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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Portrait of King Powhatan

By William Strachey (1572?–1621)

[Historie of Travaile into Virginia. Written about 1618.]

HE is a goodly old man, not yet shrinking, though well beaten with many cold and stormy winters, in which he hath been patient of many necessityes and attempts of his fortune to make his name and family great. He is supposed to be little less than eighty years old, I dare not say how much more; others say he is of a tall stature and clean lymbes, of a sad aspect, rownd fat-visaged, with graie hairs, but plain and thin, hanging upon his broad showlders; some few hairs upon his chin, and so on his upper lip; he hath been a strong and able salvadge, synowye, and of a daring spirit, vigilant, ambitious, subtile to enlarge his dominions: for, but the countryes Powhatan, Arrohatock, Appamatuck, Panunky, Youghtamund, and Mattopaiment, which are said to come unto him by inheritance, all the rest of the territories before named and expressed in the map, and which are all adjoining to that river whereon we are seated, they report (as is likewise before remembered) to have been eyther by force subdued unto him, or through fear yielded. Cruel he hath been, and quarrellous as well with his own weroances for triffles, and that to strike a terror and awe into them of his power and condicion, as also with his neighbors in his yonger days, though now delighted in security and pleasure, and therefore stands upon reasonable condicions of peace with all the great and absolute weroances about him, and is likewise more quietly settled amongst his own.

Watchful he is over us, and keeps good espyall upon our proceedings, concerning which he hath his sentinels, that at what time soever any of our boats, pinacies, or ships, come in, fall down, or make up the river, give the alarum, and take it quickly one from the other, until it reach and come even to the court or hunting howse, wheresoever he and his cronoccoes, that is councellours, and priests are, and then he calls to advise, and gives out directions what is to be done, as more fearing than harmed, at any time, with the danger and mischief which he saith we intend unto him, by taking away his land from him and conspiring to surprise him, which we never yet ymagined nor attempted. And yet, albeit, the conceipt of as much strongly possesseth him; he doth often send unto us to temporize with us, awayting perhaps a fit opportunity (inflamed by his furious and bloody priests) to offer us a taste of the same cup which he made our poor countrymen drink of at Ronoak, not yet seeming willing to hold any open quarrel or hostility with us; but in all advantages which he sometimes takes against our credulous and beguiled people, he hath yet always so carried as, upon our complaint to him, yt is rather layed upon some of his worst and unruly people of which he tells us; even our King James (commaunding so many divers men) must have some irregular and unruly people, or ells upon some of his pettie weroances, whom, peradventure, we have attempted (saith he) with offences of a like nature, than that yt is any act of his, or done by his commaund, or according to his will, often flattering us that he will take order that it shall he no more so, but that the Tassantasses, that is, the stranger King James his people, and his people shall be all one, brothers and friends. And thus he served us, at what time he wrought the Chickahamines (a nation, as we have learned before the coming in of us, so far from being his subjects, as they were ever his enemies), into a hatred of us (being a mighty people and our neighbors) and us into the suspicion of them, by urging them to betray such of our men as traded with them for corn; three, whereof yt is true, they slew without cause or offence given, and had done as much for the rest, had not their own fear and cowardize withheld them. And this he wholly laid upon them, excusing himself to us by their nomber and unruliness;—yea, so far he will go herein sometyme, that when some of his people have done us wrong, and by his provoking too, he will not fail underhand, after the fact, to tell us the authors of our wrong, giving us leave, and bidding us revendge us upon them, of such subtile understanding and pollitique carriage is he.