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Book XI: Captain John Smith in Virginia (A. D. 1606-1631.)

The first four of the following extracts are from Smith's ‘Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles’ (edition of 1626), pp. 39-49. The next four are from the ‘Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia,’ by William Strachey, secretary of the Virginia Colony. Reprinted by the Hakluyt Society (1849), pp. 49-52, 57, 58, 80, 81, 110, II. The ninth is from the ‘Generall Historie,’ p. 219. The tenth is from ‘A Description of New England, by Captain John Smith,’ printed in the Massachusetts Historical Collections, 3d series, vol. VI. pp. 109, 121. The eleventh is from the ‘Generall Historie,’ pp. 121-123. The last two are from ‘Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England or anywhere, by Captaine John Smith, sometimes Governour of Virginia, and Admirall of New England.’ London, 1631. Reprinted in Mass. Hist. Coll., 3d series, vol. III. pp. 7, 29, 30, 44. There is a memoir of Captain Smith, by G. S. Hillard, in Sparks's ‘American Biography,’ vol. II.


I.—Captain John Smith in Virginia.

Captain Bartholomew Gosnoll,1 one of the first movers of this plantation, having many years solicited many of his friends, but found small assistance, at last prevailed with some gentlemen, as Captain John Smith, Mr. Edward Maria Wingfield, Mr. Robert Hunt, and divers others, who depended2 a year upon his projects; but nothing could be effected, till, by their great charge and industry, it came to be apprehended by certain of the nobility, gentry, and merchants, so that his Majesty by his letters-patents gave commission for establishing councils to direct here, and to govern and to execute there. To effect this was spent another year; and by that, three ships were provided,—one of a hundred tons, another of forty, and a pinnace3 of twenty. The transportation of the company was committed to Captain Christopher Newport, a mariner well practiced for the western parts [232] of America. But their orders for government were put in a box, not to be opened, nor the governors known, until they arrived in Virginia.

On the 19th of December, 1606, we set sail from Blackwall, but by unprosperous winds were kept six weeks in the sight of England. . . .

We watered at the Canaries. We traded with the savages at Dominica. Three weeks we spent in refreshing ourselves among the West India Isles. In Gaudaloupe we found a bath so hot, as in it we boiled pork as well as over the fire; and, at a little isle called Monica, we took from the bushes with our hands, near two hogsheads full of birds in three or four hours. In Mevis, Mona, and the Virgin Isles, we spent some time, where, with a loathsome beast like a crocodile, called a gwayn,4 tortoises, pelicans, parrots, and fishes, we daily feasted. Gone from thence in search of Virginia, the company was not a little discomforted, seeing the mariners had three days passed their reckoning,5 and found no land; so that Captain Ratliffe, captain of the pinnace, rather desired to bear up the helm to return for England than make further search. But God the guider of all good actions, forcing them by an extreme storm to hull6 all night, did drive them by his providence to their desired port, beyond all their expectation; for never any of them had seen that coast.

The first land they made they called Cape Henry, where thirty of them, recreating themselves on shore, were assaulted by five savages, who hurt two of the English very dangerously. That night was the box opened, and the orders read, in which Bartholomew [233] Gosnoll, John Smith, Edward Wingfield, Christopher Newport, John Ratliffe, John Martin, and George Kendall, were named to be the council, and to choose a president among them for a year, who, with the council, should govern. Matters of moment were to be examined by a jury, but determined by the major part of the council, in which the president had two voices. Until the 13th of May, they sought a place to plant7 in; then the council was sworn, Mr. Wingfield was chosen president, and an oration made8 why Captain Smith was not admitted of the council as the rest.

Now falleth every man to work: the council contrive the fort, the rest cut down trees to make place to pitch their tents, some provide clapboard to relade the ships, some make gardens, some nets, &c. The savages often visited us kindly. The president's overweening jealousy9 would admit no exercise at arms, or fortification but the boughs of trees cast together in the form of a half-moon. By the extraordinary pains and diligence of Captain Kendall, Newport, Smith, and twenty others, were sent to discover the head of the river.10 By divers small habitations they passed. In six days they arrive at a town called Powhatan, consisting of some twelve houses pleasantly seated on a hill, before it three fertile isles, about it many of their cornfields. The place is very pleasant, and strong by nature. Of this place the prince is called Powhatan, and his people Powhatans. To this place the river is navigable; but higher within a mile, by reason of the rocks and isles, there is not passage for a small boat. This they call [234] the falls. The people in all parts kindly entreated11 them, till, being returned within twenty miles of Jamestown, they gave just cause of jealousy. But had God not blessed the discoverers otherwise than those at the fort, there had then been an end of that plantation; for at the fort, where they arrived the next day, they found seventeen men hurt, and a boy slain by the savages. And had it not chanced a cross-bar shot12 from the ships struck down a bough from a tree amongst them, that caused them to retire, our men had all been slain, being securely all at work, and their arms in dry-vats.13

Hereupon the president was willing the fort should be palisaded,14 the ordnance mounted, his men armed and exercised, for many were the assaults and ambuscades of the savages; and our men, by their disorderly straggling, were often hurt, when the savages, by the nimbleness of their heels, well escaped. What toil we had, with so small a power to guard our workmen a-days,15 watch all night, resist our enemies, and effect our business, to relade the ships, cut down trees, and prepare the ground to plant our corn, &c., I refer to the reader's consideration.

