From the Writings of John Smith [1625] - History

From the Writings of John Smith [1625] - History


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From the Writings of John Smith[1625]

know not: but of this I am sure; when her father with the utmost of his policie and power, sought to surprize mee,1 having but eighteene with mee, the darke night could not affright her from comming through the irkesome woods, and with watered eyes gave me intelligence, with her best advice to escape his furie; which had hee knowne, hee had surely slaine her. Jamestowne with her wild traine she as freely frequented, as her fathers habitation; and during the time of two or three yeares, she next under God, was still the instrument to preserve this Colonie from death, famine and utter confusion; _which if in those times, had once beene dissolved, Virginia might haveit was at our first arrivall to this day. Since then, this businesse having beene turned and varied by many accidents from that I left it at: it is most certaine, after a long and troublesome warre after my departure, betwixt her father and our Colonie; all which time shee was not heard of. About two yeeres after 3 shee her selfe was taken prisoner, being so detained neere two yeeres longer, the Colonie by that meanes was relieved, peace concluded; and at last rejecting her barbarous condition, was maried to an English Gentleman, with whom at this present she is in England; the first Christian ever of that Nation, the first Virginian ever spake English, or had a childe in mariage by an Englishman: a matter surely, if my meaning bee truly considered and well understood, worthy a Princes understanding.

Thus, most gracious Lady, I have related to your Majestie, what at your best leasure our approved Histories will account you at large, and done in the time of your Majesties life; and however this might bee presented you from a more worthy pen, it cannot from a more honest heart, as yet I never begged any thing of the state, or any: and it is my want of abilitie and her exceeding desert; your birth, meanes and authoritie: hir birth, vertue, want and simplicitie, doth make mee thm bold, humbly to beseech your Majestie to take this knowledg{ of her, though it be from one so unworthy to be the reporter.


John Smith's True Story Is Way Better Than the Fictional Tale

While plenty of people older than age of 8 know that the Pocahontas and John Smith love story is just a myth, and kind of a gross one considering he was 27 when he encountered the 10- or 11-year old girl, Smith's real-life story hasn't gotten much attention outside of academic circles. But the genuine Capt. John Smith had more effect on the trajectory of history than any two-dimensional animated version could ever hope to.

"He was one of the very most important people in early English colonization," says Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Silver professor of history emerita at New York University and editor of "Captain John Smith, A Select Edition of His Writings." "His image has endured for all the wrong reasons." Popular culture seized on the event with Pocahontas, but his interactions with her were the least important among his accomplishments.

Who Was John Smith?

Born in 1580 in Lincolnshire, England, Smith was the son of yeoman farmers (non-slaveholding, small landowning farmers), according to his autobiography, explains Kupperman. After his father died, Smith left home and his life of adventure began.

According to the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, Smith helped the French fight for Dutch independence from Spain and then became a sailor on a merchant ship. By 1600, he had linked up with the Hapsburgs to fight the Ottomans in Hungary. He was captured, sold into slavery and given to a young woman in Istanbul. Although she is reported (by Smith) to have fallen in love with Smith, she sent him to her brother, who treated him badly. Smith wound up killing the brother to escape and traveled throughout North Africa and Europe before returning to England, where he arrived just at the time the Virginia Company was making plans to establish a colony in North America.

This might all sound like a tall tale, but scholars have shown that Smith's places, battles and dates line up with accepted records, while his astonishing version of the events places him within literary genres of the time, according to Kupperman.

The Adventurer in Virginia

The next stop for Smith was colonial Virginia. The Virginia Company voyage set off for the "New World" Dec. 20, 1606, with Smith aboard. While sailing to North America, he was accused of a mutiny, and when the ships docked in the Chesapeake Bay in April 1607, where the Jamestown settlement would be founded, he was a prisoner. Once the colony leaders realized that the Company had intended Smith to be part of the governing council, they released him.

Smith spent his time in Virginia exploring the area and bartering with local peoples. He was in Virginia for slightly less than two years, but his role there was important. "[H]e was the only person on the leadership who had actual experience dealing with other cultures," says Kupperman, who contrasts Smith's behavior with that of Capt. Christopher Newport's. When Newport visited the local Algonquin leader Chief Powhatan, for instance, he met him with soldiers, trumpets and flags, what Kupperman calls "a ridiculous display." Smith, on the other hand, visited Powhatan accompanied only by four men.

"He understood a lot more about how you can get people to be interested in helping you in these situations," says Kupperman. "And swagger is not really it."

Smith's contributions at Jamestown went beyond his cross-cultural awareness. The English had not yet explored the Chesapeake Bay when they arrived in 1607, according to Paul P. Musselwhite, assistant professor of history at Dartmouth. An earlier attempt at settlement in the region, the lost colony of Roanoke, had not ended well. But within five years, Smith's work helped the English develop a map and knowledge of the geography and peoples of the area.

The Misconceptions About Pocahontas

Smith did a lot during his short time in Virginia, but what he didn't do was fall in love with Pocahontas — or vice versa.

"The most critical misconception is the one about his relationship with Pocahontas," says Musselwhite. In reality, it would have been practically impossible for him to have had any kind of important relationship with her because he was a nearly 30-year-old soldier and she was a tween girl. Smith played up their connection later when Pocahontas visited England and had become the center of attention at the court.

During his first year in Virginia, Smith was captured by some of Powhatan's men. According to the legend, Pocahontas intervened in Smith's near-execution by throwing herself across his body, thereby saving his life.

It seems clear that it was an initiation ceremony and Pocahontas' role was scripted, explains Kupperman. Smith was going through a symbolic death and being reborn as a member of the Algonquin community. Afterward, Powhatan said that he would call him "son."

Pocahontas and other Indigenous children did spend time at James Fort, according to Musselwhite. Sending children was a way to create cultural connections, and Pocahontas and Smith probably spent some time together. Whether he would have distinguished her from other children at the fort at the time is hard to know.

The Colonizer of New England

By September 1608, Smith had become the president of the council for the Virginia Colony, encouraging discipline and farming. "Smith's strong leadership helped the colony survive and grow but also made him enemies within the fort. As he slept in a boat in the river one night, Smith was badly injured by a mysterious gunpowder explosion," according to the Jamestown Rediscovery Project. His injuries were severe enough that he was forced to return to England.

But that only meant he turned his focus elsewhere, and Smith became one of the principal theorists of early English colonization, Kupperman says.

"That's his real importance," she says. "He had this vision for what the English colonies could be." It was centered on settlers from the "middling group" of English society who had independence and were willing to work hard for themselves.

In 1614, Smith returned to America from London and spent just five weeks mapping New England, he saw the way forward. Until that time, colonization had been financed by rich, elite men, who expected to get a good return on investment. Smith asserted that the only way to build a real community was for individuals — settlers — to work for themselves. And that became the American colonization model.

