History of the New England Colonies

THE enthusiasm which Raleigh had created in England in favor of American discovery and colonization did not die out in consequence of his conspicuous failures. Some of his associates continued to believe in the rich promises which such colonization held out. Among these believers was Bartholomew Gosnold, who had made a voyage to America, and who, like Raleigh, had not lost faith. They were much together; and when the Earl of Southampton offered to fit out a bark for the purpose of attempting to plant a small settlement in America if Gosnold would command the vessel, that navigator's illustrious friend advised him to do so. They had talked much about the northern and southern tracks across the Atlantic, which were then followed by ships from England, and they believed that a more direct route might be taken a thousand leagues shorter than by way of the Canaries and the West Indies. On the 26th of April, 1602, Gosnold sailed from Falmouth in a small vessel, with twenty colonists and eight mariners on the proposed direct track, and touched the American continent at near Nahant, in Massachusetts Bay, it is supposed, just eighteen days after his departure from England. Finding no good harbor there, he sailed southward, discovered a great sandy point which he named Cape Cod, because of the profusion of codfishes seen near its shores, and landed there with four of his men. Never before had the present route of ships from Europe to New England and New York been traversed; never before had the soil of New England been pressed by the foot of an English man.

Doubling the Cape, Gosnold passed around the promontory of Gay head, which he named Dover Cliff, and entered Buzzard's Bay, where he found a group of attractive islands. He named the westernmost Elizabeth, in honor of his queen, and the whole group now bear that name. On Elizabeth, Gosnold and his followers landed. They were charmed with the aspects of nature there. Vegetation was luxuriant, and small fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, and growing grapes were abundant. There the navigator resolved to plant his little colony, and on a small rocky island, in the bosom of a great pond, they built a rude stone-house and a fort.

Elizabeth Island now bears its original Indian name of Cattyhunk. Had the courage of the adventurers held out, they would there have won the honor of making the first permanent English settlement in America. But it did not hold out: They thought the Indians scowled upon them; they were not sure of food in the future; they could not agree upon a method for dividing profits; what may the winter be? was a serious question, and a wilting home-sickness came upon them. So, when Gosnold had laden his vessel with sassafras root, then much esteemed in Europe for its medical properties; also with furs gathered by traffic with the natives, and sweet cedar-wood and other products, and was ready to sail for home, the colonists resolved to go with him. They abandoned their little paradise of beauty, and in less than four months after their departure from home, they were back on the soil of England. They spoke in glowing terms of the serenity of the climate, and the beauty and fertility of the land they had visited; of the shortness and safety of the voyage to it, and of the riches of the adjacent continent which might be gathered by traffic with the Indians. Raleigh strongly advised further efforts toward planting a colony in that part of America; so also did Richard Hakluyt, prebendary of Westminster--a man learned in naval and commercial science, the counsellor of many who had engaged in the expeditions to America, and who became the historian of those voyages. Under the advice of such men, Bristol merchants fitted out two ships for traffic and discovery on the coast of what was afterward called New England.

Early in April (1603, about a fortnight after the death of the queen), the Speedwell, of fifty tons, and the Discoverer, a bark of twenty-six tons, sailed from Milford Haven under the command of Martin Pring, a friend of Raleigh and Gosnold. Pring commanded the Speedwell in person, which was manned by thirty men and boys. William Browne was master of the Discoverer, and was accompanied by Robert Galterns as a supercargo or general agent of the expedition. Galterns had accompanied Gosnold to America. They were furnished with clothing, axes, and trinkets for the natives; and early in June the vessels entered Penobscot Bay. They went up the Penobscot River some distance, and then sailing along the coast, they entered the mouths of the Saco, Kennebunk, and Piscataqua rivers on the coast of Maine. Gorges says Pring "made a perfect discovery of all these eastern rivers and harbors." That, however, was done three years later, when Pring was on another voyage.

