Primary Resource

Letter from Nathaniel Butler to Nathaniel Rich, January 12, 1621/1622

In this letter, dated January 12, 1621/1622, Nathaniel Butler writes to Nathaniel Rich, a prominent shareholder in the Virginia Company, about the challenges he faces as colonial Governor of Bermuda.

Transcription from Original

Noble Sir:

Our estate general, my letters to the Company carry. That, for warre, thoes to my Lord of Southampton have. My lord of Warwicks unhappy affayres are expressed in such as I have directed to himselfe and of all thes you may have a vewe at pleasure. I shall therfore relate thoes only to you which, though most necessary to be knowe and made use of, yet it is most inconvenient for the present that I should be professed to be the Author of that knowledge. But I knowe to whom I tell them.

I find my selfe delivered up to a world of confusion here. And perhaps ther hath bin a correspondinge aime as far as from England hether, to enwrappe me in all the obscuritie and darcknes that may be. The which notwithstandinge, I cleare up every day more and more and I hope shall doe untill I find it [a] perfect daye. Every man hath play'd his masterpeece for himselfe here, and Cap. Tucker the prime part; who hath obteyned such a concealed plott of ground, such a seate, such a house as it is easie to discearne that the lords and Company gave him they knewe not what, it being a house only fitt for a Governour and that will ever be obvious to him.

Cap. Kendall, whom I found Commandour here, although it may be he is noe ill man, yet certainely was not [a] good Governour. His one yeares generall wast will not be recovered in two of mine. His lenitie [leniency] and easienesse hath tied such a knott as (I feare me) may prove a Gordian one, rather to be cutt than untied. One of the effects thereof is that the inhabitants here might and wer to choose their owne Governor. Nay, he was so improvident as to tell me himselfe, that he did more relye upon his election that waye, than upon any commission he had from Cap: Tucker. This ill-soundinge opinion I have and shall crush and roote out by all means. As for the Officers he employed here, placed by himselfe duringe the absence of Felgate and Stokes, they are such that howsoever I can hardly find any better here, yet ther can scarce be found worse any wher. One of the cheife of them, I have had already by the heeles, for stabbeinge of a fellowe dangerously about the not-oleadgeinge of a health to the Devill. Judge you what instruments such creatures are for me to worcke withall. You shall doe exceeding much for this plantation, therfore, if by your meanes the Lords will take some care to send hether some honest or at least civill old soldiers, to be employed subordinately. The places I can assure you doe require and will requite them. As for such as serve for the present, they may be displaced at pleasure, for they every day give most just occasion. And yett for the Interim, I doubt not but to carry such a hand over them as shall make them every waye to respect me as their commandour, and with all to love, too, so farr as extreame drunckards can [be] sober men.

Our Ministers correspond [agree] not so well as wer to be wisht. For though neither of them are approvers of the booke of common prayer, yett the one of them lesse than the other, and hence growes the difference. Mr Lewes [Hughes] useth it not [at] all, Mr Lang with his owne straunge corrections. I have stickled [mediated] betweene them hetherto with this resolution, that either shall have freedome to use this owne course, provided he interrupt not the others; but that the people, in their christinings, marriages, buryings and the like should use their owne choyse. Wishinge them to be very wary, least their differences groweringe publick and hot, procure directions and injuctions from England, that may distaste them both. And in truth I came hether in good time to take this course; for Cap. Kendall, by beginning to make himselfe herein rather a partie than a Judge, gave vent to that fire which since I have thus raked up [banked]. As for their gift in preaching, ther is noe great choyse to be made, for what the one wants in expression the other doth in Substance. Yet of the two I may well expect the most disturbance from Mr Lang; for as for Mr Lewes [Hughes], I have hitherto wonne him by perswasions. The other, as he is more young, so he is more willfull; so that by noe meanes I could worck with him to marry a couple (for he made it a matter of conscience) because the man, who was five or six and twenty yeares of age, had not asked his mothers gad [good] will, being in England. Mr. Lewes [Hughes] did it at first word. I pray doe your best to procure us more store [of ministers] and if you will, better.

