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American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Topic: ContactTopic: ExplorationTopic: SettlementTopic: PermanenceTopic: Power
Topic: Permanence
Toolbox Overview: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Resource Menu: Permanence
Text 1. Prosperity
Text 2. Cities & Towns
Text 3. English Colonies I: New England Colonies
Text 4. English Colonies II: Middle Atlantic Colonies
Text 5. English Colonies III: Chesapeake/Southern Colonies
Text 6. Servitude (Chesapeake Colonies)

Reading Guide
London tobacco shop sign
Tobacco package label
English Colonies III: Chesapeake/Southern Colonies
- Virginia: A governor's recommendations, 1663 (PDF)
- Carolina: Founders' promises to new settlers, 1666
- Carolina: A young settler in Charles Town, 1682
- Portraits:

Rebecca Bonum Eskridge, ca. 1690
William Fitzhugh, 1697

- Buildings:

Bacon's Castle, ca. 1655, Virginia
St. Luke's Church, ca. 1680s, Virginia
Adam Thoroughgood House, ca. 1680s-1710, Virginia

- Map: Charles Town, 1671 (oriented with east to the left)

It is in the southern colonies that we see the most dramatic transition from instability to permanence. The first settlers in Jamestown and the Roanoke colonies were adventurers rather than farmers, for the most part, and their leaders lacked the experience or will for the longterm building of stable colonies. Many had no intention of staying in the colonies forever: making quick riches and returning home were the goals. As historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman writes, "Not until Europeans began to think of America as a place to come and live out their lives, establishing homes to be passed on to their children, would these apparently unpromising lands be colonized."* By the mid 1600s, the Chesapeake colonies had made this change. Would the new colony of Carolina benefit from their hard-won experience?
  • VIRGINIA'S STATUS. In 1624, after nearly two decades of failure, Jamestown was placed under the control of the crown instead of the investment company that founded it. By the 1650s, with a tobacco production boom and an emigration boom of poor people arriving from England as indentured servants, Virginia had turned its course toward permanence. Many servants who survived their indenture were able to start their own farms. Prosperity? Not yet, except for the few wealthy planters favored by William Berkeley (bark-lee), the appointed governor from 1641-52 and 1660-77. In 1663 he wrote a status report on the colony, affirming the "natural advantages it has above all other His Majesty's Plantations" and proceeding to list the reasons why Virginia "has not in all this supposed long tract of time produced those rich and staple Commodities, which I shall in this Discourse affirm it is capable of." Basically, he recommends that Virginia abandon its economic dependence on the "vicious weed of tobacco." A few years later, Virginia would fall into harder times from tobacco overproduction, trade limitations imposed by England, attacks by Dutch rivals, and the consequences of the restoration of the English monarchy, and in 1675 a settlers' rebellion would break out. But for this "discourse and view" Berkeley could report that, while the Virginia of 1663 had much room for improvement, it was not the Jamestown of 1624.
    [Gov. William Berkeley, A Discourse and View of Virginia, 1663]

  • CAROLINA PRIVILEGES. In the same year that Berkeley reviewed Virginia's progress, the extensive lands to its south were granted to eight supporters of King Charles II. Remember that from 1663 until 1710 "Carolina" meant the current states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and the northern third of Florida (and "from sea to sea," the norm in English colonial charters). In 1663 the eight Lords Proprietor published a promotional pamphlet listing the six major privileges offered to "industrious and ingenious persons" including any "maid or single woman with a desire to go over." The privileges included cheap land, low taxes, liberty of conscience, a popularly elected government, and overall, the opportunity to work for "fortunes far beyond what he could ever hope for in England."
    [Robert Horne (publisher), A Brief Description of the Province of Carolina, 1666]

  • EARLY CHARLES TOWN. Seven years after Carolina was chartered, its first settlement was established at Charles Town (Charleston) in 1670. Twelve years later Thomas Newe, a young educated man in his mid twenties, arrived in the new settlement which "two years since had but 3 or 4 houses, hath now about a hundred houses in it." In three letters to his father he describes the growing river plantations, the trade with Barbados, the ongoing Indian wars, the Spanish threat from nearby St. Augustine, and his sighting of Halley's Comet. He asks his father to conduct financial business for him, reporting that he "can not yet make any return; for money here is but little," and to send various items to aid his transition to a colonial life. Newe died in 1683 of an unknown cause at age 28.
    [Letters of Thomas Newe in Charles Town to his father, 17/29 May, 23 August 1682]
Before you read the selections, view the two portraits and three buildings from Virginia, as well as the 1671 map of Charleston (there are no significant extant structures from seventeenth-century Charleston). What do they suggest about the differences between the Chesapeake colonies and the other English Atlantic colonies? (20 pages, excluding the map.)

Discussion questions
  1. How do these selections reveal the permanence and/or tentativeness of the Chesapeake/Southern Colonies?
  2. What regional characteristics do they highlight? What is important to these settlers?
  3. To what extent are the "lessons" of the early English colonies reflected in the later colonies?
  4. What role does religious faith serve in these settlers' lives?
  5. How do trade and commerce contribute to the colonies' stability?
  6. How do the settlers deal with adversity and disappointment?
  7. In what ways are they hopeful or idealistic?
  8. Do their actions reflect a trust in their colony's stability?
  9. To what extent did the colonies replicate "something approaching normal European societies"?
  10. Compare the governors' reports of William Berkeley (Virginia) and Thomas Dongan (New York).
  11. How do the portraits and buildings reflect the characteristics of these southern colonies' settlers?
  12. From these selections, compare the factors that contribute to permanence (or the elusiveness of permanence) in the Chesapeake/Southern, Middle, and New England colonies.

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What factors contributed to the permanent presence of Europe in North America by the mid 1600s?
  •  How did Europeans adjust their cultures and institutions to create permanent societies in North America?
  •  What roles did commerce, religion, geographic setting, population diversity, and cultural perspectives play in developing a stable colony?
  •  What did "North America" signify to Europe in the mid 1600s?

Virginia report:  3
Carolina pamphlet:  5
Charleston letters:  4
Portraits:  2
Buildings:  6
20 pages, excluding the map
Supplemental Sites
Becoming Virginians, from the Virginia Historical Society

The Southernmost Colonies: The Carolinas and Georgia, from Digital History (University of Houston)

Colonial Charleston, from the National Park Service

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

   Virginia report:National Humanities Center
   Carolina pamphlet:Bruce Dorsey, Dept. of History, Swarthmore College
   Charles Town letters:

History Matters, from George Mason University and the City University of New York (CUNY)

Portraits: Virginia Historical Society
Houses: National Park Service
Map: University of Texas Library

Image: "London's Virginia," tobacco package label, n.d. (17th-18th centuries). Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, George Arents Collection, Digital ID #1107707.

*Karen Ordahl Kupperman, "North America and the Beginnings of European Colonization" (Washington: American Historical Association, 1992), 31.

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