Letter from the Governor’s Council to the Virginia Company of London (January 20, 1623)

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In a letter dated January 20, 1623, the governor’s Council reports to the Virginia Company of London and its treasurer, Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton, on conditions in the Virginia colony.

Records of the Virginia Company

Right Honabl

We Cannot butt acknowledge god’s greate goodness yt after these last great disasters hath stired vpp the harte of his most excellent matie to bestow vpon us soe Royall a gift of Armes & munitione wch we resolve to ymploy to ye honor of our Countrey and revenge of his subiects bloud, for wch munitione and his gratious intentione of supplyinge us wth people, we beseech you to psent our most humble thanks to his scared Matie.

In the next place wee must acknowledg ye hande of heauen also, that hath not suffered the zeale to this Plantatione to dye or grow colde in ye bosomes of you the Honoble Companie, but that you conceive yt rightlie as a cause of the future strength, not a decay of this Colonie, wch before ran in a more dangerous, though in a more plausible manner.

Wee haue anticipated your desire by settinge vppon the Indyans in all places, mr Trevr firste fell vppon the Tapahatonahs, in two severall expeditions, Sr. George yardley vppon ye Wyanokes and in a seconde expeditione vpon the nancemunds, Warescoyk & Pawmunkie ye Chiefe seate of Sansapen & apochankeno, Capt John West vppon the Tanx Powhatans, and Capt William Powell vppon the Chocohominy Capt [Ralph] Hamer beinge sent to the Patomecks to trade for Corne slew divers of ye Nacochincos yt sought to Circumvent him by treacherie, The like did Capt madisone at Patomeck, Capt Hamer a seconde tyme ymployde to Pataomeck for Corne slew some others yt [pro]ved our enemies, And now is Capt [William] Tucker in the River of Rapahanock to take revenge vppon them, as Confederates wth Apochankeno.

In all wch places we haue slaine divers, burnte theire Townes, destroyde theire Wears & Corne and xxx Sr Georg Yardley in his last expeditione

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brought into the Colonie aboue a Thowsande bushell of corne, wherin he frely ymployed his shippinge, shallops, maryners, and servant[s] Besids there hath been brought in by trade and force 3000 bushells more, wherin we haue been forced to ymploy many [par]ties of men, the necessitie wherof beeinge fore seene by us was one cause why wee drew into fewer bodies.

By conferenc of former experyences wth those of ours vppon the Salvages, it is most aparent that they are an enemy nott suddenlie to be destroyde wth the sworde by reasone of their swyftnes of foote, and advantages of the wood[s], to wch vppon all our assault[s] they retyre but by the way of starvinge and all other meanes yt we can possiblely devise we will Constantlie pursue their extirpatione. By Computatione and Confessione of the Indyans themselves we have slayne more of them this yeere, then hath been slayne before since the begininge of ye Colonie.

Whereas in the begininge of your L[etters] by the [ship] Trewloue you pass soe heavie a Censue vppon us as yf we alone were guiltie, You may be pleased to Consider what instructions you haue formerly given us, to wynn the Indyans to us by A kinde entertayinge them in our howses, and yf it were possible to Cohabitt wth us, and how ympossible it is for any watch and warde to secure us against secret Enemies yt live pmiscouslie amongst us, and are harbored in our bosomes, all Histories and your owne Discourse may Sufficyently informe you.

For the warninge given ye last yeere, some of us heere cann say nothinge vnto yt, but Sr: George yardley and mr [John] Pountis them selves doe affirme, yt notice beeinge given by the Kinge of the Easterne shore of Apochaukeno his plott, at the takinge vpp of Powhatans bones at wch Ceremony great numbers of the Salvages were to be assembled to sett vvpon every Plantatione and tooke a generall muster of all the men and theire Armes, gaue straight Charge yt watch & warde should bee kept every where, But Apochancono, earnestly denying ye plot, and noe aparent proofe brought in, our people by degrees fell againe to theire ordinary watch not beeinge able to follow theire seuerall Labors and keepe soe strict a guarde, especyally beinnge seated in smalle pties, and at divers tymes havinge had many the like Alarumes wch cam to nothinge. Neither

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was it to be imagined yt vppon ye death of Nenemachanew, a man soe farr owt of the favor of Apochancoco yt he sent worde to Sr. George Yardley beinge then Gournor by his interpreter, yt for his [par]te he could be contented his throte were Cutt, there w[ould] falle owte a generall breach, wee beinge intreatie wth him and offeringe to doe him Justice Accordinge to the Articles of the peace, yf vppon the takinge vpp of the dead bodies yt might appere yt Nenemachanew had noe hande in theire deaths wch was all yt Apochancon[o] required and ther vppon sent oute as he fainde to search for ye bodies, and in the mean tyme sent woorde yt the death of Nenemachanew beinge but one man should be noe occassione of the breach of ye peace, and yt the Skye should sooner falle then [ye] Peace be broken, one his [par]te, and that he had given order to all his People to give us noe offence and desired the like from us.

