An excerpt from A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia (1622)

A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in VirginiaA Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

In August 1622, Edward Waterhouse, secretary to the Virginia Company of London, composed A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia. With a Relation of the barbarous Massacre in the time of peace and League, treacherously executed upon the English by the native Infidels, 22 March last … In this excerpt, he details the massive attack on the Jamestown colonists by Opechancanough and his forces, which started the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632). Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.


— page 12 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

[…] The last May there came Letters from Sir Francis Wiat Governor in VIRGINIA, which did advertise that when in November last he arrived in VIRGINIA, and entred upon his Government, he found the Country setled in a peace (as all men there thought) sure and unviolable, not onely because it was solemnly ratified and sworne, and at the request of the Native King stamped in Brasse, and fixed to one of his Oakes of note, but as being advantageous to both parts; to the Savages as the weaker, under which they were safely sheltred and defended; to us, as being the easiest way then thought to pursue and advance our projects of buildings, plantings, and effecting their conversion by peaceable and fayre meanes. And such was the conceit of firme peace and amitie, as that there was seldome or never a sword worne and a Peece seldomer, except for a Deere or Fowle. By which assurance of securitie, the Plantations of particular Adventurers and Planters were placed scatteringly and straglingly as a choice veyne of rich ground invited them, and the further from neighbors held the better. The houses generally set open to the Savages, who were alwaies friendly entertained at the tables of the English, and commonly lodged in their bed-chambers. The old planters (as they thought now come to reape the benefit of their long travels) placed with wonderfull content upon their private dividents, and the planting of

— page 13 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

particular Hundreds and Colonies pursued with an hopefull alacrity, all our projects (saith he) in a faire way, and their familiarity with the Natives, seeming to open a faire gate for their conversion to Christianitie.

The Country being in this estate, an occasion was ministred of sending to Opachankano the King of these Savages, about the middle of March last, what time the Messenger returned back with these words from him, That he held the peace concluded so firme, as the Skie should sooner fall then it dissolve: yea, such was the treacherous dissimulation of that people who then had contrived our destruction, that even two dayes before the Massacre, some of our men were guided thorow the woods by them in safety: and one Browne, who then to learne the language lived among the Warrascoyacks (a Province of that King) was in friendly manner sent backe to them to Captaine Hamor his Master, and many the like passages, rather increasing our former confidence, then any wise in the world ministring the least suspition of the breach of the peace, or of what instantly ensued; yea, they borrowed our owne Boates to convey themselves crosse the River (on the bankes of both sides whereof all our Plantations were) to consult of the divellish murder that ensued, and all of our utter extirpation, which God of his mercy (by the meanes of some of themselves converted to Christianitie) prevented; and as well on the Friday morning (the fatal day) the 22 of March, as also in the evening, as in other dayes before, they came unarmed into our houses, without Bowes or arrowes, or other weapons, with Deere, Turkies, Fish,

— page 14 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

Furres, and other provisions, to sell, and trucke with us, for glasse, beades, and other trifles: yea in some places, sate downe at Breakfast with our people at their tables, whom immediately with their owne tooles and weapons, eyther laid downe, or standing in their houses, they basely and barbarously murthered, not sparing eyther age or sexe, man, woman or childe; so sodaine in their cruell execution, that few or none discerned the weapon or blow that brought them to destruction. In which manner they also slew many of our people then at their severall works and husbandries in the fields, and without their houses, some in planting Corne and Tobacco, some in gardening, some in making Bricke, building, sawing, and other kindes of husbandry, they well knowing in what places and quarters each of our men were, in regard of their daily familiarity, and resort to us for trading and other negotiations, which the more willingly was by us continued and cherished for the desire we had of effecting that great master-peece of works, their conversion. And by this meanes that fatall Friday morning, there fell under the bloudy and barbarous hands of that perfidious and inhumane people, contrary to all laws of God and men, of Nature & Nations, three hundred forty seven men, women, and children, most by their owne weapons; and not being content with taking away life alone, they fell after againe upon the dead, making as well as they could, a fresh murder, defacing, dragging, and mangling the dead carkasses into many pieces, and carrying some parts away in derision, with base and bruitish triumph.

Neither yet did these beasts spare those amongst

— page 15 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

the rest well knowne untthem, from whom they had daily received many benefits and favours, but spitefully also massacred them, without remorse or pitty, being in this more fell then Lyons and Dragons, which (as Histories record) have beene so farre from hurting, as they have both acknowledged, and gratefully requited their Benefactors; such is the force of good deeds, though done to cruell beasts, as to make them put off the very nature of beasts, and to put on humanity upon them. But these miscreants, contrariwise in this kinde, put not off onely all humanity, but put on a worse and more then unnaturall bruitishnesse. One instance of it, amongst too many, shall serve for all.

