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Jamestown—America’s First Experiment in “Assimilation”

“Let us hope, however, that it will take something other than bloodshed to awaken Americans to what is happening to their country.”  

By Kevin Carter

The 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown occurs this Monday, May 14.

The “commemoration” festivities (“celebration” has been banned as politically incorrect) focus a great deal of attention, as VDARE.COM’s Allan Wall recently noted, on the wickedness of the colonists and the victimization of the natives. Perhaps, it is implied, if the English had been less ruthless and intolerant, the races could have avoided bloodshed and learned to live together in harmony.

Sounds familiar? It should—because it’s not much different from what the Open Borders Lobby claims about our immigration disaster. The Left is convinced that “racism” is the source of all problems and that we’d all be holding hands if only those wicked white “racists” would simply dematerialize. Meanwhile, on the Respectable Right, neoconservatives, libertarians and Country Club Republicans tell us not to worry because we’ll “assimilate” all the newcomers and make them just like us.

(Pictured: The Indian Massacre of 1622 took the lives of over a quarter of Virginia’s White English population)The true story of Jamestown, however, ought to cool this optimism. Most of it can be found in David Price’s  Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation, which presents a story very different from the one described above.

The truth is that when 105 English colonists arrived in Virginia on April 26, 1607, they had no intention of murdering and exploiting the natives. On the contrary, they knew of the brutal treatment native peoples had received at the hands of the Spanish and were convinced that they could do better.

Nor did the colonists did not come with any preconceived notions of racial superiority. “The English,” according to Price, “did not believe that white people like themselves were innately superior and the natives innately inferior.” Some even believed that Indians—unlike Africans or Moors—were originally born white and attributed their darker skin to excessive use of body paint.

On the whole, the English saw the Indians as very much like their ancestors had been before they received the civilizing influences of the Roman conquest and of Christianity. They were determined to bring these things—civilization and salvation—to the Indians as well, and to make the poor, benighted natives as much like themselves as possible. Their vision for Virginia was that of an integrated society where the natives would adopt “English ways” and live together with their benefactors in peace.

Of course, this was not the colony’s top priority. Making money was. The colonists had orders from their employer, the Virginia Company, to look for gold and a passage to the Pacific. Yet whatever their financial motives, the idea that the colonists were hell bent on wiping out the natives from the very beginning is simply false. You can call their intentions “cultural imperialism” if you like. But they certainly weren’t genocidal.

After some initial incursions, the English established friendly relations with the local Indians and set to work building their base at Jamestown. They were careful to choose a site located on unoccupied ground. The leader of the colony, Edward-Maria Wingfield, ordered his men not to train in the use of weapons or to build any fortifications. Such precautions were unnecessary, he believed, for he and his men had come in peace.

Wingfield was soon forced to change his mind. Hundreds of Indians attacked the settlement a few days later and killed several colonists. Only cannon fire, which terrified the Indians, saved the day.


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