Colonization of the Chesapeake Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


Chesapeake is a city located in Virginia, a state in the eastern part of the United States. The city was formed in 1963 through a political consolidation that involved south Norfolk city and Norfolk County. It has an estimated population of more than 230,000 people. Chesapeake is a diverse city characterized by a few metropolitan areas, as a well as large areas covered by wetlands, agricultural lands, and forest cover. The reason for the few urban areas in Chesapeake is occasional conflicts between numerous historical and geographical communities that settled in the city. Leaders in the city unsuccessfully tried to manage the conflicts between these groups.

Chesapeake has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century when Europeans migrated to the United States. Together with the thirteen southern colonies, Chesapeake provided a good source for raw materials, human labor, and financial resources to British colonizers. The biggest cash crop grown in the city was tobacco, which had a very high demand in the world market. With time, agriculture became the main economic activity in the city and resulted in increased demand for human labor. Importing slaves from Africa satisfied the high demand for labor because Native Americans living in the city showed their unwillingness to work in plantations. This essay will discuss the process of colonization in the city of Chesapeake.


Britain was motivated to colonize Chesapeake by two main reasons. These reasons were the pull to settle in America and the push to leave Europe. The pull to settle in America developed following the information they received about America. The land and economic opportunities in the United States were very appealing. The British colonizers also had a desire to join their fellow citizens who had earlier migrated to the country. Some Britons got their pull to settle in America because they wanted to pursue their religious beliefs, while others had hope that they would successfully educate and convert Indians living in the country. On the other hand, the colonizers also moved to America following several factors that pushed them away from home. These factors included a desire for adventure, high rate of unemployment, religious persecution, political changes, and a need for agricultural land, among others. According, to experts on American history, the British colonizers were also motivated to pursue this adventure by the efforts of 15th and 16th-century explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan.

The first colony that the British colonizers attempted to set up in the United States was in Roanoke Island, southeast of Chesapeake. They eventually failed in their maiden attempt. After the failure, the colonizers moved to Jamestown in 1607, which became their first permanent settlement in America. The town was located on the James River in Virginia to the north of Norfolk. Reports indicate that more than one hundred English colonizers who included soldiers, laborers, and artisans settled in Jamestown. However, since Indians predominantly occupied this town, conflicts were inevitable, and most of the colonists died in the process. Most of the British colonizers died of hunger and diseases. The Indians did not have food to sell and concentrated on digging gold instead of hunting or farming. However, the colonizers did not give up on their efforts to tighten their grip in Jamestown, as more troops and supplies came from Europe. Prolonged drought periods led the colonizers to eat alternative foods that included horse, dog, and cat meat.

In the mid 17th century, more colonists from Europe came to the city and managed to save it after lengthy periods of famine and wildness. The colonialists were attracted to America by the need to satisfy the high demand for tobacco, which attracted high market prices at the time. The colony of Jamestown was growing very fast, and the British colonizers set up another colony in Maryland to avoid overpopulation. By this time, tobacco had turned into a major cash crop. There were more plantations developing across the two colonies. Increased plantations led to a higher demand for labor. However, Native Americans were independent and unwilling to work on farms. This resulted in importation of Africans into the colony to work as slaves. The tobacco business was doing very well and made the colonialists prosperous. Their prosperity was at the expense of humanity as the slaves were suffering.

Among the Indian settlers in Chesapeake, there was Powhatan who was the chief and founder of the Powhatan association of clans. By the time the British colonizers arrived in the city, Powhatan had dominated several small tribes in Jamestown where the first colony was set up. The immigrants referred to all Indians in the area as Powhatans. Surprisingly, Powhatan did not consider the British colonizers as enemies because of their desire to educate and convert Indians. Instead, he treated them as allies who would help him in overcoming his struggles of controlling the Indian tribes in the city that had not bought into his philosophy. Reports indicate that the arrival of British colonizers led to a culture clash in Chesapeake. This happened because of the poor relationship between Indians and the settlers, which was getting worse every day. During the period when there was a prolonged spell of famine, British colonizers raided the food supplies of the Indians. The languages and different cultures of the two groups also necessitated the culture clash.

