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]

A CARGO OF MAIDS. - Yet another event which makes 1619 a notable year in Virginian history was the arrival of a ship with ninety young women sent out by the company to become wives of the settlers. The early comers to Virginia had been "adventurers," that is, men seeking to better their fortunes, not intending to live and die in Virginia, but hoping to return to England in a few years rich, or at least prosperous. That the colony with such a shifting population could not prosper was certain. Virginia needed homes. The mass of the settlers were unmarried, and the company very wisely determined to supply them with wives. The ninety young women sent over in 1619, and others sent later, were free to choose their own husbands: but each man, on marrying one of them, had to pay one hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco for her passage to Virginia.

THE CHARTER TAKEN AWAY. - For Virginia the future now looked bright. Her tobacco found ready sale in England at a large profit. The right to make her own laws gave promise of good government. The founding of home ties could not fail to produce increased energy on the part of the settlers. But trouble was brewing for the London Company. The king was quarreling with a part of his people, and the company was in the hands of his opponents. Looking upon it as a "seminary of sedition," King James secured (1624) the destruction of the charter, and Virginia became a royal province. [8]

STATE OF THE COLONY IN 1624. - The colony of Virginia when deprived of its charter was a little community of some four thousand souls, scattered in plantations on and near the James River. Let us go back to those times and visit one of the plantations. The home of the planter is a wooden house with rough-hewn beams and unplaned boards, surrounded by a high stockade. Near by are the farm buildings and the cabins of his bond servants. His books, his furniture, his clothing and that of his family, have all come from England. So also have the farming implements and very likely the greater part of his cows and pigs. On his land are fields of wheat and barley and Indian corn; but the chief crop is tobacco. [9]

EFFECTS OF TOBACCO PLANTING. - As time passed and the Virginians found that the tobacco always brought a good price in England, they made it more and more the chief crop. This powerfully affected the whole character of the colony. It drew to Virginia a better class of settlers, who came over to grow rich as planters. It led the people to live almost exclusively on plantations, and prevented the growth of large towns. Tobacco became the currency of the colony, and salaries, wages, and debts were paid, and taxes levied, and wealth and income estimated, in pounds of tobacco.

FEW ROADS IN VIRGINIA. - As there were few towns, [10] so there were few roads. The great plantations lay along the river banks. It was easy, therefore, for a planter to go on visits of business or pleasure in a sailboat or in a barge rowed by his servants. The fine rivers and the location of the plantations along their banks enabled each planter to have his own wharf, to which came ships from England laden with tables, chairs, cutlery, tools, rich silks, and cloth, everything the planter needed for his house, his family, his servants, and his plantation, all to be paid for with casks of tobacco.

GOVERNOR BERKELEY. - Despite the change from rule by the company to rule by the king, Virginia grew and prospered. When Sir William Berkeley came over as governor (in 1642), her English population was nearly fifteen thousand and her slaves three hundred, and many of her planters were men of much wealth. Berkeley's first term as governor (1642-1652) covered the period of the Civil War in England.

CIVIL WAR IN ENGLAND. - When King James died (in 1625) he was succeeded by Charles I, under whom the old quarrel between the king and the people, which had caused the downfall of the London Company, was pushed into civil war. In 1642 Charles I took the field, raised the royal standard, and called all loyal subjects to its defense. The Parliament of England likewise raised an army, and after varying fortunes the king was defeated, captured, tried for high treason, found guilty, and beheaded (1649). England then became a republic, called the Commonwealth.

THE CAVALIERS. - While the Civil War was raging in England, Virginia (largely because of the influence of Governor Berkeley) remained loyal to the king. As the war went on and the defeats of the royal army were followed by the capture of the king, numbers of his friends, the Cavaliers, fled to Virginia. After Charles I was beheaded, more than three hundred of the nobility, gentry, and clergy of England came over in one year. No wonder, then, that the General Assembly recognized the dead king's son as King Charles II, and made it treason to doubt his right to the throne. Because of this support of the royal cause, Parliament punished Virginia by cutting off her trade, and ordered that steps be taken to reduce her to submission. A fleet was accordingly dispatched, reached Virginia early in 1652, and forced Berkeley to hand over the government to three Parliamentary commissioners. One of them was then elected governor, and Virginia had almost complete self-government till 1660, when England again became a kingdom, under Charles II.