In fact, Smith developed the name and concept of New England. It was Smith who determined how English people geographically defined the limits of New England, according to Musselwhite. Like his 1612 map of Virginia, the New England map he published in 1616 has been shown by modern scholars to be surprisingly accurate.

And Smith's efforts writing about New England and promoting it to anyone who would listen led to its being the place that settlers like the pilgrims decided to go, says Musselwhite. That is "perhaps an underappreciated contribution."

Smith the Writer and Publicist

Following nearly two decades of 17th-century travel, Smith entered a new phase of his life. He ceased adventuring and turned his attention more fully to writing and self-promotion. While other soldiers and adventurers may have gone on to India or become pirates, Smith realized he could make a career as a writer, says Musselwhite.

Although Smith is almost entirely famous in popular culture because he was a fighter and a practical man, his recognition has endured because he was able to pivot and worked to win patronage at court. He was certainly not a gruff, egalitarian, according to Musselwhite.

After leaving New England, he spent the rest of his life in London. Kupperman explains that Smith knew all of the contemporary writers and was part of that group. He hung out with a more quill and parchment crowd, many of whom wrote forwards and introductions for his books.

"His circle really was this community of writers in early 17th-century London," says Kupperman.

And as far as his books, he has often been described by historians as a liar because he repeatedly wrote about the same material, changing and embroidering it. A main accusation against Smith is that he was constantly aggrandizing himself the Pocahontas story offers a good example.

Kupperman says that is true, but he was also communicating in the style of the day.

If his later writings and general history are used as important sources for understanding the world of colonial promotion, they are not a source of "objective, factual detail," Musselwhite says. But Smith represents the most powerful example of what colonial promotion had become by the 1620s. All of the personal stories were woven into grandiose claims in an attempt to develop a patronage network and colonial schemes.

In 1624, Smith, who died in 1631, compiled all of his writings about the colonies into "The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles."

"The reason his image has endured is 90 percent because of his own creation," says Musselwhite. "You would really describe him as a pragmatic and tireless soldier and as a tireless self-promoter and publicist."

Today, we might call him an influencer.

John Smith was a reportedly short man, about 5 feet, 4 inches tall (1.6 meters) with dark hair and a beard — a far cry from Disney's depiction of John Smith as tall, blonde and clean-shaven. Why Disney, why?


Contents

Originally, two English joint-stock companies had been made to settle North America, then known as the Colony of Virginia. In June 1606, the London Company was granted a charter for a section of the continent south of that given to the Plymouth Company. [1] Both companies established settlements in 1607 - the London Company in Jamestown, [1] and the Plymouth Company in Plymouth. Soon, the term Virginia came to refer only to that part of North America covered by the London Company's original charters. The third charter, of 1612, extended its territory far enough across the Atlantic to include the Somers Isles (Bermuda), which the Virginia Company had been in unofficial possession of since the 1609 wreck of the Sea Venture.

John Smith fell out of favor with the directors of the Virginia Company mostly due to his insistence of increasing food supply and reducing colonist numbers. Despite this, he wrote a series of publications after returning to England in October 1609 [2] about the colonial effort in North America, where he marginalized the Company's involvement. The Generall Historie was based in large part on information he was given by others, as he had not personally witnessed what had happened in the years between his leaving Virginia and publishing the book. Some episodes may have been fabricated, condensed, or truncated, the most famous perhaps being whether or not he was actually "saved" from death by Pocahontas in 1607 (a fact Smith did not write about until this publication). [3]

Further, he had never visited Bermuda, which had been separated from Virginia to be managed by the Somers Isles Company (formed in 1615 by the shareholders of the Virginia Company). His information on Bermuda may have come from the then Governor, Nathaniel Butler, who probably provided the drawing which was the basis of the engraving printed in the Historie, a map, and illustrations of important sites in that

All 17th-century American writings were essentially in the manner of British writings, and both the content and form of the literature of this first century in America were markedly English. [4] John Smith is credited with initiating American literature, and wrote in the tradition of geographic literature and written to explain colonizing opportunities to Englishmen. [4] His numerous publications also offered practical advice on seamanship and colonization, and his literary achievements were probably more important to England’s imperial aspirations than his travel ones. [5]

The Generall Historie was first printed by I.D and I. H. for Michael Sparkes in 1624. [6] [7] Other editions followed in 1625, 1626, 1627, 1629, 1631, and 1632.


John Smith Analysis in the General History of Virginia

How do you views of Native Americans compare to that of John Smith? Smith’s The General History of Virginia shows the Native Americans as backward, barbaric, and dangerous. John Smith saw firsthand the hostile actions, different clothes, and inferior technology of the Native Americans. John Smith wrote his opinion of the Native Americans in The General History of Virginia. Some of the Native Americans that inhabited the New World were hostile to the colonists.

Smith was captured by the Native Americans and brought back to their camp. Smith wrote that “Within an hour, the prepared to shoot him”. They decided against shooting him, realizing his apparent power and waited until Powhatan “ordered two large stones to be brought to him” so the could “beat out (Smith’s) brains”. When John Smith was captured by the Native Americans he wrote about their different, primitive clothing. He wrote that their leader, Powhatan “sat covered with a great robe made of raccoon skin and tails hanging by”.

The other members of the tribe had “their heads and shoulders painted red” and their “heads bedecked with the white down of birds”. Compared to the colonists’ clothing, the Native Americans would have looked barbaric to Smith. The Native Americans inferior technology led to Smith writing that they were a “backwards” tribe. While being a captive of the Native Americans, Smith saw the Native Americans “marvel at the compass and the glass that covered it”.

After Smith was escorted back to Jamestown to give Powhatan two cannons, Smith demonstrated how to use the cannon to the Native Americans and saw “the poor savages run away half dead with fear”. John Smith wrote his firsthand account of what he experienced in the New World. He wrote of the relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans. Smith wrote The General History of Virginia in his own opinion of the Native Americans. Are your views of the Native Americans the same or different from John Smith’s?

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From the Writings of John Smith [1625] - History

“the liberty to pursue one’s own interest was not only mankind’s proper condition, but an engine that could power a society to greatness.”

