The English in Virginia
[The English in Virginia is taken from The Making of Virginia and the Middle Colonies by Samuel Adams Drake, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1893.]
Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
“I scorn to change or fear.”
ELIZABETH had been twenty years Queen of England before any step was taken toward colonizing America. At that epoch men’s minds were more set upon discovery than founding colonies. Indeed, it is known that the Queen herself had a very strong bias that way. The reason is plain. Bold deeds have ever been stronger spur to human effort than peaceful ones, and first for glory more potent than all besides. Men would be Columbus in chains than not be Columbus at and so it was that the real worth of the New World, either as a source of national wealth or as a home for overcrowded Europe, was lost sight of in the more dazzling scheme of finding a short way to China.
This was where Columbus had failed; this was what the Queen had set her heart upon; and this also was what all the learned geographers of the time were talking about. Whoever should perform this great feat would bring renown to his country, and fame and fortune to himself. But there was something in the way.
Hither to England had been playing a little, an ignoble part. Instead of taking the lead in voyages of discovery, as she might and should have done, her ships and sailors-and hers were the best of both-had turned to plundering the treasure-fleets of Spain. What if high honors were showered on those who followed this base business? Our age looks back in wonder at the morality of that, when the arm of power was raised, not to punish, but to reward, what was piracy then and is piracy now. But no very high moral aims actuated the crowned heads of that day, nor were the people themselves free from a lingering trace of barbarism. Court and people alike exulted over the bringing home of a captured galleon; Drake became the popular idol, and was cheered to the echo whenever he went abroad; even Elizabeth herself was not ashamed to visit his ship, or, if report be true, to share in the ill-gotten plunder; gold silenced all complaints, though we are told that it grieved Drake much because “some prime courtiers refused the gold he offered them as gotten by pyracie.” This was Elizabeth’s England.
And so we find that, nearly a century after its discovery the North American continent had been weakly occupied only at its extremities, but by a Spaniard at one, and a Frenchman at the other. As yet all the actual colonizing had been done in Florida and Canada. Drake and Hawkins were busy burning the Spanish settlements the south, while at the north the French remained unnoticed, possibly because they were not thought worth plundering. There was no gold there.
Through the efforts of a few public-spirited men, who had their country’s good more at heart than gain, yet desired glory with honor, there came such a change that, from being most backward, Englishmen suddenly grew most forward in setting forth both discovery and colonization. Must it be told that these ardent champions of their country’s glory were left to raise their own colonists, and to fit out their own ships, precisely as their own ships, precisely as they titled buccaneers had been doing? Elizabeth gave gracious permission, and no more. But that was enough. Perhaps national pride had been humbled at seeing Spain and France so much more active in the New World. Perhaps jealousy may have had something to do with bringing about the change, or possibly the time had only just grown ripe for it. In any case, it was thought a shrewd thing to have let the Spaniards and French beat the bush for other men to catch birds. That was England’s way of looking at it.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert was the first Englishman who undertook to bring English colonists to these shores. It was he again who offered to be their leader. In 1578 the Queen granted him a royal charter for six years. It was five before he could get his fleet ready. The vain the Queen tried to turn him from his purpose. His resolve was not to be shaken.
What manner of man was this who could thus brave the displeasure of his royal mistress? Of gentle blood, yet nobler far by nature; neither corsair nor adventurer, yet of lofty courage; he was, perhaps, a little of a dreamer -an enthusiast. In him greatness of mind and greatness of soul were strikingly combined. Take, for instance, this plea of his for the dreaded Arctic voyage: “He is not worthy to live at all that, for fear or danger of death shunneth his country’s service, and his own honor, seeing death is inevitable and the fame of virtue immortal.’ This was Sir Humphrey’s “reed, and we shall soon see how nobly he lived up to it.
Gilbert’s first dream had been of a Northwest Passage. It may well be, therefore, that he still cherished a secret hope of making his colony an aid to that vain search-an outpost whence the better to prosecute it-as he had decided to plant himself on the mainland, next adjoining Newfoundland, where the nearness of that island, then a rendezvous for fishing fleets, promised some support. Yet that alone was a substantial support at need. All this inhospitable coast was then called Norombega. It was therefore for this land, known vaguely through -report, that Gilbert set sail with five ships, four of which safely reached Newfoundland. Of this famed island of. the sea he then took.. formal possession in his sovereign’s name.
After refitting, Gilbert again set sail for the coast he was fated never to reach alive. His ship foundered in a gale, with all on board, but death had no terrors for him. To the last he nobly sustained the character he himself had set forth-that of a devout Christian soldier. He was last seen, Bible in hand, bidding his terrified companions be of good cheer. This was all the word the survivors brought back.
Elizabeth’s shrewd remark, that Gilbert was “a man of no good hap by sea,” had theirs come true, yet there was greater heroism in such a death as his, than in boarding a galleon sword in hand.
So striking an incident hardly could fail of finding its way into verse. Accordingly we find a poet of Gilbert’s own time is the first to perpetuate his dying words:
“Heaven is as near from sea, as, from the land.”
No more fitting epitaph could be found for Sir Humphrey Guhert, the Father of American Colonization, and its first martyr. All honor be to him for first turning away men’s thoughts from buccaneering exploits, to the higher aims of a Christian civilization!
- Colonizing America was begun, but not by Englishmen. See what follows.
- Geographers had pointed out that since the discovery of our continent, the problem of a Northwest Passage opened the greatest field for glory.
- Elizabeth waged war with Spain, without the name by permitting her subjects to attack Spanish ports and ships while the two crowns were nominally at peace.
- This figure is used by Sir H. Gilbert in his Discourse, printed in 1576. A copy is in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R.I.
- See Gilbert’s letter to Walsingham (one of Elizabeth’s secretaries of State), giving his reasons why he could not comply with her Majesty’s wishes–Calender Br. State Papers, vol. 159. Raleigh wanted to go with Gilbert, but the Queen positively forbade it.
- Newfoundland had been a resort, no one knows how long for the fishermen of all Europe; but there was not permanent settlement. At the end of the fishing season the island was deserted. Gilbert’s voyage is in Hakluyt, Vol. III.
- Norombega. See Making of New England of this series, pp. 4,5 , for reference to this name. In the Gilbert grant the country to be occupied is styled, ‘the northerly parts of Atlantis, called Novus Orbis.‘
- This line occurs in Fitz-Geffrey’s poem on Sir Francis Drake, printed at Oxford, 1596. Longfellow also makes use of it in his verses of Sir. H. Gilbert. The original reading is:
Heaven is as near from sea, as from the land;
What though your country’s tomb you could not have?
You sought your country’s good, not country’s grave.
Sir Walter Raleigh.
“Fain would I ‘climb, fat that I fear to fall.”
THOUGH Gilbert had laid down his life, it was not all in vain, as his purpose lived on. His half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, whom the Queen had forbidden to go on this voyage, now took up the work in something of the same spirit. Though so different in mind, character and purpose, these two men seem to have been bound up together, in a sense, and their work should so stand in history.
At this period Raleigh was rich, powerful, and in high favor with Elizabeth, who had made him, and whom he knew as quickly could unmake him should he date disobey her, for this haughty princess ruled her court with a rod of iron. No doubt he had been eager to go with Gilbert, but when she said remain, there was no alternative left him to do as he was bid.
Raleigh is handed down to us as being a tall, handsome man, with a long face, very high forehead, dark hair, and drooping eyelids. His beard turned up naturally. His face on the whole, is what we call intellectual when we mean that nature has set her mark on a man. Though not nobly born he was one of nature’s noblemen. By all accounts Raleigh was one of the most distinguished-looking personages of his time. That he was vain, as well as proud, is shown by his going about bedizened with jewels and precious stones, from head to foot. That he was no less sharp-witted than gallant, we know from the story of his having won the Queen’s favor by laying down his new velvet cloak at her feet, so that she might not have to walk in the mire. And that he was aspiring and audacious is evident from the anecdote of his having scratched on a window-pane, with his diamond ring, where the Queen would be sure to see it:
“Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall,”
to which Elizabeth replied, with her own:
“If thy heart fail thee, thou climb not at all.”
Men have called Raleigh selfish, ungrateful, untruthful even, but never incapable. His head was full of grand ideas, and lie is always at his best when planning or executing some great enterprise. Here he was without a peer. Certainly Raleigh was a many-sided man. He speaks of his youth as a training in the arts of a gentleman and a soldier. At seventeen he was fighting for the Protestant cause in France; at thirty he was one of the first gentlemen of the realm. One time he is foremost in all the follies of the court; again he is found seeking the seclusion of his study. What strange contradictions, we say. Yet this is human nature; this was Raleigh.
In his closet Raleigh became a poet, historian, philosopher. And he could “toil terribly,” as his writings show to this day. We wonder, and wonder again, at the inconsistencies of his character, yet through all we see cropping out the strong desire to be a benefactor to his race, and that is something we can and do admire in spite of all his failings. Americans will ever honor the name of Raleigh. He was no Gilbert. Gilbert’s was the truer, the nobler type of heroism, yet Raleigh was one of the sort of. men who make the world move on-who are born, not made. He knew every rope in a ship; he knew exactly how to provide for a voyage; he could call to his aid the men most experienced in seafaring life. Finally, he obtained a new charter, in his own name, in place of Gilbert’s old one, and this done, he was ready for the great effort of his life.
