Essay 2 is due this week. Write a 500-750 word essay on one of the following topics. Aim for a 5-paragraph essay structure ( introduction with thesis,
three body paragraphs, and a conclusion).
1. Review Mary Rowlandson’s narrative as a faith narrative instead of a capture narrative. If instead of viewing the work as an attempt to tell the
true story of a capture, it is read as a reaffirmation of faith in God, how does that change the meaning?
2. Discuss the idea of the Reliable Narrator in one of the authors read up until this point. Use specific examples from outside sources and the
text to show why it should or should not be believed that this author is reliable.
3. Think about this rather surprising statement: It has been suggested that Olaudah Equiano may not have been born in Africa, but in South
Carolina. If this were true, does his birthplace change the way we read and evaluate this memoir? Does this possibility affect its viability or
reliability as a source on slavery and the slave trade?
4. Compare or contrast two individuals from weeks one through four who best illuminate important themes of America during the time period covered.
Define the themes you’ll write about, and then discuss what precisely in the writing defines those themes. Discuss these themes as they relate to
current day approach or understanding.
Your essay should be formatted in MLA style, including double spacing throughout. All sources should be properly cited both in the text and on a works
cited page. As with most academic writing, this essay should be written in third person. Please avoid both first person (I, we, our, etc.) and second
person (you, your).
Exploration and the Colonies
European cultural exchange with North America stretched back to Leif Ericsson’s arrival at Newfoundland around the year 1000, but European settlement
began to spread rapidly only after the first voyage of Columbus in 1492. For Europe in the sixteenth century, America became a golden western arena of
Renaissance energies that lured adventurers with shining opportunities for pelts and pelf and invited the colonial ambitions of rival empires. Soon
Spaniards rimmed the Gulf of Mexico and pushed westward to the Pacific: Ponce de León explored the coast of Florida, Cabeza de Vaca and three
companions lived eight years with tribes of the Southwest, Coronado reached the Grand Canyon, and de Soto ranged from Florida as far north as
Tennessee—all by 1542. Meanwhile, Verrazzano, an Italian sailing under a French flag, explored the eastern coast from North Carolina to Maine, meeting
and trading with the natives. This group constituted the first wave. After it, explorations came thick and fast for another half century. By the time
the first settlers arrived at Jamestown, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay, the Native Americans of the Atlantic coast had experienced nearly a century
of both friendly and adversarial contact with light-skinned strangers from beyond the seas.
The seventeenth-century settlers of the future United States arrived in a world that was wholly new to them. Their experiences and cultural heritage
lay far behind them, on the other side of the wide and dangerous North Atlantic Ocean. The climate, geography, native people, and culture they found
on the wooded shores of Virginia and Massachusetts bore little resemblance to conditions in the tropical Spanish territories of the West Indies and
Mexico. By the time these settlers arrived, the earliest depredations of disease and colonial cruelty in the southern lands were a century in the
past. Although Spaniards had destroyed the Aztec empire and taken control of Mexico by 1521, Jamestown was not settled until 1607, Plymouth until
1620. The men and women of Virginia and Massachusetts bore with them from their homes in England and the Netherlands no burden of Old World guilt for
those early atrocities. Equally important to American history and literature, the Native Americans who met them possessed no tragic history of
strangers from abroad imposing massive subjugation and bloodshed upon them. North American seaboard Indians did not know, much less feel aggrieved by,
the circumstances of confrontation, conquest, and acculturation in the West Indies and Mexico. From Virginia to Massachusetts, for Powhatan and
Pocahontas as well as for John Smith and John Rolfe, for Squanto and Massasoit as well as for William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet, the spheres of
their separate existence were forever transformed in the time of their meeting and not before. The men and women who would inhabit this New World
together had much to learn about themselves, about each other, and about the structures of their mutual lives. From small coastal footholds, the land
stretched before the newcomers in majesty and mystery, while the inhabitants they met told of wonders yet unseen—of towering peaks and mighty rivers,
of shifting sands and ancient cities, in a continent of unimaginable size, more than half of it covered by forests of fabulous density. No wonder the
American imagination vibrates to this day with indelible visions of this vast richness and of the people who inhabited these forests, plains, and
cities, who coursed these rivers and traversed these deserts and mountains for twenty thousand years before the coming of the Europeans.
A century and a half after the first settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts, the people who declared their independence from Great Britain and
established the United States of America were predominantly English in their language and political institutions, but they were deeply indebted both
to the Indians and to the people from other European nations who quickly followed them to Atlantic shore colonies. By the time of the American
Revolution, the population was numerous and diverse. Virginia began with Anglican settlers who within a dozen years acquired their first African
slaves from Dutch traders. The Plymouth Pilgrims were Separatists from the Church of England, but the Massachusetts Bay Puritans who arrived ten years
later wanted only to purify the English church, not separate themselves from it. In Maryland, Catholics mingled with Protestants. New York was first
settled by the Dutch, Florida by the Spanish, Canada by the French. Rhode Island built on the religious freedom proclaimed by Roger Williams.
