The saga of Stephen Hopkins, who survived a shipwreck in Bermuda, several years in Jamestown, and returned to America on the Mayflower.
A Tale of Two Cities: Jamestown, Plymouth, and the American Way
Embarkation of the Pilgrims
By the time it’s all said and done, very few years have been as momentous as 2020. Between pandemics, riots, elections, and more, it might be easy to forget the path that has led America to the position she finds herself in today. As our historical memory evaporates in a world of instant information many will find it a surprise that 2020 also gives us one of the best reasons to celebrate as Americans. This year is the 400 th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing upon our shores.
This small band of religious dissidents hardly strike us as the heroes of a grand historical epic stretching across four centuries, thousands of miles, and millions of people, but it is no exaggeration to say that their courageous voyage fundamentally altered the direction of the world. The diminutive beginnings at Plymouth Rock represent the proverbial mustard seed that would eventually grow into a mighty tree of liberty.
The Pilgrim story is one of faith through hardship, and endurance through persecution. They were the first to risk their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” for the establishment of freedom on American shores.[i] Due to their religious beliefs differing from the state-mandated doctrines set by the King, they were persecuted and oppressed. William Bradford, the future governor of Plymouth, explained how, “some were taken and clapped up in prison, others had their houses beset and watched night and day, and hardly escaped their hands.”[ii]
After years of harassment, this congregation of pious dissenters was eventually chased out of England by the authoritarian King James in 1607, fleeing to the city of Leiden, Holland, for twelve years. Even though they no longer lived in England they still felt called to minister to their countrymen, so Pilgrim leader William Brewster began clandestinely printing religious books which would then be smuggled back into England. Needless to say, their contraband writing and “illegal” speech infuriated the King and officials in the Church of England. Although in the entirely different country of Holland, they still were not free from the King of England’s reach and he sent out agents to uncover who was responsible for these “dangerous” opinions.[iii]
Upon discovering the press of William Brewster in Leiden, King James began to pressure the governing authorities to crack down on the Pilgrim enclave. Seeing the precariousness of their situation, the Pilgrims sent a delegation to England to attempt to reach a sort of compromise in which they would travel to America in exchange for their religious freedom. Miraculously they secured an agreement which provided a place for them to practice their beliefs without interference from the King although in return they had to give fifty-percent of their earning to the crown.[iv]
With this plan the Pilgrims had to chart a new course through dangerous waters. Some decided to stay behind and others could not come. Then one of their boats was unable to make the trip—possibly due to sabotage—so even more were kept from the pilgrimage. By the time the Mayflower, now alone, carried its collection of Pilgrims and Strangers (the name given to the other colonists who weren’t a part of the dissenters) only 104 souls embarked from the shores of the Old World.[v] As Alexis de Tocqueville described so well in his monumental work, Democracy in America, the Pilgrims sought, “a land so barbarous and so abandoned by the world that they might yet be permitted to live there in their manner and pray to God in freedom.”[vi]
Over the next year, from the voyage to the First Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims suffered from innumerable hardships which steadily killed many of the men, women, and children. So dire were their circumstances and so devastating the results that when they eventually celebrated the first successful harvest with their Native allies the following year, hardly 50 Pilgrims had survived.[vii] The fact that any of them survived is itself remarkable, but when placed within the context of the New World it becomes undeniably miraculous.
Prior to the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus the Native Americans largely lived in a state of nearly continual and bloody conflict. Tribe against tribe, nation against nation, the Indians waged war over resources, land, and honor. Cannibalism, slavery, and human sacrifice were unfortunately common.[viii] Agricultural learning was still in its early stages of development and technologically they were centuries behind Europe when the two civilizations met. Indeed, the natives lacked items such as gunpowder, ocean-fairing vessels, or even wheeled transportation. There was no such thing as the peaceful and tranquil “noble savage.” The Native Americans were very much people—undeniably flawed, and in every way in as much need of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ as everyone else.
Signing the Mayflower Compact
It was on this land that the hardy Pilgrims—outcasts from their homeland and fugitives from tyrants—set their hopes. Their vision was twofold. On the one hand they hoped to carve out a home for themselves and their children where they could worship God in their own way instead of having their religious beliefs dictated to them by the King. On the other hand, the Pilgrims sincerely wished to bring the hope of Christianity to the native people.[ix] The Mayflower Compact explained that all that they had sacrificed, all they had suffered, and all they had risked was for “the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.”[x]
These goals caused the Pilgrims to make many developments and advancements in the fields of government, education, religious freedom, human rights, and political liberty. When it came to relations with the surrounding Native American tribes, the Pilgrim’s Christian foundation enabled them to forge the longest lasting peace treaty in early American history and successfully begin evangelism efforts.[xi] Taking the Bible as the guide book to every major facet of life—a map to creation authored by the Creator—the Pilgrims instituted the free market, the institutional independence of the church from the dictates of the government, stronger protections for private property, and public education.[xii] In 1641 they also passed possibly the first anti-slavery law on the continent making “man-stealing” a capital offence.[xiii]
In fact, when a slave ship came to them in 1646, the Pilgrims prosecuted the slavers and liberated the slaves.[xiv] Although far from perfect—for all have fallen short and sinned (see Romans 3:23)—those early beginnings of anti-slavery sentiment eventually led to the New England area being the first places in the modern world to abolish slavery, with Massachusetts specifically ending the institution in 1783—a full 50 years before England, which was the first independent nation to abolish slavery.[xv]
However, the Pilgrims were not the only people to colonize the New World. As Tocqueville noted, America contains, “two principal offshoots that, up to the present, have grown without being entirely confused—one in the South, the other in the North.”[xvi] In 1607 a group of merchants and traders had occupied land given to them in the New World by the King of England founding the colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Having different motivations, desires, and hopes, the colonists of Jamestown acted dramatically differently from the later Pilgrims.
