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Captain John Smith by Charles Dudley Warner

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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

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

"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."



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

"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-

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

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."

So long as he lived, Smith kept himself informed of the progress of
adventure and settlement in the New World, reading all relations and
eagerly questioning all voyagers, and transferring their accounts to
his own History, which became a confused patchwork of other men's
exploits and his own reminiscences and reflections. He always
regards the new plantations as somehow his own, and made in the light
of his advice; and their mischances are usually due to the neglect of
his counsel. He relates in this volume the story of the Pilgrims in
1620 and the years following, and of the settlement of the Somers
Isles, making himself appear as a kind of Providence over the New

Out of his various and repetitious writings might be compiled quite a
hand-book of maxims and wise saws. Yet all had in steady view one
purpose--to excite interest in his favorite projects, to shame the
laggards of England out of their idleness, and to give himself
honorable employment and authority in the building up of a new
empire. "Who can desire," he exclaims, "more content that hath small
means, or but only his merit to advance his fortunes, than to tread
and plant that ground he hath purchased by the hazard of his life; if
he have but the taste of virtue and magnanimity, what to such a mind
can be more pleasant than planting and building a foundation for his
posterity, got from the rude earth by God's blessing and his own
industry without prejudice to any; if he have any grace of faith or
zeal in Religion, what can be more healthful to any or more agreeable
to God than to convert those poor salvages to know Christ and
humanity, whose labours and discretion will triply requite any charge
and pain."

"Then who would live at home idly," he exhorts his countrymen, "or
think in himself any worth to live, only to eat, drink and sleep, and
so die; or by consuming that carelessly his friends got worthily, or
by using that miserably that maintained virtue honestly, or for being
descended nobly, or pine with the vain vaunt of great kindred in
penury, or to maintain a silly show of bravery, toil out thy heart,
soul and time basely; by shifts, tricks, cards and dice, or by
relating news of other men's actions, sharke here and there for a
dinner or supper, deceive thy friends by fair promises and
dissimulations, in borrowing when thou never meanest to pay, offend
the laws, surfeit with excess, burden thy country, abuse thyself,
despair in want, and then cozen thy kindred, yea, even thy own
brother, and wish thy parent's death (I will not say damnation), to
have their estates, though thou seest what honors and rewards the
world yet hath for them that will seek them and worthily deserve

"I would be sorry to offend, or that any should mistake my honest
meaning: for I wish good to all, hurt to none; but rich men for the
most part are grown to that dotage through their pride in their
wealth, as though there were no accident could end it or their life."

"And what hellish care do such take to make it their own misery and
their countrie's spoil, especially when there is such need of their
employment, drawing by all manner of inventions from the Prince and
his honest subjects, even the vital spirits of their powers and
estates; as if their bags or brags were so powerful a defense, the
malicious could not assault them, when they are the only bait to
cause us not only to be assaulted, but betrayed and smothered in our
own security ere we will prevent it."

And he adds this good advice to those who maintain their children in
wantonness till they grow to be the masters: "Let this lamentable
example [the ruin of Constantinople] remember you that are rich
(seeing there are such great thieves in the world to rob you) not
grudge to lend some proportion to breed them that have little, yet
willing to learn how to defend you, for it is too late when the deed
is done."

No motive of action did Smith omit in his importunity, for "Religion
above all things should move us, especially the clergy, if we are
religious." "Honor might move the gentry, the valiant and
industrious, and the hope and assurance of wealth all, if we were
that we would seem and be accounted; or be we so far inferior to
other nations, or our spirits so far dejected from our ancient
predecessors, or our minds so upon spoil, piracy and such villainy,
as to serve the Portugall, Spaniard, Dutch, French or Turke (as to
the cost of Europe too many do), rather than our own God, our king,
our country, and ourselves; excusing our idleness and our base
complaints by want of employment, when here is such choice of all
sorts, and for all degrees, in the planting and discovering these
North parts of America."

It was all in vain so far as Smith's fortunes were concerned. The
planting and subjection of New England went on, and Smith had no part
in it except to describe it. The Brownists, the Anabaptists, the
Papists, the Puritans, the Separatists, and "such factious
Humorists," were taking possession of the land that Smith claimed to
have "discovered," and in which he had no foothold. Failing to get
employment anywhere, he petitioned the Virginia Company for a reward
out of the treasury in London or the profits in Virginia.

At one of the hot discussions in 1623 preceding the dissolution of
the Virginia Company by the revocation of their charter, Smith was
present, and said that he hoped for his time spent in Virginia he
should receive that year a good quantity of tobacco. The charter was
revoked in 1624 after many violent scenes, and King James was glad to
be rid of what he called "a seminary for a seditious parliament."
The company had made use of lotteries to raise funds, and upon their
disuse, in 1621, Smith proposed to the company to compile for its
benefit a general history. This he did, but it does not appear that
the company took any action on his proposal. At one time he had been
named, with three others, as a fit person for secretary, on the
removal of Mr. Pory, but as only three could be balloted for, his
name was left out. He was, however, commended as entirely competent.

After the dissolution of the companies, and the granting of new
letters-patent to a company of some twenty noblemen, there seems to
have been a project for dividing up the country by lot. Smith says:
"All this they divided in twenty parts, for which they cast lots, but
no lot for me but Smith's Isles, which are a many of barren rocks,
the most overgrown with shrubs, and sharp whins, you can hardly pass
them; without either grass or wood, but three or four short shrubby
old cedars."

