Monday, October 17, 2011
The Introduction of Tobacco
In 1620, John Rolfe and other new settlers came to Jamestown, Virginia to make a difference. Once they arrived there, they came across a down-trodden group of colonists...all that remained of the settlers of Jamestown was about 1/10th of its original population when they had arrived and set up the colony, thanks to the lack of proper food, water, shelter, and diseases. The difference that John Rolfe was set on making was that he would find some other way for the colony of Jamestown to prosper, as it was evident that looking for gold wasn't going to be the way.
John Rolfe had brought tobacco seeds from the Spanish Caribbean to the colony. Tobacco was a cash crop and a vast amount of the English were addicted to it, to the point where King James had even had it banned. But it wasn't just in England where tobacco was a luxery product, there was great demand for it all over Europe.
Although tobacco demanded large investments (presses, barrels, laborers, etc.) and the planters had to plant huge fields to maximize the profits, tobacco promised exceptional profits. The planters planted more and more tobacco crops in eagerness; however, the disease climate made them feel, rightly, that the life expectancy in the colony was short. Because of how intensive the tobacco crops were and how qickly they used up the nitrogen in the soil, the fields had to be moved every three years. This action fueled the demand for land and created great tension between the English settlers and the Powhatan nation. "Tobacco Culture" created more than just social friction between the English and Powhatan people, it also shaped colonial Chesapeake society geographically, socially, and ideologically. And, although there was a need for labor, the English prided themselves on not enslaving the Powhatan (much).
The Headright System of Colonization
Due to the cultivation of tobacco, there was a shortage of labor as more and more land had to be used, so the English created the headright system. What this meant was that the English advertised the colonies as an economic opportunity and the planters received huge tracts of land for sponsoring indentured servants to go to the colonies and work for them for a period of time before becoming freed peoples and receiving freedom dues.
Most indentured servants, both male and female, served for four to seven years. The masters were obligated by law to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter to all of the servants. Once the servant finished serving their allotted amount of time with the master, the master presented them with freedom des which included land, money, clothes, and a gun to protect them against the Indians.
The servants of Jamestown were from the British Isles, meaning that they were primarily English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish. Some people were not obtained legally. Many were kidnapped and shipped to the colonies without their consent. The French were running a sex trade and prostitution was rampant in New Orleans. The English brought their poor to the colonies to get them out of the country. The Africans who had arrived prior to the codification of slavery also served as servants and later became free people. The servants worked, lived, and slept together in the early years of the 1610s to 1660s.
During the 17th century, servants, slaves, and masters worked side-by-side. However, as profits increased, masters became harsher towards the servants and slaves. After the codification of slavery, free blacks lost their rights to own land, carry guns, raise livestock, serve in the militia, and vote in the House of Burgesses. Free blacks became the subject of special taxes and were even sold back into slavery. Mixed-race children of black men and white women were enslaved for 13 years. To maintain a race-based society, the romantic and reprodctive choices of women had to be controlled because the planters/masters didn't want to compete with a mullato race.
English Beliefs About Land, Farming, Animals, ect (Received vs. Acquired)
1) Owning property made you a cut above the wandering poor
2) Strong solid buildings=Rich
3) Owning livestock was a good way to become prosperous (meat, milk, fertilizer, increase in herds every couple of years)--it's the mark of civilization
4) Poor men who didn't work must be lazy (they thought the Indian men were poor)
5) Laziness was a sin AND against the law if one was poor; only the Elites could lay around hunting, smoking, and having fun
6) There were no predators in the Chesapeake big enough to harm a cow or tough enough to harm a pig; cows and pigs can therefore roam in the woods and fend for themselves
7) There's an inexhaustible supply of land, wood, etc. For this reason, the English expanded rapidly; their population rose (both through natural reproduction and immigration) and they used a lot of land since every man wanted at least 100 acres.
Changes in Tactic
After the death of Pocahontas in England and the death of her father, Powhatan, Opecancanough took over. With his take over of the Powhatan people, the era of appeasement ended and the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622) occurred.Despite the war, the English slowly grew dominant. Their territory expanded and settlement (both forced and voluntary) quickly overwhemed the Powhatan and other interior nations. In 1644, another precision strike occurred by resisting Indians acting in alliance with the Powhatan people, but this was quickly put down. The survivors of Powhatan's village empire withdrew to assimiliate into interior tribes where their ethnogenesis continued...in fact, we'll see these guys again later on.
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