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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Evolution of the Virginia Colony, 1610-1630
Sir Thomas Gates Reports to the Virginia Company, 1611

In 1610, the Virginia Company sponsored the pamphlet, A True Declaration of the Estate in Virginia. In the excerpt below, William Barret recounts a report from Sir Thomas Gates to the Virginia Company. What are Gates's views of the present economic situation in Virginia? What are the prospects for the colony's survival? What does the author claim as the result of Gates's return voyage to England?

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The Councell of Virginia (finding the smalnesse of that returne, which they hoped should haue defraied tho charge of a new supply) entred into a deepe consultation, and propounded amongst themselues, whether it were fit to enter into a new contribution, or in time to send for home the Lord Laware, and to abandon the action. They resolued to send for sir Thomas Gates, who being come, they adiured him to deale plainely with them, and to make a true relation of those things which were presently to be had, or hereafter to be hoped for in Virginia. Sir Thomas Gates with a solemne and sacred oath replied, that all things before reported were true: that the country yeeldeth abundance of wood, as Oake, Wainscot, Walnut trees, Bay trees, Ashe, Sarsafrase, liue Oake, greene all the yeare, Cedar and Firre; which are the materials, of soape ashes, and pot ashes, of oyles of walnuts, and bayes, of pitch and tarre, of Clap boards, Pipe-staues, Masts and excellent boardes of forty, fifty and sixtie length, and three foote bredth, when one Firre tree is able to make the maine Mast of the greatest ship in England. He aouched, that there are incredible variety of sweet woods, especially of the Balsamum tree, which distilleth a pretious gum; that there are innumerable White Mulberry trees, which in so warme a climate may cherish and feede millions of silke wormes, and returne vs in a very short time, as great a plenty of silke as is vented into the whole world from al the parts of Italy: that there are diuers sorts of Minerals, especially of Iron oare, lying vpon the ground for ten miles circuite; (of which we haue made triall at home, that it maketh as good Iron as any is in Europe:) that a kinde of hempe or flax, and silke grasse doe grow there naturally, which will affoord stuffe for all manner of excellent Cordage: that the riuer swarmeth with Sturgeon; the land aboundeth with Vines, the woodes doe harbor exceeding store of Beauers, Foxes and Squirrils, the waters doe nourish a great encrease of Otters; all which are couered with pretious furres: that there are in present discouered dyes and drugs of sundry qualities; that the Orenges which haue beene planted, did prosper in the winter, which is an infallible argument, that Lymmons, sugar Canes, Almonds, Rice, Anniseede, and all other commodities which we have from the Staights, may be supplied to vs in our owne countrey, and by our owne industry: that the corne yeeldeth a trebble encrease more then ours; and lastly, that it is one of the goodliest countries vnder the sunne; enterueined with fiue maine Rivers, and promising as rich entrals as any Kingdome of the earth, to whom the sunne is so neerer a neighbour.

VVhat these things will yeelde, the Merchant best knoweth, who findeth by experience, that many hundreth of thousands of pounds are yearly spent in Christendome in these commodities. The Merchant knoweth, that Caueare and Traine which come from Russia, can be brought hither but once in the yeare, in regard of the Ice: and that Sturgeon which is brought from the East countries, can come but twice a yeare; and that not before the end of Aprill, or the beginning of May; which many times in regard of the heat of those moneths, is tainted in the transportation: when from Virginia they may be brought to vs in foure and twenty daies, and in al the colde seasons of the yeare. The Merchants know, that the commodity of sope and pot ashes are very scant in Prussia; that they are brought three hundred miles by land, and three hundred miles by riuers, before they come to the Sea; that they pay a custome there, and another in Denmarke, which enhanceth the prices exceedingly: But in Virginia they may haue them without carriage by land or custom (because flue Nauigable Riuers doe lead vp fiue seueral waies into the bowels of the whole countrey.) As therefore the like Riuers, are the cause of the riches of Holland, so will these be to vs a wondrous cause of sauing of expences. The merchant knoweth, that through the troubles in Poland & Muscouy, (whose eternall warres are like the Antipathy of the Dragon & Elephants) all their traffique for Mastes, Deales, Pitch, Tarre, Flax, Hempe, and Cordage, are euery day more and more indangered, and the woods of those countries are almost exhausted. All which are to be had in Virginia with farre lesse charge, and farre more safety. Lastly, the Merchant knoweth, that for our commodities in the Staights, as sweet wines, orenges, lemmonds, anniseeds, &c. that we stand at the deuotion of politique Princes and States, who for their proper vtility, deuise all courses to grinde our merchants, all pretences to confiscate their goods, and to draw from vs al marrow of gaine by their inquisitiue inuentions: when in Virginia, a few yeares labour by planting and husbandry, will furnish all our defects, with honour and security; especially since the Frenchmen (who are with the Lord Gouernour) do confidently promise, that within two yeares we may expect a plentifull Vintage.

VVhen therefore this noble enterprise, by the rules of Religion is expressly iustified; when the passages by Sea are all open and discouered, when the climate is so fruitfully tempered; when the naturall riches of the soile are so powerfully confirmed: will any man so much betray his owne inconsiderate ignorance, and bewray his rashnesse; that when the same Sunne shineth, he should not haue the same eies to beholde it; when the same hope remaines, he should not haue the same heart to apprehend it? At the voyage of Sir Thomas Gates, what swarmes of people desired to be transported? what alacrity and cheerefulnesse in the Aduenturers by free wil offerings, to build vp this new Tabernacle? Shall we now be deiected? Shall we cast downe our heads like Bull rushes? because one storme at sea hath deferred our ioyes and comforts! VVe are too effeminate in our longings, and too impatient of delaies. Gods al-disposing prouidence; is not compellable by mans violence: Let any wisedome giue a solide reason, why his purpose should be changed, when those grounds which gaue life to his first purpose, are not changed. It is but a golden slumber, that dreameth of any humane felicity, which is not sauced with some contingent miserie. Dolor & voluptas, inuicem cedunt, Griefe and pleasure are the crosse sailes of the worlds euer-turning-windmill. Let no man therefore be ouer wise, to cast beyond the moone and to multiplie needlesse doubts and questions. Hannibal by too much wisedome, lost opportunity to haue sacked Rome. Charles the eighth of Fraunce, by temporising, lost the Kingdome of Naples, and the gouernement of Florence: Henry the seuenth by too much ouer-warines, lost the riches of the golden Indies. Occasion is pretious, but when it is occasion. Some of our neighbours would ioine in the action, if they might be ioynt inheritors in the Plantation; which is an euident proofe, that Virginia shall no sooner be quitted by vs, then it will be reinhabited by them.


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