Language has been a key to understanding people’s thoughts and actions for many years. The English language has been used to explain why Native Americans were considered a problem as soon as the English settled in Virginia. Due to the fact that John Smith was trusted by many of the English people, his use of language to describe the Indians had a great impact. However, Smith’s perspectives were not taken into account until well after first contact. John Smith’s accounts were some of the first documented descriptions of the Indians and thus the most important to English settlers. Because of that fact it is the most important to this research paper and to history that his language is not forgotten. Culture, like language, is another key aspect to understanding human beings. Indians and English, as many know, had different cultures and different languages and that caused tension between the two. This paper will show the change in mindset of John Smith through his language. If people and historians understand the language that Smith spoke and wrote then they will understand the actions he took. Using Smith’s language, one will see that language truly is the gateway to knowing and understanding civilizations and/or a settlement. Likewise, his perspective on their, Native American culture is important because it influenced his language. Smith’s language reveals his first-hand observations of Native people and shows his inner feelings he assumed he was an authority on the topic. [1]

This paper will focus on the language used to describe Indians by the first English settlers to Virginia, especially John Smith. The bulk of the information will be taken from John Smith’s personal diaries, letters and journals. In this paper I will argue that John Smith used his writings to shape others’ opinions about Native Americans and about himself. He described Indians as “barbaric” and “savage” after he was taken captive in 1607. He described Indian battle tactics as “cowardly.” He also described the Indian culture in general as “devilish.” His words showed the world what he saw and what he believed to be a barbaric culture. In contrast, he described himself as authoritative and trustworthy. Even when he created the improbable tale of Pocahontas rescuing him, he expected people to believe him. [2] At first he used words like “men”, “women” and “Indians” [3] to describe the new people he had encountered but after his capture he changed to using negative words like “salvage” (savage) [4] . This may have helped in changing some of the English perspective of the Indians and may have led to the many wars and small raids that broke out leading up to the massacre of 1622. Smith also looked down upon the Indian’s battle tactics. Because Indian tactics were different from the British tactics, Smith demeaned them as ineffective , barbaric, and cowardly . Smith describes the tactics as cowardly, bringing up yet another agonizing word to demean his opponent. Also, Smith saw the Indian culture as barbaric and devilish and thus used demonizing words to describe their culture. John Smith was a governor of Jamestown, he chose his words carefully to allow people to see his side.

Smith’s own words showed that he held himself above others and further shows that he wanted to be seen as the first major historians because he was one of the first to record his experiences and relations with the Indians. Not only were his words trusted by the English who read them, they were seen as stories because they were new to the world and thus entertaining. The Pocahontas account was one that stills sparks the interest of many however, it raises the question of how much is true. One of Smith’s first books, published in 1609 just after his capture, leaves out the story all together but another book published in 1624, after Pocahontas’s arrived in England, has the story. Further, Smith’s demeaning language halts when he talks about Pocahontas. It begs the question of why use this story to explain a group of people who he thought where barbaric? Knowing this about Smith helps us see his mindset and see how he used language to describe the Native culture he observed. H is words carried authority and influenced how settlers felt about the Indians.

The primary sources used in this paper are taken from John Smith’s journals and letters. One of the books is The Complete Works of John Smith. This book covers the period from 1580 to 1631. However, for this paper I will only use the True Relations book because it is the only book published in the time period of my paper. This book was published in 1608, just after Smith’s capture. Another book, also written by Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, is one of the main primary sources used throughout the paper. Like True Relations, this book shows the true language used by Smith, in fact it is almost the exact same stories and descriptions as True Relations with the addition of stories in a few places. The main difference in this book, however, is the addition of the Pocahontas saving story. This book was published in 1624, well after Pocahontas was in England. Finally, Smith’s letter to Queen Anne is a key primary source. It is a letter written when Smith got word that Pocahontas was moving to England. He tells her how important Pocahontas is to the English and how special she is, but at the same time he still continues to call the Powhatan tribe as a whole as “savages”. This is important to my project because despite praising, or exploiting, Pocahontas it still degenerates the Indians.

For my secondary sources I used a few consistently throughout the paper, however, I do use many others. Bernard Sheehan used a variety of primary sources in his book, Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia, to explain the English relationship with Indians. These primary sources are taken from letters, books and journals. The main arguments that Sheehan has throughout this book is introducing European influence, that Indians were viewed as savages, and that it was cultural differences that made this view possible. Another book I used is Love and Hate in Jamestown by David Price. It has a great deal of information on the Pocahontas story, and the mindset of Smith at the time. Although a very good source, it does have its downfalls. It fails to refute or consider the idea that the story may in fact be false. Also another downfall is at times is seems to read as a story book, in telling the story of John Smith and Jamestown instead of giving information. One of the other books I used is Everett Emerson’s biography, Captain James Smith. It is important to my paper because it expresses Smith’s desire to seek out and colonize the newly found land not only for England but for himself. It shows that he “immortalized” himself in his own words to make his name known. These and many other secondary sources will contribute to the understanding of my argument.

Both the English and Powhatan were in a culture shock when they first met in 1607, they did not understand each other’s intentions. The two sides never fully understood each other’s culture or language and that proved to be harmful. Alan Taylor’s scholarly book, American Colonies, is the main consulted secondary source used. It breaks down the Virginia colony into multiple sections including, “Powhatan”, “Jamestown”, “Violence” and “Encounter”. These subcategories explain the difference in culture and thus the difference in understanding each other. Taylor argues that the violence started when the colonists “expected” the Indians to feed them while they looked for gold. [5] This did not go over very well with the Indians and thus lead to the capture of Smith. Bernard Sheehan, a historian who wrote Savagism and Civility, and Camilla Townsend, another historian who wrote Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, both agree with this statement in saying, “he believed that they existed to serve English purposes, and attributed and sign that they differed with this interpretation to their savage natures.” [6] And, “they expected Powhatan to become their vassal, not their lord.” [7] However, Climet, in his encyclopedias, disagree with this stating that the Indians were quite the opposite. He argues that the Indians were the ones who “expected” the English to give favors to them, such as weapons, steel and jewels. [8] Taylor’s argument seems to be more logically supported argument. He says that “The English insisted that God require them to improve the wilderness into productive farmland, subduing the Indians in the progress.” [9] This is exactly what Smith was doing when he was captured he set out to examine the terrain beyond the town, “I set forward, leaving 7 at the barge: having discovered 20 miles further in this desart (sic).” [10] With expectation of exploring the wilderness and the Indian culture, Smith’s attitude towards the Indians is positive . Before the description of the capture, Smith uses 20 pages to describe the terrain, food and the inhabitants. Never once did he use the word “salvage”, it is a steady and continuous use of the exact tribe names. He even goes as far as to describe Chief Powhatan in simply saying “he is of personage a tall well proportioned man, with a sower looke.” [11] It seemed that everything was peaceful and in good quality and that Smith’s words were merely a description of curiosity, until his capture where Smith’s key words changed and showing that his mindset changed. In this description, Captain Smith explains the reason for his capture. It comes to no surprise that his capture followed an attack by the Indians in which Smith killed some. Smith explained the attack in great detail saying that their “guide” betrayed them leading them into an ambush. This is the first time that Smith shows his distrust in the “Indians”. Taking one in his arms to prevent any more surprises, Smith is struck by an arrow and this is when he unloads his pistol “3 or 4” times. When he realized there was “20 or 30” arrows shot at him, none of which did any damage, he laid down his pistol and was taken prisoner. This shows that the Indians were not who Smith thought they were, peaceful and a helpful people, but “salvages”. At this point he does not trust the Indians anymore and begins to call them “salvages” [12] . This is the turning point and shows a conflict in culture and thus influences the language that was used.

