The first permanent English colony in America was Jamestown that started in 1607 when three ships landed on the James River in Virginia.
The Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth in Massachusetts that began in 1620 was the first English permanent settlement in America that never abandoned its colony. That makes it the first successful permanent English colony.
The pictures shown here and some of the others in this article are from a reconstruction of the original site as true as historians can tell. Shown here is a picture of the James River and and three ships that over a million tourists visit every year. In my section on Plymouth Plantation, I have put in some pictures from a reconstruction of the site as historians think it looked in 1627, seven years after they had first arrived. It also has a million visitors come every year.
The genesis of America in Jamestown is not as inspirational as Plymouth. The character of those who settled in Jamestown was far lower than those who settled Plymouth to their north. Jamestown was marked by failure of commitment and an atmosphere of greed. They were motivated by secular goals of finding gold.
In contrast the Pilgrims were focused on building god centered families and a happy religious community of loving friends. As a result they thrived and laid the foundation for Americas freedom and material wealth.
Plymouth Plantation was founded on a higher standard than Jamestown. Those who founded Jamestown had a pirate mentality. They plundered ships on the way to Virginia. The Pilgrims didnt.
The motivation of those who settled in Jamestown was one of easy wealth. The Pilgrims at Plymouth accepted work and sacrifice and looked long range. In England there were advertisements of the "New World" saying one could live there without having to work, that gold and silver were so plentiful they could be picked up in basketfuls from the ground. There was not a spirit of work in Jamestown.
Captain Newport of the Jamestown expedition spent his time searching for gold and thought he found some. He took back what he thought was some gold dust but it was pyrite or "fools gold." Even so on his return trip they were so centered on gold and convinced that the sample they had sent to England was the wrong ore that the captain brought goldsmiths and refiners to supervise the diggings. The atmosphere of Jamestown was "get-rich-quick." He took back as much of the "fools gold" as he could get on board and put it in the hold of the ship. Newport even tried a third time to look for gold.
Gold fever swept the colony. One settler wrote in disgust of how the sailors "made all men their slaves. There was no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold."
Carl Bridenbough in Jamestown 1544-1699 wrote: "... the Englishmen who
first went to the colony were an unskilled, improvident, and lazy lot who, 'no more
sensible than beasts, would rather starve in idleness ... than feast in labor.' Like
the grasshoppers in Aesop's fable, they took little if any thought for the future, and as
a result, many of them perished, not only during the 'starving time' but also for years to
come because of their failure to plant crops."
First Winter at Jamestown
One survivor of the first winter in Jamestown in which half died of starvation reported, "If there were any conscience in men it would make their hearts to bleed to hear the pitiful murmurings and out-cries of our sick men without relief ... soon departing out of the world, many times three or four in a night." In spring a mutiny was attempted by some. Some froze to death. Some were killed by Indians. They were a ragged and starved people.
Third winter at Jamestown
The winter of 1609-1610 went into the records as the "Starving Time." There was death almost every day. When they ate all the animals, including horses, cats and dogs, then mice were eaten. They crawled through the woods in search of roots and berries. After that, men, women and children became cannibals eating their own dead. Some men and women who were starving crept into the woods in their last hours, dug shallow holes, covered themselves with leaves, and died. Out of 500 only 60 people survived that winter.
Lack of heart after 3 years
Almost three years to the month since they first came to Virginia, with all spirit gone and totally discouraged, they abandoned Jamestown. They had failed. They all boarded the ship and started sailing back. Jamestown was completely abandoned. They thought only of England. Just as the ship was leaving the harbor they were greeted by ships led by Lord Delaware from England. Then they decided to go back and try again.
Lord Delaware was sent as governor. He was a religious man. When he came ashore at deserted Jamestown, he knelt in prayer. He then led everyone to the dilapidated church. A pastor gave a sermon. Then the governor "delivered a stirring address, raising the morale of the colonists." They now had strict leadership.
The Cain ideals in the founding of America started with Jamestown. This darker side was secular materialism.
Jamestown experimented with communist economics, but as it proved a complete failure (as it always does) after a while, as it prompted laziness and inefficiency. One-fifth of the colony did all the work while the rest were drones. Finally, each member was given three acres of his own to cultivate. Industry and thrift then replaced idleness and there were no more famines.
In 1619, one year before of the Pilgrims landed, Jamestown laid the seed of slavery that would eventually tear America apart. Twenty negroes were brought as slaves. Plymouth Plantation had no slaves. This was the seed for civil war. Satan loves slavery. God hates slavery. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of men died because of this wrong move by Jamestown.
Another evil legacy of Jamestown was its habit of depending on one crop for cash instead of growing staples. They became obsessed with tobacco which not only is a deadly drug, but it exhausted the earth.
Another sad legacy of Jamestown was their inability to make unity with the Indians. We'll look at this in the next part.