Considerations that Shaped the Choosing the Site of Jamestown in 1607

“…Contrary to the impression that will be gained from many of our modern textbooks, the Virginia Company represented much more than the commercial interests of the port of London. Its membership included many gentlemen and noblemen of consequence in the kingdom. Some of them, no doubt, became subscribers to a Virginia joint-stock for the same reason that often led members of the landed classes in England into commercial ventures. But others, quite evidently, subscribed because of a sense of public responsibility, or simply because skillfully managed propaganda had put pressure on them to accept a responsibility of social or political position. For the Virginia adventure was a public undertaking, its aim to advance the fortunes of England no less than the fortunes of the adventurers themselves.”[1]

“…The most interesting was Richard Hakluyt, a clergyman whose chief mission in life had been the encouragement of overseas adventures by his fellow countrymen. To them he had literally given a national tradition of adventure by compiling and editing one of the more influential books in England’s history—The Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation.” [2]

“…(One) remembers how deep was the rift between Protestantism and Catholicism at that time, how fundamental to the patriotism of an Englishman was his long defense of a Protestant church settlement against the threat of Catholic Spain, and how largely the issues of religious life still claimed the first thoughts of men.”[3]

“…If one of us could ask the adventurers in 1606 what it was they hoped to accomplish in America, he probably have said it depended very much on what they might find there. Although Richard Hakluyt had been most industrious in collecting available information from the earlier explorations of North America, including those by Spanish and French explorers, the specific information at hand was quite definitely limited. By the close of the sixteenth century European explorers had charted the broad outlines of the North American coast, and here and there they had filled in much of the detail, as had the French in Canada, the Spaniard, and the Frenchman on the coast of Florida, and the Englishman along the coastal regions to be later known Carolina and New England.  But the information at the command of the adventurers in one country was not always available to those of another; indeed, within any one country there were shipmasters who carried in their heads working charts of coastal waters wholly unknown to the geographers and cartographers who sought to serve the larger interests of the nation.”[4]

“…The very first objective of the explorers was to locate a suitable site for fortification, in order that further explorations might be conducted from a secure base….For these fortifications were intended to provide security not so much against the native Indian as against the ships and soldiers of Spain. Over the years there had been some debate as to how the fort might be best located, with the result that in 1607 it was decided to locate it some distance up a river that would afford navigation for an ocean-going vessel but would force the enemy to fight his way inland against the disadvantage of the warning that could be given by an outer guard at the mouth of the river. Such were the considerations that shaped the choice of Jamestown as the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America. To stand in the middle of the Jamestown peninsula for contemplation of its many disadvantages for the purposes of agricultural settlement, and even for the health of its people, is to lose sight of the main point. One should walk over against the river, and consider there the field of fire that was open for well placed guns.”[5]

[1] The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624 by Wesley Frank Craven

[2] The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624 by Wesley Frank Craven

[3] The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624 by Wesley Frank Craven

[4] The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624 by Wesley Frank Craven

[5] The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624 by Wesley Frank Craven