Pioneers of the Old South by Mary JohnstonA Chronicle of English Colonial Beginnings

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Elizabeth of England died in 1603. There came to the English throne James Stuart, King of Scotland, King now of England and Scotland. In 1604 a treaty of peace ended the long war with Spain. Gone was the sixteenth century; here, though in childhood, was the seventeenth century.

Now that the wars were over, old colonization schemes were revived in the English mind. Of the motives, which in the first instance had prompted these schemes, some with the passing of time had become weaker, some remained quite as strong as before. Most Englishmen and women knew now that Spain had clay feet; and that Rome, though she might threaten, could not always perform what she threatened. To abase the pride of Spain, to make harbors of refuge for the angel of the Reformation–these wishes, though they had not vanished, though no man could know how long the peace with Spain would last, were less fervid than they had been in the days of Drake. But the old desire for trade remained as strong as ever. It would be a great boon to have English markets in the New World, as well as in the Old, to which merchants might send their wares, and from which might be drawn in bulk, the raw stuffs that were needed at home. The idea of a surplus population persisted; England of five million souls still thought that she was crowded and that it would be well to have a land of younger sons, a land of promise for all not abundantly provided for at home. It were surely well, for mere pride’s sake, to have due lot and part in the great New World! And wealth like that which Spain had found was a dazzle and a lure. “Why, man, all their dripping-pans are pure gold, and all the chains with which they chain up their streets are massy gold; all the prisoners they take are fettered in gold; and for rubies and diamonds they go forth on holidays and gather ’em by the seashore!” So the comedy of “Eastward Ho!” seen on the London stage in 1605–“Eastward Ho!” because yet they thought of America as on the road around to China.

In this year Captain George Weymouth sailed across the sea and spent a summer month in North Virginia–later, New England. Weymouth had powerful backers, and with him sailed old adventurers who had been with Raleigh. Coming home to England with five Indians in his company, Weymouth and his voyage gave to public interest the needed fillip towards action. Here was the peace with Spain, and here was the new interest in Virginia. “Go to!” said Mother England. “It is time to place our children in the world!”

The old adventurers of the day of Sir Humphrey Gilbert had acted as individuals. Soon was to come in the idea of cooperative action–the idea of the joint-stock company, acting under the open permission of the Crown, attended by the interest and favor of numbers of the people, and giving to private initiative and personal ambition, a public tone. Some men of foresight would have had Crown and Country themselves the adventurers, superseding any smaller bodies. But for the moment the fortunes of Virginia were furthered by a group within the great group, by a joint-stock company, a corporation.

In 1600 had come into being the East India Company, prototype of many companies to follow. Now, six years later, there arose under one royal charter two companies, generally known as the London and the Plymouth. The first colony planted by the latter was short-lived. Its letters patent were for North Virginia. Two ships, the Mary and John and the Gift of God, sailed with over a hundred settlers. These men, reaching the coast of what is now Maine, built a fort and a church on the banks of the Kennebec. Then followed the usual miseries typical of colonial venture–sickness, starvation, and a freezing winter. With the return of summer the enterprise was abandoned. The foundation of New England was delayed awhile, her Pilgrims yet in England, though meditating that first remove to Holland, her Mayflower only a ship of London port, staunch, but with no fame above another.

The London Company, soon to become the Virginia Company, therefore engages our attention. The charter recites that Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers, Knights, Richard Hakluyt, clerk, Prebendary of Westminster, Edward-Maria Wingfield, and other knights, gentlemen, merchants, and adventurers, wish “to make habitation, plantation, and to deduce a colony of sundry of our people into that part of America commonly called Virginia.” It covenants with them and gives them for a heritage all America between the thirty-fourth and the fortyfirst parallels of latitude.

The thirty-fourth parallel passes through the middle of what is now South Carolina; the forty-first grazes New York, crosses the northern tip of New Jersey, divides Pennsylvania, and so westward across to that Pacific or South Sea that the age thought so near to the Atlantic. All England might have been placed many times over in what was given to those knights, gentlemen, merchants, and others.

The King’s charter created a great Council of Virginia, sitting in London, governing from overhead. In the new land itself there should exist a second and lesser council. The two councils had authority within the range of Virginian matters, but the Crown retained the power of veto. The Council in Virginia might coin money for trade with the Indians, expel invaders, import settlers, punish illdoers, levy and collect taxes–should have, in short, dignity and power enough for any colony. Likewise, acting for the whole, it might give and take orders “to dig, mine and search for all manner of mines of gold, silver and copper . . . to have and enjoy . . . yielding to us, our heirs and successors, the fifth part only of all the same gold and silver, and the fifteenth part of all the same copper.”

Now are we ready–it being Christmas-tide of the year 1606–to go to Virginia. Riding on the Thames, before Blackwall, are three ships, small enough in all conscience’ sake, the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery. The Admiral of this fleet is Christopher Newport, an old seaman of Raleigh’s. Bartholomew Gosnold captains the Goodspeed, and John Ratcliffe the Discovery. The three ships have aboard their crews and one hundred and twenty colonists, all men. The Council in Virginia is on board, but it does not yet know itself as such, for the names of its members have been deposited by the superior home council in a sealed box, to be opened only on Virginia soil.

The colonists have their paper of instructions. They shall find out a safe port in the entrance of a navigable river. They shall be prepared against surprise and attack. They shall observe “whether the river on which you plant doth spring out of mountains or out of lakes. If it be out of any lake the passage to the other sea will be the more easy, and like enough . . . you shall find some spring which runs the contrary way toward the East India sea.” They must avoid giving offense to the “naturals” — must choose a healthful place for their houses — must guard their shipping. They are to set down in black and white for the information of the Council at home all such matters as directions and distances, the nature of soils and forests and the various commodities that they may find. And no man is to return from Virginia without leave from the Council, and none is to write home any discouraging letter. The instructions end, “Lastly and chiefly, the way to prosper and to achieve good success is to make yourselves all of one mind for the good of your country and your own, and to serve and fear God, the Giver of all Goodness, for every plantation which our Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out.”

Nor did they lack verses to go by, as their enterprise itself did not lack poetry. Michael Drayton wrote for them:–

Britons, you stay too long,
Quickly aboard bestow you,
And with a merry gale,
Swell your stretched sail,
With vows as strong
As the winds that blow you.

Your course securely steer,
West and by South forth keep;
Rocks, lee shores nor shoals,
Where Eolus scowls,
You need not fear,

So absolute the deep.
And cheerfully at sea
Success you still entice,
To get the pearl and gold,
And ours to hold
Earth’s only paradise! . . .

And in regions far
Such heroes bring ye forth
As those from whom we came;
And plant our name
Under that star
Not known unto our north.

See the parting upon Thames’s side, Englishmen going, English kindred, friends, and neighbors calling farewell, waving hat and scarf, standing bare-headed in the gray winter weather! To Virginia–they are going to Virginia! The sails are made upon the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery. The last wherry carries aboard the last adventurer. The anchors are weighed. Down the river the wind bears the ships toward the sea. Weather turning against them, they taste long delay in the Downs, but at last are forth upon the Atlantic. Hourly the distance grows between London town and the outgoing folk, between English shores. and where the surf breaks on the pale Virginian beaches. Far away–far away and long ago–yet the unseen, actual cables hold, and yesterday and today stand embraced, the lips of the Thames meet the lips of the James, and the breath of England mingles with the breath of America.


What was this Virginia to which they were bound? In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the name stood for a huge stretch of littoral, running southward from lands of long winters and fur-bearing animals to lands of the canebrake, the fig, the magnolia, the chameleon, and the mockingbird. The world had been circumnavigated; Drake had passed up the western coast–and yet cartographers, the learned, and those who took the word from the learned, strangely visualized the North American mainland as narrow indeed. Apparently, they conceived it as a kind of extended Central America. The huge rivers puzzled them. There existed a notion that these might be estuaries, curling and curving through the land from sea to sea. India–Cathay–spices and wonders and Orient wealth–lay beyond the South Sea, and the South Sea was but a few days’ march from Hatteras or Chesapeake. The Virginia familiar to the mind of the time lay extended, and she was very slender. Her right hand touched the eastern ocean, and her left hand touched the western.

Contact and experience soon modified this general notion. Wider knowledge, political and economic considerations, practical reasons of all kinds, drew a different physical form for old Virginia. Before the seventeenth century had passed away, they had given to her northern end a baptism of other names. To the south she was lopped to make the Carolinas. Only to the west, for a long time, she seemed to grow, while like a mirage the South Sea and Cathay receded into the distance.

This narrative, moving with the three ships from England, and through a time span of less than a hundred and fifty years, deals with a region of the western hemisphere a thousand miles in length, several hundred in breadth, stretching from the Florida line to the northern edge of Chesapeake Bay, and from the Atlantic to the Appalachians. Out of this Virginia there grow in succession the ancient colonies and the modern States of Virginia, Maryland, South and North Carolina, and Georgia.

But for many a year Virginia itself was the only settlement and the only name. This Virginia was a country favored by nature. Neither too hot nor too cold, it was rich-soiled and capable of every temperate growth in its sunniest aspect. Great rivers drained it, flowing into a great bay, almost a sea, many-armed as Briareus, affording safe and sheltered harbors. Slowly, with beauty, the land mounted to the west. The sun set behind wooded mountains, long wave-lines raised far back in geologic time. The valleys were many and beautiful, watered by sliding streams. Back to the east again, below the rolling land, were found the shimmering levels, the jewel-green marshes, the wide, slow waters, and at last upon the Atlantic shore the thunder of the rainbow-tinted surf. Various and pleasing was the country. Springs and autumns were long and balmy, the sun shone bright, there was much blue sky, a rich flora and fauna. There were mineral wealth and water power, and breadth and depth for agriculture. Such was the Virginia between the Potomac and the Dan, the Chesapeake and the Alleghanies.

This, and not the gold-bedight slim neighbor of Cathay, was now the lure of the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery. But those aboard, obsessed by Spanish America, imperfectly knowing the features and distances of the orb, yet clung to their first vision. But they knew there would be forest and Indians. Tales enough had been told of both!

What has to be imaged is a forest the size of Virginia. Here and there, chiefly upon river banks, show small Indian clearings. Here and there are natural meadows, and toward the salt water great marshes, the home of waterfowl. But all these are little or naught in the whole, faint adornments sewed upon a shaggy garment, green in summer, flame-hued in autumn, brown in winter, green and flower-colored in the spring. Nor was the forest to any appreciable extent like much Virginian forest of today, second growth, invaded, hewed down, and renewed, to hear again the sound of the axe, set afire by a thousand accidents, burning upon its own funeral pyres, all its primeval glory withered. The forest of old Virginia was jocund and powerful, eternally young and eternally old. The forest was Despot in the land–was Emperor and Pope.

With the forest went the Indian. They had a pact together. The Indians hacked out space for their villages of twenty or thirty huts, their maize and bean fields and tobacco patches. They took saplings for poles and bark to cover the huts and wood for fires. The forest gave canoe and bow and arrow, household bowls and platters, the sides of the drum that was beaten at feasts. It furnished trees serviceable for shelter when the foe was stalked. It was their wall and roof, their habitat. It was one of the Four Friends of the Indians–the Ground, the Waters, the Sky, the Forest. The forest was everywhere, and the Indians dwelled in the forest. Not unnaturally, they held that this world was theirs.

Upon the three ships, sailing, sailing, moved a few men who could speak with authority of the forest and of Indians. Christopher Newport was upon his first voyage to Virginia, but he knew the Indies and the South American coast. He had sailed and had fought under Francis Drake. And Bartholomew Gosnold had explored both for himself and for Raleigh. These two could tell others what to look for. In their company there was also John Smith. This gentleman, it is true, had not wandered, fought, and companioned with romance in America, but he had done so everywhere else. He had as yet no experience with Indians, but he could conceive that rough experiences were rough experiences, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America. And as he knew there was a family likeness among dangerous happenings, so also he found one among remedies, and he had a bag full of stories of strange happenings and how they should be met.

