Looking Out for Number One T.H. Breen

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Bri Swartley An Analysis of Looking Out for Number One: Conflicting Cultural Values in Early Seventeenth-Century Virginia by: T. H. Breen I believe what Breen is trying to say in his essay is that the Englishmen that came to Virginia were very different from the settlers of other colonies and they had a much different society develop than what was typical in the other colonies. They were a highly individualistic society. Breen believes that the personalities of those who came to Virginia were, in part what caused Virginia’s society to become so individualistic.

Being so individualistic didn’t exactly work out so well for the structure of society or the well being of the colonists. Breen says that the first people to come to Virginia were “in no way a random sample of seventeenth-century English society” (23). Here he’s trying to say that the people of Virginia do not reflect the same ideals and values of England. Most of the people that came to Virginia were fresh out of the wars in Ireland or were roughnecks or sea captains looking to get rich quick in Virginia. Breen describes the colonists that came to Jamestown as tough, individualistic, and willing to exploit people and resources (24).

The people of Virginia were willing to do whatever it took to make a quick buck. They exploited the land for tobacco and exploited the use of indentured servants and later slavery to do their work for them. The people that colonized Virginia did not live close together like inhabitants of most other colonies. This was as Breen put it a “cultural phenomena” (25). I think he means that the people were physically seperated and this led to more and more feelings of individualism because unlike in other colonies the people were not able to have much of a feel for community or group preservation even.

They were merely interested in taking care of themselves. It was more than just an individualistic approach, there was definitely amoney-above-all ideology in the colony of Virginia. The people of Virginia were obsessed with making a profit. They were highly competitive with each other. Virginians did not want to take the time away from tobacco farming long enough to help protect their colony because they were concerned that their neighbors would take advantage of their absence to get ahead. (29) The lack of being able to come together and form a military hurt Virginians by leaving them vulnerable to attack by Native American peoples.

The Virginian colonists were so caught up in just farming tobacco and protecting themselves that they didn’t have any formal military. The people didn’t see the point in defending others and thought that everyone should simply defend their own land. This left them open to being taken advantage of by privitized military groups looking to make a profit.

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