Instead of coming for religious freedom, the Jamestown colonists largely came as agents of the King for the purpose of economic profit and trade. Thus, slavery was introduced early into Jamestown and protected by their legal codes. Their relations with the native tribes was markedly more contentious, tragic, and warlike. The lack of a Biblical structure and spiritual motivations created a vastly different environment.
From these two seeds sprouted two rival trees which both sought to dominate the fertile land that eventually became the United States. From Jamestown the crooked and perverse Tree of Slavery began to creep across the young country. From Plymouth, however, a different sort of plant took root. Based upon their dedication to the Bible, the Tree of Liberty first budded in the fields plowed by the Pilgrims. As the Scriptures say, “a tree is known by its fruit,” (Matthew 12:33), and the product of Jamestown and Plymouth differ drastically from one another.
This map from 1888 perfectly illustrates this duality in the American identity—a tale of two cities. The map was created only a generation after the Civil War, which itself was but the cataclysmic struggle between the heirs of the differing philosophies of Jamestown and Plymouth. Designed to teach their children about the history behind the war, it traces the heritage for the South back to Jamestown and the North to Plymouth. Going further, the map highlights the fundamental difference between purpose of founding each colony. While Jamestown was established for mammon [worldly riches], Plymouth was planted upon the Bible.
From these two very different places, two trees sprouted and stretched across the country. From Jamestown grew the Tree of Slavery, whose poisoned branches produce pain, suffering, and evil. The fruit of slavery include: avarice, lust, ignorance, superstition, sedition, secession, treason, and rebellion. All who eat from this tree unrepentant are warned that their ultimate destination will surely be Hell.
The other seed, the one planted in Plymouth, leads to a much different kind of banquet. The Tree of Liberty produces: free schools, intelligence, knowledge, obedience to law, free speech, equal rights, contentment, love of country, industry, philanthropy, sobriety, benevolence, morality, happiness, justice, patience, virtue, charity, truth, faith, honor, hope, peace, joy, and light. Eventually take those who partake of this tree will at least have the taste of immortality, for such things all sprout from the fountainhead of Christ.
Today Americans find themselves upon a ship beset and besieged on all sides by turbulent storms and crashing waves. The ones who built this boat, the Founding Fathers, made it sturdy and with great wisdom, but it is up to us to decide where we will put ashore—and into which city will we disembark. Will it be Jamestown or Plymouth? Which tree will we take the fruit from?
There are many today who mistake the Tree of Slavery for one of security. There are serpents which crawl around deceiving many with high sounding nonsense. “Surely you will not die!” (Genesis 3:4). But death will be the least of our concerns if we chose that path. The sad and tragic histories of Germany, Russia, Venezuela, and more bear ample witness to what happens when nations eat of the fruit of slavery and oppression. We must not be similarly deceived.
We must once again set a course towards the Tree of Liberty. It is undoubtedly the more difficult of the two paths. The voyage to this New Plymouth may be dangerous, we may be beset by innumerable hardships, and there is no guarantee that we all will make it through that first perilous winter—but freedom is irreplaceable. It is only in a state of liberty that humanity can make good the assertion that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”[xvii]
On the 400 th Anniversary of our Pilgrim forefathers planting this small seed of freedom in a world of tyranny and oppression, let us “combine and covenant ourselves together”[xviii] once again in order to turn their tree into an orchard so that all may partake in this feast of liberty. If we work diligently, the harvest will allow us to finally join together in a new day of genuine and heartfelt Thanksgiving just like those pious heroes did some four centuries ago.
[i] “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America,” 1776, The Constitutions of the Several States of America The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: J. Stockdale, 1782), 5, here.
[ii] William Bradford, The History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 10.
[iii] Ashbel Steele, Chief of the Pilgrims: Or The Life and Time of William Brewster (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1857), 171-180, here.
[iv] William Bradford, The History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 46.
[v] “List of Mayflower Passengers,” Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York: Fourth Record Book (October 1912): 167-178, here.
[vi] Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Harvey Mansfield, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 32.
[vii] Walter Wheeler, An Illustrated Guide to Historic Plymouth Massachusetts (Boston: The Union News Company, 1921), 57-58, here.
[viii] See, for example, Jonathan Richie, “Before the West was Won: Pre-Columbian Morality,” WallBuilders (October 12, 2019), accessed December 1, 2020: here Fernando Santos-Granero, Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), 226-227.
[ix] Joseph Banvard, Plymouth and the Pilgrims (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1851), 25.
[x] Henry Dexter, editor, Mourt’s Relation or Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), 6.