- Sour-eye-lidded for personal description, see Aubrey’s Corresp.,, Vol. II, part II, p. 500.
- See Notes to Scott’s Kenilworth. When Raleigh was arrested 1618, his pockets were found full of diamonds and precious stones, hurriedly removed from his dress.
- The incident of the cload is made use of by Scott in Kenilworth. Fuller is the original authority for this, as well as the succeeding anecdote of the diamond ring. True or not, they reflect the prevailing opinion of Raleigh at any rate.
Raleigh’s First Expedition, 1584.
“As, the Wingandicoa savages,
Thay can relate of Grinville and his deeds”
Raleigh’s first step was to look up a suitable situation for a colony. To this end he fitted out two vessels, and on April 27, 1584, Captains Barlow and Amidas sailed out of the Thames. Instead of following in Gilbert’s track, they steered the old southerly course, first sailed by Columbus, the sooner to get sight of known landmarks, as it seems they were to begin their search from the southward.
Thus, the Canaries were sighted May 10th, and the West Indies, June 10th; and July 2d they were on soundings off the Florida coast, breathing in with delight the perfumed breezes borne off to them from that land of flowers. But they knew that the Spaniards claimed all that country, and so kept off for some more northerly and safer haven.
In two days more they saw before them the low sands of the Carolina coast, girt with foam. All were now on the alert for open water and a harbor. Finally, they saw an inlet through which they sailed into the narrow seas that trench this coast about. Here they anchored.
They first landed upon an uninhabited island, very sandy and low, but fruitful, it seemed, for wild grapes hung in thick clusters all along the water’s edge. After taking formal possession, first in the Queen’s name, and then in Raleigh’s, they began exploring this island, finding many trees that were new to them, such as the famous Southern pine, since become so great a source of wealth to North Carolina; and every now and then firing off their muskets, like frolicsome schoolboys, just to see the great flocks of cranes rise screaming in the air. Like charmed men they wandered up and down, until the low sun warned them that it was time to go on board their ships again.
Not till the third day did they see any human being. On that day three savages cautiously approached them in a canoe. After some coaxing one even ventured on board. When they gave him meat to eat, and a shirt and hat to cover his nakedness, he was so delighted that he presently brought them a boatload of fish to show his gratitude.
“Surely,” said they, “here are peace and plenty.”
Next day forty or fifty more natives came to see this wonderful canoe and its bearded men with white faces. The English went to meet them armed and watchful, though the chief of the band often stroked his head and breast in sign of friendship; and though they could converse only by signs, like deaf and dumb men, distrust soon wore off, and then these simple savages, who stood but little above brutes in the eyes of the white men, soon showed themselves by no means wanting in all true hospitality.
This chief, who was brother to the king of that country, was treated by his followers with the greatest respect, none presuming either to sit or speak in his presence without permission. His absolute rule was known in still another way. All showed a more than childish eagerness for the trinkets offered them, but whatever was given to one of his men the chief instantly took away, making signs that all must be his and his alone.
The Indians now came almost daily to the island, bringing with them skins, coral, or other articles to barter for what the whites would part with. A brisk trade of this sort soon sprung up, by which the Englishmen were the chief gainers. For instance, Granganimeo’s eyes were so charmed by a bright tin-dish that he gave twenty deer-skins for it on the spot, and forthwith hung it round his neck as an ornament. This chief wore on his forehead a broad plate, whether of copper or gold the English could not tell, for the prince would not suffer it to be touched, but cer- tainly one or the other. This led the explorers to think there might be gold in the country, and to think of little else. “Find out if there be gold in the country,” had been Raleigh’s last orders to them. Was not all Europe ringing with the fame of Mexico and Peru?
“Gold, yellow, glittering, precious gold,” could then lure men to the ends of the earth, as it since has to California and Australia. Aud quest for gold finally brought Raleigh’s proud head to the block.
The Indians seemed to set great store by the seed pearls they wore on their persons, but the English craftility refused to sell their arms for pearls, hoping to find out where they could be had by pretending not to care for them. They saw canoes that would carry twenty men, with paddles made concave, like a modern racing scull, showing that something may be learned even from a savage.
On their part, the Indians were not wholly ignorant of the white race beyond the sea; for Barlow heard from them that a ship, of what nature could be learned, had been cast away six and twenty years before, over against Wococon, on the mainland, called Secotan. The survivors got to Wococon, but what became of them could not be learned.
These people called their country Wyngandicoa. The men were tall, stout fellows; the women short, but well formed and comely. Their hair was let grow long, like the whites, but the men’s was worn long only on one side, which made them look very odd indeed. The wives of the chiefs wore great strings of seed-pearls, as big as peas, dangling from their ears down to their waists. One of these was secured for Sir Walter Raleigh.
After receiving these visits, Captain Barlow went to See Granganimeo’s town, situated at the north end of Roanoke Island, where he and his men met with a most friendly reception. It was only a little village, counting in all but nine poor cabins, built of cedar and surrounded by a stockade, with some corn-fields near by, yet it served to give the strangers a good idea of how easily those people lived, how few were their needs, and what their means of defence.
Full of what they had seen, the explorers now set sail for England, where they arrived about the middle of September, bringing with them two natives, Wanchese and Manteo, in proof that they had won the confidence of the people. Well might Barlow say “We found the people void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the Golden Age.”
So far as can be ,judged, from their accounts, the explorers had only praise for this new region. But then they had only seen it at its best. They had found a temperate climate, a friendly people, woods and waters alive with game and fish; yet the one needful thing they had not found, and that was a good, safe harbor; nor had they taken time to test the accuracy of their first impressions. The truth of these could only be known by actual trial. This was now vigorously set on foot.
- Arthur Barlow and Phillip Amidas. To the former we owe the only record of this voyage; Hakluyt, III. Amidas was probabl a foreigner.
- A due westerly course would have carried them to Virginia sooner than to the West Indies, so saving many lives and much food. This West India course was long a stumbling-block to colonizing Virginia. Barlow though that the Gulf Stream would be dead against him, so he actually doubled the distance to take advantage of its current. So did after-comers.
- Uninhabitate Island, supposed to be Wococon. Barlow made it twenty miles long and six broad. Some say Ocracroke some Portsmouth. On the earliest maps Croatan is placed next south of Hatorask, Woconon next. The explorers probably passed through Ocracroke Inlet into Pamlico Sound. North Carolina has thus the distinction of having been first visited by Raleigh’s men, a fact perpetuated in the name of its capital, Raleigh.
- Mines of gold or silver were the chief inducements to all adventurers in the New World. All other resources were held cheap, in comparison.
- Roanoke was a kind of wampum, or shell money.
First Colony at Roanoke, 1585-86.
The glowing reports brought back by his captains decided Raleigh to begin a settlement in earnest. His fame rose higher than ever; and as he had given to his Queen a new country, she, it is said, now gave it the name of Virginia, for herself, the “eternal maiden queen.” Raleigh had his arms newly cut, with the legend “Lord and Governor of Virginia.” Thus does Virginia stand as a memorial of England’s greatest monarch. Never had country more pleasing name, or princess a more noble namesake.
By the next April seven ships, with one hundred and eight colonists were ready for sea. Raleigh gave Sir Richard Grenville, a valiant sea-captain, command over the fleet, and Ralph Lane, a soldier of fortune, charge over the colony, when it should have landed.
If ever man deserved success Raleigh did, for he spared neither himself nor his purse. Certainly, this colony was well equipped. Besides Captain Amidas, who was now going out to Virginia again, and Manteo, the Indian who went back too, Raleigh sent out John White,a clever artist and Thomas Hariot, a capable mathematician, to survey and study the country, make maps and drawings, mix with and observe the people, and so be able to give a full account of all they saw. The fleet was of good strength to resist the Spaniards, if they attacked it–and England and Spain were now nearly at sword’s points–besides being ably commanded. As for the emigrants themselves, they were, perhaps, not the best in the world, yet in sufficient numbers for a beginning. They were no true colonists if they did not load themselves with much useless trumpery. In short, Raleigh so threw himself into this effort that in seven short months after Barlow’s return his colony was ready to hoist sail and away.
Grenville weighed from Plymouth in April, 1585, touched at the West Indies in May, and sighted the Florida coast June 20th. Just escaping shipwreck at Cape Fear, the fleet east anchor at Wococon on the 26th, after a voyage of eighty days from port to port.
Before deciding where to settle, an exploring party went over to the mainland, and travelled as far south as the Indian village of Secotan, where they met with good treatment from the people. But because a silver cup had been stolen from them, the explorers cruelly revenged it by setting fire to a village, on their return, so sowing an enmity for which the colonists afterward paid dear. This was the Spaniards’ way of dealing with the Indians, and a very short-sighted way it proved. Raleigh was wiser, for he had strictly charged his captains by all means to gain the good-will of the Indians; but thought they knew better than he, if indeed they gave matter a thought beyond that of chastising the Indians in a way they would not soon forget. And the Indians did not forget, we may be certain.
The northeast corner of Roanoke Island was finally chosen for a site, very possibly because it commanded the passages leading through into the great sounds, east and west, besides being safer from attack, and more easily defended than a site on the mainland, where they would be only a handful against thousands. So here they set to work. This being settled, Grenville sailed for England, and Lane took charge as directed.
