Thayer Watkins

Nova Brittania 1609
The Establishment of the Virginia Colony

Note: The spelling and punctuation have been converted from the original to the modern American form.

The country itself is large and great assuredly, though as yet, no exact discovery can be made of all. It is also commendable and hopefull every way, the air and climate most sweet and wholesome, much warmer then England, and very agreeable to our natures. It is inhabited with wild and savage people, that live and lie up and down in troops like herds of deer in a forest. they have no law but nature, their apparel skins of beasts, but most go naked. the better sort have houses, but poor ones, they have no Arts nor Science, yet they live under superior command such as it is, they are generally very loving and gentle, and do entertain and relieve our people with great kindness. they are easy to be brought to good, and would fain embrace a better condition. the land yieldeth naturally for the sustentation of man, aboundance of fish, both scale and shell. of land and water fowles, infinite store. of Deere, Kaine and Fallow, Stags, Coneys, and Hares, with many fruits and roots good for meat [food].

There are valleys and plains streaming with sweet Springs, like veins in a natural body. There are hills and mountains making a sensible profer of hidden treasure, never yet searched. the land is full of minerals, plenty of woods (the wants of England). There are growing goodly oaks and elmes, beech and Birch, Spruce, Walnut, Cedar and Fir trees, in great aboundance, the soil is strong and lusty of its own nature, and sendeth our naturally fruitful Vines running upon trees, and shrubs. it yieldeth also Rosin, Turpentine, Pitch and Tar, Sassafras, Mulberry-trees and Silkworms, many skins and rich furs, many sweet woods, and Dyers woods, and other costly dyes. Plenty of Sturgeon, Timber for Shipping, Mast, plank and Deale [pine], soap ashes, Caviare, and what else we know not yet, because our daies are young. But of this that I have said, if bare nature be so amiable in its naked kind, what may we hope, when Arte and Nature both shall join, and strive together, to give best content to man and beast? . . .

And now it followes, how it can be good for this Commonwealth. which is likewise most apparent many ways. First, if we consider what strength of shipping may be raised and maintained thence, in furnishing our own wants of sundry kinds, and the wants of other Nations too, in such needful things arising thence which can hardly now be obtained from any other part of the world, as plank and timber for shipping, with Deale and Wainscot, pipestaves and clapboard, with store of soap ashes, whereof there grow the best woods to make them in great abundance, all which we may there have, the wood for the cutting, and the Ashes for the bunting, which though they be gross commodities, yet no merchandise is better requested, nor will sooner yield gold or silver in any our bordering Nations. England and Holland alone, spend in these about three hundreth thousand pounds sterling every year. We may transport hether or unto Hamburg, Holland, or other places, fifty per centum better cheap, then from Prussia or Poland, from whence they are only now to be had, where also the woods are so spent and wasted, that from the place where the wood is cut and the ashes burnt, they are brought by land at least two hundred miles to ship. And from thence we may have Iron and Copper also in at quantity, about which the expense and waste of wood, as also for building of Ships, will be no hurt, but great service to that country; the great superfluity whereof, the continual cutting down, in many hundred years, will not be able to overcome, whereby will likewise grow a greater benefit to this land, in preserving our woods and timber at home, so infinitely and without measure, upon these occasions cut down, and falne to such a sicknesse and wasting consumption, as all the physic in England cannot cure.

We doubt not but to make there in few years store of good wines, as any from the Canaries, by replanting and making tame the Vines that naturally grow there in great abundance, only send men of skill to do it, and Coopers to make casks, and hoops for that and all other uses, for which there is wood enough at hand.

There are Silkworms, and plenty of Mulberry-trees, whereby Ladies, Gentlewomen and little children, (being set in the way to do it) may be all imploded with pleasure, in making Silk, comparable to that of Persia, Turkey, or any other. We may bring from thence Sturgeon, Caviar, and new land-fish of the best. There grows hempe for Cordage, an excellent commoditie, and flax for linen cloth; which being sowen and well manured, in such a climate and fertile soil, will make great benefit, and will put down that of other countries.

And for the making of Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, soap-ashes, Deale, Wainscott, and such like, wee have already provided and sent thither skillful workemen from foreign parts, which may teach and set ours in the way, whereby we may set many thousands a work, in these such like services.

