The Life of George Washington, Vol. 1 (of 5)
by John Marshall
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse




























In his will George Washington bequeathed to his favorite nephew, Bushrod Washington, his personal letters, private papers and secret documents accumulated during a lifetime of service to his country. When the bequest became known, many of the literary men of the country were proposed for the commission to write the authorized life of our First President.

Bushrod Washington's choice fell upon John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. To him he handed over all the precious papers left him by his distinguished relative. George Washington and Marshall's father, Thomas Marshall, were boyhood companions, so John Marshall knew "the Father of His Country" as a neighbor and friend from his earliest youth, and served under him in the Revolution.

If it be true that it takes a great man to interpret the life of a great man then Bushrod Washington made no mistake in the selection of a biographer. For Marshall, under the influence of Washington, came to be nearly as great a man as the character whose life and achievements held his deepest thought for nearly a quarter of a century. Certainly his services to his country rank close to Washington's. Marshall's sympathetic understanding of his subject, his first-hand knowledge of events with his remarkable powers of expression qualified him to produce the masterpiece that has come down to us.

Seven years were spent in preparing the first edition, published in 1804-07. The work was based chiefly on Washington's own diaries and letters and secret archives and it told not simply the epic story of this great life but the truth about the birth of our nation. Marshall later spent fifteen years revising the first edition, verifying to the last detail every chapter, page and paragraph of his monumental work.

The first edition, published by C.P. Wayne of Philadelphia, was an achievement in beautiful printing and bookmaking and still stands out today as such. The present publishers have followed the format of the original edition but have used the revised text which Marshall spent so many years in perfecting.

Washington's personality lives on in John Marshall's great biography. He still has the power to raise up men to greatness as he did during his lifetime. The precepts, the principles and the shining example of this foremost of self-educated, self-made Americans have the power to uplift and start toward new heights of achievement, all who come in contact with him. The work is now reissued in the hope that it may give his countrymen of the present day the benefit of the counsel, the guidance and the inspiration that has proven so valuable in the past.

February 22nd, 1926.



A desire to know intimately those illustrious personages, who have performed a conspicuous part on the great theatre of the world, is, perhaps, implanted in every human bosom. We delight to follow them through the various critical and perilous situations in which they have been placed, to view them in the extremes of adverse and prosperous fortune, to trace their progress through all the difficulties they have surmounted, and to contemplate their whole conduct, at a time when, the power and the pomp of office having disappeared, it may be presented to us in the simple garb of truth.

If among those exalted characters which are produced in every age, none can have a fairer claim to the attention and recollection of mankind than those under whose auspices great empires have been founded, or political institutions deserving to be permanent, established; a faithful representation of the various important events connected with the life of the favourite son of America, cannot be unworthy of the general regard. Among his own countrymen it will unquestionably excite the deepest interest.

As if the chosen instrument of Heaven, selected for the purpose of effecting the great designs of Providence respecting this our western hemisphere, it was the peculiar lot of this distinguished man, at every epoch when the destinies of his country seemed dependent on the measures adopted, to be called by the united voice of his fellow citizens to those high stations on which the success of those measures principally depended. It was his peculiar lot to be equally useful in obtaining the independence, and consolidating the civil institutions, of his country. We perceive him at the head of her armies, during a most arduous and perilous war on the events of which her national existence was staked, supporting with invincible fortitude the unequal conflict. That war being happily terminated, and the political revolutions of America requiring that he should once more relinquish his beloved retirement, we find him guiding her councils with the same firmness, wisdom, and virtue, which had, long and successfully, been displayed in the field. We behold him her chief magistrate at a time when her happiness, her liberty, perhaps her preservation depended on so administering the affairs of the Union, that a government standing entirely on the public favour, which had with infinite difficulty been adopted, and against which the most inveterate prejudices had been excited, should conciliate public opinion, and acquire a firmness and stability that would enable it to resist the rude shocks it was destined to sustain. It was too his peculiar fortune to afford the brightest examples of moderation and patriotism, by voluntarily divesting himself of the highest military and civil honours when the public interests no longer demanded that he should retain them. We find him retiring from the head of a victorious and discontented army which adored him, so soon as the object for which arms had been taken up was accomplished; and withdrawing from the highest office an American citizen can hold, as soon as his influence, his character, and his talents ceased to be necessary to the maintenance of that government which had been established under his auspices.

He was indeed, "first in war,[1] first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow citizens."

[Footnote 1: The expressions of a resolution prepared by general Lee, and passed in the house of representatives of the United States, on their being informed of the death of general Washington.]

A faithful detail of the transactions of a person so pre-eminently distinguished will be looked for with avidity, and the author laments his inability to present to the public a work which may gratify the expectations that have been raised. In addition to that just diffidence of himself which he very sincerely feels, two causes beyond his control combine to excite this apprehension.

Accustomed to look in the page of history for incidents in themselves of great magnitude, to find immense exertions attended with inconsiderable effects, and vast means employed in producing unimportant ends, we are in the habit of bestowing on the recital of military actions, a degree of consideration proportioned to the numbers engaged in them. When the struggle has terminated, and the agitations felt during its suspense have subsided, it is difficult to attach to enterprises, in which small numbers have been concerned, that admiration which is often merited by the talents displayed in their execution, or that interest which belongs to the consequences that have arisen from them.

The long and distressing contest between Great Britain and these states did not abound in those great battles which are so frequent in the wars of Europe. Those who expect a continued succession of victories and defeats; who can only feel engaged in the movements of vast armies, and who believe that a Hero must be perpetually in action, will be disappointed in almost every page of the following history. Seldom was the American chief in a condition to indulge his native courage in those brilliant achievements to which he was stimulated by his own feelings, and a detail of which interests, enraptures, and astonishes the reader. Had he not often checked his natural disposition, had he not tempered his ardour with caution, the war he conducted would probably have been of short duration, and the United States would still have been colonies. At the head of troops most of whom were perpetually raw because they were perpetually changing; who were neither well fed, paid, clothed, nor armed; and who were generally inferior, even in numbers, to the enemy; he derives no small title to glory from the consideration, that he never despaired of the public safety; that he was able at all times to preserve the appearance of an army, and that, in the most desperate situation of American affairs, he did not, for an instant, cease to be formidable. To estimate rightly his worth we must contemplate his difficulties. We must examine the means placed in his hands, and the use he made of those means. To preserve an army when conquest was impossible, to avoid defeat and ruin when victory was unattainable, to keep his forces embodied and suppress the discontents of his soldiers, exasperated by a long course of the most cruel privations, to seize with unerring discrimination the critical moment when vigorous offensive operations might be advantageously carried on, are actions not less valuable in themselves, nor do they require less capacity in the chief who performs them, than a continued succession of battles. But they spread less splendour over the page which recounts them, and excite weaker emotions in the bosom of the reader.

There is also another source from which some degree of disappointment has been anticipated. It is the impossibility of giving to the public in the first part of this work many facts not already in their possession.

The American war was a subject of too much importance to have remained thus long unnoticed by the literary world. Almost every event worthy of attention, which occurred during its progress, has been gleaned up and detailed. Not only the public, but much of the private correspondence of the commander in chief has been inspected, and permission given to extract from it whatever might properly be communicated. In the military part of this history, therefore, the author can promise not much that is new. He can only engage for the correctness with which facts are stated, and for the diligence with which his researches have been made.

The letters to and from the commander in chief during the war, were very numerous and have been carefully preserved. The whole of this immensely voluminous correspondence has, with infinite labour, been examined; and the work now offered to the public is, principally, compiled from it. The facts which occurred on the continent are, generally, supported by these letters, and it has therefore been deemed unnecessary to multiply references to them. But there are many facts so connected with those events, in which the general performed a principal part, that they ought not to be omitted, and respecting which his correspondence cannot be expected to furnish satisfactory information.

Such facts have been taken from the histories of the day, and the authority relied on for the establishment of their verity has been cited. Doddesly's Annual Register, Belsham, Gordon, Ramsay, and Stedman have, for this purpose, been occasionally resorted to, and are quoted for all those facts which are detailed in part on their authority. Their very language has sometimes been employed without distinguishing the passages, especially when intermingled with others, by marks of quotation, and the author persuades himself that this public declaration will rescue him from the imputation of receiving aids he is unwilling to acknowledge, or of wishing, by a concealed plagiarism, to usher to the world, as his own, the labours of others.

