Hardship in First Twelve Years in Virginia Colony

It is startling what they had to go through. How did the churches fare?

The purpose of this account, approved of by the 1623/4 Assembly, and other accounts, often intercepted and censured, is to prove that Colony lived in great scarcity and distress so England and the Virginia Company would send supplies and relief. But the Governors told the investors back in England that the Colony was in great shape, so no more expenses for supplies were necessary.

Eventually, after much mismanagement by various Governors, “… free liberty was given to all men.”

Please see the shorter version, here:

Trouble in First Twelve Years of Virginia Colony.

Here is another related post:

How Bad Were Things in 1623/24 Virginia?

Or stay with this long post and enjoy the first-hand account!

The spelling and mechanics and punctuation of the text have been modernized, and some old words have been explained in brackets..

Long transcription begins, with no comments:

A Brief Declaration of the Plantation of Virginia during the first Twelve Years, When SIR THOMAS SMITH was Governor of the Company and down to this present time.

By the ancient planters now remaining alive in Virginia

WHEREAS in the beginning of SIR THOMAS SMITH’S twelve years government, it was published in print throughout the Kingdom of England that a Plantation should be settled in Virginia for the glory of God in the propagation of the Gospel of Christ, the conversion of the savages, to the honour of his Majesty, by the enlarging of his territories and future enriching of his kingdom,

For which respects many noble & well minded persons were induced to adventure great sums of money to the advancement of so pious and noble a work, who have from the very first been frustrate of their expectation, as we conceive, by the misgovernment of SIR THOMAS SMITH’S, aiming at nothing more than a particular gain, to be raised out of the labours of such as both voluntarily adventured themselves and were otherwise sent over at the common charge. This will clearly appear in the examination of the first expedition several supplies in the time of his government.

The first Plantation in Virginia consisted of one hundred persons, so slenderly provided for that before they had remained half a year in this new Colony they fell into extreme want, not having anything left to sustain them save [except] a little ill conditioned barley, which ground to meal and pottage made thereof, one small ladle full was allowed each person for a meal, without bread or aught else whatsoever, so that had not God, by his great providence, moved the Indians, then our utter enemies, to bring us relief, we had all utterly by famine perished. How unable so small a Company of people, so poorly sent over, were to make way for such as should follow, may easily be judged.

The first supply being two ships, the John & Francis and Phoenix, with one hundred and twenty persons, worse every way provided for them; the former, arrived here about eight or nine months after, … found the Colony consisting of no more than forty persons (of those) ten only able men, the rest at point of death, all utterly destitute of houses, not one as yet built, so that they lodged in cabins & holes within the ground; victuals they had none, save [except] some small relief from the Indians, as some yet living were feeling witnesses; neither were we for our future and better maintenance permitted to manure or till any ground, a thing in a new Plantation principally to be regarded, but were by the direction of SIR THOMAS SMITH, and his officers here, wholly employed in cutting down of masts, cedar, black walnut, clapboard, etc., and in digging gold ore (as some thought) which being sent for England proved dirt. These works to make return of present profit hindered others of more necessary consequence of Plantation.

After this first supply there were some few poor houses built, and entrance made in clearing of ground to the quantity of four acres for the whole Colony, hunger and sickness not permitting any great matters to be done that year.

The second supply was a ship the Mary Margett [Margaret] which arrived here nine months after, about the time of Michaelmas, in her sixty persons, most gentlemen, few or no tradesmen, except some Polanders to make pitch, tar, potashes, etc, to be returned. for present [immediate] gain, so meanly [deficiently] likewise were these furnished forth for victuals, that in less than two months after their arrival, want compelled us to employ our time abroad in trading with the Indians for corn;

Whereby though for a time we partly relieved our necessities, yet in May following we were forced (leaving a small guard of gentlemen some others about the president at JAMES TOWNE) to disperse the whole Colony, some amongst the savages but most to the Oyster Banks, where they lived upon oysters for the space of nine weeks, with the allowance only of a pint of Indian corn to each man for a week; and that allowance of corn continued to them but two weeks of the nine, which kind of feeding caused all our skins to peel off, from head to foot, as if we had been flayed.