For as I told you before, there must be Art and industry with our helps and means extended, with a little patience to bring these things to pass, wee must not look to reap with joy, except we sow in tears. The abundance of King Solomons gold and silver, did not rain from heaven upon the heads of his subjects. but heavenly providence blessed his Navigations and publike affairs, the chief meanes of their wealth.

Experience hath lately taught us by some of our neighbour Provinces, how exceedingly it mounts the State of a Commonwealth, to put forth Navigation (if it were possible) into all parts and corners of the world, to furnish our own wants, and also to supply from one kingdome to another, such several needful things, as for want of shipping and other means they cannot furnish of themselves, for this will raise experience, and men of skill, as also strength at Sea and land, with honor, wealth, and riches, returning still to the heads and fountaines, from whence their first occasions grew.

Wee may but looke a little back, and wee shall see what a novice our nation was within these six score years, in case of foreign trade, not knowing whence to fetch, nor which way to transport, but only) to some marte or staple town, within two days sailing, and that was counted so great a matter then, that therefore they were called Marchant adventurers, and the great Hulkes of Italy, which in those days brought spices Corants and such like, and lances at Southampton, (the Storehouse then for merchandise) are Chronicled for wonders in our English Stories for indeed we knew no better then, but were content (as babes) with Easterlings on the one hand and Lumbards on the other, which were continual Liegers in London, and fed us as they liked.

And take this ever as a rule, that Domesticke Marchandizing brings forth but poor effects in a Commonwealth, whereof I needed not have shewed example further then our own doves.

And now to our present businesse in hand, which so many stumble at, in regard of the continual charge, I would have them know, that it cannot be great nor long, as the businesse may be handled. Two things are especially required herein, people to make the plan tation, and money to furnish our present provisions and shipping now in hand. For the first we need not doubt, our land abounding with swarms of idle persons, which having no meanes of labor to relieve their misery, do likewise swarm in lewd and naughty practices, so that if we seek not some ways for their foreign employment, we must provide shortly more prisons and corrections for their bad conditions, for it fares with populous common weals, as with plants and trees that be too frolic, which not able to sustain and feed their multitude of branches, do admit an engrafting of their buds and sciences into some other soil, accounting it a benefit for preservation of their kind, and a disburdening their stocke of those superfluous twigs that suck away their nourishment.

Yet I do not mean, that none but such unsound members, and such poor as want their bread, are fittest for this employment, for I we intend to have of every trade and profession, both honest, wise and painfull men, whereof our land and City is able to spare, and furnish many (as we had experience in our last sending thither) which will be glad to go, and plant themselves so happily, and their children after them to hord and keep conformity, with the they never so poor, so they be honest, and painfull, the place will make them rich. all kind of Artificers we must first employ, are Carpenters, Ship-wrights, Masons, Sawyers, Brickmakers, Bricklayers, Plowmen, Sowers, Planters, Fishermen, Coopers, Smiths, Metalmen, Tailors, Turners, and such like, to make and fit all necessaries, for comfort and use of the Colony, and for such as are of no trades (if they be industrious) they shall have there employment enough, for there is a world of means to set many thousands a work, partly in such things as I mentioned before, and many other profitable works, for no man must live idle there.

We intend to plant there (God willing) great plenty of Sugar Canes, for which the soil and climate is very apt and fit; also Linseed, and Rapeseeds to make Oils, which because the soil is strong and cheap, may there be sowed and the oil made to great benefit. we must plant also Oranges, Lemons, Almonds, Anniseeds, Rice, Cummin, Cotton wool, Carowey seeds, Ginger, Madder, Olives, Oris, Sumac, and many such like, which I cannot now name, all very good merchandise, and will there grow and increase, as well as in Italy or any other part of the straights, whence we fetch them now. And in searching the land there is undoubted hope of finding Cochineal, the plant of rich Indigo, Graine-berries, Beaver Hides, Pearls, rich Treasure, and the South sea, leading to China, with many other benefits which our day-light will discover.

