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List Of Contents | Contents of Captain John Smith by, Charles Dudley Warner
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Isles, making himself appear as a kind of Providence over the New

Out of his various and repetitious writings might be compiled quite a
hand-book of maxims and wise saws.  Yet all had in steady view one
purpose--to excite interest in his favorite projects, to shame the
laggards of England out of their idleness, and to give himself
honorable employment and authority in the building up of a new
empire.  "Who can desire," he exclaims, "more content that hath small
means, or but only his merit to advance his fortunes, than to tread
and plant that ground he hath purchased by the hazard of his life; if
he have but the taste of virtue and magnanimity, what to such a mind
can be more pleasant than planting and building a foundation for his
posterity, got from the rude earth by God's blessing and his own
industry without prejudice to any; if he have any grace of faith or
zeal in Religion, what can be more healthful to any or more agreeable
to God than to convert those poor salvages to know Christ and
humanity, whose labours and discretion will triply requite any charge
and pain."

"Then who would live at home idly," he exhorts his countrymen, "or
think in himself any worth to live, only to eat, drink and sleep, and
so die; or by consuming that carelessly his friends got worthily, or
by using that miserably that maintained virtue honestly, or for being
descended nobly, or pine with the vain vaunt of great kindred in
penury, or to maintain a silly show of bravery, toil out thy heart,
soul and time basely; by shifts, tricks, cards and dice, or by
relating news of other men's actions, sharke here and there for a
dinner or supper, deceive thy friends by fair promises and
dissimulations, in borrowing when thou never meanest to pay, offend
the laws, surfeit with excess, burden thy country, abuse thyself,
despair in want, and then cozen thy kindred, yea, even thy own
brother, and wish thy parent's death (I will not say damnation), to
have their estates, though thou seest what honors and rewards the
world yet hath for them that will seek them and worthily deserve

"I would be sorry to offend, or that any should mistake my honest
meaning: for I wish good to all, hurt to none; but rich men for the
most part are grown to that dotage through their pride in their
wealth, as though there were no accident could end it or their life."

"And what hellish care do such take to make it their own misery and
their countrie's spoil, especially when there is such need of their
employment, drawing by all manner of inventions from the Prince and
his honest subjects, even the vital spirits of their powers and
estates; as if their bags or brags were so powerful a defense, the
malicious could not assault them, when they are the only bait to
cause us not only to be assaulted, but betrayed and smothered in our
own security ere we will prevent it."

And he adds this good advice to those who maintain their children in
wantonness till they grow to be the masters: "Let this lamentable
example [the ruin of Constantinople] remember you that are rich
(seeing there are such great thieves in the world to rob you) not
grudge to lend some proportion to breed them that have little, yet
willing to learn how to defend you, for it is too late when the deed
is done."

No motive of action did Smith omit in his importunity, for "Religion
above all things should move us, especially the clergy, if we are
religious."  " Honor might move the gentry, the valiant and
industrious, and the hope and assurance of wealth all, if we were
that we would seem and be accounted; or be we so far inferior to
other nations, or our spirits so far dejected from our ancient
predecessors, or our minds so upon spoil, piracy and such villainy,
as to serve the Portugall, Spaniard, Dutch, French or Turke (as to
the cost of Europe too many do), rather than our own God, our king,
our country, and ourselves; excusing our idleness and our base
complaints by want of employment, when here is such choice of all
sorts, and for all degrees, in the planting and discovering these
North parts of America."

It was all in vain so far as Smith's fortunes were concerned.  The
planting and subjection of New England went on, and Smith had no part
in it except to describe it.  The Brownists, the Anabaptists, the
Papists, the Puritans, the Separatists, and "such factious
Humorists," were taking possession of the land that Smith claimed to
have "discovered," and in which he had no foothold.  Failing to get
employment anywhere, he petitioned the Virginia Company for a reward
out of the treasury in London or the profits in Virginia.

