Captain John Smith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Captain John Smith.

The reward of this wearisome winter campaign was two hundred weight of deer-suet and four hundred and seventy-nine bushels of corn for the general store.  They had not to show such murdering and destroying as the Spaniards in their “relations,” nor heaps and mines of gold and silver; the land of Virginia was barbarous and ill-planted, and without precious jewels, but no Spanish relation could show, with such scant means, so much country explored, so many natives reduced to obedience, with so little bloodshed.

XII

TRIALS OF THE SETTLEMENT

Without entering at all into the consideration of the character of the early settlers of Virginia and of Massachusetts, one contrast forces itself upon the mind as we read the narratives of the different plantations.  In Massachusetts there was from the beginning a steady purpose to make a permanent settlement and colony, and nearly all those who came over worked, with more or less friction, with this end before them.  The attempt in Virginia partook more of the character of a temporary adventure.  In Massachusetts from the beginning a commonwealth was in view.  In Virginia, although the London promoters desired a colony to be fixed that would be profitable to themselves, and many of the adventurers, Captain Smith among them, desired a permanent planting, a great majority of those who went thither had only in mind the advantages of trade, the excitement of a free and licentious life, and the adventure of something new and startling.  It was long before the movers in it gave up the notion of discovering precious metals or a short way to the South Sea.  The troubles the primitive colony endured resulted quite as much from its own instability of purpose, recklessness, and insubordination as from the hostility of the Indians.  The majority spent their time in idleness, quarreling, and plotting mutiny.

The ships departed for England in December, 1608.  When Smith returned from his expedition for food in the winter of 1609, he found that all the provision except what he had gathered was so rotted from the rain, and eaten by rats and worms, that the hogs would scarcely eat it.  Yet this had been the diet of the soldiers, who had consumed the victuals and accomplished nothing except to let the savages have the most of the tools and a good part of the arms.

Taking stock of what he brought in, Smith found food enough to last till the next harvest, and at once organized the company into bands of ten or fifteen, and compelled them to go to work.  Six hours a day were devoted to labor, and the remainder to rest and merry exercises.  Even with this liberal allowance of pastime a great part of the colony still sulked.  Smith made them a short address, exhibiting his power in the letters-patent, and assuring them that he would enforce discipline and punish the idle and froward; telling them that those that did not work should not eat, and that the labor of forty or fifty industrious men should not be consumed to maintain a hundred and fifty idle loiterers.  He made a public table of good and bad conduct; but even with this inducement the worst had to be driven to work by punishment or the fear of it.

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