They were going the old, long West Indies sea road. There was time enough for talking, wondering, considering the past, fantastically building up the future. Meeting in the ships’ cabins over ale tankards, pacing up and down the small high-raised poop-decks, leaning idle over the side, watching the swirling dark-blue waters or the stars of night, lying idle upon the deck, propped by the mast while the trade-winds blew and up beyond sail and rigging curved the sky–they had time enough indeed to plan for marvels! If they could have seen ahead, what pictures of things to come they might have beheld rising, falling, melting one into another!

Certain of the men upon the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery stand out clearly, etched against the sky.

Christopher Newport might be forty years old. He had been of Raleigh’s captains and was chosen, a very young man, to bring to England from the Indies the captured great carrack, Madre de Dios, laden with fabulous treasure. In all, Newport was destined to make five voyages to Virginia, carrying supply and aid. After that, he would pass into the service of the East India Company, know India, Java, and the Persian Gulf; would be praised by that great company for sagacity, energy, and good care of his men. Ten years’ time from this first Virginia voyage, and he would die upon his ship, the Hope, before Bantam in Java.

Bartholomew Gosnold, the captain of the Goodspeed, had sailed with thirty others, five years before, from Dartmouth in a bark named the Concord. He had not made the usual long sweep southward into tropic waters, there to turn and come northward, but had gone, arrowstraight, across the north Atlantic–one of the first English sailors to make the direct passage and save many a weary sea league. Gosnold and his men had seen Cape Ann and Cape Cod, and had built upon Cuttyhunk, among the Elizabeth Islands, a little fort thatched with rushes. Then, hardships thronging and quarrels developing, they had filled their ship with sassafras and cedar, and sailed for home over the summer Atlantic, reaching England, with “not one cake of bread” left but only “a little vinegar.” Gosnold, guiding the Goodspeed, is now making his last voyage, for he is to die in Virginia within the year.

George Percy, brother of the Earl of Northumberland, has fought bravely in the Low Countries. He is to stay five years in Virginia, to serve there a short time as Governor, and then, returning to England, is to write “A Trewe Relacyion”, in which he begs to differ from John Smith’s “Generall Historie.” Finally, he goes again to the wars in the Low Countries, serves with distinction, and dies, unmarried, at the age of fifty-two. His portrait shows a long, rather melancholy face, set between a lace collar and thick, dark hair.

A Queen and a Cardinal–Mary Tudor and Reginald Pole–had stood sponsors for the father of Edward-Maria Wingfield. This man, of an ancient and

honorable stock, was older than most of his fellow adventurers to Virginia. He had fought in Ireland, fought in the Low Countries, had been a prisoner of war. Now he was presently to become “the first president of the first council in the first English colony in America.” And then, miseries increasing and wretched men being quick to impute evil, it was to be held with other assertions against him that he was of a Catholic family, that he traveled without a Bible, and probably meant to betray Virginia to the Spaniard. He was to be deposed from his presidency, return to England, and there write a vindication. “I never turned my face from daunger, or hidd my handes from labour; so watchful a sentinel stood myself to myself.” With John Smith he had a bitter quarrel.

Upon the Discovery is one who signed himself “John Radclyffe, comenly called,” and who is named in the London Company’s list as “Captain John Sicklemore, alias Ratcliffe.” He will have a short and stormy Virginian life, and in two years be done to death by Indians. John Smith quarreled with him also. “A poor counterfeited Imposture!” said Smith. Gabriel Archer is a lawyer, and first secretary or recorder of the colony. Short, too, is his life. His name lives in Archer’s Hope on the James River in Virginia. John Smith will have none of him! George Kendall’s life is more nearly spun than Ratcliffe’s or Archer’s. He will be shot for treason and rebellion. Robert Hunt is the chaplain. Besides those whom the time dubbed “gentlemen,” there are upon the three ships English sailors, English laborers, six carpenters, two bricklayers, a blacksmith, a tailor, a barber, a drummer, other craftsmen, and nondescripts. Up and down and to and fro they pass in their narrow quarters, microscopic upon the bosom of the ocean.

John Smith looms large among them. John Smith has a mantle of marvelous adventure. It seems that he began to make it when he was a boy, and for many years worked upon it steadily until it was stiff as cloth of gold and voluminous as a puffed-out summer cloud. Some think that much of it was such stuff as dreams are made of. Probably some breadths were the fabric of vision. Still it seems certain that he did have some kind of an extraordinary coat or mantle. The adventures which he relates of himself are those of a paladin. Born in 1579 or 1580, he was at this time still a young man. But already he had fought in France and in the Netherlands, and in Transylvania against the Turks. He had known sea-fights and shipwrecks and had journeyed, with adventures galore, in Italy. Before Regal, in Transylvania, he had challenged three Turks in succession, unhorsed them, and cut off their heads, for which doughty deed Sigismund, a Prince of Transylvania, had given him a coat of arms showing three Turks’ heads in a shield. Later he had been taken in battle and sold into slavery, whereupon a Turkish lady, his master’s sister, had looked upon him with favor. But at last he slew the Turk and escaped, and after wandering many days in misery came into Russia. “Here, too, I found, as I have always done when in misfortune, kindly help from a woman.” He wandered on into Germany and thence into France and Spain. Hearing of wars in Barbary, he crossed from Gibraltar. Here he met the captain of a French man-of-war. One day while he was with this man there arose a great storm which drove the ship out to sea. They went before the wind to the Canaries, and there put themselves to rights and began to chase Spanish barks. Presently they had a great fight with two Spanish men-of-war, in which the French ship and Smith came off victors. Returning to Morocco, Smith bade the French captain good-bye and took ship for England, and so reached home in 1604. Here he sought the company of like-minded men, and so came upon those who had been to the New World–“and all their talk was of its wonders.” So Smith joined the Virginia undertaking, and so we find him headed toward new adventures in the western world.

On sailed the three ships–little ships–sailing-ships with a long way to go.

“The twelfth day of February at night we saw a blazing starre and presently a storme . . . . The three and twentieth day [of March] we fell with the Iland of Mattanenio in the West Indies. The foure and twentieth day we anchored at Dominico, within fourteene degrees of the Line, a very faire Iland, full of sweet and good smells, inhabited by many Savage Indians …. The six and twentieth day we had sight of Marigalanta, and the next day wee sailed with a slacke sail alongst the Ile of Guadalupa . . . . We sailed by many Ilands, as Mounserot and an Iland called Saint Christopher, both uninhabited; about two a clocke in the afternoone wee anchored at the Ile of Mevis. There the Captaine landed all his men . . . . We incamped ourselves on this Ile six days . . . . The tenth day [April] we set saile and disimboged out of the West Indies and bare our course Northerly …. The six and twentieth day of Aprill, about foure a clocke in the morning, wee descried the Land of Virginia.”*

* Percy’s “Discourse in Purchas, His Pilgrims,” vol. IV, p. 1684. Also given in Brown’s “Genesis of the United States”, vol. I, p. 152.

During the long months of this voyage, cramped in the three ships, these men, most of them young and of the hot-blooded, physically adventurous sort, had time to develop strong likings and dislikings. The hundred and twenty split into opposed camps. The several groups nursed all manner of jealousies. Accusations flew between like shuttlecocks. The sealed box that they carried proved a manner of Eve’s apple. All knew that seven on board were councilors and rulers, with one of the number President, but they knew not which were the seven. Smith says that this uncertainty wrought much mischief, each man of note suggesting to himself, “I shall be President–or, at least, Councilor!” The ships became cursed with a pest of factions. A prime quarrel arose between John Smith and Edward-Maria Wingfield, two whose temperaments seem to have been poles apart. There arose a “scandalous report, that Smith meant to reach Virginia only to usurp the Government, murder the Council, and proclaim himself King.” The bickering deepened into forthright quarrel, with at last the expected explosion. Smith was arrested, was put in irons, and first saw Virginia as a prisoner.

On the twenty-sixth day of April, 1607, the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery entered Chesapeake Bay. They came in between two capes, and one they named Cape Henry after the then Prince of Wales, and the other Cape Charles for that brother of short-lived Henry who was to become Charles the First. By Cape Henry they anchored, and numbers from the ships went ashore. “But,” says George Percy’s Discourse, “we could find nothing worth the speaking of, but faire meadows and goodly tall Trees, with such Fresh-waters running through the woods as I was almost ravished at the first sight thereof. At night, when wee were going aboard, there came the Savages creeping upon all foure from the Hills like Beares, with their Bowes in their mouths, charged us very desperately in the faces, hurt Captaine Gabriel Archer in both his hands, and a sayler in two places of the body very dangerous. After they had spent their Arrowes and felt the sharpnesse of our shot, they retired into the Woods with a great noise, and so left us.”

That very night, by the ships’ lanterns, Newport, Gosnold, and Ratcliffe opened the sealed box. The names of the councilors were found to be Christopher Newport, Bartholomew Gosnold, John Ratcliffe, Edward-Maria Wingfield, John Martin, John Smith, and George Kendall, with Gabriel Archer for recorder. From its own number, at the first convenient time, this Council was to choose its President. All this was now declared and published to all the company upon the ships. John Smith was given his freedom but was not yet allowed place in the Council. So closed an exciting day. In the morning they pressed in parties yet further into the land, but met no Indians–only came to a place where these savages had been roasting oysters. The next day saw further exploring. “We marched some three or foure miles further into the Woods where we saw great smoakes of fire. Wee marched to those smoakes and found that the Savages had beene there burning downe the grasse . . . .We passed through excellent ground full of Flowers of divers kinds and colours, anal as goodly trees as I have seene, as cedar, cipresse and other kindes; going a little further we came into a little plat of ground full of fine and beautifull strawberries, foure times bigger and better than ours in England. All this march we could neither see Savage nor Towne.”*

* Percy’s “Discourse.”

The ships now stood into those waters which we call Hampton Roads. Finding a good channel and taking heart therefrom, they named a horn of land Point Comfort. Now we call it Old Point Comfort. Presently they began to go up a great river which they christened the James. To English eyes it was a river hugely wide. They went slowly, with pauses and waitings and adventures. They consulted their paper of instructions; they scanned the shore for good places for their fort, for their town. It was May, and all the rich banks were in bloom. It seemed a sweet-scented world of promise. They saw Indians, but had with these no untoward encounters. Upon the twelfth of May they came to a point of land which they named Archer’s Hope. Landing here, they saw “many squirels, conies, Black Birds with crimson wings, and divers other Fowles and Birds of divers and sundrie colours of crimson, watchet, Yellow, Greene, Murry, and of divers other hewes naturally without any art using . . . store of Turkie nests and many Egges.” They liked this place, but for shoal water the ships could not come near to land. So on they went, eight miles up the river.

Here, upon the north side, thirty-odd miles from the mouth, they came to a certain peninsula, an island at high water. Two or three miles long, less than a mile and a half in breadth, at its widest place composed of marsh and woodland, it ran into the river, into six fathom water, where the ships might be moored to the trees. It was this convenient deep water that determined matters. Here came to anchor the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery. Here the colonists went ashore. Here the members of the Council were sworn, and for the first President was chosen Edward-Maria Wingfield. Here, the first roaming and excitement abated, they began to unlade the ships, and to build the fort and also booths for their present sleeping. A church, too, they must have at once, and forthwith made it with a stretched sail for roof and a board between two trees whereon to rest Bible and Book of Prayer. Here, for the first time in all this wilderness, rang English axe in American forest, here was English law and an English town, here sounded English speech. Here was placed the germ of that physical, mental, and, spiritual power which is called the United States of America.


