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 IV
HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added June 25, 2002
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The first ground within the boundaries of the commonwealth of Virginia as it stands to-day, which was broken by an English agricultural implement, was at Jamestown. That place was chosen as the site of the earliest settlement only because it offered extraordinary advantages for defence against the assault of a European foe, whether advancing by the river or by the mainland. It conformed in but one respect to the order given by the Council for the guidance of the voyagers in selecting a spot for the establishment of the projected community: it was virtually an island, a short and narrow peninsula uniting it to the northern bank of the Powhatan.1 Such insularity was considered by the Company in England to be necessary to the safety of the settlement. A site less favorable from several important points of view for the successful foundation of a colony in Virginia could not have been chosen by those who had that mission to execute. In summer the extensive marshes close at hand poisoned the

1 Francis Maguel, in his report on Virginia to the Spanish Council of State in 1610, mentions that after building their fort, the English determined to cut through this point so that the water should surround them on all sides. Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 394. When Clayton visited Jamestown in 1688, the island was joined to the “continent by a small neck of land not past twenty or thirty yards over, and which at spring tides was overflowed.” Clayton’s Virginia, p. 23, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


surrounding air with the germs of fever, as the Englishmen soon discovered to their cost.1 The Council had been careful to enjoin that some spot distinguished for its dryness should be selected, but this characteristic was not to be numbered among the physical features of the neighborhood of Jamestown; nor were there any open fields in the immediate vicinity, a fair indication that the Indians did not look upon its soil as of extraordinary fertility, and therefore peculiarly adapted to the production of large crops of maize and vegetables. The primæval woods, which reached to the shore, afforded a secure lurking-place for the savages when meditating an attack, the only means of obstructing their sudden incursions, as well as of providing land for gardens and wheatfields, being to remove the heavy growth of forest, a task tedious in itself, and dangerous in the exposure and exertion to which it led.2 All these impediments to the success of the Colony might have been avoided in the beginning by the choice of a site where the soil was stripped of woods, and needing only the touch of the hoe and spade to give forth in abundance. The constant struggle against famine might thus have been prevented, and the necessity of depending even partially upon England and the Indians for supplies diminished; the approach of hostile savages could also have been observed and met with the degree of resistance called

1 Clayton, writing in 1688, says: “There’s a swamp runs diagonal wise over the island whereby is lost at least 150 acres of land . . . besides, it is the great annoyance of the town, and no doubt but makes it more unhealthy.” Clayton’s Virginia, p. 23, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. The marshy ground must have been more extensive when the English first took possession of the island. See also Bacon’s Proceedings, p. 24, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. I.

2 Smith describes the site of Jamestown before the foundation of the settlement as a “thick grove of trees.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 610. Hamor refers to the island as being when first seated a “thick wood.” True Discourse, p. 32.


for. The colonists had been strictly admonished by the Council to select a spot free of wood, and in disregarding this instruction they brought upon themselves many of the most serious misfortunes befalling them.1

The choice which they were required to make was beset with difficulties at the best. Even when a spot appeared to combine every physical advantage, it was open to objection on account of some instruction given by the Company with a view to disconcerting foreign enemies. This was the case in the instance of Kecoughtan. It had two or three thousand acres of cleared fields, the air was not rendered unwholesome by the presence of numerous and extensive marshes and swamps, and the channel of the river could easily have been successfully disputed. The colonists did not take permanent possession of this place because it was exposed to attack on land; it was also under cultivation by the Indians, who could only have been disseized by means which would have been severely condemned by the Company in England, who recognized the wisdom of maintaining peaceful relations with the aboriginal tribes;2 in addition, the orders which the colonists had received directed them to make a settlement at as great a distance from the mouth of the river as its depth permitted, even if that distance ran over a hundred miles.3

1 “You must take especial care that you choose a seat for habitation that shall not be over burthened with woods near your town; for all the men you have shall not be able to cleanse twenty acres a year; besides that it may serve for a covert for your enemies round about.” Instructions for the Intended Voyage, 1606, Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxvi.

2 See Instructions for the Intended Voyage, 1606, Works of Capt. John Smith, p. xxxv. See also the Instructions for the Government of the Colonies, Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 74. There are numerous evidences that the injunction not to “unplant nor wrong the salvages,” was in the beginning borne constantly in mind by the colonists. See Works of Capt. John Smith p. 610.

3 Instructions for the Intended Voyage, 1606, Works of Capt. John [footnote continues on p. 192] Smith, p. xxxiv. It is a fact worthy of attention that the Council in England, after enjoining the colonists to choose a place as far up the river as “a bark of fifty tuns will float,” directed that in no case “should they sufer any of the native people of the country to inhabit between them and the sea coast,” an order which could only be carried out by the absolute destruction or forcible removal of the aboriginies whose seats intervened. Ibid., p. xxiv.


The point of land to which they gave the name of Archer’s Hope had many of the physical features they were seeking. The soil was marked by considerable fertility, and there was an abundance of the finest timber near at hand. The spot could also be put in a state of defence without the expenditure of much labor. An insurmountable obstacle, however, to its selection as the site of the proposed Colony lay in the fact, that the water near the banks of the stream in that vicinity was too shallow to allow a ship to be moored very close to the shore. At Jamestown Island, on the other hand, the depth of the river was so great that a large vessel could ride in safety just off the land, with its cables tied to the nearest trees. The wide expanse of the Powhatan at this point doubtless had some influence upon the minds of the adventurers if they could have sailed up to the future site of Henrico or Richmond, and made their earliest settlement there, they would have felt themselves entirely swallowed up by the wilderness. At Jamestown not only could the approach of a foreign enemy be quickly discovered, but the pathway to the European world seemed to be less obstructed. The length of time during which the community at this place remained the only town in Virginia would seem to indicate that the spot had some advantages apart from the ease with which it could be defended from an attack by water or by land. Henrico was built for the purpose of displacing the first settlement, at least in part, but Henrico soon fell into decay. Not until the capital was removed to Williamsburg


did Jamestown wholly lose its importance, but this was in some measure due to the fact that it was by legislative enactment the seat of local government.1

The proper site for the Colony was at the modern Hampton. The subsequent course of events proved that there was no real danger to be anticipated from a foreign enemy if a settlement had been made in that general neighborhood. The expulsion of the Indians from the surrounding fields was to be brought about at an early date, and if it had taken place at once, the danger of attack precipitated would not have been less great. The adjacent country had been cleared of woods, and lay ready for the English hoe and spade. The climate on the whole was more healthy than that of Jamestown. Every local condition was favorable to the immediate success of the Colony if it had been planted there.2

The first step taken by the Englishmen, as soon as they had secured a foothold on Jamestown Island, was to begin the erection of a fort, a precaution which their situation made imperative. Two weeks after their arrival the colonists began to sow the English wheat brought over in the ships. As there was no cleared ground on the island when the foundation of the settlement was laid, this grain

1 Clayton declared in 1688, that the natural situation of Jamestown was such “as perhaps the world had not a more commodious place for a town, where all things conspire for advantage thereof.” Clayton’s Virginia, p. 23, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. In the report which the commissioners from England made upon the condition of the Colony after the suppression of the insurrection of Bacon and his followers, they say that “Jamestown is not only the most ancient, but the most convenient place for the metropolis of that country.” McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 258, Va. State Library. This expression is quoted in Order and Report of the Lords of the Committee for Trade and Plantations touching Lord Culpeper’s Commission and Instructions, March 14, 1678-79.

2 Strachey described it as “a delicate and necessary seat for a city.” Historie of Travaile into Virginia, p. 60.


must have been planted in soil from which the trees used in the construction of the fort had been cut away, since in an interval as brief as a fortnight there was but little time for any additional destruction of the forest.1 The first wheatfield in Virginia lay in part at least upon “two mountains,” to use the phrase of the chronicler, by which it was intended to describe only rising ground. Whatever the object leading to the selection of this spot, whether the greater safety it ensured to the laborers from the elevated situation or its proximity to the fort, the soil must have been fertile, for by the fifteenth of June, just seven weeks after the original planting, the wheat had sprung up to the height of an average man.2

A garden was laid off when the ground was cleared for wheat, and the seeds of fruits and vegetables, not indigenous to the country, planted, including the melon and the potato, the pineapple and the orange. The settlers observed that these different fruits and vegetables prospered, although no special degree of care was taken in preparing the land for the reception of the seed, or in removing every obstruction to the growth of the plants after they had begun to expand. The first effort to produce cotton on the North American continent was also made at the same time.3 It is interesting to discover that upon the threshold of the Colony’s existence, the adaptability of the soil and climate to the cultivation of the most valuable grades of tobacco was suspected, a

1 “There is to be found all around the fort where we have cut down the trees, etc.,” Letter of Francis Perkins, 1608, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 176. The fort was completed by the fifteenth of June. See Percy’s Discourse, p. lxx.

2 Percy’s Discourse, p. lxx.

3 Description of the New Discovered Country, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. I, 15, I; Winder Papers, vol. I, pp. 3, 4, Va. State Library.


conclusion to which the Englishmen were doubtless led by specimens of the cured leaf presented to them by their Indian hosts. The prediction was ventured in the first spring after their arrival, that by the end of the year they would be producing that commodity to the value of five thousand pounds sterling, and this anticipation would have proved correct but for the fact that the attention of the colonists soon became absorbed in the struggle for food to sustain a bare existence.1 This is the explanation of the statement which Smith made at a later date, that during the first three years after the foundation of Jamestown no thought was given to tobacco.2

In the course of the winter following the settlement of Jamestown, the colonists lived in a state of great abundance on fish and game maize bread, peas and pumpkins, only a small part of which had been obtained by their own industry.3 Up to this time, the area of ground cleared did not exceed four acres; this was not sufficient to afford an adequate supply of food even if the whole of it had been planted in grain, vegetables, and fruits.4 The plenty prevailing in the winter of 1607-1608 was due to purchases from the Indians, many of the colonists going so far as to barter in exchange, but without the knowledge of the authorities, the agricultural implements that had been brought over, such as mattocks, pickaxes and hoes.

In the spring of 1608, twelve months subsequent to the

1 Description of the New Discovered Country, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. I, 15, I; Winder Papers, vol. I, p. 5, Va. State Library.

2 Smith’s Pathway to Erect a Plantation. See Works, p. 928.

3 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 394.

4 “Briefe Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia during the First Twelve Yeares,” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I. This document is printed in full in Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874. For particular reference, see p. 70.


foundation of Jamestown, a second attempt was made by the settlers to produce English grain. When Captain Nelson’s ship, which had come from England, was sighted in the river below Jamestown Island on the twentieth of April, the larger number of the colonists were actively engaged in hewing down trees and sowing wheat, and on hearing the alarm from the fort, which was really raised in apprehension lest the approaching vessel belonged to the Spaniards, they rushed to their arms under the impression that the Indians had begun another assault upon the town.1 This is the first intimation in the agricultural history of Virginia as to the removal of the forests with a distinct view to the production of crops, the trees cut down in the previous spring having been destroyed for the purpose of erecting a fort rather than for opening the land for cultivation. Clearing new grounds has always been regarded as the most tedious and searching as the task of the Virginian laborer, and however frequently he may be called upon to perform it, he always shrinks from the tax which it imposes upon his strength and patience. In the spring of 1608, the colonists had not learned from the Indians the most primitive method of destroying forests, that is, by tearing the bark in circles from the lower trunks of the trees before the spring sap has begun to rise from the roots. They were in need of open ground, and the only way to obtain it in a short time was by the application of the axe to the primæval woods surrounding them on all sides.

There has been transmitted to us an amusing account of the sensations which the pioneer wood-choppers experienced in cutting down the enormous walnut, oak, ash, gum, and cypress trees growing in the valley of the Powhatan. It is interesting to find that, unlike their

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 33.


successors up to the present day, many of these woodchoppers discovered in the task of removing the forest a source of pleasure and recreation. These early axemen were for the most part gentlemen by birth, and it was remarked that thirty or forty performed the work of a hundred men of the lower rank who were driven to it by the command of their superiors. In the band of men whom Smith, after the return of Newport from his unsuccessful expedition into the Monacan country, led to a point below Jamestown for the purpose of obtaining clapboard, there were two English gallants who had recently come out to the Colony, either in search of adventures or to escape the consequences of dissipated lives at home. Although they had never before cut down a tree, they soon acquired skill in the management of an axe, and were as delighted as school-boys in listening to the thunder of the trees in crashing to the ground. At first, however, their hands were blistered by the unaccustomed touch of the helves, which caused them to exclaim with an oath at every third stroke. To put a stop to this, the president ordered that every oath should be numbered, and, when the work of the day was over, for each oath a can of water was poured down the sleeve of the person who had been guilty of uttering it.1

1 In their answer to “a Declaratione of the State of the Colonie in the 12 yeers of Sr Thomas Smith’s government exhibited by Alderman Johnson and others,” the General Assembly of Virginia, referring to these twelve years, said of the persons in the Colony at that time: “Many were of auncyent howses and borne to estates of 1000£ (20,000 or 25,000 dollars) by the yeere, some more, some less . . . those who survived who had both adventured theire estates and personnes were constrayned to serve the Colony as if they had been slaves 7 or 8 yeeres for their freedomes” . . . Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 409. The Assembly’s answer was dated 1623. For the authority for the statement in the text, see Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 439. The woodchoppers are there referred to as “these gentlemen” who were unaccustomed to these “conditions.”


It was not until Smith was placed in charge of the affairs of the Colony that a successful attempt was made by the Englishmen to plant Indian corn.1 Previous to 1609 they had been absolutely dependent on the capricious and treacherous aborigines for a precarious supply of grain when the stock from England was exhausted. The few small fields which they had been able to sow in wheat had not produced a large quantity. The mass of the settlers, wishing to return to England, were anxious that these experiments in agriculture should fail, and as soon as the hope of finding gold proved to be untenable, they sought to disperse all the agricultural implements upon which the people must rely for a permanent subsistence. In introducing the culture of maize among the colonists, Smith was only giving an additional proof of his sound practical judgment. It is obvious that

1 When Newport and his company were returning from the Falls of the Powhatan in the spring in which the colonists arrived in Virginia, they stopped for awhile at Arrahattock. While there, it is stated that the Indians showed the English “the growing of their corne and the manner of setting it.” See Relatyon of the Discovery of Our River, p. xlviii. Francis Perkins, who reached Jamestown in the First Supply (January 4, 1607, O. S.), writing in the following March (28th, 1608) declares that Powhatan “has sent us some of his people that they may teach us how to sow the grain of this Country.” If this occurred after the arrival of Perkins, it was mere instruction, as maize would have been planted to no purpose previous to March 28th, the date of the letter in which he refers to the act of Powhatan. It seems unlikely that the settlers were tutored by the Indians in the course of 1607, as they had not been long in Virginia before they were stricken with a terrible epidemic, which disabled those who did not perish from working in the ground. Up to ten days before this epidemic they had been at war with the savages. The letter of Perkins will be found in Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 173. See p. 175 for the reference. If the colonists had already been instructed by the Indians as to the proper manner of planting maize, it would not have been necessary for Smith in the following year (1609) to rely upon the knowledge of his two captives, Kemps and Tassore: “They taught us,” it is stated in Smith’s History, p. 155, “how to order and plant our fields.”