Pennsylvania was established by William Penn as a haven of Quaker tolerance. The Carolinas were settled by the English, Scots, French Huguenots, and
Barbadians— the latter, English colonists who had established a thriving black slave economy on the uninhabited island of Barbados after 1627 and gave
impetus to a similar economy in the Carolinas from the 1770s on. Georgia, especially, is often remembered as a primary destination of English
convicts, until the American Revolution forced the British to shift much of their penal transportation to Australia, but the English also sent felons
and debtors from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to all the other colonies, beginning with Virginia in 1618. In the sixty years immediately
before the Revolution, some four thousand men and women of this kind arrived to work out their seven to fourteen years of servitude. By the eighteenth
century, the Middle Colonies, especially, had become home to Jews from Germany and Portugal, and by 1776 a number of Italian and Swiss colonists could
also call themselves Americans.
Reasons for coming were as diverse as the people. Important early settlements on America’s East Coast derived from motives far different from those
that drove the financial engines of European colonialism. While the great tide of Renaissance exploration and conquest was still at flood, the
Protestant Reformation was preparing another restless host, for whom America became the Promised Land of the human spirit, offering to people of sober
purpose and lofty ideals a vision of expanded freedoms and new hopes denied them in the Old World. The majority of these settled in New England and
the Middle Colonies, establishing there a Protestant presence of overwhelming importance to American history and traditions, a fact that continues to
influence the life and thought of the United States.
An enormous amount was written about America during the early periods of exploration and settlement. Europeans wrote descriptions of the country, its
flora and fauna, its native inhabitants, its offshore fisheries. They wrote of trading with the Indians and of treaties, wars, and captivities; they
created instruments of government and law; they kept personal journals; they recorded the history of their colonies, often for political or economic
purposes but also, in New England especially, to “justify the ways of God to man” in the New Jerusalem. A large number of these works were printed in
England or on the Continent. Most were bound to the particulars of their time and place and not very readable to later generations, although often
immensely useful to historians. Still, with an amazing frequency, in view of the physical conditions of their lives, writers appeared who communicated
a richness of spirit or character that time has not tarnished. Our early literature became an abundant reservoir of material and inspiration for the
great burst of energy in American literature of the nineteenth century. For readers today it still provides an understanding of those bedrock American
experiences that developed our national character and peculiarly American institutions.
VIRGINIA AND THE SOUTH
The first permanent English settlement resulted from mercantile rather than religious motives. In promoting the settlement of Jamestown (1607), the
Virginia Company expected to provide goods for British trade and to attract English settlers in need of homes and land. The company’s conception of
the New World was so unrealistic that it sent to Virginia a perfumer and several tailors. Epidemic fevers and Indian raids during the first few years
reduced the colony as fast as new recruits could be brought in on the infrequent supply ships. The Indians, whom the company had counted on for cheap
labor, refused both enslavement and incentives to work as free men and women. Innocent of the European concept of property, they resented the settlers
who fenced and cultivated their hunting grounds, and they retaliated with blood and fire. Still, somehow the Virginia colony increased, first at
Jamestown, and then at Williamsburg, the handsome colonial capital where the second college in North America, William and Mary, was founded in 1693.
Other southern colonies were established in Maryland in 1634 and in the Carolinas and Georgia in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
In the New England colonies, the situation was different. At Plymouth (1620) and Massachusetts Bay (1630), more than twenty thousand English men and
women soon found new homes. A considerable number were learned, especially the Puritan clergymen and governors, and some of them embodied greatness of
spirit and creativity. Even in the seventeenth century they produced a considerable body of writing. Yet they were not professional literary people;
they were mainly intent upon subduing a wilderness, making homes, and building a new civil society, on which they had staked their lives and fortunes.
In Plymouth, which lay outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, the Pilgrims fostered a stern independence by their insistence on separation
from the Church of England and by the precedent for American self-governance set in the Mayflower Compact. The political isolation of the Plymouth
Colony proved short-lived, however, as Massachusetts Bay quickly assumed the natural hegemony of New England. It had the physical situation—a harbor
and rivers—for expansion into a cluster of small towns in close association with each other. When the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, John
Winthrop, a strong Puritan, brought the charter of his company from England to Boston, he transformed a British company directly under the control of
the king into an overseas colony with limited but unprecedented powers of self-government. The Puritans who followed Winthrop were thrifty, and they
thrived. They initiated a town-meeting government, popular elections, a bicameral council, and other novelties that soon evolved into major parts of
the machinery of democracy. Theirs was in some ways an intolerant society, for their consensus on matters of dogma left them few substantial
challenges of the kind that made toleration inevitable in the Middle Colonies. Even in Massachusetts Bay, however, diversity of opinion was never
stilled, and such outcasts as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson soon founded colonies of their own, accelerating the outward flow of forces of self-
realization from Boston into New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In 1643, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New
Haven founded the New England Federation, adopting a constitution for “The United Colonies of New England”—a union with limited powers that left each
colony free to solve its own internal problems and provided another New World model of independent self-regulation.
Natives and Explorers
The first Americans lived in relatively stable relationships with their land and each other for thousands of years. In Mexico and in Central and South
America they developed stone cities and written records that describe ways of life far different from those of their northern neighbors. None of the
Indians in the lands stretching from Florida to Washington State and from Maine to California possessed more than the rudiments of a written language.
What we know of their literature comes from a rich store of oral tradition that for the most part did not begin to find its way into print until the
nineteenth century, over three hundred years after the arrival of the first European explorers. In looking for the past within these texts, it is
necessary to consider the ways that folklore shifts with time and adapts to new circumstances as well as the ways it might have been altered by its
recorders and translators. The selections that follow represent widespread and apparently enduring traditions. They reflect a culture much as it must
have existed when it was still innocent of European newcomers.
European explorers sent home detailed reports of the people they found, providing us with robust images of Indian life, but we need to read these
accounts with the understanding that they are colored by European perspectives and ambitions toward colonization and trade. Columbus never reached the
continental United States, but his comments anticipate the reports of those who did. From the earliest visitors to our shores, we have selected
accounts of the East Coast by Verrazzano, the South and Southwest by Cabeza de Vaca, California as reported by Drake and printed by Hakluyt, and New
England as seen by Champlain. They provide glimpses into lives that changed greatly after the massive influx of Europeans who dispossessed Indians of
land and infected them with European diseases for which their systems had developed no defenses. Dispossession transformed traditional ways. Sickness
weakened resistance. Time wrought other changes. Both their own early accounts and the reports of their first visitors remind us that many of these
early Native Americans differed in significant ways from the Indians who come most readily to mind today. The Plains Indian culture that plays such a
large part in our generalized understanding of American Indians arose only in the eighteenth century, after Indians acquired rifles and horses from
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
(c. 1490-c. 1557)
For eight years, from 1528 to 1536, three Spaniards and a Moroccan slave lived among the Native American tribes of the American Southwest. Part of the
time they existed as slaves to the people they called “Indians,” but Cabeza de Vaca also managed for a while a slightly more free life as a trader,
and in time they came to be venerated for their healing powers. Theirs is the first record of extended contact between people of the Old World and the
New on the soil that later became the United States.
Born in Cádiz, Spain, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was in his late thirties in June 1527 when he left Spain with the ill-fated expedition of Pánfilo de
Narváez, bound for Florida. Not quite a year later, in April 1528, when the expedition arrived at Tampa Bay, the original six hundred soldiers and
colonists had already lost many of their number to shipwreck, desertion, and disease. With three hundred men, Narváez set out overland; then at
Appalachee Bay he decided to try the sea again. Constructing a homemade forge, they melted stirrups and spurs to make nails, killed their horses for
food, constructed water bottles of horse skins, and built five boats that carried them along the coast toward Texas. By November 1528 two boats had
reached an island off Texas, where they were wrecked. Of the eighty Spaniards who reached the island, fifteen survived the winter. Eventually only
four were left: Cabeza de Vaca, Alonzo del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes, and Dorantes’s black slave, Estevan.
For about six years Cabeza de Vaca remained in the same general area of Texas, “alone among the Indians, and naked like them.” Only rarely did he meet
the other Spaniards when the tribes came together. When the four finally escaped, they wandered another two years before reaching a Spanish outpost in
Mexico in 1536. Although their route remains unclear, it seems likely that they reached western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They were probably the
first non-Indians to see buffalo, and their reports contributed to legends of the Seven Cities of Cíbola that inspired Coronado’s expedition of 1540.
From The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
CHAPTER 12: THE INDIANS BRING US FOOD
At sunrise the next day,1 the time the Indians appointed, they came according to their promise, and brought us a large quantity of fish with certain
roots, some a little larger than walnuts, others a trifle smaller, the greater part got from under the water and with much labor. In the evening they
returned and brought us more fish and roots. They sent their women and children to look at us, who went back rich with the hawk-bells and beads given
them, and they came afterwards on other days, returning as before. Finding that we had provision, fish, roots, water, and other things we asked for,
we determined to embark again and pursue our course. Having dug out our boat from the sand in which it was buried, it became necessary that we should
strip, and go through great exertion to launch her, we being in such a state that things very much lighter sufficed to make us great labor.
Thus embarked, at the distance of two crossbow shots in the sea we shipped a wave that entirely wet us. As we were naked, and the cold was very great,
the oars loosened in our hands, and the next blow the sea struck us, capsized the boat. The assessor and two others held fast to her for preservation,
but it happened to be far otherwise; the boat carried them over, and they were drowned under her. As the surf near the shore was very high, a single
roll of the sea threw the rest into the waves and half drowned upon the shore of the island, without our losing any more than those the boat took
down. The survivors escaped naked as they were born, with the loss of all they had; and although the whole was of little value, at that time it was
worth much, as we were then in November, the cold was severe, and our bodies were so emaciated the bones might be counted with little difficulty,
having become the perfect figures of death. For myself I can say that from the month of May passed, I had eaten no other thing than maize, and
sometimes I found myself obliged to eat it unparched; for although the beasts were slaughtered while the boats were building, I could never eat their
flesh, and I did not eat fish ten times. I state this to avoid giving excuses, and that every one may judge in what condition we were. Besides all
these misfortunes, came a north wind upon us, from which we were nearer to death than life. Thanks be to our Lord that, looking among the brands we
had used there, we found sparks from which we made great fires. And thus were we asking mercy of Him and pardon for our transgressions, shedding many
tears, and each regretting not his own fate alone, but that of his comrades about him.
At sunset, the Indians thinking that we had not gone, came to seek us and bring us food; but when they saw us thus, in a plight so different from what
it was before, and so extraordinary, they were alarmed and turned back. I went toward them and called, when they returned much frightened. I gave them
to understand by signs that our boat had sunk and three of our number had been drowned. There, before them, they saw two of the departed, and we who
remained were near joining them. The Indians, at sight of what had befallen us, and our state of suffering and melancholy destitution, sat down among
us, and from the sorrow and pity they felt, they all began to lament so earnestly that they might have been heard at a distance, and continued so
doing more than half an hour. It was strange to see these men, wild and untaught, howling like brutes over our misfortunes. It caused in me as in
others, an increase of feeling and a livelier sense of our calamity.
