Noticia del establecimiento y poblacion de las colonias inglesas en la America Septentrional; religion, orden de gobierno, leyes y costumbres de sus naturales y habitantes; calidades de su clima, terreno, frutos, plantas y animales; y estado de su industria, artes, comercio y navegacion

An Electronic Edition · Álvarez, Francisco (Eighteenth Century)

Original Source: Francisco Álvarez, Noticias del establecimiento y población de las colonias inglesas en la América Septentrional: religión, orden de gobierno, leyes y costumbres de sus naturales y habitantes; calidades de su clima, terreno, frutos, plantas y animales; y estado de su industria, artes, comercio y navegación (Madrid: 1778)

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Álvarez, Francisco. Noticia del establecimiento y poblacion de las colonias inglesas en la America Septentrional; religion, orden de gobierno, leyes y costumbres de sus naturales y habitantes; calidades de su clima, terreno, frutos, plantas y animales; y estado de su industria, artes, comercio y navegacion (Madrid: 1778).

From chapter one, “The English Colonies” [Las colonias inglesas], pp. 27-38.

Sir Dale[1] succeeded him [Lord de la Warr[2]] in the rank of Governor of Virginia, and landed in the port the 12th day of May [1611] with three ships that were bringing new relief of men and provisions. He found the nearest inhabitants fallen into utter destitution, due to their negligence in the cultivation of the land; but he obliged them to work with vigor, and they were still able to collect a good harvest despite the lateness of the season. In the following month of August, Sir Gates[3] landed in the port with six ships loaded with fowl, livestock, munitions of war, victuals, and everything necessary to form a settlement. Three hundred men who had been brought on board were set aside for this purpose; they laid the first foundations for a town in the country of Arrabatak, fifty miles above Jamestown.[4] This town, situated along the shore of the river, was named Henricus, in honor of Henry, Prince of Wales. In addition to this town, a large fence of stockades was erected across the river in Coxendale[5] to safeguard the livestock.

In [September] 1612 two vessels arrived with fresh provisions. Argall,[6] who was in command of one of them, went as far as the Potomac to establish commerce.[7] There he ran across an Indian princess, named Pocahontas, the daughter of the Indian Chief Powhatan, and he persuaded her to come aboard his ship with the pretense of showing her the honors due her rank; but as he was able, he took her prisoner and led her to Jamestown, with the hope that her father, in order to liberate her, would make a sound peace with the English. But the Indian Chief, who was too haughty not to feel aggrieved by such an insult, conceded no conditions whatsoever, nor would he be pacified by anything other than the marriage of his daughter to an English gentleman named Rolf. Seeing this alliance alone as a test of sincere friendship, he finally agreed to unite himself with the English through a peace treaty.

It must be noted that the Indians had already proposed these marriages to the English several times, and upon each occasion they made it clear that if the English did not cohabitate with them, they would never be able to count on a sincere alliance.[8] The marriage of Pocahontas took place in 1613,[9] and it established peace between her father and the English. The neighboring Indians also entered into this alliance. In 1616, Sir Dale, taking personal advantage of this tranquility, decided to return to England. He took Rolf with him, and Princess Pocahontas, his wife, who had received baptism before the marriage. She now had a son, the fruit of her marriage, which was the first such union arranged between the Europeans and the Americans.

John Smith, of whom we have already spoken,[10] upon hearing of the Indian princess’s arrival to England, omitted nothing in demonstrating to her his respect and recognition. He believed everything to be insufficient for a woman to whom he owed his life. It happened as follows. Being in America, Smith left the colony of Jamestown, and penetrated the interior of Virginia, with the intention of making new discoveries. On this trip he was taken prisoner [11] by the Indians and escorted to the court [12] of Powhatan, one of the most important kings of North America. Pocahontas, the daughter of this monarch, fell in love with the prisoner, and having revealed it to her brother Nautakan, the most well-formed, strongest, and daring Indian of the region, he took an interest in her love, and saw to it that she should have every possible opportunity to attend to the prisoner. Her own father, from whom she hid nothing, had the greatest care and affection for Smith, endeavoring to allay his misgivings, calm his fears, and ease his bondage. But in that barbaric country a rather cruel custom was observed, which was that of fattening prisoners to afterwards sacrifice them, that they might be devoured by the people.[13] This fate awaited the unlucky Smith, however great his protections at court may have been. When the people believed he had already been fed enough, they requested that he be delivered to them. The monarch probably would have wanted to liberate a man his daughter loved, and whom he esteemed as well; but it was imperative that he comply with the laws of the country, and, as such, he delivered him into the hands of the people, however reluctantly. Smith was led to a public square, where the death sentence of smashing his face in was to be carried out. Everything was ready, and the executioner had already lifted the mace to strike him, when he saw at his side the Princess Pocahontas. Respect and veneration for her person made him suspend the blow, which was about to come down upon the miserable captive.

