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Instructions from the London Company to the First Settlers
November 1606



You must Observe if you Can Whether the River on which you Plant Doth spring out of Mountains or out of Lakes if it be out of any Lake the passage to the Other Sea will be more Easy and it is Like Enough that Out of the same Lake you shall find Some Spring which run the Contrary way toward the East India Sea for the Great and famous Rivers of Volga, Tan[a]is and Dwina have three heads near joynd and Yet the One falleth into the Caspian Sea the Other into the Euxine Sea and the third into the Polonian Sea. In all Your Passages you must have Great Care not to Offend the naturals if You Can Eschew it and imploy Some few of your Company to trade with them for Corn and all Other lasting Victuals if you [they?] have any and this you must Do before that they perceive you mean to plant among them for not being Sure how your own Seed Corn will prosper the first Year to avoid the Danger of famine use and Endeavour to Store yourselves of the Country Corn. Your Discoverers that passes Over Land with hired Guides must Look well to them that they Slip not from them and for more Assurance let them take a Compass with them and Write Down how far they Go upon Every point of the Compass for that Country having no way nor path if that Your Guides Run from You in the Great Woods or Deserts you Shall hardly Ever find a Passage back. And how Weary Soever your Soldiers be Let them never trust the Country people with the Carriage of their Weapons for if they Run from You with Your Shott, which they only fear they will Easily kill them all with their arrows And whensoever any of Yours Shoots before them be sure they be Chosen out of your best Markesmen for if they See Your Learners miss what they aim at they will think the Weapon not so terrible and thereby will be bould to Assault You. Above all things Do not advertize the killing of any of your men that the Country people may know it if they Perceive they are but Common men and that with the Loss of many of theirs they Deminish any part of Yours they will make many Adventures upon You if the country be popalous[.] you Shall Do well also not to Let them See or know of Your Sick men if you have any which may also Encourage them to many Enterprizes. You must take Especial Care that you Choose a Seat for habitation that Shall not be over burthened with Woods near your town for all the men You have Shall not he able to Cleanse twenty acres in a Year besides that it may Serve for a Covert for Your Enimies round about You neither must You plant in a low or moist place because it will prove unhealthful[.] You shall Judge of the Good Air by the People for Some part of that Coast where the Lands are Low have their people blear Eyed and with Swollen bellies and Legs but if the naturals be Strong and Clean made it is a true sign of wholesome Soil. You must take Order to Draw up the Pinnace that is Left with You under your fort and take her Sails and Anchors A Shore all but a Small Kedge [i.e., a small anchor] to ride by Least Some ill Disposed Persons Slip away with her. You must take Care that your Mariners that Go for wages Do not mar your trade for those that mind not to inhabite for a Little Gain will Debase the Estimation of Exchange and hinder the trade for Ever after and there fore you Shall not admit or Suffer any person whatsoever other than Such as Shall be appointed by the President and Councel there, to buy any Merchandizes or Other things whatsoever. It Were Necessary that all Your Carpenters and Other such like Workmen about building Do first build Your Storehouse and those Other Rooms of Publick and necessary Use before any house be Set up for any private person and though the Workman may belong to any private persons yet Let them all Work together first for the Company and then for private men And Seeing order is at the same price with Confusion it shall be adviceably done to Set your houses Even and by a line that You[r] Streets may have a Good breadth and be carried Square about your market place and Every Streets End opening into it that from thence with a few feild peices you may Command Every street throughout which marketplace you may also fortify if you think it needful. You Shall do well to Send a perfect relation by Captain Newport of all that is Done of what height you are Seated how far into the Land what Commodities you find what Soil Woods and their Several Kinds and so of all Other things Else to advertise particularly and to Suffer no man to return but by pasport from the president and Councel nor to write any Letter of any thing that may Discourage others. Lastly and Chiefly the way to prosper and Obtain Good Success is to make yourselves all of one mind for the Good of your Country and your own and to Serve and fear God the Giver of all Goodness for every Plantation which our heavenly father hath not planted shall be rooted out.


 

Consider These Questions

Background

 

1. What were the main points of the instructions? What do they show about the assumptions that the Virginia Company had about America?

2. What do you think a more realistic set of instructions might have included?




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