Although he is very wordy in his respectful communication to the receiver of his report, the brief and practical aspects of his descriptions in A brief and true report of the new found land of Virginia
Still, the reader is struck by the detail, and the effort to be accurate, so Harriot becomes an auditor of all he surveyed.
His words, although spelled inconsistently (as was then quite common) and phrased awkwardly, are not very hard to understand even from this distance in time. Remembering this man wrote with a quill and ink, with only available light, it amazes with quality of detail and recall: this is not a quick method such as typing, but a laborious hand task.
It gave him time to think and consider his words carefully, which modern readers, who are used to backspacing and cutting and pasting, highlighting and copying to edit, must respect for its results. It is a clear and concise report. A student must deal with distracting words such as thereof, hereafter and wherein to get at the core of the communication, and also remember that although it is early history of the United States of America, this was an Englishman writing in the English language of the day and according to English custom and usage. What strikes the reader immediately is the point Harriot makes about using the discovered ‘country’ for making money for England: his eye was mainly on the financial and physical benefits available. His aim, and the aim of those he wrote to was to ‘... enrich your selves the providers.’ This is not a cultural expedition, where they did everything they could to find out about the ‘natural inhabitants’. Their intention was strictly financial: to accumulate wealth and resources for England.
The list of resources is very interesting, and shows how advanced England was in a scientific sense in the mid-1500s. They knew all about extracting metallic ores, and Harriot’s understanding of what could be done with certain plants and natural products is excellent, which is probably why he was sent out in the first place. (Baym Ibid) It seems a bit confronting at first to find the report so exploitative: the intention was to use one ...
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