History : Jun-Jul 2015
by a single governor heading a military-style administration. This resulted in more settlers, but little improvement in conditions. Indeed, those who had survived the years of anarchy now found themselves subject to a“tyrannous” military regime intent on reducing them to a state of “extreme slavery and misery.” Pory’s Inheritance This was the colony that John Pory found in 1619. Seventy thousand pounds had been spent on the venture, enough to finance a small war, yet after 12 years there was nothing to show but 400 hungry settlers scraping a living in Jamestown and a few other scattered settlements. They had one rotting old frigate, two small boats, and two small cannon “fitter to shoot down our houses than to offend an enemy.” There was a brick building acting as the governor’s house, other- wise most of the settlers were still living under canvas or in makeshift wooden huts. Even a brisk trade in the now flourishing tobacco crop served to revive the fortunes of the London Company rather than those of the colonists. It was not a happy state of affairs, which is why the arrival of Pory and yet another gover- nor, George Yeardley, was probably met more council of seven men whose identity would not be revealed until the expedition made landfall. This unleashed a ferocious power struggle dur- ing the voyage and resulted in a council made up of mortal enemies and that excluded men with the skills to make the colony a success. The bit- ter infighting intensified as supplies dwindled and relations with the local Indians soured. The man who emerged from the chaos to as- sert some authority was John Smith. His epic explorations of the region had revealed that the English had planted themselves in the midst of a highly sophisticated and well-organized Indian empire. However, even Smith’s hyperactive and domineering presence couldn’t quell the faction fighting; severe injuries after a probable assas- sination attempt forced his return to England. Other leaders came and went, but poor rela- tions with the Indians, a failure to find anything of value, and lackluster efforts to grow crops for food resulted in the colony repeatedly coming to the brink of collapse, only to be saved by a sup- ply vessel or short-term deal with the Indians. In 1609 the almost bankrupt London Compa- ny frantically raised funds and drafted a new gov- erning charter that called for the factious council in Virginia to be “utterly ceased” and replaced 82 JUNE/JULY 2015 VISIONSOFAMERICA/GETTYIMAGES A REPRODUCTION OF THE JAMESTOWN CHURCH WHERE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MET. A STONE FOUNDATION HAD BEEN LAID, BUT PLANS FOR A BRICK BUILDING HAD BEEN ABANDONED DUE TO LACK OF MEN AND MATERIALS. INSTEAD, IT WAS A WOODEN STRUCTURE 50 FEET LONG AND 20 FEET WIDE, WITH A THATCHED OR SLATTED ROOF.