From 1610-1614, the infamous Anglo-Powhatan war between the Indians and the colonialists took place. British officers attacked Indians in their villages, burned their houses, went away with all food supplies, and torched their cornfields. However, calm returned in the village over the next eight years following the marriage between Pocahontas who was Indian, and John Rolfe, who was British. Although many people considered this marriage as the deal that brokered peace between the two conflicting groups, reports indicate that periodic attacks were witnessed from 1622-1644. In 1622, Indians launched an attack against the British colonizers and managed to kill over three hundred people. One of those killed in the attacks was John Rolfe. At the same time, a local enterprise called Virginia Company declared everlasting war against Native Americans living in the area. The war reduced the population in the colony, as many natives moved out towards the westward.

This desire by the British colonizers meant that the natives would kick-start a fight to recover their territory. The natives launched their last attempt to overcome the colonizers with the second edition of Anglo-Powhatan war from 1644-1646. The Indians lost again to the British colonizers and agreed to sign a peace treaty with them. Some of the agreements made during the signing of the peace treaty included formal separation of settlement areas occupied by the two groups and removal of Powhatans from their native land. The Indians were also bound to agree to contractual bondage that would have benefits in the end. The natives were to sign contracts for five to seven years and promised to receive compensation. However, the slaves could not marry as long as their contract was still in progress because it would reduce their value to their employers. The slaves who included Native Americans, and some Africans endured hard labor and lived in unhealthy conditions. This made the number of the slaves who fulfilled their contracts to be very little because the colonialists wanted to retain the land they had captured from the natives.

The people who migrated to Chesapeake city had the advantage of having an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives despite impending dangers from conflicts, diseases, and famine. The slaves who fulfilled their contracts also managed to upgrade with time, as they were able to acquire parcels of agricultural land at a fee. Those who could not afford to pay the fee were required to give a portion of their produce. Chesapeake developed into a single crop economy because even the slaves who received their parcels of land ventured into developing tobacco plantations. Reports on the history of Virginia show that tobacco has had a huge effect on its economy. The cash crop popularized the plantation system of farming.

The year 1619

The year 1619 was very important in the colonization of Chesapeake. The first Africans arrived in Jamestown this year, although their status was not clear. These Africans arrived as either slaves or contractual servants. Slave trade along the Atlantic led to the growth and development of a sizeable population of black people in the colony. Within a short time, the black slaves from Africa had outnumbered contractual servants who were mainly Native Americans and Indians. During this year, the House of Burgesses was established to assume the role of the House of Commons just like in England. The main responsibility of the House of Burgesses was to control financial resources and the militia within the colony.

By the turn of the century, the house had already begun the process of making and enacting laws for the colony. The laws created the position of a royal governor who had the authority to appoint a governing council. The council operated as the House of Lords. It constituted of leading tobacco planters from the colony. However, the governing council could not have consistency in its operations because the retention rate for the members was very low due to high death rates necessitated by diseases and famine in the colony. Virginia became a royal colony following the appointment of James I as the king. The king brought a lot of hostility in the colony because of his dislike for tobacco and lack of trust in the House of Burgesses. King James, I argued that the house of burgesses acted as a private place that taught young people illegal actions of inciting resistance to lawful authority. He said that the house intended to disrupt order to overthrow the ruling power. In the year 1624, King James I revoked a charter on the Virginia Company limited, which had filed for economic failure.

Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion

The process of Chesapeake colonization was also characterized by Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion of 1676. Nathaniel Bacon mobilized over one thousand natives to rebel against the leadership of Governor Berkeley. The natives did not like the leadership approach applied by Berkeley that involved having close relationships with Indians. The governor provided the Indians with protection against any attacks. He also helped them to monopolize fur business in the colony, much to the anger of Native Americans. The rebellion resulted in the hoisting of Governor Berkeley from Jamestown and serious attacks on Indians. The rebels burnt the capital as they went on a marauding rampage. The leader of the rebellion later died out of fever-related complications. On his part, Governor Berkeley responded to the rebellion by brutally crushing them and hanging twenty of those who had participated.

The rebellion was a clear manifestation of the differences that existed in the colony because of different social and economic factors. Colonial planters who belonged to the upper economic and social classes sourced for laborers among African Americans who were less rebellious. The social structure in the colony applied to separating the different groups of people living in the colony. At the top of the social pedigree were the British colonialist and their families. At the bottom were the African American slaves and Native Americans who worked as contractual slaves. Religion was also a social issue in the colony, as the British colonialists were Protestants while the others belonged to smaller religions. Religion was a big issue in the colony because the Britons wanted to convert the natives into Protestants.

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