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London Virginia Company

The London Virginia Company can also be known as 'The Virgina Company of London or even just the The Virgina Company It was set up as a joint stock company[?] by royal charter on April 10, 1606, written by Sir Edward Coke and Sir John Popham[?]. Its business was the colonisation of Virginia, using indentured servants[?] as the labour force. Its instructions issued to Sir Thomas Gates[?] on November 20 called for a forcible conversion of Native Americans to the Anglicanism and subordination to the colonial administration. The records of the company record a discussion during one of their first meetings about publishing a justification of their business enterprise and methods "give adventurers, a clearness and satisfactione, for the justice of the action, and so encourage them". Others opposed this, arguing that "there is much a confession in every apology" and called for "quietness and no doubting" not wanting to create a public debate where Catholics and neutrals might attack them. Whereas Catholic arguments would be in support of Spanish legal claims to the New World under the Donation of Alexander[?], it was feared that the neutral "pen-adversaries" might "cast scruples into our conscience" by criticising the lawfulness of the plantation. It was decided to forego such a publication of a justification.

However in 1608 Sir Edward Coke, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice[?] offered a ruling in Calvin's Case which went beyond the issue at hand: whether a Scotsman could seek justice at an English Court. Coke distinguished between aliens from nations at war with England and friendly aliens, those from nations in league with England. Friendly aliens could have recourse to English courts. But he also ruled that "all infidels" (i.e. those from non-christian nations) there can be no peace and a state of perpetual hostility would exist between them and Christians. By so doing, Coke had created a warrant for genocide, uin line with the intentions of the company.

In 1609 the company issued further instructions to kidnap Native American children so as to indoctrinate them with English values and religion. These instructions also sanctioned the murder of the Iniocasoockes[?], the cultural leaders of the local Powhatans[?]. However it was only when Thomas De La Warr[?] arrived in 1610 that the Company was able to commence a genocidal war against the Powhatan with the First Anglo-Powhatan War[?]. De La Warr was replaced by Sir Thomas Dale[?], who continued the war. It was during this period that Pocohontas[?] married John Rolfe[?].

The genocide was accompanied by a propaganda war: Alderman Robert Johnson[?] published Nova Britannia in 1609 which compared Native Americans to wild animals - "heardes of deere in a forest". While it portrayed the Powhatans as peace loving, it nevertheless threatened to deal with any who resisted conversion to Anglicanism as ennimies of 'their' country. (Johnson was the son-in-law of Sir Thomas Smith[?], leader of one of the court factions within the Company in London.)

In 1622 the Second Anglo-Powhatan War[?] was started. Its origins are disputed. English apologists for the company say that Opchanacanough[?] initiated the war. Robert Williams[?], a contemporary Native American Law Professor argues that Opchanacanough had secured concessions from Governor Yeardley which the company would not accept. Thus Opchanacanough attack on March 22, 1622 may have been an attempt to defeat the colony before reinforcements arrived. 350 out of 1,240 colonists were killed. The Virginia Company quickly published a racist account of this attack which was steeped in Calvinist theology - the massacre was the work of providence in that it gave an excuse for thecomplete genocide of the Powhatan, and the building of settlements on their former towns. New orders called for a "perpetuall warre without peace or truce" "to roote out from being any longer a people, so cursed a nation, ungratefull to all benefitte, and incapable of all goodnesses". Govrnor Yeardley led four expeditions which set out to kill all Native Americans regardless of sex or age.

However despite clearing the land through genocide, the London Virginia Company was suffering internal problems at home. Sir Thomas Smith fell out with Robert Rich[?], the Earl of Warwick (owner of the ship the Treasurer which brought the first African slaves to Virginia. Whilst Rich and Smith were both part of the court faction, their argument allowed Edwin Sandys of the parliamentary faction to to supplant Smith as treasurer. Nicholas Ferrar, an associate of Sandys, wrote a pamphlet (only published in 1990 accusing Smith of trying to reduce indentured servants to perpetual slavery. In particular he referred to the enslavement of "Pollanders" (i.e. Poles) who were sold to Dr Woodall, surgeon of the East India Company (Sir Thomas Smith was a director of this organisation too). Ferrar also accused Smith and Johnson of running a company within a company to embezzle the profits. The dispute ended with the closing of the London Virginia Company.



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