[xi] David Bushnell, “The Treatment of the Indians in Plymouth Colony,” The New England Quarterly 26, no. 2 (1953): 193-194, 207, here.
[xii] Cf., David Barton and Tim Barton, The American Story: The Beginnings (Aledo: WallBuilders Press, 2020), 79-80.
[xiii] Francis Bowen, editor, Documents of the Constitution of England and America, from Magna Charta to the Federal Constitution of 1789, (Cambridge: John Bartlett, 1854), 72 see also, Jonathan Richie, “America’s Exceptional History of Anti-Slavery,” WallBuilders (April 6, 2020), accessed December 1, 2020: here.
[xiv] Nathaniel Shurtleff, Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston: William Whites, 1853), 1.168, 176.
[xv] For more see, Jonathan Richie, “America’s Exceptional History of Anti-Slavery,” WallBuilders (April 6, 2020), accessed December 1, 2020: here.
[xvi] Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Harvey Mansfield, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 30.
[xvii] “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America,” 1776, The Constitutions of the Several States of America The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: J. Stockdale, 1782), 1, here.
[xviii] Henry Dexter, editor, Mourt’s Relation or Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), 5-7.
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Jamestown – where the American story began
Warts and all, Jamestown remains the archetypical American comeback story.
Ask any eighth-grader to name the first Europeans to settle in this country and the answer is likely to be Christopher Columbus or the Pilgrims.
Columbus first landed in the Caribbean in 1492, and he never quite made it to what became the United States. The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1620. But by then, Jamestown, a riverside colony in Virginia, was already 13 years old. Even before the Pilgrims landed, Jamestown had become the hub of the first sustained clash between English people and native Americans, seat of the first representative government in the Western Hemisphere, and destination of the first Africans to arrive in chains in English America.
Although the Jamestown story is not altogether one to celebrate, history is clear: The diverse and democratic country we know as the United States got its start in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. To commemorate the town's founding 400 years ago this month, Virginia is hosting a series of special events that began in January and will continue all year. Queen Elizabeth II visited last Friday President Bush is set to visit this Sunday. Theories abound as to how and why the Pilgrims of Plymouth eclipsed the adventurers of Jamestown in American historical memory and myth.
The story of Pilgrims coming to America in search of religious freedom, some say, is simply a far more palatable version of the nation's beginnings than the tale of Jamestown, where at least 100 English men and boys first broke ground on May 14, 1607, in single-minded pursuit of profit. After the Civil War, others point out, historians at influential northeastern universities were loath to cede the national creation story to the south – especially not to Virginia, which accounted for 20 percent of the Confederate population and was host to the capital of the Confederacy at Richmond.
Even today, some historians argue that Jamestown doesn't quite count because it failed. True, Jamestown's investors lost money on the proposition – instead of silver, gold, and a shortcut to China, the adventurers found starvation, torture, and grievous sacrifice. And 3 in 4 settlers, in the early years at least, lost their lives to famine, disease, or conflict with the Indians. The failure argument, however, doesn't hold up: Jamestown endured and remained the capital of Virginia until the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg in 1699.
Virginians, too, are part of the reason Jamestown hasn't quite gotten its historical due. In the name of profits, developers and industrialists long played down the historical significance of the James River – the muddy umbilical cord that first tied the New World to England. By the 1970s, abuses had rendered this national treasure environmentally dead downstream of Richmond. And an early gap in archaeological lore led generations of historians to conclude wrongly that the original site of Jamestown had long since been flooded by the river. Only in recent years has that mistake been proven wrong, as ongoing archaeological work turns up fresh pieces of the Jamestown puzzle each day.
The Jamestown story is full of unfortunate firsts. For native Americans, this place marks the beginning of centuries of retreat and loss, destruction of ancient civilizations, and dispossession of family lands. For African-Americans, Jamestown is the starting point for the long national tragedy of human bondage and the generations of segregation, nullification, and discrimination that followed in its wake. Even for some Western Europeans, Jamestown brings to mind tales of suffering, torture, cannibalism, and other travails so horrific that at times it's a wonder the whole place wasn't deserted and left to wash away.
But Jamestown hasn't washed away. It has survived as the archetypical American comeback story, a tale of hardship overcome by the human will to prevail.
No single spot in the US can rightly be called the nation's sole place of birth. American beginnings can be found in Boston San Diego Philadelphia New York Charleston, S.C. St. Augustine, Fla. New Orleans and dozens of other places. A democracy, for that matter, is ever a work in progress, unfolding one citizen at a time in every city and hamlet across the nation and in every corner of the world touched by American enterprise, folly, assistance, or war. And yet it is here, at Jamestown, that we first waded as one – red, white, and black – into the swirling waters of American identity. It is here, in that sense, that our national story begins. And that is something Americans everywhere can pause to commemorate four centuries later.
• Cox Newspapers national correspondent Bob Deans is the author of "The River Where America Began: A Journey Along the James."
America's Socialist Origins
Was America once socialist? Surprisingly, yes. The early settlers who arrived at Plymouth and Jamestown in the early 1600s experimented with socialist communes. Did it work? History professor Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton shares the fascinating story.
Americans didn’t invent free market capitalism. But you might say they perfected it.
In doing so, they created more wealth for more people than any society in the history of the world. To begin to understand this fascinating and complex story, we have to travel back in time to the very first settlers of America.
