Edward Eggleston.

The beginners of a nation : a history of the source and rise of the earliest English settlements in America, with special reference to the life and character of the people online

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tal enemies. These were the visionary and turbu-



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37



lent Archer and his follower Ratcliffe. Smith got
some of the newcomers to settle at Nansemond,
and others took up their abode near the falls of
the James River. After much turmoil Smith was
disabled by an accident, and his enemies contrived
to have him sent home charged, among other
things, with having " incensed " the Indians to as-
sault the insubordinate settlers under West near
the falls, and with having designed to wed Poca-
hontas in order to secure royal rights in Virginia
as son-in-law to Powhatan.

He afterward explored the New England coast
with characteristic thoroughness and intelligence.
What he published in his later years by way of
advice on the subject of colony-planting is full of
admirable good sense. With rare foresight he pre-
dicted the coming importance of the colonial trade
and the part to be played by the American fish-
eries in promoting the greatness of England by
" breeding mariners." He only of the men of his
time suspected the imperial size and future great-
ness of North America. He urged that the colo-
nies should not annoy " with large pilotage and
such like dues " those who came to trade in their
ports. Low customs, he says, enrich a people
This is a strange doctrine in an age when foreign
trade seemed almost an evil, and false conceptions
of economic principles were nearly universal.
Captain Smith's words are often pregnant with a
wit whose pungency is delightful. In mental and
physical hardihood, and in what may be called



Chap. II.
A. D. 1609.

Note a.



Hi* later
yean.



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38



Rise of the First Colony.



Book I.



Note 3.



The fam-
ine of
i6og-'io.



Note 4.



A. D. 1609,
x6ia



shiftiness, as well as in proneness to exaggeration
and in boastfulness, he was in some sense a typical
American pioneer — a forerunner of the daring and
ready-witted men who have subdued a savage
continent.

VIII.

Disaster of some sort could hardly have been
avoided had Captain Smith been allowed to stay,
but after his departure ruin came swiftly, and there
was no hand strong enough to stay it. The un-
checked hostility of the savages drove the outset-
tiers from Nansemond and the falls of the James.
The Indians found exercise for their devilish in-
genuity in torturing those who fell into their hands
alive, and outraging the dead. The brave but un-
wise Percy added fuel to their consuming fury
by visiting their shrine and desecrating the tombs
of their chiefs. There was now no one who could
carry on the difficult Indian trade. Ratcliffe, who
had conspired to send Smith back to England, fell
into an ambuscade while emulating Captain Smith's
example in trading with Powhatan. He was tor-
tured to death by the Indian women, and only
fifteen of his fifty men got back to Jamestown.
The brood hogs of the colony were all eaten, the
dogs came next, and then the horses, which were
to have stocked Virginia, were consumed to their
very hides. Rats, mice, and adders were relished
when they were to be had, and fungi of various
sorts were eaten with whatever else " would fill



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either mouth or belly." An Indian slain in an
assault on the stockade was dug up after he had
been three days buried, and eaten " by the poorer
sort," their consuming hunger not being embar-
rassed by the restraints of gentility. From this
horrible expedient it was but one step to the dig-
ging up of their own dead for food. Famine-
crazed men even dogged the steps of those of their
comrades who were not quite wasted, threatening
to kill and devour them. Among these despair-
ing and shiftless men there was but one man of
resources. Daniel Tucker — let his later sins as
tyrant of Bermuda be forgiven — bethought himself
to build a boat to catch fish in the river, and this
small relief " did keep us from killing one another
to eat," says Percy. He seems to have been the
only man who bethought himself to do anything.
One man, in the ferocity engendered by famine,
slew his own wife and salted what he did not eat
at once of her flesh, but he was put to death at
the stake for this crime. Some, braving the sav-
ages, sought food in the woods and died while
seeking it, and were eaten by those who found
them dead. Others, in sheer desperation, threw
themselves on the tender mercies of the Indians
and were slain. To physical were added spiritual
torments. One despairing wretch threw his Bible
into the fire, crying out in the market place that
there was no God in heaven. Percy adds, with
grim theological satisfaction characteristic of the
time, that he was killed by the Indians in the very



Chap. II.
A. D. i6ia



Notes.



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40



Rise of the First Colony,



Book I.



Tragicall
Relation,
1623.

