The author of this primary source is Sebastian Brandt, a colonist living in the Virginia colony in 1622, where he endured hardships like most of the people living in Virginia at that time faced, including illness and death of a family member.1 His first-hand experience is recorded while he was a member of a colony in Virginia. Little is offered in this document about the writer except that he was a Virginian colonist, a white adult male of unspecified years.2 The author appears to be a credible source, as a member of the colony describing basic aspects of his life and making requests from friends back in England for things to “comfort us here in our sickness.”3
The purpose of this document, a letter, was that Brandt was writing a brief letter to his friend in England, Henry Hovener, to update Hovener on his life and make some requests for items.4 The intended audience was Brandt’s friend Hovener, who might have access to and the funds to send Brandt some commodities such as “wine and vinegar some spice and sugar,” for which Brand offered his “most humble service but also w[i]th some good Tobacco, Beaver, and Otterskins and other commodities here to be had recompence.”5
Brandt is brief with his writing, but gives a picture of the problems he and other settlers encountered as well as an idea about what kept them motivated to continue their lives in Virginia. He spends little time making inquiries about Hovener’s own family and health, but does offer “My comendations remembered, I heartily wish your welfare.”6 Despite the death of his brother, his wife, and his own illness, Brandt is still motivated to continue attempting to fulfill his original goal in coming to the New World. He was searching for valuable minerals, writing, “I do now intend every day to walk up and downe the hills for good Mineralls here is both golde silver and copper to be had.”7 His offer to repay Hovener reveals that he is in possession of goods that were highly desirable in England including furs and tobacco.8
Brandt’s bias is that he wanted to paint the best picture possible of himself as a faithful man still working towards and able to attain his goals in the colony. He spends little time describing his own illness, making it appear as something now overcome that will no longer stop him in his goal of finding the valuable minerals with which he expects to make his fortune.9 He makes his request seem small, while offering things he hopes his recipient will find of great value. The unspoken assumption is that Brandt will still be alive to not only receive the goods he is requesting, but to send some in return. Although the bias limits the source because Brandt would not want to discuss every terrible detail of his life in case it should discourage his friend Hovener, it is still interesting because it offers an explanation of one reason why a man like Brandt would remain in Virginia, to fulfill his dream of finding valuable mineral resources. It should be considered by historians that while Brandt does not offer a full description of his life, he is telling his friends the same things he is probably telling himself in order to maintain a positive attitude while living in difficult circumstances.
Brandt, Sebastian. “Life in Early Virginia.” Digital History (1622). Web. Accessed 28 Aug. 2012. < http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=73>