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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
The Virginia Colonists Compare Their Efforts with the Spanish

Because of constant criticisms from the Virginia Company at home, the Jamestown colonists were ever sensitive to the denigration of their efforts. In the following excerpt from Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, how do these writers compare their efforts with those of the Spanish? What benefits do these writers see as arising from their different circumstances?

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Written by Richard Wyffin, William Phittiplace, Jeffrey Abbot, and Anas Todkill

Those temporizing proceedings to some may seeme too charitable, to such a daily daring trecherous people: to others not pleasing, that we washed not the ground with their blouds, nor shewed such strange inventions in mangling, murdering, ransacking, and destroying (as did the Spanyards) the simple bodies of such ignorant soules; nor delightfull, because not stuffed with Relations of heapes and mynes of gold and silver, nor such rare commodities, as the Portugals and Spanyards found in the East and West Indies. The want whereof hath begot us (that were the first undertakers) no lesse scorne and contempt, then the noble conquests and valiant adventures beautified with it, prayse and honour. Too much I confesse the world cannot attribute to their ever memorable merit: and to cleare us from the blind worlds ignorant censure, these few words may suffice any reasonable understanding.

It was the Spanyards good hap to happen in those parts where were infinite numbers of people, who had manured the ground with that providence, it affoorded victualls at all times. And time had brought them to that perfection, they had the use of gold and silver, and the most of such commodities as those Countries affoorded: so that what the Spanyard got was chiefely the spoyle and pillage of those Countrey people, and not the labours of their owne hands. But had those fruitfull Countries beene as salvage, as barbarous, as ill peopled, as little planted, laboured, and manured, as Virginia: their proper labours it is likely would have produced as small profit as ours. But had Virginia beene peopled, planted, manured, and adorned with such store of precious Jewels, and rich commodities as was the Indies: then had we not gotten and done as much as by their examples might be expected from us, the world might then have traduced us and our merits, and have made shame and infamy our recompence and reward.

But we chanced in a Land even as God made it, where we found onely an idle, improvident, scattered people, ignorant of the knowledge of gold or silver, or any commodities, and carelesse of any thing but from hand to mouth, except bables of no worth; nothing to incourage us, but what accidentally we found Nature afforded. Which ere we could bring to recompence our paines, defray our charges, and satisfie our Adventurers; we were to discover the Countrey, subdue the people, bring them to be tractable, civill, and industrious, and teach them trades, that the fruits of their labours might make us some recompence, or plant such Colonies of our owne, that must first make provision how to live of themselves, ere they can bring to perfection the commodities of the Country: which doubtlesse will be as commodious for England as the west Indies for Spaine, if it be rightly mannaged: notwithstanding all our home-bred opinions, that will argue the contrary, as formerly some have done against the Spanyards and Portugalls. But to conclude, against all rumor of opinion, I onely say this, for those that the three first yeares began this Plantation; notwithstanding all their factions, mutinies, and miseries, so gently corrected, and well prevented: peruse the Spanish Decades; the Relations of Master Hackluit, and tell me how many ever with such small meanes as a Barge of 22 tuns, sometimes with seaven, eight, or nine, or but at most, twelve or sixteene men, did ever discover so many fayre and navigable Rivers, subject so many severall Kings, people, and Nations, to obedience, and contribution, with so little bloudshed.

And if in the search of those Countries we had hapned where wealth had beene, we had as surely had it as obedience and contribution, but if we have overskipped it, we will not envie them that shall find it: yet can we not but lament, it was our fortunes to end when we had but onely learned how to begin, and found the right course how to proceed.


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