By this time arrived CAPTAIN SAMUEL ARGALL in a small barque, with him neither supply of men nor victuals from the Company; but we understanding that he had some small provisions of bread and wine, more than would serve his own Company, required him and the master of the barque to remain ashore whilst we might bring his sails ashore the better to assure us of his ship and such provisions as could be spared, whereunto he seemed willingly to condescend.

Those provisions, at a small allowance of biscuit, cake, and a small measure of wine or beer to each person for a day somewhat relieved us for the space of a month;

At the end of which time arrived the third supply, called SIR THOMAS GATES’S fleet, which consisted of seven ships and near five hundred persons with whom a small proportion of victual, for such a number, was landed; houses few or none to entertain them, so that being quartered in the open field they fell upon that small quantity of corn, not being above seven acres, which we with great penury and sufferance had formerly planted, and in three days, at the most, wholly devoured it.

These numbers, thus meanly [deficiently] provided, not being able to subsist and live together were soon after divided into three parties and dispersed abroad for their better relief.

The first under command of CAPTAIN FRANCIS WEST to seat at the head of the River;

A second under command of CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH, the President, at JAMES TOWNE;

The other, with CAPT. JOHN MARTIN, in the River at Nansemond, which divisions gave occasions to the Indians treacherously to cut off divers [various] of our men and boats, and forced the rest at the end of six weeks, having spent those small provisions they had with them, to retire to JAMES TOWN and that in the depth of winter, when by reason of the cold, it was not possible for us to endure to wade in the water (as formerly) to gather oysters to satisfy our hungry stomachs, but constrained to dig in the ground for unwholesome roots whereof we were not able to get so many as would suffice us, in respect of the frost at that season and our poverty & weakness, so that famine compelled us wholly to devour those hogs, dogs & horses that were then in the Colony, together with rats, mice, snakes, or what vermin or carrion whatsoever we could light on, as also toadstools, Jews ears, or what else we found growing upon the ground that would fill either mouth or belly; and were driven through insufferable hunger unnaturally to eat those things which nature most abhorred, the flesh and excrements of man, as well of our own nation as of an Indian, dug by some out of his grave after he had laid buried three days & wholly devoured him; others, envying the better state of body of any whom hunger had not yet so much wasted as their own lay [in] wait and threatened to kill and eat them; one among the rest slew his wife as she slept in his bosom, cut her in pieces, powdered her and fed upon her till he had clean devoured all parts saving her head, and was for so barbarous an fact [sic] and cruelty justly executed. Some adventuring to seek relief in the woods, died as they fought it, and were eaten by others who found them dead. Many put themselves into the Indians hands, though our enemies, and were by them slain.

In this extremity of famine continued the Colony till the twentieth of May, when unexpected, yet happily, arrived SIR THOMAS GATES & SIR GEORGE SOMERS in two small barques which they built in the Summer Islands after the wreck of the Sea Adventure wherein they set forth from England, with them one hundred persons barely provided of vittles for themselves. They found the Colony consisting then of but sixty persons most famished and at point of death, of whom many soon after died; the lamentable outcries of theirs so moved the hearts of those worthies, not being in any sort able long to relieve their wants they soon resolved to embark themselves and this poor remainder of the Colony, in those two pinnaces and two other small barques then in the River, to set sail for Newfoundland where they might relieve their wants and procure one safer passage for England. every man, glad of this resolution, laboured his utmost to further it, so that in three weeks we had fitted those barques and pinnaces (the best we could) and quitted JAMES TOWNE, leaving the poor buildings in it to the spoil of the Indians, hoping never to return to repossess them.

When we had not failed down the River above twelve miles but we spied boat which afterwards we understood came from the right honourable LORD LA WARRE, who was then arrived at Point Comfort with three good ships with some store of provisions for them; by reason he found the Colony in so great want was forced to put both his own people & the rest of the Colony to a very mean allowance, which was seven pound of English meal for a man a week, and five pounds for every woman, without the addition of any victual whatsoever, except, in the stead of meal, we took valuably either peas or oatmeal. Upon the arrival of that boat, SIR THOMAS GATES understanding from the LORD LA WARE, that his Lordship was arrived with commission from the Company to be Governor and Captain General of Virginia, and had brought men & provisions for the subsisting and advancing of the Plantation, he the very next day, to the great grief of all his Company (only except CAPT. JOHN MARTIN), as wind and weather gave leave, returned his whole Company with charge to take possession again of those poor ruined habitations at JAMES TOWNE which he had formerly abandoned himself in a boat proceeded downward to meet his Lordship who, making all speed up, arrived shortly after at JAMES TOWNE. The time of the year being then most unseasonable, by intemperate heat, at the end of June his people suddenly falling generally into most pestilent diseases of calentures and fevers, not less than one hundred & fifty of them died within few months after, and that chiefly for want of means to comfort them in their weak states. The residue also disabled by reason of sickness could perform nothing that year to the advancement of the Colony, yet with the help of those people which had arrived with Sir Thomas Gates, together with some of the ancient Planters, who by use were grown practiced in a hard way of living, two small forts were erected near the rivers mouth at Kicoughton, encompassed with small young trees, having for housing in the one, two formerly built by the Indians & covered with bark by them, in the other a tent with some few thatched cabins which our people built at our coming thither [to there].