When this generous princess discovered that they were escorting her lover to be executed, she wasted no time in crying useless tears, but instead set out quickly to die with him. Her love was not one of those ordinary passions that only serve to demonstrate feminine frailty; her soul was greatly superior to such common feelings. Her love was founded only on a sincere respect and friendship. For this reason, content that her lover might live, albeit far from her, she persuaded her father to rescue him from the cruelty of the people, and to take him to Jamestown. Powhatan, unable to refuse the requests of a beloved daughter, gave in completely, and in spite of the opposition of his subjects, he saved Smith from death.[14]

Pocahontas continued to flatter herself with the hope of uniting herself to her beloved Smith with the ties authorized by the laws of her country; she would sometimes visit him in the colony, and she would have provisions brought to the country. But upon the war having been rekindled, her father forbade these visits. That was when, solely for the desire to see Smith again, she allowed herself to be captured by Argall and to be taken to Jamestown. And so she arrived to the said town. Her first concern was to ask for her lover, but he happened to be very far away at the time. Being that as it was, the English wanted to make her marry one of them, to see if by this means her father would agree to another peace treaty. They even told her that Smith had already died.

When Pocahontas arrived in England,[15] Smith immediately went to visit her;[16] but being hurt and angry upon seeing that they had tricked her, and that at the same time a man whom she had loved so much had so easily forgotten her, she did not wish at first to be seen by him. Nor did she allow herself to be persuaded by his pleadings and reasons. But, finally, she yielded to them, or to the strength of the love that she still held for him. When he presented himself to her, she could not hide in face the embarrassment and flush that his presence caused her, and she opened her mouth only to complain of the indifference with which he had treated her love.

Smith presented a petition to the Queen of England,[17] supplicating her to take this Indian princess under her protection. In it he related the favors that the English had received from her. “At the most tender age (it reads) in spite of the war we were engaged in with the Indians, she put herself at risk to come see us, to calm so many discords, and to come to our aid in hardships. When her father tried to catch us off guard, neither the ruggedness of the woods, nor the darkness of the night, or the difficulty of the paths, nor any other dangers and risks held her back or hindered her from coming to give us swift warnings that saved us from the fury of our enemies, all at a great risk to her own life if by chance she had been discovered. In times of peace she frequented our colony, and she saved us with her reliefs from the grips of hunger and other discomforts. But, the war with her father having been rekindled yet again, we did not see her anymore.”

“After my departure she was made prisoner, and she was detained in this state at Jamestown. She married an English gentleman, with whom she has now come to England. This is the first Indian woman who has received baptism, the first who has spoken our tongue, and the first who has borne the legitimate son of an Englishman. The inability with which I find myself to help this princess obliges me to appeal to the good will of Your Majesty, which is well known as your power, extraordinary worth, and illustrious birth. Virtue and her noble garments exposed to the harshness of destitution move me to make this supplication; the husband of this famous Indian woman does not find himself with the means to present her to Y[our] M[ajesty] with the dresses appropriate to her station.”

The Queen received this petition with benevolence and she ordered that the Indian princess be given dresses appropriate for her presentation at court; at the same time, she charged Lady De La Warr [18]with the care of her attendance, and with presenting her to the queen. The young Indian princess received all of the honors that were customarily given to princesses of royal blood; and the people showed great respect towards her. For her part, the princess conformed perfectly to the idea that Smith had given of her character and spirit. And there are those who affirm that legal proceedings were attempted against her husband, for having dared to enter into marriage with the daughter of a king without the approval and formal consent of her father. It is true, according to the author, in whose work this deed is referred, that Rolf was accused of having forced her, working her captivity to his advantage, and that the father of his princess had been very resentful at first, but afterwards, being better informed, he became satisfied.

