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The Rationale for Colonization



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This tract was written by four managers of the Virginia Company: Lord de la Ware, Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Walter Cope, and Master Waterson. Its purpose was to justify and promote colonization to the public following reports of disaster from the new colony.

It is Reserved and onely proper to Divine Wisdome to forsee and ordaine, both the endes and wayes of every action. In humaine prudence it is all [that] can be required, to propose Religious and Noble and Feasable ends; and it can have no absolute assurance, and infalliblenesse in the waies and meanes, which are contingent and various, perhaps equally reasonable, subject to unpresent circumstances and doubtfull events, which ever dignifie or betray the Councell's from whence they were derived. And the higher the quality, and nature, and more removed from ordinary action (such as those of which we discourse) the more perplexed and misty are the pathes there-unto.

Upon which grounds, We purpose to deliver roundly and clearly, our endes and wayes to the hopeful Plantations begun in Virginia...The Principal and Maine Endes (out of which are easily derived to any meane understanding infinitlesse, and yet great ones) were first to preach and baptize into Christian Religion, and by propagation of the Gospell, to recover out of the Armes of the Divell, a number of poore and miserable soules, wrapt up unto death, in almost invincible ignorance, and to endeavour the fulfilling, and accomplishment of the number of the elect, which shall be gathered from out all corners of the earth; and to add our myte to the Treasury of Heaven, that as we pray for the coming of the Kingdom of Glory, so to expresse in our actions, the same desire, if God, have pleased, to use so weak instruments, to the ripening and consummation thereof.

Secondly, to provide and build up for the publike Honour and Safety of our Gratious King and his Estates (by the favor of our Superiors even in that care) some small Rampier of our owne, in this opportune and general summer of peace, by transplanting the rancknesse and multitude of increase in our people; of which there is left no vent, but age; and evident danger that the number and infinitnesse of them, will out-grow the matter, whereon to worke for their life and sustentation, and shall one infest and become a burthen to another. But by this provision they may be seated as a Bulwarke of defence, in a place of advantage, against a stranger enemy, who shall in great proportion grow wich in treasure, which was exhausted to a lowe estate; and may well indure an increase of his people long wasted with a continual war, and dispersed uses and losses of them: Both which cannot cho[o]se but threaten us, if we consider, and compare the ends, ambitions and practices of our neighbour countries, with our owne.

Lastly, the appearance and assurance of Private commodity to the particular undertakers, by recovering and possessing to themselves a fruitfull land, whence they may furnish and provide this Kingdome, with al such necessities and defects [Copper, Iron, Steel, Timber for ships, yards, masts, cordage, sope ashes (marginal note in original)] under which we labour, and are now enforced to buy, and receive at the curtesie of other Princes, under the burthen of great Customs, and heavy impositions, and at so high rates in trafique, by reason of the great waste of them from whence they are now derived, which threatens almost an impossibility long to recover them, or at least such losse in exchange, as both the Kingdome and Merchant, will be weary of the deerenesse and peril. These being the true, and essential ends of this Plantation...


Consider These Questions



1. What were the reasons given for establishing the colony? Why do you think they chose those particular justifications?

2. How do you think this document might have been received by the English public?

3. How does this rationale compare with the realities of the colony?

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