We found divers [various] other Indian Houses built by the natives which by reason we could make no use of we burnt, killing to the number of twelve or fourteen Indians, and possessing such come as we found growing of their planting. We remained there until harvest, when we reaped (besides what we spent) about the quantity of one hundred and fifty bushels of come, which, by order from the Lord La Ware, was transported to JAMES TOWNE. His lordship intending to send up certain forces to march towards the mountains for the discovery of gold or silver mines at the end of October, sent his patents to CAPTAIN YARDLEY and CAPTAIN HOLCROFT, commanders of those two forts at Kicoughton, wherein his Lordship gave order that they should be forthwith abandoned & the people with all speed to be brought to JAMES CITY, there to prepare for his intended march.

At that time there arrived a small ship call the Dainty, with twelve men and one woman, some little provision of victual, two or three horses and some other flight necessaries for the Colony. Soon after we set forward for our intended march, having for our leaders CAPTAIN EDWARD BREWSTER & CAPTAIN GEORGE YEARDLEY, being in number one hundred persons, furnished with all such necessary provisions, as the Colony at that time out of its poverty was able to provide. This design was hindered by reason of the unfortunate loss of all our chief men skillful in finding out mines, who were treacherously slain by the savages (inviting them ashore to eat victuals which they wanted) even when the meat was in their mouths, they caring only to fill their bellies, foresaw not to prevent this danger which befell them.

This injury we revenged for the present (as we could) by killing some Indians and burning many houses, but by reason of this disaster we proceeded not farther on our journey than the head of the River, where we spent about three months doing little but enduring much; his lordship was there in person for the most part of that time, but his disease of body growing much upon him he resolved to retire to JAMES TOWNE, giving order that the fort which we had built there should be quitted and the troop drawn down, which accordingly was done. His lordship then in regard of his sickness was advised to put to sea in his ship, the Delaware, to seek remedy in some other parts for the health of his body. At his going he left CAPTAIN GEORGE PERCY, Deputy Governor, the people (remaining under his command) provided for three months at a short allowance of victuals;

The calamities of these times would not any way permit work of great importance to be performed, sith that [since what] we did was as much as we could do to live and defend ourselves.

The Plantations held at his lordship’s departure were only JAMES TOWNE and Point Comfort, where a small fort fenced with palisades, in it one slight house, a store and some few thatched cabins, which shortly after by casualty was burnt with fire; some few great ordinance were slenderly mounted at JAMES TOWNE and Point Comfort.

A fortnight after his lordship’s departure arrived a small ship called the Hercules, with some thirty people and some provisions for them. The twelve of May following arrived SIR THOMAS DALE with three ships and three hundred persons, his provisions for them of such quality (for the most part) as hogs refused to eat, some whereof were sent back to England to testify the same, and that the rest was not better was justified upon oath before the honorable the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, at Guild Hall in London, by SIR THOS. GATES and two other gentlemen.

SIR THOMAS DALE, taking into consideration the precedent times not to have succeeded according to the greedy desire of SIR THOMAS SMITH, presently employed the general Colony about the lading of those three ships with such freight as the country then yielded, but a little before the ships were ready to depart, Sir Thomas Gates arrived with three ships and three carvills [sic], with him three hundred persons meanly provided with victuals for such a number.