But of all other things, that God hath denied that countrie, there is want of Sheep to make woollen cloth, and this want of cloth, must always be supplied from England, whereby when the Colony is thoroughly increased, and the Indians brought to our Civility (as they will in short time) it will cause a mighty vent of English clothes, a great benefit to our Nation, and raising again of that ancient trade of clothing, so much decayed in England. whose lifting up again (me thinks I see apparently approching,) by the good dispositions of our best sort of Citizens, who willingly engage themselves to undertake all new discoveries, as into this of the West, and by the North West to find out China. And unto the East beyond the Cape, into the Red Sea, the Gulf of Persia, the straits of Sunda, and among all the Kings of India, for the good and honor of our Nation. Which calls to mind, a blind Prophesy in one of the Sibells, that before the end of the world there shall be a discovery of all Nations. which shall come to be known and acquainted together, as one neighbor with another, which since the confusion of tongues have lyen obscure and hid.

But however that be, yet these good minces and resolutions, do serve for imitation to others, and do deserve assuredly the best encouragement, whereby we shall not still betake our selves to small and little Shipping as we daily do beginn,) but shall rear again such Marchants Ships both tall and stout, as no foreign Sail that swims shall make them vaile or stoop. whereby to make this little Northern corner of the world, to be in short time the richest Storehouse and Staple for merchandise in all Europe.

The second thing to make this Plantation is money, to be raised among the adventurers, wherein the sooner and more deeply men engage themselves, their charge will be the shorter, and their gain the greater, as in this last point which I have to speak for the good of each particular Adventurer, I will make it plain.

First you shall understand, that his Majesty hath granted us an enlargement of our Charter, with many ample priviledges, wherein we have Knights and Gentlemen of good place. Named for the Kings counsel of Virginia to govern us. As also every Planter and Adventurer shall be inserted in the Patent by name. This ground being laid, we purpose presently to make supply of Men, Women and Children (so many as we can) to make the Plantation. we call those Planters that go in their persons to dwell there. And those Adventurers that adventure their money and go not in person, and both do make the members of one Colony. We do account twelve pound ten shillings to be a single share adventured. Every ordinary man or woman, if they will go and dwell there, and every childe above ten years, that shall be carried thither to remaine, shall be allowed for each of their persons a single share, as if they had adventured twelve pound ten shillings in money. Every extraordinary man, as Divines, Governors, Ministers of State and Justice, Knights, Gentlemen, Physicians, and such as be men of worth for special services, are all to go as planters, and to execute their several functions in the Colony, and are to be maintained at the common charge, and are to receive their dividend (as others do) at seven years end, and they are to be agreed with all; before they go, and to be rated by the Council, according to the value of their persons. which shall be set down and Registred in a book that it may always appear what people have gone tn tbe Plantation, at what time they went and how their persons were valued. And likewise, if any that go to be planters will lay down money to the Treasurer, it shall be also registred and their shares inlarged accordingly be it for more or less. All charges of selling and maintaining the Plantation, and of making supplies, shall be borne in a joint stock of the adventurers for seven years after the date of our new enlargement, during which time there shall be no adventure, nor goods returned in private from thence, neither by Master, Mariner, Planter, nor Passenger, they shall be restrained by bond and search, that as we supply from hence to the Planters at our own charge all necessaries for food and apparel, for fortifying and building of houses in a joint stock, so they are also to return from thence the increase and fruits of their labors, for the use and advancement of the same joint stock, till the end of seven years, at which time we purpose (God willing) to make a division by Commissioners appointed, of all the lands granted unto us by his Majesty, to everyone of the Colony, according to each mans several adventure, agreeing with our Register book, which we doubt not will be for every share of twelve pound tenne shillings, five hundred acres at least. Now if any think that we shall be tied to a continual charge, of making new supplies for seven years, let them conceive thus much, that if we do it thoroughly at the first, by engaging our selves at once, in furnishing many men and other means. assuredly after the second year, the returnee from thence will be able with an over-plus, to make supplies at large, so that our purses shall be freed, and the over-plus of stock will also grow to greatness, which stock is also (as the land) to be divided equally at seven years end or sooner, or so often as the company shall thinke fit for the greatness of it, to make a dividend.

