While this plot was simmering, and Smith was surrounded by treachery inside the fort and outside, and the savages were being taught that King James would kill Smith because he had used the Indians so unkindly, Captain Argall and Master Thomas Sedan arrived out in a well-furnished vessel, sent by Master Cornelius to trade and fish for sturgeon. The wine and other good provision of the ship were so opportune to the necessities of the colony that the President seized them. Argall lost his voyage; his ship was revictualed and sent back to England, but one may be sure that this event was so represented as to increase the fostered dissatisfaction with Smith in London. For one reason or another, most of the persons who returned had probably carried a bad report of him. Argall brought to Jamestown from London a report of great complaints of him for his dealings with the savages and not returning ships freighted with the products of the country. Misrepresented in London, and unsupported and conspired against in Virginia, Smith felt his fall near at hand. On the face of it he was the victim of envy and the rascality of incompetent and bad men; but whatever his capacity for dealing with savages, it must be confessed that he lacked something which conciliates success with one's own people. A new commission was about to be issued, and a great supply was in preparation under Lord De La Ware.
SMITH'S LAST DAYS IN VIRGINIA
The London company were profoundly dissatisfied with the results of the Virginia colony. The South Sea was not discovered, no gold had turned up, there were no valuable products from the new land, and the promoters received no profits on their ventures. With their expectations, it is not to be wondered at that they were still further annoyed by the quarreling amongst the colonists themselves, and wished to begin over again.
A new charter, dated May 23, 1609, with enlarged powers, was got from King James. Hundreds of corporators were named, and even thousands were included in the various London trades and guilds that were joined in the enterprise. Among the names we find that of Captain John Smith. But he was out of the Council, nor was he given then or ever afterward any place or employment in Virginia, or in the management of its affairs. The grant included all the American coast two hundred miles north and two hundred miles south of Point Comfort, and all the territory from the coast up into the land throughout from sea to sea, west and northwest. A leading object of the project still being (as we have seen it was with Smith's precious crew at Jamestown) the conversion and reduction of the natives to the true religion, no one was permitted in the colony who had not taken the oath of supremacy.
Under this charter the Council gave a commission to Sir Thomas West, Lord Delaware, Captain-General of Virginia; Sir Thomas Gates, Lieutenant-General; Sir George Somers, Admiral; Captain Newport, Vice-Admiral; Sir Thomas Dale, High Marshal; Sir Frederick Wainman, General of the Horse, and many other officers for life.
With so many wealthy corporators money flowed into the treasury, and a great expedition was readily fitted out. Towards the end of May, 1609, there sailed from England nine ships and five hundred people, under the command of Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Captain Newport. Each of these commanders had a commission, and the one who arrived first was to call in the old commission; as they could not agree, they all sailed in one ship, the Sea Venture.
This brave expedition was involved in a contest with a hurricane; one vessel was sunk, and the Sea Venture, with the three commanders, one hundred and fifty men, the new commissioners, bills of lading, all sorts of instructions, and much provision, was wrecked on the Bermudas. With this company was William Strachey, of whom we shall hear more hereafter. Seven vessels reached Jamestown, and brought, among other annoyances, Smith's old enemy, Captain Ratcliffe, alias Sicklemore, in command of a ship. Among the company were also Captains Martin, Archer, Wood, Webbe, Moore, King, Davis, and several gentlemen of good means, and a crowd of the riff-raff of London. Some of these Captains whom Smith had sent home, now returned with new pretensions, and had on the voyage prejudiced the company against him. When the fleet was first espied, the President thought it was Spaniards, and prepared to defend himself, the Indians promptly coming to his assistance.
This hurricane tossed about another expedition still more famous, that of Henry Hudson, who had sailed from England on his third voyage toward Nova Zembla March 25th, and in July and August was beating down the Atlantic coast. On the 18th of August he entered the Capes of Virginia, and sailed a little way up the Bay. He knew he was at the mouth of the James River, "where our Englishmen are," as he says. The next day a gale from the northeast made him fear being driven aground in the shallows, and he put to sea. The storm continued for several days. On the 21st "a sea broke over the fore-course and split it;" and that night something more ominous occurred: "that night [the chronicle records] our cat ran crying from one side of the ship to the other, looking overboard, which made us to wonder, but we saw nothing." On the 26th they were again off the bank of Virginia, and in the very bay and in sight of the islands they had seen on the 18th. It appeared to Hudson "a great bay with rivers," but too shallow to explore without a small boat. After lingering till the 29th, without any suggestion of ascending the James, he sailed northward and made the lucky stroke of river exploration which immortalized him.
It seems strange that he did not search for the English colony, but the adventurers of that day were independent actors, and did not care to share with each other the glories of discovery.
The first of the scattered fleet of Gates and Somers came in on the 11th, and the rest straggled along during the three or four days following. It was a narrow chance that Hudson missed them all, and one may imagine that the fate of the Virginia colony and of the New York settlement would have been different if the explorer of the Hudson had gone up the James.
No sooner had the newcomers landed than trouble began. They would have deposed Smith on report of the new commission, but they could show no warrant. Smith professed himself willing to retire to England, but, seeing the new commission did not arrive, held on to his authority, and began to enforce it to save the whole colony from anarchy. He depicts the situation in a paragraph: "To a thousand mischiefs these lewd Captains led this lewd company, wherein were many unruly gallants, packed thither by their friends to escape ill destinies, and those would dispose and determine of the government, sometimes to one, the next day to another; today the old commission must rule, tomorrow the new, the next day neither; in fine, they would rule all or ruin all; yet in charity we must endure them thus to destroy us, or by correcting their follies, have brought the world's censure upon us to be guilty of their blouds. Happie had we beene had they never arrived, and we forever abandoned, as we were left to our fortunes; for on earth for their number was never more confusion or misery than their factions occasioned." In this company came a boy, named Henry Spelman, whose subsequent career possesses considerable interest.
The President proceeded with his usual vigor: he "laid by the heels" the chief mischief-makers till he should get leisure to punish them; sent Mr. West with one hundred and twenty good men to the Falls to make a settlement; and despatched Martin with near as many and their proportion of provisions to Nansemond, on the river of that name emptying into the James, obliquely opposite Point Comfort.
Lieutenant Percy was sick and had leave to depart for England when he chose. The President's year being about expired, in accordance with the charter, he resigned, and Captain Martin was elected President. But knowing his inability, he, after holding it three hours, resigned it to Smith, and went down to Nansemond. The tribe used him kindly, but he was so frightened with their noisy demonstration of mirth that he surprised and captured the poor naked King with his houses, and began fortifying his position, showing so much fear that the savages were emboldened to attack him, kill some of his men, release their King, and carry off a thousand bushels of corn which had been purchased, Martin not offering to intercept them. The frightened Captain sent to Smith for aid, who despatched to him thirty good shot. Martin, too chicken-hearted to use them, came back with them to Jamestown, leaving his company to their fortunes. In this adventure the President commends the courage of one George Forrest, who, with seventeen arrows sticking into him and one shot through him, lived six or seven days.
Meantime Smith, going up to the Falls to look after Captain West, met that hero on his way to Jamestown. He turned him back, and found that he had planted his colony on an unfavorable flat, subject not only to the overflowing of the river, but to more intolerable inconveniences. To place him more advantageously the President sent to Powhatan, offering to buy the place called Powhatan, promising to defend him against the Monacans, to pay him in copper, and make a general alliance of trade and friendship.
But "those furies," as Smith calls West and his associates, refused to move to Powhatan or to accept these conditions. They contemned his authority, expecting all the time the new commission, and, regarding all the Monacans' country as full of gold, determined that no one should interfere with them in the possession of it. Smith, however, was not intimidated from landing and attempting to quell their mutiny. In his "General Historie" it is written "I doe more than wonder to think how onely with five men he either durst or would adventure as he did (knowing how greedy they were of his bloud) to come amongst them." He landed and ordered the arrest of the chief disturbers, but the crowd hustled him off. He seized one of their boats and escaped to the ship which contained the provision. Fortunately the sailors were friendly and saved his life, and a considerable number of the better sort, seeing the malice of Ratcliffe and Archer, took Smith's part.
Out of the occurrences at this new settlement grew many of the charges which were preferred against Smith. According to the "General Historie" the company of Ratcliffe and Archer was a disorderly rabble, constantly tormenting the Indians, stealing their corn, robbing their gardens, beating them, and breaking into their houses and taking them prisoners. The Indians daily complained to the President that these "protectors" he had given them were worse enemies than the Monacans, and desired his pardon if they defended themselves, since he could not punish their tormentors. They even proposed to fight for him against them. Smith says that after spending nine days in trying to restrain them, and showing them how they deceived themselves with "great guilded hopes of the South Sea Mines," he abandoned them to their folly and set sail for Jamestown.
