Your essay should provide an answer and evidence to prove your answer (main idea or thesis) to the set of questions before.
Student essays should be based on one of the set of questions below. Make certain you utilize at least FIVE primary sources to prove the validity of your thesis (main idea).
Student essays should be based on one of the set of questions below. Make certain you utilize at least FIVE primary source to prove the validity of your thesis (main idea).
1. Discuss the ethnic and religious conflicts and/or compromises which defined Atlantic Civilization in the beginning.
2. What were the key events that led to England gaining control over the Atlantic and establishing settlements in the North America? What were the key events that led to the demise of Spanish power in the Atlantic?
3. Discuss the similarities and differences between the settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts during the period from 1607-1707. How were religious, political, and/or social developments different or similar in these two colonies?
4. Discuss the effects that the institution of slavery had on Atlantic Civilization?
7. The Black Nationalist and civil rights activist Malcolm X declared “We [African-Americans] didn’t land on Plymouth Rock… Plymouth Rock landed on us [African-Americans].” Is Malcolm X’s interpretation of the Atlantic Slave Trade as it related to North America valid? (NOTE: This question does not require students to research Malcolm X. Instead the question demands that students research primary sources and other class resources to prove, disprove, or somewhere between Malcolm X’s thesis).
[Note here are some themes to ponder as you begin to brainstorm. The considerations below can be used to address the sets of questions above. Consider Spanish relations with the Tainos, Arawak, Aztecs, Incas, etc. for example; consider the economic, diplomatic and religious competition between England and Spain; think about Africa and the institution of slavery in the Atlantic (how did Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans interact economically, politically, religiously, and socially in the Atlantic); consider the economic, religious, social and political differences between the Northern colonies (e.g., New England) and Southern colonies (e.g., Virginia). Consider how diverse ethnic groups interacted in North America.]
The essay must be 1500 to 1800 words long (roughly 5-6 pages if you have 1” margins, 12 font, Times New Roman, and double-spaced). Essays less than 1500 words receive an entire letter grade deduction.
1. The essay does not state in the introduction the five or more primary documents the student will use to prove his thesis. -5pts.
2. The essay has no clear thesis statement in the introduction. -10pts.
3. The essay contains 5 or less spelling errors and/or grammatical mistakes. -5pts.
4. The essay contains 6 or more spelling errors and/or grammatical mistakes. -10pts.
5. The essay refers to less than five primary documents. -5pts
6. The essay refers to no primary documents. -10pts
7. The essay does not have a conclusion. -5pts
8. The essay does not have an introduction. -5pts
9. The essay is not divided into paragraphs (with specific main ideas that function as sub-main ideas of the thesis statement). -5pts
10. The essay does not have a title. -5pts
11. The essay does not have the appropriate style, font, and/or margins. -5pts
12. The essay is plagiarized. -100pts
I can deduct points for other problems I may encounter in your essays. But the rubric above provides you a rough idea of what I expect.
“OurPlantation Is Very Weak”: The Experiences of an
Indentured Servant in Virginia, 1623
Planters in early seventeenth-century Virginia had bountiful amounts of land and a profitable
crop in tobacco, but they needed labor to till their fields. They faced resistance from the local
Indian people and were unable to enslave them, so they recruited poor English adults as servants.
These young men and women signed indentures, or contracts, for four to seven year terms of
work in exchange for their passage to North America. Richard Frethorne came to Jamestown
colony in 1623 as an indentured servant. In this letter dated March 20, 1623, written just three
months after his entry into the colony, he described the death and disease all around him. Two
thirds of his fellow shipmates had died since their arrival. Those without capital suffered
particularly precarious situations with the lack of supplies and loss of leaders. Frethorne pleaded
with his parents to redeem (buy out) his indenture.
LOVING AND KIND FATHER AND MOTHER:
My most humble duty remembered to you, hoping in god of your good health, as I myself am at
the making hereof. This is to let you understand that I your child am in a most heavy case by
reason of the country, [which] is such that it causeth much sickness, [such] as the scurvy and the
bloody flux and diverse other diseases, which maketh the body very poor and weak. And when
we are sick there is nothing to comfort us; for since I came out of the ship I never ate anything
but peas, and loblollie (that is, water gruel). As for deer or venison I never saw any since I came
into this land. There is indeed some fowl, but we are not allowed to go and get it, but must work
hard both early and late for a mess of water gruel and a mouthful of bread and beef. A mouthful
of bread for a penny loaf must serve for four men which is most pitiful. [You would be grieved]
if you did know as much as I [do], when people cry out day and night – Oh! That they were in
England without their limbs – and would not care to lose any limb to be in England again, yea,
though they beg from door to door. For we live in fear of the enemy every hour, yet we have had
a combat with them … and we took two alive and made slaves of them. But it was by policy, for
we are in great danger; for our plantation is very weak by reason of the death and sickness of our
company. For we came but twenty for the merchants, and they are half dead just; and we look
every hour when two more should go. Yet there came some four other men yet to live with us, of
which there is but one alive; and our Lieutenant is dead, and [also] his father and his brother.
And there was some five or six of the last year’s twenty, of which there is but three left, so that
we are fain to get other men to plant with us; and yet we are but 32 to fight against 3000 if they
should come. And the nighest help that we have is ten mile of us, and when the rogues overcame
this place [the] last [time] they slew 80 persons. How then shall we do, for we lie even in their
teeth? They may easily take us, but [for the fact] that God is merciful and can save with few as
well as with many, as he showed to Gilead. And like Gilead’s soldiers, if they lapped water, we
drink water which is but weak.
And I have nothing to comfort me, nor is there nothing to be gotten here but sickness and death,
except [in the event] that one had money to lay out in some things for profit. But I have nothing
at all–no, not a shirt to my back but two rags (2), nor clothes but one poor suit, nor but one pair
of shoes, but one pair of stockings, but one cap, [and] but two bands [collars]. My cloak is stolen
by one of my fellows, and to his dying hour [he] would not tell me what he did with it; but some
of my fellows saw him have butter and beef out of a ship, which my cloak, I doubt [not], paid
for. So that I have not a penny, nor a penny worth, to help me too either spice or sugar or strong
waters, without the which one cannot live here. For as strong beer in England doth fatten and
strengthen them, so water here doth wash and weaken these here [and] only keeps [their] life and
soul together. But I am not half [of] a quarter so strong as I was in England, and all is for want of
victuals; for I do protest unto you that I have eaten more in [one] day at home than I have
allowed me here for a week. You have given more than my day’s allowance to a beggar at the
door; and if Mr. Jackson had not relieved me, I should be in a poor case. But he like a father and
she like a loving mother doth still help me.
For when we go to Jamestown (that is 10 miles of us) there lie all the ships that come to land,
and there they must deliver their goods. And when we went up to town [we would go], as it may
be, on Monday at noon, and come there by night, [and] then load the next day by noon, and go
home in the afternoon, and unload, and then away again in the night, and [we would] be up about
midnight. Then if it rained or blowed never so hard, we must lie in the boat on the water and
have nothing but a little bread. For when we go into the boat we [would] have a loaf allowed to
two men, and it is all [we would get] if we stayed there two days, which is hard; and [we] must
lie all that while in the boat. But that Goodman Jackson pitied me and made me a cabin to lie in
always when I [would] come up, and he would give me some poor jacks [fish] [to take] home
with me, which comforted me more than peas or water gruel. Oh, they be very godly folks, and
love me very well, and will do anything for me. And he much marvelled that you would send me
a servant to the Company; he saith I had been better knocked on the head. And indeed so I find it
now, to my great grief and misery; and [I] saith that if you love me you will redeem me
suddenly, for which I do entreat and beg. And if you cannot get the merchants to redeem me for
some little money, then for God’s sake get a gathering or entreat some good folks to lay out
some little sum of money in meal and cheese and butter and beef. Any eating meat will yield
great profit. Oil and vinegar is very good; but, father, there is great loss in leaking. But for God’s
sake send beef and cheese and butter, or the more of one sort and none of another. But if you
send cheese, it must be very old cheese; and at the cheesemonger’s you may buy very food
cheese for twopence farthing or halfpenny, that will be liked very well. But if you send cheese,
you must have a care how you pack it in barrels; and you must put cooper’s chips between every
cheese, or else the heat of the hold will rot them. And look whatsoever you send me – be in never
so much–look, what[ever] I make of it, I will deal truly with you. I will send it over and beg the
profit to redeem me; and if I die before it come, I have entreated Goodman Jackson to send you
the worth of it, who hath promised he will. If you send, you must direct your letters to Goodman
Jackson, at Jamestown, a gunsmith. (You must set down his freight, because there be more of his
name there.) Good father, do not forget me, but have mercy and pity my miserable case. I know
if you did but see me, you would weep to see me; for I have but one suit. (But [though] it is a
strange one, it is very well guarded.) Wherefore, for God’s sake, pity me. I pray you to remember
my love to all my friends and kindred. I hope all my brothers and sisters are in good health, and
as for my part I have set down my resolution that certainly will be; that is, that the answer of this
letter will be life or death to me. Therefore, good father, send as soon as you can; and if you send
me any thing let this be the mark.
MARTIN’S HUNDRED .
Source: Richard Frethorne, letter to his father and mother, March 20, April 2 & 3, 1623, in Susan
Kingsbury, ed., The Records of the Virginia Company of London (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1935), 4: 58–62
Library of Congress
Sanson, map of North America, Amérique septentrionale, 1650, detail;
English colonies of Virginia and Barbados marked.
Governor of Virginia, 1641-1652, 1660-1677
A DISCOURSE AND VIEW OF
Before I enter into the consideration of the advantages this
Kingdom of England has by the Plantation in Virginia, I think it
necessary to make a short description of the Situation of it, as to
the Climate; and then tell what natural helps it has to make it a
glorious and flourishing Country: And when this Discourse shall
produce a concession of the natural advantages it has above all other His Majesty’s Plantations, I shall lay
down the Causes, both intrinsic and accidental, why it has not in all this supposed long tract of time
produced those rich and staple Commodities, which I shall in this Discourse affirm it is capable of. . . .
Library of Virginia
Gov. William Berkeley
It must be confessed, that Barbados fends a better commodity [sugar] into England than Virginia yet
does; but withall it must be acknowledged that one Ship from Virginia brings more Money to the Crown
than five Ships of the same burthen [ship’s carrying capacity] do from the Barbados. But had we ability
or skill to set forward those staple commodities I mentioned, of Silk, Flax, Hemp, Pitch, Pot-ashes, and
Iron, a few years would make us able to send more Ships laden with these, than now the Barbados do
Amongst many other weighty
Reasons, why Virginia has not all
this while made any progression
into staple Commodities, this is the
chief. That our Governors by
reason of the corruption of those
times they lived in, laid the
Foundation of our wealth and
industry on the vices of men; for
about the time of our first seating of
the Country, did this vicious habit
of taking Tobacco possess the
English Nation, and from them has
diffused itself into most parts of the
World; this I say being brought to
us from Spain at great prices, made
our Governor suppose great wealth
might be raised to particulars by
this universal vice, and indeed for
many years they were not deceived,
* Excerpted, some spelling and punctuation modernized, and images added by the National Humanities Center, 2006: www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/pds.htm.