Indian corn was much better adapted to the fertile loam of the newly cleared land than the imported seeds of English wheat. The grain could also be more easily and conveniently ground, and the meal was convertible into more forms of bread. Doubtless by this time those qualities which made it more nourishing than flour to men engaged in arduous labor had been observed. Smith had been exposing himself to serious peril in his efforts to obtain a large quantity of the native grain. This source of supply was necessarily an uncertain one. In the spring of 1608 two Indians fell into his hands, and he determined to make use of their knowledge of the proper manner of cultivating maize; he ordered that forty acres should be carefully broken up,1 and that in the different plats of these forty acres the grain of the country should be planted in strict conformity to the Indian rule; that is, in squares, and with an interval of four feet between the holes receiving the seeds. The entire operation was performed with the assistance and under the immediate superintendence of the Indian prisoners, who thus enjoyed the honor of being the first of their race to instruct for an immediate practical purpose the Englishmen at Jamestown in the art of cultivating a crop which was to enter so deeply into the economic life of the modern communities of North America. The yield of the forty acres, the first maize produced in any quantity in the boundaries of the United States by people of English blood of which we have any authentic record, was of as small importance as a single sand upon the shores of the sea, in comparison with the many thousand millions of bushels2 forming

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 154.

2 In 1879 the crop of maize in the United States amounted to 1,754,691,676 bushels. See Decennial Census.


the annual crop of the republic at the present time. Never has there been on this continent, however, an equal number of acres of maize which were invested with so deep an historic interest, or upon which so vital an issue depended. Of the harvest of these forty acres, a part at least was never garnered by the men who planted the seed. When the Third Supply arrived in the autumn, the large body of persons who composed it were very short of provisions, and without scruple or hesitation they took possession of a field of seven acres, and in three days had devoured every ear of maize which it contained.1

The forty acres which were planted in maize in the spring of 1609, were cultivated entirely by hand, the spade being probably the only instrument used in the process, or at the most, the spade, the shovel, and the hoe. The supply of these implements had been, as we have seen, seriously diminished by the colonists exchanging a large number of them for the different articles which the Indians offered for sale. Previous to the departure of Smith in the autumn of 1609, there is no reason to suppose that there was a plough at work in Virginia; it was not until the following year that the Company in England began to advertise for plough-wrights with a view to their importation into the Colony.2 The plough at this time was a very primitive implement, its composition being of wood with the exception of the tips and shares, which were pieces of iron fastened to the parts most inclined to wear from their more direct contact with the soil. At the beginning of the seventeenth

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 70.

2 A True and Sincere Declaration, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 353. See also p. 470.


century, this implement without tips or shares was to be purchased for two shillings, an amount equal in value to two dollars or more in modern American currency.1 The cost of the plough in itself was so small that its price was no obstacle to its introduction into Virginia by the earliest settlers. The broad hoe in use was also valued at two shillings; a shovel, spade, frow and pickaxe were rated at eighteen pence a piece.2 The absence of the plough was due in some measure to the want of draft animals and to the narrow surface under cultivation, but chiefly to the rough nature of the new grounds forming the larger portion of the fields of the colonists. The costliness of iron in this age made it inadvisable to use an implement of this character, having iron tips or shares, in soil constantly testing its power of resistance and endurance, for friction soon destroyed these two parts. Tips and shares were now more expensive than all the rest, a share alone at this time being valued at two shillings and two pence.3 A share unprotected by iron would have soon gone to pieces in the lands under cultivation in Virginia during the administration of Smith.

Even at this early period, it was observed that animals in the climate of Virginia propagated their species very fast, a record being made of the fact, that in eighteen months three sows, imported most probably in the First Supply, gave birth to sixty or seventy pigs.4 Hogs and

1 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 675.

2 These implements were included by the Company in its list of “Such Things as Men ought to Provide when they Goe to Virginia.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 608.

3 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 675.

4 Gondomar, in a letter to Philip III, written in 1613, remarked: “The cattle which they (English) take with them from here does not produce nor does it improve, because there is but scanty and bad grazing in the [footnote continues on p. 202] fields.” Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 660. Gondomar had either been misinformed, or he was intentionally depreciating the capabilities of Virginia. Not only did all kinds of cattle thrive and propagate very rapidly in the Colony, but it was observed at an early date, that “there were few countries where overgrowne women became more fruitful.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 886.


goats increased more rapidly at this time than any other kind of live stock, on account of the inexhaustible quantity of the food upon which they subsisted. It is said that if their number had been one million, there would still have been ample sustenance for them.1 The cows, oxen, sheep, and horses were not only confined to a narrow pasturage in consequence of the vast extent of forest, but they were also exposed to the depredations of wolves. There were five hundred chickens in the Colony, although no food was specially provided for them.2

The interval between the departure of Smith and the arrival of Delaware was marked by a complete abandonment of the methods which the former adopted to place the Colony in a position to obtain its supplies of food entirely from the soil of Virginia. The hogs, poultry, goats, sheep, and horses were all, with the exception of one sow, killed and devoured by the settlers and Indians, and the few persons who survived the frightful Starving Time were compelled to rely for subsistence on roots, herbs, acorns, walnuts, berries, and fish. Lord Delaware arrived in Virginia in June, 1610, and only a few days after he reached Jamestown, Sir George Somers was despatched in company with Captain Argoll to the Bermudas, to procure from those islands, among other things,

1 Letter of Francis Perkins, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 176.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 471. In his Discourse of Virginia, Edwin Maria Wingfield wrote: “I had by my owne huswiferie bred above 37, and the most part of them of my owne poultrye.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. lxxxix.


many of the wild hogs which were so numerous there, to replace the hogs eaten by the colonists in the extremity of their distress.1 During the ten months Delaware remained in Virginia, the time not spent by him in an aimless search for unknown mines, was devoted to promoting the cultivation of the soil; the hours of labor set by him for the settlers were from six until ten in the morning, and from two to four in the afternoon, a division most excellent as to the morning, but not so judicious as to the afternoon, except in the tempered months of the year.2 The respectable but slow and ceremonious Governor, in his report to the Council as to his administration in the Colony, which appears to have been rather inglorious, states that during the winter he passed in Virginia he directed that much ground should be sowed in roots.3 These roots were doubtless turnips and carrots, which had a few years before been found to thrive in the valley of the Powhatan. The same ground had been, at the time of Delaware’s departure, this being in the following March, put into a condition to receive corn. The main dependence for food during his executive control seems to have been placed upon the store brought over from England, and upon the supply of maize which Argoll had been able to secure by trading with the Indians. Lord Delaware sought to test the virtue of the native grape by introducing into Virginia for the purpose of making wine a number of French vine dressers, who soon after their arrival proceeded to transplant the vine of the country.4 There

1 Somers died before he could return. Argoll, failing to make the Bermudas, directed his course to the fishing grounds of the North, and having obtained there a cargo of cod, sailed back to Jamestown.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 502.

3 Delaware’s Relation, 1611, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 482.

4 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 502.


is no record as to the result of their experiment, but it was probably not attended with much success. At this time no provision was made for the protection of cattle in winter, not even for supplying them with food. Delaware remarked upon the fact as an indication of the mildness of the climate.1 This was the beginning of the custom afterwards prevailing so generally in the Colony, and which has been continued to the present age, of permitting live stock to run at large in the fields and woods at all seasons of the year, without any addition to their provender beyond what they can themselves secure, the natural effect of which has been to reduce the size of the breeds.

Sir Thomas Dale reached Virginia in May, Delaware having left the Colony in the hope of restoring his health. Being a man of singular energy, decision, and firmness of character, Dale proceeded to enforce the same rules for the use of the soil which Smith had been practically the first to adopt. Instead of looking to the Indians for the principal supplies of corn, or depending upon the store of imported provisions, he determined to secure an abundance of food through the industry of the settlers themselves. The second day after his arrival at Point Comfort, he visited Forts Henry and Charles, not only to examine the condition of these fortifications, but also to observe the character of the surrounding soil with a view to planting it in corn. Collecting together the men who had accompanied him from England and a part of the garrison occupying Fort Algernon, which was situated near to Point Comfort, Forts Charles and Henry standing on Southampton River, he set them to clearing the fields in the neighborhood of Fort Henry, to digging the ground, and to dropping and

1 Delaware’s Relation, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 481.


covering up the seed. The work of preparing the fields around Fort Charles he gave into the general charge of Captain Davis. He then departed for Jamestown, which he reached on Sunday, the 19th, and there found the inhabitants playing bowls in the streets.1 Although May was now drawing to a close, Captain Percy, who had been left at the head of the Colony by Delaware, an honorable but weak man, who, like Delaware, would never have been advanced but for his rank, had taken no steps to compel the settlers to plant corn. The gardens had fallen into a

1 Sir Thomas Dale to the Company in England, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 490, 491. Dale reached Jamestown not only on Sunday, but on Sunday afternoon when the services in the church were over. It is well known that in the early part of the seventeenth century, Sunday was the day on which the English diverted themselves with a great variety of sports. The Book of Sports issued by James I, expressly permitted, after evening service, “dancing, archery, leaping, vaulting, May games, whitsunales, morris dances, and setting up of May poles.” The Statute I Car. I. C. I., “inhibited concourse of people out of their own parishes on the Lord’s Day for any sports and pastimes whatsoever,” the implication being that no objection was to be offered to sports on Sunday in any parish as long as those who took part in them were residents of the parish where the sports were celebrated. It would be improper to draw an inference unfavorable to the industry of the colonists of Virginia in 1611, from the mere fact that on Dale’s arrival at Jamestown they were found amusing themselves with playing bowls. They would have been found thus engaged on that occasion even if they had been remarkable for indefatigable energy as workers. It should also be remembered that Percy, who was left in command by Delaware, was, like Delaware himself, of liberal religious rearing, and, therefore, more disposed to encourage than to repress indulgence in sports on Sunday. As to how far bowling constituted the “daily and usual works” of the colonists at this time, as Hamor asserts, this at least can be said in opposition: Delaware left Virginia on the 28th of March, 1611, seven weeks and four days before the arrival of Dale. During his sojourn in Virginia we are informed “that every man endeavored to outstrip the other in diligence . . . every man knew his charge and discharged the same with alacrity.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 502. If the colonists had fallen into habits of laziness, it was confined to the forty-nine days during which Percy was in control.


state of great neglect, a few seeds only having been put into the ground. Careful provision, however, had been made for the preservation of the cows, oxen, oats, hogs, and poultry imported by Delaware. Dale, with characteristic promptness, at once outlined measures that would remove the evil conditions now prevailing. The first of these measures has an unusual importance, from the fact that it held out to the colonists in a modified form the right of holding private property, a right which had not as yet been granted. It was proposed to assign a separate garden to each man, and to lay off a common garden to be devoted to the cultivation of hemp and flax. The first stable erected in Virginia, so far as the records show, was designed by Dale at this time. A building was also projected for the kine, for which Dale provided further by directing that hay should be gathered in season to serve for their food in winter. Special precautions were taken by him to put a stop to the depredations of the Indians upon the stock of cattle, a block-house being erected for this purpose on the mainland. Even before the departure of Smith, in 1609, the hogs, the animals most disposed to wander, had to be transported to, in island in the river, until recently known as Hog Island, in order to escape the clutches of the Indian marauders; many, however, remained in the woods on the banks of the Powhatan, and increased so enormously in Dumber, in consequence of the mild climate and the abundance of roots and mast, that they became more plentiful than deer. It was said at the time that the savages, as compared with the English, destroyed the wild bogs in a proportion of eight to two. The block-house built by Dale was intended to protect only the cattle ranging on Jamestown Island. Soon after his arrival he issued a proclamation commanding the colonists to be careful not to allow their live stock to


wander, in which he had in view the depredations of wolves as well as of Indians.1

It is an indication of the energy of Dale that on the third day after he reached Jamestown, he visited the former site of the Paspaheigh village, situated a short distance away,2 his object being to discover whether the soil there was adapted to the production of hemp and flax, as he inferred would be the case from the fact that it was reported to be excellent ground for grain.3 It would seem that Dale was anxious to cultivate flax and hemp in a considerable quantity, as it had already been determined to lay off a garden for this purpose, and probably he hoped to find a site for this garden at Paspaheigh preferable to any that was to be observed in the vicinity of Jamestown. The fields which had been abandoned by the tribes residing there when the country was first settled were discovered to be overgrown by shrubs and bushes, and it was too late in the season to remove them and then prepare the

1 The authority for these details will be found in the letter of Dale to the Virginia Council in England, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 480-493, and Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, pp. 77-83. For the proportion of cattle destroyed by the Indians, see Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 579.

2 The variation in the testimony as to the distance between Jamestown and Paspaheigh is worthy of notice in the account given by Anas Todkill in the Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 107, it is stated to be “neere 7 miles.” Rolfe, Ibid., p. 542, places old Paspaheigh “a little more than a mile” off. Percy speaks of the distance to the Indian village as four miles, p. lxvii. The Paspaheigh, seven miles away, was probably what was known as Argoll’s town. In the “lawes of 1619,” there is a reference to the “inhabitants of Paspaheigh, alias Martin’s Hundred People. See Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 30.

3 Fifteen years after this, a petition was offered in the General Court by the colonists residing at Paspaheigh, in which complaint was made of the barrenness of the soil there, and for that reason permission to move elsewhere was earnestly sought. General Court Entry, Feb. 9, 1626, Robinson Transcripts, pp. 58, 59.


soil for the desired crops.1 Dale decided to erect a new town at some point enjoying natural advantages, both in climate and situation, superior to those of Jamestown. While waiting until the planting at Kecoughtan was finished, a large number of persons who would be required in the construction of the projected town being engaged in that work, he set men to felling timber and fashioning rails, palings, and posts to be used as soon as the building should begin. When the completion of the planting at Kecoughtan permitted him to act, he proceeded very cautiously before he finally selected a site combining the advantages which he wished to secure. He first explored the Nansemond and afterwards the Powhatan. Many weeks must have been absorbed in these excursions, for it was not until September that he led a large body of colonists to Henrico, the modern Farrar’s Island, the spot which he had chosen for the new settlement.2 Sir Thomas Gates

1 Dale to the Virginia Council in England, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 493.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 26. There is a sentence in the letter Dale Wrote to Salisbury in April, 1611, which at the first glance would appear to mean that he had been instructed before he left England to found a town on the site of Henrico: “At Arsahattacks . . . I have surveied a convenient, strong, healthie and sweete Seate to plant a new towne in (according as I had in nmy instructions upon my departure) there to build, from whence might be no more remove of the principall Seate.” Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 504. It is quite certain that Dale intended merely to say that he had on his departure from England received instructions to build a “new towne in Virginia,” and that he had “surveied Arsahattacks as a convenient, strong, healthie and sweete Seate” for this “new towne.” This is the only interpretation consistent with the excursion that he had made to Nansemond, to which not only Hamor testifies, but also Whitaker. See Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 498, where references to the exploration of both the Powhatan and the Nansemond by Dale will be found in a letter from Whitaker to Crashaw. Hamor declares specifically that when Dale arrived he had not determined upon the locality for the site of the new town. Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 507.


had now arrived in Virginia. It was evidently Dale’s original intention practically to abandon Jamestown, his purpose being to leave there only fifty men with a commander to protect the cattle.1 The arrival of Gates, his superior officer, seems to have changed this plan. Henrico was situated in a fertile region clear in great measure of forest, and was capable of being easily defended. He first surrounded the site of the proposed town, a plat of seven acres, with a paling, an undertaking which must have been thoroughly performed, a large force of men being employed in it for ten or twelve days. He then erected a second pale across the neck of the peninsula, doubtless along the line of the present Dutch Gap Canal. Two miles inland he raised a third paling, which stretched from the river on the one side of the peninsula to the river on the other side, and in the extensive area thus secured he laid off fields which would furnish a supply of grain sufficient not only for the population then living in Virginia, but for as many colonists as were likely to arrive in the course of the following three years. The separate corn-fields were also surrounded by palings as a protection against the cattle of the settlers, and doubtless also against wild deer.