Ii.—The Virginia colonists.

Being, for most part, of such tender educations, and small experience in martial accidents, because they round [neither] English cities, nor such fair houses, nor [235] at their own wishes any of their accustomed dainties, with feather-beds and downy pillows, taverns and alehouses in every breathing-place, neither such plenty of gold and silver, and dissolute liberty, as they expected, had little or no care of any thing but to . . . procure their means to return for England. For the country was to them a misery, a ruin, a death, a hell, and their reports here and their actions there according.

Some other there were that had yearly stipends16 to pass to and again for transportation. And those with their great words deluded the world with such strange promises as abused the business much worse than the rest. For the business being builded upon the foundation of their feigned experience, the planters, the money, and means have still miscarried; yet they ever returning, and the planters so far absent, who could contradict their excuses? Which, still to maintain their vain glory and estimation from time to time, have used such diligence as made them pass for truths, though nothing more false. And, that the adventurers might be thus abused, let no man wonder; for the wisest living is soonest abused by him that hath a fair tongue and a dissembling heart.

There were many in Virginia merely projecting, verbal and idle contemplators,17 and those so devoted to pure idleness, that, though they had lived two or three years in Virginia, lordly necessity itself could not compel them to pass the peninsula or palisades of Jamestown; and those witty spirits, what would they not affirm in behalf of our transporters18 to get victual from [236] their ships, or obtain their good words in England to get their passes! Thus from the clamors and the influence of false informers are sprung those disasters that sprung in Virginia; and our ingenious verbalists19 were no less a plague to us in Virginia than the locusts to the Egyptians. For the labor of twenty or thirty of the best only preserved in Christianity by their industry the idle lives of near two hundred of the rest, who, living near ten months of such natural means as the country naturally of itself affordeth. Notwithstanding all this, and the worst fury of the savages, the extremity of sickness, mutinies, faction, ignorances, and want of victual, in all that time I lost but seven or eight men, yet subjected the savages to our desired obedience, and received contribution from thirty-five of their kings, to protect and assist them against any that should assault them. In which order they continued true and faithful, and as subjects to his Majesty, so long after as I did govern there, until I left the country.

Iii.—Smith captured by the Indians.

And now the winter approaching, the rivers became so covered with swans, geese, ducks, and cranes, that we daily feasted with good bread, Virginia peas, pumpkins and putchamins,20 fish, fowl, and divers sorts of wild beasts as fat as we could eat them: so that none of our tuftaffatty humorists21 desired to go for England. But our comedies never endured long without a tragedy; some idle exceptions being muttered against [237] Captain Smith for not discovering the head of Chickahamania22 River, and taxed by the council to be too slow in so worthy an attempt. The next voyage he proceeded so far, that, with much labor by cutting of trees asunder, he made his passage; but, when his barge could pass no farther, he left her in a broad bay, out of danger of shot, commanding none should go ashore until his return. Himself, with two English and two savages, went up higher in a canoe; but he was not

Old print of Smith's capture.

long absent. But his men went ashore, whose want of government gave both occasion and opportunity to the savages to surprise one George Cassen, whom they slew, and much failed not23 to have cut off the boat and all the rest. Smith, little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river's head, twenty miles in the desert, had his two men slain, as is supposed, sleeping by the canoe, while himself, by fowling, [238] sought them victuals; who finding he was beset with two hundred savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself with the aid of a savage, his guide, whom he bound to his arms with his garters, and used him as a buckler; yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes, but no great hurt till at last they took him prisoner. When this news came to Jamestown, much was their sorrow for his loss, few expecting what ensued. Six or seven weeks those barbarians kept him prisoner, many strange triumphs and conjurations they made of him; yet he so demeaned himself among them, as he not only diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own liberty, and got himself and his company such estimation amongst them, that those savages admired him more than their own Quiyougkcosoucks.24 The manner how they used and delivered him is as followeth.

The savages having drawn from George Cassen whither Capt. Smith was gone, prosecuting that opportunity, they followed him with three hundred bowmen, conducted by the King of Pamaunkee, who in divisions, searching the turnings of the river, found Robinson and Emry by the fireside: those they shot full of arrows, and slew. Then finding the captain, as is said, that used the savage that was his guide as his shield,—three of them being slain, and divers others so galled,—all the rest would not come near him. Thinking thus to have returned to his boat, regarding them, as he marched more than his way, slipped up to the middle in an oozy25 creek, and his savage with him; yet durst they not come to him, till, being near dead with [239] cold, he threw away his arms. Then according to their composition26 they drew him forth, and led him to the fire, where his men were slain. Diligently they chafed his benumbed limbs.

He demanding for their captain, they showed him Opechankanough, King of Pamaunkee, to whom he gave a round ivory double compass-dial. Much they marvelled at the playing of the fly and needle, which they could see so plainly, and yet not touch it, because of the glass that covered them. But when he demonstrated by that globe-like jewel the roundness of the earth and skies, the sphere of the sun, moon, and stars, and how the sun did chase the night round about the world continually, the greatness of the land and sea, the diversity of nations, variety of complexions, and how we were to them antipodes, and many other such like matters, they all stood as amazed with admiration. Notwithstanding, without an hour after, they tied him to a tree, and as many as could stand about him prepared to shoot him; but, the king holding up the compass in his hand, they all laid down their bows and arrows, and in a triumphant manner led him to Orapaks, where he was after their manner kindly feasted, and well used.

Their order in conducting him was thus: drawing themselves all in file, the king in the midst, had all their pieces and swords borne before him. Captain Smith was led after him by three great savages, holding him fast by each arm; and on each side six went in file with their arrows nocked.27 But arriving at the [240] town,—which was only thirty or forty hunting-houses made of mats, which they remove as they please, as we our tents,—all the women and children staring to behold him, the soldiers first, all in file, performed the form of a bissom28 so well as could be; and on each flank, officers as sergeants to see them keep their order. A good time they continued this exercise, and then cast themselves in a ring, dancing in such several postures, and singing and yelling out such hellish notes and screeches; being strangely painted, every one his quiver of arrows, and at his back a club; on his arm a fox or an otter's skin, or some such matter for his vambrace;29 their heads and shoulders painted red with oil and pocones30 mingled together, which scarlet-like color made an exceeding handsome show; his bow in his hand, and the skin of a bird with her wings abroad dried, tied on his head, a piece of copper, a white shell, a long feather, with a small rattle growing at the tails of their snakes tied to it, or some such like toy. All this while, Smith and the king stood in the midst, guarded, as before is said; and after three dances they all departed. Smith they conducted to a long house, where thirty or forty tall fellows did guard him; and ere long more bread and venison was brought him than would have served twenty men. I think his stomach31 at that time was not very good: what he left they put in baskets, and tied over his head. About midnight, they set the meat again before him, all this time not [241] one of them would eat a bit with him, till the next morning they brought him as much more; and then did they eat all the old, and reserved the new as they had done the other, which made him think they would fat him to eat him. Yet in this desperate estate to defend him from the cold, one Maocassater brought him his gown, in requital of some beads and toys Smith had given him at his first arrival in Virginia.

Iv.—Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.

[this narrative is taken from Smith's ‘Generall Historie.’ it was possibly written by Captain Smith, but is now generally disbelieved by historical students, because it is inconsistent with an earlier account of the same events, also written by Smith, and because the incident is not mentioned by Strachey, who also described the Virginia Colony.]

Two days after, a man would have slain him—but that the guard prevented it—for the death of his son, to whom they conducted him to recover the poor man, then breathing his last. Smith told them that at Jamestown he had a water would do, if they would let him fetch it. But they would not permit that, but made all the preparations they could to assault Jamestown, craving his advice, and, for recompense, he should have life, liberty, land, and women. In part of a table book32 he wrote his mind to them at the fort,—what was intended, how they should follow that direction to affright the messengers, and without fail send him such things as he wrote for; and an inventory with them. The difficulty and danger he told the [242] savages, of the mines, great guns, and other engines, exceedingly affrighted them; yet, according to his request, they went to Jamestown in as bitter weather as could be of frost and snow, and within three days returned with an answer.

But when they came to Jamestown, seeing men sally out, as he had told them they would, they fled. Yet in the night they came again to the same place where he had told them they should receive an answer, and such things as he had promised them; which they found accordingly, and with which they returned, with no small expedition, to the wonder of them all that heard it, that he could either divine, or the paper could speak . . . .

Not long after, early in a morning, a great fire was made in a long house, and a mat spread on the one side as on the other. On the one they caused him to sit, and all the guard went out of the house; and presently came skipping in a great grim fellow, all painted over with coal, mingled with oil, and many snakes' and weasels' skins stuffed with moss, and all their tails tied together, so as they met on the crown of his head in a tassel. And round about the tassel was as a coronet of feathers, the skins hanging round about his head, back, and shoulders, and in a manner covered his face; with a hellish voice, and a rattle in his hand. With most strange gestures and passions, he began his invocation, and environed the fire with a circle of meal; which done, three more such like devils came rushing in with the like antic tricks, painted half black, half red; but all their eyes were painted white, and some red strokes like mustaches [243] along their cheeks. Round about him those fiends danced a pretty while; and then came in three more as ugly as the rest, with red eyes, and white strokes over their black faces. At last they all sat down right against him, three of them on the one hand of the chief priest, and three on the other. Then all with their rattles began a song; which ended, the chief priest laid down five wheat-corns; then straining his arms and hands with such violence that he sweat, and his veins swelled, he began a short oration: at the conclusion they all gave a short groan, and then laid down three grains more. After that began their song again, and then another oration, ever laying down so many corns as before, till they had twice encircled the fire. That done, they took a bunch of little sticks prepared for that purpose, continuing still their devotion; and at the end of every song and oration they laid down a stick betwixt the divisions of corn. Till night, neither he nor they did either eat or drink, and then they feasted merrily, with the best provisions they could make. Three days they used this ceremony, the meaning whereof, they told him, was to know if he intended them well or no. The circle of meal signified their county; the circles of corn, the boundaries of the sea; and the sticks, his country. They imagined the world to be flat and round like a trencher, and they in the middle. After this they brought him a bag of gunpowder, which they carefully preserved until the next spring, to plant, as they did their corn, because they would be acquainted with the nature of that seed. Opitchapam, the king's brother, invited him to his house, where, with as many platters of bread, fowl, and [244] wild beasts as did environ him, he bid him welcome; but not any of them would eat a bit with him, but put up all the remainder in baskets. . . .