Captain John Smith, after his capture, expresses his views on the military tactics that the Indians used calling them cowardly and barbaric. To help understand these tactics, Savagism and Civility, a scholarly study by Bernard Sheehan, goes into the idea of what and how each side viewed the other’s military tactics and different attitudes of life. Although a very widely accepted argument, Sheehan argues simply if the Indian culture was different then it was condemned, even their battle tactics. Upon Smith’s view of his capture, he could not understand their way of “inhumanity of savage war revealed only one aspect of the brutality that permitted native life.” [13] But what caused them, the Indians, to attack? Perhaps, “If pressed too hard for food, the Indians lashed out.” [14] Knowing that Smith was a key component to the English, the Indians wanted to take him prisoner to show that they would not tolerate being their source of food. It’s no surprise that the English saw the natives as strange and out of the ordinary and thus condemned them because of their ways. Before anyone had seen the Indian culture, the English had only observed military tactics thus causing the Indian image to be stereotypical of their fighting, brutal. A stereotype that not only was odd, but it had no relevance due to the fact that the English did not understand the natives. Anything that was not to English standards was considered savage and subject to change, this included military tactics. “They seldom fought formal battles, and then only when the forest afforded protection.” [15] This not only reaffirms the idea that the Indian tactics were not normal to the English, but “barbarian” by letting out “horrible shouts and screeches, as though so many infernall hellbounds could not have made them more terrible” [16] as described by Smith in his journal. Smith’s point of view was that if they did not fight the traditional (linear) way then they were cowards. The English never faltered from this idea in fact they made the same arguments in the War for American Independence. Using trees as cover was a sign of being scared and not wanting to fight and thus made the English angry because they did not know how to fight against that kind of warfare. Words like “coward”, “scared” and “barbarians” further proves the idea that the language used degraded the Indian culture and thus was a target for further hate and attacks.

Continuing with the word “barbarian”, accounts of the description of the culture added additional demeaning perspectives on the natives. These perspectives included devil worshipers and thus were hell bound. This assumption is described in Smith’s viewings of the people when he was held captive, none of which changed his mind to see them as people, but rather as barbarians. In observing a ritual or dance, Smith describes them in his journal as being a strange group, “With most strange gestures and passions…which done, three more such like devils came rushing in with the like antique tricks, painted halfe blacke, halfe red: but all their eyes were painted white.” [17] Suggesting that they look and move like devils, he saw them as just that, not human. Not knowing one’s culture can cause someone to not only view them as awkward but can see them as Devil worshipers, especially because of the amount of dancing and chanting that Indians did. With that in mind, it only justified the idea for the English to convert them to Christianity and do away with their devilish ways. The viewing of dance, chanting, body painting and clothing was one of the first observations of the culture. Sheehan argues that the Smith’s observations led him to the conclusion that the Indians were “close to the animal condition” [18] and thus acted like animals in their customs. Smith made it seem that their animalistic ways of life were “as if neare led to hell, amongst the Devils to dwell.” [19] This suggests and their way of life was one that they could get in contact with the Devil and thus would be on their way to hell, reaffirming Sheehan’s argument.

Not only does Sheehan suggest this is what Smith was thinking, but Taylor also agrees. He suggests that once the English knew that the Indians would not convert to their ways, they were seen as beasts and must be treated as beasts, “Indians who resisted the bridle of English rule could expect to be treated like wild and dangerous beasts.” [20] To show that this was true, the English (in one instance) captured children and “as a sport, they threw the children overboard and shot them in the water as they tried to swim to shore.” [21] This shows that the English did not tolerate them not converting it was the way God wanted it to be and if they could not accept that then they would be sent to hell where they belonged. In a letter from an unknown settler, he confirms this ideology, “Our intrusion into their possession shall tend to their great good, and no way to their hurt, unlesse as unbridle beasts, they procure it to themselves.” [22] This illustrates that not only Smith, but Jamestown as a whole, saw the Indians as “beastly” and if they did not accept the English culture they and their culture would die causing further grief and pain to their people. They would continue to be targets of verbal and physical abuse if they did not submit to the will and the culture of the British. [23]

Words can express so much when that’s all you have. In the time that Jamestown was settled, words were the only way to express feelings this is why these documents are so important. Smith’s words influence history to be seen in only one way: his way. It is not only an important part for history, but early English literature as well. The words used by Smith and others were very powerful in describing the Indians and thus caused those who read these reports, such as the King and Queen of England, to have no other choice but to believe them. His accounts were good attempts at showing how these “humans” acted like animals and treated English as dogs. It is hard not to think of them not as such when accounts like this were documented. Another observation of Smith:

Sometimes he causeth the heads of them that offend him, to be laid vpon the alter or sacrificing stone, and one with clubbes beats out their braines. When he would punish any notorious enemy or malefactor, he causeth him to be tyed to a tree, and with Mussell shels or reeds, the executioner cutteth off his ioynts one after another, ever casting what they cut of into the fire then doth he proceed with shells and reeds to case the skinne from his head and face then do they rip his belly and so burne him with the tree and all. [24]

This account proves to be a source in which people can see the actions of the Indians and thus have reason to hate them, not only for Jamestown settlers, but also to the nobles and future settlers. If a person that is about to settle in Jamestown read this, then they could think that Indians were truly barbarians. They would believe that it must be true since it was written by a governor, an authoritative figure, and this is what Smith counted on. Not only could this have influenced others to see Indians as evil and not to trust them, but it allowed Smith’s name to be accepted as one of the great historians, at least to those who believed his “stories”. A simple collection of words proves that they can shift a person’s mindset to see what the author wants them to believe. These words from Smith showed that many believed him and thus Indians must be converted or killed to relieve them of their barbaric ways, and that’s just what happened. History shows that settlers, after this point, targeted Indians and forced them from their lands.