In order to obtain a range for hogs, Dale determined to build a paling on the south side of the river. This protected a circuit of twelve English miles. A number of rude huts were raised at certain points on the line of the fence and placed under the supervision of commanders. In December, Dale seized upon the lands of the Appomattox Indians lying on the Powhatan near the mouth of

1 Dale to Salisbury. See sentence in previous note, “from whence (i.e. Henrico) there might be no more remove of the principall Seate.” For the number of men to be left at Jamestown, see Dale to the Virginia Council in England, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 492.


the Appomattox River, and composed of many miles of fertile champaign and woodland. This new territory he divided into Hundreds. He then built a paling two miles in length from the Appomattox to the Powhatan, shutting in an area of eight English miles, and here in the spring of 1612 he planted corn. Rochdale Hundred was formed by the erection of a pale four miles in length from river to river, and this ensured an additional area of twenty circuit miles in which the live stock could browse in security. At certain intervals along the lines of these pales, houses were put up, the occupants of which formed a guard not only for the population of the Hundreds, but also for the hogs and cattle, many of which had been imported.1 When Dale came over in the spring of 1611, he had brought with him sixty cows, and in the summer of the same year Sir Thomas Gates had reached the Colony, having, as a part of the cargo of his fleet, one hundred kine and two hundred hogs.2 The animals were transported in three ships after a model known as the caraval, which was probably used for this purpose in the present instance on account of the room which it afforded above deck, the animals having an abundance of fresh air, and the flooring being kept clean with ease. When the fleet was first sighted as it was making its way up the river, these strange vessels led the people at Jamestown to believe that the Spaniards had appeared in Virginia, and at once a great commotion arose.3

It was not until 1612 that the cultivation of tobacco, even in patches of a few plants, began among the English

1 For these different particulars as to the Henrico settlement, see Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 31; Works of Capt. John Smith, pp. 509, 510.

2 Delaware’s Relation, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 481, 482. Stow’s Chronicle, Howe’s abridgement, places the numbers at “two hundred kine and as many swine.”

3 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 28.


settlers. Hitherto their attention had been confined entirely to products that could be used as food, to grain, vegetables, beef, and pork. To obtain grain and vegetables, they had been in the habit of relying in part upon the stores of the savages. Some crop was needed that, from the readiness with which it could be sold in England, would furnish means for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries. So far, the shipments from Virginia had been limited to a few articles like sassafras and clapboard, which could not properly be included among agricultural commodities. That the consumption of tobacco in England was already very large, may be inferred from the fact that it was supposed, only two years after the experiment of 1612, that the amount used entailed a national outlay of two hundred thousand pounds sterling.1 It has already been pointed out that the adaptability of the soil of Virginia to the plant was recognized at an early date, and that confident anticipations were entertained as to the profitableness of its culture, which, however, were not at once turned into a reality, because the question of obtaining a supply of food was for several years of the foremost consideration with the settlers. The first colonist who was led to make a trial of the weed which was to exercise such an enormous influence on the history of Virginia and the United States, was the celebrated John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas. His attention was in a measure called to it by the fact, that he was himself addicted to the habit of smoking.2 In Virginia

1 Delaware MSS., Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 772. In a debate in the House of Commons in 1614, it was stated, “that many of the divines now smell of tobacco and poor men spend 4d. of their day’s wages at night in smoke.” House of Commons Journal, April 20, 1614, speech of Mr. Middleton.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 24. The colonists appear to have thought meanly of the tobacco provided by the Indians. Strachey described [footnote continues on p. 212] it as “poore and weake . . . not of the best kynde.” History of Travaile into Virginia, p. 121. Rolfe, in testing the capacity of the plant, as known in Virginia, to improve under English cultivation, was really making an experiment which might or might not be successful.


the plant could only be gotten by cultivating it, or buying it from the savages. It does not appear to have been of spontaneous growth in the soil of the country. Even to-day, when so much tobacco is produced in the State, and when it has been the staple crop for two hundred and seventy-five years, we do not observe it springing up by the roadside as if it were an ordinary weed which spreads without the intervention of the hands of man. As the Indians and the colonists were so constantly at war, Rolfe was probably induced to cultivate a small patch for his own use as a means of obtaining a certain supply. Secondary to this motive was a desire to find some commodity that could be sold at a profitable rate in the markets of England, thus advancing the prosperity of the settlers, and promoting the success of the Company. This condition appeared to be fulfilled in the case of tobacco, if it could be produced in quantities large enough, and of sufficient excellence in quality to allow an active competition with the importers of the Spanish leaf, which at this time met the demand in England.

The experiment of Rolfe would probably have led to the exclusive cultivation of tobacco by the colonists, but for the fact that Sir Thomas Dale was able to govern their action. His first object was to provide them with an abundance of grain. In 1614 alone, it is stated that there were five hundred acres planted in maize. The changes which he introduced were well calculated to keep the common store always ample. Previous to the arrival of Dale, the settlers did not have even a modified interest in the soil, or a partial ownership in the returns of their


labor. Everything produced by them went into the store, in which they had no proprietorship. The influence of this fact was most obstructive to the growth of the community in prosperity; there was a very natural disposition on the part of the colonists to idle over their tasks, or to avoid the performance of these tasks altogether, and it was observed that those who were most honest and energetic by nature, were comparatively indolent and indifferent in attending to their duties in the field.1 So capable and resolute a man as Dale would not be long in detecting the cause of the evil, or in applying the most direct measures for removing it. Reference has already been made to the fact, that as soon as he reached Jamestown he consulted with the resident Council as to the advisability of allotting to each man a “private garden.” This term seems to have been the expression for private holding, “common garden” being applied to ground set apart for public uses. The judgment of the Council must have been favorable to Dale’s suggestion, for at a later date he assigned to a large number of the colonists who were distinguished for superior qualities, three acres apiece, to be held under lease. The most prominent of these men was William Spencer, who was described as honest, industrious, and valiant. The tract of each person was referred to as a farm, and the person himself as a farmer—that is to say, a man who paid rent as the condition of his tenure. The amount of this rent in grain was two and a half barrels for himself and each of his servants. Every tenant was required to work for the commonwealth one month in the year, but this was not to conflict with either seed-time or harvest.2 In order to

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 516.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 17. Hamor attributes the change to Sir Thomas Dale. “Dale,” he writes, “hath taken a new course [footnote continues on p. 214] throughout the whole Colony; . . . he hath allotted to every man three English acres . . . .” The Brief Declaration, &c., on the other hand, states that “the penurious and harde kinde of livinge enforced and emboldened some to petition to Sir Thomas Gates, then Governor, to grant them that favor that they might employ themselves in husbandry. . . . which request was denied unless they would paye the yearley rent of three barrels of corne, &c.; British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 75. It should be remembered that although Gates was the Governor of the Colony at this time, he was in Virginia during only a part of his term, Dale acting in his stead. The petition was probably presented to Gates only nominally, if at all. Hamor’s Discourse is more trustworthy than the Brief Declaration.


restrict the degree of attention to be paid to tobacco, Dale commanded that no man should be permitted to plant it until he had put down two acres in grain, an indication that as soon as the farmers were left to follow their own inclination they were disposed to neglect the cultivation of grain in their eagerness to produce the former commodity.1 Not all the colonists were granted the privilege of tenants.2 Those persons who were not so distinguished were placed in what was known as the common garden,3 being compelled to turn over to the general store all the results of their labor during eleven months of the year, the fruit of the twelfth being left in their hands to be disposed of to their own private advantage.4 A section of these agricultural servants, for such

1 Rolfe’s Virginia in 1616, Va. Hist. Register, vol. I, No. III, p. 108.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 516. It is impossible to give the proportion between those who received and those who did not receive this privilege.

3 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 21.

4 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 516. It is not stated which of the months the month allowed them was. It is not improbable that the time was a period equal to a month, made up of days granted from week to week in the season of planting and cultivating. This time they [footnote continues on p. 215] might have used in tilling their own rented ground. Or they may have been paid for one month’s work in the common garden.


was the relation which they bore to the community, were allowed, in addition to a month, one day in each week from the first of May until harvest, thus giving them much time to look after their private crops. These men were employed in Charles Hundred. To them alone seems to have been extended the promise of an absolute freedom, to take effect in 1617. It is a significant fact that they were moved to petition Gates for their release at the suggestion of Dale, whose name is associated in the history of Virginia with so much severity, but who was really only harsh to the indolent and worthless.1

Dale was not content with establishing a system of tenancy; he put in force a rule assuring every man with a family who arrived in the Colony a house of four rooms or more, which he was permitted to occupy without payment of rent. In the vicinity of this house, twelve acres of ground carefully fenced in were consigned to him on condition that he confined his husbandry to the cultivation of wheat, maize, roots, and herbs, it being the policy of Dale to produce chiefly what could be used as food. Provisions in quantity sufficient to furnish him and his family with an ample supply for twelve months were delivered to the new comer, but after this interval he was expected to earn his own support unaided and the support of those who were dependent upon him. Tools were also presented to him, and, for the more comfortable subsistence of his family, poultry, swine, several goats, and even a cow were given to him.2 The authorities could

1 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 76.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 19. After twelve months had passed, it is probable that the exemption from the payment of rent ceased.


now afford to show liberality, for there were at this time two hundred horned cattle in Virginia and an equal number of goats. Swine roamed in herds in the woods, the property of any one who could capture them. Many hogs were owned by private persons, while others belonged to the public. The number of horses, mares, and colts was small;1 some of those in the Colony had in the previous year been imported by Argoll, having been seized in the expedition against Canada.2 The chickens had increased very much, and there were also many turkeys, pigeons, and peacocks.3 The large number of live stock in Virginia during Dale’s administration was said to be one of the causes for the growth of population in later years, the regulation established with respect to an allowance of hogs, goats, and cows, to every immigrant who was accompanied by his family, being a strong inducement to remove thither, the reputation of which continued after Dale had left the Colony.4

At the time of Dale’s departure, the settlements in Virginia consisted of Henrico, Bermuda, West and Shirley Hundreds, Jamestown, Kecoughtan, and Dale’s Gift.

1 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 23.

2 Molina to Gondomar, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 742.

3 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 23; Company’s Letter, Nov. 26, 1621, to Governor and Council in Virginia, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 270.

4 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 22. One of the provisions of the Martial Code enforced by Pale was to the following effect: “No man shall dare to kill or destroy any bull, cow, calfe, mare, horse, colt, goate, swine, cocke, henne, chicken, dogge, turkie or any tame Cattel or Poultry of what Condition soever; whether his owne or appertaining to another man, without leave from the Generall, upon paine of death in the Principall, and in the accessory, burning in the hand and losse of his eares, and unto the concealer of the same, foure and twenty houres whipping.” Lawes Divine, Morall and Martial, p. 15, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


The male inhabitants were divided into officers, farmers or renters, and laborers or servants. It was the duty of each officer to maintain a careful watch over the division of population assigned to him for protection, but this did not relieve him of the necessity of earning his own support. The laborers belonged to two sections, those who were employed in the common garden, and those who were employed in the trades of smith, shoemaker, carpenter, tailor, and tanner, who, however, were not exempted from the task of tilling the ground.1 At the close of Dale’s administration there were thirty-eight persons in Henrico, a majority of whom were tenants who held their lands under covenant; the remainder were in part at least their servants. The commander was Captain James Davis. Of the hundred and nineteen inhabitants of Lower Bermuda Hundred, whose commander was Captain Yeardley, seventeen were farmers or tenants. Thirty-one of the fifty inhabitants of Jamestown were tenants, the commander there being Captain Francis West. The farmers at Kecoughtan numbered eleven in a population of twenty. Captain Webbe was the commander here. There were twenty-five persons at West and Shirley Hundreds, all of whom were engaged in planting under the supervision of Captain Madison. These men belonged to the class of laborers who were employed for the public wealth; the restriction of their attention to tobacco shows that it had, only four years after the first experiment of Rolfe, become one of the staple crops of the Colony.2 The most experienced judges had already recognized the superior quality of the leaf produced in Virginia. John Rolfe ventured, in the light of the improvement made in its cultivation and

1 Rolfe’s Virginia in 1616, Va. Hist. Register, vol. I, No. III, p. 107.

2 Ibid. pp. 109, 110.


manipulation, to predict that after the test of longer trial and the incurrence of a little more expense, it would bear a favorable comparison with the tobacco of the West Indies.1 Hamor, who seems to have had an accurate knowledge of every grade of this commodity, declared that the Colony, as early as 1614, afforded a plant equal to that of Trinidad, and as strong, sweet, and pleasant as any cultivated under the sun, and he stated further, that the people were rapidly acquiring so much knowledge as to the best way of curing it that it must in a short time become as popular in England as the Spanish product.2 By 1616, this knowledge must have been very much increased. Dale had probably been influenced by a very strong reason in allowing the culture of tobacco to be gradually extended until, as we have seen, it absorbed the whole attention of all the laborers in two of the settlements. There can be little doubt that at this time it commanded the readiest sale in England of all the products of Virginia. The cultivation of wheat and maize was intended entirely for the support of the persons who had been living in the Colony, or who proposed taking up their residence there; not one grain was for export; on the other hand, the whole of the tobacco crop was designed for shipment to England, there to be sold by the Company, and the proceeds returned in clothing for the settlers.

Tobacco, however, was not the only product of Virginia transported to England during the administration of Dale. Eleven commodities were at this time annually sent to the mother country, in the hope that the Colony

1 Rolfe’s Virginia in 1616, Va. Hist. Register, vol. I, No. III, p. 105.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, pp. 24, 34. It was not long before a certain place on the James River acquired the name of Varina from the supposed similarity of the tobacco produced there to the celebrated Spanish Varinas. See Va. Hist. Register, vol. I, No. IV, p. 161.


would soon be able to compete successfully with foreign merchants in supplying the English people with the articles which they were now compelled to purchase abroad.1 Dale had established a vineyard at Henrico not long after the foundation of that settlement, covering an area of three acres, in which he planted the vines of the native grape for the purpose of testing their adaptability to the production of wines that could be substituted for those of France and Spain. Silk-worms were sent over in the winter of 1614, and in a few months grew to an extraordinary size. To such an extent did they flourish on the mulberry leaf in Virginia, that it was confidently expected that silk-making would become one of the most important industries of the Colony. Captain Martin about the same time tried experiments with the native silk-grass, transplanting many of the wild plants to a garden of his own, having been encouraged to do this by the excellence of the product obtained from them. He proposed to make this commodity one of the exports of Virginia.2

Great as were the agricultural improvements in the Colony during the administration of Dale, no plough as yet seems to have been brought into its plantations. None were in use there. Hamor, in 1614, indulged the hope that in the following year three or four ploughs would be set to work, there being now a sufficient number

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 65. Dale to Winwood, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 783. When Dale returned to England in 1616, he carried over as the cargo of his ship, “tobacco, sasafrix, pych, potashes, sturgyon & cavyarge and other such lyk Commodytyes as yet that Countrye” yielded. Ibid., p. 783.

2 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 35. The silk-worms were brought over by Captain Adams in the ship Elizabeth, which arrived in Virginia in the winter of 1613-14.


of steers to draw them.1 The spade and shovel, hoe and mattox, continued to be the only agricultural implements.

As Dale was now satisfied with the general condition of the Colony, he decided in the spring of 1616 to return to England,2 affairs in Virginia being left in the guardianship of George Yeardley as deputy governor. The first act of Yeardley, in this new character, was one of extraordinary importance in its relation to the future growth of the country. By the terms of their agreement with Sir Thomas Gates made previous to his departure in 1614, the laborers in Charles Hundred could claim their freedom at the end of three years, and from this time enjoy the full returns of their own industry. They demanded now

1 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 23.