The plan was not carried out, and Smith never became lord of even
these barren rocks, the Isles of Shoals. That he visited them when
he sailed along the coast is probable, though he never speaks of
doing so. In the Virginia waters he had left a cluster of islands
bearing his name also.

In the Captain's "True Travels," published in 1630, is a summary of
the condition of colonization in New England from Smith's voyage
thence till the settlement of Plymouth in 1620, which makes an
appropriate close to our review of this period:

"When I first went to the North part of Virginia, where the Westerly
Colony had been planted, it had dissolved itself within a year, and
there was not one Christian in all the land. I was set forth at the
sole charge of four merchants of London; the Country being then
reputed by your westerlings a most rocky, barren, desolate desart;
but the good return I brought from thence, with the maps and
relations of the Country, which I made so manifest, some of them did
believe me, and they were well embraced, both by the Londoners, and
Westerlings, for whom I had promised to undertake it, thinking to
have joyned them all together, but that might well have been a work
for Hercules. Betwixt them long there was much contention: the
Londoners indeed went bravely forward: but in three or four years I
and my friends consumed many hundred pounds amongst the Plimothians,
who only fed me but with delays, promises, and excuses, but no
performance of anything to any purpose. In the interim, many
particular ships went thither, and finding my relations true, and
that I had not taken that I brought home from the French men, as had
been reported: yet further for my pains to discredit me, and my
calling it New England, they obscured it, and shadowed it, with the
title of Canada, till at my humble suit, it pleased our most Royal
King Charles, whom God long keep, bless and preserve, then Prince of
Wales, to confirm it with my map and book, by the title of New
England; the gain thence returning did make the fame thereof so
increase that thirty, forty or fifty sail went yearly only to trade
and fish; but nothing would be done for a plantation, till about some
hundred of your Brownists of England, Amsterdam and Leyden went to
New Plimouth, whose humorous ignorances, caused them for more than a
year, to endure a wonderful deal of misery, with an infinite
patience; saying my books and maps were much better cheap to teach
them than myself: many others have used the like good husbandry that
have payed soundly in trying their self-willed conclusions; but those
in time doing well, diverse others have in small handfulls undertaken
to go there, to be several Lords and Kings of themselves, but most
vanished to nothing."



If Smith had not been an author, his exploits would have occupied a
small space in the literature of his times. But by his unwearied
narrations he impressed his image in gigantic features on our plastic
continent. If he had been silent, he would have had something less
than justice; as it is, he has been permitted to greatly exaggerate
his relations to the New World. It is only by noting the comparative
silence of his contemporaries and by winnowing his own statements
that we can appreciate his true position.

For twenty years he was a voluminous writer, working off his
superfluous energy in setting forth his adventures in new forms.
Most of his writings are repetitions and recastings of the old
material, with such reflections as occur to him from time to time.
He seldom writes a book, or a tract, without beginning it or working
into it a resume of his life. The only exception to this is his "Sea
Grammar." In 1626 he published "An Accidence or the Pathway to
Experience, necessary to all Young Seamen," and in 1627 "A Sea
Grammar, with the plain Exposition of Smith's Accidence for Young
Seamen, enlarged." This is a technical work, and strictly confined
to the building, rigging, and managing of a ship. He was also
engaged at the time of his death upon a "History of the Sea," which
never saw the light. He was evidently fond of the sea, and we may
say the title of Admiral came naturally to him, since he used it in
the title-page to his "Description of New England," published in
1616, although it was not till 1617 that the commissioners at
Plymouth agreed to bestow upon him the title of "Admiral of that

In 1630 he published "The True Travels, Adventures and Observations
of Captain John Smith, in Europe, Asia, Affrica and America, from
1593 to 1629. Together with a Continuation of his General History of
Virginia, Summer Isles, New England, and their proceedings since 1624
to this present 1629: as also of the new Plantations of the great
River of the Amazons, the Isles of St. Christopher, Mevis and
Barbadoes in the West Indies." In the dedication to William, Earl of
Pembroke, and Robert, Earl of Lindsay, he says it was written at the
request of Sir Robert Cotton, the learned antiquarian, and he the
more willingly satisfies this noble desire because, as he says, "they
have acted my fatal tragedies on the stage, and racked my relations
at their pleasure. To prevent, therefore, all future misprisions, I
have compiled this true discourse. Envy hath taxed me to have writ
too much, and done too little; but that such should know how little,
I esteem them, I have writ this more for the satisfaction of my
friends, and all generous and well-disposed readers: To speak only of
myself were intolerable ingratitude: because, having had many co-
partners with me, I cannot make a Monument for myself, and leave them
unburied in the fields, whose lives begot me the title of Soldier,
for as they were companions with me in my dangers, so shall they be
partakers with me in this Tombe." In the same dedication he spoke of
his "Sea Grammar" caused to be printed by his worthy friend Sir
Samuel Saltonstall.

This volume, like all others Smith published, is accompanied by a
great number of swollen panegyrics in verse, showing that the writers
had been favored with the perusal of the volume before it was
published. Valor, piety, virtue, learning, wit, are by them ascribed
to the "great Smith," who is easily the wonder and paragon of his.
age. All of them are stuffed with the affected conceits fashionable
at the time. One of the most pedantic of these was addressed to him
by Samuel Purchas when the "General Historie" was written.