Notwthstandinge order was taken generally through owt ye whole Colony to stande vppon theire guards, vntill further tryall, but ye Indyans Cominge daylie amongst us and puttinge them selves into our powers, bread in our People a securitie

These and divers other Circumstances Considered, wee were in good hope yt you woulde not haue added sorrow to afflictione, woundinge our reputationes wth such disgrasfull reprooffes, vnworthie of our sufferinge yf not of our industrie, But yt you would first haue ascended to ye trew cause wch we wth you confes to bee all our sinns havinge since loste more by the Imediate hand of God, then by the Trecherie of the Salvages, And would to god yt the Cowetuosnes of some at home, did nott minister well to our drunkenness heere fillinge the Countrey wth wyne not only in quantetie excessive, but in qualletie base and infectious: for apparell wee know noe excess, butt in the puristes, and had not that taxe [pro]ceeded from you, wee should haue though it a floute for our povertie and nakedness

The Remoueall to the Easterne shore wch you calle an abandoinge of this River (beinge aplace indeede yt Comand[s] not only this but all the Rivers in the Baye, was a thinge only in dispute & speculations: But vppon the Consideratione, that it might be at first sight a taint to our

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reputations, & noe way lawfull to forsake our stations wthowt leave, yet [pro]ceeded noe farther, as all our Accons since may Sufficyently proue, Havinge Carefully repayred the decays of James Cyttie, and invited all men to builde theire wch [pro]ceeded Cheerfully one, till your L[etters] of Dispersinge men againe, wherin wee submitt our Judgment[s] to your Command[s], made every man looke to his privatt, But yt it was necessary to seate together in two or three great bodyes, was the vnanimyous voyce both of the Counsell and Planters, And noe doupt would haue draune one the buildinge of fortified Townes, wherof now wee dispayre, wherby we might haue made advantage of their Salvage trecherie by the securinge of our selves from the native and forren Enemie, and yt wthowt tax of feare beinge rather a hopinge §me§ Conceptione then A thinge yt wee know, and this we take to haue beene the first endevors of all plantations; wee Conclude this poynt wth ye 4th resone geven in your printed booke, yt to be scattered in smalle Compenies are helps to victorie, but hinderances to Civilitie.

The quittinge of soe many Plantations was absolutly necessarie, and wee more willinglie suffer a reprooff in [pre]servinge your people, then Comendatione in their hazarde (in one wee will instance ye necessitie of all) by A muster taken of my Lady [Elizabeth Throgmorten] dales family, wch consisted of two and twentie wherof eight were boys, most of the men were new and vntrayned wth very little munitione, and but six peeces and one Armour amonst them, and 54 headd of Cattle, wch all those men were nott Sufficyent to guarde, except eyther the place or Industry of inclosure had given advantage. As for ye Irone Woorkers we had resolved to haue strengthned them wth all ye planters therabout[s], yf soe many of ye princypall woorke men had not beene slayne, as in the opinione of mr [Maurice] Barkley and mr [John] Southerne it was vtterlie ympossible to [pro]ceede in that woorke though wth ye assistance of the whole Colonie, neyther was it possible retaynige any more of ye plantations eyther to Draw a Competent force to revenge our selves vppon our enimies, or to send abroade [par]ties to [pro]cure Corne for our[pre]rnt reliefe, wch our reputations and necessetie required, as may appeere by this, wheras by Comon consent, 300 were thought to bee the lest number to assault Apochanono him selfe, whose discomfiture, would proue ye dishartinge of the residew, vppon A generall vew taken, there could nott be levied aboue 180 men,wherof 80 at least were only serviceable for Caryinge of Corne, and yet

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these few Plantations wee helde, especyally by resone of the sickness of our people were left as weake, as was in any sorte Justifiable.

For yt of ingrosinge all, and leavinge all, our innocency knowes not how to interprett it, and desire alsoe wth ye beloued Discyple, you would be pleased to poynt owte ye man guiltie of yt horrible treasone against god himself, since by naminge none you Charge vs all, nether know wee any, that §we§ had nott freely adventured them selves, and [par]ted wth theire [par]ticuler [pro]ffit[s] to aduance your designes, and nott theire owne gaine and greatness, for the repayre of wch causeles suspitione, we shall endeuor accordinge to your Comande, to restore ye Plantations where formerly they were and to mantaine them wth aboundance of graine and Victuall, Provided yt we be not charged from home wth such multitudes of people scantlie or vtterlie vnprovided, as formerly hath been sent and Come over, beinge ye Chief cause of our scarcytie, and how soeuer you haue very worthely sett in printe to all mens vewe wt [pro]visions are necessarie to be brought hither, yet it is but in [par]te observed, (even by these last suplies)

Wee desire to make noe comparisone wth those yt haue formerlie gouerned, to whose memories we give all respect & honor, but yf you please to take a survey of those tymes, you may [per]ceave yt there were held but fower Plantations, and those not subdivided: fed and Appareled wholie by your Comon purse, and yett were all Colonie servant[s] vnder the eye of ye Magistrate at the absolute Comande of the Gournor, and yt vnder Marshall Law, whereas before this Massacre there were neere (80) severall Plantations and divident[s], and Accordinge to your late instructions are like to bee no less then fortie, ten tymes as many as were then mantayned, would to God our numbers of men held the like [pro]portione.