2 The work accomplished by Dale in Virginia was of the greatest importance. The extraordinary progress of the Colony during the few years he, in the absence of Gates, directed its affairs, is the best evidence of his energy and sagacity. Like Smith, he was eminently practical in his cast of mind, and soon formed a just notion of the conditions which had to be met in order to place the colonial settlements upon a footing of lasting prosperity. The previous military training of the two men, as well as their resolute characters, were of the highest advantage to the common enterprise in which they were engaged in successive periods. That Dale was able for the time being to effect more than Smith, was due not only to his longer tenure and larger resources in men and supplies, but also to the more unquestioned liberty of action which he enjoyed. As showing how essentially alike were the wisdom and the spirit of these two remarkable men, the two greatest associated with the early history of Virginia, it is interesting to compare the letter which Dale addressed from Jamestown to Salisbury in August, 1611 (see Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 501-508), with Smith’s letter to the Treasurer and Council for Virginia, Works, pp. 442-445, and his Answer to the Commissioners’ Questions, pp. 615-620. No unprejudiced person can read these compositions without a feeling of the highest admiration for the sagacity as well as for the rugged manliness of the authors, typical Englishmen who possessed those great qualities of administration and leadership which have made their nation the foremost in the modern world.


that this privilege should be granted them, and the request received an affirmative response. Being set at liberty, it is stated that they reaped an abundant harvest.1 It is a point of some interest to know what was the exact relation which they bore to the soil they cultivated in the summer of 1616. Some lands were held in the Colony at this time in fee simple.2 The probability is that the emancipated laborers of Charles Hundred became tenants, who occupied the same footing as the farmers during the administration of Dale; this seems to be confirmed by the fact that a granary was erected in this Hundred, which, upon the arrival of Argoll in the following year, was found to be full of grain contributed by the tenants.3

1 “Briefe Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia during the First Twelve Years,” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, pp. 77, 78.

2 This is to be inferred from the following minute of the proceedings of the Assembly of 1619, under the head of “Satturday July 31”: “It was agreed these petitions ensuing should be framed to be presented to the Treasurer, Counsel and Company in England that albeit they have been pleased to allotte unto the Governor, to themselves, together with the Counsell of Estate here and to the officers of Incorporations, certain portion of lande to be layde out within the limites of the same, yet that they would vouchsafe also that groundes as heretofore had bene granted by patent to the antient planters by former Governours that had from the Company received Commission so to doe, might not nowe after so muche labour and coste and so many yeares habitation be taken from them.” If patents were granted to the laborers of Charles Hundred, who are referred to in the text, they were the first to enjoy a fee simple tenure in Virginia. It will be seen hereafter that under the original agreement, the lands were to be allotted in fee simple holdings in 1616, the year in which these laborers were emancipated, the distribution to be made among the shareholders, in proportion to their shares, and the “antient planters,” as they were called, that is, the laborers who had come out previous to the departure of Dale. The proceedings of the Assembly of 1619 will be found in Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 9; for particular reference see p. 15.

3 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 78.


Dale’s injunction as to the superior attention to be paid to the production of grain seems to have been carefully observed by his successor. Not only was the granary in Charles Hundred full when Argoll reached Jamestown in 1617, but there were stores of grain in all the plantations. It was said that at this time the part of the Company’s lands, known as the common garden, yielded a profit of three hundred pounds sterling; this profit must have been derived almost exclusively from the production of tobacco, as tobacco was the only crop shipped to England. The common garden was cultivated wholly by laborers bound to the Company by indentures.1 The supply of grain upon which they were fed was obtained from the tenants in the form of rent, or from the savages as tribute. In the spring of 1617 the area in tobacco was probably extended; it was now cultivated in the streets, and even in the market-place of Jamestown.2

The first act of Argoll, who displaced Yeardley in the government, was to take possession of the granary in Charles Hundred and convert its contents to his own use, an act which was characteristic of the whole of the latter part of his administration.3 A short time after he assumed control in Virginia, he wrote to the authorities of the Company in England that great abundance prevailed in the Colony, and that the people were in a state of peace and contentment. In addition to large supplies of grain, there were one hundred and twenty-eight kine, eighty-eight goats, and hogs in great numbers. Argoll, in the

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 65.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 535.

3 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 75.


beginning of his official tenure, seems to have adopted measures to extend this favorable condition of agricultural affairs. Every tenant was required to cultivate two acres in grain under penalty of forfeiting his crops, and being reduced to slavery in the public service. Tradesmen were exempted from the binding force of this provision. Argoll sought to obtain an ample quantity of food for the cattle in the rigor of the winter season by prohibiting the use of hay in the preparation of the tobacco for sale; at this time it was the custom to pass the leaves through a period of sweating by throwing them into piles, and covering them with the long grass which had been cut in the surrounding marshes. The best tobacco, under a regulation adopted by Argoll, was not to be sold at a lower rate than three shillings a pound; and to compel the observance of this regulation, three years’ service for the benefit of the Colony was imposed upon any one who violated it.1

In the following and closing year of Argoll’s administration, the cultivation of English wheat was attempted, thirty or forty acres being sown in this staple, but in consequence of the delay in harvesting it, much of the grain became overripe, and fell to the ground and was lost. What remained was placed in the barn erected for the protection of the kine in the time of Dale, where it was devoured by the rats and cattle.2 A part of the ground in which this crop of wheat was produced had been broken up by the plough.3 Only one implement of this character was to be found in the Colony in a condition to be worked; there were a sufficient number of steers to serve for draft, but there was a lack of irons,

1 For these particulars, see Randolph MSS. in Supreme Court (U.S.) Library, ch. 23, No. 221.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 538.

3 Randolph MSS., vol. III, pp. 142, 143.


which were especially needed in the virgin soil wherever ploughs could be used, because the ground was full of obstructions destructive to implements unprotected by tips and shares. Harness for the steers was also required, by which, plough chains were probably meant.1

The crops of grain and tobacco were during the summer of this year seriously injured by a severe drought, which was followed in some places by a heavy storm of hail that was still more destructive. The elements, however, were not so ruinous to the prosperity of Virginia as the rapacious spirit of Argoll. Instead of permitting the colonists, whose terms of service had expired, to go free, a right to which they were entitled from the beginning of his administration, he set them upon his own employments, giving liberty only to the few who were able to pay him an extraordinary amount in tobacco for their release.2 He withdrew the laborers from the common garden, which had been the source of large revenue to the Company, and directed them to his own purposes. The grain that ought properly to have been devoted to the public use alone, a part of which use consisted in furnishing a supply to persons who had recently arrived, was expended by him entirely in sustaining his private servants. The public cattle, which like the grain was intended in great part to be distributed among the new corners, thus offering strong inducements to persons in England to emigrate to the Colony, were either killed by him with a view to the disposition of the hides to his own profit, or they were sold to the tenants and planters. By allowing sailors and masters of ships, as well as passengers, to purchase most of the tobacco and all of the

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 538.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 78.


sassafras produced in Virginia, the sales being probably made in a majority of instances by himself, as he had drawn into his own hands all the resources of the Colony, the object for which the magazine was established, and upon the success of which the welfare of the population was so dependent, was practically frustrated.1 When he absconded from Virginia in 1619, by the connivance of his patron, the Earl of Warwick, the leader of the faction which was to be so bitterly hostile to the new government, he left the Colony in a state of thorough exhaustion, although its prosperity would have been assured had it been maintained in the condition to which the firm and sagacious administration of Sir Thomas Dale had raised it. The area of ground known as the common garden had fallen into complete neglect, and was doubtless already springing up in that thick array of bushes which, as was observed, had overgrown the deserted fields at Paspaheigh. There were no tenants or servants at work for the Company. No stores of corn were to be found resembling the granary at Charles Hundred which Argoll had appropriated when he arrived in Virginia. The Indians had ceased to furnish a supply of grain by way of tribute. The maize obtained from the tenants and savages, as we have seen, amounted to twelve hundred bushels annually previous to the administration of Argoll. It had now fallen off apparently to nothing. Beginning his control of the affairs of Virginia with the strict enforcement of the regulation that every cultivator

1 See letter from a committee of the Company in England printed in the Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 31. It is a fact worthy of attention that this letter, which was expressed in terms of the strongest indignation, was signed by Thomas Smith, Lionel Cranford, and Robert Johnson, who were so soon to be associated with the faction of which Argoll was to become a prominent member.


of the ground should plant two acres in grain, he ended with this regulation in entire abeyance. The lack of corn became so great in consequence of the exclusive attention paid to the culture of tobacco, that there would have been ground for anticipating a severe famine if two hundred quarters of meal had not been imported in the magazine. The only portion of the public stock of animals still unsold or unslaughtered were six goats.1 All this destruction or dispersion of property had been caused by Argoll without the receipt on the part of the Company of a penny in compensation. The only public property that they could recover was the cattle he had sold, and which still remained in the Colony. Instructions were given to Delaware, when he set sail for Virginia, to drive together all the bullocks, cows, and steers distributed among different purchasers, and to preserve them for the public use; the tobacco and goods in the possession of Argoll were to be seized, as a partial indemnity for the gross injury he had inflicted upon the interests of the Company. Delaware died before he could perform this mission.2

The arrival of Sir George Yeardley in 1619 is the starting-point of a new era in the history of the Colony, which is hardly less impressive in its agricultural than in its political aspects. The first six months of his administration are among the most memorable in the history, not only of Virginia, but also of America. It was during this period that the earliest representative body that came together on this continent assembled.3 The erection of this

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 65.

2 London Company to Delaware, Neil’s Virginia Company of London, p. 119.

3 A full account of this assembly, with biographies showing the previous [footnote continues on p. 227] history of each member, will be found in William Wirt Henry’s “First Legislative Assembly in America,” in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 55. This article has also been printed in American Historical Association Publications.


local legislature had the most beneficial influence on the agricultural interests of the Colony, as it was composed of burgesses who had a personal knowledge of the agricultural needs of Virginia. Among its principal enactments were laws with reference to grain and tobacco, silk and vines. The same brief interval saw the introduction of the negro slave, who in time was to become the principal agricultural laborer of one-half of the United States. It also saw, what was more important in its immediate consequences, the extension of an absolute freedom to those persons among the colonists who had come into Virginia during the previous administrations, and had been detained beyond their legal time in the service of the Company. The right of acquiring property in fee simple was now freely granted. Every one of the “ancient” planters1 became entitled to what was defined as a dividend, the term applied to a certain area of soil. William Spencer and Thomas Barret, who had been the first to go forth as farmers under the regulation adopted by Sir Thomas Dale, were now the first to choose the lands which they were to hold in absolute ownership. The conversion of a common laborer into a farmer had, as we have seen, an immediate effect in stimulating the industry of that large section of the population who were chosen to be the beneficiaries of the provision as to the conditional tenure. Far more powerful was the influence of a fee simple title upon those who received this invaluable gift on account of their long connection with the Colony; it is stated that a strong

1 An “ancient” planter was one who had come into the Colony previous to the final departure of Dale in 1616.


rivalry at once sprang up among them as to which one should excel in building and planting.1

When private ownership in the soil in fee simple became general, one thousand acres were reserved for the maintenance of the ministers of the gospel in Virginia, three thousand for the support of the Governor, and ten thousand for the endowment of the university which was projected for the education of the Indians. For its own use the Company retained twelve thousand acres, in anticipation that the remaining parts of the country would be gradually taken up under patents by colonists who would pay a small quit-rent in return. The lands reserved for the Governor, the ministers, and the university were situated on the northern side of the Powhatan, and extended from Henrico to the Falls. The lands appropriated for the special use of the Company consisted of four apportionments of three thousand acres respectively, there being one apportionment in each of the four boroughs, beginning with Kecoughtan and ending with Henrico. The principal purpose sought in this general arrangement was to assure for the officers in Virginia a certain maintenance without the need of any reliance upon the resources of the Corporation in England. Whenever a new office was established, a certain number of acres

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 542. As I have already pointed out, the petition of the Assembly of 1619 to the Company in England shows very conclusively that patents to land in fee simple had been already granted to a few persons; first, it is possible, to the emancipated laborers of Charles Hundred in 1616, and afterwards by Argoll to those among the servants of the Company who were able to make extraordinary payments for their freedom and for allotments of land. The number of persons, however, in the enjoyment of a fee simple tenure when Yeardley began his administration, must have formed a very small proportion of the whole body of laborers and tenants. What the real number of these persons was, it is impossible to say. The information which the authorities give is only of a general character.


were attached to it. Thus when Thomas Nuce was appointed in 1619 the superintendent of the Company’s lands, twelve hundred acres were assigned to him as a means of paying his salary. Six hundred acres of this allotment were situated at Kecoughtan, four hundred at Charles City, one hundred at Jamestown, and one hundred at Henrico; these were the four boroughs in which the lands of the Company had been laid off, and it was expected that Nuce in superintending its property would also overlook that belonging to his own office. To the Treasurer, the Marshal, and the Cape Merchant respectively, who bore heavy responsibilities, fifteen hundred acres were granted; to the Physician and Secretary, five hundred acres each, and to the Vice-admiral, three hundred. An assignment of one thousand acres was made for the support of the master and usher of the East India School.1

The apportionments of land would have been worthless if no provision had been made for their cultivation. A system of leases in consequence was adopted. To the Governor one hundred tenants were allowed; to the Treasurer and Marshal, fifty each; to the superintendent of the Company’s lands, forty; to the Secretary and Physician, twenty apiece; and to the Vice-admiral, twelve. Each one of these public officials, when his tenure ceased, was required to transmit to his successor the whole number of tenants who were by law attached to his office. It was the intention of the Company that each one should receive such an area of land and such a number of servants as would be sufficient to afford him an ample support as well

1 Instructions to Yeardley, 1618. See Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, pp. 154-161; Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 12, 63, 151, 152; Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 115.


as to sustain the dignity of his position.1 The plan was in large measure carried into practical effect. When Sir George Yeardley sailed from England in 1619 to assume control of the government of the Colony, he was accompanied by fifty tenants for the tillage of the lands assigned to his office, these persons being transported at the expense of the Company, but furnished with supplies at his own charge.2 As the outlay in sending passengers directly to Virginia was very heavy, there being at this time no freight to be brought back by the same vessel to England, the ships engaged in the Newfoundland fisheries were employed to convey the tenants to the Colony, stopping there on their way to the waters of the North.3 In the interval between April, 1619, and May, 1620, eighty additional tenants were dispatched to be placed on the lands of the Governor, one hundred and thirty on the lands of the Company, one hundred on the College lands, and fifty on the Glebe. To ensure the contentment of those among them who were without wives, young women were imported to be married to them, this shipment being as much a speculative venture on the part of the stockholders in England who subscribed to it, as if the maidens had been so much unconscious merchandise. Hardly less important were the large number of boys who were forwarded to Virginia, during the same period, to serve as apprentices in husbandry to the tenants.4

The terms of the agreement which the Company entered

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 543; Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 115; Abstracts of Proceedings of Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 63, 151.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 22.