The portrait of Smith which occupies a corner in the Map of Virginia
has in the oval the date, "AEta 37, A. 16l6," and round the rim the
inscription: "Portraictuer of Captaine John Smith, Admirall of New
England," and under it these lines engraved:

"These are the Lines that show thy face: but those
That show thy Grace and Glory brighter bee:
Thy Faire Discoveries and Fowle-Overthrowes
Of Salvages, much Civilized by thee
Best shew thy Spirit; and to it Glory Wyn;
So, thou art Brasse without, but Golde within,
If so, in Brasse (too soft smiths Acts to beare)
I fix thy Fame to make Brasse steele outweare.

"Thine as thou art Virtues

In this engraving Smith is clad in armor, with a high starched
collar, and full beard and mustache formally cut. His right hand
rests on his hip, and his left grasps the handle of his sword. The
face is open and pleasing and full of decision.

This "true discourse" contains the wild romance with which this
volume opens, and is pieced out with recapitulations of his former
writings and exploits, compilations from others' relations, and
general comments. We have given from it the story of his early life,
because there is absolutely no other account of that part of his
career. We may assume that up to his going to Virginia he did lead a
life of reckless adventure and hardship, often in want of a decent
suit of clothes and of "regular meals." That he took some part in
the wars in Hungary is probable, notwithstanding his romancing
narrative, and he may have been captured by the Turks. But his
account of the wars there, and of the political complications, we
suspect are cribbed from the old chronicles, probably from the
Italian, while his vague descriptions of the lands and people in
Turkey and "Tartaria" are evidently taken from the narratives of
other travelers. It seems to me that the whole of his story of his
oriental captivity lacks the note of personal experience. If it were
not for the "patent" of Sigismund (which is only produced and
certified twenty years after it is dated), the whole Transylvania
legend would appear entirely apocryphal.

The "True Travels" close with a discourse upon the bad life,
qualities, and conditions of pirates. The most ancient of these was
one Collis, "who most refreshed himself upon the coast of Wales, and
Clinton and Pursser, his companions, who grew famous till Queen
Elizabeth of blessed memory hanged them at Wapping. The misery of a
Pirate (although many are as sufficient seamen as any) yet in regard
of his superfluity, you shall find it such, that any wise man would
rather live amongst wild beasts, than them; therefore let all
unadvised persons take heed how they entertain that quality; and I
could wish merchants, gentlemen, and all setters-forth of ships not
to be sparing of a competent pay, nor true payment; for neither
soldiers nor seamen can live without means; but necessity will force
them to steal, and when they are once entered into that trade they
are hardly reclaimed."

Smith complains that the play-writers had appropriated his
adventures, but does not say that his own character had been put upon
the stage. In Ben Jonson's "Staple of News," played in 1625, there
is a reference to Pocahontas in the dialogue that occurs between
Pick-lock and Pennyboy Canter:

Pick.--A tavern's unfit too for a princess.

P. Cant.--No, I have known a Princess and a great one, Come forth
of a tavern.

Pick.--Not go in Sir, though.

A Cant.--She must go in, if she came forth. The blessed Pocahontas,
as the historian calls her, And great King's daughter of Virginia,
Hath been in womb of tavern.

The last work of our author was published in 1631, the year of his
death. Its full title very well describes the contents:
"Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England, or
anywhere. Or, the Pathway to Experience to erect a Plantation. With
the yearly proceedings of this country in fishing and planting since
the year 1614 to the year 1630, and their present estate. Also, how
to prevent the greatest inconvenience by their proceedings in
Virginia, and other plantations by approved examples. With the
countries armes, a description of the coast, harbours, habitations,
landmarks, latitude and longitude: with the map allowed by our Royall
King Charles."

Smith had become a trifle cynical in regard to the newsmongers of the
day, and quaintly remarks in his address to the reader: "Apelles by
the proportion of a foot could make the whole proportion of a man:
were he now living, he might go to school, for now thousands can by
opinion proportion kingdoms, cities and lordships that never durst
adventure to see them. Malignancy I expect from these, have lived 10
or 12 years in those actions, and return as wise as they went,
claiming time and experience for their tutor that can neither shift
Sun nor moon, nor say their compass, yet will tell you of more than
all the world betwixt the Exchange, Paul's and Westminster.... and
tell as well what all England is by seeing but Mitford Haven as what
Apelles was by the picture of his great toe."

This is one of Smith's most characteristic productions. Its material
is ill-arranged, and much of it is obscurely written; it runs
backward and forward along his life, refers constantly to his former
works and repeats them, complains of the want of appreciation of his
services, and makes himself the centre of all the colonizing exploits
of the age. Yet it is interspersed with strokes of humor and
observations full of good sense.

It opens with the airy remark: "The wars in Europe, Asia and Africa,
taught me how to subdue the wild savages in Virginia and New
England." He never did subdue the wild savages in New England, and
he never was in any war in Africa, nor in Asia, unless we call his
piratical cruising in the Mediterranean "wars in Asia."

