David A. Price, Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf)
As a young child many of us are raised to be familiar with the Pocahontas and John Smith story. Whether it was in a Disney movie or at a school play that one first learned of Jamestown, students want to believe that this romantic relationship really did occur. As one ages, one becomes aware of the dichotomy between fact and fiction.This is brilliantly explained in David A. Price’s, Love and Hate in Jamestown.Price describes a more robust account of events that really did take place in the poorly run, miserable, yet evolving settlement of Jamestown, Virginia; and engulfs and edifies the story marketed by Disney and others for young audiences.Price reveals countless facts from original documents about the history of Jamestown and other fledgling colonies, John Smith, and Smith’s relationship with Pocahontas. He develops a more compelling read than does the typical high school text book and writes intriguingly which propels the reader, to continue on to the successive chapters in the early history of Virginia.
The thesis of the book is; although the excitement and thrill of settling a new colony in Virginia brought love and happiness to the settlers, the constant fear of survival and the lack of judgment and skilled workmanship brought about much misery and hatred between the settlers and the Indians and between the settlers themselves. The book begins by describing the departure of an excited crew in search of gold in the New World. Their previous knowledge of the Spanish enrichment of gold created a group dominated by money thirsty, wealthy gentlemen. The three ships; The Susan Constant, The Godspeed and the Discovery departed from Blackwall, England in 1606. Their enthusiasm was shown through various documents written on the journey toward Virginia:
And cheerfully at sea
Success you still entice
To get the pearl and gold,
And ours to hold
Earth’s only paradise!
Where nature hath in store
Fowl, venison, and fish,
And the fruitful’st soil
Without your toil,
Three harvests more,
All greater than you wish.
(“No Spanish intention”: Stachey (1612) (pg.12))
Loaded chockfull of wealthy gentlemen, there were no women and unfortunately ships were few in soldiers and working men. This set the stage for problems that naturally flow from a disparity of this sort; the conditions clearly called for hard laborious work. One of the few commoners on board; a former solider who served in Turkey, was named John Smith. Although looked down upon by the upper class members of the exploration, he was a hard worker and would prove to be a key to the survival of the colony once they reached their destination. Upon arrival in Virginia country, the crew was provided with a pamphlet from their sponsor the Virginia Company. The pamphlet contained instructions on how to start the colony, Indian relations, and who should govern Jamestown.The pamphlet also included information on where to locate the town and how to control the Indians initially by peaceful means but yet utilizing scare tactics. The instructions were very clear. There would be seven men who would make up the colony’s council. The list of names included, Edward-Maria Wingfield, a wealthy investor, the commander of the Susan Constant, Christopher Newport; commander of the Godspeed, Bartholomew Gosnold; and the commander of the Discovery, John Ratcliffe. More names were listed; prominent names expected by the colonists since day one. However, one name on the list was a jaw dropper to all; John Smith, who at the time was locked in the crew’s prison. Smith was to be one of the seven on the Council. Although some time passed before Smith was able to assume his role as a leader, eventually due to hard times the colonists were forced to accept any possible means of help; even if it meant a leader that was a solider they often despised.
The colony seemed to have had a case of bad luck from the beginning. The location for Jamestown was not only a swampy area; it was also surrounded by enemy Indian tribes; not next to the ally tribe situated further down the river. The dominance of wealthy gentlemen and their lack of “working man” survival skills and motivation to do the hard work took its toll.