In this fleet, to our remembrance arrived sixty cows and some swine; it was his care to dispatch those ships and carvills [sic] freighted (as aforesaid) to the neglect of work of greater importance. SIR THOMAS DALE immediately upon his arrival, to add to that extremity of misery under which the Colony from her infancy groaned, made and published most cruel and tyrannous laws, exceeding the strict rules of marshal discipline, which law were sent over by SIR THOMAS DALE to SIR THOMAS SMITH by the hand of MR. WILLIAM STRACHEY then Secretary to the State, and were returned in print, with approbation, for our future government, as in divers [various] books yet extant more fully appears.

At Michaelmas then next following, SIR THOMAS DALE removed himself with three hundred persons for the building of HENRICO TOWNE, where being landed he oppressed his whole Company with such extraordinary labors by day and watching by night, as may seem incredible to the ears of any who had not the experimental trial thereof. Want of houses at first landing in the cold of winter, and pinching hunger continually biting made those imposed labours most insufferable, and the best fruits and effects thereof to be no better than the slaughter of his MAJESTY’S free subjects by starving, hanging, burning, breaking upon the wheel and shooting to death, some (more than half famished) running to the Indians to get relief being again returned were burnt to death, some for stealing to satisfy their hunger were hanged, and one chained to a tree till he starved to death; others attempting to run away in a barge and a shallop (all the boats that were then in the Colony) and therein to adventure their lives for their native country, being discovered and prevented, were shot to death, hanged and broken upon the wheel, besides continual whippings, extraordinary punishments, working as slaves in irons for term of years (and that for petty offences) were daily executed. Many famished in holes and other poor cabins in the ground, not respected because sickness had disabled them for labour, nor was their sufficient for them that were more able to work, our best allowance being but nine ounces of corrupt and putrefied meal and half a pint of oatmeal or peal (of like ill condition) for each person a day. Those provisions were sent over by one WINNE a draper, and CASWELL, a baker, by the appointment (as we conceive) of SIR THOMAS SMITH. Under this tyrannous government the Colony continued in extreme slavery and misery for the space of five years, in which time many, whose necessities enforced the breach of those laws by the strictness and severity thereof, suffered death and other punishments.

Divers [various] gentlemen both there and at HENRICO TOWNE, and throughout the whole Colony (being great adventurers and no friends or alliance to SIR THOMAS SMITH) were feeling members of those general calamities, as far forth as the meanest fellow sent over.

The buildings and fortifications of that Towne, or thereabouts, were no way extraordinary, neither could want, accompanied with blood and cruelty, effect better.

Fortification against a foreign enemy there was none, only two or three pieces of ordinance mounted, and against a domestic no other but a pale enclosing the TOWNE to the quantity of four acres, within which those buildings that were erected, could not in any man’s judgement, neither did stand above five years and that not without continual reparations; true it is that there was a Brick Church intended to be built, but not so much as the foundation thereof ever finished, but we contenting ourselves with a church of wood answerable to those homes. Many other works of like nature were by him done at HENRICO and the precincts thereof, but so slightly as before his departure hence, he himself saw the ruin and desolation of most of them.

SIR THOMAS GATES likewise in his time erected some buildings in and about JAMES TOWNE, which by continual cost in repairing of them do yet for the most part in same fort remain.

A framed bridge was also then erected, which utterly decayed before the end of SIR THOMAS SMITH’S government, that being the only bridge (any way so to be called) that was ever in the country. At this time in all these labours, the misery throughout the whole Colony, in the scarcity of food was equal; which penurious and hard kind of living, enforced and emboldened some to petition to SIR THOMAS GATES (then Governor) to grant them that favor that they might employ themselves in husbandry, that thereby they and all others by planting of corn, might be better fed than those supplies of victual which were sent from England would afford to do, which request of theirs was denied unless they would pay the yearly rent of three barrels of corn and one month’s work to the Colony, although many of them had been employed in the general works and services of the Colony from the beginning of the Plantation, which hard condition of tenantship was then accepted rather than they would continue in those general services and employments no way better than slavery. Most part of the time that SIR THOMAS GATES and SIR THOMAS DALE governed we were at war with the natives, so that by them divers [various] times were many of our people slain, whose blood SIR THOMAS DALE neglected not to revenge, by divers [various] and sundry [indeterminate numbers] executions, in killing many, cutting down and taking away their corn, burning their homes, spoiling their wares, etc.

In this time also the two forts, FORT HENRY and FORT CHARLES, at Kicoughton, were again erected with such buildings as were formerly expressed, not fortified at all against a foreign enemy, and against the Indian that common order of a pale or palisades.