As a Church of England man, Smith is not well pleased with the
occupation of New England by the Puritans, Brownists, and such
"factious humorists" as settled at New Plymouth, although he
acknowledges the wonderful patience with which, in their ignorance
and willfulness, they have endured losses and extremities; but he
hopes better things of the gentlemen who went in 1629 to supply
Endicott at Salem, and were followed the next year by Winthrop. All
these adventurers have, he says, made use of his "aged endeavors."
It seems presumptuous in them to try to get on with his maps and
descriptions and without him. They probably had never heard, except
in the title-pages of his works, that he was "Admiral of New

Even as late as this time many supposed New England to be an island,
but Smith again asserts, what he had always maintained--that it was a
part of the continent. The expedition of Winthrop was scattered by a
storm, and reached Salem with the loss of threescore dead and many
sick, to find as many of the colony dead, and all disconsolate. Of
the discouraged among them who returned to England Smith says: "Some
could not endure the name of a bishop, others not the sight of a
cross or surplice, others by no means the book of common prayer.
This absolute crew, only of the Elect, holding all (but such as
themselves) reprobates and castaways, now made more haste to return
to Babel, as they termed England, than stay to enjoy the land they
called Canaan." Somewhat they must say to excuse themselves.
Therefore, "some say they could see no timbers of ten foot diameter,
some the country is all wood; others they drained all the springs and
ponds dry, yet like to famish for want of fresh water; some of the
danger of the ratell-snake." To compel all the Indians to furnish
them corn without using them cruelly they say is impossible. Yet
this "impossible," Smith says, he accomplished in Virginia, and
offers to undertake in New England, with one hundred and fifty men,
to get corn, fortify the country, and "discover them more land than
they all yet know."

This homily ends--and it is the last published sentence of the "great
Smith"--with this good advice to the New England colonists:

"Lastly, remember as faction, pride, and security produces nothing
but confusion, misery and dissolution; so the contraries well
practised will in short time make you happy, and the most admired
people of all our plantations for your time in the world.

"John Smith writ this with his owne hand."

The extent to which Smith retouched his narrations, as they grew in
his imagination, in his many reproductions of them, has been referred
to, and illustrated by previous quotations. An amusing instance of
his care and ingenuity is furnished by the interpolation of
Pocahontas into his stories after 1623. In his "General Historie" of
1624 he adopts, for the account of his career in Virginia, the
narratives in the Oxford tract of 1612, which he had supervised. We
have seen how he interpolated the wonderful story of his rescue by
the Indian child. Some of his other insertions of her name, to bring
all the narrative up to that level, are curious. The following
passages from the "Oxford Tract" contain in italics the words
inserted when they were transferred to the "General Historie":

"So revived their dead spirits (especially the love of Pocahuntas) as
all anxious fears were abandoned."

"Part always they brought him as presents from their king, or

In the account of the "masques" of girls to entertain Smith at
Werowocomoco we read:

"But presently Pocahuntas came, wishing him to kill her if any hurt
were intended, and the beholders, which were women and children,
satisfied the Captain there was no such matter."

In the account of Wyffin's bringing the news of Scrivener's drowning,
when Wyffin was lodged a night with Powhatan, we read:

"He did assure himself some mischief was intended. Pocahontas hid
him for a time, and sent them who pursued him the clean contrary way
to seek him; but by her means and extraordinary bribes and much
trouble in three days' travel, at length he found us in the middest
of these turmoyles."

The affecting story of the visit and warning from Pocahontas in the
night, when she appeared with "tears running down her cheeks," is not
in the first narration in the Oxford Tract, but is inserted in the
narrative in the "General Historie." Indeed, the first account would
by its terms exclude the later one. It is all contained in these few

"But our barge being left by the ebb, caused us to staie till the
midnight tide carried us safe aboord, having spent that half night
with such mirth as though we never had suspected or intended
anything, we left the Dutchmen to build, Brinton to kill foule for
Powhatan (as by his messengers he importunately desired), and left
directions with our men to give Powhatan all the content they could,
that we might enjoy his company on our return from Pamaunke."

It should be added, however, that there is an allusion to some
warning by Pocahontas in the last chapter of the "Oxford Tract." But
the full story of the night visit and the streaming tears as we have
given it seems without doubt to have been elaborated from very slight
materials. And the subsequent insertion of the name of Pocahontas--
of which we have given examples above--into old accounts that had no
allusion to her, adds new and strong presumptions to the belief that
Smith invented what is known as the Pocahontas legend.

As a mere literary criticism on Smith's writings, it would appear
that he had a habit of transferring to his own career notable
incidents and adventures of which he had read, and this is somewhat
damaging to an estimate of his originality. His wonderful system of
telegraphy by means of torches, which he says he put in practice at
the siege of Olympack, and which he describes as if it were his own
invention, he had doubtless read in Polybius, and it seemed a good
thing to introduce into his narrative.

He was (it must also be noted) the second white man whose life was
saved by an Indian princess in America, who subsequently warned her
favorite of a plot to kill him. In 1528 Pamphilo de Narvaes landed
at Tampa Bay, Florida, and made a disastrous expedition into the
interior. Among the Spaniards who were missing as a result of this
excursion was a soldier named Juan Ortiz. When De Soto marched into
the same country in 1539 he encountered this soldier, who had been
held in captivity by the Indians and had learned their language. The
story that Ortiz told was this: He was taken prisoner by the chief
Ucita, bound hand and foot, and stretched upon a scaffold to be
roasted, when, just as the flames were seizing him, a daughter of the
chief interposed in his behalf, and upon her prayers Ucita spared the
life of the prisoner. Three years afterward, when there was danger
that Ortiz would be sacrificed to appease the devil, the princess
came to him, warned him of his danger, and led him secretly and alone
in the night to the camp of a chieftain who protected him.