Sailing southward, Pring and his companions went to the region where Gosnold and his handful of adventurers had tarried for awhile, and landed on a large island abounding with grapes, which they named Martin's Vineyard, now Martha's Vineyard. Thence they returned to England, after an absence of six months. Pring made a report confirming everything that Gosnold had told about the country. This confirmation led to other expeditions, and in 1605 the Earl of Southampton and Lord Arundel, of Wardour, fitted out a vessel, placed it under the command of George Weymouth, another friend of the now imprisoned Raleigh, and dispatched it to the eastern coasts of New England. Weymouth had already explored the coast of Labrador in an attempt to discover a northwest passage to India. He sailed from England in March, taking the shorter track, but storms delayed him on the way, and it was six weeks before he saw America, at Nantucket. Turning northward, he entered Penobscot Bay, where he opened a traffic with the natives. It was carried on for awhile in mutual confidence until signs of treachery appeared on the part of the Indians, when Weymouth determined to resent the affront. He invited some of the leading Indians to a feast on board of his vessel, but only three of the cautious natives accepted the invitation. There he fed them and plied them with intoxicating drink, until they were half insensible, when he confined them in the hold of his ship. Then he went on shore with some of his men to entice others on board. They opened boxes and showed the natives trinkets, but they could not induce the Indians to go the vessel; so Weymouth and his men seized two of them. "It was as much as five or six of us could do to get them into the light horseman" [the boat], wrote Weymouth, "for their were strong, and so naked as our best hold was by their long hair on their heads." The Englishmen took with the captives two handsome birch bark canoes, when the anchor was taken up and the ship sailed away for England with the five dusky prisoners. The canoes, like on carried home by Pring, attracted much attention as the work of Indians. Three of the captives were given to Sir Fernando Gorges, then Governor of Plymouth, (who was a fast friend of Raleigh), and remained in his family three years, during which time they acquired considerable knowledge of the English language. This kidnapping left on the shores of New England the seeds of much future trouble.

All doubts respecting the commercial value of every part of the American coast from Florida to Newfoundland had now vanished from the English mind, and the voyage of Weymouth was immediately followed by the immediate execution of a vast plan for colonizing the shores of this Western World. King James was petitioned to sanction by his authority an organization for the purpose. He not only did so willingly, but he warmly commended the enterprise. He had seen the good effects of introducing industrious artisans and traders from the lowlands among the wilder Highlanders of his native country; and as war with France had lately ceased, there was a large number of restless, unoccupied soldiers in England for whom he would gladly open a new field of enterprise. Moved by these considerations, he issued letters-patent, on the 20th of April, 1606, to Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, Richard Hakluyt and others, granting to them those territories in America lying on the sea-coast between the thirty-fourth and forty-fifth degree of north latitude, together with all the islands situated within a hundred miles of their shores; that is to say, from Cape Fear to Nova Scotia. The design of this patent was declared to be "to make habitation and plantation, and to deduce a colony of sundry of our people into that part of America commonly called Virginia." The charter proclaimed that "so noble a work may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God, and may, in time, bring the infidels and Indians living in those parts to human civility, and to a settled and quiet government."

The patentees were principally merchants and adventurers of London. Plymouth and Bristol, and by their charter they were required to form two companies, each under a distinct title; the one consisting of London adventurers to be called the "London Company," and the one composed of "knights, gentlemen and merchants" of the West of England, the "Plymouth Company." The vast domain was divided into two districts, called respectively North and South Virginia, the line of separation being about on the parallel of New York City.

Now dawned the bright era when English colonies were permanently planted in America. The story of their marvellous growth will be told hereafter. Raleigh, poor and in prison, was not allowed to share, personally, in the glory of any of that fruitful seed-time, the result of his genius, generosity and enterprise. When Richard Hakluyt, Bartholomew Gosnold, and Sir Fernando Gorges, three of his firm friends, were permitted by the king to visit the illustrious prisoner in the Tower, and tell him of the new enterprise, the interview was a touching one. They found Raleigh seated at a little table near an open window in the massive wall, tall and narrow, writing. Around him lay huge folios. On the walls hung maps, and on the deep window-sill was a mariner's compass. Near him sat his faithful wife, almost twenty years younger than he, who had just come to share his imprisonment. At her feet lay a sleeping spaniel belonging to the keeper of the Tower; and a picture of their son who was killed in Guiana leaned against a small cabinet at her side. When the three friends entered, Raleigh quickly arose and embraced them affectionately. When they told him of the great enterprise and the king's sanction, he sat down in his chair, and with clasped hands and eyes turned heavenward exclaimed: "God be praised for his goodness! Prison walls cannot defeat his justice. The English nation love truth and will defend the good name of her disciples. God save the king!" The final invocation was for the ears of the jailor who stood at the door. It had a double meaning on Raleigh's lips-a meaning of political loyalty, or an earnest prayer for the salvation of the monarch from the consequences of his bad life. It could not be interpreted to Raleigh's hurt.

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