The Founding Of Virginia
Opposition of the Early Stuarts to Spain.—The settled policy of Spain was to maintain a territorial and commercial monopoly in all the lands west of the line of the treaty of Tordesillas. During the reign of Elizabeth, the mariners of England had struck at Spanish commerce and had made unsuccessful attempts at colonization; in the reigns of the first two Stuarts, serious attempts were made by Englishmen to wrest from the Spanish colossus some of his island possessions, and to occupy Guiana and portions of North America. The attitude of James I toward these enterprises depended upon the state of his negotiations with Spain. In 1604 a treaty was signed which brought the long war between the countries to an end. By the treaty the English crown surrendered the right of trade to the Indies. The English mariners snapped their fingers at the treaty and continued to visit the Indies, either running the chance of being taken as pirates, or registering their vessels under the flags of Holland or Savoy. The difficulties besetting this trade led some of the merchants to invest their capital in enterprises of colonization.
Settlements in Virginia, 1634.
The charter of 1606.—Between 1602 and 1606 several voyages were made to America, the most important being that of George Weymouth, who visited the New England coast in 1604; his favorable report greatly stimulated the desire to plant colonies. In April, 1606, a charter was drawn up which provided for two companies; one composed of men from London, familiarly known as the London Company, which was to operate between the thirty-fourth and forty-first degrees of latitude; the other made up of men from Plymouth, Bristol, and Exeter, known as the Plymouth Company, which was to plant colonies between the thirty-eighth and forty-fifth degrees. Each company was to have control of fifty miles both north and south of its first settlement, a hundred miles out to sea, and a hundred miles inland. Neither was to settle within one hundred miles of the other. Each company was to have a council of thirteen persons, and each was to have the right to mine gold, silver, and copper; the king was to receive one-fifth of all the precious metals and one-fifteenth of the copper. No import duties were to be levied for seven years. The charter also provided that the Christian religion was to be spread among the natives. Colonists who went to the New World were guaranteed all the privileges of Englishmen.
Founding of Jamestown.—In August, 1606, Henry Challons was sent ahead in the Richard to select a site for the London Company, but was captured off Florida by a Spanish fleet and taken a prisoner to Seville. In December, three vessels, which belonged to the Muscovy Company, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, sailed for Virginia under the command of Sir Christopher Newport. They followed the southern route by the Canaries and the West Indies, arriving in Chesapeake Bay in May, 1607. Of the hundred and twenty colonists who had embarked, sixteen died during the voyage. Sealed instructions had been sent for the government and management of Virginia. When opened, they disclosed the names of the members of the council, a body possessed of executive, legislative, and judicial powers, presided over by a president. A site was to be selected on an island in a navigable river, marshy or heavily wooded ground to be avoided. Contrary to instructions, the site selected was on a swampy peninsula, located near the mouth of the James River. Near the western end of the peninsula a triangular log fort was laid out. The settlement was in the district known to the Spaniards as Axacan, and not far from the site of the Jesuit mission founded in 1570. While the fortification was being built, Newport explored the James River as far as the site of Richmond. While he was gone, the Indians attacked the fort but were driven off. Besides the fortification, a church and storehouse were erected. In July Newport sailed for England, taking with him worthless specimens of rock which were believed to contain gold.
Early difficulties.—Shortly after the departure of Newport the colonists began to suffer from famine, malaria, and Indian attacks. President Wingfield husbanded the stores left by Newport, an action which angered the settlers, and he was soon deposed. John Smith was sent to secure food from the Indians, and succeeded in obtaining a considerable supply. When Newport returned in January, 1608, he found only forty survivors. During 1608 and 1609 the little settlement was barely able to hold its own. The few additional settlers who came merely offset the ravages of disease and starvation. During this period John Smith appears to have been the chief factor in keeping the colony alive. So precarious had conditions become by May, 1609, that he dispersed the colonists in groups, one being sent to live among the Indians, another to fish at Point Comfort, and a third to obtain oysters. In July a vessel commanded by Samuel Argall arrived with supplies, bringing the news that the first charter had been repealed and a new one granted.
Charter of 1609.—The lack of success in the original venture had caused those interested to make an effort to enlarge the company. The incorporators of the charter of 1609 were fifty-six of the guilds and companies of London, and six hundred and fifty-nine persons, among whom were included twenty-one peers, ninety-six knights, eleven professional men, and fifty-three captains. The new company was to have the land two hundred miles north and two hundred miles south of Point Comfort and stretching from sea to sea west and northwest, and the islands within one hundred miles of the coast. The government was vested in a council, which was given power to appoint its own officers, to make laws for the government of the colony, and to take in new stockholders. The English church was established as the religion of the colony.