Full text of Berkeley’s (pronounced bark-lee) Discourse at Virtual Jamestown at etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browsemod?id=J1003. Portrait
of Gov. William Berkeley by Harriotte L. T. Montague after original by Sir Peter Lely (courtesy Library of Virginia). Complete image credits at www.nhc.
till that increasing in numbers, and many other Plantations
following the same design, at last brought it as now it is to that
lowness of price, that the Customs doubles the first purchase; that
is, the Merchant buys it for one penny the pound, and we pay two
pence for the Custom of that which they are not pleased to take
This was the first and fundamental hindrance that made the
Planters neglect all other accessions to wealth and happiness, and
fix their hopes only on this vicious weed of Tobacco, which at
length has brought them to that extremity that they can neither
handsomely subsist with it, nor without it.
Another hindrance has been, that there was never yet any public
encouragement to assist the Planters in those more chargeable
undertakings, as Iron-Mines and Shipping.
Another impediment, and an important one too has been the
dismembering of the Colony, by giving away and erecting
diverse Principalities out of it, as Maryland to my Lord
Baltimore, and part of Florida to my Lord of Arundell, these
Grants will in the next Age be found more disadvantageous to the
Crown then is perceptible in this; and therefore I shall not touch it
(uncommanded) as to the politic part of it, but as to the
Economic. I shall affirm that we can never make Laws for the
erecting Staple Commodities, and setting a stop to our unlimited
planting of Tobacco, whilst these Governments are distinct and
independent, for on frequent trials when we begin to make
provisions for these, our people fly to Maryland, and by this
means heighten our public charges, and weaken our defenses
against our perpetual enemies the Indians. . . .
Another great impediment has been, the confining the Planter to
Trade only with the English, this no good Subject or Englishman
will oppose, if it be found either beneficial to the Crown or our
Mother-Nation; but if it shall appear that neither of these are
advantaged by it, then we cannot but resent, that forty thousand
people should be impoverished to enrich little more then forty
Merchants, who being the only buyers of our Tobacco give us
what they please for it, and after it is here, sell it how they please. . . .
New York Public Library
Early English tobacconist advertisements
“fix their hopes only on
this vicious weed of Tobacco”
On the whole matter, let it be considered, whether or no the English Plantations are not proportioned in a
short time to supply us with all those Commodities, which now we have at great charge and hazard from
Turkey, Persia, Germany, Poland, and Russia: the Wines, Oils, and Fruits of France and Spain, our
distance will ever hinder us from introducing at the same rates we have it now from them. . . .
To conclude and animate the care, providence and indulgence the Nation ought to have of foreign
Plantations [colonies] let these few considerations be duly poised.
First, it is not yet forty years when there was not one Englishman in any Plantation of America, save only
four or five hundred left in 1622, after the Massacre in Virginia; and now there is in the West Indies at
least three hundred thousand English, and of English extraction.
National Humanities Center 2
Secondly, if we examine the Customs [tariffs], we
shall find the fourth part of them arise from the
Plantations in America. This is a wealth our fathers
never knew, and in humane probability will increase
on us every year.
Thirdly, those commodities we were wont to
purchase at great rates and hazards, we now
purchase at half the usual prices. Nor is this all, but
we buy them with our own Manufactures, which
here at home employ thousands of poor people.
Fourthly, when in the past Ages to disburden the
Kingdom of indigent younger Brothers, whom the
peculiar policy of this Nation condemned to poverty
or War, we were forced to undertake the assistance
of Rebels, which God of late has revenged on our
own bowels; now there can be no necessity of that sin or misery, for a small sum of money will enable a
younger Brother to erect a flourishing Family in a new World; and add more Strength, Wealth, and Honor
to his Native Country than thousands did before, that died forgotten and unrewarded in an unjust War.1 I
should now have ended, but that I think it is expected from me, who have lived twenty years in America,
that I should declare the power, interest, and wealth we have by our Plantations in the West Indies.
Murray Hudson / Univ. of Alabama Library
Montanus, map of northern Atlantic coast, Novi Belgii, quod
nunc Novi Jorck vocatur, Novaeque Anglia et partis
Virginiae, 1671, detail
To do this, I shall first propose to the consideration of the Reader, the few years we have had any footing
in America, the eldest Plantation, Virginia excepted, not exceeding forty years, and yet so many
difficulties happily overcome. Our numbers there are now at least two hundred thousand English, and if
(as in humane probability they will) our numbers double but every twenty years, in one Age more how
great will our power, strength, and reputation be in this new Western World?
Secondly, let it be considered what sums of Money was in the last Age exhausted from us for Sugar,
Cotton, Drugs, Dyings, and Tobacco, and how easily now we supply ourselves with these, and also bring
home enough to balance many other [unclear: foreign?] necessities.
Thirdly, let us contemplate the respect we have from most of the Princes and States of Europe, but our
power and strength in America; the Dutch I know would not willingly quit their interest in the Indies for
ten Millions of Money; yet all they have there is in the King’s power, when any just occasion shall
provoke his displeasure.
The French, it is true, have not many considerable places there: But yet the Indies, as they term it, are of
so Friand agust,2 that they would not willingly quit their holds in it, not their pretensions to it.
But the Spainards, whose interest is greatest, is most jealous of our power there, and we most formidable
to him by it. . . .
For though Virginia yet only produceth Tobacco as to the main of her Traffic, yet it has produced Silk,
Flax, Hemp, Iron, Rice, Pitch, Tar, which are Commodities more lasting and necessary then Sugar or
Indigo can be: and as our Numbers increase, so will our Wealth, when our industry and assistance shall
equal theirs, which is clean contrary with them, who are already forced to expend one fifth part of their
Merchandise to provide Victuals for themselves and Servants. But the best resolution of this will be that,
being both of one Nation, we bless God that has made us so instrumental to the Wealth and Glory of it.
1 English Civil War of the mid 1600s.
2 perhaps “Friande august,” a noble delicacy (friande: sweet almond cake].
National Humanities Center 3
- Sir William Berkeley
JAMESTOWN: 1609-10: “STARVING TIME” Mariners’ Museum
of the Proceedings and Occurances of Moment
which have happened in Virginia from the Time
Sir Thomas Gates shipwrecked upon the Bermudes
anno 1609 until my departure out of the Country
which was in anno Domini 1612
*London: 1624 Excerpts
George Percy was one of the wealthy “gentlemen” among the 144
men who settled Jamestown in 1607. He served as president of
the colony during the “starving time” of 1609-1610 when more than
400 colonists died, leaving only sixty survivors. He wrote A True
Relation in 1624, partly to justify his leadership during this period.
f we truly consider the diversity of miseries, mutinies, and famishments which have attended upon
discoveries and plantations in these our modern times, we shall not find our plantation in Virginia to
have suffered alone.
Laudonnière had his share thereof in Florida, next neighbor unto Virginia, where his soldiers did fall
into mutinies and in the end were almost all starved for want of food.1 The Spaniards’ plantation in the
River of Plate and the Straits of Magellan suffered also in so much that having eaten up all their horses to
sustain themselves withall, mutinies did arise and grow among them for the which the general Diego
Mendoza caused some of them to be executed, extremity of hunger in forcing others secretly in the night
to cut down their dead fellows from of the gallows and bury them in their hungry bowels.2 The plantation
in Cartagena was also lamentable, that want of wholesome food wherewith for to maintain life were
enforced to eat toads, snakes, and such like venomous worms, such is the sharpness of hunger.3
To this purpose many other examples might be recited but the relation itself being brief I have no
intent to be tedious but to deliver the truth briefly and plainly . . . .
AUGUST – SEPTEMBER
After I had been president some
fourteen days I sent Captain Ratcliffe to
Point Comfort for to build a fort there, the
which I did for two respects ⎯ the one for
the plenty of the place for fishing; the other for the commodious discovery of any shipping which should
come upon the coast,4 and for the honor of Your Lordship’s name and house I named the same Algernon
A fleet of nine ships arrives in Jamestown carrying needed
food, supplies, and about 400 new settlers, including women
and children, increasing the colony’s population to 504. When
Capt. John Smith is burned in a gunpowder accident, his rivals
use the opportunity to force his return to England. Percy is
named to succeed Smith as president of the council.
Excerpted, spelling and punctuation modernized, and images added by the National Humanities Center, 2006: www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/
pds/pds.htm. In Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625 (New York: Scribner’s, 1907); full text online in
Virtual Jamestown at etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browsemod?id=J1063. Complete image credits at www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/
1 Laudonnière’s French Huguenot colony of Fort Caroline in Florida, destroyed by the Spanish in 1565.
2 Spanish colony in southern South America [Rio do la Plata].
3 Spanish colony on the coast of Colombia [Cartagena].
4 particularly Spanish ships
5 Percy’s Relation is addressed to Sir Algernon Percy, a relative.
Birmingham AL PL / Univ. of Alabama
Blaeu, Virginiae partis australis et Floridae, 1640, detail; Jamestown and Powhatan in ovals,
Kekowhaton (Kecoughton) indicated by top arrow, Point Comfort/Algernourne Fort by lower
arrow, Roanoke Island in box (site of the 1580s failed English colonies)
Not long after, Captain
Martin whom I left at
the island did come to
James Town pretending
some occasions of
business, but indeed his
own safety moved him
thereunto, fearing to be
surprised by the Indians
who had made divers
excursions against him
so that, having left
to command in his
absence, among whose
company shortly after
did grow a dangerous
mutiny, in so much that
divers of his men to the
number of seventeen
did take away a boat
from him perforce and
went therein to Kekowhaton pretending they would trade therefore victuals, but they were served
according to their deserts, for not any of them were heard of after. And in all likelihood were cut off and
slain by the savages and within [a] few days after Lieutenant Sicklemore and divers others were found
also slain with their mouths stopped full of bread, being done as it seems in contempt and scorn that
others might expect the like when they should come to seek for bread and relief among them. . . .
Also within a short time after Capt. West did come down to us from the Falls [up the James River
near Powhatan], having lost eleven men and a boat at Arsetock, besides those men he lost at the Falls, so
our number at James Town increasing and our store decreasing, for in charity we could not deny them to
participate with us. Whereupon I appointed Captain Tucker to calculate and cast up our store, the which at
a poor allowance of half a can of meal for a man a day amounted unto three months provision, yet
Captain Tucker by his industry and care caused the same to hold out four months.