In selecting the materials for the succeeding volumes, it was deemed proper to present to the public as much as possible of general Washington himself. Prominent as he must be in any history of the American war, there appeared to be a peculiar fitness in rendering him still more so in one which professes to give a particular account of his own life. His private opinions therefore; his various plans, even those which were never carried into execution; his individual exertions to prevent and correct the multiplied errors committed by inexperience, are given in more minute detail; and more copious extracts from his letters are taken, than would comport with the plan of a more general work.

Many events too are unnoticed, which in such a composition would be worthy of being introduced, and much useful information has not been sought for, which a professed history of America ought to comprise. Yet the history of general Washington, during his military command and civil administration, is so much that of his country, that the work appeared to the author to be most sensibly incomplete and unsatisfactory, while unaccompanied by such a narrative of the principal events preceding our revolutionary war, as would make the reader acquainted with the genius, character, and resources of the people about to engage in that memorable contest. This appeared the more necessary as that period of our history is but little known to ourselves. Several writers have detailed very minutely the affairs of a particular colony, but the desideratum is a composition which shall present in one connected view, the transactions of all those colonies which now form the United States.



Commission of Cabot.... His voyage to America.... Views of discovery relinquished by Henry VII.... Resumed by Elizabeth.... Letters patent to Sir Humphry Gilbert.... His voyages and death.... Patent to Sir Walter Raleigh.... Voyage of Sir Richard Grenville.... Colonists carried back to England by Drake.... Grenville arrives with other colonists.... They are left on Roanoke Island.... Are destroyed by the Indians.... Arrival of John White.... He returns to England for succour.... Raleigh assigns his patent.... Patent to Sir Thomas Gates and others.... Code of laws for the proposed colony drawn up by the King.


Voyage of Newport.... Settlement at Jamestown.... Distress of colonists.... Smith.... He is captured by the Indians.... Condemned to death, saved by Pocahontas.... Returns to Jamestown.... Newport arrives with fresh settlers.... Smith explores the Chesapeake.... Is chosen president.... New charter.... Third voyage of Newport.... Smith sails for Europe.... Condition of the colony.... Colonists determine to abandon the country.... Are stopped by Lord Delaware.... Sir Thomas Dale.... New charter.... Capt. Argal seizes Pocahontas.... She marries Mr. Rolf.... Separate property in lands and labour.... Expedition against Port Royal.... Against Manhadoes.... Fifty acres of land for each settler.... Tobacco.... Sir Thomas Dale.... Mr. Yeardley.... First assembly.... First arrival of females.... Of convicts.... Of African slaves.... Two councils established.... Prosperity of the colony.... Indians attempt to massacre the whites.... General war.... Dissolution of the company.... Arbitrary measures of the crown.... Sir John Harvey.... Sir William Berkeley.... Provincial assembly restored.... Virginia declares in favour of Charles II.... Grant to Lord Baltimore.... Arrival of a colony in Maryland.... Assembly composed of freemen.... William Claybourne.... Assembly composed of representatives.... Divided into two branches.... Tyrannical proceedings.


First ineffectual attempts of the Plymouth company to settle the country.... Settlement at New Plymouth.... Sir Henry Rosewell and company.... New charter.... Settlements prosecuted vigorously.... Government transferred to the colonists.... Boston founded.... Religious intolerance.... General court established.... Royal commission for the government of the plantations.... Contest with the French colony of Acadie.... Hugh Peters.... Henry Vane.... Mrs. Hutchison.... Maine granted to Gorges.... Quo warranto against the patent of the colony.... Religious dissensions.... Providence settled.... Rhode Island settled.... Connecticut settled.... War with the Pequods.... New Haven settled.


Massachusetts claims New Hampshire and part of Maine.... Dissensions among the inhabitants.... Confederation of the New England colonies.... Rhode Island excluded from it.... Separate chambers provided for the two branches of the Legislature.... New England takes part with Parliament.... Treaty with Acadie.... Petition of the non-conformists.... Disputes between Massachusetts and Connecticut.... War between England and Holland.... Machinations of the Dutch at Manhadoes among the Indians.... Massachusetts refuses to join the united colonies in the war.... Application of New Haven to Cromwell for assistance.... Peace with the Dutch.... Expedition of Sedgewic against Acadie.... Religious intolerance.


Transactions succeeding the restoration of Charles II.... Contests between Connecticut and New Haven.... Discontents in Virginia.... Grant to the Duke of York.... Commissioners appointed by the crown.... Conquest of the Dutch settlements.... Conduct of Massachusetts to the royal commissioners.... Their recall.... Massachusetts evades a summons to appear before the King and council.... Settlement of Carolina.... Form of government.... Constitution of Mr. Locke.... Discontents in the county of Albemarle.... Invasion from Florida.... Abolition of the constitution of Mr. Locke.... Bacon's rebellion.... His death.... Assembly deprived of judicial power.... Discontents in Virginia.... Population of the colony.


Prosperity of New England.... War with Philip.... Edward Randolph arrives in Boston.... Maine adjudged to Gorges.... Purchased by Massachusetts.... Royal government erected in New Hampshire.... Complaints against Massachusetts.... Their letters patent cancelled.... Death of Charles II.... James II. proclaimed.... New commission for the government of New England.... Sir Edmond Andros.... The charter of Rhode Island abrogated.... Odious measures of the new government.... Andros deposed.... William and Mary proclaimed.... Review of proceedings in New York and the Jerseys.... Pennsylvania granted to William Penn.... Frame of government.... Foundation of Philadelphia laid.... Assembly convened.... First acts of the legislature.... Boundary line with Lord Baltimore settled.


New charter of Massachusetts.... Affairs of New York.... War with France.... Schenectady destroyed.... Expedition against Port Royal.... Against Quebec.... Acadie recovered by France.... Pemaquid taken.... Attempt on St. Johns.... Peace.... Affairs of New York.... Of Virginia.... Disputes between England and France respecting boundary in America.... Recommencement of hostilities.... Quotas of the respective colonies.... Treaty of neutrality between France and the five nations.... Expedition against Port Royal.... Incursion into Massachusetts.... Plan for the invasion of Canada.... Port Royal taken.... Expedition against Quebec.... Treaty of Utrecht.... Affairs of New York.... Of Carolina.... Expedition against St. Augustine.... Attempt to establish the Episcopal church.... Invasion of the colony.... Bills of credit issued.... Legislature continues itself.... Massacre in North Carolina by the Indians.... Tuscaroras defeated.... Scheme of a Bank.


Proceedings of the legislature of Massachusetts.... Intrigues of the French among the Indians.... War with the savages.... Peace.... Controversy with the governor.... Decided in England.... Contests concerning the governor's salary.... The assembly adjourned to Salem.... Contest concerning the salary terminated.... Great depreciation of the paper currency.... Scheme of a land bank.... Company dissolved by act of Parliament.... Governor Shirley arrives.... Review of transactions in New York.


War with the southern Indians.... Dissatisfaction of Carolina with the proprietors.... Rupture with Spain.... Combination to subvert the proprietary government.... Revolution completed.... Expedition from the Havanna against Charleston.... Peace with Spain.... The proprietors surrender their interest to the crown.... The province divided.... Georgia settled.... Impolicy of the first regulations.... Intrigues of the Spaniards with the slaves of South Carolina.... Insurrection of the slaves.


War declared against Spain.... Expedition against St. Augustine.... Georgia invaded.... Spaniards land on an island in the Alatamaha.... Appearance of a fleet from Charleston.... Spanish army re-embarks.... Hostilities with France.... Expedition against Louisbourg.... Louisbourg surrenders.... Great plans of the belligerent powers.... Misfortunes of the armament under the duke D'Anville.... The French fleet dispersed by a storm.... Expedition against Nova Scotia.... Treaty of Aix la Chapelle.... Paper money of Massachusetts redeemed.... Contests between the French and English respecting boundaries.... Statement respecting the discovery of the Mississippi.... Scheme for connecting Louisiana with Canada.... Relative strength of the French and English colonies.... Defeat at the Little Meadows.... Convention at Albany.... Plan of union.... Objected to both in America and Great Britain.


