CHAPTER IV. THE ENGLISH ON THE CHESAPEAKE

LIFE AT JAMESTOWN. - The colonists who landed at Jamestown in 1607 were all men. While some of them were building a fort, Captain Newport, with Captain John Smith and others, explored the James River and visited the Powhatan, chief of a neighboring tribe of Indians. This done, Newport returned to England (June, 1607) with his three ships, leaving one hundred and five colonists to begin a struggle for life. Bad water, fever, hard labor, the intense heat of an American summer, and the scarcity of food caused such sickness that by September more than half the colonists were dead. [1] Indeed, had it not been for Smith, who got corn from the Indians and directed affairs in general, the fate of Jamestown might have been that of Roanoke. [2] As it was, but forty were alive when Newport returned In January, 1608, with the "first supply" of one hundred and twenty men.

THE COMPANY'S ORDERS. - Newport was ordered to bring back a cargo. So while some of the colonists cut down cedar and black walnut trees and made clapboards, others loaded the ship with glittering sand which they thought was gold dust. These labors drew the men away from agriculture, and only four acres were planted with corn.

In September Newport was back again with the "second supply" of seventy persons; two of them were women. This time he was ordered to crown the Powhatan, and to find a gold mine, discover a passage to the South Sea, or find Raleigh's lost colony. Smith laughed at these orders. But they had to be obeyed; so several parties went southward in search of the lost colony, but found it not; Newport went westward beyond the falls of the James in search of the passage; and the Powhatan was duly crowned and dressed in a crimson robe. [3] No gold mine could be found, so Newport sailed for England with a cargo of pitch, tar, and clapboards.

SMITH RULES THE COLONY. - By this time Smith had become president of the council for the government of the colony. He decreed that those who did not work should not eat; and by spring his men had dug a well, shingled the church, put up twenty cabins, and cleared and planted forty acres of corn. Yet, despite all he could do, the colony was on the verge of ruin when in August, 1609, seven ships landed some three hundred men, women, and children known as the "third supply." [4]

JAMESTOWN ABANDONED. - And now matters went from bad to worse. The leaders quarreled; Smith was injured and had to go back to England; the Indians became hostile; food became scarce; and when at last neither corn nor roots could be had, the colonists began to suffer the horrors of famine. During that awful winter, long known as "the starving time," cold, famine, and the Indians swept away more than four hundred. When Newport arrived in May, 1610, only sixty famishing creatures inhabited Jamestown. To continue the colony seemed hopeless; and going on board the ships (June, 1610), the colonists set sail for England and had gone well down the James when they met Lord Delaware with three well-provisioned ships coming up. [5]

JAMESTOWN RESETTLED. - Lord Delaware had come out as governor under a new charter granted to the London Company in 1609. This is of interest because it gave to the colony an immense domain of which we shall hear more after Virginia became a state. This domain extended from Point Comfort, two hundred miles up and two hundred miles down the coast, and then "up into the land throughout from sea to sea, west and northwest."

After the meeting between the departing settlers and the newcomers under Delaware, the whole band returned to Jamestown and began once more the struggle for existence.

PROSPERITY BEGINS. - Delaware, who soon went back to England, left Sir Thomas Dale in command, and under him the colony began to prosper. Hitherto the colonists had lived as communists. The company owned all the land, and whatever food was raised was put into the public granary to be divided among the settlers, share and share alike. Dale changed this system, and the old planters were given land to cultivate for themselves. The effect was magical. Men who were lazy when toiling as servants of the company, become industrious when laboring for themselves, and prosperity began in earnest.

More settlers soon arrived with a number of cows, goats, and oxen, and the little colony began to expand. When Dale's term as acting governor ended in 1616, Virginia contained six little settlements besides Jamestown. The next governor, Yeardley, introduced the cultivation of tobacco, which was now much used in Europe and commanded a high price.

THE FIRST REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY. - Yeardley was succeeded (1617) by Argall, who for two years ruled Virginia with a rod of iron. So harsh was his rule that the company was forced to recall him and send back Yeardley. Yeardley came with instructions to summon a general assembly, and in July, 1619, the first legislative body in America met in the little church at Jamestown; eleven boroughs were represented. Each sent two burgesses, as they were called, and these twenty-two men made the first House of Burgesses, and had power to enact laws for the colony. [6]

SLAVERY INTRODUCED. - Another event which makes 1619 a memorable year in our history was the arrival at Jamestown of a Dutch ship with a cargo of African negroes for sale. Twenty were bought, and the institution of negro slavery was planted in Virginia. This seemed quite proper, for there were then in the colony many white slaves, or bond servants - men bound to service for a term of years. The difference between one of these and an African negro slave was that the white man served for a short time, and the negro during his life. [7]