That worthy religious Gentleman, Master George Thorpe Esquire, Deputie of the Colledge lands, sometimes one of his Majesties Pentioners, and in one of the Principall places of command in VIRGINIA, did so truly and earnestly affect their conversion, and was so tender over them, that whosoever under his authority had given them but the least displeasure or discontent, he punished them severely. He thought nothing too deare for them, and as being desirous to binde them unto him by his many courtesies, hee never denyed them any thing that they asked him, insomuch that when these Savages complained unto him of the fiercenesse of our Mastives, most implacable and terrible unto them (knowing them by instinct it seems, to be but treacherous and false-hearted friends to us, better then our selves) he to gratifie them in all things, for the winning of them by degrees, caused some of them to be killed in their presence, to the great dis-

— page 16 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

pleasure of the owners, and would have had all the rest guelt (had he not beene hindred) to make them the gentler and the milder to them. He was not onely too kinde and beneficiall to the common sort, but also to their King, to whom hee oft resorted, and gave many presents which hee knew to be highly pleasing to him. And whereas this king before dwelt onely in a cottage, or rather a denne or hog-stye, made with a few poles and stickes, and covered with mats after their wyld manner, to civilize him, he first, built him a fayre house according to the English fashion, in which hee tooke such joy, especially in his locke and key, which hee so admired, as locking and unlocking his doore an hundred times aday, hee thought no device in all the world was comparable to it.

Thus insinuating himselfe to this King for his religious purposes, he conferred after with him oft, and intimated to him matters of our Religion; and thus far the Pagan confessed, moved by naturall Principles, that our God was a good God, and better much then theirs, in that he had with so many good things above them endowed us. Hee told him, if hee would serve our God, hee should be partaker of all those good things wee had, and of farre greater then sense or reason ever could imagine. He wonne upon him, as hee thought in many things, so as hee gave him fayre hearing and good answer, and seemed to be much pleased with his discourse and in his company. And both hee and his people for the daily courtesies this good Gentleman did to one or other of them, did professe such outward love and respect unto him, as nothing could seeme more: but all was little regarded after by

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A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

this Viperous brood, as the sequell shewed: for they not only wilfully murdered him, but cruelly and felly, out of devilish malice, did so many barbarous despights and foule scornes after to his dead corpes, as are unbefitting to be heard by any civill eare. One thing I cannot omit, that when this good Gentleman upon his fatall hower, was warned by his man (who perceived some treachery intended to them by these hell-hounds) to looke to himselfe, and withal ranne away for feare of the mischief he strongly apprehended, and so saved his owne life; yet his Master, out of the conscience of his owne good meaning, and faire deserts ever towards them, was so void of all suspition, and so full of confidence, that they had sooner killed him, then hee could or would beleeve they meant any ill against him. Thus the sinnes of these wicked Infidels, have made them unworthy of enjoying him, and the eternall good that he most zealously always intended to them.

And thus these miserable wretches, not hee, hath lost by it, who to the comfort of us all, hath gained a Crowne of endlesse blisse, and is assuredly become a glorious Martyr, in which thrice-happy and blessed state we leave him. But these miscreants, who have thus despised Gods great mercies so freely offered to them, must needs in time therefore be corrected by his justice: So as those who by the way of mercies would not be drawne unto him, shall some of them at length (no doubt) be brought unto him by his way of judgements: to which leaving them, I will knit againe together now the thred of my Discourse and proceed to tell you, That at the time of this Massacre

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A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

there were three or foure of our ships in James-River, and one in the next River, and daily more to come in, as three did within fourteene dayes after; one of which they endevored to have surprised, but in vaine, as had also beene their whole attempt, had any the least fore-knowledge beene in those places where the Massacre was committed: yet were the hearts of the English ever stupid, and averted from beleeving any thing that might weaken their hopes of speedy winning the Savages to Civilitie and Religion, by kinde usage and fayre conversing amongst them. Hee, and the whole Councell write further, That Almighty God (they doubt not) hath his great worke to doe in this Tragedy, and will thereout draw hoor and glory to his great Name; safety, and a more flourishing estate to themselves, and the whole Plantation there; and the more speedy conversion of the Children of those Savages to himselfe, since hee so miraculously preserved so many of the English (there being, God be praysed about eleven parts of twelve still remaining) whose desire to draw those people to Religion by the carelesse neglect of their owne safeties, seemes to have beene the greatest cause of their own ensuing destruction. Yet it pleased God to use some of them as instruments to save many of their lives, whose soules they have formerly saved, as at James-Citie, and other places, and the Pinnace trading in Pamounkey River, all whose lives were saved by a converted Indian, disclosing the plot in the instant (whereof though our sinnes (say they) made us unworthy to be instruments of so glorious a conversion in general[)], yet his infinite wisedome can neverthelesse bring it to passe

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A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

with some more of them, and with other Provinces there in his good time, and by such meanes as wee thinke most unlikely. For even in the delivery of us that now survive, no mans particular carefulnesse saved any one person, but the mere goodnesse himselfe, freely and miraculously preserved whom it pleased him.

