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Sir William Berkeley and Native American Slavery

Sir William Berkeley was a highly educated courtier in the regime of Charles I, then twice governor of Virginia.1 As governor, he stacked the Council and House of Burgesses with Royalist planters then institutionalized race-based slavery in 1661 and 1662.  Prior to that time in Virginia, Native American and Africans were theoretically forced laborers; legally classified as indentured servants like their European counterparts, who would be supposedly set free after seven years of work for a master.  After passage of this law, Native American and African servants were human chattel, who could remain slaves all their lives and whose children would be born slaves. Berkeley is still a highly controversial figure in Virginia. There are essentially two versions of his biography. One paints him as a misunderstood, aristocratic philanthropist, who did many good things for Virginia.  The other version paints him as an incompetent and arrogant royalist.  Neither of these versions dwells on the highly significant, covert roll that Berkeley played in the history of the Southern Highlands.  Much of his wealth came from trade with the Indians (or somebody in the wilderness.)  The Rickohockens purchased European merchandize from Berkeley with Native American slaves.  Less the readers believe the more flattering portraits of Sir William, here is a quote from a book that he wrote in 1671: “I thank God, there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia; and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”2 There is something...

Castaways, Deserters, Refugees and Pirates

There is no accurate measure of the number of shipwrecks along the South Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the number must be in the hundreds or even over a thousand. Also not known is how many shipwrecked sailors and passengers survived in North America during the 1500’s and 1600’s, or how many Sephardic Jews, Muslim Moors and European Protestants, escaping the Spanish Inquisition, landed on the shores of the present day Southeastern United States. Surviving archives, however, do furnish credible evidence of these peoples settling in the interior of the Southeast, while officially England was only colonizing the coastal regions.

The Rickohockens

The word, “Rickohocken,” appeared suddenly in the discussions of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1644, and was frequently mentioned thereafter until 1684. No word similar to Rickohocken appeared on Virginia maps before 1644, while such southwestern Virginia tribes as the Tomahitan, Saponi and Occaneechi did. The Rickohockens were shown on British maps to control southwestern Virginia, southeastern Kentucky, northeastern Tennessee and northwestern North Carolina until the early 1700s.

The United Provinces of the Netherlands

Because the peoples of the Netherlands and the United States have always had the warmest of relations, contemporary American historians have typically overlooked the less than benign role that Dutch entrepreneurs played in the early development of the Virginia Colony. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, England and the rebelling peoples of the Low Countries were close allies. The Dutch rebels were dependent on English sea power to maintain access to the North Sea. That was to change.

Chronology of Early Virginia History 1607-1715

1607 – Jamestown colony founded. 1609 – Based on the voyage of Henry Hudson, the Netherlands claimed the region in what are now the Middle Atlantic States. Their claim extended from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Massachusetts Bay.1 First Powhatan War (1610 to 1614) coincides with secret Dutch explorations. (See further: The Indian Wars of the Colonists of Virginia) 1611-1614 – The Admiralty of Amsterdam sent four covert voyages to North America.  The ships were captained by Jan Cornelisz Mey and Symon Willemsz Cat.2 The area between present-day Maryland and Massachusetts was explored, surveyed, and charted. 1613 – “Regular Joes” were seldom recorded by history, especially in an era where nations were ruled by kings and nobility.  There is an exception in the history of New York City.3 Dominican trader Juan Rodriguez hitched a ride on a sailing ship and then was dropped off at Manhattan Island. He was born in Santo Domingo of Portuguese and African descent. During the winter of 1613-1614, he trapped animals for pelts and traded with the local Natives.  He became the first non-Native American to live in New York. There is a high probability that if a Dominican would sail all the way to chilly Manhattan to live in a wilderness claimed by the Netherlands, many more freelance entrepreneurs from the Caribbean Basin made their way to the wilderness north of La Florida.  The region was claimed by both France and Spain, but neither nation established formal government there. 1614 – First Dutch trading post established 1614 – A Dutch trading post was established on the Hudson River near present day Albany. ...

Potomac Tribe

A small group of families, whose names are mostly Newton and Green (figs. 40, 41), represent what may be the Indians who are recorded to Potomac creek, an affluent of about eight miles north of Fredericksburg in Stafford County, Virginia. We have not, however, clear proof that these descendants are actually of Potomac identity, although they now bear the name. They are not organized definitely, nor are their numbers known, except for a rough estimate which would put them at about 150. Like most of the tidewater bands, they are engaged chiefly in fishing. Hunting has been discontinued only within the last twenty-five years by some of them who followed it as a profession. At present the Potomac group still remains unstudied. As usual, considerable folklore and some ethnological survivals may be expected to reward the labor of the patient investigator. An interesting legend is related by the older people. A version from the lips of Luther Newton, one of the more prominent men of the band, is as follows: One of the sons of Sir Isaac Newton was disowned by his father for social misdeeds. In consequence of his disgrace the young man came to America to seek his fortune. While passing through the newly formed settlements in Virginia, one day he found himself obliged to seek shelter and food at the home of a planter on the edge of the forest. As he rode his horse to the plantation gate a pretty little Indian girl moved forward, opened the gate, and held it for him to pass by. Struck by her beauty, he leaned forward, took a...
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