In historians’ accounts of the first months at Jamestown, too much, perhaps, has been made of faction and quarrel. All this was there. Men set down in a wilderness, amid Virginian heat, men, mostly young, of the active rather than the reflective type, men uncompanioned by women and children, men beset with dangers and sufferings that were soon to tag heavily their courage and patience–such men naturally quarreled and made up, quarreled again and again made up, darkly suspected each the other, as they darkly suspected the forest and the Indian; then, need of friendship dominating, embraced each the other, felt the fascination of the forest, and trusted the Indian. However much they suspected rebellion, treacheries, and desertions, they practiced fidelities, though to varying degrees, and there was in each man’s breast more or less of courage and good intent. They were prone to call one another villain, but actual villainy–save as jealousy, suspicion, and hatred are villainy–seems rarely to have been present. Even one who was judged a villain and shot for his villainy seems hardly to have deserved such fate. Jamestown peninsula turned out to be feverous; fantastic hopes were matched by strange fears; there were homesickness, incompatibilities, unfamiliar food and water and air, class differences in small space, some petty tyrannies, and very certain dangers. The worst summer heat was not yet, and the fort was building. Trees must be felled, cabins raised, a field cleared for planting, fishing and hunting carried on. And some lading, some first fruits, must go back in the ships. No gold or rubies being as yet found, they would send instead cedar and sassafras–hard work enough, there at Jamestown, in the Virginian low-country, with May warm as northern midsummer, and all the air charged with vapor from the heated river, with exhalations from the rank forest, from the many marshes.

“The first night of our landing, about midnight,” says George Percy in his “Discourse”, “there came some Savages sayling close to our quarter; presently there was an alarm given; upon that the savages ran away . . . . Not long after there came two Savages that seemed to be Commanders, bravely dressed, with Crownes of coloured haire upon their heads, which came as Messengers from the Werowance of Paspihe, telling us that their Werowance was comming and would be merry with us with a fat Deere. The eighteenth day the Werowance of Paspihe came himselfe to our quarter, with one hundred Savages armed which guarded him in very warlike manner with Bowes and Arrowes.” Some misunderstanding arose. “The Werowance, [seeing] us take to our armes, went suddenly away with all his company in great anger.” The nineteenth day Percy with several others going into the woods back of the peninsula met with a narrow path traced through the forest. Pursuing it, they came to an Indian village. “We Stayed there a while and had of them strawberries and other thinges . .. . One of the Savages brought us on the way to the Woodside where there was a Garden of Tobacco and other fruits and herbes; he gathered Tobacco and distributed to every one of us, so wee departed.”

It is evident that neither race yet knew if it was to be war or peace. What the white man thought and came to think of the red man has been set down often enough; there is scantier testimony as to what was the red man’s opinion of the white man. Here imagination must be called upon.

Newport’s instructions from the London Council included exploration before he should leave the colonists and bring the three ships back to England. Now, with the pinnace and a score of men, among whom was John Smith, he went sixty miles up the river to where the flow is broken by a world of boulders and islets, to the hills crowned today by Richmond, capital of Virginia. The first adventurers called these rapid and whirling waters the Falls of the Farre West. To their notion they must lie at least half-way across the breadth of America. Misled by Indian stories, they believed and wrote that five or six days’ march from the Falls of the Farre West, even through the thick forest, would bring them to the South Sea. The Falls of the Farre West, where at Richmond the James goes with a roaring sound around tree-crowned islet–it is strange to think that they once marked our frontier! How that frontier has been pushed westward is a romance indeed. And still, today, it is but a five or six days’ journey to that South Sea sought by those early Virginians. The only condition for us is that we shall board a train. Tomorrow, with the airship, the South Sea may come nearer yet!

The Indians of this part of the earth were of the great Algonquin family, and the tribes with which the colonists had now to do were drawn, probably by a polity based on blood ties, into a loose confederation within the larger mass. Newport was “told that the name of the river was Powhatan, the name of the chief Powhatan, and the name of the people Powhatans.” But it seemed that the chief Powhatan was not at this village but at another and a larger place named Werowocomoco, on a second great river in the back country to the north and east of Jamestown. Newport and his men were “well entreated” by the Indians. “But yet,” says Percy, “the Savages murmured at our planting in the Countrie.”

The party did not tarry up the river. Back came their boat through the bright weather, between the verdurous banks, all green and flower-tinted save where might be seen the brown of Indian clearings with bark-covered huts and thin, up-curling blue smoke. Before them once more rose Jamestown, palisaded now, and riding before it the three ships. And here there barked an English dog, and here were Englishmen to welcome Englishmen. Both parties had news to tell, but the town had most. On the 26th of May, Indians had made an attack four hundred of them with the Werowance of Paspihe. One Englishman had been killed, a number wounded. Four of the Council had each man his wound.

Newport must now lift anchor and sail away to England. He left at Jamestown a fort “having three Bulwarkes at every corner like a halfe Moone, and foure or five pieces of Artillerie mounted in them,” a street or two of reed-thatched cabins, a church to match, a storehouse, a market-place and drill ground, and about all a stout palisade with a gate upon the river side. He left corn sown and springing high, and some food in the storehouse. And he left a hundred Englishmen who had now tasted of the country fare and might reasonably fear no worse chance than had yet befallen. Newport promised to return in twenty weeks with full supplies.

John Smith says that his enemies, chief amongst whom was Wingfield, would have sent him with Newport to England, there to stand trial for attempted mutiny, whereupon he demanded a trial in Virginia, and got it and was fully cleared. He now takes his place in the Council, beforetime denied him. He has good words only for Robert Hunt, the chaplain, who, he says, went from one to the other with the best of counsel. Were they not all here in the wilderness together, with the savages hovering about them like the Philistines about the Jews of old? How should the English live, unless among themselves they lived in amity? So for the moment factions were reconciled, and all went to church to partake of the Holy Communion.

Newport sailed, having in the holds of his ships sassafras and valuable woods but no gold to meet the London Council’s hopes, nor any certain news of the South Sea. In due time he reached England, and in due time he turned and came again to Virginia. But long was the sailing to and fro between the daughter country and the mother country and the lading and unlading at either shore. It was seven months before Newport came again.

While he sails, and while England-in-America watches for him longingly, look for a moment at the attitude of Spain, falling old in the procession of world-powers, but yet with grip and cunning left. Spain misliked that English New World venture. She wished to keep these seas for her own; only, with waning energies, she could not always enforce what she conceived to be her right. By now there was seen to be much clay indeed in the image. Philip the Second was dead; and Philip the Third, an indolent king, lived in the Escurial.

Pedro de Zuniga is the Spanish Ambassador to the English Court. He has orders from Philip to keep him informed, and this he does, and from time to time suggests remedies. He writes of Newport and the First Supply. “Sire. . . . Captain Newport makes haste to return with some people–and there have combined merchants and other persons who desire to establish themselves there; because it appears to them the most suitable place that they have discovered for privateering and making attacks upon the merchant fleets of Your Majesty. Your Majesty will command to see whether they will be allowed to remain there . . . . They are in a great state of excitement about that place, and very much afraid lest Your Majesty should drive them out of it . . . . And there are so many . . . who speak already of sending people to that country, that it is advisable not to be too slow; because they will soon be found there with large numbers of people.”* In Spain the Council of State takes action upon Zuniga’s communications and closes a report to the King with these words: “The actual taking possession will be to drive out of Virginia all who are there now, before they are reenforced, and .. . . it will be well to issue orders that the small fleet stationed to the windward, which for so many years has been in state of preparation, should be instantly made ready and forthwith proceed to drive out all who are now in Virginia, since their small numbers will make this an easy task, and this will suffice to prevent them from again coming to that place.” Upon this is made a Royal note: “Let such measures be taken in this business as may now and hereafter appear proper.”

* Brown’s “Genesis of the United States”, vol. 1, pp. 116-118.

It would seem that there was cause indeed for watching down the river by that small, small town that was all of the United States! But there follows a Spanish memorandum. “The driving out . . . by the fleet stationed to the windward will be postponed for a long time because delay will be caused by getting it ready.”* Delay followed delay, and old Spain–conquistador Spain –grew older, and the speech on Jamestown Island is still English.

* Op. cit., vol. 1, p. 127.

Christopher Newport was gone; no ships–the last refuges, the last possibilities for hometurning, should the earth grow too hard and the sky too black–rode upon the river before the fort. Here was the summer heat. A heavy breath rose from immemorial marshes, from the ancient floor of the forest. When clouds gathered and storms burst, they amazed the heart with their fearful thunderings and lightnings. The colonists had no well, but drank from the river, and at neither high nor low tide found the water wholesome. While the ships were here they had help of ship stores, but now they must subsist upon the grain that they had in the storehouse, now scant and poor enough. They might fish and hunt, but against such resources stood fever and inexperience and weakness, and in the woods the lurking savages. The heat grew greater, the water worse, the food less. Sickness began. Work became toil. Men pined from homesickness, then, coming together, quarreled with a weak violence, then dropped away again into corners and sat listlessly with hanging heads.

“The sixth of August there died John Asbie of the bloodie Flixe. The ninth day died George Flowre of the swelling. The tenth day died William Bruster gentleman, of a wound given by the Savages …. The fourteenth day Jerome Alikock, Ancient, died of a wound, the same day Francis Mid-winter, Edward Moris, Corporall, died suddenly. The fifteenth day their died Edward Browne and Stephen Galthrope. The sixteenth day their died Thomas Gower gentleman. The seventeenth day their died Thomas Mounslie. The eighteenth day theer died Robert Pennington and John Martine gentlemen. The nineteenth day died Drue Piggase gentleman.

“The two and twentieth day of August there died Captain Bartholomew Gosnold one of our Councell, he was honourably buried having all the Ordnance in the Fort shot off, with many vollies of small shot ….

“The foure and twentieth day died Edward Harrington and George Walker and were buried the same day. The six and twentieth day died Kenelme Throgmortine. The seven and twentieth day died William Roods. The eight and twentieth day died Thomas Stoodie, Cape Merchant. The fourth day of September died Thomas Jacob,Sergeant. The fifth day there died Benjamin Beast . . . .”*

* Percy’s “Discourse.”

Extreme misery makes men blind, unjust, and weak of judgment. Here was gross wretchedness, and the colonists proceeded to blame A and B and C, lost all together in the wilderness. It was this councilor or that councilor, this ambitious one or that one, this or that almost certainly ascertained traitor! Wanting to steal the pinnace, the one craft left by Newport, wanting to steal away in the pinnace and leave the mass–small enough mass now!–without boat or raft or straw to cling to, made the favorite accusation. Upon this count, early in September, Wingfield was deposed from the presidency. Ratcliffe succeeded him, but presently Ratcliffe fared no better. One councilor fared worse, for George Kendall, accused of plotting mutiny and pinnace stealing, was given trial, found guilty, and shot.

“The eighteenth day [of September] died one Ellis Kinistone . . .. The same day at night died one Richard Simmons. The nineteenth day there died one Thomas Mouton . . . .”

What went on, in Virginia, in the Indian mind, can only be conjectured. As little as the white mind could it foresee the trend of events or the ultimate outcome of present policy. There was exhibited a see-saw policy, or perhaps no policy at all, only the emotional fit as it came hot or cold. The friendly act trod upon the hostile, the hostile upon the friendly. Through the miserable summer the hostile was uppermost; then with the autumn appeared the friendly mood, fortunate enough for “the most feeble wretches” at Jamestown. Indians came laden with maize and venison. The heat was a thing of the past; cool and bracing weather appeared; and with it great flocks of wild fowl, “swans, geese, ducks and cranes.” Famine vanished, sickness decreased. The dead were dead. Of the hundred and four persons left by Newport less than fifty had survived. But these may be thought of as indeed seasoned.


With the cool weather began active exploration, the object in chief the gathering from the Indians, by persuasion or trade or show of force, food for the approaching winter. Here John Smith steps forward as leader.

There begins a string of adventures of that hardy and romantic individual. How much in Smith’s extant narrations is exaggeration, how much is dispossession of others’ merits in favor of his own, it is difficult now to say.* A thing that one little likes is his persistent depreciation of his fellows. There is but one Noble Adventurer, and that one is John Smith. On the other hand evident enough are his courage and initiative, his ingenuity, and his rough, practical sagacity. Let us take him at something less than his own valuation, but yet as valuable enough. As for his adventures, real or fictitious, one may see in them epitomized the adventures of many and many men, English, French, Spanish, Dutch, blazers of the material path for the present civilization.