The supplies sent out of England while SIR THOS. GATES and SIR THOS. DALE. Dale governed were these: a small barque called the John and Francis, which brought few men and less victual; the next a small ship called the Sarah, with the like number of men and victual; the next ship called the Treasurer, wherein came CAPT. SAMUEL ARGOL, bringing with him to the number of fifty good men, which ship and men were wholly employed in trade and other services for relieving of the Colony; the next ship, called the Elizabeth, with about thirteen persons, for them little provision; the next the same Elizabeth came again, with some small store of provisions only; in her SIR THOS GATES went for England, leaving the government with SIR THOMAS DALE.

A little before the departure of SIR THOMAS GATES many of the ancient planters (by the instigation of SIR THOMAS DALE), upon the promise of an absolute freedom after three years more to be expired (having most of them already served the Colony six or seven years in that general slavery) were yet contented to work in the building of CHARLES CITY and Hundred, with very little allowance of clothing and victual, and that only for the first year, being promised one month in the year, and one day in the week from May day till harvest, to get our maintenance out of the earth without any further help: which promise of SIR THOS. DALE was not performed, for out of that small time which was allowed for our maintenance we were abridged of near hale, so that out of our daily tasks we were forced to redeem time wherein to labour for our sustenance, thereby miserably to purchase our freedom.

Yet so fell it out that our state (by God’s mercy) was afterwards more happy than others who continued longer in the aforementioned slavery; in which time we built such houses as before and in them lived with continual repairs, and building new where the old failed, until the massacre. For matter of fortification in all this time, were only four pieces of ordinance mounted for our defence against the natives. Soon after we were seated at Charles Hundred, SIR THOMAS DALE resolved of a journey to Pamunkey River, there to make with the savages either a firm league of friendship or a present [immediate] war; they perceiving his intent inclined rather for peace (more for fear than love) which was then concluded betwixt them. That done, we returned to our habitations where great want and scarcity, oppressed us, that continuing and increasing, (our first harvest not yet being ripe) caused in many an intended mutiny, which being, by God’s mercy, discovered, the prime actors were duly examined and convicted, whereof six being adjudged and condemned were executed.

After this, arrived for supply a small ship called the John and Francis, with about twenty persons and little or no provisions for them. The next ship, called the Treasurer, arrived here with the number of twenty persons and as little provisions as the former, in which ship after many other designed were effected by SIR THOS. DALE, as making spoil of the Keschiacks and Woriscoyacks, impaling some necks of land, for defence against the savages, and in fishing for our relief, etc, he departed from Virginia and left the government to CAPTAIN GEORGE YEARDLEY, under whom the Colony lived in peace and best plenty that ever it had till that time, yet most part of the people for that year of his Government continued in the general services following their labors [sic] as SIR THOS. DALE left them by order.

At Michaelmas following, arrived a small ship called the Susan, her lading (being the first magazine) consisting of some necessary provisions of clothing, as our wants required, which goods were sold by SIR THOS. SMITHS’S factor [factory], as we suppose, for a sufficient profit, exchanging with us their commodities for our tobacco.

At Christmas then following, just occasion being given by the Indians of Chiquohomini in many and several kinds of abuses, and in deriding of our demands, whereunto they had formerly agreed and conditioned with SIR THOMAS DALE to pay us yearly tribute, viz: a bushel of come for every Bowman, for which, by agreement, we were to give to each man one piece of copper and one iron tomahawk, and to the eight chiefs men each a suit of red cloth, which clothes and trucking stuff we esteemed of more worth than their corn. These and the like gross abuses moved our Governor, CAPTAIN GEORGE YEARDLEY, to levy a Company of men, to the number of eighty-four, to be revenged upon those contemptuous Indians, which he, according to his desire, fully executed, and returned home with the spoil of them: concluding, before his departure from them, a more firm league in appearance than formerly was, for that it continued unviolated almost the space of two years; our people freely traveling from town to town (both men, women and children) without any arms, and were by the savages lodged in their houses, every way kindly entreated and no way molested.

In March following, our three years time being expired, as it was our due, we of Charles Hundred demanded our long desired freedom from that common and general servitude; unto which request CAPTAIN GEORGE YEARDLEY, freely and willingly assented, to our great joy and comfort. Yet remained the most part of the Colony in the former servitude; part of whom were farmers, the rest employed in such works as SIR THOMAS DALE gave order for before his departure. We that were freed, with our humble thanks to God, fell cheerfully to our particular labours, whereby to our great comfort, through his blessing, we reaped a plentiful harvest.

In May following arrived CAPTAIN SAMUEL ARGOL with commission to be Governor. He brought with him to the number of a hundred persons, partly at the charge of the Company and partly at the charge of private adventures; with them was brought a very little provision for that number. At his arrival here he found the Colony in all parts well stored with corn, and at Charles Hundred a granary well furnished by rents lately raised and received from the farmers, which corn he took possession of. But how it was employed [he] himself can best give an account. Whilst he governed, the Colony was slenderly provided of munitions, whereby a strict proclamation was made for restraint of wasting or shooting away of powder, under pain of great punishment; which forbidding to shoot at all in our pieces caused the loss of much of our corn then growing upon the ground; the Indians perceiving our forbearance to shoot (as formerly) concluded thereupon that our pieces were, as they said, sick and not to be used; upon this, not long after they were bold to presume to assault some of our people, whom they slew, therein breaking that league, which before was so fairly kept.

During his time of government most of the people of the Colony remained (as formerly) in the common service, their freedom not being to be obtained without extraordinary payment.

The next ship that arrived here was the George, set forth, as we suppose, at the charge of private adventurers, but came so meanly provided with victual, that had not we, the old planters, relieved them most of them had been starved. The next ships, called the Neptune and Treasure, arrived in August following, set out at the charge of the Right Honourable the LORD LA WARE, his noble associates, and some other private adventurers. The people who arrived were so poorly victualed that had they not been distributed amongst the old planters they must for want have perished; with them was brought a most pestilent disease (called the bloody flux) which infected almost all the whole Colony. That disease, notwithstanding all our former afflictions, was never known before amongst us.

The next supply were two ships called the William & Thomas and the or Gift which arrived in January; the Gift being set forth at the charge of the Society of Martin’s Hundred, the other by the magazine and some private adventurers.

The next, a small ship called the Eleanor (set forth at whole charge we know not), arrived here in April after, and in her CAPT. SAMUEL ARGOL, leaving his government, shipped himself for England. Whatsoever else befell in the time of his government we omit to relate, much being upon our oaths, already sufficiently examined and our answers sent for England.

By all which has heretofore been said concerning this Colony, from the infancy thereof and until the expiration of SIR THOMAS SMITH’S government, may easily be perceived and plainly understood what just cause he or any else have to boast of the flourishing state of those times, wherein so great miseries and calamities were endured, and so few works of moment or importance performed, himself being justly to be charged as a prime author thereof, by his neglect of providing and allowing better means to proceed in so great a work, and in hindering very many of our friends from sending much relief and means who being earnestly solicited from hence by our letters—wherein we lamentably complained to them—have often besought SIR THOMAS SMITH that they might have leave to supply us at their own charge both with provision of victual and all other necessaries, wherein he utterly denied them so to do, protesting to them that we were in no want at all, but that we exceeded in abundance and plenty, of all things, so that thereby our friends were moved both to desist from sending and to doubt the truth of our letters, most part of which were by him usually intercepted and kept back; farther giving order by his directions to the Governor here that all men’s letters should be searched at the going away of ships, and if in any of them were found that the true state of the Colony was declared, they were presented to the Governor and the indicters of them severely punished; by which means no man durst [dared] make any true relation to his friends of his own or the Colony’s true state;

Neither was it permitted to any to have pass to go home, but by force were kept here and employed as we have said (save [except] some few), one of whom received his pass from the King, and that closely made up in a garter, lest it should have been seized upon and he kept here notwithstanding. Those whom their friends procured their pass in open court from the Company were, by private direction, nevertheless made stay of, others procuring private letters having been let go.

We must also note here that SIR THOS. DALE, at his arrival finding himself deluded by the aforesaid protestations, pulled CAPT. NEWPORT by the beard, and threatening to hang him, for that he affirmed SIR THOS. SMITH’S relation [narration] to be true, demanding of him whether it were meant that the people here in Virginia should feed upon trees.