One especiall thinge, as a friend, I must expect from you, that you will use your endeavor to free me from the execution of that order of Court which countermands the divident of Tobacco here. I protest to you it will make me the most distastfull man to the people and most unprofitable to the Company that ever was here. I could wish that you wer with me here but one moneth, that your owne experience might tell you as much. Our only currant mony is Tobacco and if you take away that—farewell all commerce amonng our selvs, and then judge you what confusions will ensue. Certainely in time ther must be some quantitie of English mony employed to our use here, and why might not instructions be sent from you to the Governour here, to prohibite the exportation of all monyes from hence, as well as it is in England. And so by that which is dayley stolne over hether we should in a short time be well provided and sufficiently furnished.

Above all thinges (Noble Sir) be you none of those that shall slight my demands to the Company for the supply of munition here. I vowe to you that the best Fortes you have, in the case they are nowe, are litle better than scare-crowes. Let me desire you therfore to bestowe a serious and leisureable vewe of my generall letters, and as you find cause, to assist them with your best endeavours. I knowe well with what difficultie motions of charge [expense] are received, and what worme-wood they are to the generall taste. It is fitt therfore that they should be guilded with your perswasions, that they may the quieter be swallowed, for their owne good and that of the Plantation.

I have written in my letters to the Company also concerneinge the paucitie of the generall men, and how straunge I find it to be putt to the distribution of 60 men out of 30. And I have propounded some courses for the cure hereof, which I desire may passe your censure. If it were not for the accidentall Negroes (a fortune cast upon my selfe by all due), I wer not able to rayse one pound of Tobacco this yeare for the defrayeinge of any publicke worck. Cap: Kendall pretendeth an interest by waye of gyft to 14 of them and I have give waye unto it untill I heare from the Company. But the truth is, that it wer fitter that he wer rewarded (if he have deserved any) some other waye. For thes Slaves are the most proper and cheape instruments for this plantation that can be, and not safe to be any wher but under the Governours eye.

Another thinge I find would be very usefull in thes parties, which is the labour of Asses, who might be employed not only for the carriage of fresh water, but prove also a certaine meanes to bring downe the Tobacco to Shyppinge. Whereas nowe, sometimes the people ar constreyned to expect 10 or 12 dayes [delay] many times, for weather, especially at this time of the yeare, before any boate can stirre. It wer noe great charge therfore to send some two or three upon every shyppinge. I dare assure you, it would aboundantly quitt the cost.

As for the 30 men the ayrey worde of the order of the Court have sett [sent] over for me, I can find only 8th [sic], and to saye truth, if I had the full number, it wer all one. For I am putt to this exigent, that if I had men, I had noe land, and if I had land, I had no men. Will you doe me an especiall kindnesse therfore: procure the Company to allowe me one hundred pounds sterleinge by the yeare (the pay of their preachers) and so much it is possible I may deserve, and let them resume [assign] my whole allowance to their owne disposition. If you cannot procure this, worck out for me a remembrance by every shypinge of some beare [beer], oyle and wine (that we may not be forced to receive the Communion in water), least with the losse of my country I be found to expend also both my speritts and meanes together.

But howsoever, wilst I am here I will approve my selfe an honest and industrious servant to this Plantation, and shall make good the profession I allwayes made, that noe perticuler ends ever brought me hether. I doubt not (unlesse myne endeavors prove straungely crost) but to produce some fayre effects answerable to my desires. Certainely the place deserves all good respect. Neither is ther any feare of it unlesse unreasonable over aime at private gaine interrupt the most hope-full and ripest plantation that, I beleave, even seven yeares after 5500 of lieinge voide, war found to produce. Goe on (Noble Sir) and so let all good men [illegible] your assistance of it. Give me freely your commands and instructions to the end. I shall answere you every waye with my best endeavours and executions, beinge affectionated also by all meanes to expresse my selfe,

St Georges in the Summer Ilands

Jan. 12, 1620[/21]

Your true friend and servant.

Nath: Butler


To my honored friend

Sir Nathaniell Riche

give thes at Warwick

house in Holburne


Mr Butlers letters to me

From Barmuda

January 1619 [Rich's error]