Chronicles of America 

First English Settlements

These twenty sundering years, from the end of this abortive colony in 1587 to the beginning of the first permanent colony in 1607, constitute a period that saw the close of one age and the opening of another in every relation of Anglo-American affairs.

Nor was it only in Anglo-American affairs that change was rife. 'The Honourable East India Company' entered upon its wonderful career. Shakespeare began to write his immortal plays. The chosen translators began their work on the Authorized Version of the English Bible. The Puritans were becoming a force within the body politic as well as in religion. Ulster was 'planted' with Englishmen and Lowland Scots. In the midst of all these changes the great Queen, grown old and very lonely, died in 1603; and with her ended the glorious Tudor dynasty of England. James, pusillanimous and pedantic son of Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots, ascended the throne as the first of the sinister Stuarts, and, truckling to vindictive Spain, threw Raleigh into prison under suspended sentence of death.

There was a break of no less than fifteen years in English efforts to colonize America. Nothing was tried between the last attempt at Roanoke in 1587 and the first attempt in Massachusetts in 1602, when thirty-two people sailed from England with Bartholomew Gosnold, formerly a skipper in Raleigh's employ. Gosnold made straight for the coast of Maine, which he sighted in May. He then coasted south to Cape Cod. Continuing south he entered Buzzard's Bay, where he landed on Cuttyhunk Island. Here, on a little island in a lake--an island within an island--he built a fort round which the colony was expected to grow. But supplies began to run out. There was bad blood over the proper division of what remained. The would-be colonists could not agree with those who had no intention of staying behind. The result was that the entire project had to be given up. Gosnold sailed home with the whole disgusted crew and a cargo of sassafras and cedar. Such was the first prospecting ever done for what is now New England.

The following year, 1603, just after the death of Queen Elizabeth, some merchant-venturers of Bristol sent out two vessels under Martin Pring. Like Gosnold, Pring first made the coast of Maine and then felt his way south. Unlike Gosnold, however, he 'bore into the great Gulfe' of Massachusetts Bay, where he took in a cargo of sassafras at Plymouth Harbor. But that was all the prospecting done this time. There was no attempt at colonizing.

Two years later another prospector was sent out by a more important company. The Earl of Southampton and Sir Ferdinando Gorges were the chief promoters of this enterprise. Gorges, as 'Lord Proprietary of the Province of Maine,' is a well-known character in the subsequent history of New England. Lord Southampton, as Shakespeare's only patron and greatest personal friend, is forever famous through the world. The chief prospector chosen by the company was George Weymouth, who landed on the coast of Maine, explored a little of the surrounding country, kidnapped five Indians, and returned to England with a glowing account of what he had seen.

The cumulative effect of the three expeditions of Gosnold, Pring, and Weymouth was a revival of interest in colonization. Prominent men soon got together and formed two companies which were formally chartered by King James on the 10th of April, 1606. The 'first' or 'southern colony,' which came to be known as the London Company because most of its members lived there, was authorized to make its 'first plantation at any place upon the coast of Virginia or America between the four-and-thirty and one-and-forty degrees of latitude.' The northern or 'second colony,' afterwards called the Plymouth Company, was authorized to settle any place between 38 deg. and 45 deg. north, thus overlapping both the first company to the south and the French to the north.

In the summer of the same year, 1606, Henry Challons took two ships of the Plymouth Company round by the West Indies, where he was caught in a fog by the Spaniards. Later in the season Pring went out and explored 'North Virginia.' In May, 1607, a hundred and twenty men, under George Popham, started to colonize this 'North Virginia.' In August they landed in Maine at the mouth of the Kennebec, where they built a fort, some houses, and a pinnace. Finding themselves short of provisions, two-thirds of their number returned to England late in the same year. The remaining third passed a terrible winter. Popham died, and Raleigh Gilbert succeeded him as governor. When spring came all the survivors of the colony sailed home in the pinnace they had built and the enterprise was abandoned. The reports of the colonists, after their winter in Maine, were to the effect that the second or northern colony was 'not habitable for Englishmen.'

In the meantime the permanent foundation of the first or southern colony, the real Virginia, was well under way. The same number of intending emigrants went out, a hundred and twenty. On the 26th of April, 1607, 'about four a-clocke in the morning, wee descried the Land of Virginia: the same day wee entered into the Bay of Chesupioc' [Chesapeake]. Thus begins the tale of Captain John Smith, of the founding of Jamestown, and of a permanent Virginia, the first of the future United States.

Now that we have seen one spot in vast America really become the promise of the 'Inglishe nation' which Raleigh had longed for, we must return once more to Raleigh himself as, mocked by his tantalizing vision, he looked out on a changing world from his secular Mount Pisgah in the prison Tower of London.

By this time he had felt both extremes of fortune to the full. During the travesty of justice at his trial the attorney-general, having no sound argument, covered him with slanderous abuse. These are three of the false accusations on which he was condemned to death: 'Viperous traitor,' 'damnable atheist,' and 'spider of hell.' Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, and Grenville, all were dead. So Raleigh, last of the great Elizabethan lions, was caged and baited for the sport of Spain.

Six of his twelve years of imprisonment were lightened by the companionship of his wife, Elizabeth Throgmorton, most beautiful of all the late Queen's maids of honor. Another solace was the "History of the World", the writing of which set his mind free to wander forth at will although his body stayed behind the bars. But the contrast was too poignant not to wring this cry of anguish from his preface: 'Yet when we once come in sight of the Port of death, to which all winds drive us, and when by letting fall that fatal Anchor, which can never be weighed again, the navigation of this life takes end: Then it is, I say, that our own cogitations (those sad and severe cogitations, formerly beaten from us by our health and felicity) return again, and pay us to the uttermost for all the pleasing passages of our life past.'

At length, in the spring of 1616, Raleigh was released, though still unpardoned. He and his devoted wife immediately put all that remained of their fortune into a new venture. Twenty years before this he thought he could make 'Discovery of the mighty, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana, and of that great and golden city, which the Spaniards call El Dorado, and the natives call Manoa.' Now he would go back to find the El Dorado of his dreams, somewhere inland, that mysterious Manoa among those southern Mountains of Bright Stones which lay behind the Spanish Main. The king's cupidity was roused; and so, in 1617, Raleigh was commissioned as the admiral of fourteen sail. In November he arrived off the coast that guarded all the fabled wealth still lying undiscovered in the far recesses of the Orinocan wilds. "Guiana, Manoa, El Dorado"--the inland voices called him on.

But Spaniards barred the way; and Raleigh, defying the instructions of the King, attacked them. The English force was far too weak and disaster followed. Raleigh's son and heir was killed and his lieutenant committed suicide. His men began to mutiny. Spanish troops and ships came closing in; and the forlorn remnant of the expedition on which such hopes were built went straggling home to England. There Raleigh was arrested and sent to the block on the 29th of October, 1618. He had played the great game of life-and-death and lost it. When he mounted the scaffold, he asked to see the axe. Feeling the edge, he smiled and said: 'Tis a sharp medicine, but a cure for all diseases.' Then he bared his neck and died like one who had served the Great Queen as her Captain of the Guard.

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