Chronicles of America 

The Menace of Spain

There was also on Virginia in these days the shadow of Spain. In 1611 the English had found upon the beach near Point Comfort three Spaniards from a Spanish caravel which, as the Englishmen had learned with alarm, "was fitted with a shallop necessarie and propper to discover freshetts, rivers, and creekes." They took the three prisoner and applied for instructions to Dale, who held them to be spies and clapped them into prison at Point Comfort.

That Dale's suspicions were correct, is proved by a letter which the King of Spain wrote in cipher to the Spanish Ambassador in London ordering him to confer with the King as to the liberty of three prisoners whom Englishmen in Virginia have captured. The three are "the Alcayde Don Diego de Molino, Ensign Marco Antonio Perez, and Francisco Lembri an English pilot, who by my orders went to reconnoitre those ports." Small wonder that Dale was apprehensive. "What may be the daunger of this unto us," he wrote home, "who are here so few, so weake, and unfortified, . . . I refer me to your owne honorable knowledg."

Months pass, and the English Ambassador to Spain writes from Madrid that he "is not hasty to advertise anything upon bare rumours, which hath made me hitherto forbeare to write what I had generally heard of their intents against Virginia, but now I have been . . . advertised that without question they will speedily attempt against our plantation there. And that it is a thing resolved of, that ye King of Spain must run any hazard with England rather than permit ye English to settle there . . . .Whatsoever is attempted, I conceive will be from ye Havana."

Rumors fly back and forth. The next year 1613--the Ambassador writes from Madrid: "They have latelie had severall Consultations about our Plantation in Virginia. The resolution is--That it must be removed, but they thinke it fitt to suspend the execution of it, . . . for that they are in hope that it will fall of itselfe."

The Spanish hope seemed, at this time, not at all without foundation. Members of the Virginia Company had formed the Somers Islands Company named for Somers the Admiral--and had planted a small colony in Bermuda where the Sea Adventure had been wrecked. Here were fair, fertile islands without Indians, and without the diseases that seemed to rise, no man knew how, from the marshes along those lower reaches of the great river James in Virginia. Young though it was, the new plantation "prospereth better than that of Virginia, and giveth greater incouragement to prosecute yt." In England there arose, from some concerned, the cry to Give up Virginia that has proved a project awry! As Gates was once about to remove thence every living man, so truly they might "now removed to these more hopeful islands!" The Spanish Ambassador is found writing to the Spanish King: "Thus they are here discouraged . . . on account of the heavy expenses they have incurred, and the disappointment, that there is no passage from there to the South Sea . . . nor mines of gold or silver." This, be it noted, was before tobacco was discovered to be an economic treasure.

The Elizabeth from London reached Virginia in May, 1613. It brought to the colony news of Bermuda, and incidentally of that new notion brewing in the mind of some of the Company. When the Elizabeth, after a month in Virginia, turned homeward, she carried a vigorous letter from Dale, the High Marshal, to Sir Thomas Smith, Treasurer of the Company.

"Let me tell you all at home [writes Dale] this one thing, and I pray remember it; if you give over this country and loose it, you, with your wisdoms, will leap such a gudgeon as our state hath not done the like since they lost the Kingdom of France; be not gulled with the clamorous report of base people; believe Caleb and Joshua; if the glory of God have no power with them and the conversion of these poor infidels, yet let the rich mammons' desire egge them on to inhabit these countries. I protest to you, by the faith of an honest man, the more I range the country the more I admire it. I have seen the best countries in Europe; I protest to you, before the Living God, put them all together, this country will be equivalent unto them if it be inhabited with good people."

If ever Mother England seriously thought of moving Virginia into Bermuda, the idea was now given over. Spain, suspending the sword until Virginia "will fall of itselfe," saw that sword rust away.

Five years in all Dale ruled Virginia. Then, personal and family matters calling, he sailed away home to England, to return no more. Soon his star "having shined in the Westerne, was set in the Easterne India." At the helm in Virginia he left George Yeardley, an honest, able man. But in England, what was known as the "court party" in the Company managed to have chosen instead for De La Warr's deputy governor, Captain Samuel Argall. It proved an unfortunate choice. Argall, a capable and daring buccaneer, fastened on Virginia as on a Spanish galleon. For a year he ruled in his own interest, plundering and terrorizing. At last the outcry against him grew so loud that it had to be listened to across the Atlantic. Lord De La Warr was sent out in person to deal with matters but died on the way; and Captain Yeardley, now knighted and appointed Governor, was instructed to proceed against the incorrigible Argall. But Argall had already departed to face his accusers in England.

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