3 Ibid., p. 23.

4 Ibid., pp. 66, 67, 138. See also Company’s Letter, dated Aug. 21, 1621, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 233; also Company’s Letter, dated Sept. 11, 1621, Ibid., p. 245.


into with the tenant on the public lands, were in great measure the same as those which had been formulated by Dale a few years before under similar circumstances. He was transported to Virginia free of expense to himself, and after his arrival he was provided with victuals for twelve months, and for the same length of time was supplied with apparel, weapons, tools, and implements. In addition, he was presented with a certain number of cattle. As a return for these benefits, the tenant was expected to pay to the Company one-half of his annual crops, and to remain in its employment for seven years, at the expiration of which interval he was at liberty to renew the contract or to remove to land which had been granted to him as a dividend.1

The reports as to the operation of this system of tenant right are contradictory. In a letter to the Company in England, the Governor and Council in Virginia went so far as to say that the persons who worked on half shares, with the exception of those who were attached to the College lands, found themselves unable even to earn food sufficient for their needs during three months of the year.2 This was probably an exaggeration. In the extent to which it was accurate, it was explained in large measure by circumstances which it was impossible for the tenants to control. Many are said to have had just ground for complaint in the fact that they were assigned to cleared lands worn out by a course of cultivation prolonged over a number of years, and which were, therefore, in no condition to bring forth a profitable crop of tobacco.3 Pory

1 A Declaration of the State of the Colonie, pp. 13-15, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

2 Printed in Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 370.

3 George Sandys to John Ferrer, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 27; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 88, Va. State Library.


openly asserted that the officers of the Company made an improper use both of their tenants and the tenants’ servants. The servants were taken away from their masters and removed by the officers to their private estates, while the tenants themselves were kept so constantly engaged in rowing the officers to and fro between Jamestown and the lands assigned to the different official positions, lying some near the mouth of the river and some near the Falls, that it was not in their power to pay the rent expected of them.1 In spite of these obstacles, which were probably not quite as great as Pory represented them to be,2 there is reason to think that a fair proportion of the tobacco shipped from Virginia to England in the short interval before the massacre, had been raised by tenants who were seated on the public domain. The George, which arrived in England in March, 1622, was loaded in great part with a cargo that was the product of the lands assigned by the Company to the College and Treasurer or reserved

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 571. The following extract from a letter written by the Governor and Council of Virginia to the Company in England in January, 1621 (O. S.), presents the conduct of the officers in a more favorable light. “Yt being a matter of difficultie to finde out on the suddaine such a convenient place for the seating of the Tresurers Tenants as in our judgments we thought requisite, and that would have much endangered the help of his people, and beine the means of the certaine loss of his next year’s cropp to have kept them long without employment, about James Cyttie, Mr. Treasurer was out of necessitie enforced to purchase for himself out of his own private Estate, two hundred acres of Lande, being the divident of a private planter, for the present employment of his people where they are yett remayninge . . . the like course wee propose to take for the land and Tennantes belonging to the place of Physitian who onto of the like necessitie was fame for the present to give certain closes and clere ground for the employment of his people not far from James Cyttie.” Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 281.

2 See, however, in support of his statements, Company’s Letter dated July 25, 1621, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 230.


for itself.1 The amount of rent exacted of the tenants was undoubtedly too large, being very much in excess of that which was required of the farmers during the administration of Dale. So unsatisfactory did the working of this rate prove to the Company, and so much discontent did it breed among the tenants themselves, that in 1622, barely three years after the original provision, the Governor and Council in Virginia were instructed to modify it. By the old regulation, the tenant was to transfer to the Company one-half of the crops of his fields, but if the harvest failed, he was relieved of responsibility; by the terms of the new, he was to settle his rent by delivering twenty bushels of grain, sixty pounds of tobacco, and one pound of silk. In addition, he could be required to give his labor to the public works for six days. In order to ensure the performance of these conditions, at least three tenants were made to live together, each one being bound for the payment of the specified rent.2

It is interesting to note the different implements which the Company provided for the tenants who were sent to Virginia to cultivate the public lands. The allowance seems to have been made on the basis of a family of six persons. It consisted of five broad and five narrow hoes, three shovels, two spades, two band-bills, two broad and five felling axes, two hatchets, two steel saws, two hand-saws and one whipsaw, two hammers, two augers, two piercers, six chisels, three gimlets, two frows, two pick-axes, one grindstone, and nails of many sizes. The stern conditions which were to confront the tenant on his arrival were indicated in the arms furnished him for protection;

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company, vol. I, pp. 171, 195.

2 Company’s Letter, dated Aug. 1, 1622, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, pp. 329, 330.


these were one suit of light armor, a long gun, a sword and belt, a bandoleer, twenty pounds of powder, and sixty pounds of shot and lead.1

When Yeardley assumed control of affairs in Virginia, the Company, with a view to increasing the production of other articles, required that there should be inserted in all formal grants of land a covenant that the patentees should not apply themselves either wholly or principally to the culture of tobacco, but should divide their attention among a number of commodities carefully specified in each deed. These commodities consisted in part of agricultural products, that is to say, Indian corn, wheat, flax, silk-grass and wine, a portion of which, as we have seen, England was anxious to be able to purchase in the Colony, in order that she might escape the heavy charges of the continental merchants, as well as to avoid all possibility of an interruption in her supply.2 As a further provision to ensure a permanent diversion from tobacco as the exclusive crop of Virginia, it was proposed that the only payment that the Company should receive from the planters for the servants to be sent them should be in the form of the commodities named.3 As laborers were so much needed by the colonists, it was anticipated that this

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 608. The following entry is found in the Records of Lower Norfolk County, Sept. 2, 1640, vol. I (see the inventory of the estate of Philip Felgate): “an old cross bowe, an old cibron, a suite of black armour, an head piece of white armour.” These may have belonged to one of the Company’s tenants originally. My attention was called to this entry by Mr. Edward W. James, the well-known antiquarian of Norfolk, Va.

2 Orders and Constitutions, No. cxiv, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. See also Declaration of the State of the Colonie, p. 10, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

3 Declaration of the State of the Colonie, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 92.


would be highly promotive of a larger cultivation of these commodities. As a still stronger inducement, the planter who excelled in their production was to be allowed the privilege of being the first to make a choice among the apprentices and indented servants to be forwarded by the Company. A committee of merchants were to be appointed, who, from their particular knowledge of the value of the commodities to be fostered, could establish a schedule of rates at which these commodities could be sold in the English markets with profit by the planters of Virginia; this schedule was, however, hardly expected to include maize or wheat, as the reason for encouraging their production was to provide an abundance of grain for the Colony itself.

At the beginning of 1619, the commodities shipped from Virginia were confined to tobacco and sassafras. It was denied at the time that this was to be attributed to the planters. It was said that as the mass of products had to be deposited in the magazine for exchange, it lay in the power of the presiding director, who happened to be a trader, to exclude all but those which he wished to pass, by declining to fix any price upon them. This, it was urged, had been done by Alderman Johnson, who was the principal purchaser from the Company of the sassafras and tobacco imported into England, and who was, therefore, interested in the enlargement of the production of these articles, a result only to be accomplished by the suppression of all efforts to vary the commodities of the Colony. It was to remove this condition that the Company proposed to adopt a general schedule.1 The preference

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 92. Sir Edwin Sandys suggested that “a committee of merchants, skilful in these particular commodities, might be appointed to set such indifferent good rates and prices upon them now at first as might not only [footnote continues on p. 237] make the Company here savers thereby, but give the plantation also better encouragement to raise and improve the same abundantly by their industry and labor.”


shown for tobacco, as will be pointed out later, lay deeper than any scheme of a designing alderman to give it the first importance by making it the only profitable crop for cultivation. Whether or not the members of the Company, who had control of its administration in 1619, recognized the force of the economic reasons causing that plant to be the most lucrative crop, they displayed great earnestness in carrying out the well-known wishes of the King, going so far as to send a treasurer to Virginia, who was not only to collect all that was due the Company in the form of quit-rents, a new source of revenue created by the subdivision of the public lands, but also to see that the instructions as to the degree of attention to be paid to the staple commodities be put in force by the authorities; an indication that it was anticipated that even the public officers of the Colony would be reluctant to subordinate the cultivation of tobacco to that of the other products of the soil.1

It will be interesting to inquire in some detail as to the steps which were taken to promote the cultivation of the staple commodities. One of the earliest laws passed by the first Assembly that met in the Colony, the Assembly which Yeardley summoned in 1619, provided that every householder should reserve in store a barrel of Indian corn not only for himself, but also for every servant in his employment, but this grain was to be used only in case their necessities compelled it. The planter who had arrived in Virginia in the course of the previous twelve months was exempted from the scope of this law.2

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 112, 119.

2 British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 21.


Yeardley seems, during the first year of his administration, to have given special attention to the cultivation of grain with a view to removing all prospect of a famine. To such an extent did he neglect the cultivation of tobacco during this period, that he thought it advisable to explain his motive to the Company in England, thus showing that its members had not determined to diminish very materially the amount of that commodity to be produced in the Colony.1 Yeardley appears to have been very successful with the wheat he sowed very soon after his arrival. It was reported in England that he had secured two harvests from the same field in the course of the same season, the second of which had sprung from seeds shaken to the earth by the wind as it passed over the heads of the preceding crop. After this second crop of wheat had been reaped, the ground was planted in Indian corn, from which there was an abundant yield in the autumn. It is quite certain, however, that the Indian corn had to be gathered before it had fully matured, there being hardly an interval of three months between the time when the second wheat harvest took place and the arrival of frost. It was said that the ground was of such extraordinary fertility, that the maize planted in it germinated and sprang up into stalks with great rapidity. The statement as to the second growth of wheat has its only satisfactory explanation in the fact that in the seventeenth century the process of cutting this grain was so prolonged, owing to the use of sickles and books, the only implements at this time employed, that a considerable part of a crop standing upon a field of some extent became overripe before the harvest was completed and fell to the ground. When a second crop was reaped from the same field in the

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 11.


course of the same year, it consisted generally of barley that had been sowed in July in the soil from which English wheat had been removed, the barley being harvested in October before the frost had had an opportunity of blighting it.1 When, in 1619, Rolfe was repudiating the scandalous depreciation of Virginia by its enemies, the first information as to which had been brought over by Governor Yeardley himself, he declared that the production of English grain in the Colony, instead of being at the rate of sixteen bushels an acre, as the persons who opposed the prosperity of Virginia asserted, had often amounted to thirty bushels.2 Hamor had remarked on the superior character of the wheat grown in the Colony, one grain multiplying to forty grains, and the head of the blade often being a span long. The barley, in his opinion, was as fine as any seen in England.3

The chief obstacle to overcome in the beginning in the production of wheat was the excessive fertility of the lands at this time under cultivation. Wheat sowed in fields recently cleared of woods showed an enormous development in the stalk, but a stunted growth in the grain; to secure a satisfactory crop from new grounds, it was always necessary to precede it by a crop of tobacco or maize, which reduced the fertility of the soil. The character of the wheat seems to have gradually deteriorated until it failed to give satisfaction as seed. In January, 1621-1622, the Governor and Council wrote to the Company in London to request that a supply should be sent to the Colony to be sown, the annual crop in Virginia

1 For these particulars, see Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 44; Virginia Richly Valued, p. 13, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; Bullock’s Virginia, p. 9.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 541.

3 Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse, p. 22.


having hitherto been raised from grain originally brought from Canada, but which had become puny and defective from continued improper cultivation. They also asked that the seed should be transported in the chaff, and in the passage across the ocean should be kept between decks. None was to be forwarded that was older than the last harvest. From the same source, it is learned that the amount of barley and oats produced in Virginia at this time was so small as to be unworthy of consideration. In compliance with the request of the authorities of the Colony, the Company at a general court made provision for dispatching to Virginia a pinnace containing not only wheat and barley, but also garden seeds and scions of fruit trees.1

Among the staple commodities which Yeardley was directed by the Company to promote was flax, one of the indigenous products of the Colony; every family was required to cultivate one hundred plants, and the Governor himself five thousand. The Assembly of 1619 passed a law to enforce this provision, and further declared that if flax should be shown to be a ratable commodity, the number of plants which each family was expected to raise would be increased.2 In 1622, Pony, the Secretary of the Council, forwarded to England specimens cultivated under the Company’s instructions, and they were pronounced by experts to be as excellent in texture as the flax from which the celebrated Cambaya stuffs were woven.3 The

1 Neill’s Virginia Company of London, pp. 275, 276; Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 129. The wheat had been brought from Canada by Argoll. See letter of Molina to Gondomar, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 742.

2 Lawes of Assembly, 1619, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. I, No. 45; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 21.

3 London Company to Governor and Council of Virginia, June, 1622, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 304.


Company was still more solicitous that the culture of the silk-worm should be introduced into Virginia. There was an essay in this culture during the few years Smith resided in the Colony, which he asserted was only prevented from being successful by the sickness of the master workman, in consequence of which no precautions were taken to protect the worms from the rats.1 Reference has already been made to the importation of silk-worms in the time of Dale, which, as the result quite probably of the destructive course pursued during the administration of Argoll, ended in failure. The King was especially interested in the production of silk in Virginia. About 1607 a large number of weavers and throwsters from the continent had settled at Spitalfields and Morefields near London, with a view to establishing the silk industry in England, and the English Government was very anxious to extend them in their trade all the encouragement in its power. It would have been an advantage of the highest importance to them had they been able to secure their raw material relieved of the large profit obtained by foreigners in furnishing it; and it was also very desirable that there should be no interruption in the course of receiving their supply, a condition which could not be controlled when the producers of the raw material were foreign nations. In 1608, the first mulberry tree was planted in England, and King James himself entered actively into the cultivation of the silk-worm. The discovery of the mulberry in Virginia in such great numbers excited from the beginning the very reasonable hope that the Colony would in time produce large quantities of raw silk. At the first session of the House of Burgesses in 1619, the members, acting upon the instructions of the Company, passed a law that every man should

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 56.


plant annually six mulberry trees during a period of seven years.1 it was afterwards declared that a large number of the mulberry trees bore so many leaves that each tree would nourish a sufficient number of worms to produce silk to the value of five pounds. The vine-dressers soon began to plant mulberry slips, their example being imitated to some extent by the colonists.2

With a view to promoting an interest in silk culture, the Company were at pains to have the most approved works on the silk-worm translated into English and forwarded to the Colony for general distribution. Mr. Bonoel, the superintendent of the Royal Silk Establishment, composed a special treatise at their suggestion, in which he pointed out the proper manner of constructing rooms for silk-worms, as well as of planting mulberry trees. The treatise was published and many copies sent to Virginia, to which a large quantity of silk-worms were also dispatched from the royal collection in England.3 In 1620, a store of silk-worms were procured from Italy and Spain, and steps were also taken to obtain a supply from France. The Company secured an expert who had been an apprentice of one of the men employed in the Royal Silk Establishment, where he had been carefully trained by his master. The latter was allowed twenty pounds sterling in consideration of the release of this apprentice

1 Lawes of Assembly, 1619, British State Papers, vol. I, No. 45; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 21.

2 New Description of Virginia, pp. 6, 7, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II; Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 168; Letter of Governor and Council of Virginia to the Company, January, 1621-22, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 275. At the session of the General Assembly held in 1621, the destruction of mulberry trees in clearing new ground was expressly prohibited. Ibid., p. 275.

3 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 99, 148.


with a view to his transportation to Virginia, and in further return for so large a sum, the master bound himself to instruct other apprentices in the art of silk culture in order that the Company might in the future have the benefit of their knowledge.1 In the following year provision was made for obtaining a large supply of silk-worm seed from St. Valencia, which enjoyed the reputation of producing worms that prospered in other climates besides their own.2 Raw silk previous to this time had sold in England for thirteen shillings and four pence a pound, and silk cods for two shillings and six pence, but in this year raw silk advanced to twenty-eight shillings.3

The massacre by the Indians had as disastrous an influence upon silk culture as it had upon the other industries of the Colony. So far as can be discovered, the actual production of this material previous to that event had amounted practically to very little, but this might well be due, as was claimed, to the fact that silk culture in Virginia had not yet passed the first stage of development. After the massacre, George Sandys, who as Treasurer was required to see to the enforcement of the Company’s instructions as to the staple commodities, earnestly strove to restore the culture of silk to the footing which it had occupied when it was so suddenly interrupted. He placed the silk-men at Elizabeth City, a place but little exposed, and compelled them to confine their attention to silk husbandry. A room for the worms was prepared at Lieutenant Pierce’s, which was considered to be the most

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 99.