* Those who would strike John Smith from the list of historians will commend the author’s caution to the reader before she lets the Captain tell his own tale. Whatever Smith may not have been, he was certainly a consummate raconteur. He belongs with the renowned story-tellers of the world, if not with the veracious chroniclers.–Editor.

In December, rather autumn than winter in this region, he starts with the shallop and a handful of men up a tributary river that they have learned to call the Chickahominy. He is going for corn, but there is also an idea that he may hear news of that wished-for South Sea.

The Chickahominy proved itself a wonderland of swamp and tree-choked streams. Somewhere up its chequered reaches Smith left the shallop with men to guard it, and, taking two of the party with two Indian guides, went on in a canoe up a narrower way. Presently those left with the boat incautiously go ashore and are attacked by Indians. One is taken, tortured, and slain. The others get back to their boat and so away, down the Chickahominy and into the now somewhat familiar James. But Smith with his two men, Robinson and Emry, are now alone in the wilderness, up among narrow waters, brown marshes, fallen and obstructing tree trunks. Now come the men-hunting Indians – the King of Pamaunck, says Smith, with two hundred bowmen. Robinson and Emry are shot full of arrows. Smith is wounded, but with his musket deters the foe, killing several of the savages. His eyes upon them, he steps backward, hoping he may beat them off till he shall recover the shallop, but meets with the ill chance of a boggy and icy stream into which he stumbles, and here is taken.

See him now before “Opechancanough, King of Pamaunck!” Savages and procedures of the more civilized with savages have, the world over, a family resemblance. Like many a man before him and after, Smith casts about for a propitiatory wonder. He has with him, so fortunately, “a round ivory double-compass dial.” This, with a genial manner, he would present to Opechancanough. The savages gaze, cannot touch through the glass the moving needle, grunt their admiration. Smith proceeds, with gestures and what Indian words he knows, to deliver a scientific lecture. Talking is best anyhow, will give them less time in which to think of those men he shot. He tells them that the world is round, and discourses about the sun and moon and stars and the alternation of day and night. He speaks with eloquence of the nations of the earth, of white men, yellow men, black men, and red men, of his own country and its grandeurs, and would explain antipodes.

Apparently all is waste breath and of no avail, for in an hour see him bound to a tree, a sturdy figure of a man, bearded and moustached, with a high forehead, clad in shirt and jerkin and breeches and hosen and shoon, all by this time, we may be sure, profoundly in need of repair. The tree and Smith are ringed by Indians, each of whom has an arrow fitted to his bow. Almost one can hear a knell ringing in the forest! But Opechancanough, moved by the compass, or willing to hear more of seventeenth-century science, raises his arm and stops the execution. Unbinding Smith, they take him with them as a trophy. Presently all reach their town of Orapaks.

Here he was kindly treated. He saw Indian dances, heard Indian orations. The women and children pressed about him and admired him greatly. Bread and venison were given him in such quantity that he feared that they meant to fatten and eat him. It is, moreover, dangerous to be considered powerful where one is scarcely so. A young Indian lay mortally ill, and they took Smith to him and demanded that forthwith he be cured. If the white man could kill — how they were not able to see — he could likewise doubtless restore life. But the Indian presently died. His father, crying out in fury, fell upon the stranger who could have done so much and would not! Here also coolness saved the white man.

Smith was now led in triumph from town to town through the winter woods. The James was behind him, the Chickahominy also; he was upon new great rivers, the Pamunkey and the Rappahannock. All the villages were much alike, alike the still woods, the sere patches from which the corn had been taken, the bear, the deer, the foxes, the turkeys that were met with, the countless wild fowl. Everywhere were the same curious, crowding savages, the fires, the rustic cookery, the covering skins of deer and fox and otter, the oratory, the ceremonial dances, the manipulations of medicine men or priests–these last, to the Englishmen, pure “devils with antique tricks.” Days were consumed in this going from place to place. At one point was produced a bag of gunpowder, gained in some way from Jamestown. It was being kept with care to go into the earth in the spring and produce, when summer came, some wonderful crop.

Opechancanough was a great chief, but higher than he moved Powhatan, chief of chiefs. This Indian was yet a stranger to the English in Virginia. Now John Smith was to make his acquaintance.

Werowocomoco stood upon a bluff on the north side of York River. Here came Smith and his captors, around them the winter woods, before them the broad blue river. Again the gathered Indians, men and women, again the staring, the handling, the more or less uncomplimentary remarks; then into the Indian ceremonial lodge he was pushed. Here sat the chief of chiefs, Powhatan, and he had on a robe of raccoon skins with all the tails hanging. About him sat his chief men, and behind these were gathered women. All were painted, head and shoulders; all wore, bound about the head, adornments meant to strike with beauty or with terror; all had chains of beads. Smith does not report what he said to Powhatan, or Powhatan to him. He says that the Queen of Appamatuck brought him water for his hands, and that there was made a great feast. When this was over, the Indians held a council. It ended in a death decree. Incontinently Smith was seized, dragged to a great stone lying before Powhatan, forced down and bound. The Indians made ready their clubs; meaning to batter his brains out. Then, says Smith, occurred the miracle.

A child of Powhatan’s, a very young girl called Pocahontas, sprang from among the women, ran to the stone, and with her own body sheltered that of the Englishman….*

* A vast amount of erudition has been expended by historical students to establish the truth or falsity of this Pocahontas story. The author has refrained from entering the controversy, preferring to let the story stand as it was told by Captain Smith in his “General History” (1624).–Editor.

What, in Powhatan’s mind, of hesitation, wiliness, or good nature backed his daughter’s plea is not known. But Smith did not have his brains beaten out. He was released, taken by some form of adoption into the tribe, and set to using those same brains in the making of hatchets and ornaments. A few days passed and he was yet further enlarged. Powhatan longed for two of the great guns possessed by the white men and for a grindstone. He would send Smith back to Jamestown if in return he was sure of getting those treasures. It is to be supposed that Smith promised him guns and grindstones as many as could be borne away.

So Werowocomoco saw him depart, twelve Indians for escort. He had leagues to go, a night or two to spend upon the march. Lying in the huge winter woods, he expected, on the whole, death before morning. But “Almighty God mollified the hearts of those sterne barbarians with compassion.” And so he was restored to Jamestown, where he found more dead than when he left. Some there undoubtedly welcomed him as a strong man restored when there was need of strong men. Others, it seems, would as lief that Pocahontas had not interfered.

The Indians did not get their guns and grindstones. But Smith loaded a demi-culverin with stones and fired upon a great tree, icicle-hung. The gun roared, the boughs broke, the ice fell rattling, the smoke spread, the Indians cried out and cowered away. Guns and grindstone, Smith told them, were too violent and heavy devils for them to carry from river to river. Instead he gave them, from the trading store, gifts enticing to the savage eye, and not susceptible of being turned against the donors.

Here at Jamestown in midwinter were more food and less mortal sickness than in the previous fearful summer, yet no great amount of food, and now suffering, too, from bitter cold. Nor had the sickness ended, nor dissensions. Less than fifty men were all that held together England and America–a frayed cord, the last strands of which might presently part . . . .

Then up the river comes Christopher Newport in the Francis and John, to be followed some weeks later by the Phoenix. Here is new life–stores for the settlers and a hundred new Virginians! How certain, at any rate, is the exchange of talk of home and hair-raising stories of this wilderness between the old colonists and the new! And certain is the relief and the renewed hopes. Mourning turns to joy. Even a conflagration that presently destroys the major part of the town can not blast that felicity.

Again Newport and Smith and others went out to explore the country. They went over to Werowocomoco and talked with Powhatan. He told them things which they construed to mean that the South Sea was near at hand, and they marked this down as good news for the home Council–still impatient for gold and Cathay. On their return to Jamestown they found under way new and stouter houses. The Indians were again friendly; they brought venison and turkeys and corn. Smith says that every few days came Pocahontas and attendant women bringing food.

Spring came again with the dogwood and the honeysuckle and the strawberries, the gay, returning birds, the barred and striped and mottled serpents. The colony was one year old. Back to England sailed the Francis and John and the Phoenix, carrying home Edward-Maria Wingfield, who has wearied of Virginia and will return no more.

What rests certain and praiseworthy in Smith is his thoroughness and daring in exploration. This summer he went with fourteen others down the river in an open boat, and so across the great bay, wide as a sea, to what is yet called the Eastern Shore, the counties now of Accomac and Northampton. Rounding Cape Charles these indefatigable explorers came upon islets beaten by the Atlantic surf. These they named Smith’s Islands. Landing upon the main shore, they met “grimme and stout” savages, who took them to the King of Accomac, and him they found civil enough. This side of the great bay, with every creek and inlet, Smith examined and set down upon the map he was making. Even if he could find no gold for the Council at home, at least he would know what places were suited for “harbours and habitations.” Soon a great storm came up, and they landed again, met yet other Indians, went farther, and were in straits for fresh water. The weather became worse; they were in danger of shipwreck–had to bail the boat continually. Indians gathered upon the shore and discharged flights of arrows, but were dispersed by a volley from the muskets. The bread the English had with them went bad. Wind and weather were adverse; three or four of the fifteen fell ill, but recovered. The weather improved; they came to the seven-mile-wide mouth of “Patawomeck”–the Potomac. They turned their boat up this vast stream. For a long time they saw upon the woody banks no savages. Then without warning they came upon ambuscades of great numbers “so strangely painted, grimed and disguised, shouting, yelling and crying, as we rather supposed them so many divils.” Smith, in midstream, ordered musket-fire, and the balls went grazing over the water, and the terrible sound echoed through the woods. The savages threw down their bows and arrows and made signs of friendliness. The English went ashore, hostages were exchanged, and a kind of amicableness ensued. After such sylvan entertainment Smith and his men returned to the boat. The oars dipped and rose, the bright water broke from them; and these Englishmen in Old Virginia proceeded up the Potomac. Could they have seen–could they but have seen before them, on the north bank, rising, like the unsubstantial fabric of a dream, there above the trees, a vast, white Capitol shining in the sunlight!

Far up the river, they noticed that the sand on the shore gleamed with yellow spangles. They looked and saw high rocks, and they thought that from these the rain had washed the glittering dust. Gold? Harbors they had found–but what of gold? What, even, of Cathay?

Going down stream, they sought again those friendly Indians. Did they know gold or silver? The Indians looked wise, nodded heads, and took the visitors up a little tributary river to a rocky hill in which “with shells and hatchets” they had opened as it were a mine. Here they gathered a mineral which, when powdered, they sprinkled over themselves and their idols “making them,” says the relation, “like blackamoors dusted over with silver.” The white men filled their boat with as much of this ore as they could carry. High were their hopes over it, but when it was subsequently sent to London and assayed, it was found to be worthless.

The fifteen now started homeward, out of Potomac and down the westward side of Chesapeake. In their travels they saw, besides the Indians, all manner of four-footed Virginians. Bears rolled their bulk through these forests; deer went whither they would. The explorers might meet foxes and catamounts, otter, beaver and marten, raccoon and opossum, wolf and Indian dog. Winged Virginians made the forests vocal. The owl hooted at night, and the whippoorwill called in the twilight. The streams were filled with fish. Coming to the mouth of the Rappahannock, the travelers’ boat grounded upon sand, with the tide at ebb. Awaiting the water that should lift them off, the fifteen began with their swords to spear the fish among the reeds. Smith had the ill luck to encounter a sting-ray, and received its barbed weapon through his wrist. There set in a great swelling and torment which made him fear that death was at hand. He ordered his funeral and a grave to be dug on a neighboring islet. Yet by degrees he grew better and so out of torment, and withal so hungry that he longed for supper, whereupon, with a light heart, he had his late enemy the sting-ray cooked and ate him. They then named the place Sting-ray Island and, the tide serving, got off the sand-bar and down the bay, and so came home to Jamestown, having been gone seven weeks.

