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The reasons for the founding and settlement of Jamestown

Summary:

Jamestown was founded in 1607 primarily for economic reasons. The Virginia Company of London financed the settlement in hopes of finding gold and establishing a profitable colony. Additionally, the settlers aimed to expand English territory and influence in the New World, while seeking new trade opportunities and resources.

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Why was Jamestown founded?

Jamestown was established before settlement at Plymouth and is credited as the first English colony. Having heard of new lands and potential for wealth creation, the English embarked on a voyage to settle in the New World. The colony on the island was supported by investors organized as the Virginia Company of London.

Motivations for the voyage and settlement in the New World included the need to expand the English territory, achieve wealth through the mining and trade of precious metals and other minerals, discover new trade routes to Asia through the northwest, and to spread the Christian religion to the natives that were considered savage.

It is important to note that most of the people on the voyage were predominantly urged on by the idea that there was plenty of gold and silver in the New World and that arrival to the new lands would help them access instant riches. However, the hardships, diseases, and deaths of the first settlers told a story of the constant struggle to survive.

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Why was Jamestown founded?

The main reason why Jamestown was founded is that a group of English people wanted to make their fortunes.  They knew, of course, of the riches that had been found by various Spanish explorers in South America and they hoped that they could find ways to become rich in North America as well.  This was not the only reason for founding the colony, but it was the main reason.

The charter that the Jamestown settlers got from the king shows that the colonists had at least one other ostensible goal in founding the settlement.  The charter speaks of how the colonists are to work at

propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God…

However, this was clearly not the main goal of this settlement. Instead, the main goal was economic.  The settlers were mainly motivated by the desire to get rich.  The charter goes on to grant the colonists the right

to dig, mine, and search for all Manner of Mines of Gold, Silver, and Copper … And to HAVE and enjoy the Gold, Silver, and Copper, to be gotten thereof…

This makes clear that the main reason why Jamestown was founded was so that the settlers would be able to find ways to get rich.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

The primary motivations of most of the Jamestown settlers were economic. For over a century, Spain had been reaping massive fortunes in the New World. By the beginning of the 17th Century, the English were eager to do the same. With the founding of the Virginia Company of London in 1606, the venture had the financial backing to make a settlement possible. Investors and settlers alike hoped to use the new colony to gather natural resources, grow cash crops, and open new markets for trade.

At this time, England was enduring a devastating economic depression. Poverty was sweeping through the nation. It was becoming clear to many that relying on the old economic structures would be insufficient. With the collapse of the wool market, much of England's economic basis had crumbled. Furthermore, the enclosure movement meant that non-landowners lost access to public lands which they had relied on for generations. However, new lands ripe for the taking were available in the New World. Tales of unlimited riches lying in wait across the ocean were an inspiration to many.

The location of Jamestown was chosen because it was hoped that the relatively warm climate would make it suitable for growing crops throughout much of the year. Furthermore, it was located at a good place for larger ships to anchor and offered a defensive position. Unfortunately, the original settlers did not take into account issues like reliable access to clean drinking water and swampy conditions that allowed disease-carrying mosquitos to thrive.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

The Jamestown Colony was established by the Virginia Company of London, which was granted a charter to establish colonies in Virginia by James I in 1606. The charter gave various reasons for establishing these colonies, several of which were religious and political. The colonists were to convert the Virginia natives to Protestant Christianity and prevent them from being converted to Catholicism by the Spanish. They were also to prevent the spread of Spanish influence in the Americas more generally.

The Virginia Company, however, was a private stock-holding company, and its primary motive was always profit. The Virginia colonists, unlike their counterparts in Massachusetts, were not particularly religious, and most were hoping to exploit the economic opportunities offered by a virgin continent. These included mining and logging, as well as the search for a Northwest passage to Asia. Later, indentured servants, slaves and convicts were sent to Virginia, but those who came of their own free will were still primarily motivated by the opportunity to make money.

The motives of the early settlers for going to Virginia were, therefore, quite straightforwardly pecuniary. Their reasons for settling in Jamestown itself, however, have often been questioned. The town is in the midst of a pestilential swamp, where the water is stagnant and brackish. The colonists may have made a mistake about the water supply, since they arrived in April, when the melting snow from the mountains provided them with streams of drinking water which soon dried up. However, the abundance of other natural resources, including mineral wealth, and the fact that the land was unoccupied and easily defended, with a natural harbor, may have influenced them in selecting the site.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

Most settlers originally went to Jamestown because they wanted to get rich.  Some others came to work for the people who went there to get rich.  In general, people came to Jamestown for economic reasons.

The bulk of the original settlers of Jamestown were gentlemen.  They were on an adventure to a new land where they hoped to get rich.  They believed that they would be able to find gold or to get rich in other ways that did not involve doing their own work.  Along with them came a number of poorer people who were meant to work for them.  These were laborers and, eventually, indentured servants.  These people came to Virginia because they were forced to (as convicts) or because they felt that they could have a better chance to get ahead economically in the New World even if they were servants and laborers.  As time went by, more laborers and farmers came to Jamestown.  This was particularly true after Virginia started to produce tobacco for export.  What all of these people have in common is that they came for economic reasons.  The elites wanted to become truly wealthy and the poor wanted a better chance  to get ahead.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

The earlier answers to this question focus on explaining why the Jamestown settlers went to the New World, but not upon the other implied question of why the settlers went to Jamestown specifically. As other have noted, this voyage, the first with the intent of creating a permanent English settlement in the New World, was funded by the Virginia Company and had financial, rather than religious, motivations—the travelers on this voyage hoped to become wealthy from the natural resources of the area, and served as prospectors for the Virginia Company. The site of Jamestown itself was chosen based on detailed instructions provided by the Virginia Company of London, who were in competition with the Plymouth Company of London to found profitable colonies in the new world. The Virginia Company had been assigned a charter to settle in a particular area of the coast. Within this area, it stipulated to its seafarers that the land they chose should be highly defensible against potential Spanish attacks; should allow for a cove with water deep enough for the ship to remain moored there; should be inland, but surrounded by water; and should not be occupied by Native tribes. Jamestown was selected because the sailors believed it to fit all these criteria, although, as they would later learn, it was not really the case that the area was not inhabited by Native Americans. In fact, the Powhatan tribe lived nearby and provided a great deal of help to the English settlers in the early years. 