2 Ibid., p. 137. See Company’s Letter, dated Sept. 11, 1621, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 241.

3 Virginia Richly Valued, p. 51, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


suitable for this purpose to be found in the Colony.1 The period of service for which some of the silk-men were bound expiring, Sandys addressed a letter to Mr. Wrote in England, urging him to obtain from the superintendent of the Royal Silk Establishment two Frenchmen who were trained in the art of silk-making. He offered to pay such experts as annual wages, either twenty marks in coin, or tobacco to the value of twenty pounds sterling, and in addition, furnish all of their meals. Sandys admitted with evident regret that the planters in Virginia were so much absorbed in erecting houses and planting tobacco, that they showed no interest in silk culture.2

The effort to manufacture wine in the Colony began as early as the attempt to produce silk, and was, as in the instance of silk, prompted by a desire on the part of the English people to escape the heavy charges imposed by foreign importations. During the brief period of Smith’s residence in Virginia, the abundance of the wild grapes in the natural hedges had led the colonists to convert this fruit into wine, although the appliances in possession of the settlers for doing so must have been of the rudest nature. On a later occasion, a quantity, amounting to twenty gallons at least, was manufactured, and it was thought to resemble the French wines in flavor.3 Francis Maguel, who was in the Colony in 1609, declared that the wines expressed from the grapes of Virginia reminded

1 George Sandys to John Ferrer, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 27; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 89, Va. State Library. These worms had very probably been raised from the eighty ounces of seed which the Company had sent to Virginia in September, 1622. See Declaration of the Present State of Virginia, Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 149.

2 Letter of George Sandys to Samuel Wrote, March 28, 1623, Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, pp. 127, 128.

3 Strachey’s Historie of Travaile into Virginia, p. 120.


him of the Alicante which he had drunk in Spain.1 The poor returns from the experiments of Delaware and Dale do not appear to have discouraged the Company in England. In 1619, they dispatched to Virginia several French vine-dressers with many slips of the finest vines that Europe afforded. These vine-dressers reported that the grapes of the Colony far excelled those of their native Languedoc, not only in abundance but also in variety; that the fruitage of one variety was so large that they refused to believe that it was the grape until they had opened the skin and examined the contents; and that they had planted their cuttings at Michaelmas, and obtained grapes from them in the following spring.2

The Assembly of 1619 showed as much solicitude in encouraging the cultivation of the vine as of the mulberry tree; every householder was compelled by law to plant ten cuttings and to protect them from injury, and at the same time was expected to acquire the art of dressing a vineyard, either by special instruction, or by personal observation.3 The Company was so much interested in the promotion of vine culture, that marked favor was shown to all who undertook it with zealousness. Mr. Whitaker, a leading planter, was so energetic in advancing this as well as other measures of great benefit to the Colony, that it was promised that two servants should be sent him, the most valuable gift which could be made at this time. The Governor of Virginia had already bestowed upon him a reward in the shape

1 Report of Francis Maguel, 1610, Spanish Archives, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 395.

2 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 107.

3 Lawes of Assembly, 1619, British State Papers, vol. I, No. 45; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 22.


of tobacco, and this present was heartily approved of by the Company.1 Under the impulse thus given, vineyards were established containing as many as ten thousand plants.2

The specimens of wine sent to England reached that country, so far as recorded, in a very damaged condition, and were described as having been a scandal rather than a credit to the Colony. The faults of the wine were attributed at the time to the defective manner in which it was manufactured.3 The failure of the industry at this period was by some laid at the door of the vine-dressers, who were thought to have concealed their knowledge because they were worked as slaves. This was a merely fanciful explanation.4 Captain Butler, who visited Virginia in 1622, declared that the efforts of the Company to introduce the vine and the silk-worm into the Colony were regarded with derision by the planters, and that the pamphlets published in England to give them information in their pursuit of these industries were laughed to scorn. These statements were emphatically denied, and, the failure of wine and silk culture was attributed to the great massacre, an event which was especially destructive to the vineyards, as they had to be abandoned to the incursions of deer when the settlements were reduced in number.5 That the assertions of Butler

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 136.

2 Discourse of the Old Company, British State Papers, vol. III, 40. See Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 159.

3 London Company to Governor and Council of Virginia, June 10, 1622, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 303. This letter shows that only one cask was, on this occasion, sent to England,—a “taste,” as it was elsewhere described. Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 168.

4 Virginia Richly Valued, p. 17, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

5 Unmasking of our Colony in Virginia, Abstracts of Proceedings [footnote continues on p. 247] of the Virginia Club of London, vol. II, p. 171. For the Answer, see Ibid., pp. 178, 179.


were substantially correct is proved by the statement already quoted, of George Sandys as to the indifference of the planters to these commodities. Sandys seems to have made the same effort after the massacre to revive the culture of the grape as he had done to revive the culture of silk, and in this he was supported by the Assembly, a law being passed in 1623, that for every four men in the Colony a garden should be laid off to be planted in part in vines.1

The Frenchmen who were imported into Virginia to superintend the establishment of the vineyards and the manufacture of wine, undertook to test the adaptability of the soil to rice. At the same time, Mr. Gookin, who had settled at Newport’s News, planted cotton, which soon grew as large in girth as the arm of a man, and tall as a man’s figure.2 It was partly his success, and partly the success of others, that led the Governor and Council in March, 1622, to write to the Company in England that they had reason to indulge great hope as to the culture of this staple in the Colony.2 Not only had the cotton tree, as it was called, of the West Indies been transferred to Virginia, but seeds obtained from the East had also been planted, and they had sprung up and flourished. An attempt was also made to cultivate indigo, but this came to nothing from the ignorance of the colonists as to the proper manner of curing it.4

1 Lawes and Orders of Assembly, Feb. 16, 1623, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 9; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 97, Va. State Library.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 565.

3 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 168.

4 Purchas’ Pilgrimes, vol. IV, pp. 1784, 1786.


The number of cattle in Virginia in 1620 was thought to be five hundred at least. The native breed at this time was pronounced by one observer to be much larger than the English stock from which they sprang, but this was probably an exaggeration, as the lack of provision in winter, which at a later period did so much to diminish the size of all domestic animals, must have had a perceptible effect even at this early day. A majority of the cattle in the Colony in 1620, however, were derived very recently from European blood, and therefore had not long been exposed to the influences that were to stunt the bodies of their descendants. The description of the native horses is fully in keeping with the character of the Virginian stock of a later age; they are said, with some exaggeration probably, to have been, at this time, more beautiful in form and more active in spirit than the English animal.1

The Company showed the strongest desire to increase the number of live stock in the Colony. In 1619, Sir Edwin Sandys proposed at a quarter court that twenty heifers should be sent over for every one hundred tenants exported. This would have amounted in that year alone to sixty head. The charge for conveying cattle to Virginia was very heavy. It was suggested that the expense might be materially reduced by entering into a contract with the shipping employed in the Northern fisheries. The sum necessary for the purchase of a heifer, and to meet the cost of her transportation, was ten pounds sterling, representing approximately two hundred and fifty dollars in the currency of the United States. At this time it required only the expenditure of two pounds sterling less to convey a heifer to Virginia than a man. In February,

1 Declaration of the State of the Colonie, 1620, p. 5, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


1619, the ship Tryal set out with sixty kine on board, and in the same month the Faulcon sailed, having fifty-two kine and four mares as a part of her cargo; of the one hundred and two animals sent in these vessels, ten died on the voyage, but the original number was made up by the birth of ten calves during the same length of time. At a meeting of the Company, July 7, 1620, it was proposed to transport to Virginia one hundred kine for the use of the tenants who then expected to go over, and one hundred more to be distributed among the planters who had recently arrived in the Colony. Four hundred goats were to be obtained from Wales and eighty asses from France, and these, with twenty mares, were also to be forwarded; the charge to be made for the goats was stated to be three pounds and ten shillings a head; for the asses, seven pounds and ten shillings; and for the mares, fifteen pounds sterling.1

One of the persons contracting with the Company at this time to transport cattle to Virginia was Thomas Wood, who was disposed to complain because that body declined to pay him more than eleven pounds sterling for each cow delivered in the Colony, and three pounds and ten shillings for each female goat. He was not to receive these sums until he could present a certificate from the Governor in proof that he had performed his part of the agreement. The original rate had been twelve pounds for each cow, the lowest that would not in his opinion entail a loss. It was carefully stipulated that the cattle should be fine and sprung from English breeds.2 Special

1 For these particulars, see Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 23, 66, 83, 87. For prices of cows, heifers, etc., in England at this time, see Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, pp. 333, 334.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 96. Wood seems to have been the agent of Gookin in these contracts [footnote continues on p. 249] as to cattle. See extracts from the Company’s proceedings, printed in Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 196.


privileges were granted to Mr. Gookin for transporting cows and female goats to Virginia. Under ordinary circumstances, any one who conveyed cattle thither and exchanged them for the commodities of the country had to accept these commodities at the rates which the Company prescribed; Mr. Gookin was exempted from the operation of this regulation, being permitted to barter at such prices as were satisfactory to himself. As soon as the Company were informed that his first cargo of live stock had arrived in safety, they addressed him a letter in which they offered one hundred pounds of tobacco for every head of cattle that any person should import into the Colony.1

The successful contract with Mr. Gookin seems to have been the beginning of an important trade in cattle between Ireland and Virginia.2 This trade was threatened by the royal order issued in 1621, that all the tobacco produced in the Colony should be brought to the mother country first, even when the intention was to dispose of it elsewhere, the object of this order being to secure the customs on the leaf which the planters were at this time offering for sale in Holland, as England did not furnish a sufficient market. The order also touched the exchange of tobacco in Ireland for the cattle and other necessaries that the people of Virginia were now procuring from that

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 133, 168.

2 In the time of James the First, a large proportion of the surface of Ireland was converted into pasture land, on which an enormous number of neat cattle were raised. It was calculated that in the year 1620 one hundred thousand head were imported into England alone, where they were sold at rates ranging from forty to sixty pounds sterling apiece. Cunningham’s Growth of English Industry and Commerce, p. 139.


country.1 This trade, however, was not as much affected as the Company anticipated. In the following year, several Irish gentlemen are found inquiring as to the rates at which they would be permitted to sell cattle in the Colony, and were informed that for every heifer they landed there in sound condition, they would receive eleven pounds sterling, or one hundred and thirty pounds of tobacco at their option. This was on the whole a fair price.2 Only female cattle appear to have been imported at this time, there being a sufficient number of steers and bullocks in Virginia to serve the few purposes for which they were required. A cow was now valued in the Colony at fifteen pounds sterling.3

It is hardly possible that half a dozen ploughs were now going in Virginia in spite of the previous attempt of the Company to secure plough-wrights by public advertisement. The need for them had, however, increased, and in consequence, a request was forwarded to England by the Cape Merchant that the want should be supplied, either by sending over the implements themselves, or persons capable of manufacturing them.4 John Rolfe complained that there was not a carpenter in the Colony who could build a cart or make a plough, and that even if carts and ploughs had been numerous, there were lacking men skilful in their use, and informed as to how to train cattle to draw them.5

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 143.

2 Ibid., p. 169.

3 Certificate of Thomas Gibbs and Samuel Wrote, British State Papers, Colonial, No. 5, July 2, 1629; McDonald Papers, vol. II, p. 13, Va. State Library.

4 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 13.

5 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 541.


The close of Governor Yeardley’s administration found every section of the planters, who now numbered two thousand persons,1 in the full enjoyment of the various fruits of their skill and industry. The plenty of these times, following so closely on the dearth and confusion in which Argoll had plunged the Colony, was long remembered. It is stated by one observer of that age, that no happier people were to be found than the population of Virginia at this particular period, the quantity of provisions of all kinds being so great, that every man gave free entertainment to his friends and to strangers.2 The planters had now an abundance of grain, peas, beans, turnips, radish, parsley, onions, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips, thyme, savory, hyssop, and lettuce. It was at this time that a second test was made of the adaptability of the soil to such West Indian fruits as figs, lemons, almonds, pomegranates, olives, ginger, sugar-cane, plantains, cassada, and prickly-pears, and some of them probably came to perfection.3 Wherever land had been recently stripped of woods, it produced, in

1 Discourse of the Old Company, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 40. See also Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 159.

2 “Briefe Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia,” etc., British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 81. See also Discourse of Old Company, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 159.

3 Purchas’ Pilgrimes, vol. IV, pp. 1785, 1786. “Briefe Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia,” etc., British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 21, I; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 82; Nova Britannia, p. 22, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. I. See letter of Governor Butler of Bermuda written to Sir George Yeardley in Virginia in December, 1621, Hakluyt Society Publications for 1882. This letter is printed in full in Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 28. See also Works of Capt. John Smith, pp. 682, 683. It is stated here that in 1622, two thousand pounds of potatoes, among other things, were shipped to Virginia.


spite of the primitive methods of tillage then prevailing, seven or eight barrels of corn in addition to a barrel of peas and beans, two unusually nourishing vegetables. It was thought by Rolfe, that an industrious man whose attention was not diverted from his work by other occupations, could tend, without imposing too far on his strength, four acres of maize and one thousand tobacco plants. According to the same authority, one man could provide grain sufficient for five men and apparel for two, by the profit which he would derive from the sale of his tobacco.1 At this time two active laborers could produce a crop of the latter commodity worth fifty pounds sterling in the English market. Richard Brewster claimed that in one year he had, with the assistance of three men, secured two thousand eight hundred pounds of tobacco and one hundred bushels of grain. William Capps had been still more successful. Three boys in his service had produced three hundred pounds of tobacco and one hundred and eleven barrels of Indian corn, without receiving aid from himself.2 It was not until the administration of Yeardley that any striking innovation was made in the manner of curing the tobacco after it had been removed from the stalk. Doubtless the earliest method, which consisted of throwing the leaves together in a heap, appeared even to the inexperienced planters to allow room for great improvement.

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 541.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, pp. 262, 263. The author of Virginia Richly Valued, writing at a later period, said: “The native corn of the Country, maiz, is so gratefull to the planter that it returneth him his entrusted seed with the increase of 2 or 3 hundred interest, so facilely planted that one man in 48 hours may prepare as much ground and set such a quantity of come that he may be secure from want of Bread all the yeare following, though he should have never so large an appetite to consume it and having nothing else to live upon.” P. 12, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


Seven years after the original experiment of Rolfe, a Mr. Lambert introduced the plan of stringing the leaves upon lines, this being the first step in the evolution of the tobacco stick so well known to all familiar with the culture of the plant in the present age.1 Tobacco-houses were now erected. Among the buildings burned down by the Indians in the massacre of 1622, was a house of this kind at Mr. Harrison’s, and this was probably not the only structure of the same character destroyed on this occasion.2 Tobacco now was in part, at least, shipped in rolls weighing many pounds.3 In the Flying Horse of Flushing, which reached England from Virginia in 1615, there was one roll containing as much as one hundred and five pounds of tobacco, and this was doubtless not exceptional as long as the crops of the planters were purchased by the Cape Merchant.4 To him as the custodian of the magazine, it was always presented in the leaf, one of the provisions adopted by the Assembly in 1619 being that it should

1 Randolph MSS., vol. III, p. 142. In 1620, Mr. Henry Palmer is said to have brought to the attention of the Company a new plan for curing tobacco. The character of this plan is not now known. See MS. of the Minutes of the Virginia Company of London, in the Library of Congress, vol. I, p. 119. Mr. William G. Stanard, who has an unequalled knowledge of many branches of Virginian history, gives some details of Mr. Lambert’s life in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. II, p. 421.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 576.

3 In 1618, the authorities of the Company in England received permission to sell by the candle one thousand pounds of tobacco transported from the Bermudas in the form of rolls. See Court Minutes of the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 304. In 1621, the Company is found writing to the Governor and Council in Virginia as follows: “Being sensible of the great losse the Adventurers still sustaineth by your roule tobacco made up with fillers, (as the term is) order throughout the Collony that they may be provided to exchange with our Cape Merchant, etc.” Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 238.

