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The Government Devolved to Captaine Samuel Argall



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This selection, taken from Captain John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles, describes the colony as it was when Captain Samuel Argall took over as governor in 1617. By this time, tobacco had been discovered as a cash crop, and the colonists had been growing it since 1614.

The Treasurer, Councell and Companie, having well furnished Captaine Samuel Argall, the Lady Pocahontas, alias Rebecca, with her husband and others, in the good ship called the George, it pleased God at Gravesend to take this young Lady to his mercie, where shee made not more sorrow for her unexpected death, than joy to the beholders, to heare and see her make so religious and godly an end. Her little childe Thomas Rolfe therefore was left at Plimoth with Sir Lewis Stukly, that desired the keeping of it. Captaine Hamar his vice-Admirall was gone before, but hee found him at Plimoth. In March they set saile 1617. and in May he arrived at James towne, where hee was kindly entertained by Captaine Yearley and his Companie in a martiall order, whose right hand file was led by an Indian. In James towne he found but five or six houses, the Church downe, the Palizadošs broken, the Bridge in pieces, the Well of fresh water spoiled; the Store-house they used for the Church the market-place, and streets, and all other spare places planted with Tobacco, the Salvages as frequent in their houses as themselves, whereby they were become expert in our armes, and had a great many in their custodie and possession, the Colonie dispersed all about, planting Tobacco. Captaine Argall not liking those proceedings, alterered them agreeable to his owne minde, taking the best order he could for repairing those defects which did exceedingly trouble us; we were constrained every yeere to build and repaire our old Cottages, which were alwaies a decaying in all places of the Countrie, yea, the very Courts of Guard built by Sir Thomas Dale, was ready to fall, and the Palizado's not sufficient to keepe out Hogs. Their number of people were about 400. but not past 200. fit for husbandry and tillage: we found there in all one hundred twentie eight cattell, and fourescore and eight Goats, besides innumerable numbers of Swine, and good plentie of Corne in some places, yet the next yeere the Captaine sent out a Frigat and a Pinnace, that brought us neere six hundred bushels more, which did greatly relieve the whole Colonie: For from the tenants wee seldome had above foure hundred bushels of rent Corne to the store, and there was not remaining of the Companies companie, past foure and fiftie men, women and Children.

This yeere having planted our fields, came a great drought, and such a cruell storm of haile, which did such spoile both to the Corne and Tobacco, that wee reaped but small profit, the Magazine that came in the George, being five moneths in her passage, proved very badly conditioned, but ere she arrived, we had gathered and made up our Tobacco, the best at three shillings the pound, the rest at eighteene pence.

To supply us, the Councell and Company with all possible care and diligence, furnished a good ship of some two hundred and fiftie tunne, with two hundred people and the Lord la Ware. They set saile in Aprill, and tooke their course by the westerne Iles, where the Governour of the Ile of Saint Michael received the Lord la Ware, and honourably feasted him, with all the content hee could give him. Going from thence, they were long troubled with contrary winds, in which time many of them fell very sicke, thirtie died, one of which number was that most honourable Lord Governour the Lord la Ware, whose most noble and generous disposition, is well knowne to his great cost, had beene most forward in this businesse for his Countries good: Yet this tender state of Virginia was not growne to that maturitie, to maintaine such state and pleasure as was fit for such a personage, with so brave and great attendance: for some small number of adventrous Gentlemen to make discoveries, and lie in Garrison, ready upon any occasion to keepe in feare the inconstant Salvages, nothing were more requisite; but to have more to wait and play than worke, or more commanders and officers than industrious labourers was not so necessarie: for in Virginia, a plaine Souldier that can use a Pick-axe and spade, is beter than five Knights, although they were Knights that could breake a Lance; for men of great place, not inured to those incounters; when theAry finde things not sutable, grow many times so discontented, they forget themselves, and oft become so carelesse, that a discontented melancholy brings them to much sorrow, and to others much miserie.


Consider These Questions



1. How did John Smith regard tobacco?

2. Why do you think the colony was in such a bad state before Argall became governor?

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