The Jamestown settlement took several decades to be truly called "successful," as its inhabitants endured a long famine at first. However, it went on to succeed for a century before its inhabitants moved on to Williamsburg, making it certainly a vast improvement on the previous English attempt at settling at Roanoke where the colonists disappeared without trace. 

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

In contrast to the Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay colonies, which would begin more than a decade later as places of religious refuge for Dissenting (Puritan) English people, Jamestown was started as a financial venture by the Virginia Company of London. The company hoped to find silver and gold in the area, and they also hoped, by establishing a permanent colony, to be able to exploit the natural resources of the area and sell back finished goods to the colonists.

The original settlers came for economic reasons, hoping to earn good financial rewards from such a risky adventure. The first 104 settlers (one died on the voyage) were all male and many came from upper-class backgrounds, so they were unused to labor. Establishing a colony in a region filled with Native Americans as well as other obstacles proved much more difficult than expected, and many of the early settlers died of hunger and disease. 

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

The original settlers went to Jamestown for different reasons, though the primary mission of the settlement was to provide a source of wealth (hopefully gold and silver) and to establish an English foothold against potential Spanish expansion in the New World. The family of one of the original colonists, the genteel James Forrest, seem to have intended to supervise the search for gold, and saw the expedition as an opportunity to get rich. His wife Margaret accompanied him, perhaps at his behest. Her servant, Anne Burras, had no choice but to accompany her mistress. In the first decades of the settlement, many laborers arrived as indentured servants, selling their labor over a three or seven year period in return for property at the end of their indenture, or contract. Others came as soldiers, who, depending on their rank, also served as laborers or leaders in the colony. John Smith, a career military adventurer, was an example of the latter. The colony also received many convict laborers, who often worked under longer terms than indentured servants. As tobacco emerged as a viable export crop after 1610, the colony became a source for many ambitious young men of the "middling sort" in England who hoped to gain wealth through the cultivation of the crop. Later voyages also brought skilled craftsmen from England, Germany, and Poland, who because of their high desirability in the colony either received short indentures or had their voyages subsidized by the Virginia Company. Later in the seventeenth century, large quantities of African laborers would enter the colony against their will (i.e. as slaves) but their numbers were not significant in the early years of the settlement.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

There was an opportunity for settlement of North America after James I became king in 1603. England ended its wars with Spain and Scotland, and this enabled the country to invest its money and manpower in new ventures. Joint-stock companies had already been successful in foreign trade. In 1606, James I gave a monopoly to the Virginia Company of London to handle English trade in North America.

The Virginia Company's goal was to make profits in the New World. It planned to achieve this in various ways. First, it wanted to find gold and silver—as the Spanish had previously done in their colonies. Second, the settlers would find a route to the Pacific for trading with the Orient. Third, agricultural products would be shipped back to England. And finally, the settlers planned to convert Indians.

In 1607, 120 men made the voyage and 16 died during the crossing of the Atlantic. The colony struggled, and it was nearly abandoned. The Virginia Company's goals were not reached, and many settlers died. Finally, by 1612, the colony began planting tobacco, and that enabled it to survive.

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Why did the English colonize Jamestown?

The English colonization of Jamestown was done purely for economic reasons.

By the early 1600s, the English had seen that colonization of the New World could be lucrative.  They saw that money could be made from plantations and from fishing even in places where there was no gold or silver.  For this reason, investors created two companies that were meant to colonize in North America.  They were given charters by the government telling them which parts of the continent they were supposed to colonize.

The company that colonized Jamestown was one that was based solely on the desire to find riches.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

The Jamestown colony was established as a money-making venture. For many years, Europeans had been dazzled by tales of the phenomenal wealth that awaited them on the other side of the Atlantic. In popular myth, America was portrayed as the land of milk and honey—a land rich in raw materials and mineral wealth—where acres and acres of land were there for the taking. If you wanted to make your fortune at that time—and many did—then America was the place to do it.

A group of English businessmen formed themselves into the Virginia Company with the express purpose of taking advantage of what they believed were the huge money-making opportunities the New World offered. Though the Virginia Company needed the blessing of King James I before it could establish any colonies, it was solely responsible for raising the necessary investment for what was a fairly risky venture. The founding of Jamestown was therefore a private sector initiative, unlike Spanish colonial settlements, which were funded and established by the government.

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Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?

Jamestown was settled in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London. The Virginia Company was a joint-stock company. Joint-stock companies were like a corporation in that shares are publicly sold. The exorbitant cost of funding an expedition made it difficult to subsidize. The high price tag discouraged individuals from taking on this investment. For this reason, the concept of joint-stock companies was born.

England was interested in colonies in the New World for two reasons. First, it hoped it could challenge the empire being acquired by Spain; and secondly, it wanted to relieve the population pressures it was experiencing in the cities.

The first settlers to Jamestown were entrepreneurs that came to the New World to acquire wealth. The company was in search of gold and silver deposits but ended up profiting from tobacco.  The fact that individuals, rather than governments, invested in the British colonies is an important reason for its long-term success.

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