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This Day (That Smokie Weed Edition)


On this day in 1619, Sir Edwin Sandys became treasurer — which is to say, top dog — of the Virginia Company of London. He had already helped draw up the Great Charter of 1618 that created the General Assembly, but now, with an almost breathtaking lack of prescience, he set about opposing any and all forms of that “smokie weed of Tobacco.” (Sandys was hardly great friends with the king, but on this point they agreed. James decried English smoking as an unfortunate imitation of “the barbarous and beastly manners of the wild, godless and slavish Indians, in so vile and stinking a custom.”)
What Sandys did get right was understanding Virginia’s need for more and more people. With so many colonists dying so quickly, he was forced to ship over thousands and thousands of immigrants just to keep the population stable. Still, these servants were great for the economy, which meant that despite Sandys’s best efforts, the 1620s were a tobacco boom time.
And then, in 1622, the Indians attacked. And there was an investigation. And it turned out that Sir Edwin Sandys — he who had decried that “smokie weed of Tobacco” — was making a killing off his company’s tobacco monopoly. As our entry dryly puts it, “this seemed entirely inappropriate,” especially since the Virginia Company was going through tough times.
So the king pounced, and poof — Sir Edwin Sandys was out of a job and the Company disappeared. For better or worse, Virginia was now the king’s problem.
IMAGE: Sir Edwin; this picture of his parents, meanwhile, is much cooler.

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