These people were rather gold-seekers than colonists, in any true sense, for upon Barlow’s report Raleigh believed gold would be found among the natives here, as in Mexico. He therefore charged Lane to look for it. So like DeSoto before him, Lane forthwith set to work hunting for riches before he had even found a way to live, without aid, at Roanoke.
After building a fort, one exploring party went north as far as a tribe calling themselves Chesepiacs, living about the great bay of Virginia; while another went up Albemarle Sound, to its head, and into both the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers, which fall into it, finding people everywhere, but no gold or silver.
Lured on by idle tales, told to trap him to his ruin, and especially of a passage by this river to the great South Sea, Lane rowed up the Roanoke in search of it.. As he advanced the Indians abandoned their towns, hid their corn, and fled before him, thus showing they could practise that kind of warfare as well as civilized nations. In three days’ travel Lane did not see an Indian or find a grain of corn. After toiling on against the current a hundred and sixty miles, but two days’ food remained. Sensible, at last, that he had come on a fool’s errand, Lane left it to his men to say whether they would go on or not. One and all chose to persevere, even if they should have to kill and eat their dogs. So for two days more they tugged at the oar, when, as night was closing round them, the loud blast of a horn, instantly followed by a flight of arrows, brought them to a standstill. The assailants fled, but the explorers having already “come to their dogges porridge,” as they say, now thought best to make all haste back to Roanoke, empty-handed as they came.
So long as the Indians could be depended upon to furnish them with food the settlers gave little thought to the morrow. But there came a day when this stay failed them. Of all their mistakes this was the worst, since it led them to neglect providing against what proved their greatest enemy and final ruin. Wingina had indeed given them ground to plant, but they found it hard to live till harvest-time. They describe their situation as like that of the hose starving in the stable with the grass growing outside, as the proverb has it.
For some time the island the Indians had shown themselves bad neighbors; and though they refrained from open enmity, they were shrewed enough to see that without their help the wasteful whites would soon come to want. In other words, it would be easier to starve them out than to drive them off. So indeed it fell out, as victuals soon ran so low in the settlement that Lane had to scatter his men abroad to live as they could, though he knew they would be more easily cut off.
But in this time of danger and distress, help came in a most unlooked-for way. The Indians were attacked by a deadly sickness, which exceedingly terrified them, the more because they believed the whites had sent it upon them in revenge for withholding food, through the agency of some kind of charm or witchcraft. All Indians were firm believers in the power of an Evil as well as a Good Spirit, to whom their sooth-sayer, or medicine-man, offered up prayers-to one to spare them from sickness, famine, or trouble ; to the other of thanksgiving for health, plenty, or success in war. This medicine-man was consulted in all matters of importance, as the ancients consulted their oracles, and whatever he said usually guided their actions.
For a season the Indians were thus kept in awe, but not long after one of them divulged a plot to kill the English, one and all. Wingina, the head chief, was to give the signal by striking the first blow. tane spoiled this plan by falling upon the island Indians himself, and scattering them before they could put it in execution. Then crossing over to the main, where a still larger force was assembled, he also put these to rout with his death-dealing musketry. By these bold acts the colonists were saved from destruction, though every Indian was now a declared enemy.
Matters were, however, every day growing worse. Between them and all hope of rescue rolled the wide ocean. On one side was death by starvation; on the other, death by violence. But as food must be had, at all risks, only strong parties could go out in search of it among the sands of the sea-shore or in the waters of the inlets. Strict watch was also kept for passing ships.
While encamped on a neighboring island one of these foraging parties saw a great fleet crowding all sail for this shore. Thinking they were Spaniards coming to attack the settlement, the watchers hastened to give the alarm there. It proved, however, to be no Spaniard, but Sir Francis Drake, whom the Queen had charged to call at Virginia, in order to give the colony any aid it might be in want of; and never was aid more welcome we may be sure.
Drake generously offered either to take off the colonists, or if they preferred to stay, to leave them victuals and a ship, till they could receive further help from home. Lane at first decided to remain, but the courage of the colonists failed them at the pinch, and all finally embarked on Drake’s ships.
Hardly had they left the coast when a supply-ship have in sight of Hatteras. After making a vain search for the colony, she sailed home again. Only a fortnight later Grenville himself arrived with three ships. Finding Ranoke deserted, he left a few men to hold it till relief should reach them. So perished this colony, whcn when help was almost within its grasp. If Lane could have held out just a little longer, perhaps Raleigh’s efforts might not have gone for naught. But it seemed fated that one colony should rise only on the ruins of its predecessor.
- It is not clear whether Elizabeth or Raleigh proposed this name.
- Sir Richard Grenville stood, with Drake and Hawkins in the front rank of naval heroes. He had helped Raleigh about his patent, and to fit out Barlow. An iron soldier, better fitted for war than council.
- RALPH LANE had seen much service in the wars. If conquest only had been aimed at, he was the very man for the purpose; for peaceful employments he was less fitted.
- JOHN WHITE’S DRAWINGS are in the British Museum (Sloane Collection). Some were engraved for De Bry’s Voyages, a rere work, printed in Dutch in 1590.
- THOMAS HARlOT was a pensioner of Raleigh’s, not as a needy dependent. but according to the custom of the time, when great men kept little courts of their own. Hariot printed A Briefe and True Report of Virginia, London, 1588.
- CAPE FEAR is named thus early but whether by these colonists is not clear. The account says: The 2nd of June we were in great danger of a wreck on a breach called the Cape of Feare. Some think this was Cape Lookout.
- ROANOKE ISLAND is mostly low, marshy ground. It was the scene of a severe battle between the Union and Confederate forces in 1862. Lane calls it My Lord Admiral’s Island, referring to Grenville.
- CHESEPIACS or Chesapeakes, Captain Smith says. were seated on a stream of that name, emptying into the great bay, which took its name from this people. But on White’s map they are placed just inside of Cape Henry. Lane extols the country highly.
- LANE’s views are thus given in his own words: The discovery of a gold mine, or a passage to the South Sea, or some way to it, and nothing else, can bring this country in request to be in- habited by our nation. Hakinyt, III., 316.
- DRAKE was on his way home from a maraud in the west Indies, and had just burned St. Augustine, Fla.
Tobacco is the worst of things, which they
To English landierds as their tribute pay.”- Waller.
IN general, it is the white man who has carried his vices among savage races, to their ruin. In the case of tobacco, the world owes its use, not to civilized man, but to the untutored savage. According to Camden, tobacco was first brought to England by the Roanoke colonists, in Drake’s ships. Probably those ignorant settlers little thought that this unregarded weed, which they had learned to smoke from the Indians, would prove the life of the colony at last, and one of the great commodities of a great country.
That both Raleigh and Drake smoked tobacco is well known. When Hariot wrote, not only men, but “women of great calling,” had taken up the habit. Two anecdotes of Raleigh’s use of this fragrant weed have come down to us from his own time. One runs that, as Raleigh one day sat quietly smoking his pipe, his servant entered the room with a flagon of spiced ale, and aghast at seeing smoke issuing from his master’s mouth, as if he were on fire, instantly dashed the contents of the flagon in his face. The other story has more point, if not greater probability. Being in conversation with the queen, Raleigh asserted that he could exactly tell the weight of the smoke in every pipe of tobacco he burned. The queen at once laid a wager of twenty angels that he could not. Raleigh first carefully weighed a pipeful of tobacco, and, after he had finished smoking it, then as carefully weighed the ashes. “Your majesty cannot deny,” said he, “that the difference hath gone up in smoke.”
It is sad to think that tobacco may have been Raleigh’s chief solace for all his failures in Virginia. Four venerable yew-trees, under whose shade he is said to have smoked his first pipe, are still pointed out at Youghal, Ireland. A few steps farther on is the spot where the first Irish potato was planted by him. Of this invaluable gift from the New World to the Old, Heine quaintly said: “Luther shook Germany to its foundation, but Drake pacified it again; he gave us the potato.”
- Tobacco the name, is supposed to have been first given by Hernandez de Toledo, who first sent it to Spain and Portugal about 1950. The generic name. nicotlana, comes from Jean Nicot, ambassador of Francis II., In Portugal, who brought some tobacco from Lisbon and gave it to the queen, Catherine de Medicis, as a valuable herb. Some think the name tobacco is derived from Tabaco a province of Yucatan, where the Spaniards first found it; others derive it from the island of Tobago; and Humboldt says It belongs to the ancient language of St. Domingo. When Raleigh brought it from Virginia fields of it were already growing in Portugal. The juice of cursed hebanon, by which, according to Shakespeare, the King of Denmark was poisoned, is supposed to have been the essential oil of tobacco:
Upon my secure boor thy uncle stole,
with juice of cursed hebanon too vial,
And in the porehes of mine ear did pour
That leperous distilment.
- HEINE, HEINILICH, German poet, is here quoted.
SECOND COLONY AT ROANOKE, 1587.
WE may be sure that Raleigh called his servants to a strict account for letting his colony fall to pieces. Men commonly lay the blame of their failures upon every-thing but themselves. Yet it was not so now with Lane or Hariot, for they praised Virginia just as highly as ever. The fault, then, was not with the country. Most men would have given up the whole thing at once, but difficulties seem only to have strengthened Raleigh’s purpose to succeed. So he at once set about fitting out a still larger expedition, over which he put John White as governor.