But having no expectation of relief to come in so short a time, I sent Captain Ratcliffe to Powhatan to
procure victuals and corn by the way of commerce and trade, the which the subtle old fox at first made
good semblance of, although his intent was otherwise only waiting a fitting time for their destruction, as
after plainly appeared. The which was probably occasioned by Captain Ratcliffe’s credulity for having
Powhatan’s son and daughter aboard his pinnace [small boat], freely suffered them to depart again on
shore, whom if he had detained might have been a sufficient pledge for his safety. And after not keeping a
proper and fitting court of guard, but suffering his men by two and three and small numbers in a company
to straggle into the savages’ houses when the sly old king espied a fitting time, cut them all of, only
surprised Captain Ratcliffe alive, who he caused to be bound unto a tree naked with a fire before, and by
women his flesh was scrapped from his bones with mussel shells and before his face thrown into the fire.
And so for want of circumspection miserably perished.
In the meantime Captain William Phetiplace remained in the pinnace with some few men and was
divers times assaulted by the Indians, but after divers conflicts with the loss of some of his men, hardly
escaped and at length arrived at James Town only with sixteen men, the remainder of fifty . . .
Upon which defeat I sent Captain James Davis to Algernon Fort to command there in Captain
Ratcliffe’s place, and Captain West I sent to Potoamack with about thirty six men to trade for maize and
National Humanities Center 2
grain, where he in short time loaded his pinnace sufficiently, yet used some harsh and cruel dealing by
cutting of two of the savages’ heads and other extremities. And coming by Algernon Fort Captain Davis
did call unto them, acquainting them with our great wants, exhorting them to make all the speed they
could to relieve us, upon which report Captain West, by the persuasion or rather by the enforcement of his
company, hoisted up sails and shaped their course directly for England and left us in that extreme misery
WINTER 1609-1610__The “Starving Time”
Assn. for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA)
Burial sites excavated in James Fort in 2005, considered to date from the
earliest years of the Jamestown colony
Now all of us at James Town, beginning to feel that sharp prick of hunger which no man truly
describe but he which has tasted the bitterness thereof, a world of miseries ensued as the sequel will
express unto you, in so much that some to satisfy their hunger have robbed the store for the which I
caused them to be executed. Then having fed upon horses and other beasts as long as they lasted, we were
glad to make shift with vermin as dogs, cats, rats, and mice. All was fish that came to net to satisfy cruel
hunger as to eat boots, shoes, or any other leather some could come by, and, those being spent and
devoured, some were enforced to search the woods and to feed upon serpents and snakes and to dig the
earth for wild and unknown roots, where many of our men were cut off of and slain by the savages. And
now famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face that nothing was spared to maintain life and
to do those things which seem incredible as to dig up dead corpses out of graves and to eat them, and
some have licked up the blood
which has fallen from their weak
fellows. And among the rest this
was most lamentable, that one of
our colony murdered his wife,
ripped the child out of her womb
and threw it into the river, and
after chopped the mother in pieces
and salted her for his food. The
same not being discovered before
he had eaten part thereof, for the
which cruel and inhumane fact I
ajudged him to be executed, the
acknowledgement of the deed
being enforced from him by
torture having hung by the thumbs
with weights at his feet a quarter
of an hour before he would
confess the same. . . .
By this time being reasonable well recovered of my sickness, I did undertake a journey to Algernon
Fort, both to understand how things were there ordered, as also to have been revenged of the savages at
Kekowhatan who had treacherously slain divers of our men. Our people I found in good case and well,
liking having concealed their plenty from us above at James Town, being so well stored that the crab
fishes where with they had fed their hogs would have been a great relief unto us and saved many of our
lives. But their intent was for to have kept some of the better sort alive and with their two pinnaces to
have returned for England not regarding our miseries and wants at all, wherewith I taxed Captain Davis
and told him that I had a full intent to bring half of our men from James Town to be there relieved and
after to return them back again and bring the rest to be sustained there also. And if all this would not serve
to save our men’s lives I purposed to bring them all unto Algernon Fort, telling Captain Davis that
another town or fort might be erected and built but men’s lives once lost could never be recovered.
National Humanities Center 3
Only sixty colonists have survived the winter when Sir Thomas Gates, the
new governor of the colony, arrives with supplies and 100 new settlers. MAY 1610
Our miseries now being at the highest, and intending as I formerly related unto you to remove some
of our men to Algernon Fort the very next tide, we espied two pinnaces coming into the bay not knowing
as yet what they were but keeping a court of guard and watch all that night. The next morning we espied a
boat coming of from one of the pinnaces. So standing upon our guard we hailed them and understood that
Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers were come in those pinnaces which by their great industry they
had built in the Bermudes with the remainder of their wrecked ship and other wood they found in the
country, upon which news we received no small joy, requesting them in the boat to come ashore, the
which they refused and returned aboard again, for Sir Thomas Gates, having no knowledge of any fort to
be built there, was doubtful whether we were friends or no, but being possessed of the truth he and Sir
George Somers, which divers others did come ashore at Algernon Fort. And the next tide went up to
James Town where they might read a lecture of misery in our people’s faces and perceive the scarcity of
victuals and understand the malice of the savages who knowing our weakness had divers times assaulted
us without the fort. Finding of five hundred men we had only left about sixty, the rest being either starved
through famine or cut of by the savages, and those which were living were so meager and lean that it was
lamentable to behold them, for many, through extreme hunger, have run out of their naked beds, being so
lean that they looked like anomalies, crying out “we are starved, we are starved”; others going to bed as
we imagined in health were found dead the next morning. And among the rest one thing happened which
was very remarkable wherein God showed his just judgment, for one Hugh Pryse being pinched with
extreme famine, in a furious distracted mood did come openly into the market place blaspheming,
exclaiming, and crying out that there was no God, alleging that if there were a god he would not suffer his
creatures whom he had made and framed to endure those miseries and to perish for want of foods and
sustenance. But it appeared the same day that the Almighty was displeased with him for going that
afternoon with a butcher, a corpulent fat man into the woods to seek for some relief, both of them were
slain by savages. And after being found God’s indignation was shown upon Pryse’s corpse which was
rent in pieces with wolves or other wild beasts, And his bowels torn out of his body, being a lean spare
man. And the fat butcher not lying above six yards from him was found altogether untouched only by the
savages’ arrows whereby he received his death
Gates orders the abandonment of Jamestown. As the departing ships sail down the
James River, they encounter the fleet of Lord De La Warr bringing supplies and 150
new settlers. All return to Jamestown, where Gates establishes martial law.
These miseries considered, it was resolved upon by Sir Thomas Gates and the whole colony with all
speed to return for England, whereupon most of our men were set to work, some to make pitch and tar for
trimming of our ships, others to bake bread, and few or none not employed in one occasion or another. So
that a small space of time four pinnaces were fitted and made ready, all preparing to go aboard,.and if Sir
Thomas Gates had not labored with our men, they had set the town on fire using these or the like words
unto them, my masters let the town stand we know not but that as honest men as ourselves may come and
inhabit here. Then all of us embarking ourselves, Sir Thomas Gates in the Deliverance with his company,
Sir George Somers in the Patience, myself in the Discovery, and Captain Davis in the Virginia, all of us
sailing down the river with a full intent to have proceeded upon our voyage for England, when suddenly
we espied a boat making towards us wherein we found to be Captain Bruster sent from my Lord La Warr
who was come unto us with many gentlemen of quality and three hundred men besides, great store of
victuals, munition, and other provision, whereupon we all returned to James Town again where my Lord
shortly after landed and set all things in good order, selecting a Council and making captains over fifty
men a piece. Then Sir Thomas Gates, being desirous for to be revenged upon the Indians at Kekowhatan,
National Humanities Center 4
did go thither by water with a certain number of men and among the rest a taborer with him being landed,
he caused the taborer to play and dance thereby to allure the Indians to come unto him, the which
prevailed. And then espying a fitting opportunity fell in upon them, put five to the sword, wounded many
others, some of them being after found in the woods with such extraordinary large and mortal wounds that
it seemed strange they could fly so far. The rest of the savages he put to flight. And so possessing himself
of the Town and the fertiile ground thereunto adjacent, having well ordered all things he left his lieutenant
Earley to command his company, and then returned to James Town again and shortly after did take his
voyage for England. . . .
Gates orders Percy to lead an attack on the Paspahegh Indians.
My Lord General, not forgetting old Powhatan’s subtle treachery, sent a messenger unto him to demand
certain arms and divers men which we supposed might be living in his country, but he returned no other
then proud and disdainful answers.
Werowocomoco Research Group
Archaeological excavation of possible site
of Werowocomoco, the village near
Jamestown led by Powhatan’s son, 2003
Whereupon my Lord being much incensed caused a commission to be drawn wherein he appointed
me chief commander over seventy men and sent me to take revenge upon the Paspaheans and
Chiconamians, and so shipping myself and my soldiers in two boats I departed from James Town the 9th
of August 1610 and the same night landed within three miles of Paspahas town. Then drawing my
soldiers into battalion, placing a captain or lieutenant at every
file, we marched towards the town having an Indian guide
with me named Kempes whom the provost marshal led in a
handlock. This subtle savage was leading us out of the way,
the which I misdoubting bastinaded him which my truncheon
and threatened to cut of his head, whereupon the slave altered
his course and brought us the right way near unto the town.
So that then I commanded every leader to draw away his file
before me to beset the savages’ houses that none might
escape with a charge not to give the alarm until I were come
up unto them with the cullers. At my coming I appointed
Captain William West to give the alarm, the which he
performed by shooting of a pistol. And then we fell in upon
them, put some fifteen or sixteen to the sword and almost all
the rest to flight, whereupon I caused my drum to beat and
drew all my soldiers to the cullers, my lieutenant bringing
with him the queen and her children and one Indian prisoner
for the which I taxed him because he had spared them, his
answer was that having them now in my custody I might do
with them what I pleased. Upon the same I caused the
Indians’ head to be cut off. And then dispersed my files
appointing my soldiers to burn their houses and to cut down
their corn growing about the town. And after we marched
with the queen and her children to our boats again, where
being no sooner well shipped my soldiers did begin to
murmur because the queen and her children were spared. So upon the same a council being called it was
agreed upon to put the children to death, the which was effected by throwing them overboard and
shooting out their brains in the water, yet for all this cruelty the soldiers were not well pleased, and I had
much to do to save the queen’s life for that time.
Then sailing some two miles down the river I sent Captain Davis ashore with most of my soldiers,
myself being wearied before and for my own point but an easy foot man Captain Davis at his landing was
National Humanities Center 5
appointed by some Indians who spared not to send their arrows among our men but within a short time he
put them to flight and landed without further opposition, marching about fourteen miles into the country,
cut down their corn, burned their houses, temples, and idols, and among the rest a spacious temple clean
and neatly kept, a thing strange and seldom seen among the Indians in those parts. So having performed
all the spoil he could, returned aboard to me again and then we sailed down the river to James Town.
Backplate section from plate armor excavated at
Jamestown. Waist straps were attached to the iron rivets.