The cries having ceased, I talked with the Christians, and said that if it appeared well to them, I would beg these Indians to take us to their
houses. Some, who had been in New Spain, replied that we ought not to think of it; for if they should do so, they would sacrifice us to their idols.
But seeing no better course, and that any other led to a nearer and more certain death, I disregarded what was said, and besought the Indians to take
us to their dwellings. They signified that it would give them delight, and that we should tarry a little, that they might do what we asked. Presently
thirty men loaded themselves with wood and started for their houses, which were far off, and we remained with the others until near night, when,
holding us up, they carried us with all haste. Because of the extreme coldness of the weather, lest any one should die or fail by the way, they caused
four or five very large fires to be placed at intervals, and at each they warmed us; and when they saw that we had regained some heat and strength,
they took us to the next so swiftly that they hardly let us touch our feet to the ground. In this manner we went as far as their habitations, where we
found that they had made a house for us with many fires in it. An hour after our arrival, they began to dance and hold great rejoicing, which lasted
all night, although for us there was no joy, festivity nor sleep, awaiting the hour they should make us victims. In the morning they again gave us
fish and roots, showing us such hospitality that we were reassured, and lost somewhat the fear of sacrifice.
CHAPTER 14: THE DEPARTURE OF FOUR CHRISTIANS
The four Christians being gone,2 after a few days such cold and tempestuous weather succeeded that the Indians could not pull up roots, the cane weirs
in which they took fish no longer yielded any thing, and the houses being very open, our people began to die. Five Christians, of a mess [quartered]
on the coast, came to such extremity that they ate their dead; the body of the last one only was found unconsumed. Their names were Sierra, Diego
Lopez, Corral, Palacios and Gonçalo Ruiz. This produced great commotion among the Indians giving rise to so much censure that had they known it in
season to have done so, doubtless they would have destroyed any survivor, and we should have found ourselves in the utmost perplexity. Finally, of
eighty men who arrived in the two instances, fifteen only remained alive.
After this, the natives were visited by a disease of the bowels, of which half their number died. They conceived that we had destroyed them,3 and
believing it firmly, they concerted among themselves to dispatch those of us who survived. When they were about to execute their purpose, an Indian
who had charge of me, told them not to believe we were the cause of those deaths, since if we had such power we should also have averted the fatality
from so many of our people, whom they had seen die without our being able to minister relief, already very few of us remaining, and none doing hurt or
wrong, and that it would be better to leave us unharmed. God our Lord willed that the others should heed this opinion and counsel, and be hindered in
To this island we gave the name Malhado.4 The people5 we found there are large and well formed; they have no other arms than bows and arrows, in the
use of which they are very dexterous. The men have one of their nipples bored from side to side, and some have both, wearing a cane in each, the
length of two palms and a half, and the thickness of two fingers. They have the under lip also bored, and wear in it a piece of cane the breadth of
half a finger. Their women are accustomed to great toil. The stay they make on the island is from October to the end of February. Their subsistence
then is the root I have spoken of, got from under the water in November and December. They have weirs of cane and take fish only in this season;
afterwards they live on the roots. At the end of February, they go into other parts to seek food; for then the root is beginning to grow and is not
Those people love their offspring the most of any in the world, and treat them with the greatest mildness. When it occurs that a son dies, the parents
and kindred weep as does everybody; the wailing continuing for him a whole year. They begin before dawn every day, the parents first and after them
the whole town. They do the same at noon and at sunset. After a year of mourning has passed, the rites of the dead are performed; then they wash and
purify themselves from the stain of smoke. They lament all the deceased in this manner, except the aged, for whom they show no regret, as they say
that their season has passed, they having no enjoyment, and that living they would occupy the earth and take aliment from the young. Their custom is
to bury the dead, unless it be those among them who have been physicians. These they burn. While the fire kindles they are all dancing and making high
festivity, until the bones become powder. After the lapse of a year the funeral honors are celebrated, every one taking part in them, when that dust
is presented in water for the relatives to drink. * * *
CHAPTER 16: THE CHRISTIANS LEAVE THE ISLAND OF MALHADO
* * * I was obliged to remain with the people belonging to the island more than a year, and because of the hard work they put upon me and the harsh
treatment, I resolved to flee from them and go to those of Charruco, who inhabit the forests and country of the main, the life I led being
insupportable. Besides much other labor, I had to get out roots from below the water, and from among the cane where they grew in the ground. From this
employment I had my fingers so worn that did a straw but touch them they would bleed. Many of the canes are broken, so they often tore my flesh, and I
had to go in the midst of them with only the clothing on I have mentioned.
Samuel de Champlain
Foremost among the founders of New France, Samuel de Champlain also made significant incursions into territory later settled by the British and
eventually incorporated into the United States. Some years before John Smith, he explored the New England coast as far south as Martha’s Vineyard,
making the first detailed charts of the region. In 1605 on Cape Cod he and his men exchanged shots and arrows with the Indians fifteen years before
the Pilgrims’ similar “First Encounter,” which occurred about three miles away, on the other side of the peninsula. The French sailor buried at that
time was the first European interred on New England soil, save, perhaps, for a much earlier Viking. In 1609, accompanying a war party of Huron
Indians, Champlain became the European discoverer of Lake Champlain; the defeat of the Iroquois on that occasion at the later Fort Ticonderoga
introduced firearms in a major way into that part of the world and contributed to the longstanding enmity between the Iroquois and the French. In
1615, still five years before the arrival of the Pilgrims, he made another incursion into New York, accompanying a Huron war party in an attack on an
Iroquois fort near Oneida Lake. Meanwhile, in 1608 he had established at Quebec the first permanent European settlement in America north of Florida.