This illustrious Indian woman did not have the satisfaction of returning to her country or of seeing her father again. Having fallen ill in Gravesend [19] when she was about to embark, she died with universal sorrow. She was of small stature, but well formed, and of pleasing appearance. She left a son called Thomas Rolf, whose posterity is still preserved in a very distinguished line in Virginia. Powhatan had given his daughter a retinue composed of leaders of his nation, that they might accompany her to England; and he had charged one of them with counting the number of inhabitants of that kingdom, and with bringing an exact account to him upon his return.[20] The savage, who knew nothing whatsoever of letters, prepared himself with a thick and long stick when he leapt ashore, intending to mark on it the number of English people he saw. But very quickly he grew tired of his exercise, and he angrily cast the device aside. When he returned to his country, upon being questioned by the king about the results of his commission, answered only by pointing to the stars in the skies, the leaves of the trees, and the sands on the ocean shore.


[1] Thomas Dale, English naval commander and governor of Virginia in 1611 and from 1614-1616.

[2] Thomas West, Third Baron De La Warr. It was he who averted abandoning the colony upon his arrival on June 10, 1610, following the harsh winter of 1609-1610, also known as “the starving time.”

[3] Thomas Gates, governor of Jamestown, set sail for the colony aboard the Sea Venture in 1609, but the ship ran ashore in the Bermuda Islands during a storm. Gates did not arrive to the colony until the spring of 1610, at which point the colonists decided to abandon the fledgling settlement. They were en route to the sea when they encountered Lord De La Warr and were persuaded to return. At some point after this Gates apparently left the colony, returning in August, 1611, with fresh supplies and men.

[4] Located a few miles southeast of the present state capital, Richmond. It would have been the westernmost English outpost in the colony at that time.

[5] Opposite the lost site of Henricus.

[6] Samuel Argall, seaman and governor of Virginia from 1617-1619. He first arrived in the colony as a captain of one of De La Warr’s relief ships in 1610.

[7]  Between December, 1612, and May, 1613, Argall explored as far as the Potomac Falls area near present-day Washington, D.C. He kidnapped Pocahontas in April of that year.

[8] For a discussion of the desirability and purpose of Anglo-Indian marriages in Algonquin diplomacy, see Quitt (1995).

[9] Historians now believe that the date of the marriage was April, 1614.

[10] Smith is mentioned earlier in the book, beginning on p. 22. Álvarez describes Smith as “commander” of the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, that arrived in Jamestown in 1607, and he credits Smith with naming the rivers and town.

[11] According to Smith’s Generall Historie (1624), he was captured in late December, 1607.

[12] Researchers believe that they have identified the site of Powhatan’s capital and place of residence where this famed meeting is thought to have occurred. Werowocomoco, a religious and political center for indigenous communities from the 13th through the 17th centuries, is located along the northern bank of the York River in Gloucester County. For more information on the site and its archaeological history, see the resources available through the Werowocomoco Research Project at the College of William & Mary,

[13] While there is no evidence from the material record to suggest that Algonquin tribes practiced cannibalism for gastronomic purposes, several written accounts by Europeans attest to what has been termed “battlefield cannibalism,” or the ritualistic celebration of a military victory over an enemy. However, these ceremonies were always completed upon a prisoner’s arrival to the settlement, usually the same night, rendering the fattening of a victim, as Smith describes, a highly unusual or unlikely occurrence. For a more extensive discussion of the literary tropes and historical realities of cannibalism in the native Chesapeake, see Abler (1992).

[14] Compare this passage with the very different accounts in Smith’s Generall Historie (1624), pp. 121-2.

[15] In September, 1616.

[16] In the Generall Historie (1624), Smith says that he waited several months before visiting Pocahontas in London.

[17] Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), wife of Stuart monarch James I/VI of England and Scotland (1566-1625).

[18] Cecily Shirley (1581-1662), wife of Thomas West (1577-1618), Third Baron De La Warr, and nominal governor of Virginia.

[19]  A port town on the south bank of the Thames in County Kent, England. Pocahontas and her family were aboard a ship en route to Virginia in March, 1617, when she became gravely ill and was taken ashore.

[20] Uttamatomakkin, an Algonquin priest and brother-in-law to Powhatan.

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