General Braddock arrives.... Convention of governors and plan of the campaign.... French expelled from Nova Scotia, and inhabitants transplanted.... Expedition against fort Du Quesne.... Battle of Monongahela.... Defeat and death of General Braddock.... Expedition against Crown Point.... Dieskau defeated.... Expedition against Niagara.... Frontiers distressed by the Indians.... Meeting of the governors at New York.... Plan for the campaign of 1756.... Lord Loudoun arrives.... Montcalm takes Oswego.... Lord Loudoun abandons offensive operations.... Small-pox breaks out in Albany.... Campaign of 1757 opened.... Admiral Holbourne arrives at Halifax.... Is joined by the earl of Loudoun.... Expedition against Louisbourg relinquished.... Lord Loudoun returns to New York.... Fort William Henry taken.... Controversy between Lord Loudoun and the assembly of Massachusetts.


Preparations for the campaign of 1758.... Admiral Boscawen and General Amherst arrive at Halifax.... Plan of the campaign.... Expedition against Louisbourg, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point.... General Abercrombie repulsed under the walls of Ticonderoga.... Fort Frontignac taken.... Expedition against Fort Du Quesne.... Preparations for the campaign of 1759.... General Amherst succeeds General Abercrombie.... Plan of the campaign.... Ticonderoga and Crown Point taken.... Army goes into winter quarters.... French repulsed at Oswego.... Defeated at Niagara.... Niagara taken.... Expedition against Quebec.... Check to the English army.... Battle on the Plains of Abraham.... Death of Wolfe and Montcalm.... Quebec capitulates.... Garrisoned by the English under the command of General Murray.... Attempt to recover Quebec.... Battle near Sillery.... Quebec besieged by Monsieur Levi.... Siege raised.... Montreal capitulates.... War with the southern Indians.... Battle near the town of Etchoe.... Grant defeats them and burns their towns.... Treaty with the Cherokees.... War with Spain.... Success of the English.... Peace.


Opinions on the supremacy of parliament, and its right to tax the colonies.... The stamp act.... Congress at New York.... Violence in the towns.... Change of administration.... Stamp act repealed.... Opposition to the mutiny act.... Act imposing duties on tea, &c., resisted in America.... Letters from the assembly of Massachusetts to members of the administration.... Petition to the King.... Circular letter to the colonial assemblies.... Letter from the Earl of Hillsborough.... Assembly of Massachusetts dissolved.... Seizure of the Sloop Liberty.... Convention at Fanueil Hall.... Moderation of its proceedings.... Two British regiments arrive at Boston.... Resolutions of the house of Burgesses of Virginia.... Assembly dissolved.... The members form an association.... General measures against importation.... General court convened in Massachusetts.... Its proceedings.... Is prorogued.... Duties, except that on tea, repealed.... Circular letter of the earl of Hillsborough.... New York recedes from the non-importation agreement in part.... Her example followed.... Riot in Boston.... Trial and acquittal of Captain Preston.


Insurrection in North Carolina.... Dissatisfaction of Massachusetts.... Corresponding-committees.... Governor Hutchinson's correspondence communicated by Dr. Franklin.... The assembly petition for his removal.... He is succeeded by General Gage.... Measures to enforce the act concerning duties.... Ferment in America.... The tea thrown into the sea at Boston.... Measures of Parliament.... General enthusiasm in America.... A general congress proposed.... General Gage arrives.... Troops stationed on Boston neck.... New counsellors and judges.... Obliged to resign.... Boston neck fortified.... Military stores seized by General Gage.... Preparations for defence.... King's speech.... Proceedings of Parliament.... Battle of Lexington.... Massachusetts raises men.... Meeting of Congress.... Proceedings of that body.... Transactions in Virginia.... Provincial congress of South Carolina.... Battle of Breed's hill.



Commission of Cabot.... His voyage to America.... Views of discovery relinquished by Henry VII.... Resumed by Elizabeth.... Letters patent to Sir Humphry Gilbert.... His voyages and death.... Patent to Sir Walter Raleigh.... Voyage of Sir Richard Grenville.... Colonists carried back to England by Drake.... Grenville arrives with other colonists.... They are left on Roanoke Island.... Are destroyed by the Indians.... Arrival of John White.... He returns to England for succour.... Raleigh assigns his patent.... Patent to Sir Thomas Gates and others.... Code of laws for the proposed colony drawn up by the King.

The United States of America extend, on the Atlantic, from the bay of Passamaquoddi in the 45th, to Cape Florida in the 25th, degree of north latitude; and thence, on the gulf of Mexico, including the small adjacent islands to the mouth of the Sabine, in the 17th degree of west longitude from Washington. From the mouth of the Sabine to the Rocky mountains, they are separated from Spanish America by a line which pursues an irregular north-western direction to the 42d degree of north latitude, whence it proceeds west, to the Pacific. On the north they are bounded by the British provinces; from which, between the Lake of the Woods and the Rocky, or Stony mountains, they are separated by the 49th parallel of north latitude. Their northern boundary, west of these mountains, has not yet been adjusted.

The extent of this vast Republic, in consequence of its recent acquisition of almost unexplored territory, has not yet been accurately ascertained; but may be stated at two millions of square miles.

Its population, which began on the Atlantic, and is travelling rapidly westward, amounted in 1820, according to the census of that year, to nine millions six hundred and fifty-four thousand four hundred and fifteen persons. The enumerations which have been made under the authority of government, show an augmentation of numbers at the rate of about thirty-four per centum[2] in ten years; and it is probable, that for many years to come, this ratio will not be materially changed.

[Footnote 2: The general estimate in the United States is, that their population doubles in twenty-five years.]

Public sentiment, to which the policy of the government conforms, is opposed to a large military establishment; and the distance of the United States from the great powers of the world, protects them from the danger to which this policy might otherwise expose them.

The navy has become an object of great interest to the nation, and may be expected to grow with its resources. In April 1816, Congress passed an act appropriating one million of dollars annually, to its gradual increase; and authorising the construction of nine ships, to rate not less than seventy-four guns each, and of twelve, to rate not less than forty-four guns each.

The execution of this act is in rapid progress. Inconsiderable as the navy now is, with respect to the number and force of its ships, it is deemed inferior to none in existence for the bravery and skill of its officers and men. When we take into view the extensive sea coast of the United States, the magnificent lakes, or inland seas, which form a considerable part of their northern frontier, the abundance of their materials for ship building, and the genius of their population for maritime enterprise, it is not easy to resist the conviction that this bulwark of defence will, at no very distant period, attain a size and strength sufficient to ensure the safety of the nation and the respect of the world.

The net revenue of the United States amounted, in the year 1822, to considerably more than twenty millions of dollars; and, unless a course of legislation unfavourable to its augmentation be adopted, must grow with their population.

In arts, in arms, and in power, they have advanced, and are advancing, with unexampled rapidity.

The history of their progress, from the first feeble settlements made by Europeans on a savage coast, to their present state of greatness; while it has just claims to the attention of the curious of all nations, may be expected deeply to interest every American.

[Sidenote: Commission of Cabot.]

Soon after the return of Columbus from that memorable voyage which opened the vast regions of the west to civilized man, the maritime states of Europe manifested a desire to share with Spain, the glory, the wealth, and the dominion to be acquired in the new world. By no one of these states, was this desire carried into action more promptly than by England, Henry VII. had received communications from Columbus, during the tedious and uncertain negotiations of that great man, at the dilatory court of Ferdinand, which prepared him for the important discoveries afterwards made, and inclined him to countenance the propositions of his own subjects for engaging in similar adventures. On the 5th of March 1495, he granted a commission to John Cabot, an enterprising Venetian who had settled in Bristol, and to his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sanctius, empowering them, or either of them, to sail under the banner of England, towards the east, north, or west, in order to discover countries unoccupied by any Christian state, and to take possession of them in his name.

[Sidenote: His voyage to America.]

It does not appear that the expedition contemplated at the date of this commission was prosecuted immediately; but in May 1496, Cabot, with his second son, Sebastian, sailed from Bristol in a small squadron, consisting of one ship furnished by the King, and four barks fitted out by merchants of that city; and, steering almost due west, discovered the islands of Newfoundland and St. Johns, and, soon afterward, reached the continent of North America, along which he sailed from the fifty-sixth to the thirty-eighth degree of north latitude, in the vain hope of discovering a passage into the Pacific.

Thus, according to the English historians, was first discovered that immense continent which stretches from the gulf of Mexico as far north as has yet been explored; and to this voyage, the English trace their title to the country they afterwards acquired by settlement, and by arms.

France, which has since contested with Britain the possession of a considerable portion of this important territory, has also advanced claims to its discovery; but they seem not to be well founded.

[Sidenote: The scheme of making settlements relinquished.]