Raleigh planned this colony with more form than before by naming twelve men who were to be White’s advisers and together be a corporation, like that of a city. He furthermore directed White to look up a situation in Chesapeake Bay, as the Carolina coast was condemned by all sea captains, who had been there, on account of its shallow waters and unsafe harbors.
Instead of sending out only men, as before, of the one hundred and fifty settlers who went at this time, seven-teen were women. There was wisdom in this step, as it had been found that men soon grew discontented and homesick without companions of the other sex. To such as were married the new country became a home, instead of a place of exile from home. Then, too, the colonists were to have some share in ruling themselves. So, in this colony, we see some beginning toward planting the seed of a commonwealth; whereas Lane had had merely commanded a sort of military post.
Reaching Hatteras July 2d, White went on shore to look for the men Grenville had left. When he came to the fort no living thing was to be seen. Some few houses were still standing, but weeds grew rank and tall about them, and both they and the fort were fast going to decay. As the newcomers searched here and there, they came across the bones of a man bleaching among the grass. The sad story was easily read in these perishing relics. The forlorn hope had either been al1 slain or driven off the island. And nothing more was ever heard of them.
A strange chance led White’s people again to this doomed spot, where their comrades had so miserably perished. Against his orders-and it would seem also against his own judgment-White was persuaded to resettle Roanoke. So the old houses were repaired. But the colonists soon had reason to repent this decision, for within a few days one of their chief men was found by the shore riddled with arrows. What they had sowed, the English were now reaping. It was they who now sued for peace. An embassy was sent to conciliate the Croatan Indians, their next neighbors. This was was effected through their old friend and ally, Manteo, who on many occasions served them well and faithfully. It is well to keep this treaty in mind, as it would seem to account for what happened later on.
Unfortunately, these colonists, too, seem to have thought that blood called for blood. A party therefore crossed over to the mainland, where their most implacable enemies dwelt, and in the darkness of night fell upon those they found there, who proved, after all, to be their new-made allies from Croatan, the real offenders having having made good their escape.
It was now plain that the great body of Indians would use every possible means to destroy them, never engaging in conflict, but, by harassing them day and night, force them out of the country.
One bright spot shone out through the dark clouds around them, though we know not whether it was hailed with more joy or sorrow. This was the birth of a daughter to Eleanor Dare. She was christened Virginia, as seemed most fitting for the first-born child sprung from the soil.
By and by want began to be felt in the colony. Contrary to his own wish Cs, it seemed best that the governor himself should go to England in order to lay its condition and needs before Raleigh. White therefore sailed the last of August, reaching England in November, after a very long voyage.
But now the dreaded Spanish invasion hung over all England like a storm-cloud. The whole island was up in arms. And when every Englishman was called to defend his own fireside, we may be sure few would be found to listen to appeals for succoring poor Virginia. It. England fell, Virginia would be but a mouthful for the Spaniard. Yet in April, 1588, Raleigh sent White back with two small relief vessels, though both returned, stripped and crippled, when life and death depended on their haste.
Raleigh had now sunk forty thousand pounds in his Virginia schemes. Even he seems to have despaired at last. In March, 1589, he therefore assigned his rights to Sir Thomas Smith and others, who strangely delayed sending out relief for a whole year.  When at last it did arrive, not a soul was found alive at Roanoke. The colonists had vanished; the place was a solitude. From the rank growth that had sprung up in its midst it seemed to have been long deserted; how long, no one could guess, Yet there was proof that some had escaped; for what they could not carry off, the fugitives had buried, and White found some of his own chests lying where they had since been dug up and rifled of their contents, probably by prowling savages.
After close search the word CROATAN was discovered cut on a post of the fort, evidently as a token to those who might come after. For Croatan the rescuers accordingly made sail; but never to reach it, for, beaten back by winds and waves, they gave over the search, and sailed away without more tidings of the lost colony.
- Hatteras is mentioned in the earliest English accounts. It was therefore among the first localities to be known by its Indian name.
- Grenville’s men are thought to have fled to Hatteras after being surprised by the natives, in revenge for Wingina’s death. The Indians feigned ignorance of what had become of them.
- There was a tradition among the Croatan tribe that these colonists became incorporated with it, and went with it when it left the coast, first to follow the course of the Roanoke, and next across to some point on the Neuse. The colonists of 1608 heard of them, and tried in vain to rescue them. They were probably held as captives and removed inland as a precaution against their escape. Dr. Stephen B. Weeks, of Johns Hopkins University, thinks their descendants are still to be found in North Carolina.
MASTER HARIOT tells some curious things about the religion of these Virginia Indians. He says that they believed in one great supreme Creator, who, in turn, made other gods to serve him; that woman was created before man; that the soul of man was immortal, and went either to eternal happiness or to a bottomless gulf filled with endless flames, according as he had lived a good or bad life. To prove this, the Indians told Hariot a story, which was a tradition among them, of two men who. after being dead and buried, had come to life again, each one bringing back strange tidings from the other world.
After the first lay in the ground a whole day, the earth over him being seen to move, he was taken up alive. He told his wondering friends that he was near going to the bottomless pit, when one of the gods took pity on him, and gave him leave to go back to his people again, and teach them how to live so as to avoid such torments. The other man, taken up like the first after burial, said that, though his body was dead, he had travelled far in a long, broad way, where, on both sides, there grew more wondrous great trees and juicy fruits than he had ever seen before. Coming at last to a most exceeding fair house, he met his own father, long since dead, who gave him a solemn charge to return among his kindred, and show them how, by doing good, they might inherit all these blessings.
Thus these ignorant savages had their belief in the return of the Son of Man; only he was not a divine being, though divinely inspired.
Hariot tried to make them understand the white men’s belief in the one ever-living God. He first showed them his compasses, telescopes, books, and manuscripts, with all of which they were wonder-struck. Having tried to reach their ignorant minds by means of these things, as so many proofs of what Christianity had done for his race, and could do for them if they would but listen, he then showed them his Bible as the most precious thing of all, seeing it was God’s own Word.
Conceiving this to be all the secret of the white men’s superiority, the Indians would eagerly crowd round to touch, or kiss, or hug the sacred volume; and some would even rub their bodies with it, as if they thought its virtues could be thus imparted to them like that of the loadstone to the dull iron.
But all Englishmen were not Hariots. On the contrary, it was the policy of the colonists, as of those who sent them, to make themselves appear to the Indians as superior beings: not simply men, but favorites of heaven, whom it was vain to think of banning.
Twelve years went by before any further step was taken to colonize Virginia. Most people thought it a foolish, if not criminal, waste of time, money, and human life. A few-and they, fortunately, were men of high purpose–still clung to the idea; but they had not yet got over their defeat.
Raleigh, however, had by no means lost all hope of finding his colony. In 1602 he sent one vessel to Virginia, which did nothing. Another, which belonged to him, but which either sailed without leave or disobeyed his orders, struck the New England coast, where a cargo of cedar and sassafras wood, both then valuable commodities in England, was secured. This ship carried out a few colonists, who, however, soon lost heart and went home. Her master was Bartholomew Gosnold, an experienced sailor, who will presently be heard of again.
This voyage, with that of Pring in 1603, and still more that of Weymouth in 1605, did much toward putting new life into colonization, as all went to prove that at whatever point the Virginian coast was struck it held out the same wonderful promise. Enough could not be said in praise of it.
But with the new century great changes had come in. Elizabeth was now dead, and James I was King of England. Drake was dead, Hawkins and Grenville were dead, Raleigh lying under sentence of death. With them died that romantic heroism which so long had defied the might of Spain. It really seemed when Elizabeth breathed her last as if the spirit of her age passed with it.
James was known as “the wisest fool in Europe,” the “crowned buffoon,” and perhaps by other equally uncomplimentary titles. It so happened, however, that while Elizabeth, great as she was, only gave to Virginia a name, James, fool or no fool, gave her a place in history.
Following close upon Weymouth’s voyage, some of the first men in England determined to take up the lifeless Virginia enterprise again. All were men of mark; some had had a little experience; and one was chief justice of the realm. In 1606 the king licensed them to begin two colonies, each to run a hundred miles on the coast, and as much more inland, but not to be settled within a hundred miles of the other. The first colony became better known as the London Company, and the second as the Plymouth Company, from the places where the members mostly resided; though neither name has any legal sanction. As both owed their life to one and the same charter, they were to all intents one. The London Company was to follow up the old attempts; the Plymouth Company would begin entirely anew.
These colonies were to be governed, first, by a supreme body in England, called the Council for Virginia; and secondly, by a local council in the colony, subject to the first. As the controlling body was appointed by the king, he thus held all power in his own hands. And, save the natural right all men have alike of defending their lives or property if attacked, little power remained with the colonists themselves. In the language of our day, the company was a joint-stock concern. Those who put in money were called adventurers ; those who went out at the company’s cost were to be fed and lodged until they should have worked out the debt.
To induce emigration, the company did just what men do now when it is desired to boom an enterprise. Truth was made to fit the object in view. They overpraised the country. They said that men could live there with-out labor. They hinted at gold as a thing not valued there. England was swarming with vagabonds, who would not work when at home, and who asked for nothing better than to go and pick up gold in the streets of the New World. The rich and timid were appealed to for aid to rid the cities of this dangerous class-to make Virginia the dumping-ground of the realm. Even the poet Drayton wrote verses in praise of the good cause, of which this is a specimen:
“Cheerfully at sea
Success you still entice
To get the pearl and gold,
And ours to hold,
Virginia, earth’s only paradise.”
