Looking out for Number One T.H. Breen

Bri Swartley An Analysis of Looking Out for Number One: Conflicting Cultural Values in Early Seventeenth-Century Virginia by: T. H. Breen I believe what Breen is trying to say in his essay is that the Englishmen that came to Virginia were very different from the settlers of other colonies and they had a much different society develop than what was typical in the other colonies. They were a highly individualistic society. Breen believes that the personalities of those who came to Virginia were, in part what caused Virginia’s society to become so individualistic.
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Being so individualistic didn’t exactly work out so well for the structure of society or the well being of the colonists. Breen says that the first people to come to Virginia were “in no way a random sample of seventeenth-century English society” (23). Here he’s trying to say that the people of Virginia do not reflect the same ideals and values of England. Most of the people that came to Virginia were fresh out of the wars in Ireland or were roughnecks or sea captains looking to get rich quick in Virginia. Breen describes the colonists that came to Jamestown as tough, individualistic, and willing to exploit people and resources (24).
The people of Virginia were willing to do whatever it took to make a quick buck. They exploited the land for tobacco and exploited the use of indentured servants and later slavery to do their work for them. The people that colonized Virginia did not live close together like inhabitants of most other colonies. This was as Breen put it a “cultural phenomena” (25). I think he means that the people were physically seperated and this led to more and more feelings of individualism because unlike in other colonies the people were not able to have much of a feel for community or group preservation even.
They were merely interested in taking care of themselves. It was more than just an individualistic approach, there was definitely amoney-above-all ideology in the colony of Virginia. The people of Virginia were obsessed with making a profit. They were highly competitive with each other. Virginians did not want to take the time away from tobacco farming long enough to help protect their colony because they were concerned that their neighbors would take advantage of their absence to get ahead. (29) The lack of being able to come together and form a military hurt Virginians by leaving them vulnerable to attack by Native American peoples.
The Virginian colonists were so caught up in just farming tobacco and protecting themselves that they didn’t have any formal military. The people didn’t see the point in defending others and thought that everyone should simply defend their own land. This left them open to being taken advantage of by privitized military groups looking to make a profit. (30). Also in trying to be more individualistic it actually made Virginia need to be more dependent on England to support them by sending troups. (32) 3. I believe that the essay is more connected to the text rather than a contradiction but I did find a few contradictions.
In the text it talks about how by 1624 tobacco was producing big profits for landowners who could grow it (59). The people coming to Virginia were looking to make a profit on tobacco and most of them were men, and the ever growing need for labor was met mostly with male indentured servants. There was a very unbalanced male:female ratio in Virginia that made it difficult to sustain the highly family centered existence found in the other colonies. The text also talks about how after being attacked by Opechancanough the colonists of Virginia “organized themselves into military bands” (58).
I find this hard to believe based on Breen’s essay because he talks explicitly about how the society was so individualistic and competitive that the people did not want to serve in a military and were more interested in protecting their estates on their own. Another thing I thought was connected was how Breen talked about how the people of Virginia were more than willing to exploit labor for a profit so it makes sense how the text says that Virginia had an extremely large slave population once slavery became more of a common occurance.
Virginia had a slave population of 187,600 in 1770 (135). This number is more than double that of any other colony at the time. 4. I do agree with Breen’s point of view and for the most part it agrees with our text. I would probably be more likely to agree with Breen that the people of Virginia did not form a military band and fight back against the Indians especially how the text talks about Indians remaining a strong presence. It wouldn’t make much sense for the Indians to remain a strong presence if they are constantly being attacked by the settlers.
I think the reason that the Indians stayed around is because Virginia was not effectively fighting them off because they didn’t have any type of formalized military, or formalized anything for that matter, not even schools. 5. Slavery in New York City, 1731 ALAW For Regulating Negroes and Slaves in the Night Time I don’t think that this document had too much to do with Breen’s essay Looking Out For Number One but rather it comes slightly later.
I do think that the drastic rise in slave labor shows how Virginia was willing to exploit people in order to turn a profit and how it would be necessary for them to enact laws regulating the liberties of slaves to keep them from rising up when the population of Africans is roughly 42% of the total population. Recollections of the Middle Passage, 1788 Again I don’t think this has much to do with Looking Out for Number One but it does tell in graphic detail the hardships that colonists were willing to put other humans through for their own benefit.
Virginia, A Troubled Colony, 1622 Okay, I know it said to use documents from chapter 3 but this was the only document I found entirely relevant so I decided to include it as well. It talks about how the housing is the worst the author has ever seen and how the houses are spaced at a distance from each other and how it leaves them very vulnerable to attack by Indians. The city itself had no walls or fortification and the attempts at fortification that the colony had made were not even serviceable for the most part.
The document talks about how the colonists are charging each other inflated prices for their food. It seems to me that it correlated with what Breen is saying in how there is no real sense of community so the colonists of Virginia would charge their neighbor the same rate they would probably charge England. I also think that most of their time was spent trying to produce exports for profit that they did not spend as much time creating a surplus of food for harsh winters and probably suffered during that time.

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