Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page
Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
The Arrival of the First Supply to Jamestown, January 1608

When Captain Newport returned to Virginia with the first supply in early 1608, he also bore new and different instructions from the Virginia Company in England. The company's governing council was not pleased with the accomplishments of the colonists, especially that no gold, trade, or staple product had yet been found to produce profits for the company's stockholders. In the following excerpt from Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, what suggests these changes in the colonists' instructions? What is Smith's view of the "gold hunt"?

View the original document from The Capital and the Bay. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

ALL this time our care was not so much to abandon the Countrey; but the Treasurer and Councell in England, were as diligent & carefull to supply us. Two good ships they sent us, with neare a hundred men, well furnished with all things could be imagined necessary, both for them and us; The one commanded by Captaine Newport: the other by Captaine Francis Nelson, an honest man, and an expert Marriner. But such was the lewardnesse of his Ship (that though he was within the sight of Cape Henry) by stormy contrary winds was he forced so farre to Sea, that the West Indies was the next land, for the repaire of his Masts, and reliefe of wood and water. But Newport got in and arrived at James Towne, not long after the redemption of Captaine Smith. To whom the Salvages, as is sayd, every other day repaired, with such provisions that sufficiently did serve them from hand to mouth: part alwayes they brought him as Presents from their Kings, or Pocahontas; the rest he as their Market Clarke set the price himselfe, how they should sell: so he had inchanted these poore soules being their prisoner. . .

. . . Now the arrivall of this first supply so overjoyed us, that wee could not devise too much to please the Marriners. We gave them libertie to trucke or trade at their pleasures. But in a short time it followed, that could not be had for a pound of Copper, which before was sould us for an ounce: thus ambition and sufferance cut the throat of our trade, but confirmed their opinion of the greatnesse of Capt. Newport, (wherewith Smith had possessed Powhatan) especially by the great presents Newport often sent him, before he could prepare the Pinnace to goe and visit him: so that this great Savage desired also to see him. . . .

. . . Three or foure dayes more we spent in feasting, dauncing, and trading, wherein Powhatan carried himselfe so proudly, yet discreetly (in his salvage manner) as made us all admire his naturall gifts, considering his education. As scorning to trade as his subjects did; he bespake Newport in this manner.

Captaine Newport it is not agreeable to my greatnesse, in this pedling manner to trade for trifles; and I esteeme you also a great Werowance. Therefore lay me downe all your commodities together; what I like I will take, and in recompence give you what I thinke fitting their value.

Captaine Smith being our interpreter, regarding Newport as his father, knowing best the disposition of Powhatan, tould us his intent was but onely to cheate us; yet Captaine Newport thinking to out brave this Salvage in ostentation of greatnesse, and so to bewitch him with his bountie, as to have what he listed, it so hapned, that Powhatan having his desire, valued his corne at such a rate, that I thinke it better cheape in Spaine: for we had not foure bushells for that we expected to have twentie hogsheads. This bred some unkindnesse betweene our two Captaines; Newport seeking to please the unsatiable desire of the Salvage, Smith to cause the Salvage to please him . . . so that ere we departed, for a pound or two of blew beades, he brought ouer my king for 2. or 300. Bushels of corne; yet parted good friends. . . And so we returned all well to James towne, where this new supply being lodged with the rest, accidentally fired their quarters and so the towne, which being but thatched with reeds, the fire was so fierce as it burnt their Pallisado's, (though eight or ten yards distant) with their Armes, bedding, apparell, and much private provision. Good Master Hunt our Preacher lost all his Library and all he had but the cloathes on his backe: yet none never heard him repine at his losse. This happned in the winter in that extreame frost, 1607. Now though we had victuall sufficient I meane onely of Oatmeale, meale and corne, yet the Ship staying 14. weekes when shee might as wel have beene gone in 14. dayes, spent a great part of that, and neare all the rest that was sent to be landed. When they departed what there discretion could spare us, to make a little poore meale or two, we called feastes, to relish our mouthes: of each somwhat they left us, yet I must confesse, those that had either money, spare clothes credit to give billes of paiment, gold rings, furrs, or any such commodities, were ever welcome to this removing taverne, such was our patience to obay such vile Commanders, and buy our owne provisions at 15 times the value, suffering them feast (we bearing the charge) yet must not repine, but fast, least we should incurre the censure of factious and seditious persons: and then leakage, shiprats, and other casuallties occasioned them losse, but the vessels and remnants (for totals) we were glad to receave with all our hearts to make up the account, highly commending their providence for preserving that, least they should discourage any more to come to us. Now for all this plenty our ordynary was but meale and water, so that this great charge little releeved our wants, whereby with the extremitie of the bitter cold frost and those defects, more then halfe of us dyed. I cannot deny but both Smith and Skrivener did their best to amend what was amisse, but with the President went the major part, that there hornes were to short. But the worst was our guilded refiners with their golden promises made all men their slaves in hope of recompences; there was no talke, no hope, no worke, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, loade gold, such a bruit of gold, that one mad fellow desired to be buried in the sands least they should by there art make gold of his bones: little neede there was and lesse reason, the ship should stay, there wages run on, our victualls consume 14. weekes, that the Mariners might say, they did helpe to build such a golden Church that we can say the raine washed neere to nothing in 14. dayes. Were it that captaine Smith would not applaude all those golden inventions, because they admitted him not to the sight of their trialls nor golden consultations, I know not; but I have heard him oft question with Captaine Martin & tell him, except he could shew him a more substantiall triall, he was not inamoured with their durty skill, breathing out these and many other passions, never any thing did more torment him, then to see all necessary busines neglected, to fraught such a drunken ship with so much guilded durt. Till then we never accounted, Captaine Newport a refiner, who being ready to set saile for England, & we not having any use of Parliaments, Plaies, Petitions, Admiralls, Recorders, Interpreters, Chronologers, Courts of Plea, nor Justices of peace, sent Master Wingfield and Captaine Archer home with him, that had ingrossed all those titles, to seeke some better place of imployment.

Oh cursed gold those, hunger-starved movers,
To what misfortunes lead'st thou all those lovers!
For all the China wealth, nor Indies can
Suffice the minde of an av'ritious man.

top of page

View the original document from The Capital and the Bay. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.