Jamestown was the first successful English colony established in 1607 in Virginia, where the Roanoke settlers had disappeared. After King James I gave the Virginia Company of London its grant, three ships were sent out and sailed into Chesapeake Bay. The settlers named the peninsula after the king, Jamestown, but made poor judgment by settling in low and swampy land. The colony was weakened by disease, raids, and internal political conflicts. It was saved however by the remarkable Captain John Smith, who stopped the settlers’ quarrels with his boldness and worldly knowledge and experience.
He also traded for corn with the Indians by keeping a peaceful relationship with them. Although the settlers were dying at a rapid rate, the Virginia Company kept sending new recruits and supplies. However, when Captain Smith was injured by an explosion, he was forced to return to England, leaving the colony weak and unable to feed itself. The colony became self-supporting when it started producing tobacco, which was not only liked but was also recommended by doctors to cure any disease.
In 1612, John Rolfe began to grow a certain type of tobacco in Jamestown that the English were especially fond of. The tobacco was thus termed Brown Gold because it provided Virginia with a stable economic base. In 1617, the headright system was used to solve labor shortages due to the initiation of Brown Gold. The colonists were given two headrights of land each, and one for each time they paid for the passage of another immigrant.
The headright system thus increased the division between the wealthy landowners and the poor laborers. The system was the first to create a social hierarchy in Virginia.