Primary Resource

"The gouernment left to Captaine Yearly," from Book 4 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624)

In this section of book 4 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, published in 1624, Captain John Smith tells of reuniting with Pocahontas in London.

Transcription from Original

The gouernment left to Captaine Yearly.

NOw a little to commentary vpon all these proceedings, let me leaue but this as a caueat by the way; if the alteration of gouernment hath subuerted great Empires, how dangerous is it then in the infancy of a commonweale? The multiplicity of Gouernors is a great damage to any State, but vncertaine daily changes are burdensome, because their entertainments are chargeable, and many will make hay whilst the sunne doth shine, how euer it shall fare with the generality.

This deare bought Land with so much bloud and cost, hath onely made some few rich, and all the rest losers. But it was intended at the first, the first vndertakers should be first preferred and rewarded, and the first aduenturers satisfied, and they of all the rest are the most neglected; and those that neuer aduentured a groat, neuer see the Country, nor euer did any seruice for it, imploied in their places, adorned with their deserts, and inriched with their ruines; and when they are fed fat, then in commeth others so leane as they were, who through their omnipotency doe as much. Thus what one Officer doth, another vndoth, only ayming at their owne ends, thinking all the world derides his dignity, cannot fill his Coffers being in authority with any thing. Euery man hath his minde free, but he can neuer be a true member to that estate, that to enrich himselfe beg-

— page 120 —

gers all the Countrie. Which bad course, there are many yet in this noble plantation, whose true honour and worth as much scornes it, as the others loues it; for the Nobilitie and Gentrie, there is scarce any of them expects any thing but the prosperitie of the action: and there are some Merchants and others, I am confidently perswaded, doe take more care and paines, nay, and at their continuall great charge, than they could be hired to for the loue of money, so honestly regarding the generall good of this great worke, they would hold it worse than sacrilege, to wrong it but a shilling, or extort vpon the common souldier a penny. But to the purpose, and to follow the Historie.

The gouernment of Captaine Yearley. Twelue Saluages slaine, twelue prisoners taken, and peace concluded. Eleuen men cast away. A bad president.

Mr. George Yearly now inuested Deputie Gouernour by SrThomas Dale, applied himselfe for the most part in planting Tobacco, as the most present commoditie they could deuise for a present gaine, so that euery man betooke himselfe to the best place he could for the purpose: now though Sir Thomas Dale had caused such an abundance of corne to be planted, that euery man had sufficient, yet the supplies were sent vs, came so vnfurnished, as quickly eased vs of our superfluitie. To relieue their necessities, he sent to the Chickahamanias for the tribute Corne Sir Thomas Dale and Captaine Argall had conditioned for with them: But such a bad answer they returned him, that hee drew together one hundred of his best shot, with whom he went to Chickahamania; the people in some places vsed him indifferently, but in most places with much scorne and contempt, telling him he was but Sir Thomas Dales man, and they had payed his Master according to condition, but to giue any to him they had no such order, neither would they obey him as they had done his Master; after he had told them his authoritie, and that he had the same power to enforce them that Dale had, they dared him to come on shore to fight, presuming more of his not daring, than their owne valours. Yearly seeing their insolencies, made no great difficultie to goe on shore at Ozinies, and they as little to incounter him: but marching from thence towards Mamanahunt, they put themselues in the same order they see vs, lead by their Captaine Kissanacomen, Gouernour of Ozinies, & so marched close along by vs, each as threatning other who should first begin. But that night we quartered against Mamanahunt, and they passed the Riuer. The next day we followed them; there are few places in Virginia had then more plaine ground together, nor more plentie of Corne, which although it was but newly gathered, yet they had hid it in the woods where we could not finde it: a good time we spent thus in arguing the cause, the Saluages without feare standing in troupes amongst vs, seeming as if their countenances had beene sufficient to dant vs: what other practises they had I know not; but to preuent the worst, our Captaine caused vs all to make ready, and vpon the word, to let flie among them, where he appointed: others also he commanded to seize on them they could for prisoners; all which being done according to our direction, the Captaine gaue the word, and wee presently discharged, where twelue lay, some dead, the rest for life sprawling on the ground, twelue more we tooke prisoners, two whereof were brothers, two of their eight Elders, the one tooke by Sergeant Boothe, the other by Robert a Polonian; Neere one hundred bushels of Corne we had for their ransomes, which was promised the Souldiers for a reward, but it was not performed: now Opechankanough had agreed with our Captaine for the subiecting of those people, that neither hee nor Powhatan could euer bring to their obedience, and that he should make no peace with them without his aduice: in our returne by Ozinies with our prisoners wee met Opechankanough, who with much adoe, fained with what paines hee had procured their peace, the which to requite, they called him the King of Ozinies, and brought him from all parts many presents of Beads, Copper, and such trash as they had; here as at many other times wee were beholding to Captaine Henry Spilman our Interpreter, a Gentleman had liued long time in this Countrie, and sometimes a prisoner among the Saluages, and done much good seruice, though but badly rewarded. From hence we marcht towards Iames towne, we had three

