fund, etc., Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 38.


small. In one of the most remarkable papers of that age,1 Raleigh pointed out that the Dutch had engrossed the far greater part of the carrying trade of Europe. Our own ships, said he, in substance, lie still and decay, or else go to Newcastle for coals. The English send into Holland hardly fifty vessels during the course of a year, while the Hollanders send into England five or six hundred. To Elbing, Konigsberg, and Dantzick and the other cities in the East countries, the English annually dispatched but one hundred ships, the Dutch three thousand; the Dutch annually built one thousand vessels, of which a large number found lucrative employment in transporting English manufactured goods to the various peoples of Europe.

It is not remarkable that there should have existed among the English people, when Raleigh wrote this paper, a feeling of doubt as to their ability to compete with the Dutch even in the English carrying trade, when the point to which the goods were to be transported was a foreign country,2 but when the place of destination was an English plantation, it was quite natural and just, and the event confirmed the view, that they should expect that English shipping would then have more chance of development, because it would be in the power of the English government to control the carrying trade of its

1 Observations concerning the Trade and Commerce of England with the Dutch and other Foreign Nations, Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, pp. 216-219.

2 The superiority of the Dutch in all maritime affairs was regarded by many Englishmen with a feeling of shame on account of the total lack of timber in Holland, which rendered the supremacy of its people in maritime commerce all the more remarkable. “The mere mention of the advantage that they have,” exclaimed the author of Nova Britannia, “should make us blush and bind us (i.e. Englishmen) not to remain Inferior.”


own Colony. The establishment of the American settlements was the first step on the part of the English people towards a successful competition with the Dutch merchant marine. That the English authorities should have shown so much opposition to the commerce that sprang up between Virginia and Holland at an early period, was precisely what was to have been anticipated, that Colony having been founded to be a market where English wares were to be exchanged for Virginian commodities; if Dutch bottoms were to be allowed to take the place of English, in transportation to and from Europe, and if Dutch goods were to be permitted to exclude English goods from Virginia, and Virginian commodities were to be sold in Dutch markets instead of in English, then one of the main purposes of colonization would end in failure. It was principally to secure a monopoly of the carrying trade of the American dependencies that the famous Navigation Acts were passed, and they were eminently successful, so far as Virginia was involved, in accomplishing their object.1

An additional reason urged in favor of forming a company for the colonization of Virginia was, that the settlement of that country would furnish a vent for the surplus population of England. Sir George Peckham, writing about 1583 on the subject of Western Plantations, had anticipated this argument in his declaration that if a colony were established by the English in America,

1 Professor Rogers, in his History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 444, expresses doubt as to whether the Navigation Acts promoted the growth of the English mercantile marine. “English commerce and English shipping grew,” he remarks, “but not so rapidly as to prove these Acts could be credited with the result.” Professor Rogers was an uncompromising advocate of the freest trade. Cunningham takes a different view of the influence of the Acts. See Growth of English Industry and Commerce, pp. 112, 113.


employment would not only be created for a great number of men who passed their time in idleness, and were burdensome to the community in which they lived, but also for children under fourteen years of age, and for women who had no honorable means of support. The men might be engaged in working mines and in cultivating the fields, and the women in gathering cotton and spinning hemp. The attention of the children could be directed to a thousand different tasks.1 Christopher Carlile expressed similar views. The people, he said, in consequence of the long peace, had increased so much, that a large number were brought up in the homes of their parents without any instruction as to how to earn a livelihood when those parents died. They were often driven into disorders and led on from one shameful end to another. With the opportunities of a new country thrown open to them, not only was it probable that they would refrain from falling into evil courses, but also that they would become prosperous and rise to honor and distinction.2

In the light of the present dense population of England, it seems remarkable that the number of its inhabitants in the sixteenth century should have been considered too great for safety. To overcrowding were attributed the terrible plagues that created so much havoc in that age.3 The same dangerous condition was thought to exist in the early part of the seventeenth century. The authors of the True and Sincere Declaration, issued in 1609,

1 Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. III, p. 219. The term used is “gathering Cotton.”