This narrative was in print before Smith wrote, and as he was fond of
such adventures he may have read it. The incidents are curiously
parallel. And all the comment needed upon it is that Smith seems to
have been peculiarly subject to such coincidences

Our author's selection of a coat of arms, the distinguishing feature
of which was "three Turks' heads," showed little more originality.
It was a common device before his day: on many coats of arms of the
Middle Ages and later appear "three Saracens' heads," or "three
Moors' heads"--probably most of them had their origin in the
Crusades. Smith's patent to use this charge, which he produced from
Sigismund, was dated 1603, but the certificate appended to it by the
Garter King at Arms, certifying that it was recorded in the register
and office of the heralds, is dated 1625. Whether Smith used it
before this latter date we are not told. We do not know why he had
not as good right to assume it as anybody.

[Burke's "Encyclopedia of Heraldry" gives it as granted to Capt.
John Smith, of the Smiths of Cruffley, Co. Lancaster, in 1629, and
describes it: "Vert, a chev. gu. betw. three Turks' heads couped
ppr. turbaned or. Crest-an Ostrich or, holding in the mouth a
horseshoe or."]



Hardship and disappointment made our hero prematurely old, but could
not conquer his indomitable spirit. The disastrous voyage of June,
1615, when he fell into the hands of the French, is spoken of by the
Council for New England in 1622 as "the ruin of that poor gentleman,
Captain Smith, who was detained prisoner by them, and forced to
suffer many extremities before he got free of his troubles;" but he
did not know that he was ruined, and did not for a moment relax his
efforts to promote colonization and obtain a command, nor relinquish
his superintendence of the Western Continent.

His last days were evidently passed in a struggle for existence,
which was not so bitter to him as it might have been to another man,
for he was sustained by ever-elating "great expectations." That he
was pinched for means of living, there is no doubt. In 1623 he
issued a prospectus of his "General Historie," in which he said:
"These observations are all I have for the expenses of a thousand
pounds and the loss of eighteen years' time, besides all the travels,
dangers, miseries and incumbrances for my countries good, I have
endured gratis: ....this is composed in less than eighty sheets,
besides the three maps, which will stand me near in a hundred pounds,
which sum I cannot disburse: nor shall the stationers have the copy
for nothing. I therefore, humbly entreat your Honour, either to
adventure, or give me what you please towards the impression, and I
will be both accountable and thankful."

He had come before he was fifty to regard himself as an old man, and
to speak of his "aged endeavors." Where and how he lived in his
later years, and with what surroundings and under what circumstances
he died, there is no record. That he had no settled home, and was in
mean lodgings at the last, may be reasonably inferred. There is a
manuscript note on the fly-leaf of one of the original editions of
"The Map of Virginia...." (Oxford, 1612), in ancient chirography,
but which from its reference to Fuller could not have been written
until more than thirty years after Smith's death. It says: "When he
was old he lived in London poor but kept up his spirits with the
commemoration of his former actions and bravery. He was buried in
St. Sepulcher's Church, as Fuller tells us, who has given us a line
of his Ranting Epitaph."

That seems to have been the tradition of the man, buoyantly
supporting himself in the commemoration of his own achievements. To
the end his industrious and hopeful spirit sustained him, and in the
last year of his life he was toiling on another compilation, and
promised his readers a variety of actions and memorable observations
which they shall "find with admiration in my History of the Sea, if
God be pleased I live to finish it."

He died on the 21 St of June, 1631, and the same day made his last
will, to which he appended his mark, as he seems to have been too
feeble to write his name. In this he describes himself as "Captain
John Smith of the parish of St. Sepulcher's London Esquior." He
commends his soul "into the hands of Almighty God, my maker, hoping
through the merits of Christ Jesus my Redeemer to receive full
remission of all my sins and to inherit a place in the everlasting
kingdom"; his body he commits to the earth whence it came; and "of
such worldly goods whereof it hath pleased God in his mercy to make
me an unworthy receiver," he bequeathes: first, to Thomas Packer,
Esq., one of his Majesty's clerks of the Privy Seal, "all my
houses, lands, tenantements and hereditaments whatsoever, situate
lying and being in the parishes of Louthe and Great Carleton, in the
county of Lincoln together with my coat of armes"; and charges him to
pay certain legacies not exceeding the sum of eighty pounds, out of
which he reserves to himself twenty pounds to be disposed of as he
chooses in his lifetime. The sum of twenty pounds is to be disbursed
about the funeral. To his most worthy friend, Sir Samuel Saltonstall
Knight, he gives five pounds; to Morris Treadway, five pounds; to his
sister Smith, the widow of his brother, ten pounds; to his cousin
Steven Smith, and his sister, six pounds thirteen shillings and
fourpence between them; to Thomas Packer, Joane, his wife, and
Eleanor, his daughter, ten pounds among them; to "Mr. Reynolds, the
lay Mr of the Goldsmiths Hall, the sum of forty shillings"; to
Thomas, the son of said Thomas Packer, "my trunk standing in my
chamber at Sir Samuel Saltonstall's house in St. Sepulcher's parish,
together with my best suit of apparel of a tawny color viz. hose,
doublet jirkin and cloak," "also, my trunk bound with iron bars
standing in the house of Richard Hinde in Lambeth, together--with
half the books therein"; the other half of the books to Mr. John
Tredeskin and Richard Hinde. His much honored friend, Sir Samuel
Saltonstall, and Thomas Packer, were joint executors, and the will
was acknowledged in the presence "of Willmu Keble Snr civitas,
London, William Packer, Elizabeth Sewster, Marmaduke Walker, his
mark, witness."