But before we get to the history, let me define what I mean by capitalism. It’s not an easy term to pin down because it developed over thousands of years of human interaction. Adam Smith, the great English thinker, first described it in his famous 1776 treatise, The Wealth of Nations, but he didn’t invent it.
For our purposes here, I define capitalism as an economic system in which individuals freely decide what they will produce and who they will serve. Since both parties have to consent, it’s a system in which success demands that you serve the needs of others before you are rewarded for your work.
When the first settlers arrived—at Jamestown in 1607 then Plymouth in 1620—they were operating under an economic system common to all European nations at that time, known as mercantilism. Under mercantilism businesses, especially in colonies, were operated for the benefit of the state. While governments permitted the companies to make profits, their primary purpose was to advance the national interest of England or Spain or France. The early American settlements were set up to be self-sufficient so that the English government didn’t have to support them. And they had to stake out territory. That was key to the colonial game: if England held the territory, Spain and France didn’t.
The early colonists began their adventure with what they thought was a beautiful idea. They set up a common storehouse of grain from which people were supposed to take what they needed and put back what they could. Lands were also held in common and were worked in common. The settlers owned no land of their own. Though there was no name for this system, it was an ideal socialist commune. And you can probably guess what happened. It began to fall apart almost immediately. As the colonists learned, when everyone is entitled to everything, no one’s responsible for anything. A colonist who started his workday early or stayed late received the same provision of food as a colonist who showed up late, went home early, or didn’t work at all.
After about two years, the settlement was reduced to eating shoelaces and rats. Half of them died of starvation. Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) took control of the colony and scrapped the socialist model. Each colonist received his own parcel of land. Private property had come to the New World. “He who won’t work, won’t eat!” Smith told them, citing the Biblical admonition. Well they worked. And they ate. And the colony was saved.
The same story unfolded further north in the Plymouth colony 10 years later. Although this was a Puritan colony with religious goals, its plan was the same as Jamestown’s. And it also failed. As its young governor, William Bradford, noted, by adopting the communal system “We thought we were wiser than God.” So they quickly abandoned the commune for private ownership. Soon, they had an abundance, which they celebrated with the holiday we now know as “Thanksgiving.” Over the next 150 years, this hard-learned lesson, that men should be responsible for their own economic fate, became conventional wisdom in the colonies.
The American Revolution was largely fought over the burden that British mercantilism placed on the colonies. Two unpopular taxes—The Stamp Act and The Tea Act—are well known examples. The Americans saw the British government regulating and controlling almost all of their economic activities—and didn’t like it.
Now, it’s true that even after gaining independence, none of the Founders could be called capitalists. The idea of capitalism as a description of an economic system was only just beginning to be discussed in America. Yet many of the most influential Founders intuitively gravitated toward free market principles. Thomas Jefferson’s ideas of private land ownership shaped the famous Land Ordinance of 1785 that made public land available to private citizens, while Alexander Hamilton’s concepts of individual responsibility and sanctity of contracts could be seen in the Panic of 1791-92, in which he steadfastly refused to allow the US government to bail out bankers who had triggered the panic. Benjamin Franklin, of course, had practiced capitalism all his life with his printing business and with his maxims in Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The Constitution itself is awash in core concepts of a free market: sanctity of contracts, freedom of expression powerful limits on the government’s ability to regulate or tax an emphasis on paying debts and so on.
In short, it was the wisdom of experience, not academic ideology, that created America’s free-market principles. The result has been the most prosperous and free nation in the history of the world.
Why Jamestown matters
JAMESTOWN — It seems weird to promote the anniversary of a settlement that doesn't exist anymore.
Jamestown? Why not party at Santa Fe, N.M., which has been occupied for almost 400 years? Why not vacation in world-class Quebec, which the French started in Canada in 1608? St. Augustine, Fla., was home to Spanish and French warriors in 1565 and remains a thriving beachfront city today.
On Jamestown Island now there are a lot of trees and archaeologists.
Should Englishmen planting a flag at Jamestown in 1607 matter to us in the 21st century, or is this just a field day for the marketing and tourism people?
Are all the events with people in costume any more important than the Blackbeard Festival or Bay Days or any other family weekend festival? ("Sail Virginia 2007, featuring Horse Carriage Rides! Antique Car Exhibits! Souza Bands!")
A lot of people are spending a lot of money to sell the message that the 400th anniversary of Jamestown is "America's 400th Anniversary."
But there were a lot of Europeans planting flags in a lot of remote, wooded places 400 years ago. And they looked pretty silly to the Native Americans already thriving on the continent - putting an outpost on the coast of Florida to claim control of it would be like claiming the Apollo 11 lunar module gave the United States control of the entire moon.
These were all fragile operations. Why should we remember Jamestown, which lasted only 92 years and then quickly reverted to farmland?
"Jamestown is a success story because it survived. It's the first successful English colony in North America," said James Horn, Colonial Williamsburg vice president for research and author of "A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America."
If survival is the standard, we could just as easily have been commemorating the story of England's Roanoke, "The Lost Colony." The difference is that Jamestown got supply help when it needed it and Roanoke didn't - a question of lucky timing.