Encyclopedias portray John Smith to be a saint, a conqueror, a hero and that’s exactly how he viewed himself. His language used to describe himself was always that of exactness, never once admitting fault. In one instance, he almost seemed like he was laughing at the Indians for treating him like a King, “I would content them: each presently gave his help to satisfie my request, which a horse would scarce have indured.” [25] To keep the public believing in the idea that John Smith was a good person, the encyclopedias have an image in which Smith is praised and honored for his actions. In one area, when describing the Powhatan, they explain the capture of Smith as a bond and treaty that Smith made to save himself, making him look like a genius in making friends, however this was not the case:

“John Smith was captured and adopted into the Powhatan society through a complex series of rituals…Through the bond formed with John Smith, the military leader of the Jamestown colony, Powhatan believed he had adopted Jamestown as another subordinate village in exchange for being allowed to remain in Virginia, the English would provide Powhatan with two cannons and a grindstone.” [26]

This suggests that Smith was a clever person in making people believe something that was not true. This holds true with his telling of the Pocahontas story, which will be discussed later in the paper. If being clever meant that he would save his own life, then he would say anything, because he valued himself and his cause above any treaty, king or settlement. This is the true reason why he wrote these accounts. Smith believed that the Indians would do anything for him simply because they saw him as a God. Using the same quote as above, he shows that he believed they saw him as such, “I would content them: each presently gave his help to satisfie my request, which a horse would scarce have indured.” [27] This suggests that the Indians did manual labor for him because they felt they must satisfy his every need. In Emerson’s biography of John Smith, he argues on this matter saying that, “it is fare to say that this interest shows Smith’s love of knowledge for its own sake.” [28] Emerson shows that Smith takes in the knowledge of the Indians’ charity as a way to praise him and worship him. Because “the Indian emperor now sent him supplies once or twice a week,” [29] he now knew they would do anything to please him either that or they did not want to make him mad. Either way, Smith won, in his mind, and would continue to be seen as a God, in his eyes.

A counter argument to Smith immortalizing himself was that he did these things not because he wanted to make himself a God, but because he was not very well liked among his own people. The colonists accused him for their family and friends’ deaths, Indian attacks and for not having a successful colony. As a result of these truths, he used little language to talk about these accusations, simply saying they were “accused” but never proved. This meant that whatever praise he got, he loved and at times expanded the love to make these events outweigh the bad events. If he was looked at as a God to one culture and a heartache to another, people will sympathize with him and thus only focus on the praising and worshipping of him. The truth is, however, that he was a problem and found that when he was gone, “the governing council had been taken over by personal enemies, and he was sentenced to death for losing the men of his exploring party.” [30] Although it was not true that he was the cause of their deaths, Smith was still placed in jail. Having enemies among his own people caused his journals to be ones of praise for himself. It proves the argument that he certainly loved himself and down played the bad in his life to immortalize himself. On this account he explains it as a “great blame and imputation that was laid upon mee by them for the losse of our two men which the Indians slew.” [31] This is all he says of this matter and he never referred to again. This may be because he did not want to look as if he lost control of Jamestown, which, again, would make him look bad. All in all, Smith was one who loved his name and would say nothing of his mistakes or of his down falls.

Adding onto the idea that he thought of himself very highly, the story about Pocahontas is one way that Smith got his name known. Pocahontas, the most beloved daughter of Chief Powhatan, was viewed as royalty and strength by Smith. Why? He hated them and wrote all kinds of hateful words about these people to make them seem demonize them. Why the exception to Pocahontas? The answer lies within the paragraph above Smith wanted his name to be heard, he wanted his name to be associated with royalty. Making the Pocahontas story a published piece allowed readers to see the real brutality in the Indians while at the same time showing the sincerity of a new princess of England. In a letter to Queen Anne in 1616, John Smith wrote about his liking of Powhatan’s daughter saying that she is worthy to be a British princess because of her willingness to take care of the British colonist, “such was the weakness of this poor commonwealth, as had the salvages not fed us, we directly had starved. And this relief, most gracious Queen, was commonly brought us by this Lady Pocahontas.” [32] Although this statement praises her as being a helpful and great asset to Jamestown it also directly uses the word “salvages” to describe them as a whole. Pocahontas was seen as a great lady because she saved Jamestown from starvation and saved Smith from almost certain death, at least in Smith’s mind. The Pocahontas story did not even show up in his writing until, “1624, when, as he knew quite well, there was no one left alive who could refute it, and Pocahontas had-for other, unrelated reasons- become a celebrity in London whose very name could sell book.” [33] Townsend suggests here that the only reason that Smith wrote this story was because he wanted to be famous and make money by selling his books. Not only did this work, its more than likely true due to the personality of Smith. Karen Kuppermann agrees with this argument: “This story, told briefly in his first book, the True Relation, became very elaborate in its retellings, and the length of the captivity increased each time.” [34] This statement is true as seen in Smith’s actual journals. He makes little or no reference to being saved by Pocahontas in his early journals, but as soon as he finds out that she is considered royalty, he mentions his dramatic encounter with her and makes himself a victim of possible murder causing others to sympathize with him but at the same time praise an English favorite in Pocahontas, “(Pocahontas) had come to England in 1616, where her presence created a sensation it was natural that Smith would want to trade on his early association with her.” [35] This again shows that the Smith’s conceited nature and the need to have his name known even if that means telling a story that may not be true . Over the years people have believed that this story was the first true relationship between the English and the Powhatan but as this paper argues, this is merely a fabrication and desperate attempt by Smith to become famous.

One of the best known sources for the Pocahontas and John Smith relation is David Price’s scholarly work Love and Hate in Jamestown. It is the most recently published source for this story of happiness. However, the downfall to this book is the fact that Price does not refute the idea that the Pocahontas rescue may have been a fabrication however he does say it “is impossible to know for certain.” [36] Although he makes no counter argument of other scholars, he does point out other possibilities of the story:

Others through the centuries have put a romantic gloss on the scene, holding that Pocahontas was infatuated with him (Smith). Still another possibility is that she had some pragmatic purpose in mind for him, as the requirement of the bells, beads, and copper would suggest. Smith’s own view of her motives is presumably due to extra weight, since, after all, he was there. [37]

How could anyone come to this conclusion if Smith only talks about her three times? And at that, he only speaks highly of her twice, “Thus from neare death our good God sent reliefe.” [38] and in his letter to the Queen, “was still the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine and utter confusion.” [39] With only finding three places in which Smith speaks highly of Pocahontas, no scholar should trust his words after all he turned this Indian nation into a great enemy that had all the signs of hate and brutality. However, Smith was there and probably should be trusted simply because his account is the only one available, but at the same time his language used throughout his journals makes one skeptical and suggest that his works are worth further study.

Hoobler argues that this story has, for years, been questioned, if it even ever occurred. He expresses that the mindset of Smith is one of skepticism in the sense that he only mentions the rescue once, and never talks about her again, “But it is only in the 1624 book that Smith recounts the famous rescue that has become one of the few scenes in American history that “everybody knows”-even if they only know it from a grossly distorted motion-picture version,” [40] This shows that historians still refute Smith’s story, in the sense that there is no way of knowing if the story is actually true. However, despite the controversy, it is perhaps the most known history story in America. With that said, the public must know the “true relation” of the two to truly understand the purpose of the 1995 hit Disney movie. Hoobler also argues that the ritual of a young girl saving a prisoner was a common act among all tribes in the East. In fact, there was a similar account written by Juan Ortiz in 1539, “Ortiz was bound by hand and foot to four stakes…but a daughter of the Chief entreated that he might be spared.” [41] If Smith copied that story no one will ever know, but this account does mean that Smith’s story does not make him a target of skepticism. It simply means that he chose a more known Indian girl to have a story book “relation” with. Smith was very smart in how and what he wrote to make him look as if he was saved by true royalty, which eventually became English royalty.

