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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
Some Observations on the Second Supply to Jamestown, September 1608

Even after a foothold was established at Jamestown, the colonists were instructed to continue their exploration of the region. The company was interested in the actual and potential resources of the area and in the possibility of a water route to the so-called South Seas. Captain Smith therefore made several explorations of the Chesapeake region. Upon his return to Jamestown, however, he found the village in a shambles. According to the witnesses in the following excerpts, what had happened in Jamestown in Smith's absence? What did Smith do about these problems upon his return?

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Chapter V of Smith's General History, Written by Walter Russell, Anas Todkill, and Thomas Mumford

. . . There we found the last Supply were all sicke, the rest some lame, some bruised, all unable to doe any thing but complaine of the pride and unreasonable needlesse crueltie of the silly President, that had riotously consumed the store: and to fulfill his follies about building him an unnecessary building for his pleasure in the woods, had brought them all to that misery; that had we not arrived, they had as strangely tormented him with revenge: but the good newes of our Discovery, and the good hope we had by the Salvages relation, that our Bay had stretched into the South Sea, or somewhat neare it, appeased their fury; but conditionally that Ratliffe should be deposed, and that Captaine Smith would take upon him the government, as by course it did belong. Their request being effected, he substituted Mr. Scrivener his deare friend in the Presidency, equally distributing those private provisions the other had ingrossed, appointing more honest officers to assist master Scrivener (who then lay exceeding sicke of a Callenture) and in regard of the weaknesse of the company, and heate of the yeare, they being unable to worke, he left them to live at ease, to recover their healths, but imbarked himselfe to finish his Discovery.

Chapter VI of Smith's General History, Written by Anthony Bagnall, Nathanaell Powell, and Anas Todkill

. . . September, 1608. There we found Mr. Scrivener, and divers others well recovered: many dead; some sicke: the late President prisoner for mutiny: by the honest diligence of Master Scrivener, the harvest gathered, but the provision in the store much spoyled with rayne. Thus was that summer (when little wanted) consumed and spent, and nothing done (such was the government of Captaine Ratliffe) but onely this discovery; wherein to expresse all the dangers, accidents, and incounters this small number passed in that small Barge, by the scale of proportion, about three thousand myles, with such watery dyet in those great waters and barbarous Countries (till then to any Christian utterly unknowne) I rather referre their merit to the censure of the courteous and experienced Reader, then I would be tedious or partiall being a partie. . . .

Chapter VII of Smith's General History

THe tenth of September, by the Election of the Councell, and request of the Company, Captaine Smith received the Letters Patents: which till then by no meanes he would accept, though he was often importuned thereunto. Now the building of Ratliffes Pallace stayed as a thing needlesse; the Church was repaired; the Store-house recovered; buildings prepared for the Supplyes we expected; the Fort reduced to a five-square forme; the order of the Watch renewed; the squadrons (each setting of the Watch) trained; the whole Company every Saturday exercised, in the plaine by the west Bulwarke, prepared for that purpose, we called Smithfield: where sometimes more then an hundred Salvages would stand in an amazement to behold, how a fyle would batter a tree, where he would make them a marke to shoot at; the boats trimmed for trade, which being sent out with Lieutenant Percy, in their Journey incountred the second Supply, that brought them backe to discover the Country of Monacan. How or why Captaine Newport obtained such a private Commission, as not to returne without a lumpe of gold, a certaintie of the South sea, or one of the lost company sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, I know not; nor why he brought such a five peeced Barge, not to beare us to that South sea, till we had borne her over the mountaines, which how farre they extend is yet unknowne. . . . As for the hyring of the Poles and Dutch-men, to make Pitch, Tar, Glasse, Milles, and Sope ashes when the Country is replenished with people, and necessaries, would have done well, but to send them and seaventie more without civtualls to worke, was not so well advised nor considered of, as it should have beene. Yet this could not have hurt us had they beene 200. though then we were 130 that wanted for our selves. For we had the Salvages in that decorum [position or situation] (their harvest being newly gathered) that we feared not to get victuals for 500. Now was there no way to make us miserable, but to neglect that time to make provision whilst it was to be had, the which was done by the direction from England to performe this strange discovery, but a more strange Coronation to loose that time, spend that victualls we had, tyre and starve our men, having no meanes to carry victuals, munition, the hurt or sicke, but on their owne backes. How or by whom they were invented I know not: but Captaine Newport we onely accounted the Author, who to effect these projects, had so guilded mens hopes with great promises, that both Company and Councell concluded his resolution for the most part: God doth know they little knew what they did, nor understood their owne estates to conclude his conclusions, against all the inconveniences the foreseeing President alledged. Of this Supply there was added to the Councell, one Captaine Richard Waldo, and Captaine Wynne, two auncient Souldiers, and valiant Gentlemen, but yet ignorant of the busines, (being but newly arrived.) Ratliffe was also permitted to have his voyce, & Mr. Scrivener, desirous to see strange Countries: so that although Smith was President, yet the Major part of the Councell had the authoritie and ruled it as they listed. As for clearing Smiths objections, how Pitch and Tarre, Wainscot, Clapbord, Glasse, and Sope ashes, could be provided, to relade the ship, or provision got to live withall, when none was in the Country, and that we had spent, before the ship departed to effect these projects. The answer was, Captaine Newport undertooke to fraught the Pinnace of twentie tunnes with Corne in going and returning in his Discovery, and to refraught her againe from Werowocomoco of Powhatan. Also promising a great proportion of victualls from the Ship; inferring that Smiths propositions were onely devices to hinder his journey, to effect it himselfe; and that the crueltie he had used to the Salvages, might well be the occasion to hinder these Designes, and seeke revenge on him. For which taxation all workes were left, and 120 chosen men were appointed for Newports guard in this Discovery. But Captaine Smith to make cleare all those seeming suspitions, that the Salvages were not so desperate as was pretended by Captaine Newport, and how willing (since by their authoritie they would have it so) he was to assist them what he could, because the Coronation would consume much time, he undertooke himselfe their message to Powhatan, to intreat him to come to James Towne toreceive his presents. And where Newport durst not goe with lesse then 120. he onely tooke with him Captaine Waldo, Mr. Andrew Buckler, Edward Brinton, and Samuel Collier: with these foure he went over land to Werowocomoco, some 12 myles; there he passed the river of Pamaunkee in a Salvage Canow. Powhatan being 30 myles of, was presently sent for: in the meane time, Pocahontas and her women entertained Captaine Smith in this manner. . . .