The ardour which had been excited in the bosom of Henry for making acquisitions in the new world, expired with this first effort. Cabot, on his return, found that monarch entirely disinclined to the farther prosecution of a scheme in which he had engaged with some zeal, the commencement of which had been attended with encouraging appearances.

Several causes are supposed to have contributed to suspend the pursuits of the English in America. Previous to its discovery, the Portuguese had explored the Azores, or Western Islands; in consequence of which they claimed this continent, and contended for the exclusion of the Spaniards from the Western Ocean. The controversy was decided by the Pope, who, on the 7th of May 1493, of his own "mere liberality and certain knowledge, and the plenitude of apostolic authority," granted to Spain, the countries discovered or to be discovered by her, to the westward of a line to be drawn from pole to pole, a hundred leagues west of the Azores; (excepting such countries as might be in the possession of any other Christian prince antecedent to the year 1493;) and to Portugal, her discoveries eastward of that line.

The validity of this grant was probably strengthened, in the opinion of Henry, by other circumstances. He set a high value on the friendship of the King of Spain, with whom he was then negotiating the marriage which afterwards took place between his eldest son and Catharine, the daughter of that monarch. Ferdinand was jealous to excess of all his rights; and Henry was not inclined to interrupt the harmony subsisting between the two crowns, by asserting claims to the country discovered by Cabot, which was obviously within the limits to which the pretensions of Spain extended.

[Sidenote: Renewed by Elizabeth.]

The fisheries of Newfoundland were carried on by individuals, to a considerable extent, and a paltry traffic was continued with the natives; but no serious design of acquiring territory, and planting colonies in America was formed until the reign of Elizabeth, when a plan for making permanent settlements was proposed and patronized by several persons of rank and influence. To select a man qualified for this arduous task, and disposed to engage in it, was among the first objects to which their attention was directed. Sir Humphry Gilbert had rendered himself conspicuous by his military services, and by a treatise concerning the north-west passage, in which great ingenuity and learning, are stated by Dr. Robertson, to be mingled with the enthusiasm, the credulity, and sanguine expectation which incite men to new and hazardous undertakings. On this gentleman the adventurers turned their eyes, and he was placed at the head of the enterprise. On the 11th of June 1578, he obtained letters patent from the Queen, vesting in him the powers that were required; on receiving which, he, with the associates of his voyage, embarked for America. But his success did not equal his expectations. The various difficulties inseparable from the settlement of a distant, unexplored country, inhabited only by savages; the inadequacy of the supplies which could be furnished for a colony by the funds of a few private individuals; the misfortune of having approached the continent too far towards the north, where the cold barren coast of Cape Breton was rather calculated to repel than invite a settlement; have been assigned as the probable causes of his failure.[3]

[Footnote 3: Robertson. Chalmer.]

Two expeditions conducted by this gentleman ended disastrously. In the last, he himself perished; having done nothing farther in the execution of his patent, than taking possession of the island of Newfoundland, in the name of Elizabeth.

Sir Walter Raleigh, alike distinguished by his genius, his courage, and the severity of his fate, had been deeply interested in the adventures in which his half brother, Sir Humphry Gilbert, had wasted his fortune, and was not deterred by their failure, or by the difficulties attending such an enterprise, from prosecuting with vigour, a plan so well calculated to captivate his bold and romantic temper.


[Sidenote: Patent to Sir Walter Raleigh.]

On the 26th of March, he obtained a patent from the Queen; and, on the 27th of April, dispatched two small vessels under the command of captains Amidas and Barlow for the purpose of visiting the country, and of acquiring some previous knowledge of those circumstances which might be essential to the welfare of the colony he was about to plant. To avoid the error of Gilbert in holding too far north, Amidas and Barlow took the route by the Canaries, and the West India islands, and approached the North American continent towards the gulf of Florida. On the 2d of July, they touched at a small island situate on the inlet into Pamplico sound, whence they proceeded to Roanoke, near the mouth of Albemarle sound.


[Sidenote: Voyage of Sir Richard Grenville.]

After employing a few weeks in traffic with the Indians, from whom they collected some confused accounts respecting the neighbouring continent, they took with them two of the natives, who willingly accompanied them, and embarked for England, where they arrived on the 15th of September. The splendid description which they gave of the soil, the climate, and the productions of the country they had visited, so pleased Elizabeth, that she bestowed on it the name of Virginia, as a memorial that it had been discovered during the reign of a virgin Queen.[4] Raleigh, encouraged by their report to hasten his preparations for taking possession of the property, fitted out a squadron consisting of seven small ships, laden with arms, ammunition, provisions, and passengers, which sailed from Plymouth on the 9th of April, under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, who was his relation, and interested with him in the patent. Having taken the southern route, and wasted some time in cruising against the Spaniards, Sir Richard did not reach the coast of North America, until the close of the month of June. He touched at both the islands on which Amidas and Barlow had landed, and made some excursions into different parts of the continent around Pamplico, and Albemarle sounds.

[Footnote 4: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]

[Sidenote: First colony.]

Having established a colony, consisting of one hundred and eight persons, in the island of Roanoke, an incommodious station, without any safe harbour, he committed the government of it to Mr. Ralph Lane; and, on the 25th of August, sailed for England.[5]

[Footnote 5: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]


[Sidenote: Colonists carried back to England by Drake.]

An insatiate passion for gold, attended by an eager desire to find it in the bowels of the earth, for a long time the disease of Europeans in America, became the scourge of this feeble settlement. The English flattered themselves that the country they had discovered could not be destitute of those mines of the precious metals with which Spanish America abounded. The most diligent researches were made in quest of them; and the infatuating hope of finding them stimulated the colonists to the utmost exertions of which they were capable. The Indians soon discerned the object for which they searched with so much avidity, and amused them with tales of rich mines in countries they had not yet explored. Seduced by this information, they encountered incredible hardships, and, in this vain search wasted that time which ought to have been employed in providing the means of future subsistence. Mutual suspicion and disgust between them and the natives ripened into open hostility; and, the provisions brought from England being exhausted, they were under the necessity of resorting for food to the precarious supplies which could be drawn from the rivers and woods. In this state of distress, they were found, in June, by Sir Francis Drake, who was then returning from a successful expedition against the Spaniards in the West Indies. He agreed to supply them with about one hundred men, four months' provisions, and a small vessel; but, before she could be brought into a place of security, and the men and stores disembarked, she was driven out to sea by a sudden and violent storm. Discouraged by this misfortune, and worn out with fatigue and famine, the colonists unanimously determined to abandon the colony, and were, at their own request, taken on board the fleet which sailed for England.[6]

[Footnote 6: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Smith.]

Thus terminated the first English colony planted in America. The only acquisition made by this expensive experiment, was a better knowledge of the country and its inhabitants.

[Sidenote: Grenville plants a second colony.]

[Sidenote: Destroyed by the Indians.]

A few days after the departure of Drake with Lane and his associates, a small vessel which had been dispatched by Raleigh with a supply of provisions, reached its place of destination. Not finding the colonists, this vessel returned to England. Soon after its departure, Sir Richard Grenville arrived with three ships and ample supplies. Having searched in vain for the colonists he had left, and being unable to conjecture their fate, he placed fifteen men in the island with provisions for two years, for the purpose of retaining possession of the country, and returned to England. This small party was soon destroyed by the Indians.


Not discouraged by the ill success which had thus far attended his efforts to make a settlement in America, Raleigh, in the following year, fitted out three ships under the command of captain John White, and, it is said, directed the colony to be removed to the waters of the Chesapeake, which bay had been discovered by Lane in the preceding year. Instructed by calamity, he adopted more efficacious means for preserving and continuing the colony than had before been used. The number of men was greater; they were accompanied by some women, and their supply of provisions was more abundant. Mr. White was appointed their governor, twelve assistants were assigned him as a council, and a charter incorporating them by the name of the governor and assistants of the city of Raleigh in Virginia, was granted them.

[Sidenote: Third colony arrives.]

Thus prepared for a permanent settlement, they arrived in July at Roanoke, where they received the melancholy intelligence of the loss of their countrymen who had been left there by Sir Richard Grenville. They determined, however, to remain at the same place, and began to make the necessary preparations for their accommodation. Aware of the danger to be apprehended from the hostile disposition of their neighbours, they endeavoured to effect a reconciliation with the natives, one of whom, who had accompanied Amidas and Barlow to England, and who was distinguished by his unshaken attachment to the English, was christened, and styled Lord of Dassa Monpeake, an Indian nation in the neighbourhood.[7]

[Footnote 7: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Smith.]