Roanoke might have been wiped out by Native Americans. But Jamestown got help from the Powhatans and so did not starve to death. (Instead of "Jamestown 2007" we might as well have "Powhatan Day," an annual celebration when we all bow to the native peoples for giving Europeans a seat at their table - before the Europeans took the whole table by force.)
Roanoke's supply ship from England got delayed by the Spanish Armada. By the time it arrived, the colony had disappeared into the unending woods. Jamestown's supply ship showed up just in the nick of time.
On a day in June 1610, settlers abandoned James Fort but were met in the James River by a ship carrying the new colonial governor, who ordered the settlers to turn around and keep the colony going.
Let's go beyond survival. Jamestown matters because in its 92 years it incubated the free enterprise, race relations, democratic government and Protestant religion that dominate American culture today.
"When I tried to argue that we were important because we were first, I would get challenged. But when I do a discussion of the legacies of Jamestown, that works," said Joe Gutierrez, senior director of museum operations and education at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
In the late 1500s, Spain had the largest empire the world had ever seen, stretching across Europe and much of the Americas. Spain had reaped the wealth of gold from Central America and the Caribbean. Its aim was to unite people under a Catholic monarchy, "one monarch, one empire, and one sword."
The northern end of the Americas was stalked by the French, another Catholic power. They were building strong alliances with the Native Americans through fur trading.
The English wanted to squeak in between those two regions. Roanoke failed. Jamestown tottered on the edge of failure for decades.
"Protestantism, the English language, English legal traditions - we trace the base of our culture back to England. If those things are important to you, then Jamestown is important to you," Gutierrez said.
Given the rise of that culture to world dominance in the 1800s and 1900s, it's easy to forget Jamestown was the fragile outpost of a fragile nation.
The interesting thing about Gutierrez' 2007 message is it incorporates the failures into the pitch of Jamestown's significance:
Jamestown wasn't the flight for freedom that we hear about in the Pilgrims' story in Massachusetts. It wasn't about the joy of exploration. It was about getting rich. There aren't many impulses more "American" than that.
Imagine that Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey paid for an effort to colonize Mars next year and to split whatever profits resulted. That was the aim of the Virginia Company of London in 1607.
And as a colony run by businessmen, Jamestown failed. After years of glassmaking and silk growing and other false starts, the settlers found a money-making strain of tobacco. But the London businessmen still couldn't manage the colony efficiently or keep its settlers from dying. England's king took control of Virginia in 1625.
The natural resources North America provided and the trade routes it promoted fueled the English economy. The economic success of Virginia and New York and the Carolinas gave England the wealth it needed to compete with France and Spain, tipping the balance of world power. Jamestown's story is the birth of an economic empire.
And trade routes aren't a one-way affair. England didn't commit to military control over its colonies and didn't manage the Virginia economy to the degree the Spanish crown controlled its American colonial economies. Private enterprise and private land ownership had its toehold and would drive immigration and race relations for centuries to come - and would eventually cause a split between colony and crown known as the American Revolution.
The economics led to a pattern of race relations that is still traceable in American society today.
The English settlers liked to say they weren't as harsh on the natives as the Spanish were, and the English Americans didn't commit to a formal system of slavery of Africans until two centuries after the Spanish did.
But the English also didn't treat the Native Americans as well as the French did. Once it was clear the natives weren't going to convert to Christianity in droves, the English proceeded to push them off the valuable land.
And once it was clear the Virginia colony needed tobacco to survive, English Americans grabbed all the labor they could to pick that crop - even if those laborers converted to Christianity in large numbers.
The first Africans to live and work in a British North American settlement came to Jamestown in 1619. Those first "20 and odd" people may have won their freedom and owned land. But there is no mistaking they were brought here against their will. Millions more would follow them over the next two centuries.
The economics drove the English American colonial society into an ordering where race and class were almost the same thing. It took a vicious civil war to end the system on paper. The social practices of the ordering lasted until late in the 20th century.
"All colonial societies are always more diverse than they were before they began the colonization," Horn said.
That's the nice way to say it. The planners of Jamestown 2007 have worked hard to bring in the Native Americans' story and the West Africans' story to this year's commemoration.
And that is worth the hype and the effort - to correct past omissions. This is Virginia's window of opportunity. Now is when we get the cover of National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine and have 10 minutes on the news channels.
Because Santa Fe's 400th anniversary happens in three years and St. Augustine's 450th is in a few more, Jamestown's hype could easily be washed away by the rising tide of Hispanic influence in the culture of the United States.
The big selling point to Jamestown's significance is the start of representative democratic government.
The Virginia gentlemen formed a House of Burgesses to make local laws by majority vote in 1619, a year before the Mayflower Compact and the same year the first Africans were brought to the colony for work. (Historians have loved that symbolism because there's no mistaking that slave labor gave American gentlemen such as Thomas Jefferson the time to work out a free and democratic society for themselves).
Again, that idea almost didn't survive. England's King James I wanted to end the House of Burgesses at the same time he erased the Virginia Company of London's control of Virginia, but he died just after he tore up the company's charter. His son, Charles I, appointed a royal governor to supervise the colony but let the House of Burgesses remain to advise the governor.
