Why Was Virginia Founded?

The Virginia Colony, the first permanent English colony in North America, was founded to give Britain a foothold in North America, to Christianize Native Americans and to make money. Despite a terrible famine during the winter of 1610, it eventually accomplished all these goals to some extent.

The London Company founded the Virginia Colony, naming the new land after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I and the first settlement, Jamestown, after James I. The colony’s first settlers were a blend of wealthy young men and skilled craftsmen who were foolishly convinced they would quickly find gold. Instead, they struggled for years just to survive. One terrible winter resulted in the deaths of all but 60 of the 500 settlers. After Captain John Smith introduced the rule of no work, no food, the settlement stabilized and then began to thrive. By the time Williamsburg, the second town, was founded, the Virginia colonists were selling tobacco back to England at a healthy profit.

The colonists were less effective at Christianizing the Indians. Pocahontas, the famous princess of the Powhatan tribe, converted to Christianity and married settler John Rolfe, bringing peace until her father’s death four years later. However, in 1622, the Powhatan tribe tried to drive out the settlers once again, killing at least a third of the 1,000 Englishmen. In a cruel retaliation, the settlers warred against the Powhatan the following year, killing every adult they could find and taking the children to raise as farm laborers.