We have no idea that Thomas Packer got rich out of the houses, lands
and tenements in the county of Lincoln. The will is that of a poor
man, and reference to his trunks standing about in the houses of his
friends, and to his chamber in the house of Sir Samuel Saltonstall,
may be taken as proof that he had no independent and permanent

It is supposed that he was buried in St. Sepulcher's Church. The
negative evidence of this is his residence in the parish at the time
of his death, and the more positive, a record in Stow's "Survey of
London," 1633, which we copy in full:

This Table is on the south side of the Quire in Saint Sepulchers,
with this Inscription:

To the living Memory of his deceased Friend, Captaine John Smith, who
departed this mortall life on the 21 day of June, 1631, with his
Armes, and this Motto,

Accordamus, vincere est vivere.

Here lies one conquer'd that hath conquer'd Kings,
Subdu'd large Territories, and done things
Which to the World impossible would seeme,
But that the truth is held in more esteeme,
Shall I report His former service done
In honour of his God and Christendome:
How that he did divide from Pagans three,
Their heads and Lives, types of his chivalry:
For which great service in that Climate done,
Brave Sigismundus (King of Hungarion)
Did give him as a Coat of Armes to weare,
Those conquer'd heads got by his Sword and Speare?
Or shall I tell of his adventures since,
Done in Firginia, that large Continence:
I-low that he subdu'd Kings unto his yoke,
And made those heathen flie, as wind doth smoke:
And made their Land, being of so large a Station,
A hab;tation for our Christian Nation:
Where God is glorifi'd, their wants suppli'd,
Which else for necessaries might have di'd?
But what avails his Conquest now he lyes
Inter'd in earth a prey for Wormes & Flies?

O may his soule in sweet Mizium sleepe,
Untill the Keeper that all soules doth keepe,
Returne to judgement and that after thence,
With Angels he may have his recompence.
Captaine John Smith, sometime Governour of Firginia, and
Admirall of New England.

This remarkable epitaph is such an autobiographical record as Smith
might have written himself. That it was engraved upon a tablet and
set up in this church rests entirely upon the authority of Stow. The
present pilgrim to the old church will find no memorial that Smith
was buried there, and will encounter besides incredulity of the
tradition that he ever rested there.

The old church of St. Sepulcher's, formerly at the confluence of Snow
Hill and the Old Bailey, now lifts its head far above the pompous
viaduct which spans the valley along which the Fleet Ditch once
flowed. All the registers of burial in the church were destroyed by
the great fire of 1666, which burnt down the edifice from floor to
roof, leaving only the walls and tower standing. Mr. Charles Deane,
whose lively interest in Smith led him recently to pay a visit to St.
Sepulcher's, speaks of it as the church "under the pavement of which
the remains of our hero were buried; but he was not able to see the
stone placed over those remains, as the floor of the church at that
time was covered with a carpet.... The epitaph to his memory,
however, it is understood, cannot now be deciphered upon the
tablet,"--which he supposes to be the one in Stow.

The existing tablet is a slab of bluish-black marble, which formerly
was in the chancel. That it in no way relates to Captain Smith a
near examination of it shows. This slab has an escutcheon which
indicates three heads, which a lively imagination may conceive to be
those of Moors, on a line in the upper left corner on the husband's
side of a shield, which is divided by a perpendicular line. As Smith
had no wife, this could not have been his cognizance. Nor are these
his arms, which were three Turks' heads borne over and beneath a
chevron. The cognizance of "Moors' heads," as we have said, was not
singular in the Middle Ages, and there existed recently in this very
church another tomb which bore a Moor's head as a family badge. The
inscription itself is in a style of lettering unlike that used in the
time of James I., and the letters are believed not to belong to an
earlier period than that of the Georges. This bluish-black stone has
been recently gazed at by many pilgrims from this side of the ocean,
with something of the feeling with which the Moslems regard the Kaaba
at Mecca. This veneration is misplaced, for upon the stone are
distinctly visible these words:

"Departed this life September....
....sixty-six ....years....
....months ...."

As John Smith died in June, 1631, in his fifty-second year, this
stone is clearly not in his honor: and if his dust rests in this
church, the fire of 1666 made it probably a labor of wasted love to
look hereabouts for any monument of him.

A few years ago some American antiquarians desired to place some
monument to the "Admiral of New England" in this church, and a
memorial window, commemorating the "Baptism of Pocahontas," was
suggested. We have been told, however, that a custom of St.
Sepulcher's requires a handsome bonus to the rector for any memorial
set up in the church which the kindly incumbent had no power to set
aside (in his own case) for a foreign gift and act of international
courtesy of this sort; and the project was abandoned.