Piece of chain mail excavated at Jamestown; made of
interlocking metal rings to protect areas of the body
that could not be covered with plate armor
My Lord General not being well did lie ashipboard to whom we rowed, he being joyful of our safe return
yet seemed to be discontent because the queen was spared, as Captain Davis told me, and that it was my
Lord’s pleasure that we should see her dispatched, the way he thought best to burn her. To the first I
replied that having seen so much bloodshed that day now in my cold blood I desired to see no more and
for to burn her I did not hold it fitting but either by
shot or sword to give her a quicker dispatch. So
turning myself from Captain Davis he did take the
queen with two soldiers ashore and in the woods
put her to the sword and although Captain Davis
told me it was my Lord’s direction yet I am
persuaded to the contrary.
. . . In short time after Captain Adams did come
into our bay in a ship called the Blessing with fresh
supply both of men and victuals, giving us notice
that Sir Thomas Dale was to come shortly after with
a greater supply, the which proved true for within
two months after he arrived in Virginia and brought
with him three hundred men besides great store of
armor, munition, victuals, and other provision. And
being landed he ordained new laws set down, good
articles which were well observed, all our men
being set to work, some to plant, some to sow corn,
and others to build boats and houses, most men
employed in one thing or another. All things in time
being well settled and ordered, Sir Thomas Dale
made preparation and went against the Nance-
mondies with a hundred men in armor where he had
divers encounters and skirmishes with the savages
both by land and water, divers of his company
being wounded. . . In these conflicts many Indians
being also slain and wounded. And not being
acquainted nor accustomed to encounter with men
in armor, much wondered thereat especially that they did not see any of our men fall as they had done in
other conflicts. Whereupon they did fall into their exorcisms, conjurations, and charms, throwing fire up
into the skies, running up and down with rattles and making many diabolical gestures with many
ungrammatical spells and incantations, imagining thereby to cause rain to fall from the clouds to
extinguish and put out our men’s matches and to wet and spoil their powder, but neither the devil whom
they adore nor all their sorceries did anything avail them, for our men cut down their corn, burned their
houses, and besides those which they had slain brought some of them prisoners to our fort.
For information on the Jamestown archaeological excavations, see Jamestown Discovery (Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) at
www.apva.org/jr.html, and Virtual Jamestown: Artifacts, at www.virtualjamestown.org/images/artifacts/jamestown.html.
For information on the Werowocomoco excavation, see Werowocomoco Research Project at powhatan.wm.edu/index.htm.
National Humanities Center 6
- GEORGE PERCY____A TRUE RELATION
*London: 1624 ( Excerpts
Bacon’sRebellion: The Declaration (1676)
by Nathaniel Bacon
Economic and social power became concentrated in late seventeenth-century Virginia, leaving
laborers and servants with restricted economic independence. Governor William Berkeley feared
rebellion: “six parts of Seven at least are Poore, Indebted, Discontented and Armed.” Planter
Nathaniel Bacon focused inland colonists’ anger at local Indians, who they felt were holding
back settlement, and at a distant government unwilling to aid them. In the summer and fall of
1676, Bacon and his supporters rose up and plundered the elite’s estates and slaughtered nearby
Indians. Bacon’s Declaration challenged the economic and political privileges of the governor’s
circle of favorites, while announcing the principle of the consent of the people. Bacon’s death
and the arrival of a British fleet quelled this rebellion, but Virginia’s planters long remembered
the spectacle of white and black acting together to challenge authority.
1. For having, upon specious pretenses of public works, raised great unjust taxes upon the
commonalty for the advancement of private favorites and other sinister ends, but no visible
effects in any measure adequate; for not having, during this long time of his government, in any
measure advanced this hopeful colony either by fortifications, towns, or trade.
2. For having abused and rendered contemptible the magistrates of justice by advancing to places
of judicature scandalous and ignorant favorites.
3. For having wronged his Majesty’s prerogative and interest by assuming monopoly of the
beaver trade and for having in it unjust gain betrayed and sold his Majesty’s country and the
lives of his loyal subjects to the barbarous heathen.
4. For having protected, favored, and emboldened the Indians against his Majesty’s loyal
subjects, never contriving, requiring, or appointing any due or proper means of satisfaction for
their many invasions, robberies, and murders committed upon us.
5. For having, when the army of English was just upon the track of those Indians, who now in all
places burn, spoil, murder and when we might with ease have destroyed them who then were in
open hostility, for then having expressly countermanded and sent back our army by passing his
word for the peaceable demeanor of the said Indians, who immediately prosecuted their evil
intentions, committing horrid murders and robberies in all places, being protected by the said
engagement and word past of him the said Sir William Berkeley, having ruined and laid desolate
a great part of his Majesty’s country, and have now drawn themselves into such obscure and
remote places and are by their success so emboldened and confirmed by their confederacy so
strengthened that the cries of blood are in all places, and the terror and consternation of the
people so great, are now become not only difficult but a very formidable enemy who might at
first with ease have been destroyed.
6. And lately, when, upon the loud outcries of blood, the assembly had, with all care, raised and
framed an army for the preventing of further mischief and safeguard of this his Majesty’s colony.
7. For having, with only the privacy of some few favorites without acquainting the people, only
by the alteration of a figure, forged a commission, by we know not what hand, not only without
but even against the consent of the people, for the raising and effecting civil war and destruction,
which being happily and without bloodshed prevented; for having the second time attempted the
same, thereby calling down our forces from the defense of the frontiers and most weakly exposed
8. For the prevention of civil mischief and ruin amongst ourselves while the barbarous enemy in
all places did invade, murder, and spoil us, his Majesty’s most faithful subjects.
Of this and the aforesaid articles we accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty of each and every one
of the same, and as one who has traitorously attempted, violated, and injured his Majesty’s
interest here by a loss of a great part of this his colony and many of his faithful loyal subjects by
him betrayed and in a barbarous and shameful manner exposed to the incursions and murder of
the heathen. And we do further declare these the ensuing persons in this list to have been his
wicked and pernicious councilors, confederates, aiders, and assisters against the commonalty in
these our civil commotions.
Sir Henry Chichley William Claiburne Junior
Lieut. Coll. Christopher Wormeley Thomas Hawkins
William Sherwood Phillip Ludwell
John Page Clerke Robert Beverley
John Cluffe Clerke Richard Lee
John West Thomas Ballard
Hubert Farrell William Cole
Thomas Reade Richard Whitacre
Matthew Kempe Nicholas Spencer
John West, Hubert Farrell, Thomas Reade, Math. Kempe
And we do further demand that the said Sir William Berkeley with all the persons in this list be
forthwith delivered up or surrender themselves within four days after the notice hereof, or
otherwise we declare as follows.
That in whatsoever place, house, or ship, any of the said persons shall reside, be hid, or
protected, we declare the owners, masters, or inhabitants of the said places to be confederates
and traitors to the people and the estates of them is also of all the aforesaid persons to be
confiscated. And this we, the commons of Virginia, do declare, desiring a firm union amongst
ourselves that we may jointly and with one accord defend ourselves against the common enemy.
And let not the faults of the guilty be the reproach of the innocent, or the faults or crimes of the
oppressors divide and separate us who have suffered by their oppressions.
These are, therefore, in his Majesty’s name, to command you forthwith to seize the persons
above mentioned as traitors to the King and country and them to bring to Middle Plantation and
there to secure them until further order, and, in case of opposition, if you want any further
assistance you are forthwith to demand it in the name of the people in all the counties of
General by Consent of the people.
Source: “Declaration of Nathaniel Bacon in the Name of the People of Virginia, July 30,
1676,”Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 4th ser., 1871, vol. 9: 184–87.
A BRIEF HISTORY
[From Mather’s Introduction]*
hat the Heathen people amongst whom we live, and whose
Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us for a
rightfull Possession, have at sundry times been plotting
mischievous devices against that part of the English Israel
which is seated in these goings down of the Sun, no man that is
an Inhabitant of any considerable standing can be ignorant.
Especially that there have been (nec injuria) jealousies
concerning the Narragansets and Wompanoags, is notoriously
known to all men. And whereas they have been quiet until the last
year, that must be ascribed to the wonderful Providence of God,
who did (as with Jacob of old, and after that with the Children of
Israel) lay the fear of the English [colonists] and the dread of
them upon all the Indians. The terror of God was upon them
round about. Nor indeed had they such advantages in former years as now they have in respect of Arms
and Ammunition, their bows and arrows not being comparably such weapons of death and destruction as
our guns and swords are, with which they have been unhappily furnished. Nor were our sins ripe for so
dreadful a judgment until the Body of the first generation was removed, and another Generation risen up
which hath not so pursued, as ought have been, the blessed design of their Fathers, in following the Lord
into this Wilderness, whilst it was a land now sown. . . .
Mather presents a day-by-day review of King Philip’s [Metacom’s] War, then concludes in his Postscript.
There is another matter of greater importance, sc. That which doth concern the Grounds of this War, and
the justness of it on our part: concerning which I shall here add a few words. It is known to everyone that
the War began not amongst us in Mattachusets Colony; nor do the Indians (so far as I am informed)
pretend that we have done them wrong. And therefore the cause on our part is most clear and
unquestionable: For if we should have suffered our Confederates and those that were ready to be slain to
* Excerpted, some spelling and punctuation modernized, and images added by the National Humanities Center, 2006: www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/pds.htm.
In Increase Mather, A Brief History of the War With the Indians in New-England, 1676, ed. Paul Royster (electronic edition, University of Nebraska–
Lincoln). Reproduced by permission. Full text at Digital Commons@UNL at digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/31/. Complete image credits at
Memorial Hall Museum
Library of Congress
American Antiquarian Society
National Humanities Center 2
be drawn to death, & not have endeavored to deliver them, when they sent unto us for that end, the Lord
would have been displeased; nor should we have acted like the Children of Abraham, Gen: 14.14.1 Yea,
all the world would justly have condemned us. And as for our Brethren in that Colony where their tumults
first happened, It is evident that the Indians did most unrighteously begin a Quarrel and take up the Sword
. . . [I]t seems very manifest to impartial Judges that the Government in that Colony [Plymouth] is
innocent as to any wrongs that have been done to the Heathen by those where the War began. And
therefore for their vindication and for the satisfaction of those amongst ourselves (or elsewhere) who are
cordially desirous to have things cleared, respecting the Grounds of the War, I shall here subjoin a Letter;
which I received from General Winslow (whose integrity and peculiar capacity (as being Governor of
Plymouth Colony) to give information in this affair is well known) together with a Narrative of the
beginning of these Troubles as it was presented to the Commissioners of the united Colonies [New
England] in September last, for the satisfaction of confederate Brethren.
he many Testimonies you have given, not only of your good respects to my
unworthy self personally, but also to this whole Colony, manifested in your
endeavors to vindicate us from undeserved aspersions that some ignorant or worse than
uncharitable persons would lay upon us respecting the Grounds of these troubles, calls for
a greater Retribution than a bare acknowledgment . . . I think I can clearly say that before
all these present troubles broke out, the English did not possess one foot of Land in this
Colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian Proprietors: Nay,
because some of our people are of a covetous disposition and the Indians are, in their
Straits, easily prevailed with to part with their Lands, we first made a Law that none
should purchase or receive of gift any Land of the Indians without the knowledge and
allowance of our Court, and penalty of a fine, five pound per Acre, for all that should be
so bought or obtained. And lest yet they should be straightened, we ordered that Mount-
Hope, Pocasset & several other Necks of the best Land in the Colony (because most
suitable and convenient for them) should never be bought out of their hands or else they
would have sold them long since. And our neighbors at Rehoboth and Swanzy, although
they bought their lands fairly of this Philip [Metacom, Wampanoag leader] and his Father
[Massasoit] and Brother, yet because of their vicinity, that they might not trespass upon
the Indians, did at their own cost set up a very substantial fence quite cross that great
Neck between the English and the Indians and paid due damage if at any time any unruly
horse or other beasts broke in and trespassed . . . And if at any time they have brought
complaints before us, they had had justice impartial and speedily, so that our own people
have frequently complained that we erred on the other hand in showing them overmuch
favor. Much more I might mention, but I would not burden your patience; yet we must
own that God is just and hath punished us far less than our iniquities have deserved; yea
just in using as a Rod, whose enlightening and Conversion we have not endeavored as we
might & should have done, but on the contrary have taught them new sins that they knew
not. The Lord Humble us and Reform us, that he may also save and deliver us, as in his
own time I trust he will. . . .
