Looking Out for Number One:
Conflicting Cultural Values in Early Seventeenth-Century Virginia
By: T.H Breen
The main focus of Breen's essay the focus is on the fact that colonists in Virginia were driven and motivated to come to the New World, predominantly for monetary reasons. Virginia's soil was found to be unusually well suited for growing tobacco, which is why it drove such a variety of people to migrate there. The colonists, though said to be religious, were extremely individualistic, selfish, as well as primarily drawn in by the economic opportunity in Virginia. These attitudes and ideals are what consequently resulted in numerous military defeats and massacres. They avoided their military obligations, thus naming them the vulnerable “poorly defended white settlements.” These settlements were very easy for the Indians to take advantage of, as Breen writes.
Early Virginia's flourishing cultivation of tobacco drew a diversity of people, from fresh war veterans and former soldiers, to adventurers and ordinary people looking to recoup from former monetary losses. However the tobacco did not only alter the country culturally and economically, but it “ threw more wood into the fire.” It strengthened the infamous individualistic attitude the colonists had. The adventurers began to have a very competitive attitude and took upon themselves as many others did an anarchist or mutinous perspective, where government intervention was view as a threat to there independence.
Breen clearly depicts the Virginians attitude by saying that if they would have landed in a “cold, rocky, inhospitable country…they would probably have given up the entire venture…” Throughout this essay Breen reiterates the fact that the Virginians were out for private gain. They took it to such an extent that they isolated themselves throughout the land, which they exploited to all ends. Their relationships between each other and social behavior clearly portrayed the individualistic attitude they had. Slaves were used as a resource to increase profit. In Virginia you seemed to either be a resource used for profit or an exploiter who utilized those resources.
In order to keep all people able to work on the fields...