Nearly every trace of this insatiable explorer of the earth has
disappeared from it except in his own writings. The only monument to
his memory existing is a shabby little marble shaft erected on the
southerly summit of Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals. By a
kind of irony of fortune, which Smith would have grimly appreciated,
the only stone to perpetuate his fame stands upon a little heap of
rocks in the sea; upon which it is only an inference that he ever set
foot, and we can almost hear him say again, looking round upon this
roomy earth, so much of which he possessed in his mind, "No lot for
me but Smith's Isles, which are an array of barren rocks, the most
overgrowne with shrubs and sharpe whins you can hardly passe them:
without either grasse or wood but three or foure short shrubby old

Nearly all of Smith's biographers and the historians of Virginia
have, with great respect, woven his romances about his career into
their narratives, imparting to their paraphrases of his story such an
elevation as his own opinion of himself seemed to demand. Of
contemporary estimate of him there is little to quote except the
panegyrics in verse he has preserved for us, and the inference from
his own writings that he was the object of calumny and detraction.
Enemies he had in plenty, but there are no records left of their
opinion of his character. The nearest biographical notice of him in
point of time is found in the "History of the Worthies of England,"
by Thomas Fuller, D.D., London, 1662.

Old Fuller's schoolmaster was Master Arthur Smith, a kinsman of John,
who told him that John was born in Lincolnshire, and it is probable
that Fuller received from his teacher some impression about the

Of his "strange performances" in Hungary, Fuller says: "The scene
whereof is laid at such a distance that they are cheaper credited
than confuted."

"From the Turks in Europe he passed to the pagans in America, where
towards the latter end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth [it was in the
reign of James] such his perils, preservations, dangers,
deliverances, they seem to most men above belief, to some beyond
truth. Yet have we two witnesses to attest them, the prose and the
pictures, both in his own book; and it soundeth much to the
diminution of his deeds that he alone is the herald to publish and
proclaim them."

"Surely such reports from strangers carry the greater reputation.
However, moderate men must allow Captain Smith to have been very
instrumental in settling the plantation in Virginia, whereof he was
governor, as also Admiral of New England."

"He led his old age in London, where his having a prince's mind
imprisoned in a poor man's purse, rendered him to the contempt of
such as were not ingenuous. Yet he efforted his spirits with the
remembrance and relation of what formerly he had been, and what he
had done."

Of the "ranting epitaph," quoted above, Fuller says: "The
orthography, poetry, history and divinity in this epitaph are much

Without taking Captain John Smith at his own estimate of himself, he
was a peculiar character even for the times in which he lived. He
shared with his contemporaries the restless spirit of roving and
adventure which resulted from the invention of the mariner's compass
and the discovery of the New World; but he was neither so sordid nor
so rapacious as many of them, for his boyhood reading of romances had
evidently fired him with the conceits of the past chivalric period.
This imported into his conduct something inflated and something
elevated. And, besides, with all his enormous conceit, he had a
stratum of practical good sense, a shrewd wit, and the salt of humor.

If Shakespeare had known him, as he might have done, he would have
had a character ready to his hand that would have added one of the
most amusing and interesting portraits to his gallery. He faintly
suggests a moral Falstaff, if we can imagine a Falstaff without
vices. As a narrator he has the swagger of a Captain Dalghetty, but
his actions are marked by honesty and sincerity. He appears to have
had none of the small vices of the gallants of his time. His
chivalric attitude toward certain ladies who appear in his
adventures, must have been sufficiently amusing to his associates.
There is about his virtue a certain antique flavor which must have
seemed strange to the adventurers and court hangers-on in London.
Not improbably his assumptions were offensive to the ungodly, and his
ingenuous boastings made him the object of amusement to the skeptics.
Their ridicule would naturally appear to him to arise from envy. We
read between the lines of his own eulogies of himself, that there was
a widespread skepticism about his greatness and his achievements,
which he attributed to jealousy. Perhaps his obtrusive virtues made
him enemies, and his rectitude was a standing offense to his

It is certain he got on well with scarcely anybody with whom he was
thrown in his enterprises. He was of common origin, and always
carried with him the need of assertion in an insecure position. He
appears to us always self-conscious and ill at ease with gentlemen
born. The captains of his own station resented his assumptions of
superiority, and while he did not try to win them by an affectation
of comradeship, he probably repelled those of better breeding by a
swaggering manner. No doubt his want of advancement was partly due
to want of influence, which better birth would have given him; but
the plain truth is that he had a talent for making himself
disagreeable to his associates. Unfortunately he never engaged in
any enterprise with any one on earth who was so capable of conducting
it as himself, and this fact he always made plain to his comrades.
Skill he had in managing savages, but with his equals among whites he
lacked tact, and knew not the secret of having his own way without
seeming to have it. He was insubordinate, impatient of any authority
over him, and unwilling to submit to discipline he did not himself

Yet it must be said that he was less self-seeking than those who were
with him in Virginia, making glory his aim rather than gain always;
that he had a superior conception of what a colony should be, and how
it should establish itself, and that his judgment of what was best
was nearly always vindicated by the event. He was not the founder of
the Virginia colony, its final success was not due to him, but it was
owing almost entirely to his pluck and energy that it held on and
maintained an existence during the two years and a half that he was
with it at Jamestown. And to effect this mere holding on, with the
vagabond crew that composed most of the colony, and with the
extravagant and unintelligent expectations of the London Company, was
a feat showing decided ability. He had the qualities fitting him to
be an explorer and the leader of an expedition. He does not appear
to have had the character necessary to impress his authority on a
community. He was quarrelsome, irascible, and quick to fancy that
his full value was not admitted. He shines most upon such small
expeditions as the exploration of the Chesapeake; then his energy,
self-confidence, shrewdness, inventiveness, had free play, and his
pluck and perseverance are recognized as of the true heroic