The starving time.—In June, 1609, nine vessels commanded by Newport sailed from England with the new governor, Sir Thomas Gates, and about five hundred emigrants. Beset by pestilence and storms, many died on the voyage, about four hundred being landed at Jamestown in August. The vessel carrying the governor was stranded in the Bermudas, and he did not arrive at Jamestown until May, 1610. There he found the colonists in a frightful condition, dissensions among the officers, Indian attacks, disease, and starvation having brought the colony to the brink of destruction. Gates decided to give up the ill-fated attempt, and taking all the settlers on board, sailed down the James River, but met a vessel bearing the news that a new governor, Lord Delaware, had arrived at Point Comfort with supplies and a hundred and fifty emigrants. Gates immediately returned to Jamestown. Of the nine hundred persons who had been landed in Virginia during the first three years, only one hundred and fifty were alive upon the arrival of Delaware.
Spanish resistance.—Spain regarded the Jamestown colony as an intruder, and both Spaniards and Englishmen considered it as a menace to Spain's northern outposts, and to her merchant fleets, which passed close by on their homeward voyage. Dale remarked that the settlement "wyll put such a byt in our ainchent enemyes mouth as wyll curb his hautynes of monarchie." Zúñiga, Spanish ambassador to England, urged that "such a bad project should be uprooted now, while it can be done so easily."
At Jamestown fear of a Spanish attack was almost constant, and Newport sought aid in England lest the "all devouring Spaniard lay his ravenous hands" upon the infant colony. Spanish resistance had already been felt by way of vigorous diplomatic protest and through the capture of the Richard in 1606. In 1609 a Spanish expedition was sent to Jamestown under Captain Ecija, commander of the garrison at St. Augustine. On July 24 Ecija entered Chesapeake Bay. Concluding that the settlement was too strong to capture with one small vessel, he withdrew, but on his way down the coast he conferred with the Indian tribes, and sent a delegation of natives overland to spy upon the English. On Ecija's return to St. Augustine another native delegation was sent to Virginia from Florida by Governor Ybarra. The success of these embassies has been inferred from the Indian massacres at Jamestown in the following winter. Two years later another Spanish expedition was sent to Jamestown. Captures were made on both sides and the episode was followed by a demand at the English settlement for reinforcements.
Zúñiga continued to urge the destruction of the colony, but Philip III temporized, allured by the hope of an English alliance and encouraged by his informants to believe that the struggling colony would fail through misery. Instead of dying out, however, as time went on Virginia waxed stronger, and soon became a base for attacks on Spanish commerce, as had been predicted. The founding of Jamestown in Axacan was the first English nibble at the Spanish mainland possessions, a process which continued for a century and a half.
Delaware's governorship.—Delaware remained in Virginia less than a year, during which period new colonists arrived, the settlement at Jamestown was rebuilt, the Indians were driven from Kecoughtan, and forts Charles and Henry were established at the mouth of the James River. An expedition was also sent to the falls in search of a gold mine, but it found none. Delaware was unable to check the ravages of disease, and during the summer a hundred and fifty died. The governor left the colony in March, 1611, but remained in office until his death in 1618, during which period the government was administered by deputy governors.
Dale's strong hand.—Sir Thomas Dale was left in charge. He was a brusque old soldier who had seen service in the Netherlands, and during his administration, the colony was governed by military law. The men were forced to work like slaves, and those who rebelled were punished with the greatest severity, several captured runaways being burned at the stake. The Indians along the James and York rivers were attacked; Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, was captured, and the hostage was used to force that powerful chief to make peace. Hearing of the French occupation of Acadia, Dale sent Captain Argall to destroy the settlements.
Charter of 1612.—During the administration of Dale, a change was made in the charter, the powers of the council being considerably enlarged. The Bermudas were also placed under its jurisdiction. The rights in the islands, however, were subsequently sold to some of the members of the London Company, who obtained a charter in 1614 under the name of the Somers Island Company.
Change in the management of the company.—Sir Thomas Smythe had been the moving spirit of the company, but in spite of his efforts, the colony had proved a financial failure, and he was willing to let others carry on the enterprise. The central figure in the company after 1618 was Sir Edwin Sandys. Smythe had realized that it was necessary to change the communal form of ownership to one of landed proprietorship, and had issued instructions that fifty acres of land be assigned to every person who would transport one person to the colony. This policy was carried out by Sandys, and the "old colonists" were allowed to obtain larger tracts of land.