Briefe Dec-
laration,
1624, both
in British
Pub. Rec-
ord Office.
Percy's
Trewe Re-
lacyon,
MS., Pet-
worth
House.



The arri-
val of
Gates and
Somers,
1610.



A True
Declara-
tion of the
Estate of
the Colony
of Virginia,
1610, p. 33.



market place where he had blasphemed in his
agony. The depopulated houses, and even the
palisades so necessary for protection, were burned
for firewood by the enfeebled people, and James-
town came presently to look like the slumbering
ruins of some ancient fortification. Fortunately,
the Indians did not think it worth while to lose
any more of their men in attacking the desperate
remainder. It seemed inevitable that all who were
shut up in the Jamestown peninsula should perish
of hunger in a very few days. Of the nearly five
hundred colonists in Virginia in the autumn of
1609, there were but sixty famine-smitten wretches
alive in the following June, and hardly one of
these could have survived had help been delayed
a few days longer.

IX.

Relief came to the little remnant from a quarter
whence it was least expected. The emigrants of
the preceding year had been sent out under the
authority of Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George
Somers. The two leaders were jealous of each
other, and for fear either should gain advantage by
prior arrival they embarked in the same ship.
This ship became separated from the rest of the
fleet and went ashore on the Bermudas, then unin-
habited, and ** accounted as an inchaunted pile of
rockes and a desert inhabitation for Divels,'* in the
words of a writer of the time ; ** but all the fairies
of the rocks were but flocks of birds, and all the



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Divels that haunted the woods were but herds of
swine." Here old Sir George Somers, a veteran
seaman, constructed two little cedar vessels, and
provisioning them for the voyage with what the
islands afforded — live turtles, and the flesh of wild
hogs and waterfowl salted — the company set sail
for Virginia in the spring of 1610, arriving barely
in time to save the colony from extinction. Find-
ing that their provisions would not last more than
two or three weeks, they abandoned the wreck of
Jamestown, crowding all the people into four pin-
naces, including the two improvised cedar boats
built on the Bermudas. They sailed down the
river in the desperate hope of surviving until they
could reach Newfoundland and get supplies from
fishing vessels. The four little craft were turned
back on encountering Lord De la Warr, the new
governor, ascending the James to take charge of
the colony. The meeting with De la Warr was
bitterly regretted by the old settlers, who pre-
ferred the desperate chance of a voyage in pin-
naces on a shipless sea with but a fortnight's pro-
vision to facing again the horrors of life at
Jamestown.

With all the formalities thought necessary at
that time, De la Warr took possession of James-
town, now become a forlorn ruin full of dead men's
bones. Gates was sent to England for a new stock
of cattle, while the brave old Sir George Somers
once more embarked for the Bermudas in the Pa-
tience, the little cedar pinnace which he had built



Chap. II.

Note 6.



Dela

W«rr'« ar-
rival, i6xo.



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42



Rise of the First Colony.



Book I.

Smith's
Oxford
Tract, so
caUed.



Note 7.



Dela
Warr*«
govern-
ment, 1610.

Notes.



British Mu-
seum, MS.
21.993.
ff. 174, 178.
Instr. to
Gates and
Dela
Warr.



Qold-hunt-
ing.



wholly of the wood of that island without a parti-
cle of iron except one bolt in the keel. In this boat
he sailed up and down until he found again " the
still vexed Bermoothes," where he hoped to secure
provisions. He died in the islands. Argall was
also sent to the Bermudas, but missed them, and
went north to the fishing banks in search of food.

Jamestown was cleansed, and with a piety char-
acteristic of that age the deserted little church was
enlarged and reoccupied and daily decorated with
Virginia wild flowers. All the bitter experience of
the first three years had not taught the true meth-
od of settling a new country. The colony was still
but a camp of men without families, and the old
common stock system was retained. To escape
from the anarchy which resulted from a system
that sank the interest of the individual in that of
the community, it had been needful to arm De la
Warr with the sharp sword of martial law. Some
of the instructions given him were unwise, some
impossible of execution. To convert the Indians
out of hand, as he was told to do, by shutting up
their medicine men or sending them to England to
be Christianized by the methods then in use, did
not seem a task easy of accomplishment, for In-
dian priests are not to be caught in time of war.
But De la Warr undertook another part of his in-
structions. A hundred men under two captains
were sent on a wild-goose chase up the James
River to find gold or silver in the mountains,
whither the phantom of mines had now betaken



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itself. This plan originated with the London man-
agers of Virginia affairs, and men had been sent
with De la Warr who were supposed to be skill-
ful in "finding out mines." But being especially
unskillful in dealing with the Indians, they were
tempted ashore by savages, who offered them food
and slew them " while the meate was in theire
mouthes.*' The expedition thereupon turned back
at a point about forty miles above the present site
of Richmond.