And from that practice grew the idea that all people should govern themselves. It took until 1920 to get women the vote across the United States and until 1964 to remove major barriers to voting by blacks and the poor. But that first gulp of air at Jamestown has become the longest living democracy in the past 2,000 years.
Modern, secular Americans don't realize how big a role religion played in the thinking of Europeans four centuries ago. The first Jamestown settlers wanted to make money, but they also put on their to-do list converting the Native Americans to Christianity and establishing a base to counteract the New World successes of Catholic powers France and Spain.
Few Native Americans were converted.
But the official religion of many English colonies, the Church of England, did eventually give way to a broader religious freedom that included Baptists and Quakers and Methodists and Presbyterians and Lutherans and.
Every president of the United States of America has been Protestant except one. Voters who claim Christianity as their guiding principle continue to hold great political power in our elections.
If Jamestown can claim all this, why do most Americans think the British colonies started at Plymouth Plantation in New England?
Jamestown has the dates and facts on its side. And Virginia was the richest and most powerful of the British colonies before the American Revolution. But the New Englanders were the loudest patriots at the time of the break from Britain. Once freedom was secured, they then rushed to put their own stamp on the national founding story.
The Civil War only cemented that claim. The victors write the history, and when the Northern states won the war, they made few allowances for the South's role in the founding of the United States. It's no mistake the Thanksgiving holiday in November that is New England's greatest advertiser was first declared by President Abraham Lincoln as the Civil War raged.
Actually, the idea that the Puritans were the model for all of European development through British North America is a bigger myth than the myth of Manifest Destiny (Europeans marching across the continent given them by God), said Jim Whittenburg, a history professor at the College of William and Mary.
All this marketing for the 400th anniversary helps, but it still may take another 50 years for the story to sink in and Jamestown to get free of the New England story, but, he said, "I don't see that disappearing any time soon."
Jamestown is the story of a seed planted. It didn't flower right away. It didn't seem very useful at first. But it turns out the seed was kudzu. It has spread across the land, even after the original seed has died and the modern tendrils hide where the original seed was planted.
Many of us are familiar with the story of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and that they celebrated the first Thanksgiving. An important lesson on socialism is often missed in that early settlement. Originally all colonists were to place their production in the common warehouse and receive back only what was necessary for himself and family, attempting to live “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The Pilgrims suffered starvation about half the colonists died.
“The colony’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that its socialist philosophy greatly hindered its growth: Young men resented working for the benefit of other men’s wives and children without compensation healthy men who worked thought it unjust that they received no more food than weak men who could not wives resented doing household chores for other men, considering it a kind of slavery.” (Op-ed: Dr. Judd Patton)
Governor Bradford and other leaders set up a new system wherein each individual or family was assigned a parcel of land and each was responsible to grow his own food in other words, “who will not work will not eat.” The colonists became very industrious, and three times the corn was planted under the new system. The seeds of Capitalism were planted in America!
What is socialism? Socialism is a system basically denying our Bill of Rights, creating a loss of personal freedom with accompanying restrictions on guns, religion, speech, etc. Second, government leaders redistribute wealth and re-define goods and services as rights—the right to healthcare, for example. None of our God-given, natural rights require someone else to provide them. These new “rights” do require others’ efforts. In short, Socialism equals CONTROL.
Many members of my family are fans of Atlas Shrugged, a philosophical novel featuring John Galt, a great inventor who left a motor company because the owners decided to pay everyone the same in effect, dooming the company to failure because the incentive to excel was gone. Galt’s credo was: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Ayn Rand predicted many of the current challenges we are facing as she penned this classic novel. (It’s a great movie trilogy too—I recommend it!)
Another example was recounted by a consultant many years ago in Bulgaria. He noted that there was little motivation to be productive because the ethic was that everyone had a right to a job, so they couldn’t really be fired. The joke was: “They pretended to pay us and we pretended to work.” A similar scenario played out in China a few years later: the consultant saw a group of eight people getting in each other’s way working in a supply depot. He remarked that it seemed they could accomplish the same results with three people, to which the manager replied, “Yes, but then what would happen to the others?” (Why We Do What We Do, Edward Deci)
Flash forward to recent news:
According to TheHill.com, “Food riots, accelerating emigration and outright starvation plague what was once the brightest economic light in South America. The 2013 death of Chávez brought Nicolás Maduro to power, who has doubled down on both the redistributive and repressive policies of the Chávez regime.” With oil wealth pouring into the nation, leaders abandoned opposition to government intrusion into their economy and extensively expanded government programs. Increased global competition diminished the return on oil and the citizens are reaping the ‘harvest’ of decades of corruption. (Edward Lynch, Failing Democracy in Venezuela Demonstrates Failure of Socialism)
In our own state, Idaho voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion, which when implemented will lead to cost overruns and the inevitability of higher taxes, and the possibility of cuts in other services, including school funding. Is this “just a little bit of socialism?” Former U. S. Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson wondered if “just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too!” He knew that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check. His solution in reversing socialistic trends is first to freeze all welfare-state programs and not add any new ones! (Proper Role of Government)
Each of us needs to seriously study the Constitution and the words of our Founding Fathers to better understand why the power of government was limited in the founding of our republic. Let us remember the lessons learned by our Pilgrim forefathers as they chose capitalism and a strong work ethic over depending on someone else to provide for their wants and needs!