2 Ibid., vol. III, p. 232.

3 Virginia Council and Company to Lord Mayor of London, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 252. The expression used is: “A swarme of unnecessary inmates as a contynual cause of dearth and famine and the very originell cause of all the plagues.”


assert that there was an imminent prospect “that the number and infiniteness of the people will outgrow the matter whereon they worke for their life and sustentation, and shall one infest and become a burthen to another.”1 The overflowing population was compared to blood that was too great in quantity to be held in the walls of the veins,2 or to swarms of young bees in the month of June.3 The suggestion of Sir George Peckham and Christopher Carlile with reference to making America a refuge for the unemployed poor, found hearty approval among the supporters of the Virginian enterprise. Dale expressed the prevailing sentiment of the Company, when he stated in his letter to Secretary Winwood, written in 1616, that Virginia was an admirable country for the “emptying of the full body” of England.4 The Colony did not realize the hopes of its founders in this respect. The population of England continued to increase without any substantial diminution of the extreme poverty among the lower

1 Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 340. The author of Nova Britannia wrote: “Unless we take measures to found new colonies, the earth will not suffice to sustain the overwhelming number of human beings.” Rev. William Crashaw, in the celebrated sermon which he preached before Lord Delaware and the Council for Virginia in London in February, 1609 (O. S.), declared that the colonization of the territory along the Powhatan would “rectifie and reform” many disorders in England, which “in this mightie and populous state are scarce possibly to be reformed without evacuation.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 368. Velasco, the Spanish ambassador in London, went so far in 1611 as to say in a communication to his sovereign, that the principal reason influencing the English in their settlement of Virginia was, that the Colony “would give an outlet to so many idle and wretched people as they have in England, and thus to prevent the dangers that may be feared from them.” Ibid., p. 456. See also letter of Gondomar to Philip III, Ibid., p. 681.

2 Copeland’s Sermon, Neill’s English Colonization of America, p. 157.

3 Virginia Britannia, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 288.

4 Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 783.


classes, but beyond the Atlantic there was a land which an ever-expanding number of English emigrants, who belonged to these classes, were seeking each year, and where they were finding the opportunities for improving their condition that were not open to them in their native country.

The colonization of Virginia was considered by some to be highly advisable because it would raise a barrier in the West against the Spanish Power.1 Sir Thomas Dale gave expression to this view when he declared that the plantation on the Powhatan would put a bit in the mouth of the ancient enemy of England.2 The strategic advantages of the situation were recognized by the Spaniards themselves, and their failure to remove the Colony is only explicable on the ground that they anticipated that an expedition to destroy it would either be unsuccessful, or would precipitate a contest with England. In attacking the Huguenot settlement in Florida, they were perfectly aware that the act was not likely to arouse a lasting feeling of resentment in the Catholic French government, as the colonists were Protestants who had left their native country in order that they might have the full enjoyment of their religious belief. The massacre of the Huguenots at Fort Caroline in 1556, did not equal in atrocity the massacre of the Huguenots at the feast of St. Bartholomew in Paris many years later. Religious zeal atoned for the terrible crime on St. John’s River.3 It was, however,

1 “A Bulwarke of defence, in a place of advantage, against a stranger enemy,” A True and Sincere Declaration, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 340.

2 Dale to Secretary Winwood, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 783.

3 “Not because they were Frenchmen but because they were Lutherans,” was the exclamation of the Spaniards after the completion of the massacre.


not easy to repeat that crime on the banks of the Powhatan, as the settlers there belonged to a Protestant nation, whose people as a mass would have retaliated upon the Spaniards if they had ventured to murder the English in Virginia, or to carry them off as prisoners of war. The pusillanimous monarch who then occupied the throne of England could not have restrained the spirit of vengeance that would have arisen in his subjects. The awe with which the Spanish Power had for so many years been regarded by the English people had steadily weakened, until at the time of the foundation of the Jamestown Colony, the fangs of the lion had in the opinion of most of the leading men in the kingdom been hopelessly impaired if not drawn altogether. Zuniga, writing to Philip III from London in April, 1609, reported that it was thought in England that Spain had even then sunk into such impoverishment that it would be unable to prevent the erection of fortifications in Virginia.1 The author of Nova Britannia proudly declared that “with a mere handful of people we invaded their best and strongest fortified places, because for want of men they were so poorly defended that we could easily have overrun the whole country and reduced them to very narrow limits a long time ago if we had followed up our good success. But now that we have passed on without driving them from their settlements, and God in his mercy has given us another country so remote from their habitation, what reason is there that any one should be offended by our great success or feel envious, or if they are envious, why should we attach any weight to it, or why fear to enlarge ourselves? Where is our ancient might and power? Where is that great reputation sleeping

