The Jamestown Fiasco Essay

The article Taking Sides has two very interesting points of view. On one side you have Edmund Morgan that makes the argument that the settlement of Jamestown was a fiasco more than a plan. The other side has Karen Kupperman taking the stance that the whole Jamestown settlement was an experiment of trial and error. They both make very compelling arguments and there is truth to both sides. Although I would have to say I agree more with Karen Kupperman on the fact that it was more of an experiment than anything else.

I don’t feel that Jamestown could be classified as a fiasco because by definition that means that the settlement would have failed. It was certainly not a total success, but when building something new, the way the Virginia Company was trying to, you are going to have failures, which in this case can be classified as an error in planning. One such error was the fact that the early structure of high-ranking governors and young men was due to the Virginia Company’s fear of the settlement being attacked by the Spanish. This arrangement of men is well suited if attacked, but does not work well when trying to start a settlement from the ground.

What skills did these men have? Did they even know how to farm so that they could grow their own food? On top of these questions about the young men the other problem with this was that the social status of each group did not make it to the settlement from England very well. Due to this “the company deemed brute force under martial law necessary to keep the Jamestown colonists in line” (Kupperman 2009). Finally, it was figured out that this style of society wouldn’t work for the new settlement and people were given their own land to provide incentive to work and produce for themselves and the Company.

The second trial and error experiment was due to the lack of knowledge the English had about the land. The Virginia Company thought that the economic base of Jamestown should be gold and other precious metals. So, that was what the settlers concentrated on finding when they arrived. I was quickly learned that these items would be hard if not impossible to find. Eventually, they discovered the best cash crop for the time was tobacco. If they would have known more about the land before starting Jamestown the company could have planned to farm tobacco. Better yet, according to John

Smith after analysis of Virginia’s records, they could have planned for fishing to be the man economic staple and substance. This is possibly the reason the Massachusetts Bay’s founders made some of the decisions they did. Another reason I do not believe the settlement was not a fiasco is due to the discoveries that archaeologists have made. These discoveries show that the people of Jamestown were trying to greatly improve their economic base to more than just mining precious metals, jewels and farming tobacco. Many merchant shops have been uncovered ranging from gunsmith John Jackson’s workshop, pottery shops and places for brewing.

This shows that the settlers were trying new ways and industries to make money to grow the colony. I can understand how some might say that the settlement of Jamestown was a fiasco, but I must say that I disagree. Any new country may seem like an unorganized bunch of people doing what they want. Once the actions of these people are studied closely though, you will see a pattern of behavior that turns into a trial and error process. This is the reason I must say that the craziness and failures at Jamestown were all experiments in what did and didn’t work. Works Cited Kupperman, Karen. “The Jamestown Project. ” Taking Sides, 2009: 55-62.

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Essay 1, Question 1 History 1301 Zac Clingaman Edmund Morgan’s Analysis of Jamestown Identify and discuss the three reasons Edmund Morgan gives for possibly explaining the failures of Jamestown. Is Morgan absolutely certain of all 3 reasons? Why or why not? A confusing world full of disease, violent savages and starvation all brought hardship to the early colony of Jamestown. Edmund Morgan offers real reasons to why it failed, and how the colonists could have easily changed their own fate. England set out for an adventure when they sent ships full of eager colonists out to explore the New World. They had their sights set on finding gold, fine silk, and jewels while managing to forget to acquire basic food and shelter. How is it that an advanced team of colonists managed to starve and die while their primitive counterparts, the Indians, managed to feed their own people year after year? Edmund Morgan, author of the “Jamestown Fiasco”, believes that the colonists failed because of ineffective leadership, a lack of basic laborers, and establishing harmful relations with the Indians. In the beginning, a cross was planted by governor Newport to symbolize England’s new dominion, and the next day 200 angry Indians nearly destroyed the fort at Jamestown. This is a clear sign of distracted leadership, which is trying to impress a king back home while placing its colonists in mortal danger. Morgan says that events like these distracted the colony from producing what it truly needed, such as working to gather essential supplies to survive. This act


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