4 Delaware MSS., Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 772.


not only be aired before it was brought to the magazine, but all that was shown to be very mean in quality when offered in exchange should be burnt. This was the institution of the first general inspection law in Virginia, a measure which was especially necessary in that age, when from the inexperience of many of the planters, men who had not been long in the Colony, so much of the tobacco was of the most indifferent character.1 The law prescribed only two grades, but it is interesting to note that the roll which reached England in 1615, in the Flying Horse, was described as “middling,” but this term may have been applied to the second grade. The scope of the inspection law of 1619 was, in 1623, extended by the appointment of sworn men in each settlement to condemn all bad tobacco.2 The method used in disposing of the leaf in the English market at this time was by the candle, and the same was perhaps adopted in Virginia in some cases, after the abolition of the magazine.

There were a number of reasons which gave tobacco a superiority over all the other commodities of Virginia, and rendered ultimately abortive every effort to divert the attention of the planters to the production of maize and wheat, wine and silk. The general economic tendencies of a people are never founded upon mere wilfulness, but upon a just appreciation of their immediate interests as controlled by their physical surroundings. First of all,—and from a material point of view, this was sufficient in itself if tobacco could be cultivated as cheaply as any other crop,—it commanded proportionately to weight a higher price in the markets of England and Holland.

1 Lawes of Assembly, 1619, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. I, No. 45; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 24.

2 Lawes and Orders of Assembly, Feb. 16, 1623, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 9; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p. 98, Va. State Library.


When Captain Smith was examined by the royal commissioners at the time the question of repealing the charter of the Company was agitated, he was asked to explain why it was that the Colony, in spite of the fertility of its soil and the variety of its natural products, exported but one commodity. His reply was a significant one. The reason, he declared in substance, was, that grain only brought two shillings and six pence a bushel, while tobacco brought three shillings a pound. A man’s labor in tobacco was calculated to be worth as much as sixty pounds, but in grain it was worth only ten.1 Sandys held precisely the same views, the neglect of all commodities but tobacco being in his opinion directly traceable, certainly as long as the magazine price of three shillings was approved by the Company, to the high rate at which it was sold.2 If the same price had been fixed upon a bushel of grain, equal industry would have been shown in its production. That, however, was impracticable, because the rate allowed in Virginia was governed by the value of the article in England. An arbitrary price might be established for a time, but would fall through after an interval, for the reason that no merchant would be willing to exchange his goods for any product at a figure ensuring a heavy loss when this product was thrown upon the English market for sale. In January, 1621-1622, the General Assembly proposed that the Company should assess grain in Virginia at seven shillings a bushel, and should purchase it at this price either with bills of exchange on England, or with commodities to be delivered in the Colony at a profit of only twenty-five per cent. Such a policy would have been

1 Answer to the Commissioners’ Questions, 1624, Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 615; see also p. 565.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 124.


ruinous to the Company if the returns in England alone were considered.1 In January, 1621, the year in which the proposition of the Assembly was made, the value of wheat in the mother country was forty-one shillings a quarter, or five shillings a bushel. Fifty shillings a quarter, or six shillings a bushel for grain, exceeded the average rate during the period covered by the Company’s administration in Virginia. In 1619 and 1620, the two years preceding the date of the General Assembly’s proposition, the price of wheat in England was only twenty-five shillings a quarter, or three shillings a bushel. With the exception of the year 1622, when it rose to fifty shillings, it did not advance beyond forty-eight shillings a quarter, or six shillings a bushel. From 1606 to 1624, the average value of wheat in England was only five shillings a bushel.2 It will be seen from these English rates that the loss of the Company, if they had decided to import grain from Virginia, would always have been equal to two shillings a bushel, and in some years it would have risen above this sum. In this computation, the customs as well as the cost of transporting the wheat or maize have been omitted from consideration. The charge on a ton of goods imported into Virginia from the mother country was placed at three pounds sterling,3 and the freight could not have been less than this amount on commodities shipped to England from the Colony, whether conveyed in the vessels of the Company or not.4 The clear loss, therefore, which that Corporation

1 Neill’s Virginia Company of London, pp. 282, 283. The Assembly was evidently not looking to the exportation of the grain.

2 See tables in Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, pp. 268-270.

3 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 617. See also Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 116.

4 The freight charge on wheat by the ton in 1640 was three pounds sterling. Bullock’s Virginia, p. 40. It was not less twenty years earlier.


would have incurred in sending to London a ton of grain, purchased at the rate of seven shillings a bushel, would have been very near to eighty-nine shillings. No association or individual could afford for any length of time to continue an importation entailing such an enormous deficit, which in this instance would have been further increased by the shrinkage of the grain and the payment of customs. The highest price which the Company could have given for a bushel of wheat or maize in Virginia, with the assurance of a moderate gain in selling it in England, after allowing for all the fixed and incidental charges, was not over three shillings, or about three dollars and sixty cents in our modern currency. It was not possible for grain to have been cultivated in the Colony at this rate of expense and then sold at a profit.

If the dependence of the people for the supplies furnished by the mother country had rested upon wheat, the Colony would not have survived the period of infancy. Several reasons may be advanced in explanation of this. The rich mould of the new grounds was shown by actual test to be poorly adapted to this cereal, the strength of the plant being absorbed in the stalk. It came to perfection in fields which, from previous cultivation in maize and tobacco, had not only been reduced in fertility but also cleared of stumps, but the lack of manures would soon have made it impossible to continue the production in the same spots after the soil had been exhausted; it was, therefore, just as essential to enlarge the area sown in wheat as it was the area planted in tobacco, and this would have meant, if the former rather than the latter had been the only crop of the Colony, a more active struggle to destroy the forests because a much greater area was required for the cultivation of wheat. From year to year the process of opening new grounds would


have been more costly, because it would have been necessary to proceed more rapidly to secure new fields. If Virginia had been found by the first settlers to be a country as devoid of trees as a Western prairie, which was rendered impossible by the extreme humidity of the climate, the expense of producing wheat would have been smaller provided an adequate number of ploughs were available, but even under these circumstances, it is doubtful whether the landowners of the Colony would have been in a position to compete with the English farmer in supplying the English market, on account of the heavy charge for ocean transportation.1 Admitting that he could have done so successfully, the English Government would have anticipated by many years the imposition of the tax which, in 1651, was placed upon all grain imported into England, as a means of protecting domestic agriculture. Holland at this time was the greatest storehouse of food products in the world, being a purchaser from all civilized countries, and in a period of dearth supplying them from her own granaries with the very corn she had previously procured from them at much lower prices.2 If Virginia in the beginning had been able to dispose of wheat in the Dutch markets at a profit, the course of trade which would have arisen in consequence would have excited the disapproval of the English Government,

1 So far as I have been able to discover, there is hardly an instance of the exportation of grain from Virginia to England during the existence of the Company. It is recorded that “Sir George (Yeardley) with his Company went to Accomack (1622) to his new plantation, where he staied neere six weekes, some come he brought home, but as he adventured for himselfe he accordingly enjoyed the benefit.” Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 595. The expression “home,” which was the term usually applied to England by the colonists, was evidently intended here to mean Jamestown. The East India Company may have exported a small quantity. See opposite page.

2 Anderson’s History of Commerce, vol. II, p. 216.


on the ground that it not only diminished the English customs, but also weakened the dependence of the Colony on the mother country. This was the argument advanced at a later time in the case of tobacco, and it would under similar circumstances have been brought forward in the ease of wheat.

All the disadvantages involved in the destruction of the forest, the early exhaustion of the fertility of the soil, the inability to produce in great abundance, the fewness of implements and draught animals, the heavy expense of transportation and the lowness of prices, which would have prevented the adoption of wheat as the staple crop in the earliest years of colonial history, operated with equal force in the case of maize. In addition to these drawbacks, this grain had a still more serious obstacle to overcome before it could find an introduction into the markets of either England or Holland. Unlike wheat, it was, previous to the discovery of America, unknown to the people of Europe, and although not inferior in quality to the rye and barley used as food by the European peasantry, was rejected by the prejudices of this conservative class. The only foreign commendation maize appears to have received in the time of the London Company was in 1618 from the East India Corporation, which described it as being more excellently adapted for consumption by seamen than beef, because more wholesome. This testimony was probably not altogether impartial, as this company was anxious to promote the success of the Virginian enterprise.1 Indian corn has never acquired extensive popularity abroad, although with the cheapened transportation of our own times, it has been put within reach of the most indigent European laborers at the same price at which they are able to purchase the grains upon

1 Minute Book East India Company, p. 306.


which they have always relied for food.1 In the early part of the seventeenth century, the distaste for it in Europe was likely to have been very much greater than it is now. An examination of the annals of the first decades in the history of Virginia reveals the fact that the settlers, instead of being in a position to export maize or wheat, were constantly in need of both for their own subsistence, and very frequently, even at a much later period, failed to have an adequate supply. This arose in part from negligence, and in part from the dangers of the times and the obstructions to cultivation.

It is quite plain that neither the soil nor the climate of Virginia was adapted to the production of rice or cotton in the perfection that would have ensured in either crop a support for the colonists. And a practical test revealed with equal clearness that reliance could not be placed upon the vine or the silk-worm; both were tried with all the aids to success which the power of the London Company could supply, and both ended in failure. Tobacco had a great advantage over all the other agricultural products of Virginia in the fact that it could be produced in larger quantities to the acre. This was of supreme importance in a country where so much labor and patience were required to clear the ground of its primæval growth in preparation for planting or sowing. Tobacco, moreover, could be shipped to England in more valuable bulk to the space than any other agricultural product. As a result of this circumstance, the pecuniary return upon a cargo of it was larger than upon a cargo of any other commodity of the same general nature in proportion to the expense of transportation for so great a distance.

1 See the interesting paper by Mr. Charles J. Murphy: “The Introduction of Maize into Europe,” published in the “Report on the Use of Maize in Europe,” U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, 1891.


Tradition and habit doubtless brought to bear a strong influence in the subsequent history of Virginia to promote the cultivation of tobacco, but in the beginning it was an economic necessity, and in no small degree it continued to be such. If the climate and soil had been unsuitable to the growth of the plant, the advance of the Colony in the beginning would have been slower, confirming the remark of Lord Bacon, that a plantation should not be expected to become self-sustaining until a generation, or even a longer period of time had elapsed. In tobacco, the infant community found a product which was increasing in demand among the people of England as well as of the continent. As already stated, it was computed in 1613, that not less than two hundred thousand pounds sterling were spent by the former in the consumption of the leaf, a sum which in our modern currency perhaps amounted in purchasing power to five millions of dollars; ten years later the consumption must have been very much larger.

As it was impossible, for the different reasons which have been given, for Indian corn or wheat, rice or cotton, the silk-worm or the grape, to become in the beginning a profitable substitute for tobacco, so it was impossible for any other of the commodities not purely agricultural, produced in Virginia, to be made that basis of growth which was found in tobacco almost on the threshold of the history of the Colony. In 1610, the Company in London, bearing in mind one of the principal objects for which the new settlement had been established, that is, to supply the people of England with many, if not all of the articles they were compelled at that time to import from abroad, instructed the authorities in Virginia to return to the mother country the following: sassafras roots, bayberries, puccoon, galbrand, sarsaparilla, walnut


oil, beaver cod, oak and walnut trees, pines, pitch and tar, sturgeon, caviare and sounds for isinglass.1 A brief examination of this list of commodities will show that however important as subordinate productions they might become when the Colony was no longer struggling with all the drawbacks of being situated in a remote wilderness inhabited by hostile savages, it was too much to expect that any one or all of these articles taken together would furnish the subsistence which tobacco supplied. Some were not procurable in sufficient quantities, while others were too bulky to leave a profit after transportation to England, and for none were there opportunities for sale that would enlarge as the amount exported increased. Sassafras was most in demand, but care had to be taken even in the ease of sassafras not to overstock the English market, which could easily happen by the introduction of a considerable quantity.2

In spite of the expense of removing the forest, the distance to market, the fluctuating value of the leaf, and the various revenue exactions to which it was subjected, the volume of tobacco produced in Virginia continued to increase. In 1619, twenty thousand pounds were exported;

1 Virginia Commodities, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, pp. 384, 385. The valuations, of the different products of Virginia in 1621 will be found in Virginia Richly Valued, p. 51, Force’s: Historical Tracts, vol. III. A few may be given:—Iron, £10 a ton; silk-grass for cordage, 6d. a pound; hemp, 10s. to 22s. per 100 lbs.; flax, from 22s. to 30s. per 100 lbs.; cotton, 8d. per lb.; pitch, 5s. per 100 lbs.; tar, 5s. ditto; turpentine, 12s. ditto; salt, 30s. ditto; sarsaparilla, 5s. ditto; masts for shipping, 10s. to £3 apiece; pot ashes, 35s. per 100 lbs.; pipe staves, £4 per 1000; walnut oil, £12 a ton; honey, 2s. a gallon; wax, £4 per 100 lbs.; sumac, 7s. per 100 lbs. Certain valuations were also placed on the skins of the sable, otter, marten, wild-cat, fox, musk-rat, and beaver.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 100. See also Letter of the Council of Virginia to Council in England, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 107.


in 1620, the Company alone shipped forty thousand; in 1622, sixty thousand pounds were sent out, although it was in this year that the area under cultivation was narrowed in consequence of the massacre.1 The quality of the tobacco in general, notwithstanding the law requiring the destruction of the lowest grade, was very mean, although it was provided that only one thousand plants should be permitted to each head, and that the leaves of each plant should not exceed nine in number.2 The most valuable sorts at this period were sold for two shillings a pound, while the price of the least valuable was eighteen pence, this depression being due to the large quantity exported and to the unreasonable exactions of the reigning monarch, James the First, who claimed as among his royal prerogatives the right to lay charges on all colonial imports. His whole policy, previous to 1624, was to reduce the importance of Virginian tobacco. In this he was influenced by a number of motives, the most powerful of which perhaps was the desire to ingratiate himself with Spain, and to further his design of a match between his son and the Spanish Infanta. It is a question, also, as to how far this pusillanimous monarch was influenced by his timidity in leaving an open market in England to Spanish tobacco. Knowing that the Spanish Power regarded with the utmost jealousy the settlements on the Powhatan, he probably feared lest this feeling would grow more aggressive if the Virginian planters were permitted to drive the planters of the West Indies from the English market entirely. The policy of the English King was directly the reverse of the policy of the Spanish, who suffered no foreign rival in his own dominion

1 Governor and Council of Virginia to London Company, Jan. 20, 1622-23, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 371.

2 Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 565. It was calculated that this number would assure about 112 lbs. of tobacco to each person.


to obstruct the introduction of tobacco from his American possessions.1 The whole object of James was to lay such charges on the importation of that commodity from Virginia, as to place it at a serious disadvantage in its competition with the Spanish product, which was already severe in consequence of the public belief that the Spanish leaf was superior in quality to the Virginian. His repeated remonstrance with the colonists for their absorption in the cultivation of tobacco, had its origin less in a statesmanlike conception of the greater benefit which might accrue to them from the full development of all the natural sources of wealth in the new plantation, a consideration which undoubtedly had weight with him, than in the determination to cripple a formidable rival of Spain in the marts of England.2 In 1621, he issued a proclamation restricting the crop to be exported from Virginia and the Somers Isles3 to fifty-five thousand pounds. The hard character of the measure appears from the fact that the importation of the Virginian leaf during the previous year had amounted to forty thousand pounds.

The clamor which this restriction excited discloses the continued dependence of the Virginians of this period upon tobacco, in spite of the efforts that the Company had made to diversify the industries of the Colony. They declared that it was the only commodity they had been able to produce which brought them sufficient returns to supply themselves and their families with apparel and other necessaries of life. If the King insisted upon suppressing

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 124.