No sooner was he under way than the savages attacked the fort, slew many of the whites who were outside, rescued their friends who were prisoners, and thoroughly terrified the garrison. Smith's ship happening to go aground half a league below, they sent off to him, and were glad to submit on any terms to his mercy. He "put by the heels" six or seven of the chief offenders, and transferred the colony to Powhatan, where were a fort capable of defense against all the savages in Virginia, dry houses for lodging, and two hundred acres of ground ready to be planted. This place, so strong and delightful in situation, they called Non-such. The savages appeared and exchanged captives, and all became friends again.
At this moment, unfortunately, Captain West returned. All the victuals and munitions having been put ashore, the old factious projects were revived. The soft-hearted West was made to believe that the rebellion had been solely on his account. Smith, seeing them bent on their own way, took the row-boat for Jamestown. The colony abandoned the pleasant Non-such and returned to the open air at West's Fort. On his way down, Smith met with the accident that suddenly terminated his career in Virginia.
While he was sleeping in his boat his powder-bag was accidentally fired; the explosion tore the flesh from his body and thighs, nine or ten inches square, in the most frightful manner. To quench the tormenting fire, frying him in his clothes, he leaped into the deep river, where, ere they could recover him, he was nearly drowned. In this pitiable condition, without either surgeon or surgery, he was to go nearly a hundred miles.
It is now time for the appearance upon the scene of the boy Henry Spelman, with his brief narration, which touches this period of Smith's life. Henry Spelman was the third son of the distinguished antiquarian, Sir Henry Spelman, of Coughan, Norfolk, who was married in 1581. It is reasonably conjectured that he could not have been over twenty-one when in May, 1609, he joined the company going to Virginia. Henry was evidently a scapegrace, whose friends were willing to be rid of him. Such being his character, it is more than probable that he was shipped bound as an apprentice, and of course with the conditions of apprenticeship in like expeditions of that period—to be sold or bound out at the end of the voyage to pay for his passage. He remained for several years in Virginia, living most of the time among the Indians, and a sort of indifferent go between of the savages and the settlers. According to his own story it was on October 20, 1609, that he was taken up the river to Powhatan by Captain Smith, and it was in April, 1613, that he was rescued from his easy-setting captivity on the Potomac by Captain Argall. During his sojourn in Virginia, or more probably shortly after his return to England, he wrote a brief and bungling narration of his experiences in the colony, and a description of Indian life. The MS. was not printed in his time, but mislaid or forgotten. By a strange series of chances it turned up in our day, and was identified and prepared for the press in 1861. Before the proof was read, the type was accidentally broken up and the MS. again mislaid. Lost sight of for several years, it was recovered and a small number of copies of it were printed at London in 1872, edited by Mr. James F. Hunnewell.
Spelman's narration would be very important if we could trust it. He appeared to have set down what he saw, and his story has a certain simplicity that gains for it some credit. But he was a reckless boy, unaccustomed to weigh evidence, and quite likely to write as facts the rumors that he heard. He took very readily to the ways of Indian life. Some years after, Spelman returned to Virginia with the title of Captain, and in 1617 we find this reference to him in the "General Historie": "Here, as at many other times, we are beholden to Capt. Henry Spilman, an interpreter, a gentleman that lived long time in this country, and sometimes a prisoner among the Salvages, and done much good service though but badly rewarded." Smith would probably not have left this on record had he been aware of the contents of the MS. that Spelman had left for after-times.
Spelman begins his Relation, from which I shall quote substantially, without following the spelling or noting all the interlineations, with the reason for his emigration, which was, "being in displeasure of my friends, and desirous to see other countries." After a brief account of the voyage and the joyful arrival at Jamestown, the Relation continues:
"Having here unloaded our goods and bestowed some senight or fortnight in viewing the country, I was carried by Capt. Smith, our President, to the Falls, to the little Powhatan, where, unknown to me, he sold me to him for a town called Powhatan; and, leaving me with him, the little Powhatan, he made known to Capt. West how he had bought a town for them to dwell in. Whereupon Capt. West, growing angry because he had bestowed cost to begin a town in another place, Capt. Smith desiring that Capt. West would come and settle himself there, but Capt. West, having bestowed cost to begin a town in another place, misliked it, and unkindness thereupon arising between them, Capt. Smith at that time replied little, but afterward combined with Powhatan to kill Capt. West, which plot took but small effect, for in the meantime Capt. Smith was apprehended and sent aboard for England."
That this roving boy was "thrown in" as a makeweight in the trade for the town is not impossible; but that Smith combined with Powhatan to kill Captain West is doubtless West's perversion of the offer of the Indians to fight on Smith's side against him.
According to Spelman's Relation, he stayed only seven or eight days with the little Powhatan, when he got leave to go to Jamestown, being desirous to see the English and to fetch the small articles that belonged to him. The Indian King agreed to wait for him at that place, but he stayed too long, and on his return the little Powhatan had departed, and Spelman went back to Jamestown. Shortly after, the great Powhatan sent Thomas Savage with a present of venison to President Percy. Savage was loath to return alone, and Spelman was appointed to go with him, which he did willingly, as victuals were scarce in camp. He carried some copper and a hatchet, which he presented to Powhatan, and that Emperor treated him and his comrade very kindly, seating them at his own mess-table. After some three weeks of this life, Powhatan sent this guileless youth down to decoy the English into his hands, promising to freight a ship with corn if they would visit him. Spelman took the message and brought back the English reply, whereupon Powhatan laid the plot which resulted in the killing of Captain Ratcliffe and thirty-eight men, only two of his company escaping to Jamestown. Spelman gives two versions of this incident. During the massacre Spelman says that Powhatan sent him and Savage to a town some sixteen miles away. Smith's "General Historie" says that on this occasion "Pocahuntas saved a boy named Henry Spilman that lived many years afterward, by her means, among the Patawomekes." Spelman says not a word about Pocahuntas. On the contrary, he describes the visit of the King of the Patawomekes to Powhatan; says that the King took a fancy to him; that he and Dutch Samuel, fearing for their lives, escaped from Powhatan's town; were pursued; that Samuel was killed, and that Spelman, after dodging about in the forest, found his way to the Potomac, where he lived with this good King Patomecke at a place called Pasptanzie for more than a year. Here he seems to have passed his time agreeably, for although he had occasional fights with the squaws of Patomecke, the King was always his friend, and so much was he attached to the boy that he would not give him up to Captain Argall without some copper in exchange.
When Smith returned wounded to Jamestown, he was physically in no condition to face the situation. With no medical attendance, his death was not improbable. He had no strength to enforce discipline nor organize expeditions for supplies; besides, he was acting under a commission whose virtue had expired, and the mutinous spirits rebelled against his authority. Ratcliffe, Archer, and the others who were awaiting trial conspired against him, and Smith says he would have been murdered in his bed if the murderer's heart had not failed him when he went to fire his pistol at the defenseless sick man. However, Smith was forced to yield to circumstances. No sooner had he given out that he would depart for England than they persuaded Mr. Percy to stay and act as President, and all eyes were turned in expectation of favor upon the new commanders. Smith being thus divested of authority, the most of the colony turned against him; many preferred charges, and began to collect testimony. "The ships were detained three weeks to get up proofs of his ill-conduct"—"time and charges," says Smith, dryly, "that might much better have been spent."
It must have enraged the doughty Captain, lying thus helpless, to see his enemies triumph, the most factious of the disturbers in the colony in charge of affairs, and become his accusers. Even at this distance we can read the account with little patience, and should have none at all if the account were not edited by Smith himself. His revenge was in his good fortune in setting his own story afloat in the current of history. The first narrative of these events, published by Smith in his Oxford tract of 1612, was considerably remodeled and changed in his "General Historie" of 1624. As we have said before, he had a progressive memory, and his opponents ought to be thankful that the pungent Captain did not live to work the story over a third time.
It is no doubt true, however, that but for the accident to our hero, he would have continued to rule till the arrival of Gates and Somers with the new commissions; as he himself says, "but had that unhappy blast not happened, he would quickly have qualified the heat of those humors and factions, had the ships but once left them and us to our fortunes; and have made that provision from among the salvages, as we neither feared Spaniard, Salvage, nor famine: nor would have left Virginia nor our lawful authority, but at as dear a price as we had bought it, and paid for it."