House of Burgesses.—In April, 1619, Sir George Yeardley assumed control as governor of Virginia. He brought out instructions by which the inhabitants of each place and plantation were to elect two burgesses, who were to meet at Jamestown in a general assembly. This first representative assembly in America met in the church at Jamestown on July 30. It was composed of the governor, councilors, and twenty-two burgesses. At the first session, the assembly sat in the two-fold capacity of law makers and court of law.
Agricultural development.—The original instructions had provided that the products of labor should belong to the community instead of to the individual, an arrangement by which the slothful profited at the expense of the industrious. During the first season, only four acres were cleared and planted. The insufficiency of the supply of grain made it necessary to depend upon the Indians for maize. In 1608 John Smith succeeded in getting forty acres of land broken, and the following year this was planted to maize. Just before the arrival of Delaware, the attempts at agriculture were abandoned, the colonists relying for subsistence on roots, herbs, nuts, berries, and fish. Delaware immediately set to work to right conditions, the hours of labor being set from six to ten in the morning, and from two to four in the afternoon.
When Dale took charge he forced the men to plant seed and assigned to each a garden. Livestock had been imported, and were allowed to roam at large in the woods. Dale erected a blockhouse on the mainland to protect them, and warned the settlers against letting stock wander. Henrico was selected as the site for another settlement and the town site of seven acres he caused to be fenced in. Other palings back of the settlement were erected and within the fenced areas corn was planted. On the south side of the river fences were built which protected a circuit of twelve miles, the enclosed land being used for a hog range. The lands of the Indians near the mouth of the Appamatox River were seized, fenced, and planted with maize.
In 1612 the cultivation of tobacco began, the first tobacco planter being John Rolfe, who had married Pocahontas. Tobacco soon became the only export, its cultivation absorbing the economic fife of the colony. To make certain of the food supply, Dale commanded that no one should be permitted to plant tobacco until he had planted two acres of grain. To encourage industry, Dale allowed some of the "old colonists" to lease three acres. He also put in force a rule that every man with a family who arrived in the colony should be provided with a house free of rent, tools, and livestock, and with subsistence for himself and family for the first year. If he confined himself to the planting of grain and vegetables, he was given twelve acres of fenced land. At the time of Dale's departure in 1616 there were three hundred and fifty inhabitants settled at Henrico, Bermuda, West and Shirley Hundreds, Jamestown, Kecoughtan, and Dale's Gift.
Immigration.—In 1619 twenty negroes were brought into Virginia, the first blacks to be introduced. Up to this time there were few women in the colony, but the company succeeded in sending over several ship-loads of unmarried women. Upon arrival there was à speedy courtship, and the lucky swain gladly paid a hundred and twenty pounds of the best tobacco for the cost of transportation. In general the type of settler was excellent, but in the later years of the company convicted felons and a large number of waifs and vagabonds from the streets of London were sent. The emigrants who had no capital were usually indented servants, the terms of indenture varying from two to seven years.
Growth of large estates.—In this early period began the formation of great estates. The company retained twelve thousand acres for itself. As new officers were created lands were set aside to support them. The treasurer, marshal, and cape merchant were each granted fifteen hundred acres, the physician and secretary five hundred acres each. The large estates were worked by tenants, the number on each estate being fixed by the company. Grants of large tracts were also made to groups of capitalists who agreed to bring out settlers.
The Indian massacre of 1622.—The reaching out for new lands for tobacco culture resulted in encroachment upon the fields of the Indians. Angered by this the Indians suddenly attacked the outlying plantations, killing between three and four hundred persons, nearly one-fourth of the entire population. The planting of the crops was interrupted and a winter of hardship followed. When the Indian maize crop was nearly ripe, the settlers retaliated, almost exterminating the natives along the lower courses of the James and York rivers.
Crown regulation of the tobacco industry.—To free himself from parliamentary control and to regulate industry, James I granted monopolies to private individuals. Royal commissioners were appointed to inspect the tobacco and to prevent smuggling, and planting in England was prohibited. In 1620 the London Company petitioned the king to do away with the tobacco monopoly and as a result the London and Bermuda companies were allowed to import fifty-five thousand pounds annually. The companies immediately attempted to ship Virginia tobacco to Holland; this led to a dispute with the privy council and the matter was discussed in parliament, where Sandys defended the right of free shipment. The dispute was settled by a compromise, by which the companies agreed to ship the entire product to England, and no restriction was placed upon the amount which they might import.