The Letters of Mr. George Sandis a worthy Gentleman and Treasurer there, likewise have advertised (as many others from many particular persons of note and worth) besides the Relations of many returned in the Sea-flower (the ship that brought us this unwelcome newes) have beene heard at large in the publike Courts, that whilst all their affayres were full of successe, and such intercourse of familiaritie, as if the Indians and themselves had beene of one Nation, those treacherous Natives, after five years peace, by a generall combination in one day plotted to subvert their whole Colony, and at one instant of time, though our severall Plantations were an hundred an forty miles up one River on both sides.

But before I goe any further, for the better understanding of all things, you shall know that these wyld naked Natives live not in great numbers together, but dispersed, and in small companies; and where most together, not above two hundred, and that very rare, in other places fifty or forty, or thereabouts, and many miles distant from one another, in such places among the Woods where they either found, or might easiliest make some cleared plots of ground, which they imploy wholly in setting of Corne, whereby to sustaine their lives. These small and scattered Companies (as

— page 20 —
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

I have said) had warning given from one another in all their habitations to meete at the day and houre appointed for our destruction, at all our severall Townes and places seated upon the River; some were directed to goe to one place some to another, all to be done at the same day and time, which they did accordingly: some entring their Houses under colour of trucking, and so taking advantage, others drawing our men abroad upon faire pretences, and the rest suddenly falling upon these that were at their labours.

They certifie further, that besides Master George Thorpe, before mentioned, Master John Berkeley, Captaine Nathanael Powel, and his wife, (daughter of Master William Tracy, and great with childe) and Captaine Maycock, all Gentlemen of birth, vertue, and industry, and of the Councell there, suffered under this their cruelty and treason.

That the slaughter had beene universall, if God had not put it into the heart of an Indian belonging to one Perry, to disclose it, who living in the house of one Pace, was urged by another Indian his Brother (who came the night before and lay with him) to kill Pace, (so commanded by their King as he declared) as hee would kill Perry: telling further that by such an houre in the morning a number would come from divers places to finish the Execution, who failed not at the time: Perries Indian rose out of his bed and reveales it to Pace, that used him as a Sonne: And thus the rest of the Colony that had warning given them, by this meanes was saved. Such was (God bee thanked for it) the good fruit of an Infidell converted to Christianity; for though three hundred and more of ours

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A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

died by many of these Pagan Infidels, yet thousands of ours were saved by the means of one of them alone which was made a Christian; Blessed be God for ever, whose mercy endureth for ever; Blessed bee God whose mercy is above his justice, and farre above all his workes: who wrought this deliverance whereby their soules escaped even as a Bird out of the snare of the Fowler.

Pace upon this discovery, securing his house, before day rowed over the River to James-City (in that place neere three miles in bredth) and gave notice thereof to the Governor, by which means they were prevented there, and at such other Plantations as was possible for a timely intelligence to be given; for where they saw us standing upon our Guard, at the sight of a Peece they all ranne away. In other places that could have no notice, some Peeces with munition (the use whereof they know not) were there carried away, and some few Cattell also were destroyed by them. And as Fame divulgeth (not without probably grounds) their King hath since caused the most part of the Gunpowder by his surprized, to bee sowne, to draw therefrom the like increase, as of his Maize or Corne, in Harvest next. And that it is since discovered, that the last Summer Opachankano practised with a King of the Eastern shore (no well-willer of his) to furnish him with store of poison (naturally growing in his country) for our destruction, which he absolutely refused, though he sent him great store of Beades, and other presents to winne him thereunto: which he, with five or sixe of his great men, offered to be ready to justifie against him. That the true cause

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A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia

of this surprize was most by the instigation of the Devill, (enemy to their salvation) and the dayly feare that possest them, that in time we by our growing continually upon them, would dispossesse them of this Country, as they had beene formerly of the West Indies by the Spaniard; produced this bloody act. That never griefe and shame possessed any people more then themselves, to be thus butchered by so naked and cowardly a people who dare not stand the presentment of a staffe in manner of a Peece, nor an uncharged Peece in the hands of a woman, from which they flye as so many Hares; much faster then from their tormenting Devill, whom they worship for feare, though they acknowledge they love him not.

Thus have you seene the particulars of this massacre, out of Letters from thence written, wherein treachery and cruelty have done their worst to us, or rather to themselves; for whose understanding is so shallow, as not to perceive that this must needs bee for the good of the Plantation after, and the losse of this blood to make the body more healthfull, as by these reasons may be manifest […]

August 1622
A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia … is published by the Virginia Company of London and contains a narrative, by Edward Waterhouse, describing the attack by Virginia Indians on colonists that occurred on March 22.
APA Citation:
Waterhouse, Edward. An excerpt from A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia (1622). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Waterhouse, Edward. "An excerpt from A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia (1622)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 24 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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