1 Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 258-259.


now that we won so few years ago? Let not the world be deceived, we are the same now we were then, and they would soon see it if they were to give us a chance, since with the blessing of God we are more powerful now than we were then, those parts being now enclosed and in good order which at that time were open. Our plant has taken root, the branches are green and very desirous to spread out.”1

This was the spirit, of the English race, which had to be reckoned with before a hand was raised to strike a blow at the infant settlement on the Powhatan. The English ambassador at Madrid, who was constantly reporting to his government the rumors afloat as to expeditions to be sent out by the Spaniards against Virginia, stated as the result of his observation that “for their doing anything by ye way of hostilitie, I conceive they will be very slowe to give England (who is very apte to lay holde on any occasion) so juste a pretence to bee doing with them.”2

1 New Britain, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 262-263. See the original, Nova Britannia, pp. 7-8, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. I.

2 Digby to Carleton, June 20, 1612, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 561. See also the letter addressed to Salisbury by Cottington, who was the English ambassador at Madrid in 1611. Ibid., p. 472. Referring to a rumored expedition against Virginia from Havana, he wrote, “I doe give it soe little credit knowing ye poure abylyty of this State that I am almost ashamed to advertyse it unto your lordship.” There is an interesting series of reports in the British Public Record Office, which Digby transmitted to London from time to time, as to movements of the Spanish government, directed, as he thought, although without ground as the result proved, against the Colony in Virginia. These reports show that this English ambassador was constantly apprehensive of attack. There is, however, no reason to doubt that Digby was largely under the influence of the mistaken notion prevailing in that age as to the vastness of the power of Spain, an opinion which lingered long after that power had really passed away. Cottington, although clearly aware of the uneasy feeling among the Spaniards, does not seem to have yielded even for a moment to the fear that the Colony in Virginia was in danger of an attack [footnote continues on p. 64] by a Spanish force. See his second letter, dated April 23, 1611, in the Genesis of the United States, p. 472.


This opinion was entirely confirmed by the course of events. Although the successive Spanish ambassadors in London repeatedly expressed to their sovereign their firm conviction1 that the English would not abandon their colony in Virginia, nevertheless, the opposition of that monarch was never shown beyond an occasional remonstrance, nor of his subjects beyond an expression of apprehension on account of the national possessions in the West Indies. The only expedition dispatched was restricted to one reconnoitring ship, the officers in command of which were so fearful of the English that they returned without having attempted to reach their place of destination.2 The impotence and timidity of the Spanish nation were most strikingly revealed in the contemptible stratagem to which it had recourse in the mission of Molina, who, acting under instructions from his government, allowed himself to be captured at Old Point Comfort in order that he might make an examination of the condition of the Colony.3 Those who administered its affairs were

1 An instance may be cited in the letter of Zuniga, Spanish ambassador in London, written to Philip III in 1609, now on file in the Archives of Simancas, Department of State. A copy of this letter is given in Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 243-247.

2 This expedition was directed against Bermuda. “The sayd ship is returned without having donne anything, alledging that thei by no means could finde the Islande. But by examination yt is probable that thei were afrayd to come neere yt bycause of the Englishe.” Digby to Carleton, under date of May 22, 1613, Madrid, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 634.

