Изображения страниц





springs and copious rivulets, compelled the experienced CHAP. mariner to admire the noble river, which is just now an beginning to have upon its banks and in its ports the 1605 flourishing settlements and active commerce that it is by nature so well adapted to sustain. Five natives were decoyed on board the ship, and Weymouth, returning to England, gave three of them to Sir Ferdinand Gorges, a friend of Raleigh, and governor of Plymouth.

Such were the voyages which led the way to the colonization of the United States. The daring and skill of these earliest adventurers upon the ocean deserve the highest admiration. The difficulties of crossing the Atlantic were new, and it required the greater courage to encounter hazards which ignorance exaggerated. The character of the prevalent winds and currents was unknown. The possibility of making a direct passage was but gradually discovered. The imagined dangers were infinite; the real dangers, exceedingly great. The ships at first employed for discovery were generally of less than one hundred tons burthen; Frobisher sailed in a vessel of but twenty-five tons; two of those of Columbus were without a deck; and so perilous were the voyages deemed, that the sailors were accustomed, before embarking, to perform solemn acts of devotion, as if to prepare for eternity. The anticipation of disasters was not visionary; Columbus was shipwrecked twice, and once remained for eight months on an island, without any communication with the civilized world ;

1 Rosier's Virginian Voyage, &c. Williamson's Maine, i. 191-195. in Purchas, iv. 1659-1667. Gorges, Strange with what reckless confi. Brief Narration, c. ii. Compare dence Oldmixon, i. 219, 220, can Belknap's Am. Biog. ii. 134-150; blunder!




CHAP. Hudson was turned adrift in a small boat by a crew an whom suffering had rendered mutinous ; Willoughby

perished with cold; Roberval, Parmenius, Gilbert, and how many others ?-went down at sea; and such was the state of the art of navigation, that intrepidity and skill were unavailing against the elements without the favor of Heaven.





THE period of success in planting colonies in Vir- CHAP. ginia had arrived ; yet not till changes had occurred, affecting the character of European politics and society, 1606. and moulding the forms of colonization. The reformation had interrupted the harmony of religious opinion in the west of Europe ; and differences in the church began to constitute the basis of political parties. Commercial intercourse equally sustained a revolution. It had been conducted on the narrow seas and by land; it now launched out upon the broadest waters; and, after the East Indies had been reached by doubling the southern promontory of Africa, the great commerce of the world was performed upon the ocean. The art of printing had become known; and the press diffused intelligence and multiplied the facilities of instruction. The feudal institutions which had been reared in the middle ages, were already undermined by the current of time and events, and, swaying from their base, threatened to fall. Productive industry had, on the one side, built up the fortunes and extended the influence of the active classes ; while habits of indolence and of expense had impaired the estates and diminished the power of the nobility. These changes also produced corresponding results in the institutions which were to rise in America.






CHAP. A revolution had equally occurred in the purposes

for which voyages were undertaken. The hope of 1606 Columbus, as he sailed to the west, had been the dis

covery of a new passage to the East Indies. The passion for rapidly amassing gold soon became the prevailing motive. Next, the islands and countries near the equator were made the tropical gardens of the Europeans for the culture of such luxuries as the warmest regions only can produce. At last, the higher design was matured, not to plunder, nor to destroy, nor to enslave; but to found states, to plant permanent Christian colonies, to establish for the oppressed and the enterprising places of refuge and abode, with all the elements of independent national existence.

The condition of England favored adventure in America. A redundant population had existed even before the peace with Spain ;' and the timid character of King James, throwing out of employment the gallant men who had served under Elizabeth by sea and land, left them no option, but to engage as mercenaries in the quarrels of strangers, or incur the hazards of “ seeking a New World."2 The minds of many persons of intelligence, rank, and enterprise, were directed to Virginia. The brave and ingenious Gosnold, who had himself witnessed the fertility of the western soil, long solicited the concurrence of his friends for the establishment of a colony,; and at last prevailed with Edward Maria Wingfield, a groveling merchant of the west of England, Robert Hunt, a clergyman of persevering fortitude and modest worth, and John Smith, the adventurer of rare genius and undying fame, to consent to risk their own lives and

1 Bacon on Queen Elizabeth.
2 Gorges' Brief Narration, c. ii.
3 Edmund Howes' Continuation

of Stowe, 1018-a prime authority
on Virginia. See Stith, 229.



their hope of fortune in an expedition. For more CHAP than a year, this little company revolved the project of a a plantation. At the same time, Sir Ferdinand Gorges 1606 was gathering information of the native Americans, whom he had received from Weymouth, and whose descriptions of the country, joined to the favorable views which he had already imbibed, filled him with the strongest desire of becoming a proprietary of domains beyond the Atlantic. Gorges was a man of wealth, of rank, and of influence; he readily persuaded Sir John Popham, lord chief justice of England, to share his intentions. Nor had the assigns of Raleigh become indifferent to “western planting;” the most distinguished of them all, Richard Hakluyt, the historian of maritime enterprise, still favored the establishment of a colony by his personal exertions and the firm enthusiasm of his character. Possessed of whatever information could be derived from foreign sources and a correspondence with the eminent navigators of his times, and anxiously watching the progress of the attempts of Englishmen in the west, his extensive knowledge made him a counsellor in the enterprises which were attempted, and sustained in him and his associates the confidence which repeated disappointments did not exhaust.3 Thus the cause of colonization obtained in England zealous and able defenders, who, independent of any party in religion or politics, believed that a prosperous state could be established by Englishmen in the temperate regions of North America.


1 Smith, i. 149, or Purchas, iv. 1705. Stith, 35. Compare Hillard's Life of Smith, in Sparks's American Biography, ii. 177-407; also Belknap, i. 239, 252.

2 Gorges, c. ii.-V.

3 Hakluyt, iii. passim; v. Dedication of Virginia Valued. The first Virginia charter contains his


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »