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James Otis

What the Thieving Led To

Now there was more of mischief to this than the crime of stealing, or of indolence. The savages came to understand they could drive hard bargains, and so increased the price of their corn that Captain Smith set it down in his report to the London Company, that the same amount of copper, or of beads, which had, one year before, paid for five bushels of wheat, would, within a week after Captain Newport came in search of the lost colony, pay for no more than one peck.

Nor was this the entire sum of the wrong done by our gentlemen who stole rather than worked with their hands. The savages, grown bold now that they had firearms and knew how to use them, no longer had the same fear of white people as when Captain Smith, single-handed, was able to hold two hundred in check, and strove to kill us of Jamestown whenever they found opportunity.

On four different times did they plot to murder my master, believing that when he had been done to death, it would be more easy for them to kill off all in our town; but on each occasion, so keen was his watchfulness, he outwitted them all.

The putting of a crown on Powhatan's head, and bowing before him as if he had been a real king, also did much mischief. It caused that brown savage to believe we feared him, which was much the same as inviting him to be less of a friend, until on a certain day he boldly declared that one basket of his corn was worth more than all our copper and beads, because he could eat his corn, while our trinkets gave a hungry man no satisfaction.

And thus, by the wicked and unwise acts of our own people, did we prepare the way for another time of famine and sickness.