Sunday, 23 October 2011

Wk4 Early Settlers Account of America - First Hand Accounts of Virginia 1575-1705

I have chosen this account for this weeks topic -

The learned and valiant Sir Walter Raleigh, having entertained some deeper and more serious considerations upon the state of the earth that most other men of his time, as may sufficiently appear by his incomparable book, the History of the World, and having laid together the many stories then in Europe concerning America, the native beauty, riches, and value of that part of the world, and the immense profit the Spaniards drew from a small settlement or two thereon made, resolved upon an adventure for farther discoveries.
According to this purpose, in the year of our Lord 1583, he got several men of great value and estate to join in an expedition of this nature, and for their encouragement obtained letters patents from Queen Elizabeth, bearing date the 25th of March, 1584, for turning their discoveries to their own advantage.
In April following they set out two small vessels under the command of Capt. Philip Amidas and Capt. Arthur Barlow, who after a prosperous voyage, anchored at the inlet by Roanoke, at present under the government of North Carolina. They made good profit of the Indian truck, which they bought for things of much inferior value, and returned. Being overpleased with their profits, and finding all things there entirely new and surprising, they gave a very advantageous account of matters, by representing the country so delightful and desirable, so pleasant and plentiful; the climate and the air so temperate, sweet, and wholesome; the woods and soil so charming and fruitful; and all other things so agreeable, that paradise itself seemed to be there in its first native lustre.
They gave particular accounts of the variety of good fruits, and some whereof they had never seen the like before; especially, that there were grapes in such abundance as was never known in the world. Stately tall large oaks, and other timber; red cedar, cypress, pines, and other evergreens and sweet woods, for tallness and largeness, exceeding all they had ever heard of; wild fowl, fish, deer, and other game in such plenty and variety, that no epicure could desire more than this new world did seem naturally to afford.
And to make it yet more desirable, they reported the native Indians (which were then the only inhabitants) so affable, kind, and good-natured; so uncultivated in leaning, trades, and fashions; so innocent and ignorant of all manner of politics, tricks, and cunning; and so desirous of the company of the English, that they seemed rather to be like soft wax, ready to take an impression, than anyways likely to oppose the settling of the English near them. They represented it as a scene laid open for the good and gracious Queen Elizabeth to propagate the gospel in and extend her dominions over; as if purposely reserved for her majesty by a peculiar direction of providence, that had brought all former adventures in this affair to nothing; and to give a further taste of their discovery, they took with them in their return for England, two men of the native Indians, named Wanchese and Manteo.
Her majesty accordingly took the hint, and espoused the project as far as her present engagements in war with Spain would let her; being so well pleased with the account given, that as the greatest mark of honor she could do the discoverer, she called the country by the name of Virginia, as well for that it was first discovered in her reign, a virgin queen, as it did still seem to retain the virgin purity and plenty of the first creation, and the people their primitive innocence; for they seemed not debauched nor corrupted with those pomps and vanities which had depraved and enslaved the rest of mankind; neither were their hands hardened by labor, nor their minds corrupted by the desire of hoarding up treasure. They were without boundaries to their land, without property in cattle, and seem to have escaped, or rather not to have been concerned in the first curse, of getting their bread by the sweat of their brows, for by their pleasure alone they supplied all their necessities, namely, by fishing, fowling, hunting; skins being their only clothing, and these, too, five-sixths of the year thrown by; living without labor and only gathering the fruits of the earth when ripe or fit for use; neither fearing present want, nor solicitous for the future, but daily finding sufficient afresh for their subsistence.
This report was backed, nay, much advanced by the vast riches and treasure mentioned in several merchants' letters from Mexico and Peru, to their correspondents in Spain, which letters were taken with their ships and treasure, by some of ours in her majesty's service, in prosecution of the Spanish wars. This was encouragement enough for a new adventure, and set people's invention at work till they had satisfied themselves, and made sufficient essays for the farther discovery of the country. Pursuant whereunto, Sir Richard Greenvile, the chief of Sir Walter Raleigh's associates, having obtained seven sail of ships, well laden with provision, arms, ammunition, and spare men to make a settlement, set out in person with them early in the spring of the succeeding year to make farther discoveries, taking back the two Indians with him, and according to his wish, in the latter end of May, arrived at the same place where the English had been the year before; there he made a settlement, sowed beans and peas, which he saw come up and grow to admiration while he staid, which was about two months, and having made some little discoveries more in the sound to the southward, and got some treasure in skins, furs, pearl, and other rarities in the country, for things of inconsiderable value, he returned for England, leaving one hundred and eight men upon Roanoke Island, under the command of Mr. Ralph Lane, to keep possession.
As soon as Sir Richard Greenvile was gone, they, according to order and their own inclination, set themselves earnestly about discovering the country, and ranged about a little too indiscreetly up the rivers, and into the land backward from the rivers, which gave the Indians a jealousy of their meaning; for they cut off several stragglers of them, and had laid designs to destroy the rest, but were happily prevented. This put the English upon the precaution of keeping more within bounds, and not venturing themselves too defenseless abroad, who till then had depended too much upon the natives simplicity and innocence.
After the Indians had done this mischief, they never observed any real faith towards those English; for being naturally suspicious and revengeful themselves, they never thought the English could forgive them; and so by this jealousy, caused by the cowardice of their nature, they were continually doing mischief.
The English, notwithstanding all this, continued their discoveries, but more carefully than they had done before, and kept the Indians in some awe, by threatening them with the return of their companions again with a greater supply of men and goods; and before the cold of the winter became uneasy, they had extended their discoveries near an hundred miles along the seacoast to the northward; but not reaching the southern cape of Chesapeake bay in Virginia, they had as yet found no good harbor.

The pieces of this account that I have highlighted are firstly the initial experience of the natives which was that when they came across them they were thought to be simplistic and good natured, afable and kind and also the fact that they lived from the land giving the impression that they lived a life that was not contaminated by the outside world and ignorant of any bad habits and negative attitudes almost as if it was some sort of Eden. Therefore the settlers got the impression that the natives were welcoming the English with their new trades and were gracious of them to explore and settle.

The second highlighted piece is their adjusted opinion of the natives that after they began settling and discovering they described the natives as being up to mischief as they were now opposed to them now discovering the country and they have gone on to describe the natives as being jealous and cowardly as they had now fallen out with the natives as they now no longer welcomed them as they felt that they were destroying the land and taking over their homes.

1 comment:

  1. Apologies for the lateness of posting this blog. I have had major issues with my internet connection all week.


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