— page 121 —

Boats loaded with Corne and other luggage, the one of them being more willing to be at Iames towne with the newes than the other, was ouerset, and eleuen men cast away with the Boat, Corne and all their prouision; notwithstanding this put all the rest of the Saluages in that feare, especially in regard of the great league we had with Opechankanough, that we followed our labours quietly, and in such securitie, that diuers saluages of other Nations, daily frequented vs with what prouisions they could get, and would guide our men on hunting, and oft hunt for vs themselues. Captaine Yearly had a Saluage or two so well trained vp to their peeces, they were as expert as any of the English, and one hee kept purposely to kill him fowle. There were diuers others had Saluages in like manner for their men. Thus we liued together, as if wee had beene one people, all the time Captaine Yearley staied with vs, but such grudges and discontents daily increased among our selues, that vpon the arriuall of Captaine Argall, sent by the Councell and Companie to bee our Gouernour, Captaine Yearley returned for England in the yeere 1617. From the writings of Captaine Nathaniel Powell, William Cantrill, Sergeant Boothe, Edward Gurganey.

During this time, the Lady Rebecca, alias Pocahontas, daughter to Powhatan, by the diligent care of Master Iohn Rolfe her husband and his friends, as taught to speake such English as might well bee vnderstood, well instructed in Christianitie, and was become very formall and ciuill after our English manner; shee had also by him a childe which she loued most dearely, and the Treasurer and Company tooke order both for the maintenance of her and it, besides there were diuers persons of great ranke and qualitie had beene very kinde to her; and before she arriued at London, Captaine Smith to deserue her former courtesies, made her qualities knowne to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie and her Court, and writ a little booke to this effect to the Queene: An abstract whereof followeth.

To the most high and vertuous Princesse Queene Anne of Great Brittanie.

Most admired Queene,

THe loue I beare my God, my King and Countrie, hath so oft emboldened mee in the worst of extreme dangers, that now honestie doth constraine mee presume thus farre beyond my selfe, to present your Maiestie this short discourse: if ingratitude be a deadly poyson to all honest vertues, I must bee guiltie of that crime if I should omit any meanes to bee thankfull. So it is,

That some ten yeeres agoe being in Virginia, and taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan their chiefe King, I receiued from this great Saluage exceeding great courtesie, especially from his sonne Nantaquaus the most manliest, comeliest, boldest spirit, I euer saw in a Saluage, and his sister Pocahontas, the Kings most deare and wel-beloued daughter, being but a childe of twelue or thirteene yeeres of age, whose compassionate pitifull heart, of my desperate estate, gaue me much cause to respect her: I being the first Christian this proud King and his grim attendants euer saw: and thus inthralled in their barbarous power, I cannot say I felt the least occasion of want that was in the power of those my mortall foes to preuent, notwithstanding al their threats. After some six weeks fatting amongst those Saluage Courtiers, at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her owne braines to saue mine, and not onely that, but so preuailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Iames towne, where I found about eight and thirtie miserable poore and sicke creatures, to keepe possession of all those large territories of Virginia, such was the weaknesse of this poore Common-wealth, as had the Saluages not fed vs, we directly had starued.