So may we here conclude, as some have concluded for him, to what great growth of perfection (with the expense of that seventy thousand pounds) the Plantation was advanced in the time of his 12 years government, but whether, as it is said, he [is] to be praised for the managing of these affairs, with much unanimity, moderation, integrity and judgment, we leave it to censure.

At the end of this twelve years arrived SIR GEORGE YEARDLEY to be Governor and found the Colony in this state and thus furnished, viz.: For fortification against a foreign enemy there was none at all; two demi-culverins only were mounted upon rotten carriages and placed within JAMES CITY, fitter to shoot down our houses than to offend an enemy. At Charles Hundred, which were mounted by SIR THOS. DALE, two demy culverins and one facre; fortifications against a domestic enemy very mean. For forts, towns and Plantations he found these JAMES CITY, HENRICO, CHARLES CITY and Hundred, Shirley Hundred, Arrahattock, Martin Brandon and Kicoughton, all which were but poorly housed and as ill fortified; for in JAMES CITY were only those houses that SIR THOM. GATES built in the time of his government, with one wherein the Governor always dwelt, an addition being made thereto in the time of Captain SAMUEL ARGOL, and a church, built, wholly at the charge of the inhabitants of that city, of timber, being fifty foot in length and twenty foot in breadth; at Paspahayes also were some few slight houses built; at HENRICO, two or three old homes, a poor ruined church with some few poor buildings in the Island: Coxen Dale and the Maine and at Arrahatocke one house, at CHARLES CITY six houses much decayed, and, that we may not be too tedious, as these so were the rest of the places furnished.

For people then alive about the number of four hundred, very many of them in want of corn, utterly destitute of cattle, swine poultry and other provisions to nourish them.

For barques, pinnaces, shallops, barges and boats he found only one old frigate, which belonged to the Summer Islands, one old shallop built in SIR THOS. DALE’S time, one boat built in SIR SAMUEL ARGOL’S time, with two small boats belonging to private men. For munitions a very small quantity, the most part thereof being very bad and of little use. For ministers to instruct the people he found only three authorized, two others who never received their orders.

For staple commodities at his arrival he found none afoot save [except] only tobacco. The natives he found upon doubtful terms, neither did we ever perceive that at any time they voluntarily yielded themselves subjects or servants to our Gracious Sovereign, neither that ever they took any pride in that title, nor paid they at any time any yearly contribution of corn for the sustainment of the Colony, nor could we at any time keep them in such good respect or correspondency [agreement] that they and we did become mutually helpful or profitable, each to other, but to the contrary, whatsoever at any time was done upon them proceeded from fear without love, for such help as we have had from them have been procured by sword or trade.

And here can we no way approve of that which hath lately been said in the behalf of SIR THOS. SMITH, by some of his new friends that a flourishing Plantation in Virginia, erected in the time of His years government, has since been destroyed through the ignorance of succeeding Governors here, for that by what we have already said all the world may judge in what a flourishing state it was, and to what growth of perfection it was advanced, at the arrival of SIR GEORGE YEARDLEY to be Governor here, it being then in our judgements that were members of the Colony, in a poor state.

The whole 12 years expired.

April 1619—arrived SIR GEORGE YARDLEY, bringing certain commissions and instructions from the Company for the better establishing of a Commonwealth here, wherein order was taken for the removing of all those grievances which formerly were suffered and manifested the same by publishing a proclamation that all those that were resident here before the departure of SIR THOS. DALE should be freed and acquitted from such public services and labours which formerly they suffered, and that those cruel laws by which we had so long been governed were now abrogated, and we were now to be governed by those free laws which his Majesty’s subjects live under in England.

And farther that free liberty was given to all men to make choice of their dividends of land and, as their abilities and means would permit, to possess and plant upon them. And that they might have a hand in the governing of themselves, it was granted that a general Assembly should be held yearly once, where at were to be present the Governor and Council with two Burgesses from each Plantation freely to be elected by the inhabitants thereof; this Assembly to have power to make and ordain whatsoever laws and orders should by them be thought good and profitable for our subsistence. The effect of which proceeding gave such encouragement to every person here that all of them followed their particular labours with singular alacrity and industry, so that, through the blessing of God upon our willing labors [sic], within the space of three years, our country flourished with many new erected Plantations, from the head of the River to Kicoughton, beautiful and pleasant to the spectators, comfortable for the relief and succor [help] of all such as by occasion did travel by land or by water; every man giving free entertainment [hospitality], both to friends or others. The plenty of there times likewise was such that all men generally were sufficiently furnished with corn, and many also had plenty of cattle, swine, poultry and other good provisions to nourish them.