But there were skeptics, too, who did not fail to turn into ridicule all these fables about untold wealth. In the play of “Eastward Hoe,” brought out at this time, Scapethrift is made to say: “But is there such treasure there, Captain, as I have heard?” And Seagull who is supposed to have made the Virginia voyage, replies: “I tell thee, gold is more plentiful there than copper with us. . . . And for rubies and diamonds, they go forth on holy days and gather them by the seashore.”
Of the one hundred and forty-three emigrants whom the company got together, the greater part were, by all accounts, fit for anything but colonists. The company took, however, such as offered, good or bad, with seeming indifference. Just as men, good for nothing else, are said to be food for powder, just so the refuse and outcasts of society were sent to die in Virginia. As one lot were mowed down by disease, another aud another were sent to take their places. The results speak for themselves.
An obstacle now appeared to the company. The Spanish ambassador, Zuniga, protested that these people had no right to settle in Virginia. That belonged solely to the subjects of Spain. Though James was now currying favor with Spain, he declined to interfere. The colonists could go at their own risk. He would neither own nor disown them. This course is a ready clew to James’s real character. He was not brave, like Elizabeth. He was only a common despot, not a great one, like her. Fortunately, Spain had been too much crippled to think of making war at this time, though her will was good to have served these colonists as she had served the French in Florida.
Now and here died Spain’s extravagant pretensions to own all the New World. Had she been able to make them good, she would have done so now. Not to do so was to confess defeat. From that day forth Spain watched and waited, but dared not strike.
Late in December three vessels sailed for Virginia in command of Captain Christopher Newport. He carried sealed orders, not to be opened till Virginia should be giving the names of the first council and their instructions. Their authority would then begin and his own ease.
By sailing in winter the colonists should have had a long season before them in which to get settled in their new home, yet, by taking the old route, so much time was wasted that the Virginia coast was not sighted till April 26th. Not less than two good months had thus been lost. Food for all that time had been spent to no purpose. The colony was thus the loser by just so much lost time, labor, and victuals. We must not lose sight of this fact, for time was money then as always.
Their first land-fall was named Cape Henry, in honor of the Crown Prince of England. Without knowing it, Newport was standing into Chesapeake Bay. Accident had thus led them to the place that Raleigh had destined White’s ill-fated colony for. By chance they now held the great gate leading into the very heart of their grant from the crown. After setting up a cross here with due ceremony, search began for a suitable place to moor their ships and land their goods in. They had been told to look for a site far enough up some navigable river to be out of danger from passing marauders.
Not finding what they were seeking on that side of the bay, they crossed over to a point of land opposite, where deep water ran close to the shore. This discovery put them in such spirits that they immediately called that place Cape Comfort. Next day the ships were brought up to it; and here they met with some Indians, with whom Captain Newport made friends, and by whom he feasted till he could eat no more at their village of Kecoughtan, near by, pipes and tobacco being handed round after meat, while the Indians danced for him.
Finding himself at the mouth of a great river, Newport set about exploring it. In one of their excursions, an exploring party broke in upon some wandering savages who were busy roasting native oysters on the coals, but who fled at sight of the white men. The explorers brought sharp appetites, the oysters were done to a turn, so a hearty meal was made at the expense of the savages. In this chance way was this delicious and valuable shell-fish first discovered to the whites, who little though it would one day become a source of greater wealth to them than the gold they were so eager to find.
After spending some time in exploring the river; in paying ceremonious visits to various chieftains, who were not over-friendly at first, but who showed the whites a sort of rude courtesy, notwithstanding their long speeches fell on dull ears-choice was made of a point of land projecting out into the river from the east bank, where ships could be moored to the cypress-trees growing at the water’s edge and thrusting their snake-like roots into the fat ooze of the bottom. More important still, the Indians could be shut out on the land side by merely stretching a stockade across the point, at the base, so that two quite important considerations were thus provided for. It is true that it was not just such a spot as they were directed to find; but time was slipping away, and all were no doubt impatient to get settled somewhere, and this seemed, on the whole, the best place they had so far seen.
Here, then, on the fourteenth day of May, 1607, they fell to work building their fort, first called by them James Fort, then Jamestown. Here was laid the corner-stone of the American nation, and this was its birthday.
The peninsula lying between the York and James Rivers was thus the first ground to be explored and settled. It has the further distinction of being the battle-ground on which the colonists, led by a Virginia general, finally won their independence as a nation.
While most of the colonists were employed about the fort, a party went up the river as far as the falls, where the city of Richmond now stands. Thus far into the land they found that the tide ebbed and flowed. Here they raised a second cross, as if the country, in which they travelled only by consent of the savages, were already theirs. They called this noble river the James.
On the fifteenth of June, James Fort was completed. Its form was a triangle, with half – moon or crescent-shaped outworks at each of the angles, on which runs were mounted. The base fronted the land side. This done, Captain Newport sailed for home, according to the tenor of his orders, leaving Jamestown but scantily provisioned against his return, which he promised would be in twenty weeks at most.
By Newport the council wrote home their first letter. It is dated “at Jamestown in Virginia, June 22, 1607.” In it they say: “We are set down eighty miles within a river for breadth, sweetness of water, length navigable up into the country, deep and bold channel so stored with sturgeon and other sweet fish as no man’s fortune ever possessed the like. . . . Within seven weeks we are fortified well against the Indians. We have some good store of wheat; we have sent you a taste of clapboard built some houses; spared some hands to a discovery; our easiest and richest commodity being sassafras.” Of this wood they shipped home about two tons by Newport, besides the clapboard mentioned in their letter. Here, at last, seemed fair promise of success.
Their civil government being settled beforehand, it only remains to speak of the religious, and we shall then have done with the outward or formal make-up of this colony.
When these people sailed, the Puritans were making some head against the Established Church of England, and were being persecuted. Worship according to the State church was therefore prescribed by the Virginia charter, no other being permitted. That church, therefore, took early and deep root in the colony as part and parcel of its very being, and long distinguished it among the sister colonies, some of which were as strongly Puritan. A minister, Rev. Mr. Hunt, came out with these whom served well and faithfully.
- The N. E. Coast was struck in Massachusetts Bay. See The Marking of New England, pp. 8-19, for an account of this voyage.
- Bartholomew Gosnold commanded one of the ships of Newport’s fleet; he was also one of the council.
- Weymouth’s Voyace led to the choice of the Kennebec for the Second Colony’s planiation. This also is treated of in The Making of New England, p.30.
- This was Sir John Popham, who became chiefly interested in the Northern Colony, referred to in note 8.
- The First colony was to coose between thrity-four and fourty-one degrees of north latitude; the second between thirty-eight and forty-five degrees.
- SEE THE CHARTER in Charters and Constitutions, compiled by B. P. Poore. Washington, 1878.
- MICHAEL DRAYTON was poet-laureate of England.
- EASTWARD HOE, written by Chapman and Marston, assisted by Ben Jonson, all of who were put in prison for casting some slur on the Scots in the play.
- VIRGINIA was long looked upon as the asylum for men who left their country for their country’s good, or whose pride or folly drove them abroad in search of means to repair their broken fortunes. Better could not be obtained in the beginning, as hope of gain was the animating principle with all, high or low. The first colonists may be properly classed as adventurers.
- NEWPORT’s PART in this colonial work is remembered in the name of Newport News.
- THE NAMEs were Edward Marla Wingfield, John Smith, John Martin, Bartholomew Gosnold, John Ratchife, and George Kendall. Wingfleld was chosen president by the rest.
- SETTING UP CROSSES with the arms of the reigning sovereign attached was considered evidence of possession, as against all later comers as if the king had put his own seal upon the country. Cape Charles was named at about this time, from the other prince of the royal family.
- KECOUGHTAN is the same as Hampton.
- THE VIRGINIA OYSTER industry is chiefly carried on today in this very section of the James River, notably at Norfolk.
Or all primitive peoples the bow has ever been the favorite weapon. Yet none have ever been more skilled in its use than the American Indians. Their bows were made of tough hazel, strung with leathern thongs; their arrows of stout reeds or hazel wood, cut nearly four feet long, headed with sharp stones or horn, and feathered in a most skillful manner. The case or quiver containing the arrows was slung across the right shoulder, so that the archer could draw forth a fresh arrow as as one was shot off.
Their manner of attack was to creep upon their on all fours, carrying their bows between their teeth. When they were come near enough to do execution, they fitted their arrows, leaped to their feet, and quickly let fly at their mark, which was seldom missed; then they as quickly dropped out of sight again.
Arrows made of reeds with stone points did not at first seem very dangerous things. At the same time, however, the English, who vaunted their own weapons so highly, were carrying the same round targets, made of tough bull’s hide, and the identical spears, to which only the new name of pikes had been given, as the ancient Greeks had carried centuries before. By many a sharp lesson did they come to know the efficacy of a well-aimed Indian arrow.
One day, when the fort was thronged with Indians, they were asked to show their skill with the bow. An English target was set up for them to shoot at. The colonists crowded round to witness the sport, one and all expecting to see the arrows strike and fall harmlessly off the shield to the ground. A warrior stood forth, carefully chose an arrow from his quiver, bent his bow strongly, and sent his arrow a foot through the target, to the wonder of all the beholders. Trickery was then resorted to, and a steel target put in place of the first. Of course, the arrow the unsuspicious Indian was shivered in pieces. Upon seeing that they had been making sport of him, he ran off in a great rage.
