Primary Resource

"Ordinances Directions and Instructions to Captaine John Woodleefe" by Sir William Throckmorton, et al. (September 4, 1619)

In this letter, dated September 4, 1619, Sir William Throckmorton, Richard Bearkley, George Thorpe, and John Smyth give orders to Captain John Woodlief for the government of the newly established Berkeley Hundred plantation in Virginia, including instructions for the observance of religious ceremonies, the location of resources, the protection of colonists, and the management of household affairs. These instructions include reference to the celebration of what some twentieth-century Virginians claimed was the first Thanksgiving. Each numbered item on the list begins with "Impr," or "I," which likely is an abbreviation for "imprimatur," or Latin for "let it be printed."

Transcription from Original

Ordinances direc[tions] and Instructions to Captaine John Woodleefe for the gouerment of or men and servant[s] in the Towne and hundred of Bearkley in Virginia giuen by vs Sr William Throkm[er]ton knight and barronet Richard Bearkley Esq, George Thorpe esq, and John Smyth gent wherevnto our comission of the date hereof made to the said captaine Woodleefe hath reference, the fourth day of September 1619 Anno xvij Jac. regis Angli &c [17th year of the reign of King James of England]

1 Impr[imatur] wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for planta[tion] in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetualy keept holy as a day of thanksgiuing to Almighty god.

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2 I[mprimatur] wee doe ordaine that the lord['s] day be keept in holy and religious order and that all bodily labour and vaine sport[s] and scandalous recreations be refrained, and that morning and evening prayer (according to the english booke of common prayer) be Dayly read and attended vnto and such other divine exercisses of preaching and reading to be on the said day vsed, as it shall please god to enable the minister for the tyme there being to [per]forme. And that all such other festivalls and holidayes be observed and keept wch are authorised and appoynted by the lawes and statutes of this realme of England, And the rites and ceremonies authorized [pre]scribed or apoynted by the ecclesiasticall lawes or channons of this realme of England and booke of com[m]on prayer (established by authority) be in all things observed and keept, according as it it vsed in the church of England.

3 I[mprimatur] wee doe ordayne and direct, that you our gouernor and all our people and servants assemble togeather once a day to prayer, imediatly after the forenoone labour ended and before dinner. And that the [per]son then absent (you our gouernor and yor assistants hereafter named exepted) shalbe punished with the losse of his supp[er] the same evening vnles the minister or yor selfe allowe of his excuse or cause of his absence

4 I[mprimatur] wee will and require that vpon yor arrivall in the kings river in Virginia or in any branch thereof that you take es especiall care for choice of the place where you first sett downe and extend for yor settled habita[tion] (be it one this side or beyond James [x x x x x] towne) that the same be healthy for ayre and accommodate wth fresh water and easy for accesse vtno wth shipe pinnance or barge rich alsoe in mould and [xx] soyle and of most likelyhoode to bring fourth the best commodities of that cuntry either already knowne or by vs hoped for, And iron oare silke grasse mulbery trees for norishing of silke wormes, apt for vines, english wheat, maize and other virginia corne and for rice, Aniseeds flax [oade] oyle seede and the like, rich alsoe in meadow and pasture for cattel and in timber for shiping and other vses, and alsoe convenient and vsefull for fowle fish and the like, And that you reso[xx]ue not on the place wthout the advice of yor assistants hereafter named and to the assent of the greater number of them, Wherein allsoe wee will you to [pro]ceede wth the advice of SrGeorge Yardley gouernor of that kingdome, deliuering our [lett]ers written

— page 209 —

vnto him in that behalfe, provided that you settle not but where the natiues, (if any be or clayme) are first avoyded by composi[tion]

5 I[mprimatur] wee doe ordayne and direct that immediately after the place of habita[tion] is agreed vppon in manner aforesaid, that you cause forthwth to be erected houses fit for the present shelter and succor of our people wch as wee suppose, may be for the better expedi[tion] built homelike and to be couered wth bordes; of wch we commend to yor especiall care the framing of two, where of the one for the safe keeping of the tooles implement[s] of husbandry powder, shott, Armor, and victuall, wch wee wish may be be strongly planted on the inside: And the other for your assemblies at time of prayer and time of diet, and our further direction is, That if the ship shall disburden for lading before the said storehouses for receipt thereof cane be built, That then the same be vnladen into the com[m]on warehouse in James Towne, or the Bermuda granary by the gouernors order and therevnto first obtayned.

6 I[mprimatur] wee doe ordaine that wth all convenient expedi[tion] you cause to be inclosed 400 acres (or more) wth a strong pale of seaven foote and halfe highe whereby such corne grayne seed[s] vines Tobacco, and the like as shalbe sowen or planted and such cattle as shalbe transported by vs or provided in Virginia, will bemore safely preserved.

7 I[mprimatur] wee doe nominate and com[m]end vnto you as yor assistant[s] for yor better exection of the authority by vs on you conferred, fferdinando yeat, John Blanchard Richard Godfry Rowland Panter and Thomas Coppy, of whose seu[er]all integrities and discretions wee hauing made sufficient trial doe therefore ordaine, that in all businesses of import of what kind soever, you take theire advise, and the assent of the greatest [par]te of them fiue: And that they diet wth and as yor selfe, at one and the same table togeather, And that alsoe all the rest doe diet togeather, and to be equaly [pro]vided for as nere as may be:

8 I[mprimatur] we do ordaine, that there shalbe an ordinary Corps dewe gard each night in our towne of Bearkley, to consist at the first of fiue, to succeede in torne as the company will afford and afterwards as yor number shall encrease whereof one to be of the number of those seaven that shall be deputie and called, captaines of the watche.

— page 210 —

9 I[mprimatur] for the more decent and comley gouerment and ordering of our famyly wee substitute and appoynt, fferdinando yeat to be ancient, and Rowland Paynter Sergeant of the company, And John Blanchard to be steward of the houshold and clarke of the store of apparrell and beding And the said Rowland Paynter to be clarke of the kitchin, wthwth two or more (as Caters or cuntry Purvires) to be associated vnto him, And Henry Perce to be vsher of the hall and Thomas Partridg now abiding in Virginia (if he ioyne vnto to be balyffe of our husbandries, if not, then whone you and yor assistant[s] shall thinke meete, and the said fferdinando yeat to take care of our Armor and of all our tooles of husbandry.

10 I[mprimatur] wee doe ordyane that if it shall soe please god that Mr Woodleefe dye before the Arivall of Mr Chester, That then the gouerment of our families and of our affayres shall remaine wth and vnder those Assistant[s] and the survivers of them that wee haue before associated vnto Mr Woodleefe and if it shall plase god that either Mr Woodleefe or Mr Chester shall die after both of them are arrived in Virginia, That then the gouerment of both famylies shall remaine wth and vnder the surviver of them ayded wth the assistant[s] of bothe families.

[Indorsed:] Copy of Instructions geven to Captayne Woodleefe. 4. Sept. 1619. 17. Jac.