3 Report of the Voyage to Virginia, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 511. The first plan, it appears, was to send out the Earl of Arundel, an English nobleman who was in the secret service of Spain, “under the pretext of a voyage of discovery and that in the Canaries or in Porto Rico, he would take on board his ship, the person whom the King (of Spain) would send to him as a man who was [footnote continues on p. 65] fleeing from Spain, and would carry him to Virginia and instruct him as to the mouth of the river, posts, fortifications, &c., which they had, and that soon he would tell the King by what means those people (i.e. the English) could be driven out without violence in arms.” Letter of Zuniga to Philip III, March, 1609, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 243.


confident that they could repel an attack of the Spanish Power even if that Power had had the boldness to make it. “A few men in Virginia,” they declared in 1609, “may dispute the possession of any place, wherein they were fortified, where the enemy is so much a stranger that he must discover and fight at once; upon all disadvantages of streights, fords, and woods; and where he can never march with horse nor with ordnance without them; nor can abide to stay many months when all his relief must be had from his ships, which cannot long supply a number competent to besiege. Neither is it possible to block us up by planting between us and the sea, the rivers being so broad and so many outlets from them into the Bay. Besides the protection and privilege of subjects to so potent a King whom any wise estate will be wary to affront or provoke.”1

Substitute Kingdom for King and how just were these last words, and how correct historically! As early as 1580, the English government had frankly announced to the Spanish monarch that the English people would not acknowledge the right of the Spaniards to all America, either by donation from the Pope, or on account of their having touched here and there upon those coasts; that this by the law of nations could not hinder other princes from freely navigating those seas and transporting colonies to the parts the Spaniards did not inhabit; in other words, “that prescription without possession availed

1 A True and Sincere Declaration, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 349.


nothing.”1 It was hardly probable that the English government would recede from this position after the destruction of the Invincible Armada and the attack upon Cadiz,2 nor was it likely that the Spanish Power could forget those events when it came to consider seriously the advisability of removing the English from Virginia by force, a policy the mere suggestion of which was soon abandoned. The spy and the time server took the place of the soldier and the prompter to vigorous action Molinas and Gondomars were substituted for men like Menendez and Velasco, but the difference had no influence whatever upon the fate of the Colony in Virginia, which continued to grow in wealth and population, forming an insuperable obstacle to the advance of the Spanish dominion on the Atlantic coast of North America. It is quite certain that but for this barrier the Spanish settlements would have spread as far to the north on this coast as they gradually did on the Pacific. Florida would have been the starting-point in the east as Mexico had been in the west.

Such in brief detail were the practical reasons entering into the formation of the London Company. If we omit from consideration the early delusions as to the existence of gold in Virginia in large quantities, delusions arising principally from the spirit of the times, which had been

1 Reply of the English government to the demand of the Spanish ambassador that the treasure brought back to England by Drake in September, 1580, should be delivered to Spain.

2 See the account which Digby gives in a letter to Carleton from Madrid, under date of November, 1613, of his interview with the Spanish Secretary of State, who claimed that “Virginia and the Islandes of the Bermudas were of the Conquest of Castile”; “I could no way yield unto him,” wrote Digby, “that eyther Virginia or ye Bermudas were parts of the Conquest of Castile, but that they (English) themselves were the first Possidents.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 668.


fostered by the extraordinary wealth of the southern continent in the precious metals, these reasons were worthy of that sober and enterprising race of men who were in the course of the following two hundred and eighty years to cover the surface of a great part of the globe with their colonies, and in doing so, to justify the magnificent description of one of the most splendid of modern orators.1 It is no reflection upon the character of the Virginian enterprise to say that it was essentially a practical commercial undertaking, without any ulterior religious motive beyond that which has influenced the English in all of their settlements of barbarous countries. It was a religious age, and therefore the expression of interest in the moral condition of the Indians was somewhat more fervent than would be observed under similar circumstances in more modern times. In the letters patent of 1606, the hope was expressed that the colonization of Virginia would tend to the propagation of the Christian religion among the tribes “who as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God;” and in the instructions for the government of the Colony which accompanied these letters, it was provided that the inhabitants should use “all good means to draw the savages and heathen people of those territories to the true knowledge of God.” The True and Sincere Declaration, published in 1609, stated that the first object of the Plantation was “to preach and baptize into the Christian Religion, and by the propagation of the Gospell, to recover out of the armes of the Devill, a number

1 “A power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drum-beat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England.” Daniel Webster, Speech May 7th, 1837.