For hand to hand fighting the Indians also carried heavy wooden war-swords, set at the edges with sharp stones. In the hands of those who knew how to use them, these clumsy-looking weapons could inflict worse wounds than the keen-edged swords of the English.
Often, while making boat excursions, the explorers would be shot at from the banks. They soon learned, therefore, to cover themselves, by placing a row of targets round the bows of their boats, after the manner of the ancient Greeks and Norsemen, behind which they took shelter. Frequently, too, to cheat the Indians in regard to their numbers, the English would set up sticks, with hats on them, between the targets. The guns of that day were but clumsy affairs at best, yet such was the fear of them that one man with a gun could easily hold twenty Indians at bay.
THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE, 1608-10.
After hearing of all this plenty it is amazing to read that by August the colonists were in actual want, and by September starving. Again, as in Lane’s time, they were depending upon the Indians to feed them against Newport’s return. They had, indeed, planted some corn, but the harvest could not be gathered till harvest-time. When what they brought with them was gone, want stared them in the face. Added to this they were now to learn that they had chosen an unhealthy place; but it was too late to remedy that mistake.
Newport left one hundred and four persons at Jamestown. In three months there were but sixty. Bad water, bad food (and not enough of that), bad lodgings, with standing guard night and day, brought on dysentery, dropsy, and malarial fevers. The contagion baffled the skill of Thomas Wotton, their surgeon. Three and even four died every day, and, under cover of the night, were dragged out of the pest-smitten fort to a burial in unmarked graves. In August, Gosnold, the adventurous sailor to New England, fell a victim to the scourge. Things went from bad to worse. Famine aggravated the suffering, and fear did the rest. Men dropped and died in their wretched hovels, untended and uncared for. Alarms from without could not rouse the suffers from their despair. Master Percy tells us that, at one time, not five well men could be mustered to man the fort.
There was yet one among them whose spirit was proof against even all this misery. This was Captain John Smith, who, thus far, had been slighted through envy or dislike, but who now showed himself the man for the crisis. As he was no courtier, his affairs did not stopped in prosperous times. As he was fearless and outspoken, he made many enemies. But he had met with many a rude experience in other lands, and was not the sort of man to give up in despair now. Men, have called him vain, self-glorifying, a braggart. If he was a braggart, he was a brave one. If conceited, we must allow him some reason to be so. Censure may assail, but can never blot out what Smith did for Virginia. What we know is that destruction menaced the colony. Smith saved it. And this will be in all time his ample vindication.
If, in this time of sore distress, the Indians had not been brought to aid them, by fair means or foul, it is doubtful if one of the colonists would have been left to tell the tale. They knew there was plenty of corn among the Indians, yet those people now held aloof from them, and mocked their distress, hoping thus to rid the country of them. Smith was determined not to starve if food could be had. His way was to buy corn if he could; if he could not buy it, to take it by force: but to get it at all risks. If this conduct seems wrong, it may be said that starving men are seldom nice moralists, and that self-preservation is the first law of nature; but among the proverbs of Solomon there is one which says: “He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”
To make matters worse, in their misery the colonists fell to quarrelling among themselves. Suspecting that Wingfleldwas planning to desert them, they now deposed him, and put Ratcliffe, an indolent man, in his place. One man was hanged for mutiny. Discontent is not to be wondered at in men who believed themselves abandoned. Like sailors in a sinking ship, they could hardly be brought to exert themselves for their own safety.
Ratcliffe willingly turned over to Smith the task of feeding the colony. Kecoughtan was nearest, the need pressing, so to Kecoughtan Smith went. When he first spoke with the Indians there, they mocked him with offers of a handful of corn for the swords and guns of his six or seven men. Smith then landed and drove them pell-mell from their village; beat them off when they tried to retake it, and finally put their great, hideous idol to ransom, for as much corn as he could carry in his boat. Turning back to the Chickahominy, Smith met with equal success there. His decision had averted the threatened famine.
Smith’s next venture was less fortunate. While exploring far up the Chickahominy River this winter, he was attacked, two of his men killed, and he himself taken, after making a brave defence. His captors straightway led him in triumph before Powhatan, who, after keeping him some time at Werowocomoco, very honorably set him at liberty. Smith’s own story of his release is more romantic. He says that he was first condemned to die but at the moment when the executioner’s club was lifted to strike, Pocahontas, the king’s twelve-year-old daughter, threw herself upon his body, so saving his life. Whether this story be true or not, it is certain that from this hour Pocahontas became the fast friend of the English; and many a time did she bring food to Jamestown, or secretly warn the settlers against her father’s treachery; for with winter want came again, and Powhatan was at best a faithless ally. Thus, starvation was kept off until Newport’s return, in the winter, with supplies. He also brought out some colonists, who had scarcely landed when a fire broke out, by which all the buildings in the fort, including the storehouse, and all in it, were consumed. This was a heavy calamity to bear with all the rest. Newport’s arrival, however, put some life into the enfeebled settlers, to whom this disaster might otherwise have been as a death-blow. Most of them lost what little they possessed. Master Hunt, their preacher, whose good words had often stilled their quarrels, lost all his books. Some wrote home to England, begging for cast-off clothing from their friends.
Having restored order, Newport went with Smith, first to Powhatan’s village, and then to his brother Opecancanough’s, to trade for corn, in which errand they had good success. Newport then sailed for England, leaving the colony much better off than he had found it, and in much better spirits, too, since his coming showed that the company had not forgotten it.
Shortly after, the ship Phoenix came in with more colonists, making a hundred or more in both ships. Smith spent most of this summer of 1608 in exploring the noble Potomac, thus greatly enlarging the colony’s resources for trade. At his return he found the settlers in revolt again on account of Rateliffe’s bad management, to which they would no longer submit. So Ratcliffe was removed, and Smith became president. Later on he discovered the Susquehanna River, making friends with the powerful people who dwelt on its banks, though Smith’s report of their stature surely smacks of exaggeration.
Again Newport sailed into the James, with supplies, and seventy more people, among whom were a gentle woman and her maid, the first to come over to this colony. Not long after, Anne Burras, the maid, was married to John Laydon. We may be sure this first marriage was an eventful day to the colonists. So far the company had denied them the society of women. So far they were treated not as men, but more as soldiers sent to occupy an enemy’s country.
Newport also brought a basin, ewer, bed, and crown for Powliatan, from the council in England, who made much of securing his friendship, and thought to do it with gifts or flattery, or both. So, by their command, Newport went through with the farce of crowning the savage; though no entreaty could in ake him kneel down to receive the crown, nor could he ley was fired in his honor. Smith help shaking with fright when a volley was fired in his honor. Smith thought it all a piece of folly. Crowning Powhatan did not make him any more a king, or less a savage, or break his resolve to destroy the English if he could. They had sought to cheat him by pretending that they were come only as gold-seekers, traders, or sojourners, not as settlers; so suspecting falsehood, the old king gave them craft for craft. It may well be questioned whether he ever made any proper use of the ewer and basin.
The council also ordered Newport to find a lump of gold, a way to the South Sea, or Raleigh’s lost colonists. They had tasted tobacco and hoped to find gold. He failed to do either, after much searching, so that bubble was burst at last.
The company had now sent over about three hundred colonists. It had received next to nothing in return. The plan of government had led to anarchy, anarchy to wasted effort. The Virginia voyage, as it was generally spoken of, had grown decidedly unpopular. Those who had been sent home for bad behavior, or had stowed themselves away in returning ships, explained that what with Indians, fevers, and famines, Virginia was not fit for Christians, though for savages it might be. Those again who had put in money were either angry or disgusted at receiving no returns. In fact, the props of the colony were tottering to their fall.
The sagacious men in the company saw their mistakes. To remedy them it was decided to begin wholly anew. To this end a new charter was asked for and obtained, granting far more ample privileges than the old in every way. The boundaries were extended to two hundred iniles north and south of Point Comfort, so as to take in the newly discovered countries. Under this grant, too, the colonist was something better than a bond-servant, which was about what he had been under the old. He was to be better governed. One able and absolute governor was to reside in the colony. There was to be now but one council, namely, in England, which should appoint all colonial officers. The king gave up his former exclusive control over this council to those whose means were invested in the enterprise. So far there was decided reform.
Lord Delaware, a distinguished nobleman, was made governor. Men of mark put their hands to the work. Moneys were solicited from the .:great London corporations or guilds. Appeals were made to the idle people of the cities to go out to Virginia and begin life over again. All the old arguments, and some that were new, were brought to bear to induce emigration. The state approved these measures because they promised to relieve it of a restless, and therefore dangerous, class. The cities were only too willing to get rid of their vagabonds. So in every quarter there was seen combined and energetic action, even if selfish interests did control it in a measure.
By these means five hundred emigrants were obtained. As Lord Delaware could not go with them at present, Sir Thomas Gates was sent out to be acting governor in his stead, with Sir George Somers as admiral, and Captain Newport as vice-admiral of the fleet. As they could not agree as to who should have precedence, all three embarked in the same ship. This novel way of settling their disputes came near ruining the whole enterprise, as we shall soon see.
To meet the old difficulty, arising from the length and danger of the passage out, Captain Argall was also dispatched in a smaller ship to make trial of a shorter way across the Atlantic. In nine weeks this ship brought news to Jamestown of the solid relief that was coming. Captain Smith kept her till the expected fleet should arrive.