About the same time the first child of English parentage was born in America. She was the daughter of Ananias Dare, and, after the place of her birth, was named Virginia.


Soon perceiving their want of many things essential to the preservation, and comfortable subsistence of a new settlement, the colonists, with one voice, deputed their governor, to solicit those specific aids which their situation particularly and essentially required. On his arrival in England, he found the whole nation alarmed at the formidable preparations for their invasion, made by Philip II. of Spain; and Raleigh, Grenville, and the other patrons of the colony, ardently engaged in those measures of defence which the public danger demanded. Mingling, however, with his exertions to defend his native country, some attention to the colony he had planted, Raleigh found leisure to fit out a small fleet for its relief, the command of which was given to Sir Richard Grenville; but, the apprehensions from the Spanish armament still increasing, the ships of force prepared by Raleigh were detained in port by order of the Queen, and Sir Richard Grenville was commanded not to leave Cornwall, where his services were deemed necessary. On the 22d of April, White put to sea with two small barks, but, instead of hastening to the relief of his distressed countrymen, wasted his time in cruising; and, being beaten by a superior force, was totally disabled from prosecuting his voyage.[8]

[Footnote 8: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Smith.]


[Sidenote: Raleigh assigns his patent.]

The attention of Raleigh being directed to other more splendid objects, he assigned his patent to Sir Thomas Smith and a company of merchants in London.


[Sidenote: Third colony lost.]

After this transfer, a year was permitted to elapse before any effort was made for the relief of the colony. In March, three ships fitted out by the company, in one of which Mr. White embarked, sailed from Plymouth; but, having cruelly and criminally wasted their time in plundering the Spaniards in the West Indies, they did not reach Hatteras until the month of August. They fired a gun to give notice of their arrival, and sent a party to the place where the colony had been left; but no vestige of their countrymen could be found. In attempting the next day to go to Roanoke, one of the boats, in passing a bar, was half filled with water, another was overset, and six men were drowned. Two other boats were fitted out with nineteen men to search the island thoroughly on which the colony had been left.

At the departure of Mr. White, it was in contemplation to remove about fifty miles into the country; and it had been agreed that, should the colonists leave the island, they would carve the name of the place to which they should remove, on some tree, door, or post; with the addition of a cross over it, as a signal of distress, if they should be really distressed at the time of changing their situation. After considerable search, the word CROATAN was found carved in fair capital letters on one of the chief posts, but unaccompanied by the sign of distress which had been agreed on.

Croatan was the name of an Indian town on the north side of Cape Lookout, and for that place, the fleet weighed anchor the next day. Meeting with a storm, and several accidents, they were discouraged from proceeding on their voyage, and, determining to suspend their search, returned to the West Indies.

The company made no farther attempt to find these lost colonists; nor has the time or the manner of their perishing ever been discovered.[9]

[Footnote 9: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]


[Sidenote: Voyage of Gosnald.]

The subsequent voyages made by the English to North America were for the sole purpose of traffic, and were unimportant in their consequences, until the year 1602, when one was undertaken by Bartholomew Gosnald, which contributed greatly to the revival of the then dormant spirit of colonising in the new world. He sailed from Falmouth in a small bark with thirty-two men; and steering nearly west, reached the American continent, on the 11th of May, in about forty-three degrees of north latitude.

Finding no good harbour at this place, Gosnald put to sea again and stood southward. The next morning, he descried a promontory which he called cape Cod, and, holding his course along the coast as it stretched to the south-west, touched at two islands, the first of which he named Martha's Vineyard, and the second, Elizabeth's Island. Having passed some time at these places, examining the country, and trading with the natives, he returned to England.[10]

[Footnote 10: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]

This voyage was completed in less than four months, and was attended with important consequences. Gosnald had found a healthy climate, a rich soil, good harbours, and a route which shortened considerably the distance to the continent of North America. He had seen many of the fruits known and prized in Europe, blooming in the woods; and had planted European grain which grew rapidly. Encouraged by this experiment, and delighted with the country, he formed the resolution of transporting thither a colony, and of procuring the co-operation of others by whom his plan might be supported. So unfortunate however had been former attempts of this sort, that men of wealth and rank, though strongly impressed by his report of the country, were slow in giving full faith to his representations, and in entering completely into his views. One vessel was fitted out by the merchants of Bristol, and another by the earl of Southampton, and Lord Arundel of Wardour, in order to learn whether Gosnald's account of the country was to be considered as a just representation of its state, or as the exaggerated description of a person fond of magnifying his own discoveries. Both returned with a full confirmation of his veracity, and with the addition of so many new circumstances in favour of the country, as greatly increased the desire of settling it.

Richard Hackluyt, prebendary of Westminster, a man of distinguished learning and intelligence, contributed more than any other by his judicious exertions, to form an association sufficiently extensive, powerful, and wealthy, to execute the often renewed, and often disappointed project of establishing colonies in America.

At length, such an association was formed; and a petition was presented to James I., who had succeeded to the crown of England, praying the royal sanction to the plan which was proposed. That pacific monarch was delighted with it, and immediately acceded to the wishes of its projectors.

[Sidenote: Patent to Sir Thomas Gates and others.]

On the 10th of April, letters patent were issued under the great seal of England, to the petitioners, Sir Thomas Gates and his associates, granting to them those territories in America, lying on the sea coast, between the 34th and 45th degrees of north latitude, and which either belonged to that monarch, or were not then possessed by any other Christian prince or people; and also the islands adjacent thereto, or within one hundred miles thereof. They were divided, at their own desire, into two companies. One, consisting of certain knights, gentlemen, merchants, and other adventurers of the city of London, and elsewhere, was called the first colony, and was required to settle between the 34th and 41st degrees of north latitude; the other, consisting of certain knights, gentlemen, merchants, and other adventurers of Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, and elsewhere, was named the second colony, and was ordered to settle between the 38th and 45th degrees of north latitude; yet so that the colony last formed should not be planted within one hundred miles of the prior establishment.

The adventurers were empowered to transport so many English subjects as should be willing to accompany them, who, with their descendants, were, at all times, to enjoy the same liberties, within any other dominions of the crown of England, as if they had remained, or were born, within the realm. A council consisting of thirteen, to be appointed and removed at the pleasure of the crown, was established for each colony, to govern it according to such laws as should be given under the sign manual and privy seal of England.

Two other boards to consist also of thirteen persons each, and to be appointed by the King, were invested with the superior direction of the affairs of the colonies.

The adventurers were allowed to search for, and open mines of gold, silver, and copper, yielding one-fifth of the two former metals, and one-fifteenth of the last, to the King; and to make a coin which should be current both among the colonists and natives.

The president and council were authorised to repel those who should, without their authority, attempt to settle, or trade, within their jurisdiction, and to seize, and detain the persons, and effects, of such intruders, until they should pay a duty of two and one-half per centum ad valorem, if subjects, but of five per centum if aliens. These taxes were to be applied, for twenty-one years, to the use of the adventurers, and were afterwards to be paid into the royal exchequer.

[Sidenote: Code of laws for the colony drawn up by the King.]

While the council for the patentees were employed in making preparations to secure the benefits of their grant, James was assiduously engaged in the new, and, to his vanity, the flattering task of framing a code of laws for the government of the colonies about to be planted. Having at length prepared this code, he issued it under the sign manual, and privy seal of England. By these regulations, he vested the general superintendence of the colonies, in a council in England, "composed of a few persons of consideration and talents." The church of England was established. The legislative and executive powers within the colonies, were vested in the president and councils; but their ordinances were not to touch life or member, were to continue in force only until made void by the King, or his council in England for Virginia, and were to be in substance, consonant to the laws of England. They were enjoined to permit none to withdraw the people from their allegiance to himself, and his successors; and to cause all persons so offending to be apprehended, and imprisoned until reformation; or, in cases highly offensive, to be sent to England to receive punishment. No person was to be permitted to remain in the colony without taking the oath of obedience. Tumults, mutiny, and rebellion, murder, and incest, were to be punished with death; and for these offences, the criminal was to be tried by a jury. Inferior crimes were to be punished in a summary way, at the discretion of the president and council.

Lands were to be holden within the colony as the same estates were enjoyed in England. Kindness towards the heathen was enjoined; and a power reserved to the King, and his successors to ordain farther laws, so that they were consonant to the jurisprudence of England.[11]

[Footnote 11: Robertson.]