Exploring westward as far as Georgian Bay, he established the pattern for the French explorers and voyageurs who not long after opened up the trade
routes to the west and south while the English were still settling the eastern seaboard.
Born in Brouage, France, Champlain served King Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) in the religious wars of the period and then for a while commanded a
Spanish fleet, visiting the West Indies, Mexico, and Panama. In 1603 a fur-trading expedition took him up the St. Lawrence River as far as Lachine. In
1604 he helped found a colony on the Bay of Fundy, and from that base he explored the New England coast until he turned his attention a few years
later to the new colony at Quebec and explorations from there. Captured when the English took Quebec in 1629, he spent four years in exile in England,
but he returned to the New World after the restoration of New France to France in 1632.
From Voyages of Samuel de Champlain: The Voyages of 1604-1607
Samuel de Champlain
Continuation of the Discoveries Along the Coast of the Almouchiquois, and What We Observed in Detail
* * * The same day we sailed two leagues along a sandy coast, as we passed along which we saw a great many cabins and gardens.1 The wind being
contrary, we entered a little bay to await a time favorable for proceeding. There came to us two or three canoes, which had just been fishing for cod
and other fish, which are found there in large numbers. These they catch with hooks made of a piece of wood, to which they attach a bone in the shape
of a spear, and fasten it very securely. The whole has a fang-shape, and the line attached to it is made out of the bark of a tree. They gave me one
of their hooks, which I took as a curiosity. In it the bone was fastened on by hemp, like that in France, as it seemed to me, and they told me that
they gathered this plant without being obliged to cultivate it; and indicated that it grew to the height of four or five feet. This canoe went back on
shore to give notice to their fellow inhabitants, who caused columns of smoke to arise on our account. We saw eighteen or twenty savages, who came to
the shore and began to dance. Our canoe landed in order to give them some bagatelles, at which they were greatly pleased. Some of them came to us and
begged us to go to their river. We weighed anchor to do so, but were unable to enter on account of the small amount of water, it being low tide, and
were accordingly obliged to anchor at the mouth. I went ashore, where I saw many others, who received us very cordially. I made also an examination of
the river, but saw only an arm of water extending a short distance inland, where the land is only in part cleared up. Running into this is merely a
brook not deep enough for boats except at full tide. The circuit of the bay is about a league. On one side of the entrance to this bay there is a
point which is almost an island, covered with wood, principally pines, and adjoins sand-banks, which are very extensive. On the other side, the land
is high. There are two islets in this bay, which are not seen until one has entered, and around which it is almost entirely dry at low tide. This
place is very conspicuous from the sea, for the coast is very low, excepting the cape at the entrance to the bay. We named it the Port du Cap St.
Louis, distant two leagues from the above cape, and ten from the Island Cape. It is in about the same latitude as Cap St. Louis.2
On the 19th of the month, we set out from this place. Coasting along in a southerly direction, we sailed four or five leagues, and passed near a rock
on a level with the surface of the water. As we continued our course, we saw some land which seemed to us to be islands, but as we came nearer we
found it to be the main land, lying to the north-north-west of us, and that it was the cape of a large bay,3 containing more than eighteen or nineteen
leagues in circuit, into which we had run so far that we had to wear off on the other tack in order to double the cape which we had seen. The latter
we named Cap Blanc,4 since it contained sands and downs which had a white appearance. A favorable wind was of great assistance to us here, for
otherwise we should have been in danger of being driven upon the coast. This bay is very safe, provided the land be not approached nearer than a good
league, there being no islands nor rocks except that just mentioned, which is near a river that extends some distance inland, which we named St.
Suzanne du Cap Blanc,5 whence across to Cap St. Louis the distance is ten leagues. Cap Blanc is a point of sand, which bends around towards the south
some six leagues. This coast is rather high, and consists of sand, which is very conspicuous as one comes from the sea. At a distance of some fifteen
or eighteen leagues from land, the depth of the water is thirty, forty, and fifty fathoms, but only ten on nearing the shore, which is unobstructed.
There is a large extent of open country along the shore before reaching the woods, which are very attractive and beautiful. We anchored off the coast,
and saw some savages, towards whom four of our company proceeded. Making their way upon a sand-bank, they observed something like a bay, and cabins
bordering it on all sides. When they were about a league and a half from us, there came to them a savage dancing all over, as they expressed it. He
had come down from the high shore, but turned about shortly after to inform his fellow inhabitants of our arrival.
The next day, the 20th of the month, we went to the place which our men had seen, and which we found a very dangerous harbor in consequence of the
shoals and banks, where we saw breakers in all directions. It was almost low tide when we entered, and there were only four feet of water in the
northern passage; at high tide, there are two fathoms. After we had entered, we found the place very spacious, being perhaps three or four leagues in
circuit, entirely surrounded by little houses, around each one of which there was as much land as the occupant needed for his support. A small river
enters here, which is very pretty, and in which at low tide there are some three and a half feet of water. There are also two or three brooks bordered
by meadows. It would be a very fine place, if the harbor were good. I took the altitude, and found the latitude 42°, and the deflection of the
magnetic needle 18° 40’. Many savages, men and women, visited us, and ran up on all sides dancing. We named this place Port de Mallebarre.6
The next day, the 21st of the month, Sieur de Monts7 determined to go and see their habitation. Nine or ten of us accompanied him with our arms; the
rest remained to guard the barque. We went about a league along the coast. Before reaching their cabins, we entered a field planted with Indian corn
in the manner before described. The corn was in flower, and five and a half feet high. There was some less advanced, which they plant later. We saw
many Brazilian beans, and many squashes of various sizes, very good for eating; some tobacco, and roots which they cultivate, the latter having the
taste of an artichoke. The woods are filled with oaks, nut-trees, and beautiful cypresses,8 which are of a reddish color and have a very pleasant
odor. There were also several fields entirely uncultivated, the land being allowed to remain fallow. When they wish to plant it, they set fire to the
weeds, and then work it over with their wooden spades. Their cabins are round, and covered with heavy thatch made of reeds. In the roof there is an
opening of about a foot and a half, whence the smoke from the fire passes out. We asked them if they had their permanent abode in this place, and
whether there was much snow. But we were unable to ascertain this fully from them, not understanding their language, although they made an attempt to
inform us by signs, by taking some sand in their hands, spreading it out over the ground, and indicating that it was of the color of our collars, and
that it reached the depth of a foot. Others made signs that there was less, and gave us to understand also that the harbor never froze; but we were
unable to ascertain whether the snow lasted long. I conclude, however, that this region is of moderate temperature, and the winter not severe. While
we were there, there was a north-east storm, which lasted four days; the sky being so overcast that the sun hardly shone at all. It was very cold, and
we were obliged to put on our greatcoats, which we had entirely left off. Yet I think the cold was accidental, as it is often experienced elsewhere
out of season.
On the 23d of July, four or five seamen having gone on shore with some kettles to get fresh water, which was to be found in one of the sand-banks a
short distance from our barque, some of the savages, coveting them, watched the time when our men went to the spring, and then seized one out of the
hands of a sailor, who was the first to dip, and who had no weapons. One of his companions, starting to run after him, soon returned, as he could not
catch him, since he ran much faster than himself. The other savages, of whom there were a large number, seeing our sailors running to our barque, and
at the same time shouting to us to fire at them, took to flight. At the time there were some of them in our barque, who threw themselves into the sea,
only one of whom we were able to seize. Those on the land who had taken to flight, seeing them swimming, returned straight to the sailor from whom
they had taken away the kettle, hurled several arrows at him from behind, and brought him down. Seeing this, they ran at once to him, and despatched
him with their knives. Meanwhile, haste was made to go on shore, and muskets were fired from our barque: mine, bursting in my hands, came near killing
me. The savages, hearing this discharge of fire-arms, took to flight, and with redoubled speed when they saw that we had landed, for they were afraid
when they saw us running after them. There was no likelihood of our catching them, for they are as swift as horses. We brought in the murdered man,
and he was buried some hours later.9 Meanwhile, we kept the prisoner bound by the feet and hands on board of our barque, fearing that he might escape.
But Sieur de Monts resolved to let him go, being persuaded that he was not to blame, and that he had no previous knowledge of what had transpired, as
also those who, at the time, were in and about our barque. Some hours later there came some savages to us, to excuse themselves, indicating by signs
and demonstrations that it was not they who had committed this malicious act, but others farther off in the interior. We did not wish to harm them,
although it was in our power to avenge ourselves.
[Report of the First Voyage]1
Christopher Columbus sought one land, found another, and never knew that he had failed to open a way to the Indies. He knew that the world was round
but misunderstood its size and thought he was close to his goal when he reached the West Indies. In three more voyages he never corrected his mistake,
and he never reached the land that would become the United States. Little is known of his background. He seems to have been a weaver, born in Genoa,
who took to the sea, conceived of a voyage west, and spent years seeking support in Portugal before he convinced Queen Isabella of Spain to back his
expedition. His report of his voyage opened the gates to a flood of exploration, conquest, and settlement.
SIR, since I know that you will take pleasure at the great victory with which Our Lord has crowned my voyage, I write this to you, from which you will
learn how in twenty2 days I reached the Indies with the fleet which the most illustrious King and Queen, our lords, gave to me. And there I found very
many islands filled with people without number, and of them all I have taken possession for their Highnesses, by proclamation and with the royal
standard displayed, and nobody objected. * * *
The people of this island3 and of all the other islands which I have found and seen, or have not seen, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers
bore them, except that some women cover one place only with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for that. They have no iron or
steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of handsome stature, because they are wonderfully timorous.
They have no other arms than arms of canes, [cut] when they are in seed time, to the ends of which they fix a sharp little stick; and they dare not
make use of these, for oftentimes it has happened that I have sent ashore two or three men to some town to have speech, and people without number have
come out to them, and as soon as they saw them coming, they fled; even a father would not stay for his son; and this not because wrong has been done
to anyone; on the contrary, at every point where I have been and have been able to have speech, I have given them of all that I had, such as cloth and
many other things, without receiving anything for it; but they are like that, timid beyond cure. It is true that after they have been reassured and
have lost this fear, they are so artless and so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they
have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts;
and whether the thing be of value or of small price, at once they are content with whatever little thing of whatever kind may be given to them. I
forbade that they should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and ends of straps, although when they were able
to get them, they thought they had the best jewel in the world; thus it was ascertained that a sailor for a strap received gold to the weight of two
and a half castellanos,4 and others much more for other things which were worth much less; yea, for new blancas,5 for them they would give all that
they had, although it might be two or three castellanos’ weight of gold or an arrova6 or two of spun cotton; they even took pieces of the broken hoops
of the wine casks and, like animals, gave what they had, so that it seemed to me to be wrong and I forbade it, and I gave them a thousand good,
pleasing things which I had brought, in order that they might be fond of us, and furthermore might be made Christians and be inclined to the love and
service of their Highnesses and of the whole Castilian nation, and try to help us and to give us of the things which they have in abundance and which
are necessary to us. And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the
sky, and they believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they
had overcome their fear. And this does not result from their being ignorant, for they are of a very keen intelligence and men who navigate all those
seas, so that it is marvelous the good account they give of everything, but because they have never seen people clothed or ships like ours.
