When I woke up I took a look at the map and noticed I was only about 15 miles from Jamestown. How could I pass up an offer to be reminded of how awesome being American is? So I rode to a ferry and floated on over to the island. Little kids running around in three pointed hats with their parents exhaustively chasing after them reminded me of one thing: I definitely don’t want kids. Thanks Jamestown for reinforcing my notion of how amazing life is when you don’t have to lug around 34 pounds of your own kicking and screaming DNA!
But that’s not all I learned from Jamestown. I learned that glassblowers make other things besides devices used for smoking marijuana. I also learned that if I lived in Jamestown during its colonization, I would have died. Like a bunch of times. Not from some poisonous snake or deadly root, but by the hands of my own neighbors. I know this because I read a display about the laws of early Jamestown and it sounded like a total free-for all. The colony was beginning to collapse and careen into failure as discipline and religious values dramatically diminished. That sounds like my kind of place. But of course, the leaders came in and created an enforced code which seems rather harsh to me. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
1.) “Shall Duly and Daily Attend His Work”
The Crime- No soldier or tradesman but shall be ready upon the beating of the drum to go out unto his work, nor shall he return home before the drum beat again.
The Punishment- For the first fault: to lie upon the guard head and heels together all night. Second fault: to be whipped. Third fault: condemned to the galleys for a year.
Some days I don’t feel like going to work.
2.) “The Almighty God Be Duly and Daily Served”
The Crime- That no man blaspheme God’s name.
The Punishment- First and Second offense: having a bodkin thrust through his tongue. Third offense: Censure of death.
Yeah, I’m not even going to go into this one. I’d be dead.
3.) “How Safe, Quiet, and Comely it is to be Honest, Just, and Civil”
The Crime- No man shall by force or violence take anything away from any Indian coming to trade or otherwise…
The Punishment- Pain of death
This one I agree with. Maybe the punishment is a little steep, but hey, it’s the 1600’s. You know how people used to say, “hey, it’s the 90’s”? I wonder if people said the same thing back then. Also, the crime fails to mention that if you run away in live with the natives, you’ll be hunted down and killed. What? If I was living in Jamestown then and a bunch of natives came up to me and were like “Hey man, you don’t have to cut down all these trees and read all this scripture. Just come live with us in the woods, eat some berries, wear a loincloth, and enjoy the bountiful splendor of our various herbs.” I would drop my saw and strip down in about four seconds. Again, I’d be dead.
4.) “No Man Speak Impiously or Maliciously”
The Crime- No man shall give any disgraceful words or commit any act to the disgrace of any person in this colony.
The Punishment-Being ties head and feet together every night for a month, publically disgracing himself and being made incapable of possessing any place for employment in office.
Basically, if you vocally question the government, you can forget about being a part of it. That one hasn’t really changed much since then.
5.) “Forebear to Work into Our Own Wants”
The Crime- No man shall dare kill or destroy any bull, cow, calf, mare, horse, goat, swine, cock, hen, chicken, dog, turkey, whether his own or another man’s without leave from the general.
The Punishment- Upon pain of death in the principal and in the accessory, burning in the hand and loss of his ears.
If you have a BBQ and forget to ask your superior, you can bet on being murdered and having your corpse mutilated. Colonial life, what fun!
When I read these rules and think about the ones we have now, I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ve got it made in 21st century America. I can stand in the middle of Jamestown, 400 years later and yell blasphemous things about God and the government while eating a turkey leg and no one can do a single thing about it. I’m sure I’ll get some understandable looks of disgust, but no one is going to chop off my hands and end my life. America the beautiful. Look how far we’ve come.
Then it rained. And it has not stopped. And I’m huddled under a pavilion. All of my things are soaked, but I’m good. Soggy, but good.
Total Ascent: 584 ft.