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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Beginnings of Virginia
By George Bancroft (1800–1891)
 
From ‘History of the United States’

THE PERIOD of success in planting Virginia had arrived; yet not till changes in European politics and society had molded the forms of colonization. The Reformation had broken the harmony of religious opinion; and differences in the Church began to constitute the basis of political parties. After the East Indies had been reached by doubling the southern promontory of Africa, the great commerce of the world was carried upon the ocean. The art of printing had been perfected and diffused; and the press spread 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 built up the fortunes and extended the influence of the active classes; while habits of indolence and expense had impaired the estates and diminished the power of the nobility. These changes produced corresponding results in the institutions which were to rise in America.  1
  A revolution had equally occurred in the purposes for which voyages were undertaken. The hope of Columbus, as he sailed to the west, had been the discovery of a new passage to the East Indies. The passion for gold next became the prevailing motive. Then the islands and countries near the equator were made the tropical gardens of the Europeans. At last, the higher design was matured: to plant permanent Christian colonies; to establish for the oppressed and the enterprising places of refuge and abode; to found states in a temperate clime, with all the elements of independent existence.  2
  In the imperfect condition of industry, a redundant population had existed in England even before the peace with Spain, which threw out of employment the gallant men who had served under Elizabeth by sea and land, and left them no option but to engage as mercenaries in the quarrels of strangers, or incur the hazards of “seeking a New World.” The minds of many persons of intelligence and rank 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 merchant of the west of England, Robert Hunt, a clergyman of fortitude and modest worth, and John Smith, an adventurer of rarest qualities, to risk their lives and hopes of fortune in an expedition. For more than a year this little company revolved the project of a plantation. At the same time Sir Ferdinando Gorges was gathering information of the native Americans, whom he had received from Waymouth, 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, rank and 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”; which the most distinguished of them all, “industrious Hakluyt,” the historian of maritime enterprise, still promoted by his personal exertions, his weight of character, and his invincible zeal. Possessed of whatever information could be derived from foreign sources and a correspondence with eminent navigators of his times, and anxiously watching the progress of Englishmen in the West, his extensive knowledge made him a counselor in every colonial enterprise.  3
  The King of England, too timid to be active, yet too vain to be indifferent, favored the design of enlarging his dominions. He had attempted in Scotland the introduction of the arts of life among the Highlanders and the Western Isles, by the establishment of colonies; and the Scottish plantations which he founded in the northern counties of Ireland contributed to the affluence and the security of that island. When, therefore, a company of men of business and men of rank, formed by the experience of Gosnold, the enthusiasm of Smith, the perseverance of Hakluyt, the influence of Popham and Gorges, applied to James I. for leave “to deduce a colony into Virginia,” the monarch, on the tenth of April, 1606, readily set his seal to an ample patent.  4
  The first colonial charter, under which the English were planted in America, deserves careful consideration.  5
 
 
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