Primary Resource

Roanoke Colonists' Appeal to John White; an excerpt from "The voyage of Edward Stafford and John White" by John White (1589)

John White, governor of the so-called Lost Colony at Roanoke Island, claimed that the settlers demanded he return to England to update their backer, Sir Walter Raleigh, on the colony's progress. At first he refused; then he required that the settler put the request in writing, which they did on August 25, 1587. According to the historian David Beers Quinn, "This testimonial is the first formal document to survive which originated in an English settlement on the mainland of North America." White's narrative, based on his journal, was published in Richard Hakluyt (the younger)'s Principall Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) as "The voyage of Edward Stafford and John White, set out by the aforesaid Sir Walter Ralegh the Fourth time to Virginia, An. 1587." Some spelling has been updated and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

May it please you, her Majesties subjects of England, we your friends and countrey-men, the planters of Virginia, doe by these presents let you and every of you to understand, that for the present and speedy supply of certaine our knowen and apparent lackes and needes, most requisite and necessary for the good and happie planting of us, or any other in this land of Virginia, wee all of one minde & consent, have most earnestly intreated, and uncessantly requested John White, Governour of the planters in Virginia, to passe into England, for the better and more assured helpe, and setting forward of the foresayd supplies: and knowing assuredly that he both can best, and wil labour and take paines in that behalfe for us all, and he not once, but often refusing it, for our sakes, and for the honour & maintenance of the action, hath at last, though much against his will, through our importunacie, yeelded to leave his governement, and all his goods among us, and himselfe in all our behalfes to passe into England, of whose knowledge and fidelitie in handling this matter, as all others, we doe assure our selves by these presents, and will you to give all credite thereunto, the 25 of August 1587.