At one of the hot discussions in 1623 preceding the dissolution of
the Virginia Company by the revocation of their charter, Smith was
present, and said that he hoped for his time spent in Virginia he
should receive that year a good quantity of tobacco.  The charter was
revoked in 1624 after many violent scenes, and King James was glad to
be rid of what he called "a seminary for a seditious parliament."
The company had made use of lotteries to raise funds, and upon their
disuse, in 1621, Smith proposed to the company to compile for its
benefit a general history.  This he did, but it does not appear that
the company took any action on his proposal.  At one time he had been
named, with three others, as a fit person for secretary, on the
removal of Mr. Pory, but as only three could be balloted for, his
name was left out.  He was, however, commended as entirely competent.

After the dissolution of the companies, and the granting of new
letters-patent to a company of some twenty noblemen, there seems to
have been a project for dividing up the country by lot.  Smith says:
"All this they divided in twenty parts, for which they cast lots, but
no lot for me but Smith's Isles, which are a many of barren rocks,
the most overgrown with shrubs, and sharp whins, you can hardly pass
them; without either grass or wood, but three or four short shrubby
old cedars."

The plan was not carried out, and Smith never became lord of even
these barren rocks, the Isles of Shoals.  That he visited them when
he sailed along the coast is probable, though he never speaks of
doing so.  In the Virginia waters he had left a cluster of islands
bearing his name also.

In the Captain's "True Travels," published in 1630, is a summary of
the condition of colonization in New England from Smith's voyage
thence till the settlement of Plymouth in 1620, which makes an
appropriate close to our review of this period:

"When I first went to the North part of Virginia, where the Westerly
Colony had been planted, it had dissolved itself within a year, and
there was not one Christian in all the land.  I was set forth at the
sole charge of four merchants of London; the Country being then
reputed by your westerlings a most rocky, barren, desolate desart;
but the good return I brought from thence, with the maps and
relations of the Country, which I made so manifest, some of them did
believe me, and they were well embraced, both by the Londoners, and
Westerlings, for whom I had promised to undertake it, thinking to
have joyned them all together, but that might well have been a work
for Hercules.  Betwixt them long there was much contention: the
Londoners indeed went bravely forward: but in three or four years I
and my friends consumed many hundred pounds amongst the Plimothians,
who only fed me but with delays, promises, and excuses, but no
performance of anything to any purpose.  In the interim, many
particular ships went thither, and finding my relations true, and
that I had not taken that I brought home from the French men, as had
been reported: yet further for my pains to discredit me, and my
calling it New England, they obscured it, and shadowed it, with the
title of Canada, till at my humble suit, it pleased our most Royal
King Charles, whom God long keep, bless and preserve, then Prince of
Wales, to confirm it with my map and book, by the title of New
England; the gain thence returning did make the fame thereof so
increase that thirty, forty or fifty sail went yearly only to trade
and fish; but nothing would be done for a plantation, till about some
hundred of your Brownists of England, Amsterdam and Leyden went to
New Plimouth, whose humorous ignorances, caused them for more than a
year, to endure a wonderful deal of misery, with an infinite
patience; saying my books and maps were much better cheap to teach
them than myself: many others have used the like good husbandry that
have payed soundly in trying their self-willed conclusions; but those
in time doing well, diverse others have in small handfulls undertaken
to go there, to be several Lords and Kings of themselves, but most
vanished to nothing."



If Smith had not been an author, his exploits would have occupied a
small space in the literature of his times.  But by his unwearied
narrations he impressed his image in gigantic features on our plastic
continent.  If he had been silent, he would have had something less
than justice; as it is, he has been permitted to greatly exaggerate
his relations to the New World.  It is only by noting the comparative
silence of his contemporaries and by winnowing his own statements
that we can appreciate his true position.

For twenty years he was a voluminous writer, working off his
superfluous energy in setting forth his adventures in new forms.
Most of his writings are repetitions and recastings of the old
material, with such reflections as occur to him from time to time.
He seldom writes a book, or a tract, without beginning it or working
into it a resume of his life.  The only exception to this is his "Sea
Grammar."  In 1626 he published "An Accidence or the Pathway to
Experience, necessary to all Young Seamen," and in 1627 "A Sea
Grammar, with the plain Exposition of Smith's Accidence for Young
Seamen, enlarged."  This is a technical work, and strictly confined
to the building, rigging, and managing of a ship.  He was also
engaged at the time of his death upon a "History of the Sea," which

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