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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Evolution of the Virginia Colony, 1610-1630
Governor Argall Finds Virginia "Decayed and Crooked," 1617

Despite the fact that the Virginia Company had invested nearly dictatorial authority in the hands of Governors Gates and Dale, the Virginia Colony was in little better shape by the end of their tenures than before. According to the documents below, what problems continued to plague the colony? How might you account for the differences in tone between Argall's report and Rolf's letter to Company Treasurer Sir Edwin Sandys?

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Governor Argall, Letter to the Virginia Company, March 10, 1617

The Govr tells ye Compa in what a ruinous condiccon he found ye Colony by ye carelessness of ye people & lawless living and how he has improued almost euery thing  That the Citizens of Bermuda hundd claims ye privileges granted them wch he can't refuse, and he therefore cant force the artificers there to follow their arts to great prjudice Colony  Now hereafter to be made free of ye Colony till bound to follow their trades.  Ship Carpenters are controuled to serve without ye wages agreed for, all artificers sent upon wages he undertakes to pay here. Corn dont ansr his expectaccon  desires but 50 men to be sent  Indians so poor cant pay their debts & tribute pohawtan goes from place to place visiting his Country taking his pleasure in good friendship  wth us laments his daughters death but glad her child is living  so doth opachanko  both want to see him but desires that he may be stronger before he returns.

want cloathes & tools sent here.  ground will hold out but 3 yrs and cant clear more for want of tools  ploughs Set to work for wheat barley pease hemp fflax &c.  hath planted mulbery trees.  mr Lambert has found out that Tobo cures better on lines than in heaps and desires lines be sent. last summer a great mortality among us, far greater among the Indians and a morrain amongst the deers. desire ordrs for mr Wickham & mr Maycock a Camb. Schollar and a person to read to mr Wickm (his eyes being dim)  desires another Govr to be sent  all desire The Lord La Warr (who is our Lord Govr) to return to his Governmt where he'l find all things in good ordr & psperity.

John Rolf Letter to Sir Edwin Sandys, June 8, 1617

The many courtysies and favors I haue receaued at yor hands shall (during my life) bynd me to you in my best service: and so often as occasion shall offer itself, I will not forgett to express the same. At this present I haue breifly noted to you, in what estate wee found the Colony; and of or speedy passage hether.

Upon the 10th of Aprill wee departed from Plymouth . . . From heare [Cape Cod] wee shaped a Course along the Coast of Virginia, keeping our lead all the waie, wch was or best guide having so good a Pylott as or Gournr, the fogg still contynuying, and arryved at Point Comfort ye 15th of May, all or Company being in good health, only one man dyed, who was sickly before we came from England. Thus it pleased God to bless vs wth a speedy and psperous passage, yea hadd wee not bene troubled, to free or selves from those showlds, and wth mysty weather, we hadd assuredly (by Gods help) arryued in Virginia in a months space. . . .

Wee found the Colony (God be thanked) in good estate and inioying a firmer Peace and more plenty, howeur in buildings, fortyficaccons, and of boats, much ruyned and greate want. Or prsent Gournr at James towne is repayring and making straight what he fyndeth decayed and crooked, to whose good indeavors and noble disposicon or Colony hath bene, is, and wilbe much indebted. All men cheerefully labor about their grounds, their harts and hands not ceasing from worke, though many have scarce ragges to cour their naked bodyes. English wheate, barly, Indyan Corne, Tobacco greate plenty in the ground. Hemp and flax seed distributed to most men by the Gournr and is putt into the ground: nothing neglected, wch any waies may be avayleable to advance the Colony, and to give incouragemt to yorself and the rest of the Hoble Company. The Cattle thrive and increase exceeding well, the ploughes yerely worke and oxen are plentyfull. The Indyans very loving, and willing to parte wth their childeren. My wives [Pocahontas] death is much lamented; my childe much desyred, when it is of better strength to endure so hard a passage, whose life greately extinguisheth the sorrow of her loss, saying all must die, but tis enough that her childe liueth. I know not how I may be censured for leaving my childe behind me, nor what hazard I may incurr of yor noble loue and other of my best frends. At my departure from Gravesend (notwthstanding I was ymportuned) I hadde no such intent. But in or short passage to Plymouth, in smothe water, I found such feare and hazard of his health (being not fully recouered of his sicknes) and lack of attendance (for they who looked to him hadd need of nurses themselues, and indeed in all or passage pved no better) that by the advise of Captaine Argall, and diuers who also foresaw the danger and knew the inconvenyence hereof pswaded me to what I did. . . . And although greate is my loss, and much my sorrow to be depriued of so greate a comfort, and hopes I hadd to effect my zealous intenccons and desyres as well in others, as in her whose soule (I doubt not) resteth in eternall happynes: yet such temperance haue I learned in psperity, and patience in adversitie, that I will as ioyfully receiue euill, as good at the hand of God: and assuredly trust that Hee, who hath prserved my childe, euen as a brand snatched out of the fier, hath further blessings in store for me, and will give me strength and courrage to vndertake any religious and charitable ymploymt, yorself and the Hoble Company shall command me, and wch in duty I am bound to doe. Now my last request at this tyme is to yorself, whom I haue found a father to me, my wife and childe . . . that you would be pleased as you haue begun and ben one of ye principall instrumts herein, to contynue yor noble favor and furtherance even for my childe sake, being the lyving ashes of his deceased Mother, and that you will still be the meanes, that yor owne free lib'ality and all others by yor pcuremt in obtayning so liberall a stipend, may not die wth my wife, but contynue for her childes advancemt, wch will the better inhable myself and him hereafter to undertake and execute what may be commaunded and requyred from us, Thus refering myself to yor approued wisedome craving pdon for my boldnes, desyring no longer to liue, then when I shall cease from studying and indeavoring to bend my best strength to pseuer in this Accon for the advancemt of the hour of or God, King and Cuntry, wth my humble remembrance to yorself and yor noble and virtuous Lady whose requests I will not forgett to satisfie wherein I may when tyme shall serve I take my leave and rest.


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