Smith, as we have seen, estimated at their full insignificance such
flummeries as the coronation of Powhatan, and the foolishness of
taxing the energies of the colony to explore the country for gold and
chase the phantom of the South Sea. In his discernment and in his
conceptions of what is now called "political economy" he was in
advance of his age. He was an advocate of "free trade" before the
term was invented. In his advice given to the New England plantation
in his "Advertisements" he says:

"Now as his Majesty has made you custome-free for seven yeares, have
a care that all your countrymen shall come to trade with you, be not
troubled with pilotage, boyage, ancorage, wharfage, custome, or any
such tricks as hath been lately used in most of our plantations,
where they would be Kings before their folly; to the discouragement
of many, and a scorne to them of understanding, for Dutch, French,
Biskin, or any will as yet use freely the Coast without controule,
and why not English as well as they? Therefore use all commers with
that respect, courtesie, and liberty is fitting, which will in a
short time much increase your trade and shipping to fetch it from
you, for as yet it were not good to adventure any more abroad with
factors till you bee better provided; now there is nothing more
enricheth a Common-wealth than much trade, nor no meanes better to
increase than small custome, as Holland, Genua, Ligorne, as divers
other places can well tell you, and doth most beggar those places
where they take most custome, as Turkie, the Archipelegan Iles,
Cicilia, the Spanish ports, but that their officers will connive to
enrich themselves, though undo the state."

It may perhaps be admitted that he knew better than the London or the
Plymouth company what ought to be done in the New World, but it is
absurd to suppose that his success or his ability forfeited him the
confidence of both companies, and shut him out of employment. The
simple truth seems to be that his arrogance and conceit and
importunity made him unpopular, and that his proverbial ill luck was
set off against his ability.

Although he was fully charged with the piety of his age, and kept in
mind his humble dependence on divine grace when he was plundering
Venetian argosies or lying to the Indians, or fighting anywhere
simply for excitement or booty, and was always as devout as a modern
Sicilian or Greek robber; he had a humorous appreciation of the value
of the religions current in his day. He saw through the hypocrisy of
the London Company, "making religion their color, when all their aim
was nothing but present profit." There was great talk about
Christianizing the Indians; but the colonists in Virginia taught them
chiefly the corruptions of civilized life, and those who were
despatched to England soon became debauched by London vices. "Much
they blamed us [he writes] for not converting the Salvages, when
those they sent us were little better, if not worse, nor did they all
convert any of those we sent them to England for that purpose."

Captain John Smith died unmarried, nor is there any record that he
ever had wife or children. This disposes of the claim of subsequent
John Smiths to be descended from him. He was the last of that race;
the others are imitations. He was wedded to glory. That he was not
insensible to the charms of female beauty, and to the heavenly pity
in their hearts, which is their chief grace, his writings abundantly
evince; but to taste the pleasures of dangerous adventure, to learn
war and to pick up his living with his sword, and to fight wherever
piety showed recompense would follow, was the passion of his youth,
while his manhood was given to the arduous ambition of enlarging the
domains of England and enrolling his name among those heroes who make
an ineffaceable impression upon their age. There was no time in his
life when he had leisure to marry, or when it would have been
consistent with his schemes to have tied himself to a home.

As a writer he was wholly untrained, but with all his introversions
and obscurities he is the most readable chronicler of his time, the
most amusing and as untrustworthy as any. He is influenced by his
prejudices, though not so much by them as by his imagination and
vanity. He had a habit of accurate observation, as his maps show,
and this trait gives to his statements and descriptions, when his own
reputation is not concerned, a value beyond that of those of most
contemporary travelers. And there is another thing to be said about
his writings. They are uncommonly clean for his day. Only here and
there is coarseness encountered. In an age when nastiness was
written as well as spoken, and when most travelers felt called upon
to satisfy a curiosity for prurient observations, Smith preserved a
tone quite remarkable for general purity.

Captain Smith is in some respects a very good type of the restless
adventurers of his age; but he had a little more pseudo-chivalry at
one end of his life, and a little more piety at the other, than the
rest. There is a decidedly heroic element in his courage, hardihood,
and enthusiasm, softened to the modern observer's comprehension by
the humorous contrast between his achievements and his estimate of
them. Between his actual deeds as he relates them, and his noble
sentiments, there is also sometimes a contrast pleasing to the
worldly mind. He is just one of those characters who would be more
agreeable on the stage than in private life. His extraordinary
conceit would be entertaining if one did not see too much of him.
Although he was such a romancer that we can accept few of his
unsupported statements about himself, there was, nevertheless, a
certain verity in his character which showed something more than
loyalty to his own fortune; he could be faithful to an ambition for
the public good. Those who knew him best must have found in him very
likable qualities, and acknowledged the generosities of his nature,
while they were amused at his humorous spleen and his serious
contemplation of his own greatness. There is a kind of simplicity in
his self-appreciation that wins one, and it is impossible for the
candid student of his career not to feel kindly towards the "sometime
Governor of Virginia and Admiral of New England."

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