English Discoveries and Settlements
No day in the early history of the New World was more imortant than the 5th of May, 1496. On that day Henry VII., king of England, signed the commission of John Cabot of Venice to make discoveries and explorations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, to carry the English flag, and to take possession of all islands and continents which he might discover. Cabot was a brave, adventurous man who had been a sailor from his boyhood, and was now a wealthy merchant of Bristol. The autumn and winter were spent in preparations for the voyage. In May, 1497, with a single ship, the Matthew, and a crew of eighteen men, Cabot launched out upon the deep. In June he reached the coast of North America, at which point is uncertain, though the evidence seems to point to the coast of Labrador. This was the real discovery of the American continent. Fourteen months elapsed before Columbus reached the coast of Guiana, and more than two years before Ojeda and Vespucci came in sight of the mainland of South America.
Cabot explored the shore-line of the country which he had discovered. He supposed that the land was a part of the dominions of Khan Grand; but finding no inhabitants, he went on shore, according to the terms of his commission, planted the flag of England, and took possession in the name of the English king. No man forgets his native land; by the side of the flag of his adopted country Cabot set up the banner of the republic of Venice--auspicious emblem of another flag which should one day float from sea to sea.
As soon as he had satisfied himself of the character of the country which he had discovered, Cabot sailed for England. On the homeward voyage he twice saw on the right hand the coast of Newfoundland, but did not stop for further discovery. After an absence of but little more than three months, he reached Bristol, and was greeted with great enthusiasm. The twon had a holiday, the people were wild about the discoveries of their favorite admiral, and the whole kingdom took up the note of rejoicing. The Crown gave him money and encouragement, new crews were enlisted, new ships fitted out, and a new commission more liberal in its provisions than the first was signed in February of 1498. Strange as it may seem, after the date of this second patent the very name of John Cabot disappears from the annals of the times. It is believed by some that he died on his second voyage.
But Sebastian, second son of John Cabot, who had been with his father on the first voyage, inherited the plans and reputation of his father. It seems probable that Sebbastian went on this second voyage and took control of it after the death of the elder Cabot. The belief for hundreds of years that Sebastian Cabot deserved more credit than his father must be given up. Nor is there adequate evidence that he made any extensive explorations along the American coast.
It is a well-authenticated fact, however, that Sebastian Cabot was a famous voyager and that his great maritime service was not under the English flag, but the flag of Spain. Seeing that Sebastian was a young man of great promise, the king of Spain induced him to leave the British service and enter his own. He did so and served the Spanish king for thirty-six years, after which he spent the remainder of his days in England.
The year 1498 is a memorable one in the history of discovery. In the month of May, Vasco da Gama of Portugal doubled the Cape of Good Hope and succeeded in reaching Hindostan. During the summer the Cabots made their second voyage to North America. In August, Columbus himself, now sailing on his third voyage, reached the mouth of the Orinoco. Of the three great discoveries, Cabot's proved to be the most important.
But several causes impeded the career of English discovery during the greater part of the sixteenth century. The next year after the New World was found, the pope, Alexander the Sixth, drew an imaginary line north and south three hundred miles west of the Azores, and issued a papal bull giving all islands a countries west of that line to Spain. Henry VII. of England was himself a Catholic, and he did not care to begin a conflict with his Church by pressing his own claims to the newly found regions of the west. His son and successor, Henry VIII., at first adopted the same policy, and it was not until after the Reformation had been accomplished in England that the decision of the pope came to be disregarded, and finally despised and laughed at.
During the short reign of Edward VI. the spirit of maritime adventure was again aroused. In 1548 the king's council voted a hundred pounds sterling to induce the now aged Sebastian Cabot to return from Spain and become grand-pilot of England. The old admiral quitted Seville and once more sailed under the English flag. In the reign of Queen Mary the power of England on the sea was not materially extended, but with the accession of Elizabeth a wonderful impulse was given to all enterprises which promised the aggrandizement of her kingdom.