And this reliefe, most gracious Queene, was commonly brought vs by this

— page 122 —

Lady Pocahontas, notwithstanding all these passages when inconstant Fortune turned our peace to warre, this tender Virgin would still not spare to dare to visit vs, and by her our iarres haue beene oft appeased, and our wants still supplyed; were it the policie of her father thus to imploy her, or the ordinance of God thus to make her his instrument, or her extraordinarie affection to our Nation, I know not: but of this I am sure; when her father with the vtmost of his policie and power, sought to surprize mee, hauing but eighteene with mee, the darke night could not affright her from comming through the irkesome woods, and with watered eies gaue me intelligence, with her best aduice to escape his furie; which had hee knowne, hee had surely slaine her. Iames towne with her wild traine she as freely frequented, as her fathers habitation; and during the time of two or three yeeres, she next vnder God, was still the instrument to preserue this Colonie from death, famine and vtter confusion, which if in those times had once beene dissolued, Virginia might haue line as it was at our first arriuall to this day. Since then, this businesse hauing beene turned and varied by many accidents from that I left it at: it is most certaine, after a long and troublesome warre after my departure, betwixt her father and our Colonie, all which time shee was not heard of, about two yeeres after shee her selfe was taken prisoner, being so detained neere two yeeres longer, the Colonie by that meanes was relieued, peace concluded, and at last reiecting her barbarous condition, was maried to an English Gentleman, with whom at this present she is in England; the first Christian euer of that Nation, the first Virginian euer spake English, or had a childe in mariage by an Englishman, a matter surely, if my meaning bee truly considered and well vnderstood, worthy a Princes vnderstanding.

Thus most gracious Lady, I haue related to your Maiestie, what at your best leasure our approued Histories will account you at large, and done in the time of your Maiesties life, and howeuer this might bee presented you from a more worthy pen, it cannot from a more honest heart, as yet I neuer begged any thing of the state, or any, and it is my want of abilitie and her exceeding desert, your birth, meanes and authorittie, hir birth, vertue, want and simplicitie, doth make mee thus bold, humbly to beseech your Maiestie to take this knowledge of her, though it be from one so vnworthy to be the reporter, as my selfe, her husbands estate not being able to make her fit to attend your Maiestie: the most and least I can doe, is to tell you this, because none so oft hath tried it as my selfe, and the rather being of so great a spirit, how euer her stature: if she should not be well receiued, seeing this Kingdome may rightly haue a Kingdome by her meanes; her present loue to vs and Christianitie, might turne to such scorne and furie, as to diuert all this good to the worst of euill, where finding so great a Queene should doe her some honour more than she can imagine, for being so kinde to your seruants and subiects, would so rauish her with content, as endeare her dearest bloud to effect that, your Maiestie and all the Kings honest subiects most earnestly desire: And so I humbly kisse your gracious hands.

Being about this time preparing to set saile for New-England, I could nor stay to doe her that seruice I desired, and she well deserued; but hearing shee was at Branford with diuers of my friends, I went to see her: After a modest salutation, without any word, she turned about, obscured her face, as not seeming well contented; and in that humour her husband, with diuers others, we all left her two or three houres, repenting my selfe to haue writ she could speake English. But not long after, she began to talke, and remembred mee well what courtesies shee had done: saying, You did promise Powhatan what was yours should bee his, and he the like to you; you called him father being in his land a stranger, and by the same reason so must I doe you: which though I would haue excused, I durst not allow of that title, because she was a Kings daughter; with a well set countenance she said, Were you not afraid to come into my fathers Countrie, and caused feare in him and all his people (but mee) and feare you here I should call you father; I

— page 123 —

tell you then I will, and you shall call mee childe, and so I will bee for euer and euer your Countrieman. They did tell vs alwaies you were dead, and I knew no other till I came to Plimoth; you Powhatan did command Vitamatomakkin to seeke you, and know the truth, because your Countriemen will lie much.

This Saluage, one of Powhatans Councell, being amongst them held an vnderstanding fellow; the King purposely sent him, as they say, to number the people here, and informe him well what wee were and our state. Arriuing at Plimoth, according to his directions, he got a long sticke, whereon by notches hee did thinke to haue kept the number of all the men hee could see, but he was quickly wearie of that taske: Comming to London, where by chance I met him, hauing renewed our acquaintance, where many were desirous to heare and see his behauiour, hee told me Powhatan did bid him to finde me out, to shew him our God, the King, Queene, and Prince, I so much had told them of: Concerning God, I told him the best I could, the King I heard he had seene, and the rest hee should see when he would; he denied euer to haue seene the King, till by circumstances he was satisfied he had: Then he replyed very sadly, You gaue Powhatan a white Dog, which Powhatan fed as himselfe, but your King gaue me nothing, and I am better than your white Dog.

The small time I staid in London, diuers Courtiers and others, my acquaintances, hath gone with mee to see her, that generally concluded, they did thinke God had a great hand in her conuersion, and they haue seene many English Ladies worse fauoured, proportioned and behauioured, and as since I haue heard, it pleased both the King and Queenes Maiestie honourably to esteeme her; accompanied with that honourable Lady the Lady De la Ware, and that honourable Lord her husband, and diuers other persons of good qualities, both publikely at the maskes and otherwise, to her great satisfaction and content, which doubtlesse she would haue deserued, had she liued to arriue in Virginia.