The telling of this story makes the argument of why use it if you are trying to tell the world of a barbarous group of people? It comes in the form of fame. Smith, like many back then, wanted his name to be put on a map, i.e. his name to be known not only among the English, but also among the world. Even in the midst of death he held his head high in self confidence and made a stand in hopes to survive so he could tell his stories. He continually threatened and used Indians while at the same time exploiting Pocahontas for his own personal fame. It comes to no surprise that “Smith and his friends found it satisfying to insult the Powhatans, to blame them for the English misfortune in having conquered the “wrong” Indians.” [42] This shows that although he was grateful for Pocahontas in bringing food to them periodically, he, time and time again, is ungrateful for the services of the Powhatan tribe as a whole. He explains that the “wrong” tribe was in contact with them and he took advantage of their “stupidity” in trusting him, “he with a long circumstance told mee how well Powhatan loved and respected mee, and in that I should not doubt any way of his kindness.” [43] In other words, Powhatan said that Smith should not take advantage of their friendship instead Smith did quite the opposite. Smith, tried to be “civil”, but he was loyal to the English and thus did not care about the needs of the Indians. An instance came about when a few Englishmen were taken hostage and Smith took the initiative and “set out on his first offensive in Virginia.” In hopes of capturing some Indians, burn their towns, and “terrifie them with some torture.” [44] Smith, being the man he was, wanted to be the person who set the examples. He set examples with himself, with the Indians, and with his colonists. He did not take anything for granted and thus showed the settlers how to act to make the colony flourish. By this it is meant that they had to treat the Indians as if they were inferior and subject to discrepancy. With the Indians out of the way, “Smith was consistently optimistic about the possibilities of the New World.” [45] Smith also loved the idea of liberty liberty from the Indians and the liberty to do as they pleased in the New World. This idea shows that Smith would do anything to ensure the liberty of Jamestown was free from all outside influences. Price writes of Smith’s mindset on this topic “the liberty to pursue one’s own interest was not only mankind’s proper condition, but an engine that could power a society to greatness.” [46] This idea of a society of greatness could only come if the Indians were kicked out of their land. Over all, Smith’s goal to have a free society and to kick out the Indians came as soon as he landed in Virginia and had gotten the colonist to understand that they needed to be removed. Taylor expressed that “the colony’s leaders believed that they would get far more corn from the other Indians by making one especially horrifying example of those who failed to obey English orders.” [47] Smith did this through publishing hateful words to demonize Indians.

In conclusion, this paper has shown that Smith’s words were chosen very carefully to give a detailed description of the Indians and to let others know that they should be demonized. At the same time, he believed that the publication of his writings he would etch his name in history books forever. As selfish as he was this idea is not farfetched, in fact this paper already showed that one reason why he published his works was to become famous and get money by selling them. As he was trusted, by the King and Queen and followed by his company, his words became credible and because Smith was famous, believed that his words had to be trusted and thus were the true findings of the “New World”. Smith’s language, as proved in this paper, was used to demonize the Indians and lift his self confidence and image.

This paper shows that Smith, because of his position, influenced many people and paved the way for Indians to be removed from their land. Language proves time and time again to be a catalyst of targeting a culture even if they are not at fault. A culture is unique to that group of people and if someone tries to impose their own way of life on them, then it will lead to destruction and violence. John Smith, although maybe questioned in his writings, chose his words very carefully to make sure he got his point across. His point was to report about the area and get Great Britain to convert the Indians and using their land controversial or not, history proved his approach to be effective. What may have been a way of simple observation, quickly turned into a way of hate and distrust. This change simply came about because Smith was unhappy at being captured and saw the Powhatan culture as foreign and counter to that of the English culture. This is why so many battles, skirmishes, ambushes and massacres occurred between the two civilizations not because the Indians provoked such acts, but that the English kept pushing them to the point that they could not take it anymore and Smith’s words showed this. Taken directly from Smith’s words, there was no conflict until Smith understood, or so he believed, the opposite culture. One can see that language and the lack of knowledge of one’s culture can cause the world to turn around and target those who have nothing to deserve being targeted.

Barbour, Philip L., ed. The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter 1606-1609, Vol. 1. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

This book is a collection of letters from settlers and explorers written about Virginia to people back in England. These all are written between 1606 and 1609. The bulk of these letters are written by Pedro de Zuniga to Phillip III. His letters are written because he is “spying” for the Spanish in keeping up with the English activities in Virginia. Due to the fact that that is not part of my paper, I will only use one letter in the book, however it is an important letter because it is from an unknown English settler describing the Indians. This is import to my paper because it allows me to see how other Englishmen viewed Indians.

Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

This book is important to my project because it shows the switch of Smith’s words before and after the capture. The book consists of most of John Smith’s work, including the description of New England and the True Relation book in which he describes his first contact. The Complete Works covers from 1580 to 1631. However, for this paper I will only use the True Relations book because it is the only book published in the time period of my paper. This book was published in 1608, just after Smith’s capture.

Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inc., 1966.

This book is also written by Smith and thus is the used to show the actual language used by Smith. Like True Relations, this book shows the true language used by Smith, in fact it is almost the exact same stories and descriptions as True Relations with the addition of stories in a few places. The main difference in this book, however, is the addition of the Pocahontas saving story. This book was published in 1624, well after Pocahontas was in England.

Smith, John. Digital History. “John Smith’s Letter to Queen Anne of Great Britain.” http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/pocohontas/pocahontas_smith_letter.cfm (accessed March 31, 2009).

This is a letter from John Smith to Queen Anne written in 1616. It is a letter explaining to the Queen who and how important Pocahontas was to Jamestown. It is a letter written when Smith got word that Pocahontas was moving to England. He tells her how important Pocahontas is to the English and how special she is, but at the same time he still continues to call the Powhatan tribe as a whole as savages. This is important to my project because despite praising Pocahontas still puts down the Indians.

Climet, James ed. Colonial America Vol. 3 and 5. New York: Sharpe Reference, 2006.

This selection of two encyclopedias was chosen to show how the mainstream society views the Powhatan and John Smith. I will use these books to argue that the encyclopedias used today tell nothing of his tone of voice, but praise his tactics to “tame” and “use” the Indians. They simply tell story of the two as we know it and not how it was. These books, are here used in my paper because they help in my sub-point in saying that Smith sometimes used language to hold himself higher that others, these books continue that praising today.

Emerson, Everett H. Captain John Smith. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971.

This book is about John Smith and his activity in the New World. It is important to my paper because it expresses Smith’s urge to seek out and colonize the newly found land not only for England but for himself. It shows that he “immortalized” himself in his own words to make his name known. It also argues that Smith thought that if the New World was to be started, it should be started in Virginia with him, proving that he was “optimistic about the New World.”

