John Rolfe quickly made tobacco the only export from the Virginia Colony, and Sir Thomas Dale had to force the colonists to give their time and land to the planting of grain, since they could not eat money. But tobacco used up the soil, and new fields had to be found every two or three years. It was easier to take fields from the Indians than to clear new land. The village of Kecoughtan at the mouth of the James River was seized and the inhabitants driven away; its cornfields, 2,000 to 3,000 acres in size (according to Secretary Starkey). The Powhatans loved their homes but they loved their lives more (to say nothing of their peace and quiet). They wept but they moved.
The principal officers of the Virginia Company were to be put in possession of personal estates of no less than 1,500 acres each--more, if they owned extra "great shares," which brought the estates of some officers to 5,000 acres. Junior executives were granted 500 acre estates. The company created a 12,000-acre estate for itself. Promoters who guaranteed to send out certain numbers of settlers were given large tracks of land.
Land encroachment was not the only cause for conflict. Livestock introduced by the settlers damaged the unfenced Indian gardens. Hogs were the worst offenders. But if the Indians damaged the hogs, the hogs' owner would damage the Indian--and if the owner was hurt, the English would burn an Indian town and put a dozen people to the sword.
Nothing personal was involved. What was involved was the inexorable treading of basic official policy. Founded purely on economic considerations, this policy conciliated the Powhatan people while they were of use, and pressed them remorselessly, facelessly, mechanically, as innocent conscious?? ill will as a turning wheel, when they became of less value than their land.
In 1617, Pocahontas died, leaving her infant son and John Rolfe. John Rolfe left his young son in the care of his brother in England. At the news of his favorite daughter, Powhatan went into seclusion until his death in 1618. For the next four years, there was more pressure put upon the Powhatan. The English even imposed a tax on all the goods that the Indians had. Demanding 75% of all the corn raised or death. In 1622, Opechancanough became the head chief. In the spring of 1622, the Powhatans exploded under the English pressure in an attack that left 350 colonists dead and a number of settlements destroyed in the space of just a few hours. This was what the English were waiting for. Edward Waterhouse called the "massacre" a blessing and said that now there was no reason to tolerate the Indians anymore. By the spring of 1623, Opechancanough was ready for peace. Many of his people were dead and the remainder were hungry. The colonial officers agreed to meet for peace and military representatives met with the Indians to return English prisoners to their homes. On May 22, 1623, Captain William Tucker concluded the treaty of peace with a toast of poisoned wine, killing some two hundred of the village of Aponehinking (Source: Robert Bennett to Edward Bennett, from Benetes Wellcome,
June 9, 1623 and Kingbury,Susan, The Records of the Virginia Company of London, Vol. IV. 221-222). The English swore to scourge the Powhatans from the face of the earth, and did succeed in practically exterminating those along the lower James and York rivers. Three punitive expeditions a year were carried out, year after year, giving the Powhatans no chance to plant corn or rebuild destroyed towns. Men, women, and children were slain without quarter?; the English captains were under oath to make no peace on any terms whatsoever. The heaviest Indian losses were achieved when numbers of them were
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