Facsimile Illustration from Smith's ‘general History.’

At last they brought him to Meronocomoco,33 where was Powhatan, their emperor. Here more than two hundred of those grim courtiers stood wondering at [245] him, as he had been a monster, till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in their greatest braveries.34 Before a fire, upon a seat like a bedstead, he sat, covered with a great robe made of raccoon-skins, and all the tails hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of sixteen or eighteen years, and along on each side the house two rows of men, and behind them as many women, with all their heads and shoulders painted red, many of their heads bedecked with the white down of birds; but every one with something; and a great chain of white beads about their necks. At his entrance before the king, all the people gave a great shout. The Queen of Appamatuck35 was appointed to bring him water to wash his hands; and another brought him a bunch of feathers, instead of a towel, to dry them. Having feasted him after the best barbarous manner they could, a long consultation was held; but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan. Then as many as could laid hands on him,36 dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head; and being ready with their clubs to beat out his brains, Pocahontas, the king's dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his, to save him from death.37 Whereat [246] the emperor was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well38 of all occupations as themselves. For the king himself will make his own robes, shoes, bows, arrows, pots; plant, hunt, or do any thing so well as the rest. . . .

Two days after, Powhatan, having disguised himself in the most fearfulest manner he could, caused Captain Smith to be brought forth to a great house in the woods, and there, upon a mat by the fire, to be left alone. Not long after, from behind a mat that divided the house was made the most dolefulest noise he ever heard; then Powhatan, more like a devil than a man, with some two hundred more as black as himself, came unto him, and told him now they were friends, and presently he should go to Jamestown, to send him two great guns and a grindstone, for which he would give him the country of Capahowosick, and forever esteem him as his son Nantaquond. So to Jamestown with twelve guides Powhatan sent him. That night they quartered in the woods, he still expecting—as he had done all this longtime of his imprisonment—every hour to be put to one death or other, for all their feasting. But Almighty God by his divine providence had mollified the hearts of those stern barbarians with compassion. The next morning betimes, they came to the fort, where Smith, having used the savages with what kindness he could, he showed Rawhunt, Powhatan's trusty servant, two demi-culverins39 and a millstone, to carry Powhatan. They found them somewhat too heavy; but when they did see him discharge them, being loaded with stones, [247] among the boughs of a great tree loaded with icicles, the ice and branches came so tumbling down, that the poor savages ran away half dead with fear. But at last we regained some conference40 with them, and gave them such toys, and sent to Powhatan, his women, and children, such presents, as gave them, in general, full content.

V.—King Powhatan.

He is a goodly old man, not yet shrinking, though well beaten with many cold and stormy winters, in which he hath been patient of many necessities and attempts of his fortune to make his name and family great. He is supposed to be little less than eighty years old, I dare not say how much more. Others say he is of a tall stature and clean limbs, of a sad aspect, round, fat-visaged, with gray hairs, but plain and thin, hanging upon his broad shoulders; some few hairs upon his chin, and so on his upper lip. He hath been a strong and able savage, sinewy, and of a daring spirit, vigilant, ambitious, subtile to enlarge his dominions. . . . Cruel he hath been, and quarrelsome, as well with his own weroances41 for trifles, and that to strike a terror and awe into them of his power and condition, as also with his neighbors, in his younger days, though now delighted in security and pleasure. . . .

Watchful he is over us, and keeps good espial42 upon our proceedings, concerning which he hath his sentinels, that—at what time soever any of our boats, pinnaces, [248] or ships come in, fall down, or make up the river —give the alarm, and take it quickly one from the other, until it reach and come even to the court or hunting-house, wheresoever he and his cronoccoes,that is, councillors and priests, are; and then he calls to advise, and gives out directions what is to be done. . . . About his person ordinarily attendeth a guard of forty or fifty of the tallest men his country do afford. Every night, upon the four quarters of his house, are four sentinels drawn forth, each standing from other a flight-shot;43 and at every half-hour, one from the corps de garde44 doth halloo, unto whom every sentinel returns answer round from his stand: if any fail, an officer is presently sent forth that beateth him extremely.

The word weroance,which we call and construe for a king, is a common word, whereby they call all commanders; for they have but few words in their language, and but few occasions to use any officers more than one commander, which commonly they call weroance.

It is strange to see with what great fear arid adoration all this people do obey this Powhatan; for at his feet they present whatsoever he commandeth: and at the least frown of his brow the greatest will tremble, it may be because he is very terrible and inexorable in punishing such as offend him. . . . And sure it is to be wondered at, how such a barbarous and uncivil prince should take unto him—adorned and set forth with no great outward ornament and munificence—a form and ostentation of such majesty as he expresseth, which oftentimes strikes awe and sufficient wonder in our people presenting themselves before him.


VI.—a Virginia princess.

