Primary Resource

Letter from George Thorpe to John Smyth (December 19, 1620)

In this letter, dated December 19, 1620, George Thorpe reassures his business partner John Smyth that he and his fellow colonists remain healthy, despite widespread and largely accurate reports of high mortality both for Virginia's Englishmen as a whole and for those who have settled at Berkeley Hundred. Some historians have suggested that the "soe good drinke of Indian corne" Thorpe mentions may have been the colony's, and perhaps America's, first batch of whiskey.

Transcription from Original

Sr I hope you shall receaue this letter by Tho. Partridge by whose relation I must intreat you to satisfie you[r] selfe in any thinge wherein I shalbe wantinge att tis time wee beinge nowe in the busines of examininge wittnesses concerninge Captaine Argoll wherein wee sit comonly till midnight and beside I did not expect that this would haue departed soe sodainelye and I doe intend God-willinge to write to you and the rest of or Aduenturers by the next against wch time I hope Captaine woodleefes Tobacco wilbe ready and therefore I praie you excuse mee to them till then. x x x x x Notwthstanding Sr that you will heare many strainge report[s] both of the death of or owne people and of other others yeat bee not discoraged therein for I thanke God I neuer had my health better in my life then I haue had since my cominge into this Countrey and I coulde saie the like of diuers others and am [per]swaded that more doe die here of the disease of their minde then of theire body by hauinge this countrey victuall[s] ouer-praised vnto them in England & by not knowinge they shall drinke water here although god-bethanked this countrey meand[s] in plentie of victuall euerie daie (as I shall make appeare in or[par]ticular by wrytinge) and wee haue found a waie to make soe good drinke of Indian corne as I [pro]test I haue diuers times refused to drinke good stronge Englishe beare and chosen to drinke that. Sr I speake it as a frend (wch is a heigh com[me]ndation) I find the Countrey to bee such as that you maie wth a great deale of thankefullnes to God of Comfort to you[r] selfe resolue to place you[r] owne seconde sonne here and account him as Good a man of Lyuinge (euerie waie) as his elder brother only if you furnishe him wth a competent number of servant[s] and wth a reasonable stocke of catle wch I hope you maie doe of you[r] owne by that time, if or aduenturers take but any reasonable course in the meane time, I beseche you Sr bee carefull of my poore wife & children vnto whom I haue written to come ouer hither I praie further her in what you maie I will send her by the next a note of what is fitt for her to bringe for her Jorney and for this countrey wch nowe I cannot doe the shipp beinge already

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gone downe wch drives mee in hast to end yet not wthout an earnest desier to bee remembred to all that will vouchsafe to bee my frend[s] and am Sr

You[r] most assured Louinge ffrinde to searue you
Geo. Thorpe.
Southampton Hund. this 19th of December 1620

[Addressed:] To the Ri[ght]: wor[thy] my verie Louinge frend John Smith Esquier att North nybley giue these.

[Indorsed:] Mr Thorps [letter] .19. Dec. 1620. 18 Jac. [18th year of the reign of King James I.] Brought by Thomas [Par]tridge.