He doubtless would have fought it out against all comers; and who shall say that he does not merit the glowing eulogy on himself which he inserts in his General History? "What shall I say but this, we left him, that in all his proceedings made justice his first guide, and experience his second, ever hating baseness, sloth, pride, and indignity, more than any dangers; that upon no danger would send them where he would not lead them himself; that would never see us want what he either had or could by any means get us; that would rather want than borrow; or starve than not pay; that loved action more than words, and hated falsehood and covetousness worse than death; whose adventures were our lives, and whose loss our deaths."
A handsomer thing never was said of another man than Smith could say of himself, but he believed it, as also did many of his comrades, we must suppose. He suffered detraction enough, but he suffered also abundant eulogy both in verse and prose. Among his eulogists, of course, is not the factious Captain Ratcliffe. In the English Colonial State papers, edited by Mr. Noel Sainsbury, is a note, dated Jamestown, October 4, 1609, from Captain "John Radclyffe comenly called," to the Earl of Salisbury, which contains this remark upon Smith's departure after the arrival of the last supply: "They heard that all the Council were dead but Capt. [John] Smith, President, who reigned sole Governor, and is now sent home to answer some misdemeanor."
Captain Archer also regards this matter in a different light from that in which Smith represents it. In a letter from Jamestown, written in August, he says:
"In as much as the President [Smith], to strengthen his authority, accorded with the variances and gave not any due respect to many worthy gentlemen that were in our ships, wherefore they generally, with my consent, chose Master West, my Lord De La Ware's brother, their Governor or President de bene esse, in the absence of Sir Thomas Gates, or if he be miscarried by sea, then to continue till we heard news from our counsell in England. This choice of him they made not to disturb the old President during his term, but as his authority expired, then to take upon him the sole government, with such assistants of the captains or discreet persons as the colony afforded.
"Perhaps you shall have it blamed as a mutinie by such as retaine old malice, but Master West, Master Piercie, and all the respected gentlemen of worth in Virginia, can and will testify otherwise upon their oaths. For the King's patent we ratified, but refused to be governed by the President—that is, after his time was expired and only subjected ourselves to Master West, whom we labor to have next President."
It is clear from this statement that the attempt was made to supersede Smith even before his time expired, and without any authority (since the new commissions were still with Gates and Somers in Bermuda), for the reason that Smith did not pay proper respect to the newly arrived "gentlemen." Smith was no doubt dictatorial and offensive, and from his point of view he was the only man who understood Virginia, and knew how successfully to conduct the affairs of the colony. If this assumption were true it would be none the less disagreeable to the new-comers.
At the time of Smith's deposition the colony was in prosperous condition. The "General Historie" says that he left them "with three ships, seven boats, commodities ready to trade, the harvest newly gathered, ten weeks' provision in store, four hundred ninety and odd persons, twenty-four pieces of ordnance, three hundred muskets, snaphances and fire-locks, shot, powder, and match sufficient, curats, pikes, swords, and morrios, more than men; the Salvages, their language and habitations well known to a hundred well-trained and expert soldiers; nets for fishing; tools of all kinds to work; apparel to supply our wants; six mules and a horse; five or six hundred swine; as many hens and chickens; some goats; some sheep; what was brought or bred there remained." Jamestown was also strongly palisaded and contained some fifty or sixty houses; besides there were five or six other forts and plantations, "not so sumptuous as our succerers expected, they were better than they provided any for us."
These expectations might well be disappointed if they were founded upon the pictures of forts and fortifications in Virginia and in the Somers Islands, which appeared in De Bry and in the "General Historie," where they appear as massive stone structures with all the finish and elegance of the European military science of the day.
Notwithstanding these ample provisions for the colony, Smith had small expectation that it would thrive without him. "They regarding nothing," he says, "but from hand to mouth, did consume what we had, took care for nothing but to perfect some colorable complaint against Captain Smith."
Nor was the composition of the colony such as to beget high hopes of it. There was but one carpenter, and three others that desired to learn, two blacksmiths, ten sailors; those called laborers were for the most part footmen, brought over to wait upon the adventurers, who did not know what a day's work was—all the real laborers were the Dutchmen and Poles and some dozen others. "For all the rest were poor gentlemen, tradesmen, serving men, libertines, and such like, ten times more fit to spoil a commonwealth than either begin one or help to maintain one. For when neither the fear of God, nor the law, nor shame, nor displeasure of their friends could rule them here, there is small hope ever to bring one in twenty of them to be good there." Some of them proved more industrious than was expected; "but ten good workmen would have done more substantial work in a day than ten of them in a week."
The disreputable character of the majority of these colonists is abundantly proved by other contemporary testimony. In the letter of the Governor and Council of Virginia to the London Company, dated Jamestown, July 7, 1610, signed by Lord De La Ware, Thomas Gates, George Percy, Ferd. Wenman, and William Strachey, and probably composed by Strachey, after speaking of the bountiful capacity of the country, the writer exclaims: "Only let me truly acknowledge there are not one hundred or two of deboisht hands, dropt forth by year after year, with penury and leysure, ill provided for before they come, and worse governed when they are here, men of such distempered bodies and infected minds, whom no examples daily before their eyes, either of goodness or punishment, can deterr from their habituall impieties, or terrifie from a shameful death, that must be the carpenters and workmen in this so glorious a building."
The chapter in the "General Historie" relating to Smith's last days in Virginia was transferred from the narrative in the appendix to Smith's "Map of Virginia," Oxford, 1612, but much changed in the transfer. In the "General Historie" Smith says very little about the nature of the charges against him. In the original narrative signed by Richard Pots and edited by Smith, there are more details of the charges. One omitted passage is this: "Now all those Smith had either whipped or punished, or in any way disgraced, had free power and liberty to say or sweare anything, and from a whole armful of their examinations this was concluded."
Another omitted passage relates to the charge, to which reference is made in the "General Historie," that Smith proposed to marry Pocahontas:
"Some propheticall spirit calculated he had the salvages in such subjection, he would have made himself a king by marrying Pocahuntas, Powhatan's daughter. It is true she was the very nonpareil of his kingdom, and at most not past thirteen or fourteen years of age. Very oft she came to our fort with what she could get for Capt. Smith, that ever loved and used all the country well, but her especially he ever much respected, and she so well requited it, that when her father intended to have surprised him, she by stealth in the dark night came through the wild woods and told him of it. But her marriage could in no way have entitled him by any right to the kingdom, nor was it ever suspected he had such a thought, or more regarded her or any of them than in honest reason and discretion he might. If he would he might have married her, or have done what he listed. For there were none that could have hindered his determination."
It is fair, in passing, to remark that the above allusion to the night visit of Pocahontas to Smith in this tract of 1612 helps to confirm the story, which does not appear in the previous narration of Smith's encounter with Powhatan at Werowocomoco in the same tract, but is celebrated in the "General Historie." It is also hinted plainly enough that Smith might have taken the girl to wife, Indian fashion.
THE COLONY WITHOUT SMITH
It was necessary to follow for a time the fortune of the Virginia colony after the departure of Captain Smith. Of its disasters and speedy decline there is no more doubt than there is of the opinion of Smith that these were owing to his absence. The savages, we read in his narration, no sooner knew he was gone than they all revolted and spoiled and murdered all they encountered.
The day before Captain Smith sailed, Captain Davis arrived in a small pinnace with sixteen men. These, with a company from the fort under Captain Ratcliffe, were sent down to Point Comfort. Captain West and Captain Martin, having lost their boats and half their men among the savages at the Falls, returned to Jamestown. The colony now lived upon what Smith had provided, "and now they had presidents with all their appurtenances." President Percy was so sick he could neither go nor stand. Provisions getting short, West and Ratcliffe went abroad to trade, and Ratcliffe and twenty-eight of his men were slain by an ambush of Powhatan's, as before related in the narrative of Henry Spelman. Powhatan cut off their boats, and refused to trade, so that Captain West set sail for England. What ensued cannot be more vividly told than in the "General Historie":
"Now we all found the losse of Capt. Smith, yea his greatest maligners could now curse his losse; as for corne provision and contribution from the salvages, we had nothing but mortall wounds, with clubs and arrowes; as for our hogs, hens, goats, sheep, horse, or what lived, our commanders, officers and salvages daily consumed them, some small proportions sometimes we tasted, till all was devoured; then swords, arms, pieces or anything was traded with the salvages, whose cruell fingers were so oft imbrued in our blouds, that what by their crueltie, our Governor's indiscretion, and the losse of our ships, of five hundred within six months after Capt. Smith's departure, there remained not past sixty men, women and children, most miserable and poore creatures; and those were preserved for the most part, by roots, herbes, acorns, walnuts, berries, now and then a little fish; they that had starch in these extremities made no small use of it, yea, even the very skinnes of our horses. Nay, so great was our famine, that a salvage we slew and buried, the poorer sort took him up again and eat him, and so did divers one another boyled, and stewed with roots and herbs. And one amongst the rest did kill his wife, poudered her and had eaten part of her before it was knowne, for which he was executed, as he well deserved; now whether she was better roasted, boyled, or carbonaded, I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of. This was that time, which still to this day we called the starving time; it were too vile to say and scarce to be believed what we endured; but the occasion was our owne, for want of providence, industrie and government, and not the barreness and defect of the country as is generally supposed."
