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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
Other Witnesses to the Period Between Jamestown's Founding and the "First Supply"

The months between June 1607 and April 1608 were extremely difficult for the Jamestown colonists. According to George Percy, what problems faced the colonists? Does his assessment agree with that of John Smith? According to Edward-Maria Wingfield, who wrote the second document, what were the primary problems facing the Jamestown colonists? Why did the colonists depose Wingfield from his leadership post?

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Observations by George Percy, 1607

Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases--as swellings, fluxes, burning fevers--and by wars, and some departed suddenly; but, for the most part, they died of mere famine. There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in this new-discovered Virginia. We watched every three nights, lying on the bare, cold ground, what weather soever came; warded all the next day; which brought our men to be most feeble wretches. Our food was but a small can of barley, sod in water, to five men a day; our drinke, cold water taken out of the river, which was at a flood very salt, at a low tide full of slime and filth; which was the destruction of many of our men. Thus we lived, for the space of five months, in this miserable distress; not having five able men to man our bulwarks upon any occasion. If it had not pleased God to have put a terrour in the Savages' hearts, we had all perished by those wild and cruel Pagans, being in that weak state as we were; our men night and day groaning in every corner of the fort, most pitiful to hear. If there were any conscience in men, it would make their hearts to bleed to hear the pitiful murmurings and outcries of our sick men, without relief, every night and day, for the space of six weeks; some departing out of the world, many times three or four in a night; in the morning, their bodies trailed out of their cabins, like dogs, to be buried. In this sort did I see the mortality of divers of our people.

Observations by Edward-Maria Wingfield, 1607

July.--Th 3 of July, 7 or 8 Indians presented the President a dear from Pamaonke, a wyrouance, desiring our friendshipp. They enquired after our shipping; wch the President said was gon to Croutoon. They fear much our shipps; and therefore he would not have them think it farr from us. Their wyrounce had a hatchet sent him. They wear well contented wth trifles. A little after this came a dear to the President from the Great Powatan. He and his messingers were pleased wth the like trifles. The President likewise bought diuers tymes dear of the Indyans; beavers, and other flesh; wch he alwayes caused to be equally deuided among the Collonye.

About this tyme, diuers of our men fell sick. We myssed aboue fforty before September did see us;4 amongst whom was the worthy and religious gent. Captn. Bartholomew Gosnold,5 upon whose liefs stood a great part of the good succes and fortune of our government and Collony. In his sicknes tyme, the President did easily foretel his owne deposing from his comaund; so much differed the President and the other Councellors in mannaging the government of the Collonye. . . .

Sicknes had not now left us vi [five or six] able men in our towne. God's onely mercy did now watch and warde for us: but the President hidd this our weaknes carefully from the salvages; neuer suffring them, in all his tyme, to come into our towne. . . .

[September]

The Councell demanded some larger allowance for themselves, and for some sick, their favorites; wch the President would not yeeld unto, wthout their warrants.

This matter was before [pro]pounded by Captn. Martyn, but so nakedly as that he neyther knew the quantity of the stoare to be but for xiij weekes and a half, under the Cap Merchaunt's hand. He prayed them further to consider the long tyme before wee expected Captn. Newport's retorne; the incertainty of his retorne, if God did not fauor his voyage; the long tyme before our harvest would bee ripe; and the doubt. full peace that wee had wth the Indyans, wch they would keepe no longer then oportunity served to doe us mischeif.

It was then therefore ordered that every meale of fish or fleshe should excuse the allowance for poridg, both against the sick and hole. The Councell, therefore, sitting againe upon this proposition, instructed in the former reasons and order, did not thinke fit to break the former order by enlarging their allowance, as will appeare by the most voyces reddy to be shewed under their handes. Now was the comon store of oyle, vinigar, sack, &aquavite all spent, saueing twoe gallons of each: the sack reserved for the Comunion Table, the rest for such extreamityes as might fall upon us, wch the President had onely made knowne to Captn. Gosnold; of wch course he liked well. The vessells wear, therefore, boonged vpp. When Mr Gosnold was dead, the President did acquaint the rest of the Counsell wth the said remnant: but, Lord, how they then longed for to supp up that little remnant! for they had nowe emptied all their own bottles, and all other that they could smell out.

A little while after this, the Councell did againe fall upon the President for some better allowance for themselves, and some few the sick, their privates. The President tested he would not be partial; but, if one had any thing of him, every man should have his portion according to their placs. Nevertheless, that, upon their warrants, he would deliver what pleased them to demand. Yf the President had at that tyme enlarged the ?portion according to their request, ?hout doubt, in very short tyme, he had starued the whole company. He would not ioyne wth them, therefore, in such ignorant murder ?hout their own warrant.

The President, well seeing to what end their ympacience would growe, desired them earnestly & often tymes to bestow the Presidentshipp amonge themselves; that he would obey, a private man, as well as they could comand. But they refused to discharge him of the place; sayeing they mought not doe it, for that hee did his Matie good service in yt. In this meane tyme, the Indians did daily relieve us wth corne and fleshe, that, in three weekes, the President had reared vpp xx men able to worke; for, as his stoare increased, he mended the comon pott: he had laid up, besides, provision for 3 weekes' wheate before hand. By this tyme, the Councell had fully plotted to depose Wingfield, ther then President; and had drawne certeyne artycles in wrighting amongst themselves, and toke their oathes upon the Evangelists to observe them: th' effect whereof was, first,--

To depose the then President;

To make Mr Ratcliffe the next President;

Not to depose the one th' other;

Not to take the deposed President into Councell againe;

Not to take Mr Archer into the Councell, or any other, wthout the consent of every one of them. To theis they had subscribed; as out of their owne mouthes, at seuerall tymes, it was easily gathered. Thus had they forsaken his Mats governmt, sett us downe in the instruc??ns, & made it a Triumvirat. . . .

All this while, the salvages brought to the towne such corn and fflesh as they could spare. Paspaheighe, by Tapahanne's mediation, was taken into freindshipp with us. The Councillors, Mr Smyth [John Smith] especially, traded up and downe the river wth the Indyans for corne; wch releued the Collony well.

As I understand by a report, I am much charged wth staruing the Collony. I did alwaies give eury man his allowance faithfully, both of corne, oyle, aquivite, &c., as was by the Counsell proportioned: neyther was it bettered after my tyme, untill, towards th' end of March, a bisket was allowed to every workeing man for his breakefast, by means of the puision brought us by Captn. Newport; as will appeare hereafter. It is further said, I did much banquit and ryot. I never had but one squirell roasted; whereof I gave part to Mr Ratcliff, then sick: yet was that squirell given me. I did never heate a flesh pott but when the comon pot was so used likewise. Yet how often Mr President's and the Councellors' spitts have night & daye bene endaungered to break their backes,--so laden wth swarms, geese, ducks, &c! how many times their flesh ports have swelled, many hungry eies did behold, to their great longing; and what great theeues and theeving thear hath been in the comon stoare since my tyme, I doubt not but is already made knowne to his Mats Councell for Virginia.


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View the original documents by clicking on the links above. The documents are from The Capital and the Bay. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.