The history of the first discovery and settlement of Virginia: being an essay towards a general history of this colony.
Stith, William, 1707-1755.
Page  [unnumbered] Page  iii


_I HERE present the Reader with the first Part of my History of our own Country. When I had left my laborious Employment at the College, and began to enjy a littl Leisure, I could not think myself wholly dis|charged from the Service of the Publick. As therefore my late Uncle, Sir John Ran|dolph, had purposed to write a Preface to our Laws, and therein to give an Historical Account of our Constitution and Government, but was prevented from prosecuting it to Effect, by his many and weighty Publick Employments, and by th vast Burthen of private Business from his Clients, I thought the History of Virginia would be no mean or unacceptable Un|dertaking. For such a Work, well performed, must naturally be a great Satisfaction, and even Ornament, to our Country. Besides which, I was farther induced by some other Reasons. It is now an hundred and forty Years, since the first Disco|very and Settlement of Virginia; and as many useful Papers and Records, relating to our History, may probably be found at present, which will perhaps be lost hereafter, I conceived it high time, that something material should be attempted in it. For I need not say, how empty and unsatisfactory every thing, yet published upon the Subject, is; excepting the excellent but confused Materials, left us in Captain Smith's History.

I speak not this with the Pride and Malevolence of an Au|thor, that would raise his own Reputation by depreciating his Brother Writers; but it is a Censure most justly due to those, who have yet meddled with our History, and which I, for my own Part, owe them, for the Vexation and Disappoint|ment I met with, in reading their Works. And I can far|ther declare with great Truth, that had any thing of Conse|quence been done in our History, I could most willingly have saved myself the Trouble, of conning over our old musty Re|cords, Page  iv and of studying, connecting, and reconciling the jar|ring and disjointed Writings and Relations of different Men and different Parties. However, I was sorry to see all our Hopes at an End by the Death of Sir John Randolph; an was unwilling the Design should be ntirely abandoned, and that our History should still remain in its old Confusion and Uncertainty. I had also, by my Intimacy with tht Gent••|man, had the Sight and Perusal of many excellent Materials in his Hands; and thought, I could not handsomely be denied the Use of any thing else to my Purpose, either in our publick Offices, or the Possession of private Gentlemen.

I my further add, that I at present ••joy a perfect Lei|sue and Retirment, and am not burthened with ••y publick Post or Office. So that such a Work will be a noble and ele|gant Entertainment for my vacant Hours, which it is not i my Power to employ, more to my own Satisfaction, or the Use and Benefit of my Country.

AS to my Helps in carrying on this Work, besides De Brye's Edition of Hariot's Treatise and With's Cuts and Maps, an besides casual Assistances from such Parts of Purchas, as I could procure, from Dr. Hey••n, and other things in Print, the inquisitive Reader will easily perceive, how much of this Volume is founded on Captain Smith's Materials. They are large and good, and of unquestionable Authority, for what is related, whilst he staid in the Country, But they are how|ver, as I before observed, vasly confused and perplexed, and took me more Labour and Pains to digest them, than I at first expected. The latter Part of his History also, especially from Captain Argall's Government, i liale to some just Suspicion. Not that I question Captain Smith's Integrity; for I take him to have been a very honest Man, and a strenuous Lover of Truth. But being himself absent in those times upon other Projects, and having an Acquaintance and Friendship with Sir Tho••• Smith and Captain Argall, he seems chiefly to have 〈…〉 upon them and their Friends, for his Account of things. And particularly, his Account of Captain Argall's Government is expresly taken from himself, and from a Rela|tion of Mr. Rolfe's. Besides which, it is evident that his Mind was somewhat eagered by the Neglects shown him, and by the Refusal of some just Reward for his many and great Services. So that he does not seem much inclined, to think well of the Cmpany or their Proceedings. And such Prejudices and Partialities do silently and imperceptibly slide into the best and honestst Minds; and ought therefore to be carefully watched and guarded against by all Men, but especially by Historians▪ But from whatever Cause it proceeded, it is cer|tain▪ that he gave a very wrong Idea of Captain Argall and Page  v his Government, and of the Reasons of the Dissolution of the Company, in which he has been implicitely followed by all ou succeeding Historians. And I would not have the Reader sur|prised to find my Account of those Particulars, so very dif|ferent from all others, yet in Print. For I assure him, there is not one Article, scarce a Word, in my Relation, which is not founded on the express Testimony, and the incontestible Authority, of our Records in the Capitol, and the Company's Iournals.