This playful allusion to powdered wife, and speculation as to how she was best cooked, is the first instance we have been able to find of what is called "American humor," and Captain Smith has the honor of being the first of the "American humorists" who have handled subjects of this kind with such pleasing gayety.
It is to be noticed that this horrible story of cannibalism and wife-eating appears in Smith's "General Historie" of 1624, without a word of contradiction or explanation, although the company as early as 1610 had taken pains to get at the facts, and Smith must have seen their "Declaration," which supposes the story was started by enemies of the colony. Some reported they saw it, some that Captain Smith said so, and some that one Beadle, the lieutenant of Captain Davis, did relate it. In "A True Declaration of the State of the Colonie in Virginia," published by the advice and direction of the Council of Virginia, London, 1610, we read:
"But to clear all doubt, Sir Thomas Yates thus relateth the tragedie:
"There was one of the company who mortally hated his wife, and therefore secretly killed her, then cut her in pieces and hid her in divers parts of his house: when the woman was missing, the man suspected, his house searched, and parts of her mangled body were discovered, to excuse himself he said that his wife died, that he hid her to satisfie his hunger, and that he fed daily upon her. Upon this his house was again searched, when they found a good quantitie of meale, oatmeale, beanes and pease. Hee therefore was arraigned, confessed the murder, and was burned for his horrible villainy."
This same "True Declaration," which singularly enough does not mention the name of Captain Smith, who was so prominent an actor in Virginia during the period to which it relates, confirms all that Smith said as to the character of the colonists, especially the new supply which landed in the eight vessels with Ratcliffe and Archer. "Every man overvalueing his own strength would be a commander; every man underprizing another's value, denied to be commanded." They were negligent and improvident. "Every man sharked for his present bootie, but was altogether careless of succeeding penurie." To idleness and faction was joined treason. About thirty "unhallowed creatures," in the winter of 1610, some five months before the arrival of Captain Gates, seized upon the ship Swallow, which had been prepared to trade with the Indians, and having obtained corn conspired together and made a league to become pirates, dreaming of mountains of gold and happy robberies. By this desertion they weakened the colony, which waited for their return with the provisions, and they made implacable enemies of the Indians by their violence. "These are that scum of men," which, after roving the seas and failing in their piracy, joined themselves to other pirates they found on the sea, or returned to England, bound by a mutual oath to discredit the land, and swore they were drawn away by famine. "These are they that roared at the tragicall historie of the man eating up his dead wife in Virginia"—"scandalous reports of a viperous generation."
If further evidence were wanting, we have it in "The New Life of Virginia," published by authority of the Council, London, 1612. This is the second part of the "Nova Britannia," published in London, 1609. Both are prefaced by an epistle to Sir Thomas Smith, one of the Council and treasurer, signed "R. I." Neither document contains any allusion to Captain John Smith, or the part he played in Virginia. The "New Life of Virginia," after speaking of the tempest which drove Sir Thomas Gates on Bermuda, and the landing of the eight ships at Jamestown, says: "By which means the body of the plantation was now augmented with such numbers of irregular persons that it soon became as so many members without a head, who as they were bad and evil affected for the most part before they went hence; so now being landed and wanting restraint, they displayed their condition in all kinds of looseness, those chief and wisest guides among them (whereof there were not many) did nothing but bitterly contend who should be first to command the rest, the common sort, as is ever seen in such cases grew factious and disordered out of measure, in so much as the poor colony seemed (like the Colledge of English fugitives in Rome) as a hostile camp within itself; in which distemper that envious man stept in, sowing plentiful tares in the hearts of all, which grew to such speedy confusion, that in few months ambition, sloth and idleness had devoured the fruit of former labours, planting and sowing were clean given over, the houses decayed, the church fell to ruin, the store was spent, the cattle consumed, our people starved, and the Indians by wrongs and injuries made our enemies.... As for those wicked Impes that put themselves a shipboard, not knowing otherwise how to live in England; or those ungratious sons that daily vexed their fathers hearts at home, and were therefore thrust upon the voyage, which either writing thence, or being returned back to cover their own leudnes, do fill mens ears with false reports of their miserable and perilous life in Virginia, let the imputation of misery be to their idleness, and the blood that was spilt upon their own heads that caused it."
Sir Thomas Gates affirmed that after his first coming there he had seen some of them eat their fish raw rather than go a stone's cast to fetch wood and dress it.
The colony was in such extremity in May, 1610, that it would have been extinct in ten days but for the arrival of Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers and Captain Newport from the Bermudas. These gallant gentlemen, with one hundred and fifty souls, had been wrecked on the Bermudas in the Sea Venture in the preceding July. The terrors of the hurricane which dispersed the fleet, and this shipwreck, were much dwelt upon by the writers of the time, and the Bermudas became a sort of enchanted islands, or realms of the imagination. For three nights, and three days that were as black as the nights, the water logged Sea Venture was scarcely kept afloat by bailing. We have a vivid picture of the stanch Somers sitting upon the poop of the ship, where he sat three days and three nights together, without much meat and little or no sleep, conning the ship to keep her as upright as he could, until he happily descried land. The ship went ashore and was wedged into the rocks so fast that it held together till all were got ashore, and a good part of the goods and provisions, and the tackling and iron of the ship necessary for the building and furnishing of a new ship.
This good fortune and the subsequent prosperous life on the island and final deliverance was due to the noble Somers, or Sommers, after whom the Bermudas were long called "Sommers Isles," which was gradually corrupted into "The Summer Isles." These islands of Bermuda had ever been accounted an enchanted pile of rocks and a desert inhabitation for devils, which the navigator and mariner avoided as Scylla and Charybdis, or the devil himself. But this shipwrecked company found it the most delightful country in the world, the climate was enchanting, delicious fruits abounded, the waters swarmed with fish, some of them big enough to nearly drag the fishers into the sea, while whales could be heard spouting and nosing about the rocks at night; birds fat and tame and willing to be eaten covered all the bushes, and such droves of wild hogs covered the island that the slaughter of them for months seemed not to diminish their number. The friendly disposition of the birds seemed most to impress the writer of the "True Declaration of Virginia." He remembers how the ravens fed Elias in the brook Cedron; "so God provided for our disconsolate people in the midst of the sea by foules; but with an admirable difference; unto Elias the ravens brought meat, unto our men the foules brought (themselves) for meate: for when they whistled, or made any strange noyse, the foules would come and sit on their shoulders, they would suffer themselves to be taken and weighed by our men, who would make choice of the fairest and fattest and let flie the leane and lightest, an accident [the chronicler exclaims], I take it [and everybody will take it], that cannot be paralleled by any Historie, except when God sent abundance of Quayles to feed his Israel in the barren wilderness."
The rescued voyagers built themselves comfortable houses on the island, and dwelt there nine months in good health and plentifully fed. Sunday was carefully observed, with sermons by Mr. Buck, the chaplain, an Oxford man, who was assisted in the services by Stephen Hopkins, one of the Puritans who were in the company. A marriage was celebrated between Thomas Powell, the cook of Sir George Somers, and Elizabeth Persons, the servant of Mrs. Horlow. Two children were also born, a boy who was christened Bermudas and a girl Bermuda. The girl was the child of Mr. John Rolfe and wife, the Rolfe who was shortly afterward to become famous by another marriage. In order that nothing should be wanting to the ordinary course of a civilized community, a murder was committed. In the company were two Indians, Machumps and Namontack, whose acquaintance we have before made, returning from England, whither they had been sent by Captain Smith. Falling out about something, Machumps slew Namontack, and having made a hole to bury him, because it was too short he cut off his legs and laid them by him. This proceeding Machumps concealed till he was in Virginia.
Somers and Gates were busy building two cedar ships, the Deliverer, of eighty tons, and a pinnace called the Patience. When these were completed, the whole company, except two scamps who remained behind and had adventures enough for a three-volume novel, embarked, and on the 16th of May sailed for Jamestown, where they arrived on the 23d or 24th, and found the colony in the pitiable condition before described. A few famished settlers watched their coming. The church bell was rung in the shaky edifice, and the emaciated colonists assembled and heard the "zealous and sorrowful prayer" of Chaplain Buck. The commission of Sir Thomas Gates was read, and Mr. Percy retired from the governorship.