At this time Smith’s vigorous, yet just, way of dealing with the Indians had so far removed all fear of them that one party of settlers was living at the oyster banks, another at Point Comfort, and still another at the Falls, near a hundred miles from Jamestown, in perfect security.
Meanwhile the fleet put to sea. One vessel carried twenty women and children. Another took out six mares and two horses. One of the smallest, the little Virginia, had been built in the North Colony, in what is now the State of Maine, had crossed the Atlantic safely, and was now on her way back to the land of her birth, the happy herald of shipbuilding in these colonies.
A hurricane scattered the fleet. On the 11th of August four ships got into James River. Two more came in later, partly dismasted. One sank at sea, and the one which, by a strange chance, carried all three leaders, was driven upon the Bermudas. Here, out of the wreck of their ship, they built two small barks, in which, after a ten months’ detention, they set sail afresh for Virginia, with one hundred and forty men, women, and children on board.
The arrival of the bulk of the colonists, without their chiefs, proved a misfortune rather than a benefit, as the newcomers would neither acknowledge any other head nor be ruled by the old settlers. Smith was discouraged. His bitter enemy Ratcliffe bad now come back. To cap the climax, Smith himself was disabled by an accident, which compelled his return to England. In him the colony lost an active, intelligent, and resolute leader, whose knowledge of Indian character had held those uncivilized beings firmly in check. At his going, Percy was left in charge.
Utter lawlessness ensued. Want and sickness carried off the new arrivals by scores. Those who strayed abroad were cut off by the savages, who grew bolder every day. Ratcliffe, with thirty men, was thus decoyed, and all were slain, by Powhatan’s men.
This was the condition of affairs at Jamestown when, in May, 1610, one whole year after leaving England, Gates and Somers arrived there. Of four hundred colonists, no more than sixty were alive. Gates were thrown down, ports flung open, houses in ruins. Even the palisade had been burned for firewood. In a word, the whole new emigration, save those now brought by Gates, had melted away.
Instead of receiving aid and comfort from the colony, the newcomers were now called upon to give both. Fortunately, they had stored their two pinnaces with salted hog’s-flesh, for their own use. But this would not last longer than sixteen days. Most reluctantly, for we have seen that they were not the men to give up while a ray of hope remained, Gates and Somers decided to break up the colony. In their joy at the thought of getting away from this doomed spot, some of the colonists would have set the town on fire, if not prevented, and sailed away by the light of its flames. Perhaps we get our most striking impression of what the colony had suffered from the fact that three little pinnaces could carry off the whole of what it had taken so many ships to bring.
But Virginia was not to be thus deserted after all. While these things were taking place up the river, Lord Delaware himself had just cast anchor at Point Comfort with three ships. The colonists kept an outpost on shore there to watch for coming ships. From its officer Lord Delaware heard what had happened above. “Much cold comfort,” he calls it. He instantly sent his long-boat to stop the pinnaces. They were met and turned back at Mulberry Island, and that same night anchored again at Jamestown.
- MASTER GEORGE PERCY’S Discourse is in Hakluyt, III.
- CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH’S reputation for veracity has been assailed; and some writers have not hesitated to discredit him, even while admitting the story of Pocahontas to their pages. I dod much of his own story of his colonial work supported by other authorities. My own conclusion is that of all those who wrote of Virginia, at that day, Smith carried the most practical common sense in his head.
- WINGFIELD was suspected of a design to seize their pinnace, and make off with it to Newfoundland.
- THE CHICKAHOMINY waters the middle and upper sections of the Virginia peninsula. It has become celebrated at the line of military operations 1862-64. It enters the James at Dancing Point, about eight miles above Jamestown, so-called from a certain ghostly tradition current among river men.
- WEROWOCOMOCO variously spelled was situated on the Pamunkey, now York, River.
- OPECANCANOUGH’S Country lay along the Chickahominy.
- THE POTOMAC gets its name from the nation inhabiting its banks. It is uncertain just how far Smith ascended it.
- THE SUSQUEHANNA is similarly named. Smith described the people as giants, dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and armed with French hatchets, which most have come from Canada.
- FOR CHARTER OF 1609, refer to Poore’s Chaners and Constitutions.
- LORD DELAWARE’S name became permanently attached to the bay, river, and colony next north of the Chesapeake. See Delaware.
- SAMUEL ARGALL, subsequently governor of Virginia, is the same person who broke up the French settlements at Mt. Desert, Me., in 1613; who kidnapped Pocahontas and did many other bold and lawless acts, for which he has been justly censured.
- THE BERMUDAS, so called from John de Bermudas came later within the Virginia charter, and hence were sometimes called Virginiola or Little Virginia. Sir Thomas Gates’s shipwreck is thought to have given Shakespeare the idea of his play The Tempest (1611), in which the Still-vex’d Bermoothes are referred to. From Sir George Somers, who died at the islands, they took the name of Somer’s Islands, hut the old name was gradually resumed. Their value, as a vantage-ground from which to annoy the Spaniards was quickly perceived. In 1612 the Virginia company sold the islands to a colony.
THE ERA OF PROGRESS, 1610-24.
“Mother of states, and unpolluted men.” – Lowell.
SPEAKING of the bad news that met him at his arrival, Lord Delaware said: “If it had not been accompanied with the most happy news of Sir Thomas Gates, his arrival, it had been sufficient to have broke my heart.”
He found Jamestown in a most wretched state. The colonists had killed and eaten all their live stock, even to the horses; the country round had been swept clean; the Indians were hostile; and gaunt want seemed stalking only one step behind them.
For the first time, perhaps, he clearly realized the greatness of the task before him. But there he was at the post of duty, with the hopes of the company resting upon his wisdom and strength of character. Could he shrink from it like a craven? All power was given him. He could be a despot, or he could be a mild, yet firm, ruler.
But order is no less the first law of men, than of nature. The new governor set everyone to work. To husband his own stock of oatmeal and peas the river was daily dragged for fish. Somers, “the good old gentleman,” went back to the Bermudas for a cargo of live hogs, which had once before saved the lives of his companions. Two small forts, named Henry and Charles, after the two princes, were begun at Point Comfort, and ground was broken to plant there, under their protection. Martial law was put in force. The code was severe, but was, perhaps, none too strict for men whom Delaware says no punishment could keep “from their habitual impieties or terrify from, a shameful death.”
Though cast down at first, as we have seen, Lord Delaware’s first report to England was, on the whole, favorable. Gates and Newport arrived there in September, with the first news of the wreck at the Bermudas. Gates, too, like all who knew Virginia truly, urged the company not to relax its efforts.
Lord Delaware wrote to me what Smith had written before him, almost his very words had been well if better heed had been paid to his advice. They would not settle this country, he told them, without “men of quality, and painstaking men of arts and practices, chosen out and sent into the business.” The company could only plead its want of money to get them. In a word, money was the prime lever of this as of every enterprise.
Within the year the governor fell sick, and had to return to England. Meantime, Sir Thomas Dale, who had been in the service of the Netherlands, and now had leave of absence to go to Virginia, was fitted out with three ships, carrying three hundred men, and some kin and goats, and domestic fowls. Dale was called Knight-Marshal, by which we understand he was to have the military command under Lord Delaware. In his absence Dale became the head of the colony. He found the colonists fallen into their old ways. Nobody worked. Jamestown was become a fool’s paradise again, where no thought was taken beyond the wants or pastimes of the hour.
Dale’s energy soon restored order. Looking at things as a military man would, he was full of projects for subduing the Indians, and so making it safe to plant other settlements abroad, instead of living cooped up, as they now did, in one or two forts. To this end he proposed the sending over of all tile criminals then lying under sentence of death in the jails of England. This would be equivalent to turning Virginia into a penal colony.
In August Sir Thomas Gates followed Dale out with three hundred more settlers, as governor. With good reason, the leaders had long been dissatisfied with Jamestown, and Dale had been looking up a better site to remove to. This was found at a point some fifty miles higher up, on the same side as Jamestown, since known as Dutch Gap. The most important step yet taken by the colony itself was now begun. With three hundred and fifty picked men, Sir Thomas Gates made a settlement there, to which he gave the name of Henrico, in honor of Prince Henry. In this river, at least, the reigning family had been most liberally remembered. Some of Gates’s men were veteran soldiers from Flanders, who were much relied on, should the Spaniards pay the colony a visit, as there was reason to fear, from the fact that three Spanish spies had been taken at Point Comfort. By looking at the map, it will, at once be seen that, at Henrico, the colonists might easily bar the river to an enemy’s shipping, because at that point the James nearly doubles on itself. It was, therefore, strong by nature against a fleet, and Gates soon made it strong against the Indians, by a stout palisade.
In this vicinity a group of flourishing settlements presently arose. About Christmas time Dale crossed over to the Appomattox country, drove off the Indians, and settled another plantation between the Appomattox and James, called New Bermudas, after the islands just annexed to Virginia by the charter of l612.
All these settlements may be looked upon as military encampments. Lands obtained by force could only be beheld by force. A day of reckoning was sure to come whenever the Indians felt strong enough to try to recover their own again. And they were now but biding their time.