Like Ulysses, Smith refuses to rust in inaction. A few days, and away he is again, first up to Rappahannock, and then across the bay. On this journey he and his men come up with the giant Susquehannocks, who are not Algonquins but Iroquois. After many hazards in which the forest and the savage play their part, Smith and his band again return to Jamestown. In all this adventuring they have gained much knowledge of the country and its inhabitants–but yet no gold, and no further news of the South Sea or of far Cathay.

It was now September and the second summer with its toll of fever victims was well-nigh over. Autumn and renewed energy were at hand. All the land turned crimson and gold. At Jamestown building went forward, together with the gathering of ripened crops, the felling of trees, fishing and fowling, and trading for Indian corn and turkeys.

One day George Percy, heading a trading party down the river, saw coming toward him a white sailed ship, the Mary and Margaret-it was Christopher Newport again, with the second supply. Seventy colonists came over on the Mary and Margaret, among them a fair number of men of note. Here were Captain Peter Wynne and Richard Waldo, “old soldiers and valiant gentlemen,” Francis West, young brother of the Lord De La Warr, Rawley Crashaw, John Codrington, Daniel Tucker, and others. This is indeed an important ship. Among the laborers, the London Council had sent eight Poles and Germans, skilled in their own country in the production of pitch, tar, glass, and soap-ashes. Here, then, begin in Virginia other blood strains than the English. And in the Mary and Margaret comes with Master Thomas Forest his wife, Mistress Forest, and her maid, by name Anne Burras. Apart from those lost ones of Raleigh’s colony at Roanoke, these are the first Englishwomen in Virginia. There may be guessed what welcome they got, how much was made of them.

Christopher Newport had from that impatient London Council somewhat strange orders. He was not to return without a lump of gold, or a certain discovery of waters pouring into the South Sea, or some notion gained of the fate of the lost colony of Roanoke. He had been given a barge which could be taken to pieces and so borne around those Falls of the Far West, then put together, and the voyage to the Pacific resumed. Moreover, he had for Powhatan, whom the minds at home figured as a sort of Asiatic Despot, a gilt crown and a fine ewer and basin, a bedstead, and a gorgeous robe.

The easiest task, that of delivering Powhatan’s present and placing an idle crown upon that Indian’s head who, among his own people, was already sufficiently supreme, might be and was performed. And Newport with a large party went again to the Falls of the Far West and miles deep into the country beyond. Here they found Indians outside the Powhatan Confederacy, but no South Sea, nor mines of gold and silver, nor any news of the lost colony of Roanoke. In December Newport left Virginia in the Mary and Margaret, and with him sailed Ratcliffe. Smith succeeded to the presidency.

About this time John Laydon, a laborer, and Anne Burras, that maid of Mistress Forest’s, fell in love and would marry. So came about the first English wedding in Virginia.

Winter followed with snow and ice, nigh two hundred people to feed, and not overmuch in the larder with which to do it. Smith with George Percy and Francis West and others went again to the Indians for corn. Christmas found them weather-bound at Kecoughtan. “Wherever an Englishman may be, and in whatever part of the world, he must keep Christmas with feasting and merriment! And, indeed, we were never more merrie, nor fedde on more plentie of good oysters, fish, flesh, wild fowle and good bread; nor never had better fires in England than in the drie, smokie houses of Kecoughtan!”

But despite this Christmas fare, there soon began quarrels, many and intricate, with Powhatan and his brother Opechancanough.


Experience is a great teacher. That London Company with Virginia to colonize had now come to see how inadequate to the attempt were its means and strength. Evidently it might be long before either gold mines or the South Sea could be found. The company’s ships were too slight and few; colonists were going by the single handful when they should go by the double. Something was at fault in the management of the enterprise. The quarrels in Virginia were too constant, the disasters too frequent. More money, more persons interested with purse and mind, a great company instead of a small, a national cast to the enterprise these were imperative needs. In the press of such demands the London Company passed away. In 1609 under new letters patent was born the Virginia Company.

The members and shareholders in this corporation touch through and through the body of England at that day. First names upon the roll come Robert Cecil, Thomas Howard, Henry Wriothesley, William Herbert, Henry Clinton, Richard Sackville, Thomas Cecil, Philip Herbert–Earls of Salisbury, Suffolk, Southampton, Pembroke, Lincoln, Dorset, Exeter, and Montgomery. Then follow a dozen peers, the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, a hundred knights, many gentlemen, one hundred and ten merchants, certain physicians and clergymen, old soldiers of the Continental wars, sea-captains and mariners, and a small host of the unclassified. In addition shares were taken by fifty-six London guilds or industrial companies. Here are the Companies of the Tallow and Wax Chandlers, the Armorers and Girdlers, Cordwayners and Carpenters, Masons, Plumbers, Founders, Poulterers, Cooks, Coopers, Tylers and Brick Layers, Bowyers and Vinters, Merchant Taylors, Blacksmiths and Weavers, Mercers, Grocers, Turners, Gardeners, Dyers, Scriveners, Fruiterers, Plaisterers, Brown Bakers, Imbroiderers, Musicians, and many more.

The first Council appointed by the new charter had fifty-two members, fourteen of whom sat in the English House of Lords, and twice that number in the Commons. Thus was Virginia well linked to Crown and Parliament.

This great commercial company had sovereign powers within Virginia. The King should have his fifth part of all ore of gold and silver; the laws and religion of England should be upheld, and no man let go to Virginia who had not first taken the oath of supremacy. But in the wide field beside all this the President–called the Treasurer -and the Council, henceforth to be chosen out of and by the whole body of subscribers, had full sway. No longer should there be a second Council sitting in Virginia, but a Governor with power, answerable only to the Company at home. That Company might tax and legislate within the Virginian field, punish the ill-doer or “rebel,” and wage war, if need be, against Indian or Spaniard:

One of the first actions of the newly constituted body was to seek remedy for the customary passage by way of the West Indies -so long and so beset by dangers. They sent forth a small ship under Captain Samuel Argall, with instructions “to attempt a direct and cleare passage, by leaving the Canaries to the East, and from thence to run a straight westerne course . . . . And so to make an experience of the Winds and Currents which have affrighted all undertakers by the North.”

This Argall, a young man with a stirring and adventurous life behind him and before him, took his ship the indicated way. He made the voyage in nine weeks, of which two were spent becalmed, and upon his return reported that it might be made in seven, “and no apparent inconvenience in the way.” He brought to the great Council of the Company a story of necessity and distress at Jamestown, and the Council lays much of the blame for that upon “the misgovernment of the Commanders, by dissention and ambition among themselves,” and upon the idleness of the general run, “active in nothing but adhearing to factions and parts.” The Council, sitting afar from a savage land, is probably much too severe. But the “factions and parts” cannot easily be denied.

Before Argall’s return, the Company had commissioned as Governor of Virginia Sir Thomas Gates, and had gathered a fleet of seven ships and two pinnaces with Sir George Somers as Admiral, in the ship called the Sea Adventure, and Christopher Newport as Vice-Admiral. All weighed anchor from Falmouth early in June and sailed by the newly tried course, south to the Canaries and then across. These seven ships carried five hundred colonists, men, women, and children.

On St. James’s day there rose and broke a fearsome storm. Two days and nights it raged, and it scattered that fleet of seven. Gates, Somers, and Newport with others of “rancke and quality” were upon the Sea Adventure. How fared this ship with one attendant pinnace we shall come to see presently. But the other ships, driven to and fro, at last found a favorable wind, and in August they sighted Virginia. On the eleventh of that month they came, storm-beaten and without Governor or Admiral or Sea Adventure, into “our Bay” and at last to “the King’s River and Town.” Here there swarmed from these ships nigh three hundred persons, meeting and met by the hundred dwelling at Jamestown. This was the third supply, but it lacked the hundred or so upon the Sea Adventure and the pinnace, and it lacked a head. “Being put ashore without their Governor or any order from him (all the Commissioners and principal persons being aboard him) no man would acknowledge a superior.”

With this multitude appeared once more in Virginia the three ancient councilors–Ratcliffe, Archer, and Martin. Apparently here came fresh fuel for factions. Who should rule, and who should be ruled? Here is an extremely old and important question, settled in history only to be unsettled again. Everywhere it rises, dust on Time’s road, and is laid only to rise again.

Smith was still President. Who was in the right and who in the wrong in these ancient quarrels, the recital of which fills the pages of Smith and of other men, is hard now to be determined. But Jamestown became a place of turbulence. Francis West was sent with a considerable number to the Falls of the Far West to make there some kind of settlement. For a like purpose Martin and Percy were dispatched to the Nansemond River. All along the line there was bitter falling out. The Indians became markedly hostile. Smith was up the river, quarreling with West and his men. At last he called them “wrongheaded asses,” flung himself into his boat, and made down the river to Jamestown. Yet even so he found no peace, for, while he was asleep in the boat, by some accident or other a spark found its way to his powder pouch. The powder exploded. Terribly hurt, he leaped overboard into the river, whence he was with difficulty rescued.

Smith was now deposed by Ratcliffe, Archer, and Martin, because, “being an ambityous, onworthy, and vayneglorious fellowe,” say his detractors, “he wolde rule all and ingrose all authority into his own hands.” Be this as it may, Smith was put on board one of the ships which were about to sail for England. Wounded, and with none at Jamestown able to heal his hurt, he was no unwilling passenger. Thus he departed, and Virginia knew Captain John Smith no more. Some liked him and his ways, some liked him not nor his ways either. He wrote of his own deeds and praised them highly, and saw little good in other mankind, though here and there he made an exception. Evident enough are faults of temper. But he had great courage and energy and at times a lofty disinterestedness.

Again winter drew on at Jamestown, and with it misery on misery. George Percy, now President, lay ill and unable to keep order. The multitude, “unbridled and heedless,” pulled this way and that. Before the cold had well begun, what provision there was in the storehouse became exhausted. That stream of corn from the Indians in which the colonists had put dependence failed to flow. The Indians themselves began systematically to spoil and murder. Ratcliffe and fourteen with him met death while loading his barge with corn upon the Pamunkey. The cold grew worse. By midwinter there was famine. The four hundred–already noticeably dwindled–dwindled fast and faster. The cold was severe; the Indians were in the woods; the weakened bodies of the white men pined and shivered. They broke up the empty houses to make fires to warm themselves. They began to die of hunger as well as by Indian arrows. On went the winter, and every day some died. Tales of cannibalism are told . . . .This was the Starving Time.

When the leaves were red and gold, England-in-America had a population of four hundred and more. When the dogwood and the strawberry bloomed, England-in-America had a population of but sixty.

Somewhat later than this time there came from the pen of Shakespeare a play dealing with a tempest and shipwreck and a magical isle and rescue thereon. The bright spirit Ariel speaks of “the still-vex’d Bermoothes.” These were islands “two hundred leagues from any continent,” named after a Spanish Captain Bermudez who had landed there. Once there had been Indians, but these the Spaniards had slain or taken as slaves. Now the islands were desolate, uninhabited, “forlorn and unfortunate.” Chance vessels might touch, but the approach was dangerous. There grew rumors of pirates, and then of demons. “The Isles of Demons,” was the name given to them. “The most forlorn and unfortunate place in the world” was the description that fitted them in those distant days:

All torment, trouble, wonder and amazement Inhabits here: some heavenly power guide us Out of this fearful country.

When Shakespeare so wrote, there was news in England and talk went to and fro of the shipwreck of the Sea Adventure upon the rocky teeth of the Bermoothes, “uninhabitable and almost inaccessible,” and of the escape and dwelling there for months of Gates and Somers and the colonists in that ship. It is generally assumed that this incident furnished timber for the framework of The Tempest.

The storm that broke on St. James’s Day, scattering the ships of the third supply, drove the Sea Adventure here and there at will. Upon her watched Gates and Somers and Newport, above a hundred men, and a few women and children. There sprang a leak; all thought of death. Then rose a cry “Land ho!” The storm abated, but the wind carried the Sea Adventure upon this shore and grounded her upon a reef. A certain R. Rich, gentleman, one of the voyagers, made and published a ballad upon the whole event. If it is hardly Shakespearean music, yet it is not devoid of interest.

