Page:Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography volume 1.djvu/15

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5
PREFACE

martial law, and climatic diseases—influences which, as the records show, left but one settler alive at the end of a single year of residence, out of every five that came over.

Indeed, how can the body of the settlers be made responsible for the calamities that ensued when they lived under a form of government made for them by (Others, productive from the first of discord and faction; when they were not permitted to work for them- selves, but for a present return of profit to the Company, had to give their time and labor to loading ships with sassafras, cedar, and other salable commodities; when they had no choice of the place of settlement, and which was selected in accordance with orders of the council in England: when they had no chance to till the fields, but were required to hunt for gold and silver mines and make tedious discoveries by land and water? Deprived of the opportunity to make their own living, they had to depend upon food sent from England. which, when it reached America, was often unfit for hogs to eat. and introduced all manner of disease. Above all, they had to deal with a climate which was singularly fatal to new-comers, and to fight off numerous bands of fierce and ferocious Indians who surrounded them on all sides.

Thus, the conditions were in every respect the reverse of those of the Plymouth settlement in 1620 on Cape Cod Bay; for there the Pilgrim Fathers had the control of their own government, the advantage of a dry and healthful situation, a sparkling stream of fresh water at their doors, open fields deserted by the Indians, whose nearest town was forty miles distant, a bay teeming with fish and a country abounding in animals whose skins brought a large profit in England. And yet, favored as they were, had they not been succored by Virginia ships, the settlers there might have all perished of famine.

Nevertheless, the settlers in Virginia held grimly to their duty, and. the dying being constantly succeeded by fresh bands doomed also to early death, but as determined as themselves, prosperity at last succeeded to misfortune, and plenty and happiness to poverty and despair. When the civil wars in England broke out in 1642, the tone of society in Virginia was raised by the great influx of cavaliers and other persons of means who sought safety in Virginia. The clearing away of the woods improved the health conditions, and men came no longer over to make tobacco, but to make homes for themselves and their families. Virginia continued to grow and improve until, at the beginning of the American Revolution, she was the leading and most powerful of all the colonies.

The priorities of Virginia may be briefly stated. As the first permanent British Colony. she may claim as her product not only the present Virginia and Southland, but all the other English colonies in America, and indeed all the colonies of the present wide-spreading British Empire. She was the eldest of all, and the inspiration of all. Because her governors kept the New England coast clear of the French, and two ships sailing from Jamestown succored