11.07.2019 in Literature

Briefe and True Report Essay

Thomas Hariot’s ‘Briefe and true report’, was his personal account of the explorations he undertook in his 1587 expedition and first published in Latin in the year 1588. This work was even included in Hakluyt’s work entitled ‘Principal Navigations of the English nation’. In the year 1590, Theodor de Bry issued elaborated reports of Hariot’s report in four languages. A personal level, Thomas Hariot was a cartographer who also doubled up as a re-known mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and linguist. He participated actively in Sir Raleigh Walter’s quest to colonize Virginia’s Roanoke Island in what is today called North Carolina between 1585 and 1586.

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He learned certain rudiments of Algonkian language and served as an interpreter in liaison with some of the native people that stayed in the surrounding region. The ‘Briefe and true report’ focuses mainly on the native inhabitants dwelling on their sources of food, their agricultural methods, the living arrangements are political organization as well as religion. The report was published with Raleigh’s support to initiate a process of supporting investment as well as settlement. In this account, Hariot gives detailed information on the natives more so on their plants and animals, ‘merchantable commodities’ as well as the economic opportunities that could be found there. This work therefore stands out as one of the early accounts of the North America in the past (Thomas, 1590).

It is held in the book that though through Adam’s disobedience, man was deprived of the gifts he was endowed with at creation, the lives of the savage tribes in the book reveal that man remained with enough wit to put into existence the things he needed for health and life in general. This only excludes the health of his soul. This is because the savages had no education nor did they have the knowledge on the existence of the supreme deity, the native people still surpass the enlightened population in more ways. They have eating habits that were wiser as well as healthy than those of the high class in the present day society. These natives also exhibited a great ingenuity in making without even having any form of metal tools as aid. The paintings that these natives did were also exquisite and depicted a great understanding of the art of painting.

This report holds that ever since Sir Walter Raleigh undertook exploration of a country today known as Virginia, several voyages have been made at his expense. Some of the conspicuous voyages were undertaken in 1584, 1585, 1586 and lastly in 1587. From these voyages, all manner of reports were generated, some false others purely shameful. This was the work of some of the travelers who returned. The voyage of 1585 was particularly vulnerable to such rumors. The reports that were produced about Virginia did more harm than help to people who would otherwise have favored or even invested in such a project and honored the nation apart from making the huge margins of profit for themselves. The rumors became destructive to Sir Walter’s enterprise.

Hariot divided his treatise into three parts with the first part highlighting the commodities that are found in Virginia, which he believed were of utmost importance to those who would be planters and inhabitants of the new nation. It also highlights the usefulness of trade in exchanging the surplus produced in Virginia with their own land of Britain. He also held that the new country had ‘marketable’, which would be very instrumental for them. In the second part, he highlights the products that grow in Virginia naturally and which he believes would serve them well for sustained life and for food just as they did while they were there. In the third and last part of the report, he gives a general description of commodities as they were in that country and describes the general nature of the inhabitants (Thomas, 1590).  

Hariot therefore believed that because he had a hand in the dealings with the inhabitants, he had the discretion to reveal how the enterprise was slandered. He reveals that Sir Walter through approval of her majesty chose the good cause of proceeding with the settlement and had therefore sent ship there to replant the colony again. He also holds that by understanding the general idea of how the country is, people can then decide to see how to profit from it by settling in it or just supporting it in different ways (Thomas, 1590). He says that of those who were propagating lies and falsehoods in an attempt to improve their image, most of the things they said were simply fairy tales meant to cover up for the things that they never even saw and hence had to imagine.

He points out that most of them were ignorant of what was happening in the country at that time since they never moved further than where their settlement was. He says that these people therefore only took advantage to tell lies about that country when they realized that those who were listening to them were those who remained behind and as such cannot challenge them. The rumormongers could have thought that their reputation would have been in problem if after all the time they were in Virginia; they went back without any meaningful story of the happenings as well as the hardships they had to go through. Even the simple things that happened were made to look complicated by the nay Sayers because they did not even understand them. Hariot believes that all these twists in regards to the settlement in Virginia could also be because they failed to secure the gold and silver they wanted and therefore took most of their time pampering their bellies hence had nothing to speak home about when they went back.  He believes that some could not find the comfort they are used to at home in Virginia, had a negative view of everything and declared that the country was miserable.

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