The American imagination of early settlements is often misconstrued as rather glamorous affairs of hearty British subjects seeking freedom and prosperous land ownership coupled with progress and harmony amongst the settlers and the American natives. The picture above representing this mythical view could have come from just about any American school account of the period. I delighted in reading an actual account from rarely discovered writings of one such settler in the Virginian colony in the 1600s that disabuses this notion entirely. As the editor of thee (allow me some Olde English flourishes given the topic, all right?) article states, “Life in early colonial Virginia was as nasty, brutish, and short as it got for seventeenth-century Englishmen, as shown in the sufferings of Richard Frethorne.”
The life of this young man, who was sent to serve as an indentured servant by his parents in order to pay off family debts, makes paying off student loans look rather easy in comparison. Stealing, starvation, thirst, hard labor, exploitation, loneliness, despair, and constant attacks from natives are the hallmark of the wretched life of the early American settler. It is highly worth the read for lovers of English colonial and American history to get a better appreciation of our highly inauspicious origins.