Your obliged friend to serve you,
Marshfield May 1 Jos, Winslow.
. . .
1 Genesis 14:14. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house,
three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. [King James]
National Humanities Center 3
Mather adds documents from the Commissioners of the Colony of New-Plimouth and of the United Colonies.
At a Meeting of the Commissioners of the United Colonies
held at Boston September 9th. 1675.
e, having received from the Commissioners of Plimouth a Narrative showing the
rise and several steps of that Colony as to the present War with the Indians,
which had its beginning there, and its progress into the Massachusetts, by their
insolencies and outrages, Murdering many persons and burning their Houses in sundry
[several] Plantations in both Colonies. And having duely considered the same, do
Declare, That the said War doth appear to be both just and necessary, and its first rise
only a Defensive War. And therefore we do agree and conclude that it ought now to be
jointly presented by all the United Colonies; and the charges thereof to be born and
paid as is agreed in the Articles of Confederation.
John Winthrop. Thomas Danforth.
James Richards. William Stoughton.
Next, Mather presents the Covenant that Philip [Metacom] had agreed to five years earlier.
Taunton, Apr. 10th. 1671.
Whereas my Father, my Brother and my self have formerly submitted our selves and
our people unto the King’s Majesty of England, and to this Colony of New-Plymouth,
by solemn Covenant under our Hand;2 but I having of late through my indiscretion and
the naughtiness of my heart violated and broken this my Covenant with my friends by
taking up Arms with evil intent against them, and that groundlessly; I being now deeply
sensible of my unfaithfulness and folly do desire at this time to renew my Covenant
with my ancient Friends and my Father’s friends above mentioned; and do desire this
may testify to the world against me, if ever I shall again fail in my faithfulness towards
them (that I have now and at all times found so kind to me) or any other of the English
Colonies; and as a real Pledge of my true Intentions, for the future to be faithful and
friendly, I do freely engage to resign up unto the Government of New-Plymouth all my
English Arms to be kept by them for their security, so long as they shall see reason. For
true performance of the Premises I have hereunto set my hand together with the rest of
In the Presence of The Mark of P. Philip
William Davis. chief Sachem of Pocanoket
William Hudson. The Mark of Tavoser
Thomas Brattle. The Mark of Capt. Wisposke
The Mark of Woonkaponehunt
The Mark of Nimrod.
By all these things it is evident that we may truly say of Philip, and the Indians, who have sought to
dispossess us of the Land which the Lord our God hath given to us, as sometimes Jephthah and the
Children of Israel said to the King of Ammon, I have not sinned against thee, but thou dost me wrong to
2 In the agreements of April and September 1671, Metacom agreed to surrender Wampanoag firearms (which did not occur) and to accept the legal
authority of the Plymouth colony and the English monarchy.
National Humanities Center 4
war against me; the Lord the Judge, be Judge this day between the Children of Israel and the Children of
Ammon. And as Iehoshaphat said, when the Heathen in those days combined to destroy the Lord’s
People; And now behold the Children of Ammon, and Moab and Mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let
Israel invade when they came out of the Land of Egypt, but they turned from them and destroyed them
not, behold how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy Possession, which thou hast given us to
inherit, O our God wilt thou not judge them?
Even so, when Philip was in the hands of the English in former years, & disarmed by them, they could
easily but would not destroy him and his men. The Governors of that Colony have been as careful to
prevent injuries to him as unto any others; yea, they kept his Land not from him but for him, who
otherwise would have sold himself out of all; and the Gospel was freely offered to him and to his
Subjects, but they despised it: And now behold how they reward us! will not our God Judge them? yea
he hath and will do so.
F I N I S.
Memorial Hall Museum
Iron knife, French, 10⅞“ inches, discovered in the late 1700s at the site of an Indian ambush
during King Philip’s War in what is now South Deerfield, Massachusetts
Virginia Company of London, to the Captains and Company of Jamestown, ca. 1607
When it shall please God to send you on the coast of Virginia, you shall do your best endeavor to find
out a safe port in the entrance of some navigable river, making choice of such one as runs farthest into
NSTRUCTIONS GIVEN BY WAY OF ADVICE
by us whom it has pleased the King’s Majesty to appoint of the Counsel for the intended voyage to Virginia,
to be observed by those Captains and company which are sent at this present to plant there. *
AS we doubt not but you will have special care to observe the ordinances set down by the
King’s Majesty and delivered unto you under the Privy Seal; so for your better directions
upon your first landing we have thought good to recommend to your care these instructions
and articles following.
the land, making choice of such a one as runs farthest into
the land, and if you happen to discover diverse portable
rivers, and among them any one that has two main
branches, if the difference be not great, make choice of
that which bends most toward the North-west for that way
you shall soon find the other sea.
When you have made choice of the river on which you
mean to settle, be not hasty in landing your victuals and
munitions; but first let Captain Newport discover how far
that river may be found navigable, that you [may] make
election of the strongest, most wholesome and fertile
place; for if you make many removes, besides the loss of
time, you shall greatly spoil your victuals and your casks,
and with great pain transport it in small boats.
But if you choose your place so far up as a bark of fifty
tons will float, then you may lay all your provisions ashore
with ease, and the better receive the trade of all the
countries about you in the land; and such a place you may
perchance find a hundred miles from the river’s mouth,
and the further up the better. For if you sit down near the
entrance, except it be in some island that is strong by
nature, an enemy that may approach you on even ground,
may easily pull you out: and if he be driven to seek you a
hundred miles [in] the land with boats, you shall from both
sides of the river where it is narrowest, so beat them with
your muskets as they shall never be able to prevail against
And to the end that you be not surprised as the French
* Spelling modernized, images and italicization added by the National Humanities Center, 2006: www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/pds.htm. This
undated document was found in a volume of the Minutes of the London or South Virginia Company and published in 1869. The authorship is unknown;
it may have been written by Richard Hakluyt who is named in the 1606 charter. Full text available in Virtual Jamestown at
etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browse?id=J10399. Image credits at www.nhc.rtp.nc us/pds.pds.htm.
John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
John Smith, The general historie of Virginia, New
England, and the Summer Isles, 1624, frontispiece
These are the lines that shew thy Face; but those
That shew thy Grace and Glory; brighter bee:
Thy Faire Discoveries and Fowle – Overthrowes
Of Salvages, much Civilliz’d by thee
Best shew thy Spirit: and to it Glory Wyn
So, thou art Brasse without, but Golde within.
National Humanities Center 2
were in Florida by Melindus, and the Spaniard in the same place by the French, you shall do well to make
this double provision. First, erect a little store at the mouth of the river that might lodge some ten men;
with whom you shall leave a light boat, that when any fleet shall be in sight, they may come with speed to
give you warning. Secondly, you must in no case suffer any of the native people of the country to inhabit
between you and the sea coast; for you cannot carry yourselves so towards them, but they will grow
discontented with your habitation, and be ready to guide and assist any nation that shall come to invade
you: and if you neglect this, you neglect your safety.
your six score men into three parts: whereof one party of them you may appoint to fortify and build, of
which your first work must be your storehouse for victuals; the other[s] you may employ in preparing
your ground and sowing your corn and roots; the other ten of these forty you must leave as sentinel at the
The other forty you may employ for two months in discovery of the river above you, and on the country
about you; which charge Captain Newport and Captain Gosnold may undertake of these forty discoverers.
When they do spy any high lands or hills, Captain Gosnold may take twenty of the company to cross over
the lands, and carrying a half dozen pickaxes to try if they can find any minerals. The other twenty may
go on by river, and pitch up boughs upon the bank’s side, by which the other boats shall follow them by
the same turnings. You may also take with them a wherry [light rowboat], such as is used here in the
[River] Thames; by which you may send back to the President for supply of munition or any other want,
that you may not be driven to return for every small defect.
that out of the same lake you shall find some spring which run[s] the contrary way towards the East India
Sea; for the great and famous rivers of Volga, Tan[a]is and Dwina have three heads near joined; and yet
the one falls into the Caspian Sea, the other into the Euxine Sea, and the third into the Paelonian Sea.
[they] have any: and this you must do before 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 endeavor to store yourselves of the
Your discoverers that pass 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 desert, you shall hardly ever find a passage back.
And how weary so ever your soldiers be, let them never trust the country people
with the carriage of their weapons; for if they run from you with your shot,
which they only fear, they will easily kill them all with their arrows. And
whensoever any of yours shoots before them, be sure they may be chosen out of
your best marksmen; for if they see your learners miss what they aim at, they
will think the weapon not so terrible, and thereby will be bold to assault you.
When you have discovered as far up the river as you mean to plant yourselves, and landed your
victuals and munitions; to the end that every man may know his charge, you shall do well to divide
You must observe if you can, whether the river on which you plant does 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,
In all your passages you must have great care not to offend the naturals [Indians], if you can eschew
it; and employ some few of your company to trade with them for corn and all other lasting victuals if
Library of Congress
Smith, map of Virginia,
National Humanities Center 3
of yours, they will make many adventures upon you. If the
country be populous, you shall do well also, not to let them see
or know if your sick men, if you have any; which may also
encourage them to make many enterprises.
You must take special care that you choose a seat for habitation
that shall not be over burdened with woods near your town: for
all the men you have, shall not be able to clean twenty acres a
year, besides that it may serve for a cover for your enemies
for some part of that coast where the lands are low, have their
people bleary eyed, and with swollen bellies and legs: but if the
naturals be strong and clean made, it is a true sign of a
You must take order to draw up the pinnace that is left with
you, under the fort: and [to] take her sail and anchors ashore, all
but 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
inhabit, for a little gain will debase the estimation of the exchange, and hinder the trade for ever after: and
therefore you shall not admit or suffer any person whatsoever, other than such as shall be appointed by he
President and Council there, to buy any merchandises 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 public and necessary use before any house be set up for any private
person: and though the workmen 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 advisably done to set your houses even
and by a line, that your streets may have a good breadth, and be carried square about your market place,
and every street’s end opening into it; that from there, with a few field pieces, you may command every
street throughout; which market place you may also fortify if you think it needful.
several kinds, and so of all other things else to advertise particularly; and to suffer no man to return but by
passport from the President and Council, nor to write any letter of any thing that may discourage others.
the way to prosper and achieve good success is to make yourselves all of
one mind of 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 has not planted shall be rooted out.
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
Above all things, do not advertise the killing of your men, that the country people may know it; if they
perceive that they are but common men, and that with the loss of many of theirs they diminish any part
You shall do well to send a perfect relation [report] by Captain Newport of all that is done, what
height you are seated, how far into the land, what commodities you find, what soil, woods, and their
Lastly and chiefly,
Library of Congress
Wenceslaus, Unus Americanus ex Virginia,
publ. Antwerp, 1645
National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox
American Beginnings: The European Presence in North America, 1492-1690
“shift for ourselves in a forlorn place in this wilderness”
Surviving the First Year of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1630-1631
Memoir of Roger Clap, ca. 1680s, excerpts
Roger Clap [Clapp] arrived in New England in May 1630 at age 21, having overcome his father’s opposition to his emigration. In his
seventies he began his memoir to tell his children of “God’s remarkable providences . . . in bringing me to this land.” A devout man,
he interprets the lack of food for his body as part of God’s providing food for the soul, in this case the souls of the Purit ans as they
created their religious haven.
thought good, my dear children, to leave with you some account of God’s remarkable providences to
me, in bringing me into this land and placing me here among his dear servants and in his house, who
am most unworthy of the least of his mercies. The Scripture requireth us to tell God’s wondrous
works to our children, that they may tell them to their children, that God may have glory throughout all
ages. Amen. . . .
I was born in England, in Sallcom, in Devonshire, in the year of our Lord 1609. My father was a man
fearing God, and in good esteem among God’s faithful servants. His outward estate was not great, I think
not above £80 per annum.
We were five brethren (of which I was the youngest) and two sisters. God was
graciously pleased to breathe by his holy spirit (I hope) in all our hearts, if in mine; which I am not
altogether without hopes of. Four of us brethren lived at home. I did desire my dear father (my dear
mother being dead) that I might live abroad [outside the country]; which he consented to. . . .
. . . So God brought me out of Plymouth [England] the 20th of March in the year 1629-30, and landed
me in health at Nantasket on the 30th of May, 1630, I being then about the age of twenty-one years.
Blessed be God that brought me here! . . .
National Humanities Center, 2006/2013: nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/. Memoirs of Capt. Roger Clap, Boston, 1731; reprinted in Chronicles of
the First Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay from 1623 to 1636, ed. Alexander Young, 1846 (online in Internet Archive). Some punctuation
and spelling modernized, and some paragraphing added by NHC for clarity. Photograph of Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts, May 24, 2013, entitled
“Reflected Darkness” (detail) by Marguerite Mullaney, Gull Times (gulltimes.com/); reproduced by permission. Complete image credits at national
I.e., his property and monetary worth were not great, I think not above 80 pounds a year. [English currency]
Marguerite Mullaney Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts, May
National Humanities Center Memoir of Roger Clap, publ. ca. 1680s, excerpts 2
When we came to
Nantasket, Capt. Squeb, who
was captain of that great ship
of four hundred tons, would
not bring us into Charles
as he was bound to do,
but put us ashore and our
goods on Nantasket Point, and
left us to shift for ourselves in
a forlorn place in this wilder-
ness. But, as it pleased God,
we got a boat of some old
planters [farmers] and laded
her with goods; and some able
men, well armed, went in her
unto Charlestown, where we
found some wigwams and one
house; and in the house there
was a man which had a boiled
bass [fish] but no bread, that
we see. But we did eat of his
bass, and then went up Charles
river until the river grew
narrow and shallow, and there
we landed our goods with
much labor and toil, the bank
being steep; and night coming
on, we were informed that
there were hard by us three
One Englishman that could
speak the Indian language (an
old planter) went to them and
advised them not to come near us in the night, and they hearkened to his counsel [took his advice] and
came not. I myself was one of the sentinels [guards] that first night. Our captain was a Low Country
soldier, one Mr. Southcot, a brave soldier. In the morning, some of the Indians came and stood at a
distance off, looking at us, but came not near us. But when they had been a while in view, some of them
came and held out a great bass towards us; so we sent a man with a biscuit and changed [traded] the cake
for the bass. Afterwards, they supplied us with bass, exchanging a bass for a biscuit cake, and were very
friendly unto us.
Oh, dear children! forget not what care God had over his dear servants, to watch over us and protect us
in our weak beginnings. Capt. Squeb turned ashore us and our goods, like a merciless man; but God, even
our merciful God, took pity on us, so that we were supplied first with a boat, and then caused many
Indians (some hundreds) to be ruled by the advice of one man, not to come near us. Alas, had they come
upon us, how soon might they have destroyed us! I think we were not above ten in number. But God
caused the Indians to help us with fish at very cheap rates. We had not been there many days (although by
our diligence we had got up a kind of shelter to save our goods in) but we had order to come away from
that place, which was about Watertown, unto a place called Mattapan, now Dorchester, because there was
See map, p. 4.
Low Country: coastal region of northwestern Europe, including present-day Belgium and Holland.
John Clapp/Dorchester Historical Society
Roger Clap’s birthplace in Salcombe Regis, England, 2005 photograph
Dorchester Historical Society
Roger Clap built his house on Willow Court, one of the first streets in the 1630 Dorchester
settlement, photo published in the Dorchester Day program, 7 June 1913
National Humanities Center Memoir of Roger Clap, publ. ca. 1680s, excerpts 3
a neck of land fit to keep our cattle on. So we removed and
came to Mattapan. The Indians there also were kind unto
. . .
Not long after came our renowned and blessed Governor
[John Winthrop] and divers [several] of his Assistants with
him. Their ships came into Charles river, and many
passengers landed at Charlestown, many of whom died the
winter following. Governor Winthrop purposed to set down
his station about Cambridge, or somewhere on the river; but
viewing the place, liked that plain neck that was called then
Blackstone’s Neck, now Boston. But in the meantime,
before they could build at Boston, they lived many of them
in tents and wigwams at Charlestown, their meeting-place
[church] being abroad [a distance away] under a tree, where
I have heard Mr. Wilson and Mr. Phillips preach many a
Now coming into this country, I found it a vacant
wilderness, in respect of English. There were indeed some
English at Plymouth and Salem, and some few at
Charlestown, who were very destitute when we came
ashore; and planting time being past, shortly after provision
[food and supplies] was not to be had for money. I wrote to
my friends, namely to my dear father, to send me some
provision; which accordingly he did, and also gave order to
one of his neighbors to supply me with what I needed (he
being a seaman), who coming hither, supplied me with
divers things. But before this supply came, yea, and after
too (that being spent, and the then unsubdued wilderness
yielding little food) many a time if I could have filled my belly, though with mean victuals [coarse
unappetizing food], it would have been sweet unto me. Fish was a good help unto me and others. Bread
was so very scarce that sometimes I thought the very crusts of my father’s table would have been very
sweet unto me. And when I could have meal and water and salt boiled together, it was so good, who could
In our beginning many were in great straits [dire hardship] for want of provision for themselves and
their little ones. Oh the hunger that many suffered, and saw no hope in an eye of reason to be supplied,
only by clams and mussels and fish. We did quickly build boats, and some went a fishing. But bread was
with many a very scarce thing, and flesh [animal meat] of all kind as scarce. And in those days, in our
straits, though I cannot say God sent a raven to feed us, as he did the prophet Elijah, yet this I can say, to
the praise of God’s glory, that he sent not only poor ravenous Indians, which came with their baskets of
corn on their backs to trade with us (which was a good supply unto many) but also sent ships from
Holland and from Ireland with provisions, and Indian corn from Virginia, to supply the wants
of his dear
servants in this wilderness, both for food and raiment [clothing]. And when people’s wants were great,
not only in one town but in divers towns, such was the godly wisdom, care, and prudence (not selfishness,
but self-denial) of our Governor Winthrop and his Assistants, that when a ship came laden with
provisions, they did order that the whole cargo should be bought for a general stock; and so accordingly it
was, and distribution was made to every town, and to every person in each town, as every man had need.
Thus God was pleased to care for his people in times of straits, and to fill his servants with food and
See Young’s footnote in box, above right.
Edward Johnson, an eyewitness, gives a
graphic description of the scarcity of
provisions among the first colonists. “In
the absence of bread, they feasted
themselves with fish. The women once a
day, as the tide gave way, resorted to the
mussel and clam banks (which are a fish
as big as horse-mussels), where they
daily gathered their families’ food. Quoth
one, ‘My husband hath travelled as far as
Plymouth (which is near forty miles) and
hath with great toil brought a little corn
home with him, and before that is spent,
the Lord will assuredly provide.’ Quoth
the other, ‘Our last peck of meal is now in
the oven at home a baking, and many of
our godly neighbours have quite spent
all, and we owe one loaf of that little we
have.’ Then spake a third, ‘My husband
hath ventured himself among the Indians
for corn and can get none, as also our
honored Governor hath distributed his so
far, that a day or two more will put an end
to his store, and all the rest. . . .’ And as
they were encouraging one another, they
lift up their eyes and saw two ships
coming in, and presently this news came
to their ears, that they were come from
Ireland, full of victuals [food].”
Footnote in Chronicles of the First Planters of the
Colony of Massachusetts Bay from 1623 to 1636, ed.
Alexander Young, 1846, citing the Massachusetts
Historical Collection journal, xiii, 125.
National Humanities Center Memoir of Roger Clap, publ. ca. 1680s, excerpts 4
gladness. Then did all the servants of God bless his holy name, and love one another with pure hearts
. . . After the first winter, we were very healthy, though some of us had no great store of corn. The
Indians did sometimes bring corn, and truck [trade] with us for clothing and knives; and once I had a peck
[about two quarts] of corn, or thereabouts, for a little puppy dog. Frost-fish, mussels, and clams were a
relief to many. If our provision be better now than it was then, let us not, and do you, dear children, take
heed that you do not forget the Lord our God. You have better food and raiment than was in former times;
but have you better hearts than your forefathers had? If so, rejoice in that mercy, and let New-England
then shout for joy. Sure, all the people of God in other parts of the world that shall hear that the children
and grandchildren of the first planters of New-England have better hearts and are more heavenly than
their predecessors, they will doubtless greatly rejoice, and will say, “This is the generation whom the
Lord hath blessed.”
. . .