Faragher, John Mack. The Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

This, like Climet’s books, show that John Smith was and still is seen as a liked historical figure. It shows that he will continue to be a victim in the Pocahontas story even though many authors have refuted this argument. Many encyclopedias are used to show the true facts of a given topic, this proves not so. It only gives one opinion of the Smith story. Although a very short section in here is about Smith, it does find itself useful to the my paper in the sense that it explains that Smith was and is still seen as a hero, exactly what Smith wanted to be seen as.

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Captain John Smith. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006.

This is one of the many books I have chosen to support my argument that the Pocahontas story is one to be questioned. Hoobler does just that, they argue that it has been a target by historians for years and it is still up to criticism if it is true they even go as far as to have a chapter entitled “The Great American Myth”. They also go into great detail about the difference of the books that Smith published saying that it’s a story that “everyone knows” but it’s only in one of his books. With this being the focal point, they argue that it may have even been stolen from a Spanish story that is strictly similar. This is a great source for my paper because it allows me to see yet another historian’s point of view.

Kuppermann, Karen O. Captain John Smith: A Selection of His Writings. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

This is collection of Smiths documents, journals, and letters. However, Kuppermann provides her arguments and points of view before the Smith documents are presented. The main reason I used this book was because it allowed me to have a second opinion on the Pocahontas story. Kuppermann says that it was only used to sell books. Also, she reaffirms my argument in that Smith’s story was not mentioned in his early books, but only in his Generall History book.

Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2003.

This is one of the newest books I could find about the English-Powhatan relationship. It has a great deal of information on the Pocahontas story, and the mindset of Smith at the time. Although a very good source, it does have its downfalls. It fails refute the idea that the story may in fact be false. Also another downfall is at times is seems to read as a story book, in telling the story of John Smith and Jamestown instead of giving information. However, it does grant a Smith’s views and ideas in Virginia. This means it gave a great source of insight to Smith’s mindset. This book is good for my project because it allows me to see the mindset of Smith with not only the Indians, but his ideas of what he has in store with the colony itself.

Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Sheehan used a variety of primary sources to explain the English relationship with Indians. These primary sources are taken from letters, books and journals. The main argument that Sheehan has throughout this book is due to the introducing of European influence, the Indians were looked at as savages, and it was a cultural difference that made this view possible. It did not become apparent that they were savages until the English, or settlers, realized that they had a different culture than their own. He also uses military tactics to describe the difference in the two cultures. Sheehan’s book is important to my project not only because he proves the fact that the English point of view was right in the since that they changed the Indians way of life into savagism, but that it was a cultural difference that made this theory true. Smith’s changing of language and ideas of the Indians have everything to do with their culture, not his dominance over them, and this book proves that.

Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001.

This is the main secondary source book used for my paper. This book is useful for my paper because it breaks down the Virginia colony into multiple sections including, Powhatan, Jamestown, Violence and Encounter. These subcategories will help explain the difference in culture and thus the difference in understanding each other. Taylor argues that the violence started when the colonist “expected” the Indians to feed them while they looked for gold. This did not go over very well with the Indians. Again this shows a conflict in culture and thus influences the language that is used, which is my main argument.

Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004.

This scholarly source is a book about Smith’s life from Virginia to England. The chapter that I will be focusing on is entitled “First Contact”. This chapter shows the relationship of the English and the Powhatan tribe at the time of the first contact. This book will help me with the argument of Smith treating the Indians with little respect and little regard to helping them as they have helped the English. This book also is helpful in understanding the English’s intentions for the Indians. Over all, this book adds to my argument of understanding the the relationship between the two cultures.

[1] Classmate Natalie Young suggested me to add these sentences due to their clarity and effectiveness.

[2] Words edited and reworded by Dr. Ruth Herndon.

[3] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 45.

[5] Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001, 131.

[6] Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980, 161.

[7] Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004, 58.

[8] Climet, James ed. Colonial America Vol. 3 and 5. New York: Sharpe Reference, 2006, 690.

[9] Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001, 129.

[10] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 45.

[11] Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inc., 1966, 37.

[13] Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980, 60.

[14] Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001, 131.

[15] Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980, 59.

[16] Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inc., 1966, 45-46.

[18] Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980, 69.

[19] Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inc., 1966, 48.

[20] Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001, 129.

[22] Unknown Author. The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter 1606-1609, Vol. 1. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1969, 103.

[23] Another suggestion sentence made by classmate Natalie Young.

[24] John Smith printed in Sheehan, Bernard W. Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980, 60.

[25] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 73.

[26] Climet, James ed. Colonial America Vol. 3 and 5. New York: Sharpe Reference, 2006, 690.

[27] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 73.

[28] Emerson, Everett H. Captain John Smith. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, 50.

[30] Faragher, John Mack. The Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America. New York: Facts on File, 1990, 396.

[31] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 61.

[32] Smith, John. Digital History. “John Smith’s Letter to Queen Anne of Great Britain.” http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/pocohontas/pocahontas_smith_letter.cfm (accessed March 31, 2009).

[33] Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004, 52.

[34] Kuppermann, Karen O. Captain John Smith: A Selection of His Writings. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988, 57.

[36] Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2003, 68.

[38] Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inc., 1966, 49.

[39] Smith, John. Digital History. “John Smith’s Letter to Queen Anne of Great Britain.” http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/pocohontas/pocahontas_smith_letter.cfm (accessed March 31, 2009).

[40] Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Captain John Smith. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, 133.

[42] Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004, 82.

[43] Smith, John. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, Vol. 1. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986, 93.

[44] Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2003, 81.

[45] Emerson, Everett H. Captain John Smith. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, 52.

[46] Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2003, 231.

[47] Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001, 132.


John Smith

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John Smith, (baptized January 6, 1580, Willoughby, Lincolnshire, England—died June 21, 1631, London), English explorer and early leader of the Jamestown Colony, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Smith played an equally important role as a cartographer and a prolific writer who vividly depicted the natural abundance of the New World, whetting the colonizing appetite of prospective English settlers.

Smith grew up on his family’s farm and was apprenticed in his teens to a wealthy merchant. At age 16 or 17 his adventuresome spirit found an outlet on the battlefields of continental Europe, where he fought for the Netherlands in its war of independence from Spain. Having returned to England by 1599, he spent about two years reading classical military texts and studying horsemanship. He then traveled to Hungary in 1601 as a mercenary to join Austrian forces fighting the Ottoman Empire he advanced to the rank of captain. Captured by the enemy the following year and taken to Turkey, he escaped to Russia and returned to England in 1604 or 1605. He then attached himself to a group preparing to establish an English colony in North America. When a royal charter was granted to the Virginia Company of London, Smith and about 100 other colonists led by Christopher Newport set sail on December 20, 1606.