Why the legacy of American slavery endures after more than 400 years
A year before the Pilgrims made their famed journey to New England, signing the “Mayflower Compact” and thus inaugurating so many of the myths that we believe about our democratic origins, a very different ship disembarked in that older English colony to the south, Jamestown. Aug. 20, 1619, marked the arrival of 20 enslaved Africans in English North America, “bought for victuale … at the best and easyest rate they could” as recorded by the tobacco planter John Rolfe (Pocahontas’s husband), some 15 months before the Mayflower supposedly landed near Plymouth Rock.
This anniversary affords us an opportunity to think about American origins both what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget. Every schoolchild has heard of the Mayflower, but not of the White Lion and the Treasurer, ships that kidnapped Africans. We glorify the Pilgrims as models of liberty, and the Virginians as captains of industriousness, but as always, the reality was more complicated. The histories of these two regions were intertwined with the dark underbelly of human exploitation and bondage, which Jamestown established a year before the Pilgrims arrived.
Too often, America’s history of slavery, which is deeply entangled with the economics of the nation, is taught and remembered as something antique, forgotten and regional. But so enduring has the legacy of slavery been and so scant has been our actual reckoning concerning this evil that we are obligated to look more closely at what Jamestown and Plymouth mean, and why we should remember them together.
The story of the enslaved Africans and their arrival in Jamestown has long been recounted as a counterpoint to the story of the landing of Pilgrims in Plymouth. Historian Jill Lepore compares the relationship between the two colonies in subsequent American imaginings as being a sort of “Cain-and-Abel, founding moment.” An American abolitionist writing in 1857 quoted by Lepore exclaimed that as regards the colonies, “Here are two ideas, Liberty and Slavery — planted at about the same time, in the virgin soil of the new continent the one in the North, the other in the South. They are deadly foes.”
Southern apologists interpreted those two landing dates in a different way. George Fitzhugh would compare Massachusetts and Virginia in 1860, declaring that the coming war was “between those who believe in the past, in history, in human experience, in the Bible, in human nature, and those who … foolishly, rashly, and profanely attempt to ‘expel human nature,’ to bring about a millennium.” For southerners such as Fitzhugh, New England Puritanism had strayed far from its Protestant roots, embracing what critics saw as the moralizing liberalism of denominations such as Unitarianism and cultural movements such as Transcendentalism. For Fitzhugh and those like him, these “heretical” children of Puritanism now threatened what he saw as both his economic livelihood and his “right” to hold other humans in bondage.
But the kidnapped people who were sold in Virginia 400 years ago weren’t symbols, they were women and men. They were real people who’d previously lived their lives as inhabitants of the African kingdom of Ndongo and were forcibly brought to labor in Jamestown. A 1624 census in Jamestown shows the otherwise anonymous Antoney and Isabella as the parents of William Tucker, the first African American to be born on these shores. Any memory of the early origins of America must center the experiences of people such as Tucker. And remembering the bondage of actual individuals reveals the shared similarities between Virginia and New England that bound the two parts of Colonial America together.
6 Fascinating Things You Never Knew About Jamestown
Steeped in legend and shrouded by time, Jamestown has long intrigued modern-day Americans. As the first permanent English colony in North America, Jamestown represented, then and now, a new beginning, a chance to conquer a continent, and a foothold for expansion of English law, customs, and traditions. Add to that a tale of love between a Native American princess and a dashing English explorer, and it’s no wonder so many people regard Jamestown with romance and adventure.
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In actuality, Pocahontas probably never saved Captain Smith, but these six true facts about Jamestown may be even more fascinating than the myth of Jamestown.
1. Jamestown colonists resorted to cannibalism.
Although we now celebrate Jamestown as the first lasting English settlement in the Americas, for a few grim winter months in the colony’s earliest years, permanence was far from certain. Plagued by a lack of farming know-how, hostile native peoples, and a harsh winter, Jamestown dwindled from 300 colonists in November 1609 to just 60 the following spring. Colonists who lived through the winter called it the “starving time” and admitted they made it through by eating dogs, snakes, and, occasionally, people.
Early reports of cannibalism from the winter’s survivors were met with skepticism back in England—no one wanted to believe that Englishmen would dig up corpses for food. But writing in 1625, George Percy, the youngest son of the eighth Earl of Northumberland, recalled that as Jamestown’s interim president in 1609, he had sentenced another man to death for killing his own pregnant wife and consuming her salted flesh. In 2012, archaeologists at Jamestown found the bones of a girl, estimated to be about 14, that bore the telltale knife marks of cannibalism.
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2. Pocahontas probably never saved Captain John Smith’s life.
Thanks to centuries of exaggerated storytelling, most recently in Disney’s 1995 feature film, the story of Pocahontas has become an American myth: Plucky native princess saves the life of a dashing English gentleman adventurer by throwing her body between him and the stone about to bash his brains in. Together, they bring peace, at least temporarily, to Jamestown.
But many historians now doubt Captain John Smith’s life was ever truly in danger when Pocahontas stepped in front of him. By binding Smith and threatening him with large stones, the Powhatan Indians were more likely conducting a ceremony to honor Smith as another chief. Some believe that as the daughter of the chief, Pocahontas would not even have been present at the ceremony to see Smith bound and later released.