. . . The Seas did rage, the windes did blowe, Distressed were they then;
Their shippe did leake, her tacklings breake, In daunger were her men;
But heaven was pylotte in this storme, And to an Iland neare,
Bermoothawes called, conducted them, Which did abate their feare.

Using the ship’s boats they got to shore, though with toil and danger. Here they found no sprites nor demons, nor even men, but a fair, half-tropical verdure and, running wild, great numbers of swine.

And then on shoare the iland came
Inhabited by hogges,
Some Foule and tortoyses there were, They only had one dogge,
To kill these swyne, to yield them foode, That little had to eate.
Their store was spent and all things scant, Alas! they wanted meate.

They did not, however, starve.

A thousand hogges that dogge did kill Their hunger to sustaine.

Ten months the Virginia colonists lived among the “still-vex’d Bermoothes.” The Sea Adventure was but a wreck pinned between the reefs. No sail was seen upon the blue water. Where they were thrown, there Gates and Somers and Newport and all must stay for a time and make the best of it. They builded huts and thatched them, and they brought from the wrecked ship, pinned but half a mile from land, stores of many kinds. The clime proved of the blandest, fairest; with fishing and hunting they maintained themselves. Days, weeks, and months went by. They had a minister, Master Buck. They brought from the ship a bell and raised it for a church-bell. A marriage, a few deaths, the birth of two children these were events on the island. One of these children, the daughter of John Rolfe, gentleman, and his wife, was christened Bermuda. Gates and Somers held kindly sway. The colonists lived in plenty, peace, and ease. But for all that, they were shipwrecked folk, and far, far out of the world, and they longed for the old ways and their own kin. Day followed day, but no sail would show to bear them thence; and so at last, taking what they could from the forests of the island, and from the Sea Adventure, they set about to become shipwrights.

And there two gallant pynases,
Did build of Seader-tree,
The brave Deliverance one was call’d, Of seaventy tonne was shee,
The other Patience had to name,
Her burthen thirty tonne . . . .

. . . The two and forty weekes being past They hoyst sayle and away;
Their shippes with hogges well freighted were, Their harts with mickle joy.

And so to Virginia came . . .

What they found when they came to Virginia was dolor enough. On Jamestown strand they beheld sixty skeletons “who had eaten all the quick things that weare there, and some of them had eaten snakes and adders.” Somers, Gates, and Newport, on entering the town, found it “rather as the ruins of some auntient fortification than that any people living might now inhabit it.”

A pitiable outcome, this, of all the hopes of fair “harbours and habitations,” of golden dreams, and farflung dominion. All those whom Raleigh had sent to Roanoke were lost or had perished. Those who had named and had first dwelled in Jamestown were in number about a hundred. To these had been added, during the first year or so, perhaps two hundred more. And the ships that had parted from the Sea Adventure had brought in three hundred. First and last, not far from seven hundred English folk had come to live in Virginia. And these skeletons eating snakes and adders were all that remained of that company; all those others had died miserably and their hopes were ashes with them.

What might Sir Thomas Gates, the Governor, do? “That which added most to his sorowe, and not a little startled him, was the impossibilitie. . how to amend one whitt of this. His forces were not of habilitie to revenge upon the Indian, nor his owne supply (now brought from the Bermudas) sufficient to relieve his people.” So he called a Council and listened in turn to Sir George Somers, to Christopher Newport, and to “the gentlemen and Counsaile of the former Government.” The end and upshot was that none could see other course than to abandon the country. England-in-America had tried and failed, and had tried again and failed. God, or the course of Nature, or the current of History was against her. Perhaps in time stronger forces and other attempts might yet issue from England. But now the hour had come to say farewell!

Upon the bosom of the river swung two pinnaces, the Discovery and the Virginia, left by the departing ships months before, and the Deliverance and the Patience, the Bermuda pinnaces. Thus the English abandoned the little town that was but three years old. Aboard the four small ships they went, and down the broad river, between the flowery shores, they sailed away. Doubtless under the trees on either hand were Indians watching this retreat of the invaders of their forests. The plan of the departing colonists was to turn north, when they had reached the sea, and make for Newfoundland, where they might perhaps meet with English fishing ships. So they sailed down the river, and doubtless many hearts were heavy and sad, but others doubtless were full of joy and thankfulness to be going back to an older home than Virginia.

The river broadened toward Chesapeake–and then, before them, what did they see? What deliverance for those who had held on to the uttermost? They saw the long boat of an English ship coming toward them with flashing oars, bringing news of comfort and relief. There, indeed, off Point Comfort lay three ships, the De La Warr, the Blessing, and the Hercules, and they brought, with a good company and good stores, Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, appointed, over Gates, Lord Governor and CaptainGeneral, by land and sea, of the Colony of Virginia.

The Discovery, the Virginia, the Patience, and the Deliverance thereupon put back to that shore they thought to have left forever. Two days later, on Sunday the 10th of June, 1610, there anchored before Jamestown the De La Warr, the Blessing, and the Hercules; and it was thus that the new Lord Governor wrote home: “I . . . in the afternoon went ashore, where after a sermon made by Mr. Buck . . . I caused my commission to be read, upon which Sir Thomas Gates delivered up …unto me his owne commission, both patents, and the counsell seale; and then I delivered some few wordes unto the Company .. . . and after . . . did constitute and give place of office and chardge to divers Captaines and gentlemen and elected unto me a counsaile.”

The dead was alive again. Saith Rich’s ballad:

And to the adventurers* thus he writes, “Be not dismayed at all,
For scandall cannot doe us wrong,
God will not let us fall.
Let England knowe our willingnesse, For that our worke is good,

* The Virginia Company.


In a rebuilded Jamestown, Lord De La Warr, of “approved courage, temper and experience,” held for a short interval dignified, seigneurial sway, while his restless associates adventured far and wide. Sir George Somers sailed back to the Bermudas to gather a cargo of the wild swine of those woods, but illness seized him there, and he died among the beautiful islands. That Captain Samuel Argall who had traversed for the Company the short road from the Canaries took up Smith’s fallen mantle and carried on the work of exploration. It was he who found, and named for the Lord Governor, Delaware Bay. He went up the Potomac and traded for corn; rescued an English boy from the Indians; had brushes with the savages. In the autumn back to England with a string of ships went that tried and tested seafarer Christopher Newport. Virginia wanted many things, and chiefly that the Virginia Company should excuse defect and remember promise. So Gates sailed with Newport to make true report and guide exertion. Six months passed, and the Lord Governor himself fell ill and must home to England. So away he, too, went and for seven years until his death ruled from that distance through a deputy governor. De La Warr was a man of note and worth, old privy councilor of Elizabeth and of James, soldier in the Low Countries, strong Protestant and believer in England-in-America. Today his name is borne by a great river, a great bay, and by one of the United States.

In London, the Virginia Company, having listened to Gates, projected a fourth supply for the colony. Of those hundreds who had perished in Virginia, many had been true and intelligent men, and again many perhaps had been hardly that. But the Virginia Company was now determined to exercise for the future a discrimination. It issued a broadside, making known that it was sending a new supply of men and all necessary provision in a fleet of good ships, under the conduct of Sir Thomas Gates and Sir Thomas Dale, and that it was not intended any more to burden the action with “vagrant and unnecessary persons . . . but honest and industrious men, as Carpenters, Smiths, Coopers, Fishermen, Tanners, Shoemakers, Shipwrights, Brickmen, Gardeners, Husbandmen, and laboring men of all sorts that . . . shall be entertained for the Voyage upon such termes as their qualitie and fitnesse shall deserve.” Yet, in spite of precautions, some of the other sort continued to creep in with the sober and industrious. Master William Crashaw, in a sermon upon the Virginia venture, remarks that “they who goe . . . be like for aught I see to those who are left behind, even of all sorts better and worse!” This probably hits the mark.

The Virginia Company meant at last to have order in Virginia. To this effect, a new office was created and a strong man was found to fill it. Gates remained De La Warr’s deputy governor, but Sir Thomas Dale went as Marshal of Virginia. The latter sailed in March, 1611, with “three ships, three hundred people, twelve kine, twenty goats, and all things needful for the colony.” Gates followed in May with other ships, three hundred colonists, and much cattle.

For the next few years Dale becomes, in effect, ruler of Virginia. He did much for the colony, and therefore, in that far past that is not so distant either, much for the United States – a man of note, and worth considering.

Dale had seen many years of service in the Low Countries. He was still in Holland when the summons came to cross the ocean in the service of the Virginia Company. On the recommendation of Henry, Prince of Wales, the States-General of the United Netherlands consented “that Captain Thomas Dale (destined by the King of Great Britain to be employed in Virginia in his Majesty’s service) may absent himself from his company for the space of three years, and that his said company shall remain meanwhile vacant, to be resumed by him if he think proper.”

This man had a soldier’s way with him and an iron will. For five years in Virginia he exhibited a certain stern efficiency which was perhaps the best support and medicine that could have been devised. At the end of that time, leaving Virginia, he did not return to the Dutch service, but became Admiral of the fleet of the English East India Company, thus passing from one huge historic mercantile company to another. With six ships he sailed for India. Near Java, the English and the Dutch having chosen to quarrel, he had with a Dutch fleet “a cruel, bloody fight.” Later, when peace was restored, the East India Company would have given him command of an allied fleet of English and Dutch ships, the objective being trade along the coast of Malabar and an attempt to open commerce with the Chinese. But Sir Thomas Dale was opening commerce with a vaster, hidden land, for at Masulipatam he died. “Whose valor,” says his epitaph, “having shined in the Westerne, was set in the Easterne India.”

But now in Maytime of 1611 Dale was in Virginian waters. By this day, beside the main settlement of Jamestown, there were at Cape Henry and Point Comfort small forts garrisoned with meager companies of men. Dale made pause at these, setting matters in order, and then, proceeding up the river, he came to Jamestown and found the people gathered to receive him. Presently he writes home to the Company a letter that gives a view of the place and its needs. Any number of things must be done, requiring continuous and hard work, “as, namely, the reparation of the falling Church and so of the Store-house, a stable for our horses, a munition house, a Powder house, a new well for the amending of the most unwholesome water which the old afforded. Brick to be made, a sturgion house . . . a Block house to be raised on the North side of our back river to prevent the Indians from killing our cattle, a house to be set up to lodge our cattle in the winter, and hay to be appointed in his due time to be made, a smith’s forge to be perfected, caske for our Sturgions to be made, and besides private gardens for each man common gardens for hemp and flax and such other seeds, and lastly a bridge to land our goods dry and safe upon, for most of which I take present order.”

Dale would have agreed with Dr. Watts that

Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do!

If we of the United States today will call to mind certain Western small towns of some decades ago–if we will review them as they are pictured in poem and novel and play–we may receive, as it were out of the tail of the eye, an impression of some aspects of these western plantings of the seventeenth century. The dare-devil, the bully, the tenderfoot, the gambler, the gentleman-desperado had their counterparts in Virginia. So had the cool, indomitable sheriff and his dependable posse, the friends generally of law and order. Dale may be viewed as the picturesque sheriff of this earlier age.

But it must be remembered that this Virginia was of the seventeenth, not of the nineteenth century. And law had cruel and idiot faces as well as faces just and wise. Hitherto the colony possessed no written statutes. The Company now resolved to impose upon the wayward an iron restraint. It fell to Dale to enforce the regulations known as “Lawes and Orders, dyvine, politique, and martiall for the Colonye of Virginia”–not English civil law simply, but laws “chiefly extracted out of the Lawes for governing the army in the Low Countreys.” The first part of this code was compiled by William Strachey; the latter part is thought to have been the work of Sir Edward Cecil, Sir Thomas Gates, and Dale himself, approved and accepted by the Virginia Company. Ten years afterwards, defending itself before a Committee of Parliament, the Company through its Treasurer declared “the necessity of such laws, in some cases ad terrorem, and in some to be truly executed.”