Nor is [she] so handsome a savage woman as I have seen amongst them, yet with a kind of pride can take upon her a show of greatness; for we have seen her forbear to come out of her quintan,or boat, through the water, as the other, both maids and married women, usually do, unless she were carried forth between two of her servants. I was once early at her house—it being summer time-when she was laid without doors, under the shadow of a broad-leaved tree, upon a pallet of osiers, spread over with four or five fine gray mats, herself covered with a fair white dressed deerskin or two; and, when she rose, she had a maid who fetched her a frontall45 of white coral, and pendants of great but imperfect colored and worse drilled pearls, which she put into her ears, and a chain with long links of copper, which they call tapoantaminais,and which came twice or thrice about her neck, and they account a jolly ornament. And sure thus attired, with some variety of feathers and flowers stuck in their hairs, they seem as debonaire, quaint, and well pleased as . . . a daughter of the house of Austria46 decked with all her jewels. Likewise, her maid fetched her a mantle, which they call puttawus,which is like a side cloak, made of blue feathers, so artificially and thick sewed together, that it seemed like a deep purple satin, and is very smooth and sleek; and after, she brought her water for her hands, and then a branch or two of fresh green ashen leaves, as for a towel to dry them.


VII.—An Indian dance in Virginia.

As for their dancing, the sport seems unto them, and the use, almost as frequent and necessary as their meat and drink, in which they consume much time, and for which they appoint many and often meetings, and have therefore, as it were, set orgies47 or festivals for the same pastime, as have yet at this day the merry Greeks.

Indian dance.

. . . At our colony's first sitting down amongst them, when any of our people repaired48 to their towns, the Indians would not think they had expressed their welcome sufficiently enough, until they had showed them a dance, the manner of which is thus. One of them standeth by, with some fur or leather thing in his left hand, upon which he beats with his right hand, and sings withal, as if he began the choir, and kept unto the rest their just time; when upon a certain stroke or more, —as upon his cue or time to come in,—one riseth up, [251] and begins to dance. After he hath danced a while, steps forth another, as if he came in just upon his rest; and in this order all of them, so many as there be, one after another, who then dance an equal distance from each other in ring, shouting, howling, and stamping their feet against the ground with such force and pain, that they sweat again, and with all varieties of strange mimic tricks and distorted faces, making so confused a yell and noise as so many frantic and disquieted bacchanals; and sure they will keep stroke just with their feet to the time he gives, and just one with another, but with the hands, head, face, and body, every one hath a several gesture, And those who have seen the dervishes in their holy dances, in their mosques, upon Wednesdays and Fridays in Turkey, may resemble49 these unto them. You shall find the manner expressed in the figure.

Viii.—Indian children in Virginia.

To make the children hardy, in the coldest mornings they wash them in the rivers, and by paintings and ointments so tan their skins, that, after a year or two, no weather will hurt them. As also, to practise their children in the use of their bows and arrows, the mothers do not give them their breakfast in a morning before they have hit a mark which she appoints them to shoot at; and commonly, so cunning they will have them, as throwing up in the air a piece of moss, or some such light thing, the boy must with his arrow meet it in the fall, and hit it, or else he shall not have his breakfast. [252]

Both men, women, and children have their several names; at first, according to the several humor of their parents. And for the men-children, at first, when they are young, their mothers give them a name, calling them by some affectionate title, or, perhaps, observing their promising inclination, give it accordingly; and so the great King Powhatan called a young daughter of his whom he loved well, Pocahontas, which may signify ‘little wanton;’50 howbeit, she was rightly called Amonate at more ripe years. When they become able to travel into the woods, and to go forth a hunting, fowling, and fishing with their fathers, the fathers give him another name, as he finds him apt, and of spirit to prove toward51 and valiant, or otherwise, changing the mother's [name], which yet in the family is not so soon forgotten. And if so be, it be by agility, strength, or any extraordinary strain of wit, he performs any remarkable or valorous exploit in open act of arms, or by stratagem, especially in the time of extremity in the wars for the public and common state, upon the enemy, the king, taking notice of the same, doth then, not only in open view and solemnly, reward him with some present of copper, or chain of pearl and beads, but doth then likewise-and which they take for the most eminent and supreme favor-give him a name answerable to the attempt, not much differing herein from the—ancient warlike encouragement and order of the Romans to a well-deserving and gallant young spirit.


IX.—‘the planter's pleasure and profit.’

There are who delight extremely in vain pleasure, that take much more pains in England to enjoy it than I should do here to gain wealth sufficient: and yet I think they should not have half such sweet content; for our pleasure here is still gain, in England charges and loss. Here nature and liberty afford us that freely which in England we want, or it costeth us dearly. What pleasure can be more than being tired with any occasion ashore, in planting vines, fruits, or herbs; in contriving their own ground to the pleasure of their own minds, their fields, gardens, orchards, buildings, ships, and other works, &c.; to recreate themselves before their own doors, in their own boats upon the sea, where man, woman, and child, with a small hook and line, by angling, may take divers sorts of excellent fish at their pleasures? And is it not pretty sport to pull up two-pence, sixpence, and twelve-pence as fast as you can haul and veer a line? He is a very bad fisher [who] cannot kill in one day, with his hook and line, one, two, or three hundred cods; which dressed and dried, if they be sold there for ten shillings a hundred, though in England they will give more than twenty, may not both servant, master, and merchant be well content with this gain? If a man work but three days in seven, he may get more than he can spend, unless he will be exceedingly excessive. Now that carpenter, mason, gardener, tailor, smith, sailor, forger, or what other—may they not make this a very pretty recreation, though they fish but an hour in a day, to take more than they can [254] eat in a week; or if they will not eat it, because there is so much better choice, yet sell it, or change it with the fishermen or merchants, for any thing you want? And what sport doth yield a more pleasing content, and less hurt and charge, than angling with a hook, and crossing the sweet air from isle to isle, over the silent streams of a calm sea, wherein the most curious may find profit, pleasure, and content?