The town was empty and unfurnished, and seemed like the ruin of some ancient fortification rather than the habitation of living men. The palisades were down; the ports open; the gates unhinged; the church ruined and unfrequented; the houses empty, torn to pieces or burnt; the people not able to step into the woods to gather fire-wood; and the Indians killing as fast without as famine and pestilence within. William Strachey was among the new-comers, and this is the story that he despatched as Lord Delaware's report to England in July. On taking stock of provisions there was found only scant rations for sixteen days, and Gates and Somers determined to abandon the plantation, and, taking all on board their own ships, to make their way to Newfoundland, in the hope of falling in with English vessels. Accordingly, on the 7th of June they got on board and dropped down the James.
Meantime the news of the disasters to the colony, and the supposed loss of the Sea Venture, had created a great excitement in London, and a panic and stoppage of subscriptions in the company. Lord Delaware, a man of the highest reputation for courage and principle, determined to go himself, as Captain-General, to Virginia, in the hope of saving the fortunes of the colony. With three ships and one hundred and fifty persons, mostly artificers, he embarked on the 1st of April, 1610, and reached the Chesapeake Bay on the 5th of June, just in time to meet the forlorn company of Gates and Somers putting out to sea.
They turned back and ascended to Jamestown, when landing on Sunday, the 10th, after a sermon by Mr. Buck, the commission of Lord Delaware was read, and Gates turned over his authority to the new Governor. He swore in as Council, Sir Thomas Gates, Lieutenant-General; Sir George Somers, Admiral; Captain George Percy; Sir Ferdinando Wenman, Marshal; Captain Christopher Newport, and William Strachey, Esq., Secretary and Recorder.
On the 19th of June the brave old sailor, Sir George Somers, volunteered to return to the Bermudas in his pinnace to procure hogs and other supplies for the colony. He was accompanied by Captain Argall in the ship Discovery. After a rough voyage this noble old knight reached the Bermudas. But his strength was not equal to the memorable courage of his mind. At a place called Saint George he died, and his men, confounded at the death of him who was the life of them all, embalmed his body and set sail for England. Captain Argall, after parting with his consort, without reaching the Bermudas, and much beating about the coast, was compelled to return to Jamestown.
Captain Gates was sent to England with despatches and to procure more settlers and more supplies. Lord Delaware remained with the colony less than a year; his health failing, he went in pursuit of it, in March, 1611, to the West Indies. In June of that year Gates sailed again, with six vessels, three hundred men, one hundred cows, besides other cattle, and provisions of all sorts. With him went his wife, who died on the passage, and his daughters. His expedition reached the James in August. The colony now numbered seven hundred persons. Gates seated himself at Hampton, a "delicate and necessary site for a city."
Percy commanded at Jamestown, and Sir Thomas Dale went up the river to lay the foundations of Henrico.
We have no occasion to follow further the fortunes of the Virginia colony, except to relate the story of Pocahontas under her different names of Amonate, Matoaka, Mrs. Rolfe, and Lady Rebecca.
NEW ENGLAND ADVENTURES
Captain John Smith returned to England in the autumn of 1609, wounded in body and loaded with accusations of misconduct, concocted by his factious companions in Virginia. There is no record that these charges were ever considered by the London Company. Indeed, we cannot find that the company in those days ever took any action on the charges made against any of its servants in Virginia. Men came home in disgrace and appeared to receive neither vindication nor condemnation. Some sunk into private life, and others more pushing and brazen, like Ratcliffe, the enemy of Smith, got employment again after a time. The affairs of the company seem to have been conducted with little order or justice.
Whatever may have been the justice of the charges against Smith, he had evidently forfeited the good opinion of the company as a desirable man to employ. They might esteem his energy and profit by his advice and experience, but they did not want his services. And in time he came to be considered an enemy of the company.
Unfortunately for biographical purposes, Smith's life is pretty much a blank from 1609 to 1614. When he ceases to write about himself he passes out of sight. There are scarcely any contemporary allusions to his existence at this time. We may assume, however, from our knowledge of his restlessness, ambition, and love of adventure, that he was not idle. We may assume that he besieged the company with his plans for the proper conduct of the settlement of Virginia; that he talked at large in all companies of his discoveries, his exploits, which grew by the relating, and of the prospective greatness of the new Britain beyond the Atlantic. That he wearied the Council by his importunity and his acquaintances by his hobby, we can also surmise. No doubt also he was considered a fanatic by those who failed to comprehend the greatness of his schemes, and to realize, as he did, the importance of securing the new empire to the English before it was occupied by the Spanish and the French. His conceit, his boasting, and his overbearing manner, which no doubt was one of the causes why he was unable to act in harmony with the other adventurers of that day, all told against him. He was that most uncomfortable person, a man conscious of his own importance, and out of favor and out of money.
Yet Smith had friends, and followers, and men who believed in him. This is shown by the remarkable eulogies in verse from many pens, which he prefixes to the various editions of his many works. They seem to have been written after reading the manuscripts, and prepared to accompany the printed volumes and tracts. They all allude to the envy and detraction to which he was subject, and which must have amounted to a storm of abuse and perhaps ridicule; and they all tax the English vocabulary to extol Smith, his deeds, and his works. In putting forward these tributes of admiration and affection, as well as in his constant allusion to the ill requital of his services, we see a man fighting for his reputation, and conscious of the necessity of doing so. He is ever turning back, in whatever he writes, to rehearse his exploits and to defend his motives.
The London to which Smith returned was the London of Shakespeare's day; a city dirty, with ill-paved streets unlighted at night, no sidewalks, foul gutters, wooden houses, gable ends to the street, set thickly with small windows from which slops and refuse were at any moment of the day or night liable to be emptied upon the heads of the passers by; petty little shops in which were beginning to be displayed the silks and luxuries of the continent; a city crowded and growing rapidly, subject to pestilences and liable to sweeping conflagrations. The Thames had no bridges, and hundreds of boats plied between London side and Southwark, where were most of the theatres, the bull-baitings, the bear-fighting, the public gardens, the residences of the hussies, and other amusements that Bankside, the resort of all classes bent on pleasure, furnished high or low. At no time before or since was there such fantastical fashion in dress, both in cut and gay colors, nor more sumptuousness in costume or luxury in display among the upper classes, and such squalor in low life. The press teemed with tracts and pamphlets, written in language "as plain as a pikestaff," against the immoralities of the theatres, those "seminaries of vice," and calling down the judgment of God upon the cost and the monstrosities of the dress of both men and women; while the town roared on its way, warned by sermons, and instructed in its chosen path by such plays and masques as Ben Jonson's "Pleasure reconciled to Virtue."
The town swarmed with idlers, and with gallants who wanted advancement but were unwilling to adventure their ease to obtain it. There was much lounging in apothecaries' shops to smoke tobacco, gossip, and hear the news. We may be sure that Smith found many auditors for his adventures and his complaints. There was a good deal of interest in the New World, but mainly still as a place where gold and other wealth might be got without much labor, and as a possible short cut to the South Sea and Cathay. The vast number of Londoners whose names appear in the second Virginia charter shows the readiness of traders to seek profit in adventure. The stir for wider freedom in religion and government increased with the activity of exploration and colonization, and one reason why James finally annulled the Virginia, charter was because he regarded the meetings of the London Company as opportunities of sedition.
Smith is altogether silent about his existence at this time. We do not hear of him till 1612, when his "Map of Virginia" with his description of the country was published at Oxford. The map had been published before: it was sent home with at least a portion of the description of Virginia. In an appendix appeared (as has been said) a series of narrations of Smith's exploits, covering the rime he was in Virginia, written by his companions, edited by his friend Dr. Symonds, and carefully overlooked by himself.
Failing to obtain employment by the Virginia company, Smith turned his attention to New England, but neither did the Plymouth company avail themselves of his service. At last in 1614 he persuaded some London merchants to fit him out for a private trading adventure to the coast of New England. Accordingly with two ships, at the charge of Captain Marmaduke Roydon, Captain George Langam, Mr. John Buley, and William Skelton, merchants, he sailed from the Downs on the 3d of March, 1614, and in the latter part of April "chanced to arrive in New England, a part of America at the Isle of Monahiggan in 43 1/2 of Northerly latitude." This was within the territory appropriated to the second (the Plymouth) colony by the patent of 1606, which gave leave of settlement between the 38th and 44th parallels.
