Sunday, 23 October 2011

Early Settlers Account

Below is a report by Thomas Hariot in 1588 about the territory of Virginia. This is only part of the report, the rest is on the above link. There are also many other reports from other settlers on this site which are of interest.


SINCE the first undertaking by Sir Walter Raleigh to deal in the action of discovering of that Country which is now called and known by the name of VIRGINIA; many voyages having been thither made at sundry times to his great charge, as first in the year 1584, and afterwards in the years 1585, 1586, and now of late this last year of 1587. There have been diverse and variable reports with some slanderous and shameful speeches reported abroad by many that returned from there . Especially of that discovery which was made by the Colony transported by Sir Richard Greinvile in the year 1585, being of all the others the most principal and as yet of most effect, the time of their abode in the country being a whole year , when as in the other voyage before they stayed but six weeks ; and the others after were only for supply and transportation, nothing more being discovered than had been before. Which reports have not done a little wrong to many that otherwise would have also favored & adventured in the action, to the honor and benefit of our nation, besides the particular profit and creditwhich would redoubt to them selves the dealers therein; as I hope by the sequel of events to the shame of those that have avouched the contrary shall be manifest: if you the adventurers, favorers , and wellwishers do but either increase in number, or in opinion continue, or having been doubtful renew your good liking and furtherance to deal therein according to the worthiness thereof already found and as you shall understand hereafter to be requisite. Touching which worthiness through cause of the diversity of relations and reports , many of your opinions could not be firm , nor the minds of some that are well disposed, be settled in any certainty .

I have therefore thought it good being one that have been in the discovery and in dealing with the natural inhabitants specially employed ; and having therefore seen and known more than the ordinary : to impart so much unto you of the fruits of our labors , as that you may know how injuriously the enterprise is slandered . And that in public manner at this present chiefly for two respects .

First that some of you which are yet ignorant or doubtful of the state thereof, may see that there is sufficient cause why the chief enterpriser with the favor of her Majesty , notwithstanding such reports ; have not only since continued the action by sending into the country again , and replanting this last year a new Colony; but is also ready , according as the times and means will afford , to follow and prosecute the same.

Secondly that you seeing and knowing the continuance of the action by the view hereof you may generally know & learn what the country is, & thereupon consider how your dealing therein if it proceeds , may return you profit and gain ; be it either by inhabiting & planting or otherwise in furthering thereof.

And least that the substance of my relation should be doubtful unto you as of others by reason of their diversity : I will first open the cause in a few words wherefore they are so different; referring my self to your favorable constructions, and to be adjudged of as by good consideration you shall find cause.

Of our company that returned, some for their misdemeanor and ill dealing in the country , have been there worthily punished; who by reason of their bad natures, have maliciously not only spoken ill of their Governours; but for their sakes slandered the country it self . The like also have those done which were of their consort.

Some being ignorant of the state thereof, notwithstanding since their return amongst their friends and acquaintance and also others, especially if they were in company where they might not be gainesaide; would seem to know so much as no men more; and make no men so great laborers as themselves. They stood so much as it may seem upon their credit and reputation that having been a twelve months in the country , it would have been a great disgrace unto them as they thought, if they could not have said much whether it were true or false. Of which some have spoken of more then ever they saw or otherwise knew to be there; some others have not been ashamed to make absolute denial of that which although not by them, yet by others is most certainly and there plentifully known . And some others make difficulties of those things they have no skill of.

The cause of their ignorance was, in that they were of that many that were never out of the Island where we were seated, or not far , or at the leastwise in few places else , during the time of our abode in the country ; or of that many that after gold and silver was not so soon found, as it was by them looked for, had little or no care of any other thing but to pamper their bellies; or of that many which had little understanding, less discretion, and more tongue than was needful or requisite.

Some also were of a nice bringing up, only in cities or towns , or such as never (as I may say) had seen the world before. Because there were not to be found any English cities, nor such fair houses, nor at their own wish any of their old accustomed dainty food, nor any soft beds of down or feathers : the country was to them miserable, & their reports thereof according.

Because my purpose was but in brief to open the cause of the variety of such speeches; the particularities of them, and of many envious, malicious, and slanderous reports and devices else , by our own country men besides; as trifles that are not worthy of wise men to be thought upon, I mean not to trouble you withall: but will pass to the commodities, the substance of that which I have to make relation of unto you.

In the report, and especially the text I have put in bold, Hariot is trying to promote the settlement land of Virginia, for example, he claims that there is "profit and gain" to be made there by either "inhabiting and planting". Hariot also tries to dispute the negative things other settlers have said about Virginia and the other colonies, for example, he claims that because they could not find gold and silver they became disinterested.

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