James town is regarded as the first permanent English colony in America. It was founded in 1607 in Virginia. Physically, this colony had an upper hand in military benefits since it had a deep mooring which acted as the harbor for ships as well as being far up the James River in a location that was out of sight of the Spanish whom the Britons did not want a confrontation with. The site was also semi arid in nature and the colony was fully protected on all its 3 sides by the marshes and by the James River.
Its founding led to a series of encounters in terms of culture and these aided in shaping America as a nation and the world at large (Carbone, 17) . The culture and lifestyles of these early Virginians is what has shaped the heritage of United States in terms of governance, language, beliefs, aspirations and customs. The establishment of James town as a colony was sponsored by a group of investors who called themselves the Virginia Company of London. The main aim of this company was to benefit in terms of monetary gains especially from new outlets and colonies.
The company was also established in a way to compete with the French and the Spanish internationally (Haile, 14). This group set out on the basis of a charter granted to the company by King James I. the main reasons why King James sent the ships to sail was to go forth and find gold, find a direct route to the south seas, and /or find the lost Roanoke Colony. Jamestown was therefore the first British colony in North America. The aim of these investors was to benefit in terms of profits from this venture. The first ships to reach the Virginia coast were The Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed which arrived there in late April 1606.
These ships carried a total of 105 passengers. Captain Christopher Newport led the expedition and after two weeks, they discovered a site along James River that was favorable in terms of its good defensive position and deep water anchorage. The site that these explorers chose was 60 kilometers from the bay of James River. The reason for this was that the expeditors did not want any conflict with the Spaniards who had already settled there (Colonial Life Jamestown 1607, 1998). The passengers disembarked on the day after and started settling.
These first colonialists were made of upper class Englishmen. The location of the colony was in the midst of Algonquian-speaking Indians who were governed by a powerful ruler referred to as Powhatan. The main aim of the passengers on board the three small ships was glory and destiny, wealth and discovery. Little did they know that the steps they had taken for their own benefit and their own personal beliefs and dreams that they set out to achieve was the first step in the birth of a nation currently called the United States of America (Smith, 13).
Problems faced in the colony. The established of the colony was faced with many problems that included establishment of the colony in a poor location that was insect infected, marshy and which lacked fresh waters. This lack of water led to diseases like Malaria and dysentery which claimed many lives. Other problems in the newly established colonies were the in ability to deal with the native Indians which led to frequent war fares. The first colonialists were lazy and they hated farming and therefore they were unable to feed themselves.
The original colonialists were not ready to engage in any form of labor even if it was for their own personal interests of preservation. They were not used to hard manual labor and since they were considered as gentlemen, they preferred lazing around to working in the farm. This led to the death toll in the colony being catastrophic and this led to an unprecedented savagery level (Doherty, 7-8). The area that the original colonialists chose was low lying and swampy and this made it a good spot as a breeding ground for insects and more so mosquitoes.
This therefore made the original colonialists to be vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Because of the marshy nature of the Island, it was impossible for the colonialists to obtain fresh water and this made them drink the salty water from the James River or that from the well which was brackish in nature (Bridenbaugh, 47). The colonialists were also unable to maintain or form a peaceful and workable relationship with the Native Indians. This made the relationship between the settlers from Britain and the Powhatans Indians to be strained and violent in the whole of the colonial period (Morgan, 90).
The high rate of mortality rates was also a major problem in James town. It is estimated that 3 out of the 4 6000 settlers who settled in James town between 1607 and 1624 died. This increase in mortality rate led to the Colony being referred as “a hellhole where savage death, illness and death awaited (Doherty, 112). In the early days, the colony also suffered from explosions and fires which were disastrous and the city is reported to have been burnt down twice. Governance of the colony
The colony was initially governed by a council of 7 members whereby one member served as the president. Serious relationships in terms of relations with the Indians soon emerged even though there were established trading opportunities. The colony was affected by a rise in disease and death due to lack of water, supply of blackish water and an unfamiliar climate, conditions which were influenced by a prolonged drought. Because the original colonialists of this colony were upper class Englishmen, there was lack of skilled farmers and sufficient labors in the colony.
The passengers of these ships were mainly townsmen and adventurers who were more concerned with farming as compared to farming. Therefore they were unequipped in terms of temperament and the ability to embark and adapt in a new life in the wilderness. In September 1609, Captain John Smith took over as the leader of the colony. He was the fourth council president and he is best known for establishing the no work, no food policy. This policy meant that those people who did not participate in the work shall not share in the food as well.
He was also very instrumental and influential in trading with the Indians for food. He therefore emerged as a dominant figure and he was able to instill discipline and this was influential in holding the colony together. This he achieved despite constant attacks from the Native Americans, starvation and constant quarrels. Captain Smith was injured in the fall of 1609 by burning gunpowder and this made him leave for England never to return to Virginia again. His departure led to the descent of the colony into anarchy.
John Smith is proclaimed to be the only man who was able to maintain peace between the Indians and the settlers. After his departure, the colony was faced with a starving time which was basically a warfare period between the Native Indians and the Colonialists. The Starving Time involved a colony that was hard hit by a winter season that led to the freezing of the river. This led to the death, through disease, of many Britons both men and women. Many of these colonialists succumbed to disease in the winter of 1609-1610 and died. By May 1610, only 20% of the original first colonialists were arrive i. . 60 of the original 300 who were settlers in Virginia (Smith, 58).
It was at this time that the colonialists decided to leave James town and therefore abandon it. No sooner had they decided this than other settlers arrived in Virginia in search of wealth. These settlers arrived in 1610 and they carried with them supplies from England. Their arrival was based on a second charter granted by King James I. the provision of this charter was a stronger leadership which was to be implemented by a governor who worked hand in hand with a group of advisors.
This charter also provided for a period of military law that could be introduced and this law carried with it a harsh punishment that was implemented on those who did not follow orders or those who refused to obey. It was in 1619 at Jamestown where the first British representative government in America began. The new settlers’ aimed at making profits for the Virginia Company and therefore they involved themselves in various small industries that included wood production, glassmaking and tar, potash and pitch manufacture.
However these ventures were not successful (Smith, 58). It was John Rolfe who in 1613 introduced tobacco as a cash crop with an aim of profiting the company. The embracement of tobacco as a cash crop led to the rapid growth and expansion of Virginia colony. This is because its cultivation required large amounts of investment in terms of land labor. This made the settlers to move to the lands formerly occupied by the Native Indians. This also led to more servants coming to Virginia. This was a development that revolutionized the economy of Virginia.
What John Rolfe did was to simply cross breed the seed of imported tobacco from West Indies with that of the native plants and this led to the development of a new variety that fitted and was pleasing in taste to the preferences of the Europeans. Even after this development, the prosperity of Virginia colony did not occur immediately. This is because during this period, the rate of death from starvation, diseases and attacks from the native Indians was still very high. On average, around 14000 Britons had migrated to the Virginia colony between the years 1607 and 1924.
However by the end of 1924, only about 1,132 Britons were living there (Traugh, 96). Relationship between Jamestown and other colonies. There came a time in the mid 17th century whereby the mother country i. e. England paid little attention to its American colonies. This led to England neglecting some of its colonies in North America. The colonies in North America also suffered from the bitter religious and political contention that existed in the Mother country and Jamestown was not excluded. The bitter rivalries in religion that occurred in Britain affected the overseas colonies Jamestown included (Traugh, 96).
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