“I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” -John Adams. Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
The Jamestown Colony is a town in Virginia. It is the oldest, and first, English colony in North America. The London Company, formed in 1606, was a group of ten men, mostly well-to-do merchants, who decided to colonize Virginia (Fishwick, 49). Francis Bacon, a member of the Company, decided the colony was to be a long-term scheme and settlers were to be given twenty years to find their feet (Fishwick, 49). Settlers were selected for their special skills, and included many farmers so the colony could become self-sufficient. The Colonial Council was a group of thirteen settlers who would be directed by a royal council of thirteen in England (Fishwick, 49). One member was selected to be the president, and he would make laws, vote taxes, mint money, and dispense justice in Virginia (Fishwick, 49).
The settlers were granted “all rights and immunities…” of citizens in England, including the right to own land and trial by jury (Fishwick, 50). All taxes on trade with Virginia were used to benefit the colony. The London Company set sail from Blackwell, England, on December 20, 1606 (Fishwick, 50). They had three ships, tools, weapons, ammunition, food, grain, and 105 “hardy adventurers” (Fishwick, 50). Many settlers were classified as “gentlemen”, and there were some skilled craftsmen and farmers, and two surgeons (Fishwick, 50). The settlers came to the New World to acquire land, gold, or quick fortunes in trade. They sought a greater measure of liberty, though some were merely restless or driven by the love of adventure, but they all shared a hope for better things in Virginia (Fishwick, 50).
The Council’s directions were to search for gold and other precious metals, explore the rivers for a passage to the South Sea (Northwest Passage), and to look for the Lost Colony (Fishwick, 51). The three vessels, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, took the colonists to the New World. The Susan Constant was the largest at 100 tons, and was very roomy. The Godspeed was forty tons, and the Discovery was twenty tons (Fishwick, 51). They would be out at sea for four weeks before reaching the West Indies. Ship food consisted of hard biscuits, saltmeat and fish, and barley gruel (Fishwick, 51). Land was sighted on April 26, 1607.
George Percy recorded “About 4:00 in the morning, we descried the land of Virginia” (Fishwick, 57). Edward Maria Winfield was elected president of the Colony. An advance party as sent out to explore the country and choose a site for settlement. The site was chosen on May 13th. It was a flat peninsula nearly three miles long and located on the north side of the James River. Though it could be defended with ease, the land was low and boggy with sandy soil and malaria mosquitos (Fishwick, 60).
Jamestown was founded a year before the French founded Quebec (Appleby, 8). It was funded by a joint-stock company, whose investors saw the colonies as sources of raw materials and markets for English goods. Despite early troubles, the settlers survived with the help of local Native Americans, the Powhatan Confederacy. The colony prospered by growing tobacco. In 1619, the House of Burgesses was formed to make their own laws (Appleby, 8). More than 4,500 settlers immigrated to Virginia in 1622 (Appleby, 8). The expansion of the colony alarmed Native Americans and they attacked Jamestown in 1622. The English court blamed the Virginia Company’s policies for high death rates and revoked its charter (Appleby, 8). Virginia became a royal colony run by a governor appointed by the king.
Pocahontas was born in 1596 (“Pocahontas”, 1). Her birth name was “Amonute” and “Pocahontas” was just a nickname, meaning “playful one” because of her frolicsome and curious nature. She was the daughter of the Powhatan chief, Wahunsenaca. The Powhatan chieftan had a population of about 25,000 (“Pocahontas”, 1). When the English arrived and settled in Jamestown in 1607, Pocahontas was eleven years old. In the winter of 1607, Captain John Smith of Jamestown was captured by the Powhatan.
He was brought in front of the chief and two large stones were placed on the ground with Smith’s head placed on top of them to be smashed. Pocahontas quickly intercepted and put her head on top of his, stopping the execution (“Pocahontas”, 2). As a result of this, the Powhatan chief told Smith he was a part of the tribe in exchange for “two great stones and a grindstone” and the chief would treat him as his son (“Pocahontas”, 2). Chief Powhatan sent gifts of food to the starving English settlers. Pocahontas brought the gifts to Jamestown and became a symbol of peace to the English.
The Jamestown National Historic Site is on the western edge of Jamestown Island, Virginia. It is located seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg and is a total of 22.5 acres (“Jamestown National Historic Site”, 1). Jamestown is important because it was the first English colony in North America. It is also the scene of the first representative legislature on this continent on July 30, 1619 (“Jamestown National Historic Site”, 1). In 1893, the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Barney donated a plot of their land to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA). In 1934, the rest of the land was acquired by the National Park Service as a part of the Colonial National Historical Park (“Jamestown Nat. Hist. Site”, 1).
The trip from Greensburg, Indiana to Jamestown, Virginia is a relatively long one. It is a total of about 624 miles. By car, the trip takes eleven hours (“Google Maps”, 1). Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The Jamestown settlement is rich in our country’s history and is remembered throughout time as the beginning of a new nation.