The Ship having disburdened her selfe of 70 persons, with the first Gentlewoman and woman servant that arrived in our Colony. Captaine Newport with 120. chosen men, led by Captaine Waldo, Lieutenant Percie, Captaine Winne, Mr. West, and Mr. Scrivener, set forward for the discovery of Monacan, leaving the President at the Fort with about 80. or 90. (such as they were) to relade the Ship. Arriving at the Falles we marched by land some fortie myles in two dayes and a halfe, and so returned downe the same path we went. . . . And in our returnes searched many places we supposed Mines, about which we spent some time in refyning, having one William Callicut, a refyner fitted for that purpose. From that crust of earth we digged, he perswaded us to beleeve he extracted some small quantitie of silver; and (not unlikely) better stuffe might be had for the digging. With this poore tryall, being contented to leave this fayre, fertile, well watered Country; and comming to the Falles, the Salvages fayned there were divers ships come into the Bay, to kill them at James Towne. Trade they would not, and finde their Corne we could not; for they had hid it in the woods: and being thus deluded, we arrived at James Towne, halfe sicke, all complaining, and tyred with toyle, famine, and discontent, to have onely but discovered our guilded hopes, and such fruitlesse certainties, as Captaine Smith fortold us. . . .

No sooner were we landed, but the President dispersed so many as were able, some for Glasse, others for Tarre, Pitch, and Sope-ashes, leaving them with the Fort to the Councels oversight, but 30 of us he conducted downe the river some 5 myles from James towne, to learne to make Clapbord, cut downe trees, and lye in woods. Amongst the rest he had chosen Gabriel Beadle, and John Russell, the onely two gallants of this last Supply, and both proper Gentlemen. Strange were these pleasures to their conditions; yet lodging, eating, and drinking, working or playing, they but doing as the President did himselfe. All these things were carried so pleasantly as within a weeke they became Masters: making it their delight to heare the trees thunder as they fell; but the Axes so oft blistered their tender fingers, that many times every third blow had a loud othe to drowne the eccho; for remedie of which sinne, the President devised how to have every mans othes numbred, and at night for every othe to have a Cann of water powred downe his sleeve, with which every offender was so washed (himselfe and all) that a man should scarce heare an othe in a weeke. . . .

By this, let no man thinke that the President and these Gentlemen spent their times as common Wood-haggers [probably hackers] at felling of trees, or such other like labours, or that they were pressed to it as hirelings, or common slaves; for what they did, after they were but once a little inured, it seemed and some conceited it, onely as a pleasure and recreation, yet 30 or 40 of such voluntary Gentlemen would doe more in a day then 100 of the rest that must be prest to it by compulsion, but twentie good workemen had beene better then them all. . . .

Those are the Saint-seeming Worthies of Virginia, that have notwithstanding all this meate, drinke, and wages; but now they begin to grow weary, their trade being both perceived and prevented; none hath beene in Virginia that hath observed any thing, which knowes not this to be true, and yet the losse, the scorne, the misery, and shame, was the poore Officers, Gentlemen, and carelesse Governours, who were all thus bought & sold; the adventurers cousened, and the action overthrowne by their false excuses, informations, and directions. By this let all men judge, how this businesse could prosper, being thus abused by such pilfring occasions. And had not Captaine Newport cryed Peccavi, the President would have discharged the ship, and caused him to have stayed one yeare in Virginia, to learne to speake of his owne experience.


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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.