The Credit of Truth: Thomas Hariot and the Defense of Ralegh


In 1590, Flemish engraver and publisher Theodor de Bry produced an elaborate and popular folio edition of Thomas Hariot's A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. Hariot's Report had two years before been printed in quarto; for the 1590 folio some thirty of De Bry's engravings were included, all adapted from the original drawings of John White, who had been assigned the task of sketching Ralegh's Virginia. The folio was printed in four languages--English, French, Latin, and German- with additional text, presumably by Hariot, provided for the engravings. At the time, the folio was the most elaborate depiction of the new world available, and served as the foundation for de Bry's series, America. 1 Today the Hariot text is generally regarded as a generally accurate "scientific" and "anthropological" approach to the land and its natives; unfortunately, because of the forces that influenced the work, the Report instead functions as a text deliberately designed to mislead its audience in order to protect Ralegh's interests in his colonies.


Hariot wrote his Report after participating in the 1585-6 expedition to America led by Sir Richard Grenville under the commands of Sir Walter Ralegh. Ralegh designated Hariot the group's scientific adviser and recruited artist John White to draw the new world. White's background is uncertain.2 He probably had accompanied Martin Frobisher on a journey to the northwest in 1577, as among his catalogue of drawings are several of Eskimo men and women, and even of a group of Eskimos attacking an English party. Evidence before this period, however, is sketchy.


Thomas Hariot, on the other hand, has a broader reputation. Later in his life his scientific experiments spread across many fields--he would chart the face of the moon and examine what became Halley's comet using a primitive telescope, conduct rudimentary studies in crystal formation, and develop a binary counting system and a concept of negative numbers, among many other accomplishments. True to his era, he also explored the pseudo sciences of astrology and alchemy.3 One of the first heavy English users of tobacco and an advocate of its medicinal application, he was also one of the first to die from a probable tobacco-induced cancer.


Hariot, perhaps because of his intense interest in scientific study, carried during the latter half of his life a reputation of atheism.4 In 1593 Richard Baines, an informer to the Queen's Privy Council, produced a long list of charges against Christopher Marlowe, foremost of which read, "He affirmeth that Moyses was but a Jugler, & that one Heriots being Sir. W Raleighs' man can do more than he" (Rukeyser, 127). Similarly, witnesses reported similar tales to a council in Dorset the following spring. John Jesopp, minister of Gillingham, swore "he hath harde that one Herryott of Sr Walter Rawleigh his howse hath brought the godhedd in question, and the whole course of the scriptures" (Willobie His Avisa, 258), while Thomas Norman of Weymouth proclaimed he had "hard of one Herryott of Sr Walter Rawleigh his howse to be susspected of Atheisme" (263). Charges against Hariot were never pressed, despite the vehemence with which offenders against the established church were often prosecuted.


As with Jessop's and Norman's testimonies, which affirm Hariot as a member of Ralegh's household, contemporary references to Hariot almost always refer to him as in service to Ralegh. Even the title page to the folio (and the previous quarto as well) stresses Hariot's subordinate, dependent position: "This fore booke Is made in English By Thomas Hariot Servant to the abovenamed Sir WALTER, a member of the Colony, and there imployed in discovering" (1). Hariot, in fact, served Ralegh faithfully until Sir Walter's execution in 1618. Their association had begun by at least 1580, when for a long period Hariot worked in Ralegh's houehold as a tutor of astronomy and navigation both to Ralegh and the sea captains associated with his name. The goal of this arrangement had been, as Richard Hakluyt recalled to Ralegh in 1588, to "unite profitably theory with practice" (Stevens, 79). To Ralegh, Hariot proved himself a resourceful, educated man, skilled in science and cartography--a shrewd observer.


It was thus perhaps natural that Ralegh should send Hariot on the first English colonizing attempt in America with directions to categorize the wildlife there, observe the natives, and upon return to England, write his report. Hariot's loyalty to and financial dependence upon Ralegh ensured that he would write his Report in order to protect Ralegh's stake in the American colony. Any current reading of the Report, then, must take into account the varying forces that dictated and colored its contents: Ralegh's duties and advantages under his patent, the hardships of the year-long 1585 expedition, and Ralegh's mostly disasterous attempts to colonize his new world to 1590, when the folio of the Report appeared.


Ralegh had been involved in efforts to settle America as early as 1569, when he was sent as part of a group to help the Protestant French in Florida fend off the ever-encroaching Spanish colonists. Later his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, obtained a patent in 1576 from the Queen to create a British settlement in North America. For the English, establishing a colony was essential to claim American lands; the Spanish Roman Catholic definition of possession extended to any territory they had seen or sailed by, so that their Florida first extended roughly from the equator to the Chesapeake bay, then later to Newfoundland. In order to claim any coastal areas in the Northern hemisphere, then, Britain necessarily had to occupy and people the chosen territory.5


Sir Humphrey Gilbert spent copious amounts of time and money in his endeavor to fulfill the duties of his patent.6 Unsuccessful, he died aboard the Squirrel in the effort. The Queen chose Ralegh as his successor, and in March of 1584 she granted him a letter of patent similar to that of his half-brother. If Ralegh did manage to settle a permanent colony, he could reap high rewards. If not, the whole endeavor would be expensive and fruitless.


The basic privilege given in Ralegh's patent is the right to explore and claim new lands:


To our trusty and welbeloved servaunte Walter Raleighe Esquier and to his heryes and assignes for ever free liberty and license from tyme to tyme and at all tymes for ever hereafter to discover search fynde out and viewe such remote heathen and barbarous landes Contries and territories not actually possessed of any Christian Prynce and inhabited by Christian people.


If successful, Ralegh and his heirs would be granted numerous financial rewards: "all prerogatives comodities iurisdiccions and royalties priviledges Fraunchises and preeminences there or thereabouts bothe by sea and lande." Furthermore, these benefits would last "for ever" (Quinn, Roanoke, 82)


The patent grants Ralegh not only the right to inhabit land, but also gives his projected colonies the permission to defend themselves; they may "expulse repell and resiste as well by sea as by lande" any foreign invaders coming within two hundred leagues of the settlements (84). Only defensive aggression is encouraged, however-- the document prohibits acts of "vniuste and vnlawful hostility" (88).


Ralegh and his "heryes and assignes" also receive the "power and aucthority to correct punish pardon governe and rule," as well as create policies "in Causes Capitall or Criminall as Civile" (86). Sir Walter does not possess the equivilent of monarchical powers, however; several statements in the patent show the Crown's concern for maintaining its own policies across the ocean. While the document recognizes that special legislation might be necessary in the new land, any such created must conform to existing British standards:


So alwaies that the said statutes lawes and ordinaunces may be nere as conueniently they may be agreable to the forme of the lawes Statutes governement or pollicy of England and also so as they be not against the trewe Christian faithe or Religion now professed in the Churche of England. (87)


Furthermore, the colonists are expected "to determine to lyue together in Christian peace and Civile quietnes each with other" (86). The terms thus stress a strict policy of Christian religion and discipline, specifically that of the Anglican church. The bill passed by the House of Commons confirming the letter of patent emphasizes the issue of religion even more explicitly. Here the plans for colonization assume more of a mission-like purpose, with Queen Elizabeth as the prime crusader:


The singuler frewtes of her goodnes towards [England] Hath by all good meanes endeavored, that the gospell of our saviour Iesus Christe might be trewlye and syncerelie sette forth, And Ignoraunce error and supersticion Abolished within her Maiesteis Domynions, And it is also desirous that the knowledge of god and trewe religion might by her heighness Labors be propagated Amongste foreign Nacions. (126-7)


The correspondence of colonization with the spread of religion is a theme Hariot later takes up in his Report.


But before any full-fledged attempt at colonization, Ralegh sent two captains, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, to scout the Eastern seaboard of America. The expedition sailed from England to the Canary Islands and Hipaniola in 1584, working up as far north along the coast as modern-day North Carolina where, before returning home, land was claimed in the Queen's name, "according to her Maiestes grant, and letters patent" (Quinn, Roanoke, 94). Barlowe's account of the journey, the manuscript of which he most likely privately prepared only for Ralegh's own reading, provides some of the first English perceptions of native American life.7 The inhabitants, as described by Barlowe, appear totally alien from English civilization; before the members of the expedition can be comfortable with a native they have invited on board, for example, they must transform him into an Englishman. They dress him in "a shirt, a hatte, and some other things, and made him taste of our wine, and our meate, which he liked very well" (98).


This text shows the English as constantly on the defense against potential enemy threats. Invited by a native chief to a feast, the company, as Barlowe says, "came to the shoare to him with our weapons," although Winginga, chief of the Roanoke tribe, "never mooued from his place . . . nor neuer mistrusted any harme to be offered from us" (99). At least twice the party refuses to trade their swords and armor, although the natives "would have giuen any thing for swordes," including caches of valuable pearls (101, 105). At the home of the wife of the chief's brother, the potential violence causes something of a scene:
While we were at meate, there came in at the gates, two or three men with their bowes, and arrowes, from hunting, whome when we espied, we beganne to looke to wardes another, and offered to reach our weapons: but assoone as she espied our mistrust, she was very much mooued, and caused some of her men to runne out, and take away their bowes, and arrowes, and breake them, and withall beate the poore fellowes out of the gate again. (109)


Barlowe describes the woman's behavior as solicitous concern; one wonders, however, how much she may have been terrified by the potential slaughter just barely avoided.


As for the spiritual life of the natives, Barlowe mentions that they worship a statue: "Within the place where they feede, was their lodging, and within that their Idoll, which they worship, of which they speake vncredible things" (109). In his discussion of the Idol, Barlowe makes clear that as well as having a religious purpose, it has a clear military association:


When they goe to warres, they carry with them their idoll, of whom they aske counsell, as the Romans were woont of the Oracle of Apollo. They sing songs as they march to wardes the battell, in steed of drummes, and trumpets: their wars are very cruell, and bloodie. (113)


Barlowe links the idolatry of the tribe with their inherent bloodthirsty natures, commenting, "there remaineth a mortall malice in the Sequotanes." He again associates tribal religion with warfare in another passage centering on the Idol:


They invited diuers men, and thirtie women, of the best of his Countrey, to their Towne to a feast: and when they were altogether merrie, and praying before their Idoll, which is nothing else, but a meere illusion of the Deuill: the Captaine or Lorde of the Towne came suddenly vpon them, and slewe euery one, reseruing the women, and children. (113-4)


The native Idols here are clearly linked with devil worship, prophecy, war, and slaughter, a clear contrast to the presentation Thomas Hariot later makes.


Hariot's Report was not the only account of the 1585 expedition. One document of interest is a brief anonymous journal, not intended for publication, kept by a crew member of the Tyger, one of the seven ships carrying the colony. Most of the diary describes the journey to America; the only vivid glimpse of native-English interaction reveals surprising hostility:

The 16. [of July] we returned thence, and one of our boates with the Admirall was sent to Aquascococke to demaund a siluer cup which one of the Sauages had stolen from vs, and not receiuing it according to his promise, we burnt, and spoyled their corne, and Towne, all the people beeing fledde. (Quinn, Roanoke, 191)


The writer sees the arson as an act of retribution, fully deserved by the natives. Modern readers, however, might question its justifiability under the proscriptions of Ralegh's patent.


Violence against the natives continues as a theme throughout the "Discourse" written by Ralph Lane upon return from the 1585 expedition. Lane, whom Ralegh had appointed governor of the colony, probably did not intend his report for publication, although like the Tyger journal, it was later given to Richard Hakluyt for his collection of Principall Navigations. Even so, the texts Hakluyt later presented had probably been heavily edited or censored by Ralegh.8 Lane's report outlines the hardships the community suffered, extreme enough to sound discouraging for any potential future colonization attempts. The most pressing problem the colony faces is that of hostile natives. In Roanoke, the Mangoaks, aided by neighboring tribes, produce an army "to the number of 3000. bowes," considerably more than the slightly over 100 men of Lane's party. The hostility between the natives and English takes a definite overt form, each party threatening the other:


This confederacie against vs of the Choanists and Mangoaks was altogether and wholly procured by Pemisapan himselfe, as Menatonon confessed vnto me, who sent them continuall worde that our purpose was fully bent to destroy them: on the other side he tolde me that they had the like meaning towards vs. (265-6)


Menatonon, mentioned above, is no guide or translator, but rather a powerful chief abducted from the native allies. Lane mentions at one point that he "dismissed Menatonon vpon a ransome agreed for," probably in the form of food (264). Another captive, Menatonon's son Skiko, is later held for ransom as well, the English "threatning to cut off his head" if he dares run away.


Violence surfaces throughout Lane's narrative. At one point he and a small party explore the Virginia territory in boats, and in coming upon a new tribe of natives hear them begin a song, Lane says, "as we thought in token of our wellcome to them: but Manteo [their guide and translator] presently betooke him to his peece, and told me that they ment to fight with vs." The song, far from a friendly welcome, is in reality a war chant:


There lighted a vollie of their arrowes amongst them in the boate, but did no hurt God be thanked to any man. Immediatly, the other boate lying ready with their shot to skoure the place for hand weapons to land vpon, which was presently done, although the lande was very high and steepe, the Sauages forth with quitted the shoare, and betooke themselues to flight. (271)


Although the settlers have erected a fortification of sorts, they still often find enemy plots against them. For example, a group of natives plan a surprise attack on the colony, which Lane discovers:


They would have beset my house, and put fire in the reedes, that the same was courered with: meaning (as it was likelye) that myselfe would haue come running out of a sudden amazed in my shirt without armes, vpon the instant whereof they woulde haue knocked out my braynes.


The plans fall through, however, when Lane points out to the natives that "ten of vs with our armes prepared were a terrour to a hundred of the best sort of them" (282). In general, native weapons provide no match against English arms and armor; such an inequality does not deter all the natives of the area, however, from entering into battle upon provocation. In a section entitled "The slaughter, and surprise of the Sauages," Lane relates how the captain of one boat began a skirmish:


He met with a Canoa [canoe], going from the shoare, and ouerthrew the Canoa, and cut off 2. sauages heads: this was not done so secretly but hee was discouered from the shoare, wherupon the cry arose: for in trueth they, priuie to their owne villanous purposes against us, held as good espial vpon vs, both day and night, as we did vpon them. The allarum giuen, they tooke themselues to their bowes, and we to our armes. (286)


Although the English suffer no serious loss, they almost gleefully massacre the natives, with a special attention to Wingina, or Pemisapan, their chief:


The king himselfe being shot thorow by the Colonell with a pistoll lying on the ground for dead, & I looking as watchfully for the sauing of Manteos friends, as others were busie that none of the rest should escape, suddenly he started vp, and ran away as though he had not bene touched, insomuch as he ouerran all the companie, being by the way shot thwart the buttocks by mine Irish boy.


The chief's apparently strong constitution, however, cannot withstand the brutal treatment one of Lane's men inflicts after chasing him through the forests: "We met him returning out of the woods with Pemisapan's head in his hand" (287-8).


Violence appears as one of the two prevailing themes of the Lane narrative--the other is starvation. Lane and his men had an extremely difficult time obtaining enough supplies from the natives to feed everyone in the party. Repeatedly he complains of the lack of food, or of what they were reduced to eat when given the opportunity, in this particular case an herb stew:


We lodged vpon an Islande, where wee had nothing in the worlde to eate but pottage of sassafras leaues, the like whereof for a meate was neuer vsed before as I thinke. . . . This was upon Easter eue, which was fasted very truilie. (272)


At one point the situation becomes so desperate that the English are prepared to part with their domesticated watch dogs. "There were in the companie two mastiues," Lane writes, "vpon the pottage of which with sassafras leaues (if the worst fell out) the companie would make shift to liue two dayes" (267). Although at this point he proposes the sacrifice as an eventuality, a later reference to the leftover "dogs porredge" indicates that the worst, indeed, did fall out (272).


Lane blames the natives for the Company's food problems. Although initially the English traded copper for edibles, the natives seem to have discovered quickly that they could demand more of the metal in exchange for less food. The Governor finds such practice, however much in the spirit of English capitalism, insufferable, and plans raids on native crops. Many tribes, however, decided to stop planting crops and get their grain from further within the mainland, to thwart such attacks. Luckily, one tribe had raised the corn as planned:


The king was aduised . . . as a ready meane to haue assuredly brought vs to ruine in the moneth of March, 1586 . . . to haue left his ground in the Island vnsowed, which if he had done, there had bene no possibilitie in common reason (but by the immediate hande of God) that we could haue been preserued from starving out of hand. (276)


Eventually a tribe gives them "a certaine plot of grounde for our selues to sowe"--indicating that the English had not appropriated any land as their own--that temporarily gives the colony a vision of "maruellous comfort." Until the time for harvest, however, the English must still rely on the natives for their sustenanace:


All our feare was of the two moneths betwixt, in which meane space, if the Sauages should not help vs with Cassida and Chyna [roots saved for winter consumption], and that our weares [fish traps] should fayle vs, (as often they did) we might very well starue, notwithstanding the growing corne, like the staruing horse in the stable, with the growing grasse, as the prouerbe is. (280)


The plight of the settlers becomes well-known among the local tribes. Lane speaks of a rapidly-spreading rumor "that I and my company were part slayne, and part starued by the Chaonists, and Mangoaks. One part of this tale was too true, that I and mine were like to be starued, but the other false" (276).


The picture Lane's discourse paints of Virginia is far from pleasant. Natives provide several threats to the colony's very existence: not only can they attack the colony, they can also withhold supplies and force the party into a position of dependence. When Sir Francis Drake's fleet arrived in June of 1586, the would-be colonists had suffered enough, even before learning of Drake's news that Spanish forces planned to destroy the group. Willingly, the majority returned to England.9


Thomas Hariot's A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia is an account of the same 1585-6 colonization attempt that the author of the Tyger journal and Ralph Lane had experienced. He also observed the same tribes of Roanoke natives they and Barlowe had written about. Yet his account of the year in many ways seems vastly different; the negative aspects of the group's experience are downplayed in favor of a more optimistic presentation. Hariot's Report , of all the documents already discussed, was the only text designed with an eventual public audience in mind; Barlowe's and Lane's narratives, as well as the Tyger diary, were all written for Ralegh and his private associates only, although eventually appropriated by Richard Hakluyt.


Hariot's Report opens with numerous assertions of the veracity of the text and its author, testimonials unnecessary if Ralegh were the only intended audience. First in the quarto edition Hariot provides a message "to the gentle Reader" from Ralph Lane, who hopes that the general audience will not approach the text with "a prejudicate mind":


Thus much vpon my credite I am to affirme, that things vuniuersally are so truely set downe in this treatise by the author thereof, an Actor in the Colonie & a man no lesse for his honesty then learning commendable: as that I dare boldely auouch it may very well passe with the credit of truth euen amongst the most true relations of this age. (1-2)


Such an overemphasis of Hariot's credibility would seem under normal circumstances hardly necessary. But after the return and dispersal of the members of the 1585 expedition and before the publication of the Report, problems arose; Hariot himself makes clear in both the quarto and folio editions that "there haue been diuers and variable reportes with some slaunderous and shamefull speeches bruited abroade by many that returned from thence" (Folio, 5). Such reports put future colonization efforts in jeopardy, as they could do "wrong to many that otherwise would have also fauored & aduentured in the action, to the honor and benefit of our nation, besides the particular profite and credite which would redound to them selues the dealers therein" (5). Hariot's plea to "adventvrers, favorers, and welwillers" is also a defense of his patron, Ralegh, the "cheif enterpriser with the fauour of her Maiestie." In a world where slow sea travel and painfully limited communication are norms, six years gives an extremely short amount of time in which to organize and settle a colony; if potential investors or adventureres listen to and believe the grievances of the unsuccessful colonists, the chances for a succeeding expedition narrow. Hariot thus proceeds with a slight-of-hand performance for the sake of Ralegh, dismissing any reports of hardship in favor of the more appealing lure of the promise of wealth.


The "enuious, malicious, and slaunderous reports and deuises els" to which Hariot most objects are very similar to the complaints that Ralph Lane made in his private discourse. But since outlining the slanders would defeat the purpose of dismissing them as "trifles that are not worthy of wise men to bee thought vpon," Hariot chooses not to dwell upon the details (6). From what he says about the rumor-spreaders, however, it is clear the men most objected to the hardships of subsistence in a dangerous environment. Some of the men, he claims, "had little or no care of any other thing but to pamper their bellies," and became resentful "after golde and siluer was not so soone found, as it was by them looked for" (6).10

Other members of the expedition Hariot paints as spoiled and whining brats not cut out for the hearty adverturing life:


Some also were of a nice bringing vp. . . . Because there were not to bee found any English cities, nor such faire houses, nor at their owne wish any of their olde accustomed daintie food, nor any soft beds of downe or fethers, the countrey was to them miserable, & their reports thereof according. (6)


The several references to eating among the complaints indicates that many, if not most, of the public accusations had been against the meagre and poor-quality food. It is hard to believe that Hariot, who spent most of his adult life in the Ralegh household, was not unaccustomed to "daintie food" and comforts, especially with the important responsibilities accorded him by his patron. Yet throughout his Report Hariot draws himself as somewhat of a gourmand of the wilderness set. Where Lane describes a grim life of slow starvation, Hariot's Virginia is of such fecundity that at times one can hardly believe the two traveled together. Only obliquely does Hariot refer to the mastiff-eating incident, and then merely as an experimental taste test between the flesh of wolves and dogs. "I could alleage the difference in taste of those kinds from ours, which by some of our company haue beene experimented in both," he writes in an innocent manner (20).