A new town was begun at the falls, in the fond
belief that two mines were near, and De la Warr
took up his residence there. Jamestown, drawing
its water from a shallow and probably polluted
well, became the seat of a fresh epidemic. In the
month of March following his arrival the governor
fled from the colony to save his own life, leaving
Virginia more than ever discredited.

X.

As the hope of immediate profit from Virginia
died away, the colony would have been abandoned
if there had not arisen in its favor a patriotic en-
thusiasm which gave it a second lease of life.
Many of the great noblemen were deeply engaged
in this new agitation in favor of the unlucky col-
ony, and none more deeply, perhaps, than Prince
Henry, the heir apparent. At Henry's request,
Sir Thomas Dale, an officer who had been em-
ployed about the prince's person, and who with
other English officers was now in the service of



Chap. II.



Briefe Dec-
laration,
MS., Pub.
Rec. Ofif.



Plight of

Dela

Warr.



Sir

Thomas
Dale, i6zi.



Docs. Rel.
to Col.
Hist. N.Y.,
i, pp. 1, 2,
3i 9» lo,
16-21.



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44



Rise of the First Colony.



Book I.



The heavy
hand of
Dale, x6xi-
i6z6.



A Brief e
Declara-
tion of the
PlanUtion
of Virginia,
1624, MS.,
Pub. Rec.
Off.



Brit. Mu-
seum, MS.,
31,993, f.
174.



the Netherlands, was granted leave of absence to
go to Virginia. Since the colony was a check to
Spain, the Netherlands were supposed to have an
indirect interest in the enterprise and were per-
suaded to continue Captain Dale's pay. De la
Warr, who remained in England, was nominally
governor; Gates, when present in Virginia, was
the ranking officer; but for five years Dale ap-
pears to have been the ruling spirit in the colony.

To induce him to go. Dale had been deceived
regarding the condition of the plantation, as had
been everybody else that had gone to Jamestown
after the first ships sailed. The vice-admiral. New-
port, was the principal reporter of Virginia affairs
in England and the principal agent of the company
in this deception. Dale's rough temper was al-
ready well known. It was for this, no doubt, that
he had been chosen to do a rude piece of work.
On his arrival he saw the desperate state of the
undertaking. He pulled Vice-Admiral Newport's
beard and threatened him with the gallows, de-
manding " whether it weare meant that people
heere in Virginia shoulde feed uppon trees."

Under the inefficient government of George
Percy, who had again been placed in charge, the
seedtime of 161 1 was allowed to pass without the
planting of corn. The Jamestown people were
found by Dale "at their daily and usual work
bowling in the streets." But the days of unthrifty
idleness were at an end. " The libertyes, franchises,
and immunityes of free denizens and natural-born



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subjects of any our other dominions " promised to
the colonists, were also at an end from the moment
of the arrival of this sharp-set soldier and discipli-
narian. Dale's pitiless use of martial law turned
Virginia not exactly into a military camp, but
rather into a penal settlement where men suffered
for the crime of emigration. The men taken to
Virginia in Dale's own company were hardly fit for
anything else, and were so "diseased and crazed
in their bodies" that at one time not more than
sixty out of three hundred were capable of labor.
The food sent with Sir Thomas Dale by the cor-
rupt contractors was " of such qualitie as hoggs re-
fused to eat." Sir Thomas Gates afterward made
oath to its badness before the Chief Justice in
London.

XL

Dale regarded himself as an agent of the com-
pany. His aim was by hook or crook to make the
hitherto unprofitable colony pay dividends to the
shareholders, who were his employers. His rela-
tion to the emigrants was that of a taskmaster ; one
might, perhaps, more fitly call him a slave-driver.
Instead of seeking to render the colony self-sup-
porting by clearing com ground, he gave his first
attention to lading vessels with sassafras root, then
much prized as a medicine, and cedar timber, val-
ued especially for its odor.