Under this charter, and these laws, which manifest, at the same time, a total disregard of all political liberty, and a total ignorance of the real advantages which a parent state may derive from its colonies; which vest the higher powers of legislation in persons residing out of the country, not chosen by the people, nor affected by the laws they make, and yet leave commerce unrestrained; the patentees proceeded to execute the arduous and almost untried task of peopling a strange, distant, and uncultivated land, covered with woods and marshes, and inhabited only by savages easily irritated, and when irritated, more fierce than the beasts they hunted.


Voyage of Newport.... Settlement at Jamestown.... Distress of colonists.... Smith.... He is captured by the Indians.... Condemned to death, saved by Pocahontas.... Returns to Jamestown.... Newport arrives with fresh settlers.... Smith explores the Chesapeake.... Is chosen president.... New charter.... Third voyage of Newport.... Smith sails for Europe.... Condition of the colony.... Colonists determine to abandon the country.... Are stopped by Lord Delaware.... Sir Thomas Dale.... New charter.... Capt. Argal seizes Pocahontas.... She marries Mr. Rolf.... Separate property in lands and labour.... Expedition against Port Royal.... Against Manhadoes.... Fifty acres of land for each settler.... Tobacco.... Sir Thomas Dale.... Mr. Yeardley.... First assembly.... First arrival of females.... Of convicts.... Of African slaves.... Two councils established.... Prosperity of the colony.... Indians attempt to massacre the whites.... General war.... Dissolution of the company.... Arbitrary measures of the crown.... Sir John Harvey.... Sir William Berkeley.... Provincial assembly restored.... Virginia declares in favour of Charles II.... Grant to Lord Baltimore.... Arrival of a colony in Maryland.... Assembly composed of freemen.... William Clayborne.... Assembly composed of representatives.... Divided into two branches.... Tyrannical proceedings.

The funds immediately appropriated to the planting of colonies in America, were inconsiderable, and the early efforts to accomplish the object, were feeble.

The first expedition for the southern colony consisted of one vessel of a hundred tons, and two barks, carrying one hundred and five men, destined to remain in the country.


[Sidenote: Voyage of Newport.]

The command of this small squadron was given to captain Newport, who, on the 19th of December, sailed from the Thames. Three sealed packets were delivered to him, one addressed to himself, a second to captain Bartholomew Gosnald, and the third to captain John Radcliffe, containing the names of the council for this colony. These packets were accompanied with instructions directing that they should be opened, and the names of his Majesty's council proclaimed, within twenty-four hours after their arrival on the coast of Virginia, and not before. The council were then to proceed to the choice of a president, who was to have two votes. To this unaccountable concealment have those dissensions been attributed, which distracted the colonists on their passage, and which afterwards impeded the progress of their settlement.[12]

[Footnote 12: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]


[Sidenote: Is driven into the Chesapeake.]

Newport, whose place of destination was Roanoke, took the circuitous route by the West India islands, and had a long passage of four months. The reckoning had been out for three days, and serious propositions had been made for returning to England, when a fortunate storm drove him to the mouth of the Chesapeake. On the 26th of April, he descried cape Henry, and soon afterward cape Charles. A party of about thirty men, which went on shore at cape Henry, was immediately attacked by the natives, and, in the skirmish which ensued, several were wounded on both sides.

{May 13th.}

The first act of the colonists was the selection of a spot for their settlement. They proceeded up a large river, called by the natives Powhatan, and agreed to make their first establishment upon a peninsula, on its northern side. In compliment to their sovereign, this place was named Jamestown, and the river was called James. Having disembarked, and opened the sealed packets brought from England, the members of the council proceeded to the election of a president, and Mr. Wingfield was chosen. But, under frivolous pretexts, they excluded from his seat among them, John Smith, one of the most extraordinary men of his age, whose courage and talents had excited their envy. During the passage, he had been imprisoned on the extravagant charge of intending to murder the council, usurp the government, and make himself king of Virginia.[13]

[Footnote 13: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith.]

The first indications of a permanent settlement in their country, seem to have excited the jealousy of the natives. Displeased with the intrusion, or dissatisfied with the conduct of the intruders, they soon formed the design of expelling, or destroying, these unwelcome and formidable visitors. In execution of this intention, they attacked the colonists suddenly, while at work, and unsuspicious of their hostility; but were driven, terrified, into the woods by the fire from the ship. On the failure of this attempt, a temporary accommodation was effected.

Newport, though named of the council, had been ordered to return to England. As the time of his departure approached, the accusers of Smith, attempting to conceal their jealousy by the affectation of humanity, proposed that he also should return, instead of being prosecuted in Virginia; but, with the pride of conscious innocence, he demanded a trial; and, being honourably acquitted, took his seat in the council.

About the 15th of June, Newport sailed for England, leaving behind him one of the barks, and about one hundred colonists. While he remained, they had partaken of the food allowed the sailors; but after his departure, they were reduced to the necessity of subsisting on the distributions from the public stores, which had sustained great damage during their long passage. These were both scanty, and unwholesome; the allowance to each man, for a day, being only a pint of worm-eaten wheat and barley. This wretched food increased the malignity of the diseases generated by the climate, among men exposed to all its rigours. Before the month of September, fifty of the company were buried; among whom was Bartholomew Gosnald, who had planned the expedition, and had contributed greatly towards its prosecution. Their distress was increased by internal dissension. The president was charged with embezzling the best stores of the colony, and with feasting at his private table, on beef, bread, and aqua vitae, while famine and death devoured his fellow adventurers. The odium against him was completed by the detection of an attempt to escape from them and their calamities, in the bark which had been left by Newport. In the burst of general indignation which followed the discovery of this meditated desertion, he was deposed, and Radcliffe chosen to succeed him.[14]

[Footnote 14: Stith. Smith.]

As misfortune is not unfrequently the parent of moderation and reflection, this state of misery produced a system of conduct towards the neighbouring Indians, which, for the moment, disarmed their resentments, and induced them to bring in such supplies as the country afforded at that season. It produced another effect of equal importance. A sense of imminent and common danger called forth those talents which were fitted to the exigency, and compelled submission to them. On captain Smith, who had preserved his health unimpaired, his spirits unbroken, and his judgment unclouded, amidst this general misery and dejection, all eyes were turned, and in him, all actual authority was placed by common consent. His example soon gave energy to others.

He erected such rude fortifications as would resist the sudden attacks of the savages, and constructed such habitations as, by sheltering the survivors from the weather, contributed to restore and preserve their health, while his own accommodation gave place to that of all others. In the season of gathering corn, he penetrated into the country at the head of small parties, and by presents and caresses to those who were well disposed, and by attacking with open force, and defeating those who were hostile, he obtained abundant supplies.

While thus actively and usefully employed abroad, he was not permitted to withdraw his attention from the domestic concerns of the colony. Incapacity for command is seldom accompanied by a willingness to relinquish power; and it will excite no surprise that the late president saw, with regret, another placed above him. As unworthy minds most readily devise unworthy means, he sought, by intriguing with the factious, and fomenting their discontents, to regain his lost authority; and when these attempts were disconcerted, he formed a conspiracy with some of the principal persons in the colony, to escape in the bark, and thus to desert the country. The vigilance of Smith detected these machinations, and his vigour defeated them.[15]

[Footnote 15: Stith.]

[Sidenote: Smith is captured by the Indians,]

[Sidenote: is condemned to death,]

[Sidenote: saved by Pocahontas.]

The prospect which now presented itself of preserving the colony in quiet and plenty, until supplies could be received from England, was obscured by an event which threatened, at first, the most disastrous consequences. In attempting to explore Chiccahomini river to its source, Smith was discovered and attacked by a numerous body of Indians; and in endeavouring, after a gallant defence, to make his escape, he sank up to his neck in a swamp, and was obliged to surrender. The wonder and veneration which he excited by the exhibition of a mariner's compass, saved him from immediate death. He was conducted in triumph, through several towns, to the palace of Powhatan, the most potent king in that part of the country, who doomed him to be put to death by placing his head upon a stone, and beating out his brains with a club. At the place of execution, with his head bowed down to receive the blow, he was rescued from a fate which appeared to be inevitable, by that enthusiastic and impassioned humanity which, in every climate, and in every state of society, finds its home in the female bosom. Pocahontas, the king's favourite daughter, then about thirteen years of age, whose entreaties for his life had been ineffectual, rushed between him and the executioner, and folding his head in her arms, and laying hers upon it, arrested the fatal blow. Her father was then prevailed upon to spare his life, and he was sent back to Jamestown.[16]

[Footnote 16: Stith.]