Hariot begins his discussion of the commodities "knowne to yeelde for victuall and sustenance of man's life" by describing in fulsome detail the grain his party in reality found so hard to obtain:


It maketh a very good bread. Wee made of the same in the countrey some mault, whereof was brued as good ale as was to bee desired. So likewise by the help of hops thereof may bee made as goode Beere. It is a graine of marueilous great increase; of a thousand, fifteene hundred and some two thousand fold. (13)


The alleged fertility of the Virginia land he also describes with great care. Supposedly in its cultivation the natives reap huge crops without the use of fertilizers, plowing, or digging:


An English acre . . . doeth ther yeeld in croppe or ofcome of corne, beanes, and peaze, at the last two hundred London bushelles, besides the Macocqwer [gourds], Melden [an herb], and Planta Solis [sunflower]: When in England fourtie bushelles of our whete yeelded out of such an acre is thought to be much. (15)


The picture of a ground bursting with produce so easily entices the reader, even more strongly with the limited amount of work involved:


One man may prepare and husbane so much grounde (hauing once bourne corne before) with less then foure and twentie houres labour, as shall yeelde him victuall in a large proportion for a twelue moneth. (15)


Even other types of seeds, "not sowen but fallen casually in the worst sort of ground," produce amazing results. To readers unaware of any other narratives of the 1585 expedition (in other words, most readers at the first appearance of the Report ), America appears as a land of bursting vitality and unlimited sustenance. Not only are grains supposedly a thriving and readily-available commodity, but fruits and nuts and other plants are generally as good or better than those in England, and animals of all types are described as plentiful and delicious. Even the roots that Lane dreaded having to rely upon are described in full and recipes outlined for transforming them into an edible gelatine-like substance.


Hariot, at the very least, exaggerates the plenty of the land. Lane's account makes clear that while the company probably did eat at one point or another everything Hariot describes, if not to mention almost anything remotely edible they encountered, any knowledge of plant cultivation or animal husbandry was purely second-hand. Lane's revelation that the colonists never received from the natives a plot of land to plant until their stay in Virginia was nearly over, indicates that the English experience with raising edible commodities could hardly be considered vast.


Slightly to his credit, although Hariot implies that the party found ample food to eat, he never states outright that the settlers had a hand in raising crops. Usually each staple is described by how "they," the natives, prepare it. With peas, for example, "they bruse of pound them in a morter," or with sunflowers, "they make both a kinde of bread and broth" (14). Even while discussing the fantastic amounts reaped from an acre of land, Hariot associates the produce with native efforts, although while using phrases such as "one man may prepare and husbane so much ground" in an ambigous enough manner to disguise whether the "man" is English or native American. Of deliberately misleading the reader Hariot is thoroughly guilty; at one point in his conclusion he announces that "excepting for twentie daies, wee liued only by drinking water and by the victuall of the countrey," never mentioning that the food was poor and scanty most of the time (31). Instead, he leaves his reader with the impression that Virginia offers enough of its own produce that English provisions are largely unnecessary. Even when he admits that "the taking of beastes, fishe, and foule" by the "helpe only of the inhabitants" could not "bee so suddenly and easily prouided for vs, nor in so great numbers & quantities, nor of that choice as otherwise might have bene to our better satisfaction and contentment," his description sounds more like an organizational mix-up than any strife between the colony and the natives. Hariot aims to whitewash the hardships the company suffered so as not to discourage any financial adventurers interested in Ralegh's project.11


His treatment of native life is Hariot's other major area where he works to mislead the reader. In his introduction, he asserts that "in dealing with the naturall inhabitantes" he has been "specially imployed," thus establishing himself to the reader as an expert on the topic (5). The section "Of the nature and manners of the people" examines native behavior and its relationship to English customs, a discussion continued in the section entitled "The true pictures and fashions of the people in that parte of America now called Virginia," a series of de Bry's engravings from John White's studies and paintings, each accompanied by a short explication.


What particularly strikes a reader about Hariot's presentation of native life and customs is how he portrays the American inhabitants as unusually receptive to English culture, when in reality they seem to have barely tolerated the settlers. To believe Hariot's account one must imagine the Virginia natives as Europeans-in-the-rough. De Bry's adaptations of White's art further accent such a representation; while the engravings are generally faithful to the original paintings, the conventions of Mannerist art influence de Bry's work to such an extent that White's accurate sketches of natives appear more English, as their postures, musculatures, and appearances are altered to conform to European standards.12


Hariot does not present the Virginia natives as the unpredictable, conspiratory, or violent savages that Lane describes. Rather, he aims to assure readers "how that they in respect of troubling our inhabiting and planting, are not to be feared; but that they shall have cause both to feare and loue vs, that shall inhabite with them" (24). He reiterates the point in his conclusion: "Whatsoeuer els they may be, by carefulnesse of our selues neede nothing at all to be feared" (30). Throughout his Report, Hariot carefully provides a characterization of the Virginia inhabitants that emphasizes subordinance to the English. The first physical description of the natives proves their impotence in matters of warfare:


Hauing no edge tooles or weapons of yron or steele to offend vs withall, neither know they how to make any: those weapons that they haue, are onlie bowes made of Witch hazel, & arrowes of reeds . . . neither haue they any thing to defend themselues but targets made of barcks; and some armours made of sticks wickered together with thread. (24)


His is hardly the description of a conquering race; the English clearly have superior defensive and offensive capabilities. However, Hariot adds, "If there fall out any warres between vs & them," and he carefully phrases the idea as a possibility rather than something actually already occured:


what their fight is likely to bee, we hauing aduantages against them so many maner of waies, as by our discipline, our strange weapons and deuices els . . . it may be easily imagined; but the experience we haue had in some places, the turning vp of their heeles against vs in running away was their best defence. (25)


Hariot, well aware of the contents of the Queen's patent to Ralegh, is careful in his public document not to leave an impression that the 1585 party wantonly destroyed the natives and their towns, as the patent's regulations encourage only defensive action. His reader does not learn, as with the Tyger journal, of the colonists burning a town and its fields because of the petty theft of a small silver cup, nor of secretly-planned raids to burn a town and steal its food supplies, as in Lane's discourse. Rather, while Hariot admits that there was "slaying some of the people in some towns," he leaves the exact origins vague, saying only "it was on their part iustly deserued." He encourages the reader to believe the actions were indeed defensive, and fully in line with the patent's proscriptions.


Ralegh's patent also had specific religious charges--that "the knowledge of god and trewe religion" should be "propagated Amongeste foreign Nacions" (Quinn, Roanoke, 127). Hariot's discussion of the Virginia natives concerns itself very much with religion; but in the place of the exotic beliefs and practices Barlowe records, the Report's description of the same Roanoke natives accords much more closely to English-approved customs. Critic Stephen Greenblatt has some thoughtful ideas about Hariot's conception of religion as power, suggesting that he carries out an experiment upon the natives with the hypothesis that the imposition of new religious beliefs could effectively unsettle their own social order, leading the way for English domination.13 But what stands out as truly remarkable in reading Hariot's account, however, is not that the natives in any way appear swayed from their own customs, but that their beliefs are described as already fundamentally the same as English Christianity. Hariot indicates that the natives not only want to accept English religion, but beg to be indoctrinated further.


Although the natives believe in many gods, most are mere lesser divinites delegated "as means and instuments" to a greater power. For, like Christianity, they also have a conception of "one onely chiefe and great God, which hath bene from all eternitie." This god created the universe, and even the way it went about doing so echos traditional Biblical doctrine: "First they say were made waters" (25). In the book of Genesis, the Judeo-Christian God separates on the first day the waters from the heavens.


Further, like the English, the natives carry a conception of an afterlife:


They beleeue also the immortalitie of the soule, that after this life as soone as the soule is departed from the bodie according to the works it hath done, it is either carried to heauen the habitacle of Gods, there to enioy perpetualle blisse and happiness, or els to a great pitte or hole, which they thinke to bee in the furthest partes of their part of the worlde towarde the sunne set, there to burne continually. (26)


As well as having concepts corresponding to the Christian God and also heaven and hell, the natives appear most receptive to the forms of English worship as well:


Many of [a chief's] people would be glad many times to be with vs at our praiers, and many times call vpon vs both in his towne, and also in others . . . to pray and sing Psalmes; hoping therby to bee partaker of the same effects which wee by that means also expected. (27)


It would seem that the natives most admire these "effects." Hariot lists the technological devices at which they marvel--magnifying glasses, fireworks, compasses, clocks, guns--and their subsequent respect of the English as a people "whom God so specially loued" (27). The divine right of the English to rule over nations carries this section of the Report. The natives believe, according to Hariot, who makes no effort to disillusion them, that the English are protected by God.

When passing through the Virginia territory, "the people began to die very fast, and many in short space; in some townes . . . very manie in respect of their numbers. This happened," he continues, "in no place that we coulde learne but we had bene, where they vsed some practise against vs" (28). The spread of measles or the common cold in a country never before exposed to the viruses could have devastating effects; Hariot uses the opportunity to illustrate divine protection of the righteous English Christians. While some natives attributed the deaths to a fulfillment of prophecy or the shooting of "inuisible bullets," Hariot notes that many "saide it was the speciall woorke of God for our sakes, as wee our selues haue cause in some sorte to thinke no less" (29).


With such imagined power behind the English, it is small wonder that many natives would allegedly want to convert to Christianity. According to Hariot, the misgivings they have of their own beliefs hastens such a desire:


They were not so sure grounded, nor gaue such credite to their traditions and stories but through conuersing with vs they were brought into great doubts of their owne, and no small admiration of ours, with earnest desire in many, to learne more then we had meanes for want of perfect vtterance in their language to express. (27)


In accordance with the dictates of Ralegh's patent, Hariot, in the only instances of self-dramatization within the text, portrays himself as a missionary for the established English church. "Manie times," he says, "and in euery towne where I came, according as I was able, I made declaration of the contentes of the Bible, that therein was contayned the true and onelie GOD, and his mighty workes." The Bible itself produces an emotional reception:


Would many be glad to touch it, to embrace it, to kisse it, to hold it to their brests and heades, and stroke over all their bodie with it; to shewe their hungry desire of that knowledge which was spoken of. (27)


Hariot carefullly emphasizes that the excess of fervor was not intended and should not be considered his fault; such displays of enthusiasm recall the emotion-ridden "Prophesyings" of the Puritans (which Elizabeth had banned less than a decade before), and also presents, at another extreme, the book regarded as an idol or powerful relic--too close to Catholic belief.14 Cautiously, Hariot states that these displays occured much against his will- "I told them the booke materially & of it self was not of anie such vertue, as I thought they did conceiue, but onely the doctrine therein contained" (27).