MARYLAND, THE FIRST PROPRIETARY COLONY. - When Virginia became crown property (1624), the king could do with it what he pleased. King Charles I accordingly cut off a piece and gave it to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. [11] This Lord Baltimore was a Catholic who had tried in vain to found a settlement in Newfoundland. He died before the patent, or deed, was drawn for the land cut off from Virginia, so (1632) it was issued to his son Cecilius, the second Lord Baltimore. The province lay north of the Potomac River and was called Maryland.

By the terms of the grant Lord Baltimore was to pay the king each year two arrowheads in token of homage, and as rent was to give the king one fifth of all the gold and silver mined. This done, he was proprietor of Maryland. He might coin money, grant titles, make war and peace, establish courts, appoint judges, and pardon criminals. But he was not allowed to tax the people without their consent. He had to summon a legislature to assist him in making laws, but the laws when made did not need to be sent to the king for approval.

THE FIRST SETTLERS. - The first settlement was made by a company of about twenty gentlemen and three hundred artisans and laborers. They were led and accompanied by two of Lord Baltimore's brothers, and by two Catholic priests. They came over in 1634 in two ships, the Ark and the Dove, and not far from the mouth of the Potomac founded St. Marys. In February, 1635, they held their first Assembly. To it came all freemen, both landholders and artisans, and by them a body of laws was framed and sent to the proprietor (Lord Baltimore) for approval.

SELF-GOVERNMENT BEGUN. - This was refused, and in its place the proprietor sent over a code of laws, which the Assembly in its turn rejected. The Assembly then went on and framed another set of laws. Baltimore with rare good sense now yielded the point, and gave his brother authority to assent to the laws made by the people, but reserved the right to veto. Thus was free self-government established in Maryland. [12]

TROUBLE WITH CLAIBORNE. - Before Lord Baltimore obtained his grant, William Claiborne, of Virginia, had established an Indian trading post on Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay. This fell within the limits given to Maryland; but Claiborne refused to acknowledge the authority of Baltimore, whereupon a vessel belonging to the Kent Island station was seized by the Marylanders for trading without a license. Claiborne then sent an armed boat with thirty men to capture any vessel belonging to St. Marys. This boat was itself captured, instead; but another fight soon occurred, in which Claiborne's forces beat the Marylanders. The struggle thus begun lasted for years. [13]

THE TOLERATION ACT. - The year 1649 is memorable for the passage of the Maryland Toleration Act, the first of its kind in our history. This provided that "no person or persons whatsoever within this province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be any ways troubled, molested, or discountenanced for, or in respect to, his or her religion."

END OF THE CLAIBORNE TROUBLE. - The nine years that followed formed a stormy period for Maryland. One of the parliamentary commissioners to reduce Virginia to obedience (1652, p. 49) was our old friend Claiborne. He and the new governor of Virginia forced Baltimore's governor to resign, and set up a Protestant government which repealed the Toleration Act and disfranchised Roman Catholics. Baltimore bade his deposed governor resume office. A battle followed, the Protestant forces won, and an attempt was made to destroy the rights of Baltimore; but the English government sustained him, the Virginians were forced to submit, and the quarrel of more than twenty years' standing came to an end. Thenceforth Virginia troubled Maryland no more.

GROWTH OF MARYLAND. - The population of the colony, meantime, grew rapidly. Pamphlets describing the colony and telling how to emigrate and acquire land were circulated in England. Many of the first comers wrote home and brought out more men, and were thus enabled to take up more land. Emigrants who came with ten or twenty settlers were given manors or plantations. Such as came alone received farms.

