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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
Instructions to Governor Sir Thomas Gates, May 1609

From the start, Jamestown faced all manner of difficulties consistent with the Company's view that the first English colony was an experiment. In 1609, the Virginia Company sought to rectify some of these problems by appointing Sir Thomas Gates as governor and dispatching a significant new supply and colonists. In the excerpts from the Company's instructions to Gates, what things seem to be of most concern? How do these instructions compare with John Smith's "Rude" Letter to the company of the same year?

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1. Hauinge considered the greate sufficiency and zealous affeccon wch you Sr Thomas Gates haue many waies manifested vnto vs, and hauinge therefore by our Commission vnder or hands and seales constituted and ordayned you to be the governor of Virginia . . . therefore doe requier and charge you . . . presently with all convenient speede to take the charge and of our fleete Consistinge of eight good shippes and one Pinnace and of sixe hundrend land men to be transported vnder yor Comaund, and with the first winde to sett sayle for virginia. And in yor passage thither you shall not land nor touch any of [the Kinge of] Spaines his Dominions quetly possessed . . .

6. You shall take principall order and Care for the true and reverent worship of god that his worde be duely preached and his holy sacraments administred accordinge to ye constitucons of the Church of England in all fundamentall pointes . . . And that all Atheisme Prophanes Popery or Schisme be exemplarily punished to the honor of god and to the peace and safety of his Church . . .

7. You shall, with all ppensenes and diligence, endeavour the conversion of the natiues to the knowledge and worship of the true god and their redeemer Christ Jesus, as the most pious and noble end of this plantacon . . . for they are so wrapped vp in the fogge and miserie of their iniquity, and so tirrified with their continuall tirrany Chayned vnder the bond of Deathe vnto the Divell that while they liue amounge them to poyson and infecte them their mides, you shall neuer make any greate progres into this glorious worke, nor haue any Civill peace or concurre with them. And in case of necessity, or conveniency, we pnounce it not crueltie nor breache of Charity to deale more sharpley with them . . .

9. You shall for the more regard and respect of yor place, to begett reverence to yor authority, and to refresh their mindes that obey the gravity of those lawes vnder wch they were borne . . . as also the attendance of a guarde vppon your pson, and in all such like cases you shall haue power to make, adde or disntigishe any lawes or ordinances at yor discrecon accordinge to the authority limited in yor Comission.

10. You shall, for the choice of plantacons obserue two generall rulles that you rather seeke to to the sun then from it, wch is vnder god the first cause both of health and Riches. And that also such places wch you resolue to build and inhabite vppon, haue at the leaste one good outlett into the Sea, and fresh water to the land, that it be a dry and wholesome earth, and as free from woode as possiblie you may, whereby you may haue Romme to discouer aboute you and vnshady ground to plant, nere you.

11. You must in euery plantaccon principally pvide of yor owne a Common Graunge and Storehowse of Corne, besides that wch you shall obtaine by tribute or trade with the natiues:

12. . . . [W]e advise you to continue the Plantaccon at James Towne with a Convenient nomber of men, but not as yorsituaccon or Citty, because the place is vnwholesome and but in the Marish of Virginia, and to keepe it onely as a fitt porte for yorShippes to ride before to ariue and vnlade att, butt neither shall you make it yorprincipally Storehowse or Magazin either of armes victualls or goods . . .

17. Yor enemies can be but of two sortes straungers and natiues, for the first yordefence must be vppon advauntage of the place and way vnto it for fortes vaue no other vse but that a fewe men may defend and dispute their footinge with them against a great nomb and to winne time . . .

18. The second enemy is the Natiues who can no way hurte you but by fire or by destroyinge yorCatle, or hinderinge yorworkes by Stealth or yorpassages in small nombers [see more of the Company's instructions to Gates concerning the Indians] . . .

24. Hauinge deduced yorColony into Severall seates and plantaccons that may commodiously answere and receiue one another you must devide yor people into tennes twenties & and so vpwards, to euery necessary worke a competent nomber, ouer euery one of wch you must appointe some man to Care and still in that worke to ouersee them and to take dayly accounte of their laboures and you must ordayne yt euery ouerseer of such a nomb of workemen Deliuer once a weeke an accounte of the wholle committed to his Charge . . . And thus you shall both knowe howe yormen are men are imployed, what they gett & where it is, as also the measure of yorpvision and wealth:

25. For such of yormen as doe shall attend any worke in or nere aboute euery towne you shall doe best to lett them eate together at seasonable howers in some publique place beinge messed by sixe or fiue to a messe, in wch you must see there bee equality and sufficient that so they may come and retourne to their worke without delay and haue no cause to complaine of measure or to excuse their [i]dlenes vppon ye dressinge or want of diett. . . .

27. You must take especiall care what relaccons come into England and what lres {letters] are written and that all thinges of that nature may be boxed vp and sealed and sent to first the Councell here accordinge to a former instruccon vnto the late President in that behalf directed and that at the ariuall and retourne of euery shippinge you endeauour to knowe all the pticuler passages and informaccons giuen on both sides and to advertise vs accordingly . . .


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