For our former wante of Corne, wee yt are latelie come can say nothinge, those yt were heere before, alleag[e] ye scant and bad [pro]visiones xxx §sent ouer§ wth new Comers, and that all Tenant[s] at halfes (the Colledge only excepted) were never able to feede themselves by theire labours three moneths in ye Yeere Wheras the ffree men generallie haue always plentifully prouided for themselues and others, and some of them haue effected more wth §their§ [par]ticuler families, [then] the whole Colonie in that alleaged infancie; And yf this last disaster had not beefallen us wee should nott haue needed yt supplie of meale, for your great paynes and

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travell [pro]curinge wherof wee give you humble thanks, but we confes freely, yf we had knowne yt would haue cost you soe much trouble, wee would never haue writt for yt, and for ye future see yt they will be [pro]vided for yt shall heerafter come over, we are Confident there wilbe noe cause To intreat your helpe for supplie of Corne or any other [pro]visone, fourther then voluntary Adventurer[s] will bringe in, wch shall never be intreted for us, seeinge by reasone of our great Crosses, wee haue nott beene enabled to our griefe, to make such speedie and full retourns for those adventures you haue [pro]cured as was expected.

The maine Cause why retournes were not made for ye last yeers magazine, was because before the arivall of the warwick, most of the Tobacco in ye lands was solde and and made Away to other shippinge that formerly arived, To whom you required our favors to be shewne in respect of theire lesse number of people Transported then vsuall, soe as of necessitie your factor must haue kept yr goods dead vppone his handes, or sell them to be paide this Cropp, Wherin, yf hee haue been denied any asistance from vs for Recoveringe his depts you might then soe bitterly Censure vs. Other helpe wee coulde nott giue him, beinge not at all acquainted wth ye [par]ticularities of his busines, Besid[es], there haue and doe come daylie into this lande soe many privatt Adventurs equallie Recomended vnto us, as five tymes ye Cropp of this yeere will nott satisfie, there beinge not made aboue three-score thowsand waight of Tobacco in the whole Collonie, and soe many privatt Adventures besid[es], that except wee should deny fre[e] trade contrarie to ye equitie of your order, doe and will take Away much of our Tobacco though wee geeue noe warrant to them to recover it, Because many of their comodities as Sack[s] sweete meates and stronge Liquors, are soe acceptable to the people.

Concerninge ye raisings of Staple Comodities, our endevors therin and how farr, it was advanced before this disaster, you haue been formerly advised, how ernest our intentes are to [per]secute them heerafter, Mr. Thre: will more [par]ticulerly informe you.

The failinge of ye Irone woork[s] is much lamented by the whole Collony whose asistance they wanted nott, whiles it was in theyr power to asiste them, the state of wch woorke wee Referr to ye relatione of Mr. Maurice Barkley, who is now to retorne, by whom we will send you a list of ye

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names and [pro]fessions of the men, togeather wth a note of ye tooles and materialls necessary for the reerectaige of that woorke.

The silke woorme seede wch was formerly sent were all hatcht before they cam to our hands, only those now receaved are for ye gretest [par]te well conditioned, and shalbe carefully [pre]served.

For Mulberie trees great store were ye last yeere planted and shalbe yeerly inclosed, the like care we will haue of Vines.

For silke grass we purpose to send you some quantetie, soe much as shall suffice to make experience of it, and yf it proue right, we can send you therof in aboundance.

For gatheringe of Sasafras, although the necessitie of the yere doth require ye ymploymt of more handes then we haue, soe many People beinge to bee reseated vppon their planta[tion] havinge howses to builde, and the tyme of plantinge drawinge nere, yet will wee doe our best to Satisfie your desires therin

For what hath been donne in the glass work[s], mr. Thre: will informe you therin, the like will mr Pountis for the maides, as also for Mr [John] Woodalls Cattle, and as for the furre Vioadge we canott resolve you, Capt Jhones beinge nott yett retorned.

