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Document Number: AJ-076
Author: De la Warr, Thomas West, Baron, 1577-1618
Title: The Relation of the Lord De-La-Ware
Source: Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (editor). Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907). Pages 207-214.
Pages/Illustrations: 10 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-076/

Author Note

Thomas West, the third Lord de La Ware (July 9, 1577-June 7, 1618), served both Queen Elizabeth and King James I as privy councilor. He was a member of the Virginia Company’s governing board and in 1610, was appointed the second governor of the Jamestown Colony. West resided in the colony for one year and restored order to the colony, which was floundering due to internal conflicts and dwindling supplies. He was unable to remain in Virginia due to repeated bouts of illness and returned to England in 1611. He remained Governor of Jamestown until he died in 1618 while traveling on a ship attempting to return to the colony.

Jamestown Settlement, 1607-1625

In 1606, the London Company received a royal charter from King James I to organize an expedition and establish colonies in North America. The Plymouth Company would establish the short-lived colony in Maine (see AJ-042). The Virginia Company set up England’s first permanent colony in Jamestown, Virginia. Their primary goal was profit; investors hoped settlers would find valuable natural resources, such as lumber, herbs, pitch, and even gold, to send back to England. However, the English government also wanted to resist the Spanish colonization of North America (see AJ-077 for a Spaniard’s account of the Jamestown colony). One hundred and four men and boys came ashore in May 1607-no women arrived until the following year. Over the next three years almost eight hundred settlers would arrive to colonize the Virginia coasts-six hundred of them arriving in 1609. Unfortunately, Jamestown was not an ideal spot for a colony. The low marshy land was not healthy, and clean water could be difficult to find. Attacks by the Powhatan Indians began shortly after the English colonists built their first fort at the Jamestown site. Fighting between the English and Indians continued, despite the settlers’ reliance on the Indians for corn during the difficult winters. In addition, many of the settlers were hardly qualified to farm and survive in this difficult setting. During the first years, mortality was very high through disease, starvation, and accident.

Captain John Smith was elected president in September 1608 (see AJ-074 and AJ-075). By enforcing strict discipline and requiring all settlers to farm, he increased the food supply. However, a serious injury in 1609 forced his return to England. One of the original settlers, George Percy, (see AJ-073) was president of the Virginia’s council during the winter of 1609 and 1610, called the “starving time” when only sixty settlers survived. In June 1610, they decided to abandon the town, but the arrival of the new governor, Lord de La Ware, and his supply ships brought the colonists back to the fort. In 1612, the settlers began to grow tobacco on their plantations-over time, this successful crop transformed the colony into a successful venture. John Rolfe, who married Pocahontas (see AJ-079), is credited with first planting a marketable tobacco in Virginia. In 1619, the same year Africans were brought into the colony as slaves, the first representative assembly in North America was set up-the Virginia Assembly (see AJ-080). In 1624, the Virginia Company dissolved and Virginia became a royal colony under the governance of the English Crown.

Document Note

West wrote to the counsel members of the Virginia Company to explain why he was unable to remain in Virginia and carry out his duties as governor. He further detailed the progress of the colony under his management, which included improvements to the fort, and continued trade opportunities with the areas Native American tribes. West ended his report by assuring the counsel that a profit could be made from the agricultural resources of the colony. The Relation of Lord De-la-ware was first published by Stationers’ Hall on July 6, 1611. Additional publications took place in Captain John Smith’s Generall Historie (1624), by Griswold (1859 and 1868), and in Alexander Brown’s Genesis of the United States (1890). The document shown here is from Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (editor), Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The Jamestown Rediscovery archeology project website at http://www.apva.org/jr.html contains historical summaries, a timeline, biographies, and description of the archeological findings made at Jamestown.

At the Virtual Jamestown website, you can find a portrait of George Percy, at http://www.iath.virginia.edu/vcdh/jamestown/pic24a.html as well as other first-hand accounts of the Jamestown settlement (see http://www.iath.virginia.edu/vcdh/jamestown/fhaccounts_date.html.

The Public Broadcasting Station website on the history of Africans in America presents a narrative of the early years of Virginia’s history and explores the settlers’ difficult relationship with the Native Americans and the introduction of black slavery at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/title.html.

A short biography of West can be found at http://www.famousamericans.net/lordthomaswestdelaware.

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