of poore and miserable soules wrapt up unto death in almost invincible ignorance; to endeavor the fulfilling and accomplishment of the number of the elect which shall be gathered out of all corners of the earth and to add our myte to the Treasury of Heaven.”1 Probably no one would have been more astonished than the authors of this document if their statement as to the first purpose to be advanced by the London Company, that is to say, missionary work among the Indians, had been accepted literally; and it is quite easy to conceive the objections which would have been raised by the sober merchants who were interested in the enterprise if the authorities of the Company had really concentrated their greatest energies upon this task.2 The True and Sincere Declaration was written with a view to stimulating interest in the declining fortunes of Virginia, and it was therefore drawn so as to appeal with special strength to the religious sentiment of the age. There can be no doubt, however, as to the eminently religious spirit in which the great venture was undertaken. The absence of that spirit would have been uncharacteristic of the English people. In the orders which the Council formulated for the guidance of the voyagers of 1606, they closed their sagacious instructions with the earnest invocation that the colonists should “serve and fear God, the giver of all goodness, for every

1 Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 339.

2 This does not necessarily imply a selfish spirit on the part of the merchants interested in the Virginian enterprise. In 1616 it was declared, “for the Nobilitie and Gentrie, there is scarce any of them expects anything but the prosperitie of the action. And there are some merchants and others, I am confidently persuaded doe take more care and paines, nay and at their continuall great charge than they could be hired to for the love of money; so honestly regarding the general good of this great worke, they would hold it worse than sacrilege, to wrong it but a shillinge or extort upon the Common soldier a penny.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 527.


plantation which our Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out.”1

In form, as well as in purpose, the Virginia Company of London was a commercial organization. It was unlike the majority of the companies of London employing shipping, in the particular that it had colonization in view in addition to trade and discovery. The two companies resembling it in this respect were the Somers Isles and the Newfoundland. The Turkey Company, the company of merchant adventurers who carried on trade with Germany and the Netherlands, and the company operating in the Baltic, were strictly commercial in their character. The Russia, the East India, and the Northwest Passage united purposes of trade with discovery. The close relation which all these corporations bore to each other is shown by the fact that the moving spirits in all were the same men. The connection between the East India Company and the Virginia Company of London was especially intimate, the two having one hundred members in common, and for some years they were under the control of the same executive head, Sir Thomas Smyth being the Governor of the East India and the Treasurer of the London Company, two positions corresponding with each other.2 The same general features of administration marked the Russia, the East India, and the London Companies. The Russia, like the East India, was managed by a chief executive officer and a board selected from the body of the organization. The principal officers in the Turkey company were a Governor, Deputy Governor, and eighteen assistants. In the East India, the

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxvii.

2 For a number of years the Russia, Greenland, East India, and London (Virginia) Companies held their meetings at the residence of Sir Thomas Smyth in Philpot Lane in London.


executive power was lodged in the hands of a Governor and a committee of twenty-four persons who were subject to annual election. Like the Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer of the London Company, the Governor and Deputy Governor of the East India were chosen by a majority of voices at a general court. A majority of these companies were known as regulated companies, their members not engaging in trade as a body, but by individual subscription in each separate voyage, according to the means of each member or his confidence in the success of the special venture.1 The London Company being established mainly for the purpose of colonization, was directly under the authority and protection of the sovereign. I will enter more fully into a discussion of its powers and limitations as I touch upon the various divisions of my general subject. Before taking up the first branch, the agricultural development of the Colony, it will be necessary to give some account of the physical character of aboriginal Virginia, and the uses that the Indian population made of the soil and its products with a view to subsistence and comfort. A very just notion will be obtained of the geniality of the climate and the fertility of the ground, from the abundance in which the aboriginal inhabitants lived before they were disturbed by the arrival of the English.

1 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 225. Cunningham’s Growth of English Industry and Commerce, pp. 26-27. “When companies do not trade upon a joint stock but are obliged to admit any person, properly qualified, upon paying a certain fine and agreeing to submit to the regulations of the Company, each member trading upon his own stock and at his own risk, they are called regulated companies.” Adam Smith, vol. IV, p. 110. “When they trade upon a Joint Stock, each member sharing in the common profit or loss in proportion to his share in this stock, they are called Joint Stock Companies.” Ibid., p. 110.

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