[Sidenote: Returns to Jamestown.]

On arriving at that place, after an absence of seven weeks, he found the colony reduced to thirty-eight persons, who seemed determined to abandon a country which appeared to them so unfavourable to human life. He came just in time to prevent the execution of this design. Alternately employing persuasion, threats, and even violence, he induced the majority to relinquish their intention; then turning the guns of the fort on the bark, on board which were the most determined, he compelled her to remain, or sink in the river.[17]

[Footnote 17: Stith.]

By a judicious regulation of intercourse with the Indians, over whom he had gained considerable influence, he restored plenty to the colony, and preserved it until the arrival of two vessels which had been dispatched from England under the command of captain Newport, with a supply of provisions and instruments of husbandry, and with a reinforcement of one hundred and twenty persons, composed of many gentlemen, several refiners, gold smiths, and jewellers, and a few labourers.

The influence of Smith disappeared with the danger which had produced it, and was succeeded by an improvident relaxation of discipline, productive of the most pernicious consequences.[18]

[Footnote 18: Ibid.]

[Sidenote: A glittering earth mistaken for gold dust.]

About this time, a shining earth, mistaken by the colonists for gold dust, was found in a small stream of water near Jamestown. Their raging thirst for gold was re-excited by this incident. Smith, in his History of Virginia, describing the frenzy of the moment, says, "there was no thought, no discourse, no hope, and no work, but to dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, and load gold. And, notwithstanding captain Smith's warm and judicious representations how absurd it was to neglect other things of immediate use and necessity, to load such a drunken ship with gilded dust, yet was he overruled, and her returns were made in a parcel of glittering dirt, which is to be found in various parts of the country, and which they, very sanguinely, concluded to be gold dust."


The two vessels returned laden, one with this dirt, and the other with cedar. This is the first remittance ever made from America by an English colony.

The effects of this fatal delusion were soon felt, and the colony again began to suffer that distress, from scarcity of food, which had before brought it, more than once, to the brink of ruin.

[Sidenote: Smith explores the Chesapeake.]

The researches of the English settlers had not yet extended beyond the country adjacent to James river. Smith had formed the bold design of exploring the great bay of Chesapeake, examining the mighty rivers which empty into it, opening an intercourse with the nations inhabiting their borders, and acquiring a knowledge of the state of their cultivation and population. Accompanied by Doctor Russel, he engaged in this hardy enterprise in an open boat of about three tons burthen, and with a crew of thirteen men. On the 2d of June, he descended the river in company with the last of Newport's two vessels, and, parting with her at the capes, began his survey at cape Charles. With great fatigue and danger, he examined every river, inlet, and bay, on both sides of the Chesapeake, as far as the mouth of the Rappahannock. His provisions being exhausted, he returned, and arrived at Jamestown on the 21st of July. He found the colony in the utmost confusion and disorder. All those who came last with Newport were sick; the danger of famine was imminent; and the clamour against the president was loud, and universal. The seasonable arrival of Smith restrained their fury. The accounts he gave of his discoveries, and the hope he entertained that the waters of the Chesapeake communicated with the south sea,[19] extended their views and revived their spirits. They contented themselves with deposing their president, and, having in vain urged Smith to accept that office, elected his friend Mr. Scrivener as vice president.

[Footnote 19: This error might very possibly be produced by the Indians representing the great western lakes as seas.]

After employing three days in making arrangements for obtaining regular supplies, and for the government of the colony, Smith again sailed with twelve men, to complete his researches into the countries on the Chesapeake.

From this voyage he returned on the seventh of September; having advanced as far as the river Susquehannah, and visited all the countries on both shores of the bay. He entered most of the large creeks, sailed up many of the great rivers to their falls, and made accurate observations on the extensive territories through which he passed, and on the various tribes inhabiting them, with whom he, alternately, fought, negotiated, and traded. In every situation, he displayed judgment, courage, and that presence of mind which is essential to the character of a commander; and never failed, finally, to inspire the savages he encountered, with the most exalted opinion of himself and of his nation.

When we consider that he sailed above three thousand miles in an open boat; when we contemplate the dangers and the hardships he encountered; when we reflect on the valuable additions he made to the stock of knowledge respecting America; we shall not hesitate to say that few voyages of discovery, undertaken at any time, reflect more honour on those engaged in them. "So full and exact," says Dr. Robertson, "are his accounts of that large portion of the American continent comprehended in the two provinces of Virginia and Maryland, that after the progress of information and research for a century and a half, his map exhibits no inaccurate view of both countries, and is the original, on which all subsequent delineations and descriptions have been formed."[20]

[Footnote 20: Dr. Robertson must allude to the country below the falls of the great rivers.]

[Illustration: Ruins of the Old Brick Church Built at Jamestown in 1639

Settled by the English in 1607, on the banks of the James River about 32 miles from its mouth, it was at Jamestown that the first legislative assembly in America was held in 1619, and here in the same year slavery was first introduced into the original thirteen colonies. The site of the settlement, which was originally a peninsula, but is now an island, is owned by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Besides the ruins of the church shown here those of the fort and of two or three houses built more than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence was signed are still standing.]

[Sidenote: Is chosen president.]

On his return from this expedition, Smith was chosen president of the council; and, yielding to the general wish, accepted the office. Soon after, Newport arrived with an additional supply of settlers, among whom were the two first females who adventured to the present colony; but he came without provisions.

The judicious administration of the president, however, supplied the wants of the colonists, and restrained the turbulent. Encouraged by his example, and coerced by his authority, a spirit of industry and subordination was created among them, which was the parent of plenty and of peace.[21]

[Footnote 21: Robertson. Chalmer.]


[Sidenote: New Charter.]

The company in England, though disappointed in the hope of discovering a passage to the Pacific, and of finding mines of the precious metals, still indulged in golden dreams of future wealth. To increase their funds, as well as their influence and reputation, by the acquisition of additional numbers, to explain and enlarge their powers and privileges, and to ensure a colonial government conforming to their own views and wishes, the company petitioned for a new charter, which was granted on the 23d of May. Some of the first nobility and gentry of the country, and most of the companies of London, with a numerous body of merchants and tradesmen, were added to the former adventurers, and they were all incorporated, by the name of "The treasurer and company of adventurers of the city of London, for the first colony in Virginia." To them were granted, in absolute property, the lands extending from Cape or Point Comfort, along the sea coast, two hundred miles to the northward, and from the same point, along the sea coast, two hundred miles to the southward, and up into the land, throughout, from sea to sea, west and north-west; and also all the islands lying within one hundred miles of the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid: to be holden as of the manor of East Greenwich, in free and common soccage, and paying, in lieu of all services, one-fifth of the gold and silver that should be found. The corporation was authorised to convey, under its common seal, particular portions of these lands to subjects or denizens, on such conditions as might promote the intentions of the grant. The powers of the president and council in Virginia were abrogated, and a new council in England was established, with power to the company to fill all vacancies therein by election. This council was empowered to appoint and remove all officers for the colony, and to make all ordinances for its government, not contrary to the laws of England; and to rule the colonists according to such ordinances. License was given to transport to Virginia, all persons willing to go thither, and to export merchandise free from customs for seven years. There was also granted, for twenty-one years, freedom from all subsidies in Virginia, and from all impositions on importations and exportations from or to any of the King's dominions, "except only the five pounds in the hundred due for customs." The colonists were declared to be entitled to the rights of natural subjects. The governor was empowered to establish martial law in case of rebellion or mutiny; and, to prevent the superstitions of the Church of Rome from taking root in the plantation, it was declared that none should pass into Virginia, but such as shall have first taken the oath of supremacy.[22]

[Footnote 22: Charter.]

[Sidenote: Third voyage of Newport.]

The company, being thus enlarged, and enabled to take more effective measures for the settlement of the country, soon fitted out nine ships, with five hundred emigrants. Lord Delawar was constituted governor and captain-general for life; and several other offices were created. The direction of the expedition was again given to Newport; to whom, and Sir Thomas Gates, and Sir George Somers, powers were severally granted to supersede the existing administration, and to govern the colony until the arrival of Lord Delawar. With singular indiscretion, the council omitted to establish precedence among these gentlemen; who, being totally unable to settle this important point among themselves, agreed to embark on board the same vessel, and to be companions during the voyage. They were parted from the rest of the fleet in a storm, and driven on Bermudas; having on board one hundred and fifty men, a great portion of the provisions destined for the colony, and the new commission and instructions of the council. The residue of the squadron arrived safely in Virginia.