Most of the work on plantations was done by indented white servants, both convicts and redemptioners. [14] Negro slavery existed in Maryland from the beginning, but slaves were not numerous till after 1700.


Food was abundant, for the rivers and bay abounded with geese and ducks, oysters and crabs, and the woods were full of deer, turkeys, and wild pigeons. Wheat was not plentiful, but corn was abundant, and from it were made pone, hominy, and hoe-cakes.

NO TOWNS. - As everybody could get land and therefore lived on manors, plantations, or farms, there were practically no towns in Maryland. Even St. Marys, so late as 1678, was not really a town, but a string of some thirty houses straggling for five miles along the shore. The bay with its innumerable creeks, inlets, coves, and river mouths, afforded fine water communication between the farms and plantations; and there were no roads. As in Virginia, there was no need of shipping ports. Vessels came direct to manor or plantation wharf, and exchanged English goods for tobacco or corn. Such farmers or planters as had no water communication packed their tobacco in a hogshead, with an axle through it, and with an ox or a horse in a pair of shafts, or with a party of negro slaves or white servants, rolled it to market.


1. The struggle of the Jamestown colony for life was a desperate one. For two years it was preserved by Captain John Smith's skillful leadership, and the frequent reinforcements and supplies sent over by the London Company; but in 1610 the settlers started to leave the country.

2. The arrival of Lord Delaware saved the colony. He brought out news of a new charter (1609) which greatly extended the domain of the company.

3. The settlers were now given land of their own, tobacco was grown, more settlements were planted, and prosperity began.

4. In 1619 slavery was introduced; a shipload of young women arrived; and a representative government was established.

5. In 1624 Virginia became a royal colony.

6. During the Civil War in England many Cavaliers came to Virginia.

7. King Charles I cut off a part of Virginia to make (1632) the proprietary colony of Maryland. The new province was given to Lord Baltimore, who founded (1634) a colony at St. Marys.

8. Claiborne, a Virginian, denied the authority of Baltimore, and kept up a struggle against him for many years.

9. In both Maryland and Virginia the people lived on large plantations, and there were few towns. Travel was mostly by water, and there were no good roads.


[1] Read Fiske's Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Vol. I, pp. 96-98.

[2] Captain John Smith was born in England in 1580. At an early age he was a soldier in France and in the Netherlands; then after a short stay in England he set off to fight the Turks. In France he was robbed and left for dead, but reached Marseilles and joined a party of pilgrims bound to the Levant. During a violent storm the pilgrims, believing he had caused it, threw him into the sea. But he swam to an island, and after many adventures was made a captain in the Venetian army. The Turks captured him and sold him into slavery, but he killed his master, escaped to a Russian fortress, made his way through Germany, France, Spain, and Morocco, and reached England in time to go out with the London Company's colony. His career in Virginia was as adventurous as in the Old World. While exploring the Chickahominy River he and his companions were taken by the Indians. Lest they should kill him at once Smith showed them a pocket compass with its quivering needle always pointing north. They could see, but could not touch it because of the glass. Supposing him a wizard, they took him to the Powhatan. According to Smith's account two stones were brought and Smith's head laid upon them, while warriors, club in hand, stood near by to beat out his brains. But suddenly the chief's little daughter, Pocahontas, rushed in and laid her head on Smith's to shield him. He was given his life and sent back to Jamestown.

[3] Smith and Newport visited the old chief at his village of Werowocomoco, took off the Powhatan's raccoon-skin coat, and put on the crimson robe. When they told him to kneel, he refused. Two men thereupon seized him by the shoulders and forced him to bend his knees, and the crown was clapped on his head. The Powhatan then took off his old moccasins and sent them, with his raccoon-skin coat, to his royal brother in London.

[4] They were part of a body of some five hundred in nine ships which left England in June. On the way over a storm scattered the fleet; one ship was lost, and another bearing the leaders of the expedition was wrecked on the Bermudas. The shipwrecked colonists spent ten months building two little vessels, in which they reached Jamestown in May, 1610.