And as soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took by force some of them in order that they might learn [Castilian] and
give me information of what they had in those parts; it so worked out that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or signs, and they
have been very serviceable. I still have them with me, and they are still of the opinion that I come from the sky, in spite of all the intercourse
which they have had with me, and they were the first to announce this wherever I went, and the others went running from house to house and to the
neighboring towns with loud cries of, “Come! Come! See the people from the sky!” Then all came, men and women, as soon as they had confidence in us,
so that not one, big or little, remained behind, and all brought something to eat and drink, which they gave with marvelous love. In all the islands
they have very many canoas like rowing fustes,7 some bigger and some smaller, and some are bigger than a fusta of eighteen benches. They are not so
broad, because they are made of a single log, but a fusta could not keep up with them by rowing, since they make incredible speed, and in these
[canoes] they navigate all those islands, which are innumerable, and carry their merchandise. Some of these canoes I have seen with 70 and 80 men in
them, each one with his oar.
In all these islands, I saw no great diversity in the appearance of the people or in their manners and language, but they all understand one another,
which is a very singular thing, on account of which I hope that their Highnesses will determine upon their conversion to our holy faith, towards which
they are much inclined. * * *
Done in the caravel, off the Canary Islands, on the fifteenth of February, year 1493.
At your service.
The first book written in English in the New World was John Smith’s A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Happened in
Virginia since the First Planting of that Colony (1608), printed in London less than a year and a half after its author’s arrival in Virginia with the
first settlers. Smith was a professional soldier, an adventurer and explorer, perhaps a braggart; he was also a born publicist. His were not the first
books to tell of the New World, and when he wrote them, that world was not as new as it had been over a hundred years earlier, when Christopher
Columbus first laid claim to his discoveries for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. When Smith wrote, however, interest was high. Sir Francis
Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe (1577–1580), his return to England with the Golden Hind loaded with treasure, the English defeat of the Spanish
Armada (1588), and the publication of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) had
combined to give the English a sense of destiny lying to the west. Smith wrote for settlers when settlement began to look possible. For many of the
earliest comers, he drew the maps and created the visions that lured them on. Squarely aimed at readers in his own time, his books gave early
expression also to some of the most enduring and cherished American beliefs.
Born in Lincolnshire, Smith received a grammar school education and at fifteen was apprenticed to a merchant. Not long after his father’s death, when
he was sixteen, he began his travels, enlisting as a soldier in France and the Netherlands. Within the next ten years, he saw much of Europe and a
little of North Africa. Captured and sold into slavery in Turkey, he escaped and eventually made his way back to London. He set sail for Virginia with
the first three ships of the newly formed London Trading Company, which established the colony at Jamestown in May 1607. One hundred men were left in
Virginia when the sailors returned home in June; by the time the first supply ship arrived in January 1608, hardship and arrows had reduced the number
to thirty-eight. Meanwhile, Smith had been stripped of his position on the ruling council by the English settlers, returned to good graces and sent
foraging among the natives, captured by Powhatan’s men, and rescued by Pocahontas, who proved crucial to the survival of the English in the early
years. When the second supply ship was ready to return to England in June 1608, Smith’s first book, A True Relation, was ready to go with it.
Wounded in a gunpowder explosion, Smith returned to England in 1609. His second book, A Map of Virginia, with a Description of the Country, the
Commodities, People, Government and Religion (1612), covered considerably more than the earlier and briefer True Relation. In 1614, he left England
again to spend the spring and summer exploring and mapping the American coast from Maine to Cape Cod, a region he named “New England.” The immediate
result of that trip was A Description of New England (1616), written in part “to keep my perplexed thoughts from too much meditation of my miserable
estate” while a prisoner of French pirates.
In Smith’s most important book, The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624), he brought together, revised, and expanded
the earlier material. In this, for the first time, he told the story of his rescue by Pocahontas. Here, too, readers could see side by side the
problems of the Virginia settlement and Smith’s promise of a great future for New England: Given the “means to transport a colony,” he said, “I would
rather live here than anywhere.” He was not to have that chance, however. Although thousands of English settlers were soon living in Massachusetts, he
was not among them. He died in England when the great wave of settlement was just beginning.
