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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
A Justification for Planting Virginia Before 1609

The following excerpt is from the Records of the Virginia Company of London, the corporate entity that undertook the initial attempt to plant a colony in Virginia. Why does the London Company feel it needs to justify planting a colony in Virginia? How does the Virginia Company draw upon the experience of the King of Spain in writing this justification?

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It was proposed . . . that some forme of writinge in way of Iustification of our plantation might be conceiued, and pass, (though not by publique authorytye) into many handes. The motion seemed to have these inducements.

1. First, yt it mought give adventurers, a clearnes and satisfaction, for ye Iustice of ye action, and so encourage them, and draw on others.

2. That ye Spaniard might out of this intimation reasonably collect, yt wee vnderstood our owne case to be such, yt the state would neyther feare, nor be ashamed to proceed in yt persecution ther of, if any Course should bee held agaynst yt: and yt this Iustification of our owne title, would deterr, or at least retard ye Spaniard from suddayne attempting vs. And though it were sayd then; That this was a lowe and impotent way to convey it by such a close scedvle; yet [xx] seemt, not to want example of other things carried in yt manner: and yet to haue wrought ye same effect, as a more publique declaration of ye state could doe.

They wch differed from him had these motiues;

1. That it conduc'd not to his first hope of encouraging, or inciting, adventurers: for, they in this poynt needed it not, nor require yt. That ther is much of a Confession, in euery unnecessary Apology: yt to moue scruple, especially of Conscience, wher ther is afore quiettnes and no doubting rather shakes and deterrs, then settles, or confirmes. And yt  already some of best Iudgement, startle vpon ye first noyse of yt.

2. That ye Spaniard hath already seene more publique, and authentique testemonyes, of ye States good affection to ye Iourny, by establishing it vnder ye great seale: and by ye seconding, and Iterating supplyes, then this way can giue him:
Besides it is more then probable yt his Ambassadoe with forthwith expostulate wth his Matie about this writing, and then it is not conceau'd how far his Matie wilbe pleasd to avow yt, wch may intimate disavowing:
Besides yt it seemed not to worke these good effects wch were pretended, it hath these euident dangers in yt.

1. It will rather hasten ye Spaniards rage, then retard yt; because he will see it, to grow euery day harder for him to defeat vs.

2. It will rayse vndisputably, two pen-adversaries of diurse sortes: The first are perfect Spaniards, who will defend yt title vpon ye Donation, of Alexander, wch is so grounded vpon the principles of theyr religion yt some of the best authors haue pronounced yt  Heresy to doubt yt. And wee, (though wee want not inducinge and Convenient arguments from God, and Nature and Nations) yet haue no such convincinge and obligatory [manuscript torn and illegible at this point] irs, especially towards them, and their ground. The second sort wilbe neutrall writers, but of Spanish affections: who because they cannott therby hurt ye Spaniard already established there, but may slacken vs, if they can cast scruples into our Conscience  will wright agaynst ye lawfullnes of plantation in these, as well by ye Spaniard, as by vs, or any, wch must necessaryly grow to disputution of so much intricasy, perplexity, and replication, as shall conduce vnto theyr end of slackning ws. if no farther. For when at first discouery of these partes, ye Spaniard did subiect ye Consideration of yt to Casuists, and Confessors, it became so indeterminable, yt he was forced to resolue roundly vpon ye worst way, least he should haue none, to prosecute ye Indians as Barbar's, and therby Naturally slaues. When after 50 yeares his Fryars declyn'd him from yt seuere and vnIust course, and he labourd by men of all learninge to prouide himselfe of a more acceptable title, all ye reasons . . . were so incoherent and so resisted by one another, . . . [that there] can be gathered for him no title, of Dominion or property, but only a Magistracy, and Empire . . .

Because therefore, we shalbe putt to defend our title, not yet publiquely quarreled, not only comparatiuely to be as good as ye Spaniards (wch we doubt not is easy enough, when it shalbe impugned,) (agaynst wch not wth standinge to gouerne them, ther arises ye Donation, and yt wee seek Dominion) but absolutely to be good agaynst ye Naturall people: some thought it better to abstayne from this vnnecessary way of prouication, and reserue ourselues to ye defensiue part, when they shall offer any thing agaynst vs: wch will more easyly and satisfactoryly be donne, and we are like enough to bee too soone putt to yt by them, when they see ye proportion and forwardnes of this present supply.


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