On April 26, 1607, the voyagers arrived at the Chesapeake Bay, and on May 14 they disembarked at what was to become Jamestown. The Virginia Company had named Smith to the colony’s seven-member governing council. His relationship with the colony’s other leaders was generally antagonistic, his focus being on the practical means of survival in the wilderness rather than on personal privileges and status. He traded for corn (maize) with the local Indians and began a series of river voyages that later enabled him to draw a remarkably accurate map of Virginia. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, he and his party were ambushed by members of the Powhatan empire, which dominated the region. He was ultimately taken to their emperor, Chief Powhatan, also known as Wahunsenacah. According to Smith’s account, he was about to be put to death when he was saved by the chief’s young daughter of age 10 or 11, Pocahontas, who placed herself between him and his executioners.

Smith became president of the Jamestown Colony on September 10, 1608. He conducted military training and continued to secure corn from the Indians by trade. He required greater discipline of the colonists, announcing a policy that "he that will not worke shall not eate (except by sicknesse he be disabled)." Colonists had previously been fed from a common storehouse whether they worked or not. Under Smith’s direction, small quantities of tar, pitch, and soap ash were made, a well was dug, houses were built, fishing was done regularly, crops were planted, and outlying forts were built. The colony bore little loss of life during his presidency, compared with the enormous suffering and mortality of the years before and after his rule. In his dealings with Native Americans, Smith’s approach differed from those of the Spanish conquistadores and later English settlers. Smith chose to keep the Powhatan empire at bay through psychology, diplomacy, and intimidation—not massacre. He believed the English could avoid bloodshed by projecting an image of strength. When Smith was injured from a fire in his powder bag in September 1609, he was forced to return to England.

Still eager to explore and settle in America, Smith made contact with the Plymouth Company and sailed in 1614 to the area he named New England, carefully mapping the coast from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod. On another exploratory voyage the following year, he was captured by pirates and returned to England after escaping three months later. In 1617 he made one final colonizing attempt, but his vessels were unable to leave port for three months for lack of winds, and he never set sail.

Smith advocated English settlement of New England for the rest of his life, but he never saw North America again. His writings included detailed descriptions of Virginia and New England, books on seamanship, and a history of English colonization. Among his books were A Description of New England (1616), a counterpart to his Map of Virginia with a Description of the Country (1612) The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624) and The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain John Smith in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (1630). The Mayflower colonists of 1620 brought his books and maps with them to Massachusetts. Smith died of an unrecorded illness midway through 1631, at age 51, in the London home of Sir Samuel Saltonstall, a friend.

During the founding years of the United States in the late 18th and the early 19th century, Smith was widely regarded as a reliable observer as well as a national hero. Thomas Jefferson described him as "honest, sensible, and well informed." Some historians have contended that Smith was prone to self-promotion in his writings. Yet his writings are notably generous in giving credit to others who helped the colony survive, and scholars have confirmed factual details of his autobiographical writing.

Smith’s account of his rescue by Pocahontas in 1607 has been particularly controversial. Some scholars believe he might have misunderstood the event—that it could have been an adoption ceremony rather than an intended execution—and others contend that he fabricated the incident outright. With regard to the truthfulness of Smith’s account, it has been argued that he had little reason to concoct such an episode. Because Smith was the only English eyewitness to the incident and the Powhatan witnesses left no written record, the debate over it may never be conclusively resolved.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.


6. This began the first Anglo-Pawhatan War and kidnapping of Pocahontas

Meanwhile, Pocahontas was now 16 years old, and heavily pregnant.

The white men in Jamestown devised a plan that they would kidnap her and use her as leverage, to stop Chief Powhatan from completely obliterating the colony.

Pocahontas had just given birth to her first baby.

She would have been in the care of the tribal women, and away from her husband, Kocoum.

Soon after delivering her child, a white man named Captain Samuel Argall snuck into Pocahontas’ tent in the middle of the night, and kidnapped her.

Physically weak and recovering from giving birth, Pocahontas didn’t stand a chance at defending herself.

In his book, John Smith described the scene of Pocahontas being carried to the English men’s massive ship.

She had never seen this technology before, so she was screaming in horror as her abductors forced her inside.

There was a jail cell in the bottom of Captain Argall’s boat, which is where they locked her up.

In his version of the story, John Smith blamed everything on the Native Americans, of course.

He wrote that the Powhatan had stolen their weapons and supplies from Jamestown, and they were using Pocahontas as leverage to broker a peace treaty.

Even though he writes about her distress, he never goes into further detail about what happened to her.

According to the Native American’s oral history, Pocahontas’ husband, Kocoum heard the news that she had been kidnapped.

Kocoum galloped towards Jamestown the next day, killing men with his arrows as he went.

He made it all the way to Captain Argall’s ship, but he was gunned down before he could save her.

John Smith wrote that they kept Pocahontas while they waited for payment from Chief Powhatan.

He says, “We received part of the payment, and returned (her father) this answer That his daughter should be well used but we could not believe the rest of our arms were either lost or stolen from him, and therefore til he sent them, we would keep his daughter.”

So…Basically, this guy is justifying kidnapping a teenage girl and blackmailing her father, and somehow, the English thought this was totally acceptable when they read it in his book.

Of course, those weapons never came, because they had never been stolen in the first place.


Smith&rsquos writings

In 1609, Smith went back to England after he was severely burned in a fire. He never saw the Chesapeake Bay again.

Once he returned to England, Smith published his map and journals describing the Chesapeake Bay.

In one of his most well-known passages, he wrote:

Smith&rsquos writings drew attention to the Chesapeake region and helped lure many English colonists to America. Today, they provide excellent insight into the Bay&rsquos natural history before Europeans settled the region.


Liberty Matters: A Forum for the Discussion of Ideas About Liberty Liberty and Virtue: Frank Meyer's Fusionism (June 2021)

Welcome to our June 2021 edition of Liberty Matters. This month Stephanie Slade, managing editor at Reason magazine, has written our lead essay on Frank Meyer. Liberty Fund publishes Meyer’s most widely cited book In Defense of Freedom and related essays which also includes a number of Meyer’s more well known essays. Meyer was one of the founders, along with William F. Buckley, of National Re.


Later years

Despite his wishes, the Virginia Company did not send Smith back to Jamestown, and he never again returned to the colony. He did, however, explore and map an area north of Virginia, which he named New England. His efforts to establish a colony in New England were thwarted when he was captured by French pirates in 1615. After his escape, Smith returned to England and began writing about his life.

In 1620, the Pilgrims almost selected Smith as their military adviser but they chose Miles Standish instead. They did, however, use Smith's map of New England when voyaging to Plymouth.

Smith reunited with Pocahontas in England, when she traveled there with John Rolfe and their son. Smith continued to write his memoirs and offer advice until his death on June 21, 1631.


Watch the video: Notes on John Smith


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