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VI

“ AN ENGLISH NATION"

IR WALTER RALEGH, just on the eve of his

fall from greatness, and after the failure of nine successive expeditions to America, wrote these words: “I shall yet live to see it an English nation." He was mistaken; he did not live to see it, although his fame still lives, and what he predicted has in one sense come to pass. The vast difference that might exist between a merely English nation and an English-speaking nation had never dawned upon his mind. All that History of the World which he meditated in the Tower of London contained no panorama of events so wonderful as that which time has unrolled in the very scene of his labors.

We owe to Ralegh not merely the strongest and most persistent impulse towards the colonization of America, but also the most romantic and ideal aspects of that early movement. He it is who has best described for us the charm exercised by this virgin soil over the minds of cultivated men. Had he not sought to win it for a virgin queen, it would still have been “Virginia” to him. With what insatiable delight he describes the aspects of nature in this New World!

“I never saw a more beawtifull countrey, nor more liuely prospectes, hils so raised heere and there ouer the vallies, the riuer winding into diuers braunches, the plaines adioyning without bush or stubble, all faire greene grasse, the ground of hard sand easy to march on, eyther for horse or foote, the deare crossing euery path, the birdes towardes the euening singing on euery tree, with a thousand seueral tunes, cranes and herons of white, crimson, and carnation pearching on the riuers side, the ayre fresh with a gentle easterlie wind, and euery stone that we stooped to take vp promised eyther golde or siluer by his complexion.”

Ralegh represents the imaginative and glowing side of American exploration-an aspect which, down to the days of John Smith, remained vividly prominent, and which had not wholly disappeared even under the graver treatment of the Puritans.

The very adventures of some of the early colonies seem to retain us in the atmosphere of those vanishing islands and enchanted cities of which the early English seamen dreamed. Ralegh sent his first colony to Virginia in 1585, under Ralph Lane; in 1586 he sent a ship with provisions to their aid, who, after some time spent in seeking our colony up and down, and not finding them, returned with all the aforesaid provision unto England,” the colonists having really departed “out of that paradise of the world,” as Hakluyt says-in vessels furnished by Sir Francis Drake. Then followed Sir Richard Grenville with three vessels; but he could find neither relief-ship nor colony, and after some time spent in the same game of hide-and-seek, he landed fifteen men in the island of Roanoke, with two years' provisions, to take possession of the country. Then, in 1587, went three ships containing a colony of one hundred and fifty, under John White, with a chartered and organized corps of twelve assistants, under the sonorous name of “Governor and Assistants of the City of Ralegh in Virginia." They looked for Grenville's fifteen men, but found them not, and found only deer grazing on the melons that had grown within the roofless houses of Lane's colony. In spite of these dark omens, the new settlement was formed, and on the 18th of August, 1587-as we read in Captain John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles—“Ellinor, the Governour's daughter, and wife to Ananias Dare, was delivered of a daughter, in Roanoak, which, being the first Christian there borne, was called Virginia.' Here at least was something permanent, definite, established—a birth and a christening, the beginning of “an English nation,” transferred to American soil.

Alas! in all this pathetic series of dissolving hopes and lost colonies, the career of the little Virginia is the most touching. Governor White, going back to England for supplies soon after the birth of his grandchild, left in the colony eight-nine men, seventeen women, and eleven children. He was detained three years, and on his return, in August, 1590, he found no trace of the colony except three letters “curiously carved” upon a tree-the letters CRO—and elsewhere, upon another tree, the word “CROATOAN." It had been agreed beforehand that should the colony be removed, the name of their destination should be carved somewhere conspicuously, and that if they. were in distress a cross should be carved above. These trees bore no cross; but the condition of the buildings and buried chests of the colony indicated the work of savages. “Though it much grieved me," writes the anxious and wandering father in his narrative, “yet it did much comfort me that I did know they

were at Croatoan.” Before the ships could seek the island of Croatoan they were driven out to sea; but apparently those in charge of the expedition had resolved not to seek it, Governor White being but a passenger, and they having already anchored near that island and seen no signals of distress. Twenty years after, Powhatan confessed to Captain John Smith that he had been at the murder of the colonists. Strachey, secretary of the Jamestown settlement, found a report among the Indians of a race who dwelt in stone houses, which they had been taught to build by those English who had escaped the slaughter of Roanoke--these being farther specified as "fower men, two boyes, and one yonge mayde," whom a certain chief had preserved as his slaves. Furthermore, the first Virginia settlers found at an Indian village a boy of ten, with yellow hair and whitish skin, who may have been a descendant of these illfated survivors. Thus vanishes from history the last of the lost colonies and every trace of Virginia Dare.

The first colonists farther north met with equal failure but less of tragedy. No children were born to them, no Christian maiden ever drifted away in the unfathomable ocean of Indian mystery; they consisted of men only, and this helped to explain their forlorn career.

Bartholomew Gosnold crossed the Atlantic in 1602, following the route of Ribaut, who had wished to establish what are now called “ocean lanes”—at least so far as to keep the French vessels away from the Spaniards by following a more northern track. Gosnold landed at Cape Ann, then crossed Massachusetts Bay to Provincetown, and built a shelter on the Island of Cuttyhunk (called by him Elizabeth Island), in Buzzard's Bay. His house was

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fortified with palisades, thatched with sedge, and furnished with a cellar, which has been identified in recent times. He saw deer on the island, but no inhabitants; and the soil was "overgrown with wood and rubbish”—the latter including sassafras, young cherry-trees, and grape-vines. Here he wintered, but if he ever meant to found a colony-which is doubtful-it failed for want of supplies, and his vessel, the Concord, returned with all on board, his eight seamen and twenty planters, to England. They arrived there, as Gosnold wrote to his father, without

one cake of bread, nor any drink but a little vinegar left.” But he had a cargo of sassafras root which was worth more than vinegar or bread, though it yielded little profit to Gosnold, since it was confiscated by Ralegh as sole patentee of the region visited. This fragrant shrub, then greatly prized as a medicine, drew to America another expedition, following after Gosnold's, and headed by Martin Pring. He sailed the next year (1603) with two vessels and forty-four men, not aiming at colonization, but at trade. He anchored either at Plymouth or Edgartown, built a palisaded fort to protect his sassafrashunters, but found the Indians very inconvenient neighbors, and returned home. Weymouth or Waymouth-came two years later, and sailed sixty miles up the Kennebec or Penobscot-it is not yet settled which-and pronounced it “the most rich, beautiful, large, and secure harboring river that the world affordeth.” But he did not stay long, and except for his enthusiasm over the country and the fact that he carried home five Indians, his trip counted for no more than Pring's. Meanwhile De Monts and Champlain were busy in exploring on the part

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