Neither side was entirely pleased with the arrangement and in November, 1622, an agreement was reached by the Lord Treasurer and the companies. The companies were given the sole right for seven years to import tobacco into England and Ireland; they were to pay into the royal exchequer the net proceeds of one-third of all tobacco imported; no tobacco was to be planted in England and Ireland, and a small amount of Spanish tobacco was to be imported for three years. Like previous arrangements, this did not meet with the approval of all, and it was annulled in 1623, the companies being allowed the exclusive right to import tobacco into England and Ireland, except a small amount of Spanish tobacco, and to pay a duty of nine pence a pound.
End of the London Company.—The king had looked with scant favor upon the administration of Sandys, for popular government was not to the liking of James. Friction between the king and the company also added to the royal displeasure. James, who was personally opposed to the use of tobacco, was also trying to please the Spanish court, which made frequent protests against the Virginia enterprise. Internal dissensions also disturbed the company, a group headed by Sir Thomas Smythe being opposed to the Sandys faction. Royal commissioners were appointed to examine the condition of affairs, and as a result of their report, in 1624 the charter of the London Company was annulled, the colony passing under the direct control of the crown.
Increase of population by 1625.—When Charles I came to the throne Virginia contained about twelve hundred inhabitants, of whom nearly five hundred were servants, and about a hundred were children. They were scattered through nineteen settlements, the largest being Elizabeth City, which contained two hundred and fifty-seven inhabitants. Jamestown had thirty-three houses and a population of one hundred and seventy-five.
Population in 1635.—By 1635 the population had increased to five thousand. The country had been divided into shires, which later were called counties. The six counties along the James River contained about four thousand inhabitants; Charles River County on the York River five hundred, and Accomac County on the opposite side of the bay four hundred. By 1640 the population had increased to seven thousand five hundred.
Tobacco lands.—The most desirable lands for tobacco were the bottoms along the streams. Tobacco exhausted the soil rapidly, three years being the usual life of a field. This made it necessary for the planter to take up new lands and increased his desire for larger holdings. Land patents were issued for large tracts, usually of from one hundred to three hundred acres, although many obtained patents for a thousand acres.
Charles I and the tobacco business.—Charles was opposed to the tobacco business, but he realized that it was necessary to the colony. The king favored Virginia by reducing the duty on tobacco and excluding the Spanish leaf from England and Ireland. But in 1627, when parliament had not granted adequate supplies to the crown, he renewed the monopoly. To put it in force, a proclamation was issued which forbade the annual importation of more than fifty thousand pounds of Spanish tobacco, prohibited the growing of the plant in England and Ireland, and made London the only port of entry. As the colonists objected to the monopoly, the king issued another proclamation, which provided that no colonial tobacco should be imported without special license and should be delivered to tobacco commissioners, who were to have the sole right of disposing of the product. The price was to be fixed by agreement between the shippers and commissioners. Efforts were made to have the colony engage in the production of more substantial commodities, the planters being commanded to produce pitch, tar, potash, timber, iron, and salt, to plant vines and grain, and to search for minerals. The efforts of the king, however, were but partially successful, and tobacco remained the great staple. It had also become the medium of exchange, and though attempts were made to introduce a metallic currency, they did not succeed, in spite of the fact that the fluctuating price of the staple made financial transactions difficult.
Harvey's tobacco policy.—In 1630 Governor Harvey commenced his administration. He immediately began to encourage the planting of grain and the raising of stock. The low price of tobacco at this time assisted him, and in 1631 the colony was able to export a large quantity of grain. Efforts were also made to improve the quality of tobacco. A law of the colonial legislature of 1632 provided for five points of inspection. Storehouses were built where inspectors examined the stock and condemned the poorer qualities. The number of plants to be raised by each family was limited to two thousand, and not more than nine leaves were allowed to be taken from a plant. In 1633 the number of plants per family was reduced to fifteen hundred. English merchants trading to the colonies purchased a considerable amount of tobacco, which they took in exchange for other commodities, for which they charged abnormally high prices. To right this and to increase the royal revenues, in 1634 the king again renewed the monopoly. When Governor Harvey attempted to contract for the crop, an acrimonious debate ensued. This, coupled with the fact that the governor attempted to assist Lord Baltimore's colonists, caused the council illegally to depose the governor.
Continued efforts to enforce the monopoly.—The king continued to make efforts to enforce the monopoly. In 1638 he issued another proclamation, stating that it was necessary to regulate tobacco planting, to decide how much was to be imported, and to handle the product. The colony as usual objected. Owing to the troublous times in England, the proclamation was not strictly enforced and much tobacco was sold to other than government agents.
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