After God had brought me into this country, he was pleased to give me room in the hearts of his
servants; so that I was admitted into the church fellowship at our first beginning in Dorchester, in the year
Library of Congress 1639 Dutch map of New England; oval marks area of Boston harbor, Nantasket Beach, Dorchester, and the Charles River
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676
in Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705
Library of Virginia
Anonymous, Bacon’s Epitaph, made by his man,
presumably written soon after Bacon’s death,
found in a manuscript collection known as The
Bacon’s Rebellion appears at first sight to be a simple uprising of backwoods farmers
against the ruling class of rich planters in Virginia, and indeed, the author of this
account labels it a “civil war,” but it was more layered than that. The leaders of the
rebellion, primarily Nathaniel Bacon, were well-to-do men themselves who were
excluded from the powered elite led by Governor William Berkeley (among them
Robert Beverley, the father of the author of this account). In addition, they were
excluded from the lucrative Indian trade monopolized by Berkeley’s friends. Using the
very real grievances of the common farmers falling tobacco profits, rising taxes,
reduced opportunities to buy their own farms, harsh shipping regulations imposed by
England, and finally, the outbreak of war between the backwoods farmers and the
Susquehannock Indians (with whom Berkeley wanted to maintain trade) Bacon led
the farmers in armed rebellion. Jamestown was occupied and burned; tidewater
plantations were attacked and plundered. When Bacon died suddenly of dysentery,
the rebellion ended. Governor Berkeley hanged twenty-three of the rebellion’s
Berkeley himself had foreseen the vulnerability of the disenfranchised farmers to a
call for rebellion. “A large part of the people are so desperately poor,” he wrote in
1673, “that they may reasonably be expected upon any small advantage of the
enemy [the Dutch of New Netherland, who had attacked Virginia in 1667 and 1673] to
revolt to them in hopes of bettering their condition by sharing the plunder of the
colony with them.”1
The Occasion of this Rebellion is not easy to be discovered:
But ’tis certain here were many Things that concurr’d
towards it. For it cannot be imagined, that upon the
Instigation of two or three Traders only, who aim’d at a
Monopoly of the Indian Trade, as some pretend to say, the
whole Country would have fallen into so much Distraction; in which People did not only hazard their
Necks by Rebellion, but endeavor’d to ruin a Governor, whom they all entirely loved, and had unanimous-
ly chosen, a Gentleman who had devoted his whole Life and Estate to the Service of the Country and
against whom in Thirty Five Years Experience there had never been one single Complaint. Neither can it
be supposed that upon so slight Grounds they would make Choice of a Leader they hardly knew, to
oppose a Gentleman that had been so long and so deservedly the Darling of the People. So that in all
Probability there was something else in the Wind, without which the Body of the Country [would have]
never been engaged in that Insurrection.
Four Things may be reckon’d to have been the main Ingredients towards this intestine [internal]
First, The extreme low Price of Tobacco, and the ill Usage of the Planters in the Exchange of Goods for
it, which the Country, with all their earnest Endeavors, could not remedy.
Secondly, The splitting the Colony into Proprieties, contrary to the original Charters; and the extravagant
Taxes they were forced to undergo to relieve themselves from those Grants.
Thirdly, The heavy Restraints and Burdens laid upon their Trade by Act of Parliament in England.
Fourthly, The Disturbance given by the Indians.
Of all which I beg leave to speak in their Order.
* Excerpted, images added, spelling modernized, and some paragraphing added by the National Humanities Center, 2006: www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/
pds.htm. In Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705, ed. Louis B. Wright (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1947; published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia), pp. 74-88. Copyright 1947 by the University of North
Carolina Press; renewed 1975 by Louis B. Wright. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, www.uncpress.unc.edu. Full text of revised 2d. ed.,
1722, from the Library of Congress: hdl.loc.gov/loc.gdc/lhbcb.06557. Complete image credits at www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/amerbegin/imagecredits.htm.
1 Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settlement of North America (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), pp. 146-150.
National Humanities Center 2
First, Of the low Price of Tobacco, and the Disappointment of all Sort of Remedy, I have spoken
Secondly, Of splitting the Country into Proprieties. King Charles the Second, to gratify some Nobles
about him, made two great Grants out of that Country [Carolina]. These Grants were not of the
uncultivated Wood-Land only, but also of Plantations, which for many Years had been seated and
improv’d, under the Encouragement of several Charters granted by his Royal Ancestors to that
Colony. Those Grants were distinguished by the Names of the Northern and Southern Grants of
Virginia, and the same Men were concern’d in both. They were kept dormant some Years after they
were made, and in the Year 1674 begun to be put in Execution. As soon as ever the Country came to
know this, they remonstrated against them; and the Assembly drew up an humble Address to his
Majesty, complaining of the said Grants, as derogatory to the previous Charters and Privileges
granted to that Colony, by his Majesty and his Royal Progenitors. . . .
Thirdly, Upon the Back of all these
Misfortunes came out the Act of
25 Car. II. for better securing
the Plantation Trade. By this
Act several Duties were laid on
the Trade from one Plantation to
another. This was a new
Hardship, and the rather,
because the Revenue arising by
this Act was not applied to the
Use of the Plantation wherein it
was raised: But given clear
away; nay, in that Country it
seem’d to be of no other Use but
to burden the Trade or create a
good Income to the Officers; for
the Collector had Half, the
Comptroller a Quarter, and the
remaining Quarter was
subdivided into Salaries, till it
was lost. . . .
[Fourthly,] These were the Afflictions that Country labor’d under when the fourth Accident happen’d,
viz. The Disturbance offer’d by the Indians to the Frontiers.
This was occasion’d [caused], First, By the Indians on the Head of the [Chesapeake] Bay. Secondly,
By the Indians on their own Frontiers.
First, The Indians at the Head of the Bay drove a constant Trade with the Dutch in Monadas, now call’d
New-York; and to carry on this, they used to come every Year by the Frontiers of Virginia, to hunt and
purchase Skins and Furs of the Indians to the Southward. This Trade was carried on peaceably while the
Dutch held Monadas; and the Indians used to call on the English in Virginia on their Return, to whom
they would sell Part of their Furs, and with the rest go on to Monadas. But after the English came to
possess that Place [in 1664] and understood the Advantages the Virginians made by the Trade of their
Indians, they inspired them with such a Hatred to the Inhabitants of Virginia that, instead of coming
2 On Jamestown in 1621: “The people began to grow numerous, Thirteen Hundred settling there that Year; which was the Occasion of making so much
Tobacco, as to overstock the Market. Wherefore his Majesty, out of Pity to the Country, sent his Commands, That they should not suffer [allow] their
Planters to make above One Hundred Pounds of Tobacco per Man; for the Market was so low, that he cou’d not afford to give ’em above Three
Shillings the Pound for it. He advised them to turn their spare Time towards providing Corn and Stock, and towards the Making of Potash, or other
Manufactures.” [Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705, ed. Louis B. Wright, pp. 49-50]
Library of Congress
Herman Moll, This map of North America, 1715, detail
National Humanities Center 3
peaceably to trade with them, as they had done for several Years before, they afterwards never came but
only to commit Robberies and Murders upon the People.
Secondly, The Indians upon their own Frontiers were likewise inspir’d with ill Thoughts of ’em. For their
Indian Merchants had lost a considerable Branch of their Trade they knew not how; and apprehended the
Consequences of [Governor] Sir William Berkeley’s intended Discoveries, which were espoused by the
Assembly, might take away the remaining Part of their Profit. This made them very troublesome to the
Neighbor Indians; who on their Part, observing an unusual Uneasiness in the English, and being terrified
by their rough Usage, immediately suspected some wicked Design against their Lives and so fled to their
remoter Habitations. This confirm’d the English in the Belief that they had been the Murderers, till at last
they provoked them to be so in earnest.
This Addition of Mischief to Minds already full of
Discontent made People ready to vent all their Resentment
against the poor Indians. There was nothing to be got by
Tobacco; neither could they turn any other Manufacture to
Advantage; so that most of the poorer Sort were willing to
quit their unprofitable Employments, and go Voluntiers
[volunteers] against the Indians.
At first they flock’d together tumultuously, running in
Troops from one Plantation to another without a Head; till
at last the seditious Humor [temperament] of Colonel Nath.
Bacon led him to be of the Party. This Gentleman had been
brought up at one of the Inns of Court in England and had a
moderate Fortune. He was young, bold, active, of an
inviting Aspect, and powerful Elocution. In a Word, he was
every way qualified to head a giddy and unthinking
Multitude. Before he had been three Years in the Country,
he was, for his extraordinary Qualifications, made one of
the Council, and in great Honor and Esteem among the
People. For this reason he no sooner gave Countenance to
this riotous Mob, but they all presently fixed their Eyes
upon him for their General, and accordingly made their
Addresses to him. As soon as he found this, he harangued
them publicly. He aggravated the Indian Mischiefs,
complaining that they were occasion’d for Want of a due
Regulation of their Trade. He recounted particularly the
other Grievances and Pressures they lay under; and
pretended that he accepted of their Command with no other
Intention but to do them and the Country Service, in which he was willing to encounter the greatest
Difficulties and Dangers. He farther assured them he would never lay down his Arms till he had revenged
their Sufferings upon the Indians and redressed all their other Grievances.
By these Insinuations he wrought his Men into so perfect an Unanimity that they were one and all at his
Devotion. He took care to exasperate them to the utmost by representing all their Misfortunes. After he
had begun to muster them, he dispatch’d a Messenger to the Governor, by whom he aggravated the
Mischiefs done by the Indians, and desired a Commission of General to go out against them. This
Gentleman was in so great Esteem at that time with the Council that the Governor did not think fit to give
him a flat Refusal: But sent him Word he would consult the Council and return him a farther Answer.
In the meantime, Bacon was expeditious in his Preparations, and having all things in Readiness, began his
March depending on the Authority the People had given him. He would not lose so much Time as to stay
Library of Congress
“SR. NATHANIEL BACON. From an Original at the
Lord Viscount Grimston’s, at Gorhambury”
(England), late 18th-century engraving
“in every way qualified to head
a giddy and unthinking Multitude”
National Humanities Center 4
for his Commission; but dispatched several Messengers to the Governor to hasten it. On the other hand,
the Governor, instead of a Commission, sent positive Orders to him to disperse his Men and come down
in Person to him, upon Pain of being declared a Rebel.
This unexpected Order was a great Surprise to Bacon and not a little Trouble to his Men. However, he
was resolved to prosecute his first Intentions, depending upon his Strength and Interest with the People.
Nevertheless, he intended to wait upon the Governor, but
not altogether defenseless. Pursuant to this Resolution, he
took about Forty of his Men down with him in a Sloop to
James-Town, where the Governor was with his Council.