Elizabeth's religious priorities dominate the text. Not only does Hariot carry forth the missionary motif put forth in the patent, but also the prescription that they all "lyue together in Christian peace and Ciuile quietnes each with other" (Quinn, Roanoke, 86). When asked by a group of natives to slaughter a rival tribe, Hariot gives an answer not unlike a clergyman:


And that we to shew our selues his true seruants ought rather to make petition for the contrarie, that they with them might liue together with vs, bee made partakers of his truth & serue him in righteousnes. (28)


Thus does he show the party attempting to fulfill the patent's spiritual guidelines. At another point, he sums up his opinions of the natives and their relationship to the English: "Whereby may bee hoped if meanes of good gouerment be vsed, that they may in short time be brought to ciuilitie, and the imbracing of true religion" (25). In one sentence, Hariot manages to encompass both his goals. He praises the political and spiritual accomplishments of the patent-granter, Elizabeth, whose reinstatement of the Anglican church earned her the title of defender of "trewe religion" (words echoed by Hariot), while assuring her court that the colony upheld the tenets of the patent; simultaneously he encourages the reader's interest in Ralegh's venture, reminding them of the "short time" the patent allows for the establishment of a colony.


In his discussion of native religion, Hariot uses similar tricks of misdirections to his descriptions of colonist-native violence. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the appended section of engravings from John White's pictures, in which the text downplays any religious differences between the English and natives to a nearly ridiculous extent. The description to "On of the Religeous men," an exotic-looking figure, reads in part: "For their pleasure they frequent the riuers, to kill with their bowes, and catche wilde ducks, swannes, and other fowles," never mentioning the man's specific religious function (48).

Another engraving, "Their danses which they vse at their highe feastes," shows what is apparently a harvest or fertility ceremony; the dancers carry and are dressed in leafy branches, and move among totem-like poles. But instead of explicating the meaning of the feast, a word with specific religious connotations, especially as it takes place at only "a Certayne time of the yere," Hariot merely notes that "they dance, sing, and vse the strangest gestures" as a prelude before "they goe to make merrye"--a recreational interpretation of a religious ceremony (64). Most blatantly trivialized is the Idol of the natives, which Barlowe vividly associated with devil-worship and warfare. Hariot deflects any possible questioning as to the Idol's purpose by providing a purely physical description that quickly degenerates into another encomium to the natives' hungry desire to embrace Christianity:


I think them very Desirous to know the truthe. For when as wee kneeled downe on our knees to make our prayers vnto god, they went abowt to imitate vs, and when they saw we moued our lipps, they also dyd the like. Wherfore that is verye like that they might easelye be brongt [sic] to the knowledge of the gospel. God of his mercie grant them this grace. (71)


Despite the actual significance of each object or ritual, even despite the visual evidence of the engravings, Hariot insists on presenting native religion in a way that accords with the dictates of Ralegh's patent. Theodor de Bry, in creating the title page for the Report folio, perceptively mimicked Hariot's intent. He arranges several of White's figures into a religious hierarchy: a native man and woman stand at the bottom, and above them the more spiritual "Religeous man" and a conjurer figure. In the center and at the top sits the Idol, the native representation of God. The figures stand upon a classically-designed piece of architecture liberally festooned with garlands of fruit, all drawn in the best Mannerist style. De Bry's approach to the title page mirrors Hariot's to the Virginia inhabitants: both divorce the natives from their religious and cultural context and set them against an utterly European standard.


But Hariot should not necessarily be seen as one of those people of whom John Donne says in his third Satire, "thinkes that so/As women do in divers countries go/In divers habits, yet are still one kinde, So doth, so is Religion" (l. 65-8); his is not an indiscriminate blindness to the different customs and practices of an alien culture, but rather a wilful re-crafting of the truth. The intended public audience for the pamphlet does not want to hear that the Virginia natives do not submit to English domination as easily as they ought--that type of information can only be found in the documents meant for Ralegh and a few of his close associates. Rather, the public desires a message that Ralegh, and thus English interests, can easily succeed in the new world. Hariot accordingly provides them the picture of a land bursting with fertility and wealth and populated only by inhabitants anxious to accept English rule and religion, using misdirection in such a way that the harsh realities of the 1585 expedition are obscured.