FOR besides thse printed Accounts, I have had the greatest and most considerable Assistances from authentick Manuscripts. Sir John Randolph's Collection of publick Papers, and the Capitol Records, have been of no little Use to me, and will be still of greater Service and Consequence in the Prosecution of the Work. But I must confess myself most endebted, in this Part of my History, to a very full and fair Manuscript of the London Company's Records, which was communicated to me by the late worthy President of our Council, the Honoura|ble William Byrd, Esq Neither could I well excuse myself, if I did not likewise acknowledge, with what Humanity and Politeness, that well bred Gentleman and Scholar, not only communicated those Manuscripts to me, but also threw open his Library (the best and most copious Collection of Books in our Part of America) and was himself even studious and sollici|tous, to search out and give me, whatever might be useful to my Undertaking.

AS thse Records are a very curious and valuable Piece of the Antiquities of our Country, I shall give the Reader 〈◊〉 Account of them, which I received, many Years ago, in Con|versation with Col. Byrd and Sir John Randolph. I had then no Thoughts of writing the History of Virginia, and therefore took less Notice, than I otherwise should have done. However, as I am perhaps the only Person now living, any thing acquainted with their History, it will not be improper to give it to the Reader, as I judge it highly worthy of his Knowledge.

THESE Records are a Iournal of the Company's Pr|ceedings, from Day to Day; and are written in two large Folio Volumes, on a Kind of Elephat Paper, generally in a very fair and legible Hand. Each Page is subscribed by Ed|ward Collingwood, the Company's Secretary, thus; Com. Collingwood, which is, as I take it, Compared, Colling|wood. Besides which, there is a Testification at the End of each Volume. At the End of the first, under the Hands of Edward Waterhouse and Edward Collingwood, Secretaries of the two Companies for Virginia and the Somer-Island, that they had compared that with the Original Court-Book, and Page  vi〈◊〉 it to be a true and perfect Copy of the same, except the Omission of one Court and Part of another. The second Vo|lume is signed by the said Secretary Collingwood and Thomas Collet, of the Middle Temple, Gentlemn, testifying the same thing, except in a few immaterial Points, where were wanted some Original Papers: These Volumes ony contain the Company's Proceedings for a little above five Years, viz. from April 28, 1619 to June 7, 1624; including the whole Time of Sir Edwin Sandys's and the Earl of Southampton's Administration. However they are not a brief and summary Entry of the principal Points and Matters concluded upon, according to the common Methods of Courts, but give, at length, the chief Speeches, Reasons, and Debates, that hap|pened in their Courts, during that time. And as it was a Pe|riod of vast Contest and Dispute, they often recur back to former Times and Transactions, and thereby give us a clear Idea and Account of the chief Matters and Proceedings of the Company, almost from it's first Institution and Foundation.

THIS Copy was taken, by the Order, and for the Use, of the Earl of Southamptn, the Company's Treasurer at that time; who seeing, how things were going with the Company, had their Records thus carefully copied and compared, and au|thetically attested. Whether his Lordship intended to stand Suit with the King for the Rights and Privileges of the Com|pany, or whether he did it only in Vindication of his own and the Company's Reputatio, is uncertain. Howe••r they were carefully preserved in t•• Family; and as the Original Court-Books ere taken 〈◊〉 the Company by the King and Privy Council, and never 〈◊〉 restored to them, that I can find, but probaly destroyed 〈◊〉 lost, this is perhap the only Copy, now extant. After the Death of that Earl's Son, the Duke of Southampton (the worthy Partner in the Ministry with the Earl of Clarendon, after the Restoration) which happened in the Year 1667, the late Col. Byrd's Father, be|ing then in England, purchased them of is Executors, for sixty Guineas. And thus have they been handed down, to lear the Honour and Uprightness of the Actions of that No|bleman and the Company, and to the full Conviction of King James's arbitrary and oppressive Proceedings against them.