And as by this we shall be soon freed from charge and expence, so there grows a greater benefit to the planters (by bestowing their labors cheerfully) to make returne of stocke, for hereby the sooner they freeing us from disbursements, the more our shares and portions will be lessened in the dividend of Stock and land at seven years end, whereby the less comming to us, the more will be to them, so that heere is no discouragement any way, if men will be capable to do themselves good. But if we will be so wise to linger, and ly in the wince, to hear what news, to bring in our stock next year, and when we are behind for four or five Adventures, we come dropping in with one or two and still run in arrearages for twice so much. (For I know many that would bring in stock amongst us, but they ly out to see what success first and upon such like terms.) Is this Gentleman-like, or Merchant-like, in truth it is paultry, and such as would bring all to naught, if we should be so minded too, and I tell you true, our single shares will make but a hungry plantation, if we do not at the least double them now and therefore I urge it the more, for that the very life of all is now in the beginning by making our supplies thoroughly, and thence will our gaines arise both sooner and certain. Yet I grant that others may come in hereafter at any time, either to adventure his person or money, or both, but if there be spent one year of the seven before he comes in, or tree that comes in with the first shall notwithstanding be a year behinde in supplies, they shall be both alike shortened in a seventh part of the dividend both of stock and lands, and if two years behind, then shortened two sevenths, and if but six months, yet a fourteenth part, for every man is Registred according to the time, his money or person beganne to adventure, or made supply, so that they which come late get not the start of those that bore the first brunt of the business, and this will neither advantage him that withholds, nor hinder him that is forward, for whatsoever falles from him that is slack, will be found of him that supplies in due time. But every man that comes in now in the first of these seven years and shall afterwards upon all occasions perform in due time, every twelve pound ten shillings so brought in shall be accounted an entire single share, and shall receive accordingly without abridgement, as it had bene brought in, when the enterprise first beganne and not otherwise.

And as for the divisions of lances at seven years end which (some may object) will be little worth, and unequally divided. let them understand, that no man shall have his lot entirely in one place, to be all of the best, or all of the worst, but each man shall have proportionately to his adventures, in three or foure distinct differences, that may be made in the goodness or badness of the groundes by Commissioners equally chosen by the Adventurers heere, and the Planters there; and as for the value and little worth now, of those grounds in Virginia, we know that in England within these thirty or forty years, the yearly rent of those grounds (in many places) were not worth five shillings, that now do go for forty and more.

And howsoever those grounds in Virginia are now but little worth indeed, yet time and means will make them better, considering how they pass our grounds in England, both in regard of the soil and climate, fit for many precious uses. And also in how many several places we purpose to plant our Colony, and not to bestow our costs upon Jamestown only, and upon the grounds lying thereabout, and to let all the rest lie barren. for seeing his Majesty hath granted to our Colony as much circuit of ground as all England almost, we purpose (God willing) if we may be supplied with sufficient means, to settle out of hand, six or seven plantations more, all upon, or near our main-river, as capital towns, twenty miles each from other, and every plantation shall manure and husband the lands and grounds lying near unto it, and allotted for the circuit thereof, and shall all endeavor for a joint stock, and shall be still supplied from hence with more money and provisions, and against any public injury shall be ready to unite, and join themselves together. And by this meanes we shall come to have our dividend in lances of worth and well manured, which will be either bought or rented of us at a good value by the planters, or by such as intend hereafter to inhabit there, as also by these several plantations (which happily one place better fitting then another) we shall bring forth more several sorts of merchandise, and be also better fortified. and besides the Planters will be in such hope to have their own shares and habitations in those lands, which they have so husbanded, that it will cause contending and emulation among them, which shall bring forth the most profitable and beneficiall fruits for the joint stock.

Whereby undoubtedly, we shall be soon freed from further expence, our gains will grow, and our stock encrease, we shall fell our timber, saw our plank, and quickly make good shipping there, and shall return from thence with good employment, an hundred sail of good ships yearly, all which good and much more, we shall withstand and bring our selves into a laborinth, if we pinch and spare our purses now. therefore not to horde you longer with many words, (being near Exchange time as I take it) remember what I have said in proving my proposition, and take my conclusion in a word or two.

Seeing our provocations are so many, our cause and title good, avaunt all idle oracles that seeke to bar us. The wisdom of the wisest saith in these cases, Whatsoever thy hand shall find to do, do it with all thy might.