Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Jamestown was founded in 1607 in Virginia and was the first permanent colony under England’s name. Stability did not exist in the first several years of Jamestown as it went through several stages of successes and setbacks. The first three ships that embarked on the task of creating a colony were the Susan Constant, Godspeed and the Discovery, and on board the Susan Constant was the rambunctious John Smith. Angering his fellow shipmates, John Smith was almost sent to the noose until word was given that he had been chosen along with six others to run the colony. The survival of the colony was later dependent on John Smith who decided that everyone must work for their food rather than being lazy and sitting around the colony complaining. John Smith not only rallied everyone into working for their food but also dealt with the issue of the Natives.
Throughout the history of Jamestown the Natives and the settlers were weary of friendship and often were in and out of truce. John Smith was at one point captured and brought to Powhatan, the powerful chief of the several tribes in the region, and the two became fickle acquaintances that would try and communicate with each other. Smith and Powhatan’s friendship status was usually based on whether Powhatan felt that he had some power over the colony. This relationship between the colonists and the Natives worsened after Smith returned to England leading to several massacres on both sides and the Indians refusing to help the colonists with their dwindled food supply due to rotten crops and an accidental fire that lead to the destruction of part of the city and its food supply. The time that followed was known as “the Starving Time.” Famine struck the colony and got to the point of men eating anything they could get their hands on; horses, dogs, cats, rats, leather, and a wife or two.
The people of Jamestown almost called it quits and was even packed up aboard a ship to go back home when their governor and ships containing ample supplies was seen entering the Chesapeake Bay. Lord De La Warr stayed for a mere ten months before returning home due to illness but his successor, Thomas Dale restructured the colony. Thomas Dale did two things of importance; he did away with the system the colony that resembled communism in the way of a common wealth and he took John Smith’s idea of everyone working and made severe consequences for people who did not work the required amount of time. Thomas Dale was not the only man to increase the success of Jamestown. John Rolfe took the tobacco plant from the West Indies that had become very popular in Europe and combined it with Virginia’s original tobacco plant. The combination of these two plants produced an even more successful plant that grew easily which the colonists quickly planted in every available plot in the region. John Rolfe also helped to quiet the increased violence between the native and the colonists by marrying the chief’s daughter but this peace only lasted until Powhatan died.
Overall the colony of Jamestown could be considered a success because of its ventures in tobacco and its eventual popularity that caused more Englishmen to settle in Virginia. However if you take into account that fewer than one out of six settlers managed to live through the first seventeen years of Jamestown it could reasonably be said that Jamestown had a very shaky beginning.

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