||Molina, Diego de
||Letter of Don Diego de Molina, 1613
||Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (editor). Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907). Pages 217-224.
||10 / 0
Don Diego de Molina was a member of a Spanish convoy sent to
spy on the English colony in Virginia. Members of the Jamestown
Colony captured Molina and two other spies in 1611.
Of the three, Molina was the only one returned to
Spain. In 1618, Molina encouraged King Philip III
to engage the English colonists in battle for control over
silver mines he believed existed in the Jamestown territory. His
plans were never carried out.
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. 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. In 1624, the Virginia Company
dissolved and Virginia became a royal colony under the
governance of the English Crown.
Molina’s letter was written to Don Alonzo de
Velasco, Spanish Ambassador in London, 1610-1613. He reported on
the weaknesses of the fort at Jamestown and encouraged the
ambassador to use force to stop the progress of English
colonization in the New World. Molina feared the spread of
English colonization into western territories and eventually the
threat of English control over the seas. He described the river
inlets of the Chesapeake Bay and believed that the area would
prove profitable to the Spanish because of gold and silver mines
in the area. In 1890, Don Diego’s letter was translated from
Spanish to English and published in Alexander Brown’s Genesis
of the United States. 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 other
first-hand accounts of the Jamestown settlement (see
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