[5] Read Fiske's Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Vol. I, pp. 152-155.

[6] The governor, the council, and the House of Burgesses constituted the General Assembly. Any act of the Assembly might be vetoed by the governor, and no law was valid till approved by the "general court" of the company at London. Neither was any law made by the company for the colony valid till approved by the Assembly. After 1660 the House of Burgesses consisted of two delegates from each county, with one from Jamestown.

[7] For some years to come the slaves increased in numbers very slowly. So late as 1671, when the population of Virginia was 40,000, there were but 2000 slaves, while the bond servants numbered 6000. Some of these indentured servants, as they were called, were persons guilty of crime in England, who were sent over to Virginia and sold for a term of years as a punishment. Others - the "redemptioners" - were men who, in order to pay for their passage to Virginia, agreed to serve the owner or the captain of the ship for a certain time. On reaching Virginia the captain could sell them to the planters for the time specified; at the end of the time they became freemen.

[8] That is, the unoccupied land became royal domain again, and the king appointed the governors and controlled the colony through a committee of his privy council. One unhappy result of the downfall of the London Company was the defeat of a plan for establishing schools in Virginia. As early as 1621 some funds were raised for "a public free school," in Charles City. A tract of land was also set apart in the city of Henricus for a college, and a rector, or president, was sent out to start it. But he was killed by the Indians in 1622, and before the company had found a successor the charter was destroyed. Virginia's first college - William and Mary - was established at Williamsburg in 1693.

[9] Read the description of early Virginia in J. E. Cooke's Virginia (American Commonwealths Series), pp. 141-157; or Stories of the Old Dominion; or Fiske's Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Vol. I, pp. 223- 232.

[10] Jamestown was long the chief town of Virginia; but in its best days the houses did not number more than 75 or 80, and the population was not more than 250. In 1676 the church, the House of Burgesses, and the dwellings were burned during Bacon's Rebellion (p. 95). In 1679 the Burgesses ordered Jamestown "to be rebuilt and to be the metropolis of Virginia"; but in 1698 the House of Burgesses was again burned and in 1699 Williamsburg became the seat of government. The ruined church tower (p. 40) is the only structure still standing in Jamestown; but remains of the ancient graveyard, of a mansion built on the foundations of the old House of Burgesses, and some foundations of dwellings may also be seen. The site is cared for by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.

[11] George Calvert was the son of a Yorkshire farmer, was educated at Oxford, and went to Parliament in 1604. Becoming a favorite of King James I, he was knighted in 1617, and two years later was made principal Secretary of State. He became a Roman Catholic, although Catholics were then bitterly persecuted in England. Just before the king died, he resigned office, and received the title of Lord Baltimore, the name referring to a town in Ireland. Finding all public offices closed to him because he was a Catholic, Baltimore resolved to seek a home in America.

[12] Baltimore ordered that any colonist who came in the Ark or Dove and brought five men with him should have 2000 acres of land, subject to an annual rent of 400 pounds of wheat. A settler who came in 1635 could have the same amount of land if he brought ten men, but had to pay 600 pounds of wheat a year as rent. Plantations of 1000 acres or more were manors, and the lord of the manor could hold courts.

[13] Claiborne's London partners took possession of Kent Island, and acknowledged the authority of Baltimore; but after the Civil War broke out in England, Claiborne joined forces with a half pirate named Ingle, and recovered the island. For two years Ingle and his crew lorded it over all Maryland, stealing corn, tobacco, cattle, and household goods. Not till 1646, when Calvert received aid from Virginia, was he able to drive out Claiborne and Ingle, and recover the province.

[14] The redemptioners, when their time was out and they became freemen, received a set of tools, clothes, and a year's provisions from their former masters, and fifty acres from the proprietor of the colony.

[15] On such looms skilled servants wove much of the cloth used on the plantation. Similar looms were used in all the colonies.