De Bry's publication of the 1590 folio came quickly after two incidents posing possible threats to the establishment of Ralegh's Virginia. In 1589 Richard Hackluyt produced his Principall Navigations, a collection of British travel narratives. Among the selections were Hariot's Report (without White's drawings), Barlowe's account of the Amadas-Barlowe expedition, the Tyger diary, and Ralph Lane's discourse. Although the latter selections were probably edited, a careful reader might easily perceive that the Hariot account did not contain the most objective account of the colonization attempt. By that same year, the troubles of the so-called "second colony" were widely known; the group of men and women living in Roanoke sent John White, their governor, to England in 1588 to bring back to them additional supplies, aid that was postponed at first by the weather, then Spanish-English tensions. With the limit of Ralegh's patent quickly coming to a close, the publication of the folio Report can be seen in some sense as a last-ditch effort to save Ralegh's Virginia, and all the economic and political advantages it could carry. The elaborate folio, with its elegant engravings and impressive typography, is yet another sleight-of hand trick, diverting its audience's attention from the negative reports published in Hackluyt's Principall Navigations and from the serious problems Ralegh had fulfilling the terms of the patent. Instead it reinforces in a visually appealing manner the misleading messages of the original quarto edition: that Virginia could be an economically profitable and easily inhabitable addition to the kingdom.

Notes

1 For an account of Theodor de Bry and his publications, see Paul Hulton, American 1585: The Complete Drawings of John White (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1984) 17 9; Paul Hulton, introduction, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia: The Complete 1590 Theodor de Bry Edition, by Thomas Harriot (New York: Dover, 1972), vii-xv.


2 For what little biographical information exists, see Paul Hulton, America 1585: The Complete Drawings of John White.


3 A few Hariot biographies have appeared within the last century. The earliest and perhaps most scholarly is by Henry Stevens, Thomas Hariot : The Mathematician, the Philosopher, and the Scholar (1900) (Burt Franklin Research and Source Works Series: Science Classics Series: 10. New York: Lenox Hill, 1972). See also Muriel Rukeyser, The Traces of Thomas Hariot (New York: Random, 1971); John W. Shirley, ed., Thomas Hariot; Renaissance Scientist (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974). Information about Hariot's interest in astrology, particularly his arrest for casting the horoscope of King James, can be found in Rukeyser, 194-8.


4 M.C. Bradbrook, in The School of Night : A Study in the Literary Relationships of Sir Walter Ralegh (London: Cambridge UP, 1936), suggests that Ralegh supported a "den" of atheism, with Hariot as "its master" (8). Evidence to support such a theory, however, is not readily available.


5 Dozens of books abound on the colonization of America. See Wayne Franklin, Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers: The Diligent Writers of Early America (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1979) for a broad outline of English written accounts. See also David Beers Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620 (New York: Knopf, 1974); Samuel Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500-1600 (New York: Oxford UP ,1971); and K.R. Andres, N.P. Canny, and P.E.H. Hair, eds., The Westward Enterprise, English Activites in Ireland , the Atlantic, and America, 1480-1650 (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1979) for varying accounts of voyages up through the Elizabethan period. For a comprehensive list of voyage narratives, see Edward Cox, A Reference Guide to Literature of Travel, Including Voyages, Geographical Descriptions, Adventures, Shipwrecks, and Expeditions (Seattle: U of Washington P, 1935-49) 3 vols.

6 More about Sir Humphrey Gilbert can be found in David Beers Quinn, The Voyages and Colnisting Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert (Hakluyt Society Second Series, # 83-4. London: Hakluyt Society, 1940).

7 For an account of the likelihood of the text intended for Ralegh's private use, see David Beers Quinn, The Roanoke Voyages 1584-1590 (Hakluyt Society Second Series, #104 5. London: Hakluyt Society, 1955), a comprehensive collection of documents relating to Ralegh's Roanoke colonies.

8 See Quinn, Roanoke, 29-31, 245-6.

9 See David Beers Quinn and Alison M. Quinn, eds.,Virginia Voyages from Hakluyt (London: Oxford UP, 1973), ix-xii.

10 Note that Hariot's implies that gold and silver still might be found, although in his experience rich veins never opened at his feet. Hariot carefully avoids stretching the credulity of his readers; rather than describe imaginary cities made of gold and jewels, he instead discusses food and harvestable commodities, itmes with which his readers were familiar.

11 See Franklin 106-111, for a discussion of Hariot's report as a "vision" of a potential future. While Franklin's points are salient, his confusion over Hariot's misrepresentation of the Virginia land neglects to take into account Hariot's relationship with Ralegh, and his natural wish to protect Ralegh's interests.

12 For an interesting account of de Bry's Mannerist influences, see James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle, After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection (New York: Knopf, 1982) 113-30. One must marvel at de Bry's restraint, however--although heavily influenced by Mannerism, he still remains fairly accurate to John White's paintings. In the folio edition of Hariot's Report is one of his own works, an engraving of Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge. The two figures here are highly stylized according to the conventions of Mannerism. In artistic terms, the proportion of the human head to the body is 7:1. De Bry's adaptations of White's natives, although he increases their musculatures, remain faithful to that figure. The Adam and Eve, however, have a head/body proportion of roughly 10:1, their bodie elongated to an almost grotesque artistic standard.

13 See Stephen Greenblatt, "Invisible Bullts: Renaissance Authority and its Subversion, Henry IV, and Henry V." Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dolimore and Alan Sinfield (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985) 18-47, especially pp. 18-26.

14 For accounts of religion in the Elizabethan era, see William P. Haugard, Elizabeth and the English Reformation: The Struggle for a Stable Settlement of Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1968); Patrick McGrath, Papists and Puritans Under Elizabeth I (London: Blanford, 1967); and John Phillips, The Reformation of Images: Destruction of Art in England, 1535-1660 (Berkeley: U of California P, 1973). Information on the subject is hardly scanty.


Back to more writings.