Jamestown, was an English colony founded by the Virginia Company of London in 1607, Its main purpose was to be a trading post. On October 1, 1608, a company of settlers arrived aboard the English vessel Mary and Margaret with the Second Supply. The journey took roughly three months. The company recruited skilled craftsmen and industry specialists: who were capable of making soaps, glass, lumber milling (planks), and naval stores (pitch, turpentine, and tar). The products produced by these technicians e were the first America made products to be exported to Europe.
However, despite all these efforts, profits from exports were not sufficient to meet the expenses and expectations of the investors back in England, and no silver or gold had been discovered, as earlier hoped. The early years of the settlers and the Virginia Company of London in the said colony was marked by a great struggle to survive. In 1609 the town had nearly 500 inhabitants, and by the spring of 1610 only 65 were left. New supplies of provision that spring kept the colony going.
The inhabitants were dependent on supplies from England and on the Indians for food. Ironically, the investors of the Virginia Company of London expected to reap rewards from their speculative investments. Upon the arrival of the Second Supply, they made known their frustrations and made demands upon the leaders of Jamestown in written form. They specifically demanded that the colonists must somehow pay for the cost of the voyage so that they may recover a part of what they spent to finance the expedition.
The Colonials were in a state of mental unrest because the means to pay-off the expenses of the said expedition eluded them. The responsibility to enlighten the Virginia Company of London concerning the plight of the poor colonials fell on the shoulders of John Smith, the new leader of the council. Meanwhile, dissent within the colony fermented due to laziness, lack of supplies, and periodic attempts at desertion by many of the colonists. Personal conflicts, as well as disagreements over new policies being formulated in London, developed among Smith and various leaders.
As a result, Smith left Jamestown to explore and map the Chesapeake Bay region and search for badly needed food supplies. Due to bad government and near chaos, Smith was eventually elected president of the local council in September 1608. He instituted a policy of rigid discipline, strengthened defenses and encouraged farming with this admonishment: “He who does not work, will not eat. ” Because of his strong leadership, the settlement survived and grew during the next year.
John Smith, delivered a “wake-up call” to the investors in London which emphasized on the things which they need from their financiers and the current “poverty stricken” status which they are experiencing. The terse reply from Smith awakened the investors from their slumber. There are strong indicators that the investors based in London comprehended and embraced Smith’s message. Their Third Supply mission was by far the largest and best equipped. With a fleet of no less than eight ships, the Third Supply left Plymouth in June, 1609.
Unfortunately, Smith was accidentally injured by a gunpowder burn and had to return to England for treatment in October 1609, never to return to Virginia again. On the subject of the Virginia Company, it is notable that, throughout its existence, Sir Edward Sandys, was a leading force. He, of course, also hoped for profits, but it is also noted that among his goals was included the establishment of a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation’s overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods.
Although profits proved elusive for their investors, Sir Edwin Sandys visions concerning a colony which would fulfill his ambitions eventually materialized. Despite the inspired leadership of John Smith, and others, the survival of the colony was still pretty much in question. The threat of Starvation, hostile relations with the Indians, and the lack of profitable exports all loomed beyond the horizon as possible threats to the continued survival of the colony. It was very fortunate indeed, that one of the colonists, John Rolfe successfully introduced and exported tobacco to the market in 1612.
This huge discovey by Rolfe paved the way for a better financial outlook for the inhabitants of the colony. It was on one of those 3-acre plots that John Rolfe tinkered with tobacco and transformed Jamestown. The English regarded the tobacco grown in Virginia as much too coarse to compete in the growing world market with the sweet-tasting leaf the Spanish raised in the West Indies. Rolfe took the Indies seed, and combined it with the newly discovered local variety in 1612. This experiment produced a leaf that was smooth to smoke and easy to raise.
The appearance of the new product in the market resulted to a sudden demand for the newly discovered produce. London was soon importing tens of thousands of pounds of Virginia leaf a year. Virtually every clearing in the colony was planted with tobacco. It was on this era that the various incentives to investors in the Virginia Colony finally paid off by 1617. By this time, the colonists were exporting 50,000 pounds of tobacco to England a year and were beginning to generate enough profit to ensure the economic survival of the colony.
The discovery that tobacco could be grown profitably gave it new lease on life and, as the colony shifted to agriculture, its permanence was guaranteed. Amidst the newly discovered potential of cultivating tobacco, another problem remained to be unsolved; the problem concerning the colonials’ relationship with the Indians. Another thing of great import which should be noted about John Rolfe is that he indiretly paved the way for temporary peace between the Early English settlers and the Indians.
It should be noted that in the temporary peace which ensued John Rolfe also had a hand. A great decision in his personal life helped ease Jamestown’s relationship with the Indians, which had deteriorated since Smith’s exit. During the period of Smith’s leadership, he employed more peaceful methods in dealing with the natives, consisting only of threats and an occasional hut-burning to show toughness. His successors, however favored extreme violence in the form of massacres to show that they mean business.
In one such occasion, they lead one nighttime attack, wherein the English killed 15 men, burned their village, and captured and murdered their queen and her children. The Indians responded with attacks of their own. Amid the strife, the English took a hostage—not an ordinary hostage, but Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas. The Indian attacks immediately subsided. While the princess remained in custody, Rolfe got Dale’s permission to marry her. In April 1614—the year he first sent tobacco to London—Rolfe and Pocahontas wed in the Jamestown church. Because of this union, a temporary peace came to be.