During a part of Dale's time eight or nine
ounces of meal and half a pint of peas was the



Chap. II.



Briefe Dec-
laradon.



The yean
of slavery.



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Rise of the First Colony.



Book I.

Brief e Dec-
laration.
Percy to
Northum-
berland,
Hist. MS.,
Commis-
tion,

Rept., iii,
53i54*



Obsenra-
tionsand
Travel
from Lon-
don to
Hamburgh,
p. 13-



daily ration. In their declaration, made some years
afterward, the surviving colonists aver that both
the meal and the peas were " moldy, rotten, full of
cobwebs and maggots, loathsome to man and unfit
for beasts." Better men than these might have
been driven to mutiny by the enforced toil and
bad food. And mutiny and desertion were usually
but other names for suicide under the rule of the
pitiless high marshal. Some fled to the woods,
hoping to reach a mythical Spanish settlement be-
lieved to be not very far away. Dale set the Indi-
ans on them, and they were brought back to be
burned at the stake. Others, who in desperation
or deadly homesickness resolved to venture their
lives in a barge and a shallop "for their native
country," suffered in various ways for their temer-
ity. Death by shooting or hanging was clemency.
One offender was put to death by the awful torture
of breaking on the wheel, a penalty that Dale may
have learned during his stay on the Continent.
Taylor, the water poet, has left us the sickening
details of such an execution in Germany in 1616.
One need not waste any sympathy on those who
were hanged for stealing to satisfy hunger ; death
is more merciful than life to men in such a case.
But one poor rogue, who thought to better his ra-
tions by filching two or three pints of oatmeal, had
a bodkin run through his tongue and was chained
to a tree until he perished of hunger. Though
these things were twice attested by the best men
in the colony, one prefers to make some allowance



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for their passionate resentment, and to hope that
some of the horrors related are exaggerated. It is
hard to believe, for example, that men unable to
work were denied food, and left to creep away
into the wretched burrows in the ground used for
shelter, there to die unregarded in the general
misery.

In 1612 a company of ten men sent out to catch
fish braved the perils of the ocean in a little bark
and got back to England. It was the only escape
from Dale's tyranny, pitiless and infernal. " Aban-
don every hope who enter here" was almost as
appropriate to the mouth of the James River as to
the gate of Dante's hell. All letters of complaint
sent to England were intercepted, and all efforts
of friends of the colonists in England to succor or
rescue them were thwarted by the company in
London. The king's pass to one of the colonists
authorizing him to leave Virginia was sent to him
by his friends closely made up in a garter, to avoid
the vigilance of Sir Thomas Dale.

Dale's administration was strongest on its mili-
tary side. There was no danger that the Indians
would reduce the colony to any straits while he
was in charge. He gave his first attention to forti-
fication, and he even begged for two thousand con-
victs out of English jails to form a line of posts
from Hampton to a point a hundred miles above
Jamestown. He sent Argall all the way to Mount
Desert to plunder a Jesuit settlement and make
prize of a French ship— an undertaking congenial



Chap. II.



Bricfe Dec-
laration.



Dale's
•ervice*.



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Rise of the First Colony,



Book I.



Note 9.



Dale'*
return.



to Dale's military temper and the Viking tastes of
Argall. As his experience increased, Dale came to
understand that other than military measures were
needed to found a colony, though he never more
than half comprehended the elements of the prob-
lem. In his later time he cleared more corn
ground, and he could boast at his departure that
Virginia contained six horses, a hundred and forty-
nine neat cattle, two hundred and sixteen goats,
and hogs without number. Dale set off a private
garden of three acres of land to each of the old
planters, on the condition that they should provide
food for themselves while still giving nearly all of
their time to the service of the common stock.
Even this slave's-patch of private interest given
to only a fraction of the colonists put some life
into Virginia; but two thirds of the people were
retained in the old intolerable bondage, and not
even the most favored secured personal ownership
of land. Dale's administration was remembered
as " the five years of slavery."



XII.