Monthly courts were held in every precinct to do justice in redressing of all small and petty matters, others of more consequence being referred to the Governor, Council, and General Assembly.

Now also were begun and set a foot the erecting of Iron Works, planting of vines and mulberry trees for the nourishing of silk worms; a trial made for silk grass tillage for English grain, gardening, and the like, which gave great hopes of present and future plenty in their several particulars, wherein no doubt but much more had been effected had not great sickness and mortality prevented.

Those years falling out to be generally contagious through this content, the people also sent over arrived here at the most unseasonable time of the year, being at the heat of summer, and divers [various] of the ships brought with them most pestilent infections, whereof many of their people had died at sea, so that these times also of plenty and liberty were mixed with the calamities of sickness and mortality.

In October, 1621, arrived SIR FRANCIS WYATT, Knight with commission to be Governor and Captain General of Virginia. He ratified and confirmed all the aforementioned liberties, freedoms and privileges, to our great happiness and content; the country also flourished and increased in her former proceedings, as iron works, planting of vines and mulberry for silk, etc.

A ship also was sent to the Summer Islands for such commodities as that place afforded, as potatoes, fig trees, orange and lemon trees, and such like, many of which prosper and grow very likely to increase. But amidst this happiness was the hand of God set against us, in great part, no doubt, for the punishment of our ingratitude in not being thankful but forgetful that by his mercy we were delivered from such bondage and calamity as before time we had suffered. Justly likewise were we punished for our greedy desires of present [immediate] gain and profit, wherein many showed themselves insatiable and covetous; we being too secure in trusting of a treacherous enemy, the savages, they, whilst we entertained them friendly in our houses, took their opportunities and suddenly fell upon us, killing and murdering very many of our people, burning and devastating their houses and Plantations, this happening upon the two and twentieth of March following (1622), struck so at the life of our welfare by blood and spoil, that it almost generally defaced the beauty of the whole Colony, putting us out of the way of bringing to perfection those excellent works wherein we had made so fair a beginning. This deadly stroke being given to the great amazement and ruin of our State, caused our Governor and Council, with all speed, for the safety of the rest (lest the Indians should take courage to pursue what they had begun), to recollect the straggling and woeful inhabitants, so dismembered, into stronger bodies and more secure places. This enforced reduction of the Colony into fewer bodies, together with the trouble of war then in hand, caused the year following a slender harvest to be reaped, whereby we were constrained to rely upon hopes for our relief by shipping out of England, and by trading with the more remote savages, most part of which supplies from England unfortunately miscarried by the way the savages, likewise, from whom we hoped to have helped by trade, proved our most treacherous enemies, cunningly circumventing and cruelly murdering such as were employed abroad to get relief from them, by all which misaccidents [sic] we fell that year into great want and scarcity; which since, by the blessing of God, through our supplies we have had from the Company, together with a plentiful harvest, hath been abundantly restored.

Our Governor, Council and others have used their uttermost and Christian endeavours in prosecuting revenge against the bloody savages, and have endeavoured to restore the Colony to her former prosperity, wherein they have used great diligence and industry, employing many forces abroad for the rooting them out of several places that thereby we may come to live in better security, doubting not but in time we shall clean drive them from these parts, and thereby have the free liberty and range for our cattle, the increase of whom may bring us to plenty, and may also more freely go on again with setting up those staple commodities which we hoped by this time to have brought to good perfection.

For the supplies shipping, men, cattle and provisions that have arrived here since SIR THOMAS SMITH left his government we cannot now well reckon up, they being many, but must refer you to the printed books and to the lists and invoices returned by SIR GEO. YEARDLEY.

For the State of the Colony at this present we leave to the report of such commissioners as are now sent over by the Right Hon. the Lords of his Majesty’s Privy Council,

This being read in the General Assembly received full approbation.

Transcription ends.

This declaration, though long, shows what the earliest adventurers went through.


Trouble in the First Twelve Years of the Virginia Colony (short version)

Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/9, ed. by H. R. McIlwaine, Classic Reprint Series (orig. Richmond: 1915), pp. 28-37.

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