From The General History of Virginia,
New England, and the Summer Isles
The Third Book. The Proceedings and Accidents
of the English Colony in Virginia
CHAPTER II: WHAT HAPPENED TILL THE FIRST SUPPLY
Being thus left to our fortunes, it fortuned that within ten days scarce ten amongst us could either go, or well stand, such extreme weakness and
sickness oppressed us. And thereat none need marvel, if they consider the cause and reason, which was this:
While the ships stayed, our allowance was somewhat bettered by a daily proportion of biscuit, which the sailers would pilfer to sell, give, or
exchange with us, for money, sassafras, furs, or love. But when they departed, there remained neither tavern, beerhouse, nor place of relief, but the
common kettle.1 Had we been as free from all sins as gluttony and drunkenness we might have been canonized for saints; but our President would never
have been admitted for engrossing to his private [use] oatmeal, sack, oil, aquavitæ, beef, eggs, or what not, but the kettle; that indeed he allowed
equally to be distributed, and that was half a pint of wheat, and as much barley boiled with water for a man a day, and this having fried some
twenty-six weeks in the ship’s hold, contained as many worms as grains; so that we might truly call it rather so much bran than corn. Our drink was
water, our lodgings castles in the air.
With this lodging and diet, our extreme toil in bearing and planting palisades, so strained and bruised us, and our continual labor in the extremity
of the heat had so weakened us, as were cause sufficient to have made us as miserable in our native country or any other place in the world.
From May to September , those that escaped lived upon sturgeon, and sea crabs. Fifty in this time we buried; the rest seeing the President’s
projects to escape these miseries in our pinnace2 by flight (who all this time had neither felt want nor sickness) so moved our dead spirits, as we
deposed him [10 Sept. 1607]; and established Ratcliffe in his place, (Gosnoll being dead), Kendall deposed. Smith newly recovered, Martin and
Ratcliffe was by his care preserved and relieved, and the most of the soldiers recovered with the skillful diligence of Master Thomas Wotton our
But now was all our provision spent, the sturgeon gone, all helps abandoned, each hour expecting the fury of the savages; when God, the patron of all
good endeavors, in that desperate extremity so changed the hearts of the savages, that they brought such plenty of their fruits and provision, as no
And now where some affirmed it was ill done of the Council to send forth men so badly provided, this incontradictable reason will show them plainly
they are too ill advised to nourish such ill conceits; first, the fault of our going was our own, what could be thought fitting or necessary we had;
but what we should find, or want, or where we should be, we were all ignorant, and supposing to make our passage in two months, with victual to live,
and the advantage of the spring to work; we were at sea five months, where we both spent our victual and lost the opportunity of the time and season
to plant, by the unskillful presumption of our ignorant transporters, that understood not at all what they undertook.
Such actions have ever since the world’s beginning been subject to such accidents, and everything of worth is found full of difficulties: but nothing
so difficult as to establish a commonwealth so far remote from men and means, and where men’s minds are so untoward as neither do well themselves, nor
suffer others. But to proceed.
The new President [Ratcliffe], and Martin, being little beloved, of weak judgment in dangers, and less industry in peace, committed the managing of
all things abroad to Captain Smith: who by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build
houses, others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in short time, he provided most of them lodgings,
neglecting any for himself.
This done, seeing the savages superfluity begin to decrease [he] (with some of his workmen) shipped himself [9 Nov. 1607] in the shallop3 to search
the country for trade. The want of the language, knowledge to manage his boat without sails, the want of a sufficient power (knowing the multitude of
the savages), apparel for his men, and other necessaries, were infinite impediments, yet no discouragement.
Being but six or seven in company he went down the river to Kecoughtan:4 where at first they scorned him, as a famished man; and would in derision
offer him a handful of corn, a piece of bread, for their swords and muskets, and such like proportions also for their apparel. But seeing by trade and
courtesy there was nothing to be had, he made bold to try such conclusions as necessity enforced, though contrary to his commission: let fly his
muskets, ran his boat on shore; whereat they all fled into the woods.
So marching towards their houses, they might see great heaps of corn: much ado he had to restrain his hungry soldiers from [the] present taking of it,
expecting as it happened that the savages would assault them, as not long after they did with a most hideous noise. Sixty or seventy of them, some
black, some red, some white, some parti-colored, came in a square order, singing and dancing out of the woods, with their Okee (which was an idol made
of skins, stuffed with moss, all painted and hung with chains and copper) borne before them: and in this manner, being well armed with clubs, targets,
bows and arrows, they charged the English, that so kindly received them with their muskets loaded with pistol shot, that down fell their God, and
divers lay sprawling on the ground; the rest fled again to the woods, and ere long sent one of their Quiyoughkasoucks5 to offer peace, and redeem
Smith told them, if only six of them would come unarmed and load his boat, he would not only be their friend but restore them their Okee, and give
them beads, copper, and hatchets besides, which on both sides was to their contents performed; and then they brought him venison, turkies, wild fowl,
bread, and what they had, singing and dancing in sign of friendship till they departed. * * *
But our comedies never endured long without a tragedy, some idle exceptions being muttered against Captain Smith for not discovering the head of
Chicka-hominy river, and [being] 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 till his return. Himself with two English and two savages went up higher in a canoe; but he was not 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 not 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 sought them victual: who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still
defending himself with the aid of a savage his guide, whom he bound to his arm 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 weeks6 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 among them,
that those savages admired him more than their own Quiyoughkasoucks.
The manner how they used and delivered him is as follows.
The savages having drawn from George Cassen whether Captain Smith was gone, prosecuting that opportunity they followed him with 300 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 then his way, [he]
slipped up to the middle in an oozy creek and his savage with him, yet durst they not come to him till being near dead with cold he threw away his
arms. Then according to their composition7 they drew him forth and led him to the fire where his men were slain. Diligently they chafed his benumbed
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 fly8 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.