Thus, though all men be not fishers, yet all men whatsoever may in other matters do as well, for necessity doth in these cases so rule a commonwealth, and each in their several functions, as their labors, in their qualities, may be as profitable, because there is a necessary mutual use of all.

For gentlemen, what exercise should more delight them than ranging daily these unknown parts, using fowling and fishing for52 hunting and hawking? and yet you shall see the wild hawks give you some pleasure in seeing them stoop six or seven times after one another, an hour or two together, at the skults53 of fish in the fair harbors, as those ashore at a fowl, and never trouble nor torment yourselves with watching, mewing,54 feeding, and attending them, nor kill horse and man with running, and crying, ‘See you not a hawk?’ For hunting, also, the woods, lakes, and rivers afford not only chase sufficient for any that delights in that kind of toil or pleasure, but such beasts to hunt, that, besides the delicacy of their bodies for food, their skins are so rich as they will recompense thy daily labor with a captain's pay.


X.—The glories of fishing.

The main staple from hence to be extracted, for the present, to produce the rest, is fish; which, however it may seem a mean and base commodity, yet who will but truly take the pains, and consider the sequel, I think will allow it well worth the labor. It is strange to see


what great adventures the hopes of setting forth menof-war to rob the industrious innocent would procure. . . . But who doth not know that the poor Hollanders, chiefly by fishing, at a great charge and labor, in all weathers in the open sea, are made a people so hardy and industrious? and by the sending this poor commodity to the Easterlings55 for as mean,56 which is wood, flax, pitch, tar, rosin, cordage, and such like,— [256] which they exchange again to the French, Spaniards, Portuguese, and English, &c., for what they want,—are made so mighty, strong, and rich, as no state but Venice, of twice their magnitude, is so well furnished with so many fair cities, goodly towns, strong fortresses, and that abundance of shipping and all sorts of merchandise, as well of gold, silver, diamonds, precious stones, silks, velvets, and cloth-of-gold, as fish, pitch, wood, or such gross commodities? What voyages and discoveries, east and west, north and south, yea, about the world, make they! What an army, by sea and land, have they long maintained in despite of one of the greatest princes of the world! And never could the Spaniard, with all his mines of gold and silver, pay his debts, his friends and army, half so truly as the Hollanders still have done by this contemptible trade of fish . . . .

You shall scarce find any bay, shallow shore, or cove of sand, where you may not take many clams, or lobsters, or both, at your pleasure, and in many places load your boat, if you please; nor isles where you find not fruits, birds, crabs, and mussels, or all of them, for taking, at a low water. And, in the harbors we frequented, a little boy might take of cunners and pinnacks,57 and such delicate fish, at the ship's stern, more than six or ten can eat in a day, but with a castingnet, thousands when we pleased; and scarce any place, but cod, cusk, halibut, mackerel, skate, or such like, a man may take with a hook or line what he will. And in divers sandy bays a man may draw with a net great store of mullets, bass, and divers other sorts of such [257] excellent fish, as many as his net can draw on shore. No river where there is not plenty of sturgeon, or salmon, or both; all which are to be had in abundance, observing but their seasons. But if a man will go at Christmas to gather cherries in Kent, he may be deceived, though there be plenty in summer. So here these plenties have each their seasons, as I have expressed. We, for the most part, had little but bread and vinegar; and though the most part of July, when the fishing decayed, they wrought58 all day, lay abroad in the isles all night, and lived on what they found, yet were not sick. But I would wish none put himself long to such plunges, except necessity constrain it. Yet worthy is that person to starve that here cannot live, if he have sense, strength, and health.

Xi.—Visit of Pocahontas to London in 1617.

During this time, the Lady Rebecca, alias Pocahontas, daughter to Powhatan, by the diligent care of Master John Rolfe, her husband, and his friends, was taught to speak such English as might well be understood, well instructed in Christianity, and was become very formal and civil after our English manner. She had also, by him, a child, which she loved most dearly; and the treasurer and company took order, both for the maintenance of her and it. Besides, there were divers persons of great rank and quality had been very kind to her; and, before she arrived at London, Captain Smith, to deserve her former courtesies, made [258] her qualities known to the queen's most excellent majesty and her court, and wrote a little book to this effect to the queen, an abstract whereof followeth:—

To the most high and virtuous princess, Queen Anne of great Britain.