I therefore hope, my Freedom with that King's Character, will need no Apology. For if more than a Century is not enough to un-solomonise that silly Monarch, I must give up all my Notions of things. A King's Character, whilst he lives, is, and ought to be sacred, because his Authority de|pends upon it. But when his Authority, the Reason of it's being sacred, determines, the Inviolableness of his Character is also at an End. And I take it to be the main Part of the Page  vii Duty and Office of an Historian, to paint Men and Things in their true and lively Colours; and to do that Iustice to the Vices and Follies of Princes and great Men, after their Death, which it is not safe or proper to do, whilst they are alive. And herein, as I judge, chiefly consist the Strength and Excellency of Tacitus and Suetonius. Their Stile and Man|ner are far inferior to Livy's, and the Writers of the Julian and Augustan Ages. But they have more than painted, and exposed alive to View, the greatest Train of Monsters, that ever disgraced a Throne, or did Dishonour to human Na|ture; and thereby have obtained to themselves a Rank, among the best and most valuable Writers. King James I. fell in|deed far short of the Caesar's superlative Wickedness and Su|premacy in Vice. He was, at best, only very simple and injudicious, without any steady Principle o Iustice and Ho|nour; which was rendered the more odious and ridiculous, by his large and constant Pretensions to Wisdom and Virtue. And he had, in Truth, all the Forms of Wisdom; for ever erring very learnedly, with a wise Saw, or Latin Sentence, in his Mouth. For he had been bred up under Buchanan, one of the brightest Genius's and most accomplished Scholars of that Age, who had given him Greek and Latin in great Waste and Profusion, but it was not in his Power to give him good Sense. That is the Gift of God and Nature alone, and is not to be taught; and Greek and Latin, without it, only cumber and verload a weak Head, and often render the Fool more abundantly foolish. I must therefore confess, that I have ever had, from my first Acquaintance with History, most contemptible Opinion of this Monarch; which has per|haps been much heightened and increased, by my long studying and conning over the Materials of this History. For he ap|pears, in his Dealings with the Company, to have acted with such mean Arts and Fraud, and such little Tricking, as high|ly misbecome Majesty. And I am much mistaken, if his ar|bitrary Proceedings and unjust Designs will appear from any Part of his History more fully, than from these Transactions with the Company and Colony; which have been this far un|known to the English Historians, and will perhaps be still thought too insignificant for their Notice. However I hope, my speaking my Mind thus sincerely and impartially will give no Umbrage or Offence to any Man, or Party of Men. For I declare myself to be of no arty; but have laboured solely with a View, to find out and elate the Truth. And as r King James I. I think and sp••k of hm, with the same Freedom and Indifferecy, that I would think and speak of an other Man, lon since dead and therefore I ave no way restrained my Sti••, in freely exposing his weak and 〈◊〉 Proceedings.

Page  viiiIN the succeeding Parts of this History, I am afraid, I shall meet with much greater Difficulties, then I have yet ••|countered. For I must chiefly depend on such of our Records, s are still extant. Many of them doubtless perished in the tate-house at James-Town, and by other Accidents; and those, which have survived the Flames and Injuries of Time, have been so carelesly kept, are so broken, interrupted, and deficient, have been so mangled by Moths and Worms, and 〈◊〉 in such a confused and jumbled State (at least the most an|ient of them) being huddled together in single Leaves and hees in Books out of the Binding, that I foresee, it will cost me infinite Pains and Labour, to reduce and digest them into ny tolerable Order, so as to form from them a just and con|nected Narration. And some of them have been lost, even since Mr. Hickman was Clerk of the Secretary's Office. For I cannot find, among the Papers in our Offices, some old Rolls, to which he refers. I have therefore been obliged, in a few Points, to depend upon the Fidelity of that Gentleman's Ex|tracts out of our oldest Records, made for the Use of Sir Joh Randolph. But these things were so far from discouraging and reuffing me, that they were rather an additional Spur t my Industry. For I th••ght it highly necessary, before they were entirely lost and destroyed, to apply them to their proper Use, the forming a good History. But as the House of Bur|gesses, in a late Session, upon my shewing their moldering and dangerous State to some of the Members, have justly take them into their Consideration, and have ordered them to be reviewed and fairly transcribed, I doubt not, by their Assist|ance, and with the Help of the late Sir John Randolph's Papers, and such others, as are in the Hands of private Gentlemen in the Country, and will undoubtedly be readily communicated to further so noble and so useful a Design, to be able to collect and compose a tolerably regular and complet History of our Country.

Vanna,Dec. 10, 1746.