Assuming Pocahontas was around when Smith believed his life was at risk, he was not the last Jamestown colonist to affect her life. In 1613, Pocahontas—whose real name was Matoaka (Pocahontas was just a nickname meaning “playful one”)—was tricked into visiting Jamestown and kidnapped. She remained a captive until 1614, when she agreed to marry widower John Rolfe. That union did result in peace, for a time, between the Powhatan and the colonists.
Pocahontas and Rolfe had a son, and in 1616, all three traveled to England, where Pocahontas met King James I. On their return to Jamestown in 1617, however, Pocahontas became ill and died soon after returning home.
3. Tobacco grown from smuggled seeds saved Jamestown.
John Rolfe brought more than peace to Jamestown. He also brought the seeds of its salvation—literally. For Jamestown’s first several years, the colony’s leaders placed little emphasis on farming, directing the colonists’ energies to various trades such as silk making, glassmaking, and forestry, believing that they could trade with the Native Americans for food. Unfortunately, when hostilities broke out with the Powhatan Indians in 1609, the entire colony nearly starved to death.
Jamestown’s economic focus shifted when John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown in 1610 bearing South American tobacco seeds. That tobacco strain quickly became Virginia’s major cash crop and fueled the colony’s growth in numbers and wealth. Tobacco became Virginia’s number-one export from the early 17th century until the end of the 20th century.
Native North American peoples had been smoking tobacco for thousands of years before the English colonists arrived, but Rolfe brought seeds from a better-smoking South American species to Jamestown. To this day, no one is sure where Rolfe got those seeds. Spain, which controlled Central and South America in 1610, had outlawed the sale of such seeds to non-Spaniards on penalty of death. Rolfe may have acquired them while shipwrecked on Bermuda for 10 months—where his wife and daughter died—before arriving in Jamestown in 1610.
4. Tobacco brought the first Africans to Jamestown.
The rise of labor-intensive tobacco farming in Jamestown created the need for more laborers than ever in the colony, a need met early on by indentured Africans who first arrived in 1619. John Rolfe, who had introduced tobacco farming to Jamestown, noted that in late August 1619, “20 and odd” Africans came from a Dutch warship. The Dutch ship had captured the Africans from a Portuguese ship heading south to the Spanish colonies. Some of the Africans became the property of the colonial governor while others likely became indentured servants working in the tobacco fields.
While Virginia did not institute slave laws until 1662, the first de facto slave in the English colonies lost his freedom near Jamestown decades earlier. In 1640, James Punch, an indentured servant from Africa, tried unsuccessfully to escape his servitude in what is now York County, adjacent to Jamestown. He was captured, and as punishment, Punch’s indenture servitude was extended to his entire life, effectively enslaving him (the two white indentured servants who escaped with him merely had their servitude extended when recaptured). Recent research by Ancestry genealogists discovered that Punch is an ancestor of President Barack Obama, through his mother’s family.
5. Jamestown colonists executed a Catholic spy.
During Jamestown’s first years, Spain was concerned about more than just smuggled tobacco seeds. Spain was worried about any English presence in the Americas, since Spain was, at the time, the dominant colonial power in the Western Hemisphere. To get information about England’s plans for settling North America, Catholic Spain relied on spies planted in England’s Protestant colonies. And Jamestown possibly had just such a spy—or at least, Jamestown colonists executed someone they accused of being a Spanish Catholic informant.
In 1609, councilman Captain George Kendall fell under suspicion after another man (himself facing execution for threatening to strike the new Jamestown council president) accused Kendall of being a Catholic spy. The council tried and executed Kendall in 1609, the first capital trial and execution in English Colonial America.
The Spanish conspiracy may have extended beyond Kendall. In July 2015, archaeologists announced they had found a silver box containing bone fragments in the grave of Captain Gabriel Archer, a lawyer and one of the colony’s early leaders. Scientists believe the box was a reliquary, a common Catholic object of religious devotion. The fact that Archer was buried with the reliquary suggests that he, too, may have harbored Catholic sympathies.
6. The oldest continuous law-making body in the Western Hemisphere first met in Jamestown.
Of course, we celebrate Jamestown today not because of its early struggles, but because of the English heritage and traditions it began on this continent. One of those traditions includes the oldest continuous law-making body in the Western Hemisphere, the Virginia General Assembly.
First meeting on July 30, 1619, at the Jamestown church, the General Assembly succeeded a counsel of quarreling elites followed by several years of harsh martial law codified as the “Laws Divine, Moral and Martial.” But with growing prosperity from tobacco and peace from the union of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, the colonial governor, George Yeardley, arrived at Jamestown in 1619 and announced the creation of a colonial legislative assembly, which included Gov. Yeardley, his council, and 22 representatives, known as burgesses, from the settlements that had grown around Jamestown.
During their first session, which lasted six days, the General Assembly adopted measures against drunkenness, idleness, and gambling passed laws relating to both the protection from and baptism of Native Americans and imposed a tax on every man and servant of “one pound of the best Tobacco.” The General Assembly continued to meet at Jamestown until 1699, when Middle Plantation, later Williamsburg, became the capital of the colony. Today, of course, Virginia’s General Assembly meets in the Commonwealth’s capital of Richmond.
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