Seventeenth-century English law herself was terrible enough in all conscience, but “Dale’s Laws” went beyond. Offences ranged from failure to attend church and idleness to lese majeste. The penalties were gross–cruel whippings, imprisonments, barbarous puttings to death. The High Marshal held the unruly down with a high hand.

But other factors than this Draconian code worked at last toward order in this English West. Dale was no small statesman, and he played ferment against ferment. Into Virginia now first came private ownership of land. So much was given to each colonist, and care of this booty became to each a preoccupation. The Company at home sent out more and more settlers, and more and more of the industrious, peace-loving sort. By 1612 the English in America numbered about eight hundred. Dale projected another town, and chose for its site the great horseshoe bend in the river a few miles below the Falls of the Far West, at a spot we now call Dutch Gap. Here Dale laid out a town which he named Henricus after the Prince of Wales, and for its citizens he drafted from Jamestown three hundred persons. To him also are due Bermuda and Shirley Hundreds and Dale’s Gift over on the Eastern Shore. As the Company sent over more colonists, there began to show, up and down the James though at far intervals, cabins and clearings made by white men, set about with a stockade, and at the river edge a rude landing and a fastened boat. The restless search for mines of gold and silver now slackened. Instead eyes turned for wealth to the kingdom of the plant and tree, and to fur trade and fisheries.

* Hitherto there had been no trading or landholding by individuals. All the colonists contributed the products of their toil to the common store and received their supplies from the Company. The adventurers (stockholders) contributed money to the enterprise; the colonists, themselves and their labor.

Those ships that brought colonists were in every instance expected to return to England laden with the commodities of Virginia. At first cargoes of precious ores were looked for. These failing, the Company must take from Virginia what lay at hand and what might be suited to English needs. In 1610 the Company issued a paper of instructions upon this subject of Virginia commodities. The daughter was expected to send to the mother country sassafras root, bay berries, puccoon, sarsaparilla, walnut, chestnut, and chinquapin oil, wine, silk grass, beaver cod, beaver and otter skins, clapboard of oak and walnut, tar, pitch, turpentine, and powdered sturgeon.

It might seem that Virginia was headed to become a land of fishers, of foresters, and vine dressers, perhaps even, when the gold should be at last discovered, of miners. At home, the colonizing merchants and statesmen looked for some such thing. In return for what she laded into ships, Virginia was to receive English-made goods, and to an especial degree woolen goods, “a very liberall utterance of our English cloths into a maine country described to be bigger than all Europe.” There was to be direct trade, country kind for country kind, and no specie to be taken out of England. The promoters at home doubtless conceived a hardy and simple trans-Atlantic folk of their own kindred, planters for their own needs, steady consumers of the plainer sort of English wares, steady gatherers, in return, of necessaries for which England otherwise must trade after a costly fashion with lands which were not always friendly. A simple, sturdy, laborious Virginia, white men and Indians. If this was their dream, reality was soon to modify it.

A new commodity of unsuspected commercial value began now to be grown in garden-plots along the James — the “weed” par excellence, tobacco. That John Rolfe who had been shipwrecked on the Sea Adventure was now a planter in Virginia. His child Bermuda had died in infancy, and his wife soon after their coming to Jamestown. Rolfe remained, a young man, a good citizen, and a Christian. And he loved tobacco. On that trivial fact hinges an important chapter in the economic history of America. In 1612 Rolfe planted tobacco in his own garden, experimented with its culture, and prophesied that the Virginian weed would rank with the best Spanish. It was now a shorter plant, smaller-leafed and smaller-flowered, but time and skilful gardening would improve it.

England had known tobacco for thirty years, owing its introduction to Raleigh. At first merely amused by the New World rarity, England was now by general use turning a luxury into a necessity. More and more she received through Dutch and Spanish ships tobacco from the Indies. Among the English adventurers to Virginia some already knew the uses of the weed; others soon learned from the Indians. Tobacco was perhaps not indigenous to Virginia, but had probably come through southern tribes who in turn had gained it from those who knew it in its tropic habitat. Now, however, tobacco was grown by all Virginia Indians, and was regarded as the Great Spirit’s best gift. In the final happy hunting-ground, kings, werowances, and priests enjoyed it forever. When, in the time after the first landing, the Indians brought gifts to the adventurers as to beings from a superior sphere, they offered tobacco as well as comestibles like deer-meat and mulberries. Later, in England and in Virginia, there was some suggestion that it might be cultivated among other commodities. But the Company, not to be diverted from the path to profits, demanded from Virginia necessities and not new-fangled luxuries. Nevertheless, a little tobacco was sent over to England, and then a little more, and then a larger quantity. In less than five years it had become a main export; and from that time to this profoundly has it affected the life of Virginia and, indeed, of the United States.

This then is the wide and general event with which John Rolfe is connected. But there is also a narrower, personal happening that has pleased all these centuries. Indian difficulties yet abounded, but Dale, administrator as well as man of Mars, wound his way skilfully through them all. Powhatan brooded to one side, over there at Werowocomoco. Captain Samuel Argall was again in Virginia, having brought over sixty-two colonists in his ship, the Treasurer. A bold and restless man, explorer no less than mariner, he again went trading up the Potomac, and visited upon its banks the village of Japazaws, kinsman of Powhatan. Here he found no less a personage than Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas. An idea came into Argall’s active and somewhat unscrupulous brain. He bribed Japazaws with a mighty gleaming copper kettle, and by that chief’s connivance took Pocahontas from the village above the Potomac. He brought her captive in his boat down the Chesapeake to the mouth of the James and so up the river to Jamestown, here to be held hostage for an Indian peace. This was in 1613.

Pocahontas stayed by the James, in the rude settlers’ town, which may have seemed to the Indian girl stately and wonderful enough. Here Rolfe made her acquaintance, here they talked together, and here, after some scruples on his part as to “heathennesse,” they were married. He writes of “her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God; her capableness of understanding; her aptnesse and willingnesse to recieve anie good impression, and also the spiritual, besides her owne incitements stirring me up hereunto.” First she was baptized, receiving the name Rebecca, and then she was married to Rolfe in the flower-decked church at Jamestown. Powhatan was not there, but he sent young chiefs, her brothers, in his place. Rolfe had lands and cabins thereupon up the river near Henricus. He called this place Varina, the best Spanish tobacco being Varinas. Here he and Pocahontas dwelled together “civilly and lovingly.” When two years had passed the couple went with their infant son upon a visit to England. There court and town and country flocked to see the Indian “princess.” After a time she and Rolfe would go back to Virginia. But at Gravesend, before their ship sailed, she was stricken with smallpox and died, making “a religious and godly end,” and there at Gravesend she is buried. Her son, Thomas Rolfe, who was brought up in England, returned at last to Virginia and lived out his life there with his wife and children. Today no small host of Americans have for ancestress the daughter of Powhatan. In England-in-America the immediate effect of the marriage was really to procure an Indian peace outlasting Pocahontas’s brief life.

In Dale’s years there rises above the English horizon the cloud of New France. The old, disaster-haunted Huguenot colony in Florida was a thing of the past, to be mourned for when the Spaniard wiped it out–for at that time England herself was not in America. But now that she was established there, with some hundreds of men in a Virginia that stretched from Spanish Florida to Nova Scotia, the French shadow seemed ominous. And just in this farther region, amid fir-trees and snow, upon the desolate Bay of Fundy, the French for some years had been keeping the breath of life in a huddle of cabins named Port Royal. More than this, and later than the Port Royal building, Frenchmen–Jesuits that!–were trying a settlement on an island now called Mount Desert, off a coast now named Maine. The Virginia Company-doubtless with some reference back to the King and Privy Council–De La Warr, Gates, the deputy governor, and Dale, the High Marshal, appear to have been of one mind as to these French settlements. Up north there was still Virginia–in effect, England! Hands off, therefore, all European peoples speaking with an un-English tongue!

Now it happened about this time that Captain Samuel Argall received a commission “to go fishing,” and that he fished off that coast that is now the coast of Maine, and brought his ship to anchor by Mount Desert. Argall, a swift and high-handed person, fished on dry land. He swept into his net the Jesuits on Mount Desert, set half of them in an open boat to meet with what ship they might, and brought the other half captive to Jamestown. Later, he appeared before Port Royal, where he burned the cabins, slew the cattle, and drove into the forest the settler Frenchmen. But Port Royal and the land about it called Acadia, though much hurt, survived Argall’s fishing.*

* Argall, on his fishing trip, has been credited with attacking not only the French in Acadia but the Dutch traders on Manhattan. But there are grounds for doubt if he did the latter.

There was also on Virginia in these days the shadow of Spain. In 1611 the English had found upon the beach near Point Comfort three Spaniards from a Spanish caravel which, as the Englishmen had learned with alarm, “was fitted with a shallop necessarie and propper to discover freshetts, rivers, and creekes.” They took the three prisoner and applied for instructions to Dale, who held them to be spies and clapped them into prison at Point Comfort.

That Dale’s suspicions were correct, is proved by a letter which the King of Spain wrote in cipher to the Spanish Ambassador in London ordering him to confer with the King as to the liberty of three prisoners whom Englishmen in Virginia have captured. The three are “the Alcayde Don Diego de Molino, Ensign Marco Antonio Perez, and Francisco Lembri an English pilot, who by my orders went to reconnoitre those ports.” Small wonder that Dale was apprehensive. “What may be the daunger of this unto us,” he wrote home, “who are here so few, so weake, and unfortified, . . . I refer me to your owne honorable knowledg.”

Months pass, and the English Ambassador to Spain writes from Madrid that he “is not hasty to advertise anything upon bare rumours, which hath made me hitherto forbeare to write what I had generally heard of their intents against Virginia, but now I have been . . . advertised that without question they will speedily attempt against our plantation there. And that it is a thing resolved of, that ye King of Spain must run any hazard with England rather than permit ye English to settle there . . . .Whatsoever is attempted, I conceive will be from ye Havana.”

Rumors fly back and forth. The next year 1613–the Ambassador writes from Madrid: “They have latelie had severall Consultations about our Plantation in Virginia. The resolution is–That it must be removed, but they thinke it fitt to suspend the execution of it, . . . for that they are in hope that it will fall of itselfe.”

The Spanish hope seemed, at this time, not at all without foundation. Members of the Virginia Company had formed the Somers Islands Company named for Somers the Admiral–and had planted a small colony in Bermuda where the Sea Adventure had been wrecked. Here were fair, fertile islands without Indians, and without the diseases that seemed to rise, no man knew how, from the marshes along those lower reaches of the great river James in Virginia. Young though it was, the new plantation “prospereth better than that of Virginia, and giveth greater incouragement to prosecute yt.” In England there arose, from some concerned, the cry to Give up Virginia that has proved a project awry! As Gates was once about to remove thence every living man, so truly they might “now removed to these more hopeful islands!” The Spanish Ambassador is found writing to the Spanish King: “Thus they are here discouraged . . . on account of the heavy expenses they have incurred, and the disappointment, that there is no passage from there to the South Sea . . . nor mines of gold or silver.” This, be it noted, was before tobacco was discovered to be an economic treasure.

The Elizabeth from London reached Virginia in May, 1613. It brought to the colony news of Bermuda, and incidentally of that new notion brewing in the mind of some of the Company. When the Elizabeth, after a month in Virginia, turned homeward, she carried a vigorous letter from Dale, the High Marshal, to Sir Thomas Smith, Treasurer of the Company.

“Let me tell you all at home [writes Dale] this one thing, and I pray remember it; if you give over this country and loose it, you, with your wisdoms, will leap such a gudgeon as our state hath not done the like since they lost the Kingdom of France; be not gulled with the clamorous report of base people; believe Caleb and Joshua; if the glory of God have no power with them and the conversion of these poor infidels, yet let the rich mammons’ desire egge them on to inhabit these countries. I protest to you, by the faith of an honest man, the more I range the country the more I admire it. I have seen the best countries in Europe; I protest to you, before the Living God, put them all together, this country will be equivalent unto them if it be inhabited with good people.”

