Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page

home

Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Virginia's Early Relations with Native Americans
Smith Attempts to Suppress the Indians Around Jamestown, 1608

From the beginning of English colonization, keen observers understood the fundamental importance of food supply, marketable staples, and Indian relations to building and sustaining a colony. Indeed, these three issues underlay the entire early history of Jamestown and Virginia. In the following excerpt from Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, how are the various views of Indian relations in conflict?

View the original document from The Capital and the Bay. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


THe authoritie now consisting in Captaine Martin, and the still sickly President, the sale of the Stores commodities maintained his estate, as an inheritable revenew. The spring approaching, and the Ship departing, Mr. Scrivener and Captaine Smith devided betwixt them the rebuilding James towne; the repairing our Pallizadoes; the cutting downe trees; preparing our fields; planting our corne, and to rebuild our Church, and recover our Store house. All men thus busie at their severall labours, Master Nelson arrived with his lost Phoenix; lost (I say) for that we all deemed him lost. Landing safely all his men, (so well he had mannaged his ill hap,) causing the Indian Isles to feede his company, that his victuall to that we had gotten, as is said before, was neare after our allowance sufficient for halfe a yeare. He had not any thing but he freely imparted it, which honest dealing (being a Marriner) caused us admire him: we would not have wished more then he did for us. . . .

Powhatan (to expresse his love to Newport) when he departed, presented him with twentie Turkies, conditionally to returne him twentie swords, which immediately was sent him; now after his departure he presented Captaine Smith with the like luggage, but not finding his humor obeyed in not sending such weapons as he desired, he caused his people with twentie devices to obtaine them. At last by ambuscadoes at our very Ports [gates of the fort] they would take them perforce, surprise us at worke, or any way; which was so long permitted, they became so insolent there was no rule; the command from England was so strait not to offend them, as our authoritie-bearers (keeping their houses) would rather be any thing then peace-breakers. This charitable humor prevailed, till well it chanced they medled with Captaine Smith, who without farther deliberation gave them such an incounter, as some he so hunted up and downe the Isle, some he so terrified with whipping, beating, and imprisonment, as for revenge they surprised two of our forraging disorderly souldiers, and having assembled their forces, boldly threatned at our Ports to force Smith to redeliver seven Salvages, which for their villanies he detained prisoners, or we were all but dead men. But to try their furies he sallied out amongst them, and in lesse then an houre, he so hampred their insolencies, they brought them his two men, desiring peace without any further composition for their prisoners. Those he examined, and caused them all beleeve, by severall vollies of shot one of their companions was shot to death, because they would not confesse their intents and plotters of those villanies. And thus they all agreed in one point, they were directed onely by Powhatan to obtaine him our weapons, to cut our owne throats, with the manner where, how, and when, which we plainly found most true and apparant: yet he sent his messengers, and his dearest daughter Pocahontas with presents to excuse him of the injuries done by some rash untoward Captaines his subjects, desiring their liberties for this time, with the assurance of his love for ever. After Smith had given the prisoners what correction he thought fit, used them well a day or two after, &then delivered them Pocahontas, for whose sake onely he fayned to have saved their lives, and gave them libertie. The patient Councell that nothing would move to warre with the Salvages, would gladly have wrangled with Captaine Smith for his crueltie, yet none was slaine to any mans knowledge, but it brought them in such feare and obedience, as his very name would sufficiently affright them; where before, wee had sometime peace and warre twice in a day, and very seldome a weeke, but we had some trecherous villany or other.


top of page

View the original document from The Capital and the Bay. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.