Matters did not succeed there to Mr. Bacon’s Satisfaction;
wherefore he express’d himself a little too freely. For
which being suspended from the Council, he went away
again in a Huff with his Sloop and Followers. The
Governor fill’d a Long-Boat with Men and pursued the
Sloop so close that Colonel Bacon removed into his Boat
to make more Haste. But the Governor had sent up by
Land to the Ships at Sandy-Point, where he was stopp’d
and sent down again. Upon his Return he was kindly
received by the Governor who, knowing he had gone a
Step beyond his Instructions in having suspended him,
was glad to admit him again of the Council; after which
he hoped all things might be pacified.
Notwithstanding this, Col. Bacon still insisted upon a
Commission to be General of the Voluntiers and to go out
against the Indians; from which the Governor endeavor’d
to dissuade him, but to no Purpose, because he had some
secret Project in View. He had the Luck to be
countenanced in his Importunities by the News of fresh
Murder and Robberies committed by the Indians.
However, not being able to accomplish his Ends by fair Means, he stole privately out of Town; and
having put himself at the Head of six hundred Voluntiers, marched directly to James-Town, where the
Assembly was then fitting. He presented himself before the Assembly and drew up his Men in Battalia
before the House wherein they sat. He urged to them his Preparations and alleged that, if the Commission
had not been delayed so long, the War against the Indians might have been finish’d.
The Governor resented this insolent Usage worst of all, and now obstinately refused to grant him any
thing, offering his naked Breast against the presented Arms of his Followers. But the Assembly, fearing
the fatal Consequence of provoking a discontented Multitude ready arm’d, who had the Governor,
Council, and Assembly entirely in their Power, address’d the Governor to grant Bacon his Request. They
prepar’d themselves the Commission, constituting him General of the Forces of Virginia, and brought it to
the Governor to be sign’d.
With much Reluctancy his Excellency sign’d it and thereby put the Power of War and Peace into Bacon’s
Hands. Upon this he march’d away immediately, having gained his End, which was in effect a Power to
secure a Monopoly of the Indian Trade to himself and his Friends.
As soon as General Bacon had march’d to such a convenient Distance from James-Town, that the
Assembly thought they might deliberate with Safety, the Governor, by their Advice, issued a
Proclamation of Rebellion against him, commanding his Followers to surrender him and forthwith
disperse themselves. Not contented with this, he likewise gave Orders at the same time for raising the
Militia of the Country against him.
New York Public Library
Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia,
National Humanities Center 5
The People being much exasperated, and General Bacon by his Address and Eloquence having gain’d an
absolute Dominion over their Hearts, they unanimously resolved that not a Hair of his Head shou’d fall to
the Ground, much less that they shou’d surrender him as a Rebel. Therefore they kept to their Arms, and
instead of proceeding against the
Indians, they march’d back to James-
Town; directing their Fury against
such of their Friends and Countrymen
as should dare to oppose them.
The Governor, seeing this, fled over
the Bay to Accomack, whither he
hoped the Infection of Bacon’s
Conspiracy had not reach’d. But
there, instead of People’s receiving
him with open Arms, in
Remembrance of the former Services
he had done them; they began to
make Terms with him for Redress of
their Grievances, and for the Ease
and Liberty of Trade. Thus Sir
William, who had been almost the
Idol of the People, was, by reason of
the loyal Part he acted, abandon’d by
all, except some few who went over to him from the Western Shore in Sloops and Boats.3 So that it was
some time before he could make head against Bacon: But he left him to range through the country at
General Bacon at first held a Convention of such of the chief Gentlemen of the Country as would come to
him, especially of those about Middle-Plantations,4 who were near at Hand. At this Convention they
made a Declaration to justify his unlawful Proceedings and obliged People to take an Oath of Obedience
to him as their General. Then, by their Advice, on Pretense of the Governor’s Abdication, he call’d an
Assembly, by Writs signed by himself, and four others of the Council.
The Oath was Word-for-Word as follows.
hereas the Country hath raised an Army against our common Enemy the Indians, and the same under
the Command of General Bacon, being upon the Point to march forth against the said common
Enemy, hath been diverted, and necessitated to move to the suppressing of Forces, by evil disposed
Persons raised against the said General Bacon, purposely to foment and stir up Civil War among us, to the
Ruin of this his Majesty’s Country.
And, Whereas it is notoriously manifest, that Sir William Berkeley, Knight, Governor of the Country,
assisted, counselled and abetted by those evil disposed Persons aforesaid, hath not only commanded,
fomented and stirr’d up the People to the said Civil War; but failing therein, hath withdrawn himself, to the
great Astonishment of the People, and the Unsettlement of the Country.
And, Whereas the said Army, raised by the Country for the Causes aforesaid, remain full of Dissatisfaction
in the Middle of the Country, expecting Attempts from the said Governor and the evil Councilors aforesaid.
And since no proper Means have been found out for the Settlement of the Distractions, and preventing the
horrid Outrages and Murders daily committed in many Places of the Country by the barbarous Enemy; It
hath been thought fit by the said General, to call unto him all such sober and discreet Gentlemen, as the
present Circumstances of the Country will admit, to the Middle-Plantation, to consult and advise of re-
establishing the Peace of the Country. So we the said Gentlemen, being this 3d of August, 1676,
3 “among which one Major Robert Beverley was the most active and successful Commander.” [completion of sentence in 2d. ed., 1722]
4 Middle-Plantations: early name for the site chosen for the town of Williamsburg. [Beverley, 1705; ed., Louis B. Wright, note, p. 352]
Library of Congress
“Bacon’s Castle”: home of Virginia planter Arthur Allen occupied for four
months by seventy of Bacon’s men as their headquarters; Surry County,
Virginia (photograph after 1933).
National Humanities Center 6
accordingly met, do advise, resolve, declare and conclude, and for our selves do swear in manner
First, That we will at all Times join with the said General Bacon and his Army, against the common Enemy in
all Points whatsoever.
Secondly, That whereas certain Persons have lately contrived and design’d the raising Forces against the said
General, and the Army under his Command, thereby to beget a Civil War; We will endeavor the Discovery and
Apprehending of all and every of those evil disposed Persons, and them secure, until farther Order from the
Thirdly, And whereas it is credibly reported, that the
Governor hath inform’d the King’s Majesty, that the said
General, and the People of the Country in Arms under his
Command, their Aiders and Abettors, are rebellious, and
removed from their Allegiance; and that upon such like
Information, he the said Governor hath advised and
petition’d the King to send Forces to reduce them; We do
farther declare and believe in our Consciences, That it
consists with the Welfare of this Country, and with our
Allegiance to his most Sacred Majesty, that we the
Inhabitants of Virginia, to the utmost of our Power, do
oppose and suppress all Forces whatsoever of that Nature,
until such time as the King be fully inform’d of the State of
the Case, by such Person or Persons, as shall be sent from
the said Nathaniel Bacon, in the Behalf of the People; and
the Determination thereof be remitted hither. And we do
swear, That we will him the said General, and the Army
under his Command, aid and assist accordingly.
By this Time the Governor had got together a small Party
to side with him. These he furnished with Sloops, Arms,
and Ammunition,5 in order to cross the Bay and oppose
the Malcontents. By this means there happen’d some
Skirmishes, in which several were kill’d, and others taken
Prisoners. Thus they were going on by a Civil War to
destroy one another and lay waste their Infant Country;
when it pleased God, after some Months Confusion, to put
an End to their Misfortunes, as well as to Bacon’s
Designs, by his natural Death.
He died at Dr. Green’s in Gloucester County: But where
he was bury’d was never yet discover’d; tho’ afterward
there was great Enquiry made, with Design to expose his
Bones to public Infamy.
In the meanwhile, those Disorders occasioned a general
Neglect of Husbandry [farming], and a great Destruction
of the Stocks [of Cattle]; so that People had a dreadful
Prospect of Want and Famine. But the Malcontents being
thus disunited by the Loss of their General, in whom they
all confided; they began to squabble among themselves;
and every Man’s Business was how to make the best
Terms he could for himself.
5 “under Command of Major Robert Beverley” [phrase added in 2d. ed., 1722]
Library of Virginia
Plaque to Nathaniel Bacon in Capitol rotunda,
Richmond, Virginia, photograph ca. 1939
To the memory of
BORN IN ENGLAND
JANVARY 2 1647
CAME TO VIRGINIA
A great Patriot Leader
of the Virginia People
who died while defending
their rights October 26 1676
VICTRIX CAUSA DIS PLACUIT,
SED VICTA CATONI
[THE WINNING CAUSE WAS PLEASING TO THE GODS,
THE CONQUERED ONE TO CATO.]
National Humanities Center 7
Lieutenant-General Ingram (whose true Name was
Johnson) and Major-General Walklate surrender’d on
Condition of Pardon for themselves and their
Followers; tho’ they were both forced to submit to an
Incapacity of bearing Office in that Country for the
Peace being thus restored, Sir William Berkeley
returned to his former Seat of Government, and every
Man to his several Habitation. . . .
When this Storm, occasion’d by Bacon, was blown
over, and all things quiet again, Sir William Berkeley
called an Assembly for settling the Affairs of the
Country and for making Reparation to such as had
been oppressed. After which a Regiment of Soldiers
arrived from England, which were sent to suppress the
Insurrection: But they coming after the Business was
over, had no Occasion to exercise their Courage.
However, they were kept on Foot there about three
Years after, and in the Lord Cole-pepper’s Time paid
off, and disbanded. . . .
The Confusion occasion’d by the Civil War, and the
Advantage the Indians made of it in butchering the
English upon all their Frontiers, caused such a
Desolation and put the Country so far back, that to this
Day , they had seated [settled] very little
beyond the Boundaries that were then inhabited. At
that Time James-Town was again burnt down to the
Ground by Richard Lawrence, one of Bacon’s
Captains, who, when his own Men that abhorr’d such
Barbarity refused to obey his Command, he himself
became the Executioner and fired the Houses with his
This unhappy Town did never after arrive at the
Perfection it then had: And now it is almost deserted
by the wild Project of Governor Nicholson, who
procured that the Assembly and General Court should
be removed from thence to Williamsburgh, an inland
Place about seven Miles from it.*
5 “his man”: referring to the man who tended his body.*
Library of Virginia
Bacon’s Epitaph, made by his Man.5
(Page One. Modernized spelling.)
Death why so cruel, what, no other way
To manifest thy spleen, but thus to slay
Our hopes of safety; liberty, our all
Which, through thy tyranny, with him must fall
To its late Chaos? Had thy rigid force
Been dealt by retale, and not thus in gross
Grief had been silent: Now we must complain
Since thou, in him, hast more than thousand slain
Whose lives and safeties did so much depend
On him their life, with him their lives must end.
If’t be a sin to think Death brib’d can be
We must be guilty; say ‘twas bribery
Guided the fatal shaft. Virginia’s foes,
To whom for secret crimes just vengeance owes
Deserved plagues, dreading their just dessert
Corrupted Death by Parasseelleian art
Him to destroy; whose well tried courage such,
Their heartless hearts, nor arms, nor strength could touch
Who now must heal those wounds, or stop that blood
The Heathen made, and drew into a flood?