The rough-handed soldier from the Low Coun-
tries had indeed brought the Virginia chaos into
order, but it was an order almost as deadly as the
preceding anarchy. Dale confessed that the gov-
ernment of Virginia was " the hardest task he had
ever undertaken," and he got himself out of it after
five years by making a theatrical return to England



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in 1616 with a train of Indians, including the " Prin-
cess " Pocahontas, converted, baptized with a Chris-
tian name as Rebecca, and wedded to an English-
man. He added glowing reports of the country,
and proved all by exhibiting " at least sixteen sev-
eral sorts of staple commodities to be raised in this
plantation." For greater effect, samples of twelve
of these products of the colony were sold by pub-
lic auction in the open court of the company.
Though Dale could show many commodities, some
of which have never flourished in Virginia since
his time, he left behind him not an established com-
munity, but a mere camp of unhappy men retained
in the country by the sheer impossibility of getting
away. After nine years of suffering, Virginia con-
sisted of some three hundred and twenty-six men,
twenty-five women and children, and graves out-
numbering many times over all the living souls.

Three things had been discovered in Dale's
time that were of importance to the colony. Dale
had by personal experiment learned the two fish-
ing seasons in the James River. The colonists had
begun the profitable cultivation of tobacco, and
the economic success of the colony was thereby
assured. Lastly, even Dale's small experiment with
private interest rendered the apportionment of the
land and the establishment of private ownership
certain to come in time. As early as 1614 it was
estimated that three men working for themselves
raised more corn than ten times as many when the
labor was for the public stock.



Chap. II.
Note 10.



Note II.



Note 12.



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Rise of the First Colony.



Book I.



Argairs
govern-
ment.



XIII.

Captain Argall, who succeeded Sir Thomas
Dale, was a bold and notable mariner. He had
built the first Virginia vessel ; he had traded with
the Indians for corn with as much enterprise and
address as Captain Smith had shown ; he had in a
small ship called the Dainty made the first experi-
mental voyage to James River by the westward
route, avoiding the long circuit by the Canaries
and West Indies. It had been his fortune to be
the first Englishman to see the American bison,
which he found near the Potomac. He it was who
by a shrewd trick had captured Pocahontas and
held her as hostage ; and he drove the French out
of Maine, despoiling their settlement at Mount
Desert. To a mastery of all the arts that make the
skillful navigator he added the courteous polite-
ness of a man of the city and the unfaltering
rapacity of a pirate. As governor, he robbed the
company with one hand and the hapless colonists
with the other. While using the ships and men of
the colony to carry on the Indian trade, he turned
all the profits of it into his own wallet. The breed-
ing animals of the colony accumulated by Dale he
sold, and made no account of the proceeds. There
was hardly anything portable or salable in Vir-
ginia that he did not purloin. He even plundered
the property of Lady De la Warr, the widow of
his predecessor. He boldly fitted out a ship be-
longing to Lord Rich, and sent an expedition of



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sheer piracy to the West Indies under an old letter
of marque from the Duke of Savoy. When advices
from England warned Argall that his downfall was
imminent, he forthwith redoubled his felonious
diligence. His chief partner in England was Lord
Rich, who became the second Earl of Warwick in
1619, about the time of Argall's return, and who is
known to history in his later character as a great
Puritan nobleman, who served God while he con-
trived to better his estate with both hands by such
means as troublous times put within his reach.
He was not content with small pickings. Rich ap-
pears to have aimed at nothing less than wrecking
the company and securing the land and govern-
ment of Virginia. The first step toward this was
to get a charter for a private or proprietary plan-
tation within Virginia which should be exempt
from all authority of the company and the colony.
This independent government was to serve as a
refuge from prosecutions for Argall and other pi-
ratical agents, and at last to possess itself of the
wreck and remainder of Virginia. The second
step in this intrigue was one that could have
availed nothing in any time less respectful to shad-
owy technicalities and less prone to legal chicanery
than that of James I. As we have seen, jealousy
was excited in Virginia by the possibility of Cap-
tain Smith's wedding Pocahontas and setting up a
claim to authority based on her inheritance from
Powhatan. A tradition lingered in Virginia a
hundred years later that King James questioned



Chap. II.



Lord
Rich** in-
trigue.



Note 13.



Stith, 143.



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Rise of the First Colony,



Online LibraryEdward EgglestonThe beginners of a nation : a history of the source and rise of the earliest English settlements in America, with special reference to the life and character of the people → online text (page 4 of 30)