Smith's connection with New England is very slight, and mainly that of an author, one who labored for many years to excite interest in it by his writings. He named several points, and made a map of such portion of the coast as he saw, which was changed from time to time by other observations. He had a remarkable eye for topography, as is especially evident by his map of Virginia. This New England coast is roughly indicated in Venazzani's Plot Of 1524, and better on Mercator's of a few years later, and in Ortelius's "Theatrum Orbis Terarum" of 1570; but in Smith's map we have for the first time a fair approach to the real contour.
Of Smith's English predecessors on this coast there is no room here to speak. Gosnold had described Elizabeth's Isles, explorations and settlements had been made on the coast of Maine by Popham and Weymouth, but Smith claims the credit of not only drawing the first fair map of the coast, but of giving the name "New England" to what had passed under the general names of Virginia, Canada, Norumbaga, etc.
Smith published his description of New England June 18, 1616, and it is in that we must follow his career. It is dedicated to the "high, hopeful Charles, Prince of Great Britain," and is prefaced by an address to the King's Council for all the plantations, and another to all the adventurers into New England. The addresses, as usual, call attention to his own merits. "Little honey [he writes] hath that hive, where there are more drones than bees; and miserable is that land where more are idle than are well employed. If the endeavors of these vermin be acceptable, I hope mine may be excusable: though I confess it were more proper for me to be doing what I say than writing what I know. Had I returned rich I could not have erred; now having only such food as came to my net, I must be taxed. But, I would my taxers were as ready to adventure their purses as I, purse, life, and all I have; or as diligent to permit the charge, as I know they are vigilant to reap the fruits of my labors." The value of the fisheries he had demonstrated by his catch; and he says, looking, as usual, to large results, "but because I speak so much of fishing, if any mistake me for such a devote fisher, as I dream of nought else, they mistake me. I know a ring of gold from a grain of barley as well as a goldsmith; and nothing is there to be had which fishing doth hinder, but further us to obtain."
John Smith first appears on the New England coast as a whale fisher. The only reference to his being in America in Josselyn's "Chronological Observations of America" is under the wrong year, 1608: "Capt. John Smith fished now for whales at Monhiggen." He says: "Our plot there was to take whales, and made tryall of a Myne of gold and copper;" these failing they were to get fish and furs. Of gold there had been little expectation, and (he goes on) "we found this whale fishing a costly conclusion; we saw many, and spent much time in chasing them; but could not kill any; they being a kind of Jubartes, and not the whale that yeeldes finnes and oyle as we expected." They then turned their attention to smaller fish, but owing to their late arrival and "long lingering about the whale" —chasing a whale that they could not kill because it was not the right kind—the best season for fishing was passed. Nevertheless, they secured some 40,000 cod—the figure is naturally raised to 60,000 when Smith retells the story fifteen years afterwards.
But our hero was a born explorer, and could not be content with not examining the strange coast upon which he found himself. Leaving his sailors to catch cod, he took eight or nine men in a small boat, and cruised along the coast, trading wherever he could for furs, of which he obtained above a thousand beaver skins; but his chance to trade was limited by the French settlements in the east, by the presence of one of Popham's ships opposite Monhegan, on the main, and by a couple of French vessels to the westward. Having examined the coast from Penobscot to Cape Cod, and gathered a profitable harvest from the sea, Smith returned in his vessel, reaching the Downs within six months after his departure. This was his whole experience in New England, which ever afterwards he regarded as particularly his discovery, and spoke of as one of his children, Virginia being the other.
With the other vessel Smith had trouble. He accuses its master, Thomas Hunt, of attempting to rob him of his plots and observations, and to leave him "alone on a desolate isle, to the fury of famine, And all other extremities." After Smith's departure the rascally Hunt decoyed twenty-seven unsuspecting savages on board his ship and carried them off to Spain, where he sold them as slaves. Hunt sold his furs at a great profit. Smith's cargo also paid well: in his letter to Lord Bacon in 1618 he says that with forty-five men he had cleared L 1,500 in less than three months on a cargo of dried fish and beaver skins—a pound at that date had five times the purchasing power of a pound now.
The explorer first landed on Monhegan, a small island in sight of which in the war of 1812 occurred the lively little seafight of the American Wasp and the British Frolic, in which the Wasp was the victor, but directly after, with her prize, fell into the hands of an English seventy-four.
He made certainly a most remarkable voyage in his open boat. Between Penobscot and Cape Cod (which he called Cape James) he says he saw forty several habitations, and sounded about twenty-five excellent harbors. Although Smith accepted the geographical notion of his time, and thought that Florida adjoined India, he declared that Virginia was not an island, but part of a great continent, and he comprehended something of the vastness of the country he was coasting along, "dominions which stretch themselves into the main, God doth know how many thousand miles, of which one could no more guess the extent and products than a stranger sailing betwixt England and France could tell what was in Spain, Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, and the rest." And he had the prophetic vision, which he more than once refers to, of one of the greatest empires of the world that would one day arise here. Contrary to the opinion that prevailed then and for years after, he declared also that New England was not an island.
Smith describes with considerable particularity the coast, giving the names of the Indian tribes, and cataloguing the native productions, vegetable and animal. He bestows his favorite names liberally upon points and islands—few of which were accepted. Cape Ann he called from his charming Turkish benefactor, "Cape Tragabigzanda"; the three islands in front of it, the "Three Turks' Heads"; and the Isles of Shoals he simply describes: "Smyth's Isles are a heape together, none neare them, against Acconimticus." Cape Cod, which appears upon all the maps before Smith's visit as "Sandy" cape, he says "is only a headland of high hills of sand, overgrown with shrubbie pines, hurts [whorts, whortleberries] and such trash; but an excellent harbor for all weathers. This Cape is made by the maine Sea on the one side, and a great bay on the other in the form of a sickle."
A large portion of this treatise on New England is devoted to an argument to induce the English to found a permanent colony there, of which Smith shows that he would be the proper leader. The main staple for the present would be fish, and he shows how Holland has become powerful by her fisheries and the training of hardy sailors. The fishery would support a colony until it had obtained a good foothold, and control of these fisheries would bring more profit to England than any other occupation. There are other reasons than gain that should induce in England the large ambition of founding a great state, reasons of religion and humanity, erecting towns, peopling countries, informing the ignorant, reforming things unjust, teaching virtue, finding employment for the idle, and giving to the mother country a kingdom to attend her. But he does not expect the English to indulge in such noble ambitions unless he can show a profit in them.
"I have not [he says] been so ill bred but I have tasted of plenty and pleasure, as well as want and misery; nor doth a necessity yet, nor occasion of discontent, force me to these endeavors; nor am I ignorant that small thank I shall have for my pains; or that many would have the world imagine them to be of great judgment, that can but blemish these my designs, by their witty objections and detractions; yet (I hope) my reasons and my deeds will so prevail with some, that I shall not want employment in these affairs to make the most blind see his own senselessness and incredulity; hoping that gain will make them affect that which religion, charity and the common good cannot.... For I am not so simple to think that ever any other motive than wealth will ever erect there a Commonwealth; or draw company from their ease and humours at home, to stay in New England to effect any purpose."
But lest the toils of the new settlement should affright his readers, our author draws an idyllic picture of the simple pleasures which nature and liberty afford here freely, but which cost so dearly in England. Those who seek vain pleasure in England take more pains to enjoy it than they would spend in New England to gain wealth, and yet have not half such sweet content. What pleasure can be more, he exclaims, when men are tired of planting vines and fruits and ordering gardens, orchards and building to their mind, than "to recreate themselves before their owne doore, in their owne boates upon the Sea, where man, woman and child, with a small hooke and line, by angling, may take divers sorts of excellent fish at their pleasures? And is it not pretty sport, to pull up two pence, six pence, and twelve pence as fast as you can hale and veere a line?... And what sport doth yield more pleasing content, and less hurt or charge than angling with a hooke, and crossing the sweet ayre from Isle to Isle, over the silent streams of a calme Sea? wherein the most curious may finde pleasure, profit and content."
Smith made a most attractive picture of the fertility of the soil and the fruitfulness of the country. Nothing was too trivial to be mentioned. "There are certain red berries called Alkermes which is worth ten shillings a pound, but of these hath been sold for thirty or forty shillings the pound, may yearly be gathered a good quantity." John Josselyn, who was much of the time in New England from 1638 to 1671 and saw more marvels there than anybody else ever imagined, says, "I have sought for this berry he speaks of, as a man should for a needle in a bottle of hay, but could never light upon it; unless that kind of Solomon's seal called by the English treacle-berry should be it."