2 It should be borne in mind in favor of James I that he was disposed to keep steadily in view the real purposes which led to the colonization of Virginia. In these purposes, as we have seen, the production of tobacco had no part.

3 The Bermudas.


and prohibiting the trade, they would be compelled to abandon the country or perish. The detriment to the royal treasury which would result from this necessity was obvious.1 To this petition the King gave no heed at the time. On the contrary, he caused the provisions of his proclamation to fall all the more heavily on the shoulders of his subjects in Virginia, by granting the customs upon tobacco to a small association of farmers of the revenue, and in the following year to a single individual. Both association and individual proceeded so injuriously against the interests of the London and Somers Isles Companies, that these Companies offered a vigorous protest to the King, who, in a dilatory though characteristic fashion, made them liberal promises, but took no steps to conform to their wishes. A remonstrance was then introduced into the House of Commons, but nothing was accomplished by this, although the House was in sympathy with its object. So strong was the feeling of the London Company, that they presented Mr. Bennett with the freedom of their body because he had written a treatise urging that the importation of Spanish tobacco into England should be strictly prohibited.2 Despairing of moving the King, an agreement was entered into by the two corporations, by which the whole of the fifty-five thousand pounds of tobacco to which the two colonies were limited, was to be imported by the Somers Isles Company, the London Company deciding to transport their tobacco to Holland. Warehouses were established by them at Flushing and Middleburg. Arthur Swain, a merchant of high reputation for character and judgment, was, with special instructions for

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 117.

2 Ibid., vol. I, p. 110.


his guidance, appointed their factor in the Low Countries; he was to be allowed in remuneration for his trouble and responsibility, as the consignee of the cargoes sent over from Virginia, a commission of two shillings in the pound sterling on the returns from the sales.1 The impost enforced by the Dutch was half a penny for each pound of tobacco.2 In 1621, the Duty and Bonanova arrived in England from Virginia, the one coming to anchor in the Downs, the other at the Isle of Wight. The Bonanova alone had on board a cargo amounting to forty or fifty thousand pounds in weight. The Duty was commanded by the Company to set sail for Flushing, the Bonanova for Middleburg. These vessels proceeded to their several destinations, where they were received by the factor, and their contents, after the charge for freight was collected, delivered according to the direction of the invoices.3

The action of the Company in transporting this tobacco to Holland giving rise to complaint on the part of some of the members of that body, led to a protest by the Privy Council, and finally to an order that all tobacco exported from Virginia should be brought to England first, whether intended for continental consumption or not.4 The object of this order was to secure the payment of customs.5 It was not to go into effect for several months, so that, in the interval, information as to its passage might reach the factor of the Company in the Low Countries.6 The injunction was disregarded, ships from

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 124.

2 Ibid., p. 94.

3 Ibid., pp. 124, 133, 134.

4 October 24, 1621.

5 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 126.

6 Order of the Privy Council, Colonial Entry Book, vol. 70, pp. 201-2; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1621; p. 43, Va. State Library.


Virginia as well as from the Somers Isles, in 1622, disposing of their cargoes of tobacco in Holland, on which account the Privy Council instructed the officers in the two Colonies to impose a heavy fine upon the owners.1

The loss which would have fallen upon the royal revenue by a permanent diversion of even a part of the annual tobacco crop of Virginia to Holland, would have increased with the progress of time. In the letters patent of 1609, the King had granted to the London Company exemption, during twenty-one years, from every form of custom and subsidy in excess of five per cent upon such commodities and merchandise as were imported into England, but the grant of this privilege was altogether disregarded, and in a manner giving a marked advantage to the Spanish importers. The highest grades of the Spanish leaf were sold in London at the rate of eighteen shillings a pound, while the Virginian leaf, which, previous to 1620, had never brought more than five shillings in the highest grades, and which in 1621 sank to two shillings, maintained in the superior grades a general average of only three shillings.2 The farmers of the customs, instead of laying charges upon the products of the two countries without respect to each other, massed the imported tobaccos of the Spanish and Virginian Colonies, and reduced them to an average of ten shillings a pound, upon which a duty of sixpence was levied, to the great injury of the planters in Virginia.3

1 Order of the Privy Council, Colonial Entry Book, vol. 70, p. 203; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1622, p. 80, Va. State Library. It is interesting to find, as an evidence of the evasion of this injunction, that in a petition presented to the Privy Council in 1629, one Rossingham states that in 1622, 1623, and 1624 he was the agent of Sir George Yeardley in Holland in the sale of the latter’s tobacco. Colonial Papers, vol. V No. 15, I.

2 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 30-35.

3 Ibid., pp. 30, 31.


The diversion of the tobacco of the Colony to Holland was, in spite of the determined opposition of the royal authority, considered at the time to be entirely consonant with the immemorial privileges of men of English heritage. Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the firmest and most sagacious members of the Company, practically denied that the King had any authority whatever to assume control over the action of the individual planters, or the private associations in disposing of their annual crop, although he admitted that the right of the sovereign to order that all of the commodities in possession of the Company, whether produced on the Company’s lands or purchased by it from the planters, should be brought to England, and there be made subject to existing customs, was founded upon a basis that might be considered tenable.1 Even this, however, was held to be unconstitutional by many, on the ground that although the Company owed its existence to the royal charter, yet there were certain prerogatives which the corporation possessed, as a body of free-born Englishmen, which not even the King could suspend, curtail, or destroy, either permanently or for a time. The planters and the societies were entirely disconnected from the Company, and held their estates under the same general laws governing the tenures of the landowners in England. The greatest part of the tobacco produced in Virginia at this time belonged to them, the larger quantity of which they sold to the owners of ships not sailing directly to England. They claimed as inherent the right to dispose of their commodities to the highest bidder; and to interfere with this right, common to Englishmen everywhere, would be a mere exercise of arbitrary power.2

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 143; vol. II, pp. 124, 128, 130.

2 See charter of 1606.


The dispute between James and the Company as to the amount of tobacco which Virginia should be allowed to import into England, and the charges that should be imposed on it, were settled by a contract between the two in 1622, this contract being accepted by the Company as the most favorable they could secure. Under the provisions of this agreement, they were to enjoy the right of sole importation, with the exception that for two years sixty thousand pounds of Spanish leaf were to be admitted annually. The King was to have an absolute property in one-third of the quantity brought in, and a duty of sixpence on the remaining two-thirds. One of the clauses of the agreement provided, that James should prohibit the cultivation of tobacco in England and Ireland, and that all that was produced there after the ratification of this contract should be confiscated.1 It is an interesting fact that as early as the year 1615, a pamphlet was issued in England setting forth the proper methods to be followed in planting in English soil;2 the information which it gave seems to have been used, since in 1619, only four years later, the amount of tobacco of English growth was so large that the price of the leaf imported from Virginia was depressed by it.3 In the spring of the

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 215.

2 An Advice how to Plant Tobacco, Brown’s Genesis of the United States, p. 772.

3 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 32. In a letter from Lord Treasurer Cranfield to the Marquis of Buckingham, dated “Chelsey July 21, 1621,” we find the following: “The king’s rent of £15,500 for tobacco is in danger to be lost or at best to decline much, and all the money spent about the plantations of Virginia and Burmothes will be lost, if there be not some present course taken to restrain the planting of tobacco here in England.” A copy of this letter is printed in the appendix of Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 403.


following year, the King, in consideration of the consent of the Company to the imposition of a higher duty, issued his proclamation forbidding its production in England, but in spite of this prohibition it continued to be cultivated privately. The Company, in order to enforce the royal proclamation, went so far as to appoint an informer, or intelligencer, as he was called, whose duty it was to prefer charges against any one who within five miles of London was discovered to be planting, and if the informer extended his observation further, he was to be specially rewarded.1

The agreement between the King and the Company with reference to a sole importation, excepting sixty thousand pounds of Spanish tobacco, was found to be highly injurious to the welfare of the Colony, and in twelve months it was abandoned, the King returning to his former policy of exaction, from which no relief was obtained until 1624, when the prospect of the Spanish match becoming hopeless, and the Spanish power having perceptibly waned, he assumed a more conciliatory attitude towards Virginia.

In this interval the massacre of 1622 occurred, which at first seemed destined to destroy permanently the prosperity of Virginia. So much absorbed had the planters become in the cultivation of tobacco, that they presented the Indians with their firearms and employed them in hunting as substitutes for themselves. The massacre took place in March before the planting of

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 49, 51, 52. The name of the “intelligencer” selected was Henry Mansell. See Ibid., pp. 35, 36, for very striking evidence of how little confidence the Company placed in the good faith of the contemptible monarch who then occupied the throne. The noble spirit which animated the Company itself is set forth very eloquently in the passage beginning: “Notwithstanding these apprehended disasters, etc,” p. 147.


tobacco had begun, and was so deadly in character that a large number of the settlements, at that time extending at intervals from the Falls to Point Comfort, were practically effaced. The principal destruction, after that in human lives, was in horses, cows, hogs, goats, and poultry; with the exception of the rude houses which had been erected by the planters, these were the only forms of property the Indians found so early in the spring to make away with.1 As there were but small means of withdrawing the cattle which survived the murderous onslaught, they had to be left behind in every instance where the authorities required the abandonment of a plantation, and at once fell a prey to the savages or the wolves. The majority of those remaining in the settlements that continued to be occupied were brought to Jamestown and turned loose on the island, as offering a refuge in a measure protected from Indian attack, and also as furnishing excellent grazing.2

The colonists were now driven into Shirley Hundred, Fleur de Hundred, Jamestown and the plantation opposite, Kecoughtan, Newport’s News, Southampton Hundred, and the plantation of Mr. Samuel Jordan. In spite of the appalling experience through which they had passed in March, the attention of the survivors was bent upon their crops as soon as they had completed arrangements to ensure their safety. Accustomed to all the dangers of a new country, their hearts were not to be permanently depressed by disaster, however universal or destructive. Instead of seeking to avenge themselves at once upon

1 “Virginia Planters’ Answer to Butler’s Unmasking, etc,” Neill’s Virginia Company of London, pp. 400, 401. This paper is also printed in the Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 175.

2 Letter of the Governor and Council of Virginia, April, 1622, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 294.


their relentless enemies, as they might naturally have been expected to do when the bloody provocation is remembered, they quietly held themselves in check until the growing maize had attained a good height, and then fell upon the savages with terrible ferocity, carrying ruin and death into the villages, with gun and sword and brand, and ravaging their fields, so that the calamities of famine would fall upon the owners in the approaching season of winter. These sweeping measures cleared a wide area of country of its Indian inhabitants, leaving it to be gradually settled by an English population.1

In 1622, the year of the massacre, a large crop of tobacco was cut and a great quantity of grain reaped, but the latter was entirely consumed by the number of people who in that year were introduced into the Colony without any provision having been made for their support. The five months succeeding December, 1622, appear to have been the most trying that had intervened since the memorable Starving Time. By March, 1623, the price of a bushel of flour or meal had trebled. An epidemic, the seeds of which were brought into Virginia by the passengers who had come over in the crowded ships, broke out and spread through the plantations, attended by an appalling mortality. Five hundred persons are supposed to have died, leaving barely that number of survivors. Whether this calculation was accurate or not, the relative proportion of deaths was enormous.2 Into such depression were the planters thrown by these misfortunes that a proposition seems to have been favorably entertained

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, pp. 598, 599.

2 Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 39. “We lost more by the imediate hand of God than by the Treacherie of the Salvages,” the Governor and Council declared in their letter to the Company, written in January, 1623 (N. S.). See Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 367.


by many to retire to the Eastern Shore,1 of which a survey was made with that purpose in view. George Sandys, the Treasurer of the Colony, asserted that no such plan had been seriously considered,2 but the circumstances in which the people were placed, and the many advantages which the Eastern Shore had to offer, the fertility of its soil, the mildness of its climate, and the friendliness of the Indians living there, all would have united to justify the temporary withdrawal of the planters from their earliest seats.

As the spring of 1623 advanced, the high prices prevailing in the winter increased. A bushel of meal ranged from twenty to thirty shillings, which, reduced to the figures of our modern currency, amounted in purchasing value from twenty to thirty dollars; the cost of a hogs-head was about seventy pounds in English currency in the present age. The food was oatmeal, peas, and maize bread.3 The tenants attached to the public lands endured the greatest suffering, being unable to pay their rents, and in some instances, to earn a subsistence; many sank into hopeless melancholy and perished; others, in the pressing demand for food, left their crops to be choked by weeds and went in search of wild game.4 Later in the year ample relief was obtained from England, as many as fourteen ships sailing from the English ports between May

1 That is, across the Chesapeake Bay to the Accomac Peninsula.

2 George Sandys to Samuel Wrote, March 28, 1623. A copy of this letter will be found in Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, pp. 122-127. For the particular reference, see p. 126. See also Letter of Governor and Council of Virginia to London Company, Jan. 20, 1623 (N. S.), Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 367.

3 Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 41. See “Virginia Planters’ Answer to Butler’s Unmasking, etc.,” Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 398.

4 George Sandys to Sir Saml. Sandys, Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 39.


and November, 1623, to furnish supplies for the starving people in Virginia. A part of these supplies reached Jamestown in time to allow the colonists to plant a very large crop of tobacco.1

In the following year, in spite of massacre, famine, epidemics, and malicious assaults upon the reputation of the Colony, the different communities composing it gave unmistakable indications of prosperity. The planters now held no communication with the Indians, and in consequence relied upon themselves for obtaining everything which they needed. Each dwelling-house was carefully fortified by a palisade; every man possessed a firing piece, sword, rapier, and coat of mail, and when he entered his fields he carried arms in his hands, and the upper part of his body in front and behind was guarded by steel plates against the arrows of the lurking foe.2 The indisposition to plant Indian corn after the great massacre on account of the ambush which the thick array and heavy foliage of the stalks afforded to the savages was so strong,3 that a law, passed in 1623, with a view of removing all danger of a famine, required that a granary should be erected in every parish of the Colony, and that each male person above eighteen years of age should contribute to it one bushel of grain. A supplementary regulation was adopted by the same Assembly, providing for the appointment of a commission of three men, upon whom was imposed

1 Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 245. See letter of Dephebus Caune to John Delbridge, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 36; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 119, Va. State Library. See also “Accounts of Sums Subscribed, etc., for Relief of the Colony of Virginia,” British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 42; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1623, p. 133, Va. State Library.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 127.

3 Letter of Governor and Council of Virginia to Company, April, 1622, Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 296.


the duty of compelling the head of every family engaged in cultivating the ground, to plant grain sufficient to assure bread for those who were dependent on him.1 The Company in England was urged by the Governor and Council in Virginia to suffer no one to leave the mother country with the intention of settling in the Colony without a supply of grain that would last him for twelve months.2 In 1624, all planters who devoted a part of their lands to the culture of Indian corn were granted the privilege of selling it at the highest price which they could secure; previous to this it had been the custom of the Governor and Council to prescribe the exchangeable value of all the products, and whoever sought to evade the rules which they established in this respect exposed himself to a severe penalty.3 It was a significant indication of the progress made in the general affairs of Virginia that the old habit of imposing punishments as a means of promoting the production of grain had been abandoned for a time at least, and the policy of allowing an unobstructed sale adopted instead, a policy which the people of that age, however, were too unenlightened to put in universal operation. When the constant interferences of the authorities of those times with the natural laws of trade are recalled, it is not surprising that the growth of the Colony was impeded at every step, and that its prosperity only increased because the force behind it could not in the long run be repressed.

1 Laws and Orders of Assembly, Feb. 16, 1623, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 9; McDonald Papers, vol. I, pp. 97, 98, Va. State Library.

2 Neill’s Virginia Company of London, p. 297.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 125.

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