Capt Barwich [Thomas Barwick] and his Companie at their arivall were Accomodated accordinge to theire Deesire in James Cyttie, where they haue spent their tymes in howsinge them selves, and are now woorkinge vvpon shallops, Since his arrival by sicknes he hath lost many of his princypall woorkmen, and he him selfe at [pre]sent very daungererouslie sick, mr Threa will at all tymes take Accompt of the [pro]fits and returne them.

The men sent for ye buildinge of the East Indie Scoole were for the [pre]sent placed amongst the Colledg Tenant[s], fower of them are dead the residue shalbe placed wth the fist Conveniencie at martins hundred accordinge to mr [Rev. Patrick] Copland[‘s] request to the Gouernor and Councell.

The little experience wee hadd of mr [Simon] Leake, made good your Comendations of him, and his death to us very greveous.

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Sr. William Nuce did not aboue two days surviue the readinge of his Pattent, Whose longe delay and sudden losse were to our great disadvantage, He brought wth him very few people, sicklie, ragged and altogether wthowt [pro]visione, his sudden death and great Depts, left his estate much intangled to our extraordinarie trouble.

Mr. Treaor hath receaued abooke of accompts concerninge the Tobacco sent home for the fiftie youths sent in the dewtie, and the maides in the Jonathan, and Londone marchant, and of 2407 pownde of Tobacco sent home by the [ship] George, 1407 [pounds] thereof was for ye Transportatione of nyne of the Cyttie boys, nyne maides and fower men: the residwe wth 20 barrells of Corne paide heere, was for ye rent of twentie boys of the Cyttie Boys the yeere past, wch was as much as you receaved for most of yor Tenants, wt the Tobacco comes shorte of makinge vpp the somme expended for the duetie boys and the maides, wee will doe our best, yt they who had them may make you Satisfactione.

Concerninge the revenews of the Compenie, we suppose you haue fownd by your officers where the error is, we conceave yt yf you would be pleased to Chaunge the Conditione of Tena[t]s into servants for the future Supplies, and nott send over new officers meerly vnexperienced in the Countrey to comande them, who though they may be * * * * very sufficyent for much worthier ymployment, eyther martiall or Civill, are not soe fitt for ye overlookinge and directinge men in theire labours, in wch affayrs experience instructs more then any other Sufficyencie, That then your revenues might be greatly Improved.

Capt [Samuel] Eache hath not yett vewed the place at Wariscoyks whether it be fitt for fortificati[on] or nott, when he hath, yf he shall find it fezable and will vndertake it, he shall haue our vtmost and best Asistance, as far as this yeers povertie will [per]mitt, wch we will supplie in the next.

The Colledg Tenate, wth much difficultie, we are now about to resettle and haue engaged our selves to supplie them wth Cornne vntill harvest, havinge strengthned them wth divers of the olde Planters vppon ye Conditions wch your selves haue [pro]pounded.

The Adventurers of martins Hundred whom haue putt Liefe into the Accone by [reeforceinge] theire Supplies may prmise from vs to them-

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selves all possible assistance, Livt. [Marmaduke] Parkinson wth his people is alredie gone downe, ye like we shalbe redie to doe to ye rest of the Plantatione

We have receaved divers Peticions wherin wee wilbee readie to doe Justice, as ye proofes shall arise vppon Examinatione, nor can any man for ought we know, complayne Justly that A Lawfull hearinge hath been denied him at any tyme.

Lastlie we Conclude wth our humble request vnto you, yt you will not iudge of us by the event[s] of thing[s] wch are ever vncerten especyallie in a new Plantatione, nor by reportes of branded people, some of whom have deservedlie vndergone seuerall kind[s] of punishment nor of the malitious and vnknowinge, but rather to give Creditt to our publique informations, and then we shall Cherfullie, as we haue ever faithfully, [pro]ceede to the advauncment of your designes the good success whereof, we humblie recomend to ye favors of the Allmightie and ever remaine.

Most humbly at yor Comands.

James Cytty ye 20t of January 1622

Fra: Wyatt
George Yeardlie
George Sandys
Roger Smith
John Pountis
Raphe Hamer

[Indorsed:] To ye right Honoble ye Earle of Suthampton and other ye Lordes, wth the rest of the woorthie aduentures of ye Virginia Compeny.


Letter from George Thorpe to Sir Edwin Sandys (May 15–16, 1621) An excerpt from A Declaration of the state of the Colonie and Affaires in Virginia (1622) Letter from Richard Frethorne to His Parents (March 20, April 2–3, 1623) “The massacre upon the two and twentieth of March”; an excerpt from The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624) Letter from the Governor’s Council to the Earl of Southampton (December 2, 1624) Letter from the Rev. Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville (January 23, 1630) Voyage of Anthony Chester (1707)

APA Citation:
Governor's Council. Letter from the Governor’s Council to the Virginia Company of London (January 20, 1623). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Governor's Council. "Letter from the Governor’s Council to the Virginia Company of London (January 20, 1623)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 30 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, January 28
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