Most Admired Queen,—The love I bear my God, my king and country, hath so oft emboldened me in the worst of extreme dangers, that now honesty doth constrain me [to] presume thus far beyond myself to present your Majesty this short discourse. If ingratitude be a deadly poison to all honest virtue, I must be guilty of that crime, if I should omit any means to be thankful. So it is,

That some ten years ago, being in Virginia, and taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan, their chief king, I received from this great savage exceeding great courtesy, especially from his son Nantaquond, the most manliest, comeliest, boldest spirit I ever saw in a savage, and his sister Pocahontas, the king's most dear and well-beloved daughter,—being but a child of twelve or thirteen years of age, whose compassionate, pitiful heart of my desperate estate gave me much cause to respect her, I being the first Christian this proud king and his grim attendants ever saw. And, thus enthralled in their barbarous power, I cannot say I felt the least occasion of want that was in the power of those my mortal foes to prevent, notwithstanding all their threats. After some six weeks fatting amongst those savage courtiers, at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with [259] her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown, where I found about eight and thirty miserable, poor, and sick creatures, to keep possession of all those large territories of Virginia. Such was the weakness of this poor commonwealth, as, had the savages not fed us, we directly had starved.

And this relief, most gracious Queen, was commonly brought us by this lady, Pocahontas. Notwithstanding all these passages, when inconstant fortune turned our peace to war, this tender virgin would still not spare to dare to visit us, and by her our jars have been oft appeased, and our wants still supplied. Were it the policy of her father thus to employ her, or the ordinance of God thus to make her his instrument, or her extraordinary affection to our nation, I know not. But of this I am sure; when her father, with the utmost of his policy and power, sought to surprise me, having but eighteen with me, the dark night could not affright her from coming through the irksome woods, and with watered eyes gave me intelligence, with her best advice to escape his fury, which had he known, he had surely slain her. Jamestown, with her wild train, she as freely frequented as her father's habitation; and, during the time of two or three years, she. next under God, was still the instrument to preserve


[260] this colony from death, famine, and utter confusion, which, if in those times, had once been dissolved, Virginia might have lain as it was at our first arrival to this day. Since then, this business having been turned and varied by many accidents from that I left it at, it is most certain, after a long and troublesome war after my departure, betwixt her father and our colony, all which time she was not heard of, about two years after, she herself was taken prisoner, being so detained near two years longer. The colony by that means was relieved, peace concluded, and at last, rejecting her barbarous condition, [she] was married to an English gentleman, with whom at this present she is in England; the first Christian ever of that nation, the first Virginian ever spoke English, or had a child in marriage by an Englishman,—a matter surely, if my meaning be truly considered and well understood, worthy a princess' understanding.

Thus, most gracious lady, I have related to your Majesty, what, at your best leisure, our approved histories will account you at large, and done in the time of your Majesty's life; and, however this might be presented you from a more worthy pen, it cannot from a more honest heart. As yet I never begged any thing of the state, or any; and if my want of ability, and her exceeding desert, your birth, means, and authority, her birth, virtue, want, and simplicity, doth make me thus bold, humbly to beseech your Majesty to take this knowledge of her, though it be from one so unworthy to be the reporter as myself . . . And so I humbly kiss your gracious hands.

Being about this time preparing to set sail for New [261] England, I could not stay to do her that service I desired, and she well deserved; but, hearing she was at Branford with divers of my friends, I went to see her. After a modest salutation, without any word, she turned about, obscured her face, as not seeming well contented; and in that humor her husband, with divers others, we all left her two or three hours, repenting myself to have written she could speak English. But not long after, she began to talk, and remembered me well what courtesies she had done, saying, ‘You did promise Powhatan what was yours should be his, and he the like to you. You called him father, being in his land a stranger, and by the same reason so must I do you.’ Which, though I would have excused, I durst not allow of that title, because she was a king's daughter. With a well-set countenance she said, ‘Were you not afraid to come into my father's country, and caused fear in him and all his people,—but me,—and fear you here I should call you father? I tell you, then, I will, and you shall call me child; and so I will be for ever and ever your countryman. They did tell us always you were dead; and I knew no other till I came to Plymouth. Yet Powhatan did command Vetamatomakkin to seek you, and know the truth, because your countrymen will lie much.’

This savage, one of Powhatan's council, being amongst them held an understanding fellow, the king purposely sent him to number the people here, and inform him well what we were, and our state. Arriving at Plymouth, according to his directions, he got a long stick, whereon by notches he did think to have kept the number of all the men he could see; but he was quickly [262] weary of that task. Coming to London, where by chance I met him, having renewed our acquaintance, where many were desirous to hear and see his behavior, he told me Powhatan did bid him to find me out, to show him our God, the king, queen, and prince I so much had told them of. Concerning God I told him the best I could; the king I heard he had seen; and the rest he should see when he would. He denied ever to have seen the king, till by circumstances he was satisfied he had. Then he replied very sadly, ‘You gave Powhatan a white dog, which Powhatan fed as himself; but your king gave me nothing, and I am better than your white dog.’

The small time I staid in London, divers courtiers and others my acquaintances hath gone with me to see her, that generally concluded they did think God had a great hand in her conversion; and they have seen many English ladies worse favored, proportioned, and behaved. And, as since I have heard, it pleased both the king's and queen's Majesty honorably to esteem her, accompanied with that honorable lady, the Lady De la Ware, and that honorable lord, her husband, and divers other persons of good qualities, both publicly at the masques, and otherwise, to her great satisfaction and content; which doubtless she would have deserved, had she lived to arrive in Virginia.

