Yeardley’s Pleas for Carolina

Frances Yeardley is, at the time this piece was written a humble minister in the Virginia area. Written in 1654, the narrative is an account of ventures made into the Carolina region by some of his acquaintances and neighbors. He is from a family who is historically prominent in Virginian affairs; this narrative, however, outlines Yeardley’s “interests in the territory known as Carolina and at the same time bringing about a betterment of the Indians in that quarter” (24). According to Taylor, the area had little settlement until The Lord’s Proprietors stepped in and began colonization in “present day North and South Carolina” (223). The account is Yeardley’s attempt at convincing English elite of the importance and necessity of taking part in the transformation of the area. At this time, the colonization of this area still has yet to begin – the area was not largely taken note of until the 1670’s. Yeardley makes points throughout his narrative to emphasize the potential of the area: spiritually, economically and physically.

The main genre that this piece feeds into is clearly that of the promotional narrative. Yeardley spends expansive amounts of time painting the Carolinas to be a place of interest for his audience – Yeardley is writing this letter in the hopes of gaining support for the Carolina colonial realm and the people there. There is very little mention of any negative aspect of the area; in fact, in his attempts to gain support for the Indians, Yeardley mentions an encounter in which a man they are sheltering is rejected by the people of his own town – a plea for the understanding of someone of authority and power to aid him in his efforts to better the colony. His goal in this letter is to enlist the help of those back in England, and to point out his own plight of humble inability – “for your fervent affections to this my native country, commands me in some measure to give you an account of what the Lord hath in short time brought to light, by the means of so weak a minister as myself” (25). Yeardley admits his own humility as being unable to change the area without outside assistance.

The language used in the piece is indicative of Yeardley’s intended message, as well. Flowery, magical adjectives bring forth writing that emphasizes the promotional genre common in these types of narratives in efforts to display the potential that the land has: “an ample discovery of South Virginia or Carolina, the which we find a most fertile, gallant, rich soil, flourishing in all the abundance of nature, especially in the rich mulberry and vine, a serene air, and temperate clime, and experimentally rich in precious minerals; and lastly, I may say, parallel with any place for rich land, and stately timber of all sorts” (25). This Edenic representation is a tactic used in creating in the New World the notion of a paradise, in order to convince Yeardley’s audience that the area is worth the investment.
Yeardley’s intended audience is primarily that of the eyes and attention of Mr. Farrar, and any other wealthy Englishman of prominence who would take interest in the advancement of the area. This has a large impact on Yeardley’s style: he writes positive, light language, making sure to point out the economic value of the area in it’s natural offerings: “a place indeed unacquainted with our Virginia’s nipping frosts, no winter, or very little cold to be found there” (25). Yeardley’s geographic comparisons between Carolina and Virginia give Farrar the chance to be able to make easy comparisons in his mind – a former member of the Virginia Company, he is one who would be known for having been familiar with the Virginia area. To describe a climate that is far more suitable than that which Farrar is accustomed to would be to create the visual image of an area surely worth investing in.

Yeardley is also playing on his audience’s desire to be a part of the Christianizing movement. Any encounter with the Native Americans of this area portrays them as having been all to eager to become Westernized. One of the Native Americans reportedly even asks Yeardley if he might be able to leave his son with him, in the hopes that he’ll be able to grow up in a “better” and more Christian environment versus what he faces amongst the tribe – “in the interim of which time, hearing and seeing the children read and write, of his own free voluntary motion he asked me, (after a most solid pause, we two being alone), whether I would take his only son, having but one , and teach him to do as our children, namely in his terms, to speak out of the book, and to make a writing” (26). By presenting the Indians as over-cooperating and enthusiastic about their inevitable Christianizing, Yeardley draws attention to the intended reader’s desire to be a part of that drastic change that majority of those with influential power are wishing to effect on the Americas at the time.

One aspect that I found troubling about this particular narrative was that it had no division whatsoever – it was one continuous paragraph with long sentences and little structural breaks. While it is clearly a letter, and meant to be read in one sitting (which I did), it’s still easy to get lost while reading it when one doesn’t have every facet of background available on the narrator. While the introduction provides a decent amount of information into the insight of who Yeardley was and why he may have decided to write this letter, it doesn’t list details as to who the “he’s” and “she’s” the narrator refers to may be. There are many times where others are mentioned that the reader has no idea which person in particular is being referred to; the same goes for the mention of Native Americans. It’s difficult to discern separate tribes, as few specific tribal names are given (the only one found here is a mention of the Tuskarorawes, or Tuscarora as we know them today). This structure made for difficult content-comprehension, as well; I had to read the piece several times in order to understand exactly what was being said. Had the author split ideas into separate, smaller paragraphs, keeping anecdotes together instead of jumbled into a continuous account reminiscent of the “stream of consciousness” technique, I think I should have had a much easier time comprehending the piece. All in all, however, one can eventually discern what is taking place after careful reading and observation.

One Response to Yeardley’s Pleas for Carolina

  1. Prof VZ February 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    A few questions: how does this relate to Taylor’s history? And perhaps you can link to a bio of the author online? Even though this document pre-dates the official establishment of a colony in Carolina (though you never provide the date explicitly) it is important to situate it–via Taylor–in the context of the combination of colonial enterprises it engages / reflects.

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