If ever Mother England seriously thought of moving Virginia into Bermuda, the idea was now given over. Spain, suspending the sword until Virginia “will fall of itselfe,” saw that sword rust away.

Five years in all Dale ruled Virginia. Then, personal and family matters calling, he sailed away home to England, to return no more. Soon his star “having shined in the Westerne, was set in the Easterne India.” At the helm in Virginia he left George Yeardley, an honest, able man. But in England, what was known as the “court party” in the Company managed to have chosen instead for De La Warr’s deputy governor, Captain Samuel Argall. It proved an unfortunate choice. Argall, a capable and daring buccaneer, fastened on Virginia as on a Spanish galleon. For a year he ruled in his own interest, plundering and terrorizing. At last the outcry against him grew so loud that it had to be listened to across the Atlantic. Lord De La Warr was sent out in person to deal with matters but died on the way; and Captain Yeardley, now knighted and appointed Governor, was instructed to proceed against the incorrigible Argall. But Argall had already departed to face his accusers in England.


The choice of Sir Edwyn Sandys as Treasurer of the Virginia Company in 1619 marks a turningpoint in the history of both Company and colony. At a moment when James I was aiming at absolute monarchy and was menacing Parliament, Sandys and his party–the Liberals of the day–turned the sessions of the Company into a parliament where momentous questions of state and colonial policy were freely debated. The liberal spirit of Sandys cast a beam of light, too, across the Atlantic. When Governor Yeardley stepped ashore at Jamestown in mid-April, he brought with him, as the first fruits of the new regime, no less a boon than the grant of a representative assembly.

There were to be in Virginia, subject to the Company, subject in its turn to the Crown, two “Supreme Councils,” one of which was to consist of the Governor and his councilors chosen by the Company in England. The other was to be elected by the colonists, two representatives or burgesses from each distinct settlement. Council and House of Burgesses were to constitute the upper and lower houses of the General Assembly. The whole had power to legislate upon Virginian affairs within the bounds of the colony, but the Governor in Virginia and the Company in England must approve its acts.

A mighty hope in small was here! Hedged about with provisions, curtailed and limited, here nevertheless was an acorn out of which, by natural growth and some mutation, was to come popular government wide and deep. The planting of this small seed of freedom here, in 1619, upon the banks of the James in Virginia, is an event of prime importance.

On the 30th of July, 1619, there was convened in the log church in Jamestown the first true Parliament or Legislative Assembly in America. Twenty-two burgesses sat, hat on head, in the body of the church, with the Governor and the Council in the best seats. Master John Pory, the speaker, faced the Assembly; clerk and sergeant-at-arms were at hand; Master Buck, the Jamestown minister, made the solemn opening prayer. The political divisions of this Virginia were Cities, Plantations, and Hundreds, the English population numbering now at least a thousand souls. Boroughs sending burgesses were James City, Charles City, the City of Henricus, Kecoughtan, Smith’s Hundred, Flowerdieu Hundred, Martin’s Hundred, Martin Brandon, Ward’s Plantation, Lawne’s Plantation, and Argall’s Gift. This first Assembly attended to Indian questions, agriculture, and religion.

Most notable is this year 1619, a year wrought of gold and iron. John Rolfe, back in Virginia, though without his Indian princess, who now lies in English earth, jots down and makes no comment upon what he has written: “About the last of August came in a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty Negars.”

No European state of that day, few individuals, disapproved of the African slave trade. That dark continent made a general hunting-ground. England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, captured, bought, and sold slaves. Englishmen in Virginia bought without qualm, as Englishmen in England bought without qualm. The cargo of the Dutch ship was a commonplace. The only novelty was that it was the first shipload of Africans brought to English-America. Here, by the same waters, were the beginnings of popular government and the young upas-tree of slavery. A contradiction in terms was set to resolve itself, a riddle for unborn generations of Americans.

Presently there happened another importation. Virginia, under the new management, had strongly revived. Ships bringing colonists were coming in; hamlets were building; fields were being planted; up and down were to be found churches; a college at Henricus was projected so that Indian children might be taught and converted from “heathennesse.” Yet was the population almost wholly a doublet – and – breeches – wearing population. The children for whom the school was building were Indian children. The men sailing to Virginia dreamed of a few years there and gathered wealth, and then return to England.

Apparently it was the new Treasurer, Sir Edwyn Sandys, who first grasped the essential principle of successful colonization: Virginia must be HOME to those we send! Wife and children made home. Sandys gathered ninety women, poor maidens and widows, “young, handsome, and chaste,” who were willing to emigrate and in Virginia become wives of settlers. They sailed; their passage money was paid by the men of their choice; they married–and home life began in Virginia. In due course of time appeared fair-haired children, blue or gray of eye, with all England behind them, yet native-born, Virginians from the cradle.

Colonists in number sailed now from England. Most ranks of society and most professions were represented. Many brought education, means, independent position. Other honest men, chiefly young men with little in the purse, came over under indentures, bound for a specified term of years to settlers of larger means. These indentured men are numerous; and when they have worked out their indebtedness they will take up land of their own.

An old suggestion of Dale’s now for the first time bore fruit. Over the protest of the “country party” in the Company, there began to be sent each year out of the King’s gaols a number, though not at any time a large number, of men under conviction for various crimes. This practice continued, or at intervals was resumed, for years, but its consequences were not so dire, perhaps, as we might imagine. The penal laws were execrably brutal, and in the drag-net of the law might be found many merely unfortunate, many perhaps finer than the law.

Virginia thus was founded and established. An English people moved through her forests, crossed in boats her shining waters, trod the lanes of hamlets builded of wood but after English fashions. Climate, surrounding nature, differed from old England, and these and circumstance would work for variation. But the stock was Middlesex, Surrey, Devon, and all the other shires of England. Scotchmen came also, Welshmen, and, perhaps as early as this, a few Irish. And there were De La Warr’s handful of Poles and Germans, and several French vinedressers.

Political and economic life was taking form. That huge, luxurious, thick-leafed, yellow-flowered crop, alike comforting and extravagant, that tobacco that was in much to mould manners and customs and ways of looking at things, was beginning to grow abundantly. In 1620, forty thousand pounds of tobacco went from Virginia to England; two years later went sixty thousand pounds. The best sold at two shillings the pound, the inferior for eighteen pence. The Virginians dropped all thought of sassafras and clapboard. Tobacco only had any flavor of Golconda.

At this time the rich soil, composed of layer on layer of the decay of forests that had lived from old time, was incredibly fertile. As fast as trees could be felled and dragged away, in went the tobacco. Fields must have laborers, nor did these need to be especially intelligent. Bring in indentured men to work. Presently dream that ships, English as well as Dutch, might oftener load in Africa and sell in Virginia, to furnish the dark fields with dark workers! In Dale’s time had begun the making over of land in fee simple; in Yeardley’s time every “ancient” colonist–that is every man who had come to Virginia before 1616–was given a goodly number of acres subject to a quit-rent. Men of means and influence obtained great holdings; ownership, rental, sale, and purchase of the land began in Virginia much as in older times it had begun in England. Only here, in America, where it seemed that the land could never be exhausted, individual holdings were often of great acreage. Thus arose the Virginia Planter.

In Yeardley’s time John Berkeley established at Falling Creek the first iron works ever set up in English-America. There were by this time in Virginia, glass works, a windmill, iron works. To till the soil remained the chief industry, but the tobacco culture grew until it overshadowed the maize and wheat, the pease and beans. There were cattle and swine, not a few horses, poultry, pigeons, and peacocks.

In 1621 Yeardley, desiring to be relieved, was succeeded by Sir Francis Wyatt. In October the new Governor came from England in the George, and with him a goodly company. Among others is found George Sandys, brother of Sir Edwyn. This gentleman and scholar, beneath Virginia skies and with Virginia trees and blossoms about him, translated the “Metamorphoses” of Ovid and the First Book of the “Aeneid”, both of which were published in London in 1626. He stands as the first purely literary man of the English New World. But vigorous enough literature, though the writers thereof regarded it as information only, had, from the first years, emanated from Virginia. Smith’s “True Relation”, George Percy’s “Discourse”, Strachey’s “True Repertory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates”, and his “Historie of Travaile into Virginia Brittannia”, Hamor’s “True Discourse”, Whitaker’s “Good News”–other letters and reports–had already flowered, all with something of the strength and fragrance of Elizabethan and early Jacobean work.

For some years there had seemed peace with the Indians. Doubtless members of the one race may have marauded, and members of the other showed themselves highhanded, impatient, and unjust, but the majority on each side appeared to have settled into a kind of amity. Indians came singly or in parties from their villages to the white men’s settlements, where they traded corn and venison and what not for the magic things the white man owned. A number had obtained the white man’s firearms, unwisely sold or given. The red seemed reconciled to the white’s presence in the land; the Indian village and the Indian tribal economy rested beside the English settlement, church, and laws. Doubtless a fragment of the population of England and a fragment of the English in Virginia saw in a pearly dream the red man baptized, clothed, become Christian and English. At the least, it seemed that friendliness and peace might continue.

In the spring of 1622 a concerted Indian attack and massacre fell like a bolt from the blue. Up and down the James and upon the Chesapeake, everywhere on the same day, Indians, bursting from the dark forest that was so close behind every cluster of log houses, attacked the colonists. Three hundred and fortyseven English men, women, and children were slain. But Jamestown and the plantations in its neighborhood were warned in time. The English rallied, gathered force, turned upon and beat back to the forest the Indian, who was now and for a long time to come their open foe.

There followed upon this horror not a day or a month but years of organized retaliation and systematic harrying. In the end the great majority of the Indians either fell or were pushed back toward the upper Pamunkey, the Rappahannock, the Potomac, and westward upon the great shelf or terrace of the earth that climbed to the fabled mountains. And with this westward move there passed away that old vision of wholesale Christianizing.


In November, 1620, there sailed into a quiet harbor on the coast of what is now Massachusetts a ship named the Mayflower, having on board one hundred and two English Non-conformists, men and women and with them a few children. These latest colonists held a patent from the Virginia Company and have left in writing a statement of their object: “We . . . having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia–“. The mental reservation is, of course, “where perchance we may serve God as we will!” In England there obtained in some quarters a suspicion that “they meant to make a free, popular State there.” Free — Popular — Public Good! These are words that began, in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, to shine and ring. King and people had reached the verge of a great struggle. The Virginia Company was divided, as were other groups, into factions. The court party and the country party found themselves distinctly opposed. The great, crowded meetings of the Company Sessions rang with their divisions upon policies small and large. Words and phrases, comprehensive, sonorous, heavy with the future, rose and rolled beneath the roof of their great hall. There were heard amid warm discussion: Kingdom and
Colony — Spain — Netherlands — France — Church and State — Papists and Schismatics — Duties, Tithes, Excise Petitions of Grievances — Representation — Right of Assembly. Several years earlier the King had cried, “Choose the Devil, but not Sir Edwyn Sandys!” Now he declared the Company “just a seminary to a seditious parliament!” All London resounded with the clash of parties and opinions.* “Last week the Earl of Warwick and the Lord Cavendish fell so foul at a Virginia . . . court that the lie passed and repassed . . . . The factions . . . are grown so violent that Guelfs and Ghibellines were not more animated one against another!”

* In his work on “Joint-stock Companion”, vol.II, pp. 266 ff., W. R. Scott traces the history of these acute dissensions in the Virginia Company and draws conclusions distinctly unfavorable to the management of Sandys and his party.–Editor.

Believing that the Company’s sessions foreshadowed a “seditious parliament,” James Stuart set himself with obstinacy and some cunning to the Company’s undoing. The court party gave the King aid, and circumstances favored the attempt. Captain Nathaniel Butler, who had once been Governor of the Somers Islands and had now returned to England by way of Virginia, published in London “The Unmasked Face of Our Colony in Virginia”, containing a savage attack upon every item of Virginian administration.

The King’s Privy Council summoned the Company, or rather the “country” party, to answer these and other allegations. Southampton, Sandys, and Ferrar answered with strength and cogency. But the tide was running against