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THE COLONY OF VIRGINIA
54. Two companies organized. The merchants to whom Raleigh sold his rights decided to make a fresh attempt to plant American colonies, with the idea of gaining large
profits for themselves. Accordingly they obtained in 1606 a charter from King James for two farming and trading companies — the London Company and the Plymouth Company – to operate in Virginia. They believed not only that Virginia held great riches in gold and silver, but that a thriving commerce would soon spring up between that country and England.
To the London Company the King gave lands lying between the southern boundary of the present North Carolina 1 and the mouth of Hudson River; this was
popularly called “ South GRANTS TO THE LONDON AND PLYMOUTH COMPANIES
Virginia.” The Plymouth
Company was given “North Virginia”; that is, the country north of the Potomac River and south of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It will be seen from the map that under this arrangement there was an over
1 The northern boundary of the Spanish claim in Florida.
lapping of claims, by three degrees of latitude, or about two hundred miles. The charter said that this debatable region might be settled upon by either of the companies. 1
The King believed that Cabot's discovery gave England the right to the whole North American continent. He therefore paid no heed, in the charter, to the fact that the French had recently planted the settlement of Port Royal on the Bay of Fundy, squarely within the territory now given to the North Virginia colony. This led, we shall see, to very serious quarrels between the English and the French colonies in America.
55. Popular interest in colonization. So extravagant were the tales told of America's wealth in precious stones and metals that there was now no lack of candidates for the honor of settling Virginia.? English preachers of that day did not know how prophetic were their words when they declared that “ Virginia was a door that God had opened to England." Still less did the would-be pioneers, eager for gold and silver, realize the hardships that lay before them in the New World.
56. The first colonists. In 1606, the London Company sent out three small ships with a hundred and five colonists, who were expected to start a farming settlement. But only twelve of the party were farm laborers. There were several artisans; but among them were“ jewelers, gold-refiners, and a perfumer," who of course knew nothing about farming. Most of the passengers were “gentlemen," a class that scorned to work with their hands; they were going out simply for adventure, expecting, no doubt, to make their fortunes
1 But it was ordered by the King that their colonies must not be less than a hundred miles apart from each other.
2 In a comedy of that period (called Eastward Ho, acted in 1605), these words are spoken about Virginia by one Captain Seagull, a returned sea-captain: “I tell thee, gold is more plentiful there than copper is with us. 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 to hang on their children's coats, and stick in their children's caps." It must not be supposed that the English actually believed all such wild statements. Seagull exaggerates greatly, in order to please the laughing crowd.
in a very short time and return to England to enjoy their wealth. But, perhaps, worst of all was the very small number of both women and children to make homes in the new land.
57. Founding of Jamestown. At last the adventurers sailed into Chesapeake Bay, whose broad waters receive
four large rivers. Fifty miles up the River James, which they named for their King, the colonists found“ a low peninsula half buried in the tide at high water." They selected this as the site of their new home and, landing in May, 1607, called the place Jamestown. A few poorly made
huts were soon reared; and around these they
built a stockade of Painting by G. Stevenson, in the John M. Smyth School, Chicago THE LANDING AT JAMESTOWN
logs, on which can
non were mounted as a protection against the Indians. They had chosen, however, an unfavorable spot for their settlement. The drinking-water was bad, there was little food to be found, and the weather greatly oppressed them, being much warmer than they had known in England.
By an important article in the Company's charter no land was to be given to the settlers for a period of five years. All products were to be brought to a common warehouse,
1 Several adventurous men rowed up the James River, hoping to find by that path a passage through to the Pacific; all American explorers in those days were eager to find the supposed short-cut route to Asia, which had been sought since the days of Columbus. But the rowers were stopped by the falls, where Richmond now is, and turned sadly back.
and the people were to be given what the officers thought they needed. No better incentive to idleness could have been devised; for the industrious man fared no better under this scheme than the lazy one, and no person had anything that he could call his own.
The result was that the majority of the settlers idled away their time and dreamed of the fortunes that they were destined never to find. At first the savages in the neighborhood of Jamestown gladly sold to the strangers, their corn, of which they raised large quantities, for articles made in Europe; but some of the whites began to treat them badly, and after this there was no corn to spare for Englishmen. Starvation and sickness followed, and by autumn half of the men were dead. One of the survivors wrote an account of this
sorrowful year,” saying: “ There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in this new discovered Virginia. . . . It would make hearts bleed to hear the pitiful murmurings and outcries."
58. Captain John Smith. Fortunately for the colony, it had one wise, brave, energetic, and public-spirited man, Captain John Smith. Butfor him, matters might have been infinitely worse. At first his fellow colonists did not relish his desire to CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH SAVED BY POCAHONTAS manage everything, and threw him into prison; but after a time they set him free, and for two years he was their real leader. Smith declared that “ he that will not work shall not eat," and obliged all the settlers to take a hand in doing things, whether they liked it or not. He superintended the improvement of
the fort and the building of several good log houses, drilled the little garrison, explored the neighboring country and made maps of it, often wrote to the Company in London for aid, and traded with the Indians for food.
On one of these trading expeditions the neighboring Indian chief, Powhatan, made him a prisoner. Smith afterward reported that he was snatched from death only through the kindness of that chief's daughter, Pocahontas. It was Smith alone who, through his energy and ability, saved the people from the fate that overtook the previous colony at Roanoke.
59. The starving time. The London Company grumbled at Smith, because he did not send home gold to them. He replied that there was no gold to be had, but that farming and fur trading would make the colonists rich if they would only work. Further, he told them that they ought no longer to send “gentlemen
gentlemen ” and other useless folk to America, but men who could use farmers' and laborers' tools — a bit of good advice which the Company was slow to follow.
Having been injured in an accident, Captain Smith was obliged to return to England in the autumn of 1609. Then came what is called in history “ the starving time." The people had been too lazy to build enough houses to live in, there were sickness, famine, and angry disputes, and finally utter despair. Of the five hundred people left by Smith, only sixty were alive the following spring. Just as the miserable survivors had concluded to abandon Jamestown, three vessels commanded by the newly appointed Governor, Lord
1 Smith declared that he was sentenced to death by Powhatan. While he was lying on the ground with his head on a stone, and a warrior preparing to kill him with a war club, the young Pocahontas rushed up and, clasping him in her arms, demanded that his life be spared. Powhatan granted the wish of his daughter, who was ever after a good friend of the Jamestown people, warning them whenever the Indians were planning to attack the town. She married an English gentleman named John Rolfe, who had settled in Virginia. Later, Pocahontas visited England, where the King and Queen treated her as though she were a princess; and she died in that country. Many prominent people in Virginia are to this day proud to be her descendants.
2 Some of the settlers found a lot of glittering earth, which they thought to be gold. Although Smith tried to dissuade them, they sent a shipload home to England, where it was found to be the worthless stuff known as iron pyrites.