• David Joyce

The Charter of Jamestown of 1606 and its importance

Updated: Jan 6


From the beginning, Jamestown’s role in the colonialization of Virginia was considered revolutionary. In this age of exploration, the established powers in Europe were looking to expand their domains. Embarking for new lands, their reasons for these expeditions, however, were nothing new. Seeking to expand their political and economic influence, the results of their actions would have lasting impacts. From hostile relations with Native Americans to the birth of new nations, the consequences were numerous.


When King James 1st of Great Britain planned to establish a “colony of our [British citizens] sundry of our people” along the coast of Virginia, 1 he was envisioning a prosperous future. While it is true that the colony became stable, it took several years to do so. Suffering from disease and starvation, the colonists were truly living on the frontier. Despite this chaotic start, the privileges the king granted to these pioneers were instrumental in the colony’s success.


Unlike the Old World, the English in Jamestown could start a new life. Whereas in England, many of them had little to no prospects, but in Virginia, they could rise above their station. Allowed to “dig, mine, and search for all manners of Gold, silver, and copper,”2 they could “lawfully” make money for themselves and for the colony.3 Although, this wasn’t the only way they could support their families. Able to own and maintain their own plantations, 4 they were given opportunities not available to them in Great Britain.


But this was not the only policy they benefited from. Bestowed with the right to form a self-governing council, they could “govern and order all matter and causes, which shall arise, or happen to grow” within Jamestown”5 As an independent colony, they could determine their own future. Ironically, little did King James know this freedom would one day lead to the separation of Virginia from Great Britain. However, not all of the policies were productive.

Determined to convert Native Americans who lived in the “ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God,”5 the council was ordered to bring them “to a settled and quiet government.”6 This controversial aspect of colonialism was not unique, and helped determine future Native American-Anglo relations. Politically, economically, and ecclesiastically, the fallout of this decree hindered the early progress of the colony. In time, it would lead to the weakening of the Native American tribes in Virginia, and their gradual expulsion.


The settling of colonies during the eighteenth-century was a time of expansion, exploration, and hardships. When the English pioneers of Jamestown landed in Virginia, they brought with them revolutionary ideals that would change history. Despite their ingenuity, they also promoted ideas now seen as provocative. For better or for worse, the beginning of Jamestown, Virginia, has forever shaped the United States and the world.



Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. William Waller Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619 (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 57.

2. William Waller Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619 (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 60-61.

3. William Waller Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619 (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 60-62.

4. William Waller Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619 (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 66.

5. William Waller Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619 (London, England : Forgotten Books, 2015), 58.

6. Hening, The Statutes At Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619, 58.

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