Towards the last of August, 1614, Smith was back at Plymouth. He had now a project of a colony which he imparted to his friend Sir Ferdinand Gorges. It is difficult from Smith's various accounts to say exactly what happened to him next. It would appear that he declined to go with an expedition of four ship which the Virginia company despatched in 1615, and incurred their ill-will by refusing, but he considered himself attached to the western or Plymouth company. Still he experienced many delays from them: they promised four ships to be ready at Plymouth; on his arrival "he found no such matter," and at last he embarked in a private expedition, to found a colony at the expense of Gorges, Dr. Sutliffe, Bishop o Exeter, and a few gentlemen in London. In January 1615, he sailed from Plymouth with a ship Of 20 tons, and another of 50. His intention was, after the fishing was over, to remain in New England with only fifteen men and begin a colony.
These hopes were frustrated. When only one hundred and twenty leagues out all the masts of his vessels were carried away in a storm, and it was only by diligent pumping that he was able to keep his craft afloat and put back to Plymouth. Thence on the 24th of June he made another start in a vessel of sixty tons with thirty men. But ill-luck still attended him. He had a queer adventure with pirates. Lest the envious world should not believe his own story, Smith had Baker, his steward, and several of his crew examined before a magistrate at Plymouth, December 8, 1615, who support his story by their testimony up to a certain point.
It appears that he was chased two days by one Fry, an English pirate, in a greatly superior vessel, heavily armed and manned. By reason of the foul weather the pirate could not board Smith, and his master, mate, and pilot, Chambers, Minter, and Digby, importuned him to surrender, and that he should send a boat to the pirate, as Fry had no boat. This singular proposal Smith accepted on condition Fry would not take anything that would cripple his voyage, or send more men aboard (Smith furnishing the boat) than he allowed. Baker confessed that the quartermaster and Chambers received gold of the pirates, for what purpose it does not appear. They came on board, but Smith would not come out of his cabin to entertain them, "although a great many of them had been his sailors, and for his love would have wafted us to the Isle of Flowers."
Having got rid of the pirate Fry by this singular manner of receiving gold from him, Smith's vessel was next chased by two French pirates at Fayal. Chambers, Minter, and Digby again desired Smith to yield, but he threatened to blow up his ship if they did not stand to the defense; and so they got clear of the French pirates. But more were to come.
At "Flowers" they were chased by four French men-of-war. Again Chambers, Minter, and Digby importuned Smith to yield, and upon the consideration that he could speak French, and that they were Protestants of Rochelle and had the King's commission to take Spaniards, Portuguese, and pirates, Smith, with some of his company, went on board one of the French ships. The next day the French plundered Smith's vessel and distributed his crew among their ships, and for a week employed his boat in chasing all the ships that came in sight. At the end of this bout they surrendered her again to her crew, with victuals but no weapons. Smith exhorted his officers to proceed on their voyage for fish, either to New England or Newfoundland. This the officers declined to do at first, but the soldiers on board compelled them, and thereupon Captain Smith busied himself in collecting from the French fleet and sending on board his bark various commodities that belonged to her—powder, match, books, instruments, his sword and dagger, bedding, aquavite, his commission, apparel, and many other things. These articles Chambers and the others divided among themselves, leaving Smith, who was still on board the Frenchman, only his waistcoat and breeches. The next day, the weather being foul, they ran so near the Frenchman as to endanger their yards, and Chambers called to Captain Smith to come aboard or he would leave him. Smith ordered him to send a boat; Chambers replied that his boat was split, which was a lie, and told him to come off in the Frenchman's boat. Smith said he could not command that, and so they parted. The English bark returned to Plymouth, and Smith was left on board the French man-of-war.
Smith himself says that Chambers had persuaded the French admiral that if Smith was let to go on his boat he would revenge himself on the French fisheries on the Banks.
For over two months, according to his narration, Smith was kept on board the Frenchman, cruising about for prizes, "to manage their fight against the Spaniards, and be in a prison when they took any English." One of their prizes was a sugar caraval from Brazil; another was a West Indian worth two hundred thousand crowns, which had on board fourteen coffers of wedges of silver, eight thousand royals of eight, and six coffers of the King of Spain's treasure, besides the pillage and rich coffers of many rich passengers. The French captain, breaking his promise to put Smith ashore at Fayal, at length sent him towards France on the sugar caravel. When near the coast, in a night of terrible storm, Smith seized a boat and escaped. It was a tempest that wrecked all the vessels on the coast, and for twelve hours Smith was drifting about in his open boat, in momentary expectation of sinking, until he was cast upon the oozy isle of "Charowne," where the fowlers picked him up half dead with water, cold, and hunger, and he got to Rochelle, where he made complaint to the Judge of Admiralty. Here he learned that the rich prize had been wrecked in the storm and the captain and half the crew drowned. But from the wreck of this great prize thirty-six thousand crowns' worth of jewels came ashore. For his share in this Smith put in his claim with the English ambassador at Bordeaux. The Captain was hospitably treated by the Frenchmen. He met there his old friend Master Crampton, and he says: "I was more beholden to the Frenchmen that escaped drowning in the man-of-war, Madam Chanoyes of Rotchell, and the lawyers of Burdeaux, than all the rest of my countrymen I met in France." While he was waiting there to get justice, he saw the "arrival of the King's great marriage brought from Spain." This is all his reference to the arrival of Anne of Austria, eldest daughter of Philip III., who had been betrothed to Louis XIII. in 1612, one of the double Spanish marriages which made such a commotion in France.
Leaving his business in France unsettled (forever), Smith returned to Plymouth, to find his reputation covered with infamy and his clothes, books, and arms divided among the mutineers of his boat. The chiefest of these he "laid by the heels," as usual, and the others confessed and told the singular tale we have outlined. It needs no comment, except that Smith had a facility for unlucky adventures unequaled among the uneasy spirits of his age. Yet he was as buoyant as a cork, and emerged from every disaster with more enthusiasm for himself and for new ventures. Among the many glowing tributes to himself in verse that Smith prints with this description is one signed by a soldier, Edw. Robinson, which begins:
"Oft thou hast led, when I brought up the Rere, In bloody wars where thousands have been slaine."
This common soldier, who cannot help breaking out in poetry when he thinks of Smith, is made to say that Smith was his captain "in the fierce wars of Transylvania," and he apostrophizes him:
"Thou that to passe the worlds foure parts dost deeme No more, than ewere to goe to bed or drinke, And all thou yet hast done thou dost esteeme As nothing.
"For mee: I not commend but much admire Thy England yet unknown to passers by-her, For it will praise itselfe in spight of me: Thou, it, it, thou, to all posteritie."
NEW ENGLAND'S TRIALS
Smith was not cast down by his reverses. No sooner had he laid his latest betrayers by the heels than he set himself resolutely to obtain money and means for establishing a colony in New England, and to this project and the cultivation in England of interest in New England he devoted the rest of his life.
His Map and Description of New England was published in 1616, and he became a colporteur of this, beseeching everywhere a hearing for his noble scheme. It might have been in 1617, while Pocahontas was about to sail for Virginia, or perhaps after her death, that he was again in Plymouth, provided with three good ships, but windbound for three months, so that the season being past, his design was frustrated, and his vessels, without him, made a fishing expedition to Newfoundland.
It must have been in the summer of this year that he was at Plymouth with divers of his personal friends, and only a hundred pounds among them all. He had acquainted the nobility with his projects, and was afraid to see the Prince Royal before he had accomplished anything, "but their great promises were nothing but air to prepare the voyage against the next year." He spent that summer in the west of England, visiting "Bristol, Exeter, Bastable? Bodman, Perin, Foy, Milborow, Saltash, Dartmouth, Absom, Pattnesse, and the most of the gentry in Cornwall and Devonshire, giving them books and maps," and inciting them to help his enterprise.
So well did he succeed, he says, that they promised him twenty sail of ships to go with him the next year, and to pay him for his pains and former losses. The western commissioners, in behalf of the company, contracted with him, under indented articles, "to be admiral of that country during my life, and in the renewing of the letters-patent so to be nominated"; half the profits of the enterprise to be theirs, and half to go to Smith and his companions.
Nothing seems to have come out of this promising induction except the title of "Admiral of New England," which Smith straightway assumed and wore all his life, styling himself on the title-page of everything he printed, "Sometime Governor of Virginia and Admiral of New England." As the generous Captain had before this time assumed this title, the failure of the contract could not much annoy him. He had about as good right to take the sounding name of Admiral as merchants of the west of England had to propose to give it to him.