Powhatan’s enmity now received an effectual cheek. This subtle savage was as bold and defiant as ever, and just as treacherous. When the English were weak he was ready to assail them; when strong he could be artful and temporizing; but the English found there would be no true peace with him unless they could devise some means to get him in their power, or, at least, get such a hold upon him as would be a pledge for his good faith.
In Argall the colonists had a crafty and unscrupulous tool, who speedily brought Powhatan to terms. It was done in this way. Argall heard that the princess Pocahontas was visiting the king of Potomac. He instantly laid a plan to carry her off as a hostage for Powhatan’s good behavior. By means of promises or threats the king of Potomac’s brother lent himself to the plot. Pocahontas was easily enticed on board Argall’s vessel, only to find herself a prisoner.
The English kept Pocahontas for a year. Meantime, Powhatan tried to redeem her by sending back some captives, but the English knew her value too well, and would not give her up. At the end of the year she willingly took upon herself other bonds to be the Englishmen’s life-long friend, by making their God her God, and their people her people. She had been converted, and she had been wooed for a wife. She was first baptized by the name of Rebecca, and then married to Master John Rolfe, a young Englishman, with whom she went to live at Henrico, or, to be more precise, at Varina.
In truth, as Pocahontas had never been other than a friend to the English, to kidnap her seems but a poor way of requiting the many favors she had done them; yet, as it may be that the colonists believed it to be a matter of life and death with them, we hear of no voice raised against it–so far as Powhatan was concerned there was peace.
Seeing these things come to pass the warlike Chickahominies also sued for peace. Gates then went back to England, leaving Dale in sole command. It had been found that the cod-fishery to the north of Cape Cod was better than Virginia would afford. While on a voyage there Argall broke up a French settlement at Mount Desert Island. Dale sent him back to complete his work by destroying Port Royal, another French settlement of some years’ standing, situated in what was then called Acadia, but now better known as Nova Scotia.
Up to this time little is heard of tobacco, though we know that more or less must have been sent home, because the importation of it was denounced in 1614, in the House of Commons, for pretty much the same reasons as it has been ever since, namely, as tending to bad and extravagant habits.
We may now look at Virginia a moment as she appeared to unfriendly eyes, in short, to a Spaniard. Don Diego Molina was one of those Spaniards who had been taken prisoners. In spite of the close watch kept upon him, he seems to have found means to send his employers a report upon the state of the colony in the year 1613. “Last year,” he begins, “there were seven hundred people here, and only half remain, because the hard work and scant food kills them and increases their discontent, seeing themselves treated like slaves, with great cruelty. Hence, a good many have gone to the Indians, who have killed some; others have gone out to sea, being sent out to fish, and those who remain do so by force.”
Having described the colonists, Molina goes on to describe the settlements: “At the entrance (to the river) there is a fort ten hands high, with twenty-five soldiers and four iron guns. Half a league from here there is another, but smaller, with fifteen soldiers, without artillery. There is still another smaller one, all of which are inland, half a league off, against the Indians.” Don Diego contemptuously adds that these forts (one at Point Comfort and two at Hampton) were such paltry affairs that a kick would level them with the ground.
“Twenty leagues higher up,” he continues, “is this colony (Jamestown) with one hundred and fifty persons and six guns. Twenty leagues higher is another, to which all of them will be taken when the time comes, because there they put their hopes. Here there are a hundred more, and among them, as among !he people here, there are women, boys, and field-laborers, so that there remain not quite two hundred effective men, badly disciplined.”
In three years more the colony had greatly expanded. The young giant was beginning to stretch his limbs. Besides Jamestown and Kecouglitan and Henrico, there were new settlements at Bermuda, at West, and at Shirley Hundreds, as every hundred settlers were called, with a captain appointed over each, and a minister in most of them. There was no more talk of scarcity, as the colony now raised more than enough for its own wants. Its real weakness lay in the wide separation of the two principal groups of settlements. In time of danger they could afford each other little assistance.
Up to the year 1616 about sixteen hundred and fifty persons had been sent to Virginia. Dale and Molina agree that only three hundred and fifty were left; of the remainder some, doubtless, had gone back to England; and some died on the voyage out. But the great majority had fallen in the battle with famine, disease, or Indians.
Dale returned to England in 1616. He said that he had left the colony in great prosperity and peace. His had been an iron rule, under which men groaned, even while they acknowledged the master-hand. Despotic he may have been, nay, was; yet, at last, Virginia stood on a solid foundation. A new body had risen from the ashes of the old. The company had asked him for a miracle, and he had performed one.
With Dale went Pocahontas, Rolfe, and Molina, the prying Spaniard. Yeardley took charge of the colony meantime. His rule was mild and uneventful. Tobacco culture rapidly increased. Except a quarrel with the Chickahominies, peace was unbroken. After a year Yeardley was superseded by Argall, who had been active enough if his lawless propensities could have been restrained, but he was more than half a buccaneer and wholly unfitted for the pursuits of peace. It was decided to remove him, but Lord Delaware’s death, while on his way back to resume charge of the colony, left Argall in office until another appointment could be made, and before Yeardley could arrive to supersede him, Argall quitted the colony in disgrace.
By the company’s order Governor Yeardley now called upon the several plantations and hundreds to send delegates to Jamestown, with the view of giving one voice to what concerned the public good. Each county and hundred sent two. They met July 30, 1619, in the little church there, so forming the first legislative body in the colonies. It was the first step, too, toward popular government in Virginia, though only a step. This assembly took the name of Burgesses, or freemen of boroughs, by which title they continued to be known while Virginia was a colony.
Though but the creatures of the company, the Burgesses could make and execute their own local laws, by means of which they freed themselves from the odious one-man power. They had also the right of petition. There was much even in being able to meet, discuss, and formulate their wants or grievances. The colony now had what it never had before-a voice. And that voice became a power in the land.
Lands were allotted and moneys raised for founding a college, partly for missionary work, partly for the benefit of the colony. Iron-works were begun at Falling Creek, in its aid. But the colonists took little interest in projects for improving the Indians, so these benevolent schemes fell to the ground.
Twice had the city of London, jointly with the company, sent out a hundred poor boys to swell the colony. About this time a number of young women, of humble birth, but good character, were sent over to be sold to such of the planters as would take them for wives, in payment of their passage-money, the price to be paid in tobacco.
In 1620 a Dutch ship arrived at Jamestown from Africa with twenty negroes, who were sold to the colonists, thus beginning negro slavery in the English colonies. These Africans made excellent field-laborers, as they could bear the summer heats when the whites could not. Moreover, they were docile and easily and cheaply maintained.
By a general rising of the Indians in 1622, long known as “The Massacre,” until one still more dreadful cast it into the shade, prosperity was checked for a time. Opecaneanough led this rising. It was managed with Indian secrecy and cunning. The settlers were lulled in security. The blow fell swiftly, unexpectedly, mercilessly. Separated as they were into two large bodies, and scattered about again in numerous farms, the settlers fell an easy prey to their bloodthirsty assailants. Jamestown was warned in season, and escaped the massacre, but in the other settlements three hundred and forty-seven persons were slain.
The completeness of this massacre was owing to the desire of the planters to hold large tracts of land for raising tobacco. The larger these holdings the more remote the settlements. Each planter, with his own house and farm servants, lived isolated from his neighbors. This made it possible to cut off one from the other. Yet in spite of the lesson of the massacre, the plantation system, by which every planter became a little potentate, continued to be the prevailing feature of Virginian life.
Though the English took swift revenge, it was long before the colony fully recovered its lost ground. In the very next year the king took away the company’s’ charter, thus making the colony again dependent upon the crown, or a royal colony, in which condition it remained, except while England was a commonwealth, until its subjection to princes and potentates was severed for all time.
- DUTCH GAP, so called, according to Bishop Meade, in his Old Families and Churches of Virginia, on account of evidences of a canal begun here, across the narrow neck of Farrar’s Island, by the first Dutch settlers, but not completed. It was nearly opened again in 1864, to facilitate the operations against Richmond, and finished in 1879, so saving a circuit of seven miles.
- HENRICO is now the name of the county covering the same territory, and also including the city of Richmond. Though of large intentions, the town was abandoned after a few years.
- JAPAZAUS, the king’s brother, was won over, after appeals to his friendship had failed, by the promise of a copper kettle.
- JOHN ROLFE was at one time secretary of the colony and a leading planter.
- VARINA is said to have been given this name from a place of the same name in Spain, where tobacco, of a similar kind was grown. It was for a long time the county seat of Henrico.
- MOLINA’s dispatch is in Mr. Brown’s Genesis ef the United States Spanish intrigues against Virginia may have hastened the overthrow of the company, for James’s ears were always open to them.
- SIR GEORGE YEARDLEY was governor in 1616; 1619-21; and again in 1625.
- PLANTATIONS. The word was first used much in the same sense as colony is now used; not as restricted to the holdings of individuals. Virginia, for instance, was a plantation.
- THE MASSACRE OF 1622 took place while Wyatt was governor. Sews twenty or more places are enumerated in the accemits of it. Their relative importance is indicated to some extent by their losses; those at Sheffield’s Plantation 15 were killed at Henrico’s Island. 17; at Berkeley Hundred 17 at Westover 33; at Wyanoke 21 at Martin’s Hundred 79. This last was seven miles from Jamestown or James Cittie as it had come to be called in the colony In 1777 there was but one family residing at Jamestown to show for all the lives and money spent in building it up. In the early history of Virginia it is merely a fort, to hold the ground.