"A great part of the new company," says Mr. Stith, "consisted of unruly sparks, packed off by their friends to escape worse destinies at home. And the rest were chiefly made up of poor gentlemen, broken tradesmen, rakes and libertines, footmen, and such others as were much fitter to spoil and ruin a Commonwealth, than to help to raise or maintain one. This lewd company, therefore, were led by their seditious captains into many mischiefs and extravagancies. They assumed to themselves the power of disposing of the government, and conferred it sometimes on one, and sometimes on another. To-day the old commission must rule, to-morrow the new, and next day neither. So that all was anarchy and distraction."

The judgment of Smith was not long suspended. With the promptness and decision which belong to vigorous minds, he determined that his own authority was not legally revoked until the arrival of the new commission, and therefore resolved to continue its exercise. Incapable of holding the reins of government with a feeble hand, he exhibited, on this emergency, that energy and good sense which never deserted him when the occasion required them. After imprisoning the chief promoters of sedition, and thereby restoring regularity and obedience, he, for the double purpose of extending the colony, and of preventing the mischiefs to be apprehended from so many turbulent spirits collected in Jamestown, detached one hundred men to the falls of James river, under the command of West, and the same number to Nansemond, under that of Martin. These persons conducted their settlements with so little judgment, that they soon converted all the neighbouring Indians into enemies. After losing several parties, they found themselves in absolute need of the support and direction of Smith. These were readily afforded, until a melancholy accident deprived the colony of the aid of a man whose talents had, more than once, rescued it from that desperate condition into which folly and vice had plunged it. Returning from a visit to the detachment stationed at the falls of James river, his powder bag took fire, while he was sleeping in the boat, and, in the explosion, he was so severely wounded as to be confined to his bed. Being unable to obtain the aid of a surgeon in the colony, he embarked for England about the beginning of October.

[Sidenote: Smith returns to England.]

[Sidenote: State of the colony.]

At his departure, the colony consisted of about five hundred inhabitants. They were furnished with three ships, seven boats, commodities ready for trade, ten weeks' provision in the public stores, six mares and a horse, a large stock of hogs and poultry, some sheep and goats, utensils for agriculture, nets for fishing, one hundred trained and expert soldiers well acquainted with the Indians, their language and habitations, twenty-four pieces of ordnance, and three hundred muskets, with a sufficient quantity of arms and ammunition.[23]

[Footnote 23: Stith.]

The fair prospects of the colony were soon blasted by a course of folly and crime, of riot and insubordination.

Numerous pretenders advanced their claims to the supreme command. The choice at length fell upon captain Percy, who derived much consideration from his virtues, as well as from his illustrious family; but his talents, at no time equal to this new and difficult station, were rendered still less competent to the task, by a long course of ill health. Being generally confined by sickness to his bed, he was incapable of maintaining his authority; and total confusion ensued, with its accustomed baneful consequences.

The Indians, no longer awed by the genius and vigour of Smith, attacked the colony on all sides. West and Martin, after losing their boats and nearly half their men, were driven into Jamestown. The stock of provisions was lavishly wasted; and famine added its desolating scourge to their other calamities. After devouring the skins of their horses, and the Indians they had killed, the survivors fed on those of their companions who had sunk under such accumulated misery. The recollection of these tremendous sufferings was long retained, and, for many years, this period was distinguished by the name of THE STARVING TIME.[24]

[Footnote 24: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Beverly.]


In six months, the colony was reduced, by these distresses, to sixty persons, who could not have survived ten days longer, when they were relieved from this state of despair by the arrival of Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Captain Newport, from Bermuda.

[Sidenote: They abandon the country.]

The determination to abandon the country was immediately taken, and the wretched remnant of the colony embarked on board the vessels, and sailed for England. "None dropped a tear," says Mr. Chalmer, "because none had enjoyed one day of happiness."

[Sidenote: Stopped by Lord Delawar.]

Fortunately, they met Lord Delawar, who prevailed on them to return; and, on the 10th of June, resettled them at Jamestown.


By mildness of temper, attention to business, and judicious exercise of authority, this nobleman restored order and contentment to the colony, and again impressed the Indians with respect for the English name. Unfortunately, ill health obliged him to resign the government which he placed in the hands of Mr. Percy, and sailed for the West Indies, leaving in the colony about two hundred persons in possession of the blessings of health, plenty, and peace.

[Sidenote: Sir Thomas Dale.]

On the 10th of May, Sir Thomas Dale, who had been appointed to the government, arrived with a fresh supply of men and provisions, and found the colony relapsing into a state of anarchy, idleness, and want. It required all the authority of the new governor to maintain public order, and to compel the idle and the dissolute to labour. Some conspiracies having been detected, he proclaimed martial law, which was immediately put in execution. This severity was then deemed necessary, and is supposed to have saved the settlement.[25]

[Footnote 25: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Beverly.]

In the beginning of August, Sir Thomas Gates, who had been appointed to succeed Sir Thomas Dale, arrived with six ships, and a considerable supply of men and provisions. After receiving this addition to its numbers, the colony again extended itself up James river; and several new settlements were made.


[Sidenote: New Charter.]

Extravagant accounts of the fertility of Bermuda having reached England, the company became desirous of obtaining it as a place from which Virginia might be supplied with provisions. Application was therefore made to the crown for a new patent, to comprehend this island; and, in March, a charter was issued, granting to the treasurer and company all the islands situate in the ocean within three hundred leagues of the coast of Virginia. By this charter, the corporation was essentially new modelled. It was ordained that four general courts of the adventurers should be holden annually, for the determination of affairs of importance, and weekly meetings were directed, for the transaction of common business. To promote the effectual settlement of the plantation, license was given to open lotteries in any part of England.[26]

[Footnote 26: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Beverly.]

These lotteries, which were the first ever drawn in England, brought twenty-nine thousand pounds into the treasury of the company. When they were discontinued, in 1620, on the complaint of the House of Commons, they were declared to have "supplied the real food by which Virginia had been nourished."

[Sidenote: Captain Argal seizes Pocahontas.]

About this time an event took place which was followed by important consequences to the colony. Provisions in Jamestown continuing to be scarce, and supplies from the neighbouring Indians, with whom the English were often at war, being necessarily uncertain, captain Argal, with two vessels, was sent round to the Potowmac for a cargo of corn. While obtaining the cargo, he understood that Pocahontas, who had remained steadfast in her attachment to the English, had absented herself from the home of her father, and lay concealed in the neighbourhood. By bribing some of those in whom she confided Argal prevailed on her to come on board his vessel, where she was detained respectfully, and brought to Jamestown. He was induced to take this step by the hope that the possession of Pocahontas would give the English an ascendancy over her father, who was known to dote on her. In this, however, he was disappointed. Powhatan offered corn and friendship, if they would first restore his daughter, but, with a loftiness of spirit which claims respect, rejected every proposition for conciliation which should not be preceded by that act of reparation.

During her detention at Jamestown, she made an impression on the heart of Mr. Rolf, a young gentleman of estimation in the colony, who succeeded in gaining her affections. They were married with the consent of Powhatan, who was entirely reconciled to the English by that event, and continued, ever after, to be their sincere friend. This connexion led also to a treaty with the Chiccahominies, a brave and daring tribe, who submitted themselves to the English, and became their tributaries.[27]

[Footnote 27: Robertson. Chalmer. Stith. Beverly.]


About the same time, an important change took place in the internal arrangements of the colony.

[Sidenote: Separate property in lands.]

Heretofore no separate property in lands had been acquired, and no individual had laboured for himself. The lands had been held, cleared, and cultivated in common, and their produce carried into a common granary, from which it was distributed to all. This system was to be ascribed, in some measure, to the unwise injunction contained in the royal instructions, directing the colonists to trade together for five years in one common stock. Its effect was such as ought to have been foreseen. Industry, deprived of its due reward, exclusive property in the produce of its toil, felt no sufficient stimulus to exertion, and the public supplies were generally inadequate to the public necessities. To remove this cause of perpetual scarcity, Sir Thomas Dale divided a considerable portion of land into lots of three acres, and granted one of them, in full property, to each individual. Although the colonists were still required to devote a large portion of labour to the public, a sudden change was made in their appearance and habits. Industry, impelled by the certainty of recompense, advanced with rapid strides; and the inhabitants were no longer in fear of wanting bread, either for themselves, or for the emigrants from England.[28]

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse