Source 2

Extract from ‘Report from Thomas Roe to the Earl of Salisbury, on his voyage to Guyana’, 1610-1611. Catalogue Ref: CO 1/1 f.92-3.


This is an extract of a letter from the diplomat and explorer Thomas Roe to the Earl of Salisbury. Thomas Roe described the trading activity he witnessed as he travelled to Guyana and Trinidad. He saw English ships trading in tobacco along the coastline. This was a profitable smuggling trade with the Spanish settlers on Trinidad and the Orinoco.


Right Honorable.


If I should trouble your Lordship with a larger relation of my poore

Discoueryes, [discoveries] they would be as paynfull [painful] to you, as they haue [have] beene

to mee: I haue left them now behind me and I will doe so here too

Least they offend your patience more, then they haue benefitted mee.

Your Honor shall fynd nothing new nor stranges here, though it

Come from the newest and stranges land, for it beres [bears] no other

Fruict [fruit] but my respect and service to your Lordship; for which interr

Ruption [interruption] I must also aske perdon [pardon]; when I shall come home I hope

To giue [give] your Lordship account that I haue [have] not beene Idle, and I will

Not become so, by strange reports of this place, when I shall

Answer for yt [it] at your lordships commandement [command]. Yet I may with

An humble bouldnes [boldness] presume to say I haue seene more of this

Coast riuers [rivers] and Inland from the Great Rivver of the Amazones

Under the line to Orenoque in 8 degrees, than any Englishman

Now alive, and of this I hope to give a reason: I am now past

The Wild Coast and arrives at Port d’Espagne in the Island

Of Trinidad where are 15 sayle [sail] of ships freighting smoke

English French Dutch: and of thes parts if your Honor will give me

Leave to relate the little newes [news] and my opinion I will venture

Them both: the Spaniards here are equally proud Insolent yet

Needy and weake: theyr force is reputation, and theye safely

Opinion: yet dare they use us whose hands are bound with any

Contumely [insolent treatment] and treachery: for my I will resist and preuent [prevent] both

These and for your end doe rather stay with some English, then for

Any trade


« Return to Tobacco
  • Where was tobacco traded?
  • What does the tone of this letter suggest about the relationship between Thomas Roe and the Earl of Salisbury?
  • Where had Thomas Roe travelled?
  • Thomas Roe saw 15 ships ‘freighting smoke’. What could ‘smoke’ refer to?
  • How are the Spanish characterised in this extract? What does this suggest about Anglo-Spanish relations in the Stuart period?
  • How does Thomas Roe’s account make us rethink the idea that Virginia was England’s primary source of tobacco in the Stuart period?
  • Why do think this letter was written?