The years wore away, and Smith was beseeching aid, republishing his works, which grew into new forms with each issue, and no doubt making himself a bore wherever he was known. The first edition of "New England's Trials"—by which he meant the various trials and attempts to settle New England was published in 1620. It was to some extent a repetition of his "Description" of 1616. In it he made no reference to Pocahontas. But in the edition of 1622, which is dedicated to Charles, Prince of Wales, and considerably enlarged, he drops into this remark about his experience at Jamestown: "It Is true in our greatest extremitie they shot me, slue three of my men, and by the folly of them that fled tooke me prisoner; yet God made Pocahontas the king's daughter the meanes to deliver me: and thereby taught me to know their treacheries to preserve the rest. [This is evidently an allusion to the warning Pocahontas gave him at Werowocomoco.] It was also my chance in single combat to take the king of Paspahegh prisoner, and by keeping him, forced his subjects to work in chains till I made all the country pay contribution having little else whereon to live."
This was written after he had heard of the horrible massacre of 1622 at Jamestown, and he cannot resist the temptation to draw a contrast between the present and his own management. He explains that the Indians did not kill the English because they were Christians, but to get their weapons and commodities. How different it was when he was in Virginia. "I kept that country with but 38, and had not to eat but what we had from the savages. When I had ten men able to go abroad, our commonwealth was very strong: with such a number I ranged that unknown country 14 weeks: I had but 18 to subdue them all." This is better than Sir John Falstaff. But he goes on: "When I first went to those desperate designes it cost me many a forgotten pound to hire men to go, and procrastination caused more run away than went." "Twise in that time I was President." [It will be remembered that about the close of his first year he gave up the command, for form's sake, to Capt. Martin, for three hours, and then took it again.] "To range this country of New England in like manner, I had but eight, as is said, and amongst their bruite conditions I met many of their silly encounters, and without any hurt, God be thanked." The valiant Captain had come by this time to regard himself as the inventor and discoverer of Virginia and New England, which were explored and settled at the cost of his private pocket, and which he is not ashamed to say cannot fare well in his absence. Smith, with all his good opinion of himself, could not have imagined how delicious his character would be to readers in after-times. As he goes on he warms up: "Thus you may see plainly the yearly success from New England by Virginia, which hath been so costly to this kingdom and so dear to me.
"By that acquaintance I have with them I may call them my children [he spent between two and three months on the New England coast] for they have been my wife, my hawks, my hounds, my cards, my dice, and total my best content, as indifferent to my heart as my left hand to my right.... Were there not one Englishman remaining I would yet begin again as I did at the first; not that I have any secret encouragement for any I protest, more than lamentable experiences; for all their discoveries I can yet hear of are but pigs of my sowe: nor more strange to me than to hear one tell me he hath gone from Billingate and discovered Greenwich!"
As to the charge that he was unfortunate, which we should think might have become current from the Captain's own narratives, he tells his maligners that if they had spent their time as he had done, they would rather believe in God than in their own calculations, and peradventure might have had to give as bad an account of their actions. It is strange they should tax him before they have tried what he tried in Asia, Europe, and America, where he never needed to importune for a reward, nor ever could learn to beg: "These sixteen years I have spared neither pains nor money, according to my ability, first to procure his majesty's letters patent, and a Company here to be the means to raise a company to go with me to Virginia [this is the expedition of 1606 in which he was without command] as is said: which beginning here and there cost me near five years work, and more than 500 pounds of my own estate, besides all the dangers, miseries and encumbrances I endured gratis, where I stayed till I left 500 better provided than ever I was: from which blessed Virgin (ere I returned) sprung the fortunate habitation of Somer Isles." "Ere I returned" is in Smith's best vein. The casual reader would certainly conclude that the Somers Isles were somehow due to the providence of John Smith, when in fact he never even heard that Gates and Smith were shipwrecked there till he had returned to England, sent home from Virginia. Neill says that Smith ventured L 9 in the Virginia company! But he does not say where he got the money.
New England, he affirms, hath been nearly as chargeable to him and his friends: he never got a shilling but it cost him a pound. And now, when New England is prosperous and a certainty, "what think you I undertook when nothing was known, but that there was a vast land." These are some of the considerations by which he urges the company to fit out an expedition for him: "thus betwixt the spur of desire and the bridle of reason I am near ridden to death in a ring of despair; the reins are in your hands, therefore I entreat you to ease me."
The Admiral of New England, who since he enjoyed the title had had neither ship, nor sailor, nor rod of land, nor cubic yard of salt water under his command, was not successful in his several "Trials." And in the hodge-podge compilation from himself and others, which he had put together shortly after,—the "General Historie," he pathetically exclaims: "Now all these proofs and this relation, I now called New England's Trials. I caused two or three thousand of them to be printed, one thousand with a great many maps both of Virginia and New England, I presented to thirty of the chief companies in London at their Halls, desiring either generally or particularly (them that would) to imbrace it and by the use of a stock of five thousand pounds to ease them of the superfluity of most of their companies that had but strength and health to labor; near a year I spent to understand their resolutions, which was to me a greater toil and torment, than to have been in New England about my business but with bread and water, and what I could get by my labor; but in conclusion, seeing nothing would be effected I was contented as well with this loss of time and change as all the rest."
In his "Advertisements" he says that at his own labor, cost, and loss he had "divulged more than seven thousand books and maps," in order to influence the companies, merchants and gentlemen to make a plantation, but "all availed no more than to hew Rocks with Oister-shels."
His suggestions about colonizing were always sensible. But we can imagine the group of merchants in Cheapside gradually dissolving as Smith hove in sight with his maps and demonstrations.
In 1618, Smith addressed a letter directly to Lord Bacon, to which there seems to have been no answer. The body of it was a condensation of what he had repeatedly written about New England, and the advantage to England of occupying the fisheries. "This nineteen years," he writes, "I have encountered no few dangers to learn what here I write in these few leaves:... their fruits I am certain may bring both wealth and honor for a crown and a kingdom to his majesty's posterity." With 5,000, pounds he will undertake to establish a colony, and he asks of his Majesty a pinnace to lodge his men and defend the coast for a few months, until the colony gets settled. Notwithstanding his disappointments and losses, he is still patriotic, and offers his experience to his country: "Should I present it to the Biskayners, French and Hollanders, they have made me large offers. But nature doth bind me thus to beg at home, whom strangers have pleased to create a commander abroad.... Though I can promise no mines of gold, the Hollanders are an example of my project, whose endeavors by fishing cannot be suppressed by all the King of Spain's golden powers. Worth is more than wealth, and industrious subjects are more to a kingdom than gold. And this is so certain a course to get both as I think was never propounded to any state for so small a charge, seeing I can prove it, both by example, reason and experience."
Smith's maxims were excellent, his notions of settling New England were sound and sensible, and if writing could have put him in command of New England, there would have been no room for the Puritans. He addressed letter after letter to the companies of Virginia and Plymouth, giving them distinctly to understand that they were losing time by not availing themselves of his services and his project. After the Virginia massacre, he offered to undertake to drive the savages out of their country with a hundred soldiers and thirty sailors. He heard that most of the company liked exceedingly well the notion, but no reply came to his overture.
He laments the imbecility in the conduct of the new plantations. At first, he says, it was feared the Spaniards would invade the plantations or the English Papists dissolve them: but neither the councils of Spain nor the Papists could have desired a better course to ruin the plantations than have been pursued; "It seems God is angry to see Virginia in hands so strange where nothing but murder and indiscretion contends for the victory."
In his letters to the company and to the King's commissions for the reformation of Virginia, Smith invariably reproduces his own exploits, until we can imagine every person in London, who could read, was sick of the story. He reminds them of his unrequited services: "in neither of those two countries have I one foot of land, nor the very house I builded, nor the ground I digged with my own hands, nor ever any content or satisfaction at all, and though I see ordinarily those two countries shared before me by them that neither have them nor knows them, but by my descriptions.... For the books and maps I have made, I will thank him that will show me so much for so little recompense, and bear with their errors till I have done better. For the materials in them I cannot deny, but am ready to affirm them both there and here, upon such ground as I have propounded, which is to have but fifteen hundred men to subdue again the Salvages, fortify the country, discover that yet unknown, and both defend and feed their colony."
There is no record that these various petitions and letters of advice were received by the companies, but Smith prints them in his History, and gives also seven questions propounded to him by the commissioners, with his replies; in which he clearly states the cause of the disasters in the colonies, and proposes wise and statesman-like remedies. He insists upon industry and good conduct: "to rectify a commonwealth with debauched people is impossible, and no wise man would throw himself into such society, that intends honestly, and knows what he understands, for there is no country to pillage, as the Romans found; all you expect from thence must be by labour."
Smith was no friend to tobacco, and although he favored the production to a certain limit as a means of profit, it is interesting to note his true prophecy that it would ultimately be a demoralizing product. He often proposes the restriction of its cultivation, and speaks with contempt of "our men rooting in the ground about tobacco like swine." The colony would have been much better off "had they not so much doated on their tobacco, on whose furnish foundation there is small stability."