The Planters of Colonial Virginia

Jun 27, 2013 by

plantersTHE PLANTERS OF COLONIAL VIRGINIA by Thomas Wertenbaker was first published in 1922.

A few lines from chapter 1:

“England in the New World
At the beginning of the Seventeenth century colonial expansion had become for England an economic necessity. Because of the depletion of her forests, which constituted perhaps the most important of her natural resources, she could no longer look for prosperity from the old industries that for centuries had been her mainstay. In the days when the Norman conquerors first set foot upon English soil the virgin woods, broken occasionally by fields and villages, had stretched in dense formation from the Scottish border to Sussex and Devonshire.

But with the passage of five centuries a great change had been wrought. The growing population, the expansion of agriculture, the increasing use of wood for fuel, for shipbuilding, and for the construction of houses, had by the end of the Tudor period so denuded the forests that they no longer sufficed for the most pressing needs of the country. Even at the -present day it is universally recognized that a certain proportion of wooded land is essential to the prosperity and productivity of any country. And whenever this is lacking, not only do the building, furniture, paper and other industries suffer, but the rainfall proves insufficient, spring floods are frequent and the fertility of the soil is impaired by washing.

These misfortunes are slight, however, compared with the disastrous results of the gradual thinning out of the forests of Elizabethan England. The woods were necessary tor three all-important industries, the industries upon which the prosperity and wealth of the nation were largely dependent — shipbuilding, for which were needed timber, masts, pitch, tar, resin; the manufacture of woolens, calling for a large supply of potash; smelting of all kinds, since three hundred years ago wood and not coal was the fuel used in the furnaces. It was with the deepest apprehension, then, that thoughtful Englishmen watched the gradual reduction of the forest areas, for it seemed to betoken for their country a period of declining prosperity and economic decay. “When therefore our mils of Iron and excess of building have already turned our greatest woods into pasture and champion within these few years,” says a writer of this period, “neither the scattered forests of England, nor the diminished groves of Ireland will supply the defect of our navy.” 1 From this intolerable situation England sought relief through foreign commerce.”

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