Dateline: 1623/4, Virginia: After the Indian massacre of 1622 and after Thomas Smith’s oppressive governorship, the Colonists implore James I for his support. 26 Virginians signed this petition.
The massacre of 1622 wiped out more than one-quarter of the English settlers. Despite that disaster, they never lost sight of business.
The colonists need a fair price for their new commodity—tobacco—but they call it a “contemptible weed.” One way to get the prices up is to advocate a monopoly on the importation (to England) of this “weed.”
Modernized transcription begins:
To the King’s most excellent Majesty:
The humble petition of the Governor and Council and Colony of Virginia in their General Assembly
That whereas to our great comfort we have lately understood that your Majesty notwithstanding the unjust disparagements of this plantation [of Virginia] has taken it into your more near and especial care; that your royal intentions may have their one effect:
We, urged by our duty and experiences, do humbly beseech that credit may not be given to the late declarations present to your Highness concerning the happy, but indeed miserable estate of the Colony during the first twelve years; neither to those malicious imputations which have been laid on the latter, but to be pleased to behold in little the true estate of both, by our relations which we now present by the hands of Mr. John Pontis, a worthy member of our body, containing nothing but the truth without disaffection or partiality, whereby we doubt not but your Majesty will understand the condition of both times and be pleased, according to our earnest desires, to continue the government under which we live, confirmed by your princely care and supportance [support].
But if it shall please your Majesty otherwise to determine, our prayers solicit your tender compassion that you will not suffer [allow] your poor subjects to fall into the hands of Sir Thomas Smith [governor] or his confidents [council], who have lately abused your Sacred cares with wrong informations, but that you will graciously protect us from those growing storms engendered by faction which presage the subversion of some whose endeavors have deserved a better reward and in general of the whole plantation [of Virginia].
And that we may depend upon no meaner [average] persons than of late we have done since the action is of such honor and consequence.
And in that by the late massacre, continued wars, mean [base or low] prices of tobacco, we are disabled for setting up staple commodities, extirpation of the perfidious savages (much less for fortification against a foreign enemy):
We humble solicit the effect of your Majesty’s gracious intention for our and the Summer Islands’ sole importation of tobacco, beseeching your Majesty to believe that we affect not that contemptible weed as an end [goal], but as a present means whereof we doubt not ere [before] long to give your Majesty a real assurance.
And if your Majesty shall be graciously pleased to send over that aid of soldiers whereof we have been put in hope or what support your Royal bounty shall afford us;
We most humbly desire that the Governor, Council, and General Assembly may have a voice in their disposal since none at that distance by reason of accidents and emergent occasions can direct it, so advantageously as our presence and experience;
And we and our wives and poor children shall ever pray to God , as is our duty, to give you in this world all increase of happiness and to crown you in the world to come with immortal glory.
Francis Wyatt [knight and governor]
[Council:] George Sandys, Francis West, Roger Smythe, George Yeardly, Raphe [Ralph] Hamor, John Pott
[Assembly:] Will Pierce, Nath. Bass, Edward Blayney, Clement Dilke, Rich. Stephens, Richard Kingsmill, Gabriel Holland, Will Tucker, John Utie, Luke Boys [Boice], John Chewe, Nath. Caussey, Thomas Marlowe, Jabez Whitaker, Nic. Martian, Isaac Chaplain, Thomas Harris, Rob’t. Adams, Rich. Biggs
Later documents reveal that James’s son and successor, Charles I, did support the colonists against new companies.
“The Indian attack bankrupted the Virginia Company. The king [James] annulled its charter in 1624 and established a royal government, which allowed the elected legislative body established in 1619, the House of Burgesses, to continue lawmaking in concert with the royal governor and his council” (Nash et al. p. 35).
Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619-1658/59, ed. H. R. McIlwaine (Richmond: 1915).
Gary B. Nash et al. The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, brief 4th ed., vol. 1: to 1877. New York: Longman, 2003.