The treasurer, council, and company having well furnished Captain Samuel Argall, the lady Pocahontas aliasRebecca, with her husband and others, in the good ship called ‘The George,’ it pleased God at Gravesend to take this young lady to his mercy, where she made [263] not more sorrow for her unexpected death than joy to the beholders to hear and see her make so religious and godly an end. Her little child, Thomas Rolfe, therefore was left at Plymouth with Sir Lewis Stukely that desired the keeping of it.

Xii.—First buildings of the Virginia colonists.

[this description was written by Smith in the last year of his life,—631.]

When I went first to Virginia, I well remember we did hang an awning—which is an old sail—to three or four trees to shadow us from the sun. Our walls were rails of wood, our seats unhewed trees till we cut planks, our pulpit a bar of wood nailed to two neighboring trees. In foul weather we shifted into an old rotten tent, for we had few better; and this came by the way of adventure59 for new. This was our church till we built a homely thing like a barn, set upon crotchets, covered with rafts, sedge, and earth: so was also the walls. The best of our houses [were] of the like curiosity,60 but the most part far much worse workmanship, that could neither well defend61 wind nor rain; yet we had daily common prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons, and every three months the holy communion, till our minister died. But our prayers daily, with an homily on Sundays, we continued two or three years after, till more preachers came . . .

Notwithstanding, out of the relics of our miseries, time and experience had brought that country to a [264] great happiness, had they not so much doted on their tobacco, on whose furnish62 foundation there is small stability; there being so many good commodities besides.

Xiii.—Captain John Smith's recollections of his own life.

[also written in the last year of his life,—1631.]

The wars in Europe, Asia, and Africa, taught me how to subdue the wild savages in Virginia and New England in America . . . . Having been a slave to the Turks, prisoner amongst the most barbarous savages; after my deliverance commonly discovering and ranging those large rivers and unknown nations, with such a handful of ignorant companions, that the wiser sort often gave me for lost; always in mutinies, wants, and miseries; blown up with gunpowder; a long time prisoner among the French pirates, from whom escaping in a little boat by myself, and adrift all such a stormy winter night, when their ships were split, more than an hundred thousand pound lost, we had taken at sea, and most of them drowned upon the Isle of Ree,63 not far from whence I was driven on shore in my little boat, &c.; and many a score of the worst of winter months lived in the fields; yet to have lived near thirty-seven years in the midst of wars, pestilence, and famine, by which many an hundred thousand have died about me, and scarce five living of them went first with me to Virginia, and see the fruits [265] of my labors thus well begin to prosper,—though I have but my labor for my pains, have I not much reason both privately and publicly to acknowledge it, and give God thanks, whose omnipotent power only delivered me to do the utmost of my best to make his name known in those remote parts of the world, and his loving mercy to such a miserable sinner? [266]

1 More often written ‘Gosnold.’

2 Waited.

3 A small sailing-vessel.

4 Iguana.

5 i.e., taken no observations of the sun.

6 i.e., lie to.

7 i.e., settle as planters.

8 i.e., an explanation publicly given.

9 Suspicion.

10 The James River.

11 Treated.

12 Two cannon-balls joined by a short iron bar.

13 Baskets.

14 Surrounded with palisades.

15 By day.

16 Permission to go to and from England.

17 i.e., persons occupied in lazy contemplation.

18 i.e., in appealing to the captains of transports, or vessels,

19 Talkative people.

20 Persimmons.

21 Fantastic fellows.

22 Now Chickahominy.

23 i.e., came near doing it.

24 Lesser gods.

25 Muddy.

26 i.e., agreement.

27 i.e., held with the notch against the strings, ready for use

28 ‘Bissom,’ or ‘Bishion,’ was a military term not now understood.

29 Piece of armor to protect the lower part of the arm; from the Frencn avant-bras.Smith elsewhere calls it ‘braces.’

30 Puccoons.

31 i.e., appetite.

32 Note-book, or book containing tables.

33 Sometimes called ‘Werawocomoco,’ supposed to be on the north side of Pamaunkee, now York River, at a place still called ‘Powhatan's Chimney.’

34 Showy garments.

35 Appomattox.

36 Smith.

37 Captain Smith, in another narrative relating to this same period, describes Pocahontas as ‘a child of ten years old, which, not only for feature, countenance, and proportion, much exceedeth any of the rest of his people, but for wit and spirit the only nonpareil of his country.’ Nonpareil means unequalled. But Strachey, the secretary of the colony, gives a less poetical description of Pocahontas, describing her as a wild and ungoverned child, playing rather rudely about the fort with other children. See an article called ‘The True Pocahontas,’ in Scribner's Monthly for May, 1876.

38 i.e., as well skilled.

39 Cannon.

40 i.e., resumed our interview.

41 Subordinate chiefs.

42 Watch.

43 Arrow-shot, or bow-shot.

44 Body-guard.

45 Ornament for the forehead, or front.

46 An Austrian princess.

47 Regular entertainments.

48 Went.

49 Compare.

50 Gay, or frolicsome.

51 Capable.

52 i.e., instead of.

53 Shoals.

54 Confining.

55 Eastern merchants, as the Germans and Danes.

56 i.e., for other commodities as mean.

57 Pollocks.

58 Worked.

59 Trade.

60 Equally curious.

61 Keep out.

62 Smoky.

63 Rŕ or Rhe.

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