The spirit of discovery now reappeared in that bold and skillful sailor, Martin Frobisher. Himself poor, Dudley, earl of Warwick, came to his aid, and fitted out three small vessels to sail in search of a northwest passage to Asia. Three-quarters of a century had not sufficed to destroy the fanatical notion of reaching the Indies by sailing around America to the north. One of Frobisher's ships was lost on the voyage, another, terrified at the prospect, returned to England, but in the third the dauntless captain proceeded to the north and west until he attained a higher latitude than had ever before been reached on the American coast. Above the sixtieth parallel he discovered the group of islands which lies in the mouth of Hudson's Strait. Still farther to the north he came upon a large island which he supposed to be the mainland of Asia; to this he gave the name of Meta Incognita. North of this island he entered the strait which has ever since borne the name of its discoverer, then sailed for England, carrying home with him one of the Esquimaux and a stone which was declared by the English refiners to contain gold.
London was greatly excited. Queen Elizabeth herself added a vessel to the new fleet which in the month of May, 1577, departed for Met Incognita to gather the previous metal by the shipload. Coming among the icebergs, the ships were for weeks together in constant danger of being crushed to atoms between the floating mountains. The summer was unfavorable. No ships reached as high a point as Frobisher had attained by himself on the previous voyage. The mariners were in consternation at the gloomy perils around them, and availed themselves of the first opportunity to get out of these dangerous seas and return to England.
Were the English gold-hunters satisfied? Not at all. Fifteen new vessels were immediately fitted out, the queen again bearing part of the expense, and as soon as the spring of 1578 opened the third voyage was begun. This time a colony was to be planted in the gold-regions of the north. Three of the ships, loaded with emigrants, were to remain in the promised land. The other twelve were to be freighted with gold-ore and return to London. When they reached the entrance to Hudson's Strait, they encountered icebergs more terrible than ever. Through a thousand perils the vessels finally reached Meta Incognita and took on cargoes of dirt. The provision-ship now slipped away from the fleet and returned to England. Affairs grew desperate. The northwest passage was forgotten. The colony which was to be planted was no longer thought of. Faith in the shining earth which they had stored in the holds gave way, and so, with disappointed crews on board and several tons of the spurious ore under the hatches, the ships set sail for home. The El Dorado of the Esquimaux had proved an utter failure.
The English admiral, Sir Francis Drake, sought fortune in a different manner. Without much regard for thelaw of nations, he began, in the year 1572, to prey upon the merchant-ships of Spain, and gained thereby enormous wealth. Five years later he sailed around to the Pacific coast by the route which Magellan had discovered, and becme a terror to the Spanish vessels in those waters. When he had thus sufficiently enriched himself, he formed the daring project of tracing up the western coast of North America until he should enter the northwest passage from the Pacific, and thence sail eastward around the continent. With this object in view, he sailed northward along the coast as far as Oregon, when his sailors, who had been for several years within the tropics, began to shiver with the cold, and the enterprise, which could have resulted in nothing but disaster, was given up. Returning to the south, Drake passed the winter of 1579-80 in a harbor on the coast of Mexico. To all that portion of the western shores of America which he had thus explored he gave the name of New Albion; but the earlier discovery of the same coast by the Spaniards rendered the English claim but little value. No colony of Englishmen had yet been established in the New World.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert was perhaps the first to conceive a rational plan of colonization in America. His idea was to form somewhere on the shores of the New Continent an agricultural and commercial state. With this purpose he sought aid from the queen, and received a liberal patent authorizing him to take possession of any six hundred square miles of unoccupied territory in America, and to plant thereon a colony of which he himself should be proprietor and governor. With this commission, Gilbert, assisted by his illustrious stepbrother, Walter Raleigh, prepared a fleet of five vessels, and in June of 1583 sailed for the west. Early in August, Gilbert reached Newfoundland, and going ashore, took formal possession of the country in the name of his queen. Unfortunately, some of the sailors discovered in the side of a hill scales of mica, and a judge of metals, whom Gilbert had been foolish enough to bring with him, declared that the glittering mineral was silver ore. The crews became insubordinate. Some went to digging the supposed silver and carrying it on board the vessels, while others gratified their piratical propensities by attacking the Spanish and Portuguese ships that were fishing in the neighboring harbors.
Meanwhile, one of Gilbert's vessels became worthless and had to be abandoned. With the other three he left Newfoundland, and steered toward the south. When off the coast of Massachusetts, the largest of the remaining ships was wrecked, and a hundred men, with all the spurious silver ore, went to the bottom. The disaster was so great that Gilbert determined to return at once to England. The weather was stormy, and the two ships that were now left were utterly unfit for the sea; but the voyage was begun in hope. The brave captain remained in the weaker vessel, a little frigate called the Squirrel, already shattered and ready to sink. At midnight, as the ships, within hailing distance of each other, were struggling through a raging sea, the Squirrel was seddenly engulfed; not a man of the courageous crew was saved. The other ship finally reached Falmouth in safety.
But the project of colonization was immediately renewed by Raleigh. In the following spring that remarkable man obtained from the queen a new patent fully as liberal as the one granted to Gilbert. Raleigh was to become lord-proprietor of an extensive tract of country in America extending from the thirty-third to the fortieth parallel of north latitude. The frozen regions of the north were now to be avoided, and the sunny country of the Huguenots was to be chosen as the seat of the rising empire. Two ships were fitted out, and the command given to Philip Amidas and Arthur Barlow.
In the month of July the vessels reached the coast of Carolina. The sea that laved the long, low beach was smooth and glassy. The woods were full of beauty and song. The natives were generous and hospitable. Explorations were made along the shores of Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, and a landing finally effected on Roanoke Island, where the English were entertained by the Indian queen. But neither Amidas nor Barlow had the courage or genius necessary to such an enterprise. After a stay of less than two months they returned to England to exhaust the rhetoric of description in praising the beauties of the new land. In allusion to her own life and reign, Elizabeth gave to her delightful county in the New World the name of Virginia.
In December of 1584, Sir Walter brought forward a bill in Parliament by which his previous patent was confirmed and enlarged. The mind of the whole nation was inflamed at the prospects which Raleigh's province now offered to emigrants and adventurers. the proprietor fitted out a second expedition, and appointed the soldierly Ralph Lane governor of the colony. Sir Richard Grenville commanded the fleet, and a company, not unmixed with the gallant young nobility of the kingdom, made up the crew. Sailing from Plymouth, the fleet of seven vessels reached the American coast on the 20th of June. At Cape Fear they were in imminent danger of being wrecked; but having escaped the peril, they six days afterward reached Roanoke in safety. Here lane was left with a hundred and ten of the emigrants to form a settlement. Grenville returned to England, taking with him a Spanish treasure-ship which he had captured.
Meanwhile, some Indians of a village adjacent to Roanoke had committed a petty theft, and the English wantonly burned the whole town as a measure of revenge. Jealousy and suspicion took the place of former friendships. Lane and some of his companions were enticed with false stories to go on a gold-hunting expedition into the interior; their destruction was planned, and only avoided by a hasty retreat to Roanoke. Wingina, the Indian king, and several of his chiefs, were now in turn allured into the power of the English and inhumanly murdered. Hatred and gloom followed this atrocity, then despondency and a sense of danger, until the discouragement became so great that when Sir Francis Drake, returning with a fleet from his exploits on the Pacific coast, came in sight, the colonists prevailed on him to carry them back to England.
It was a needless and hasty abandonment, for within a few days a shipload of stores arrived from the prudent Raleigh; but finding no colony, the vessel could do nothing but return. Two weeks later Sir Richard Grenville himself came back to Roanoke with three well-laden ships, and made a fruitless search for the colonists. Not to lose possession of the country altogether, he left fifteen men upon the island, and set sail for home.
The English people had before them truthful descriptions of the beauty and magnificence of the new country, and another colony, consisting largely of families, was easily made up. A charter of municipal government was granted by the proprietor, John White was chosen governor, and every precaution taken to secure the permanent success of the City of Raleigh, soon to be founded in the west. In July the emigrants arrived in Carolina. Avoiding the dangerous capes of Hatteras and Fear, they came safely to Roanoke; but a search for the fifteen men who had been left there a year before only revealed the fact that the natives, now grown savage, had murdered them. Nevertheless, the northern extremity of the ill-omened island was chosen as the site for the city, and on the 23d of the month the foundations were laid.
but disaster attended the enterprise. Jealousy between the settlers and the Indians grew into hostility, and hostility into war. Then a peace was concluded, and Sir Walter gave countenance to an absurd performance by which Manteo, one of the Indian chiefs, was made a peer of England, with the title of Lord of Roanoke. It was a silly and stupid piece of business. Notwithstanding the presence of this copper-colored nobleman, the colonists were apprehensive and gloomy. They pretended to fear starvation, and in the latter part of August almost compelled governor White to return to England for an additional cargo of supplies. It was a great mistake. If White had remained, and the settlers had given themselves to tilling the soil and building houses, no further help would have been needed. The 18th of August was marked as the birthday of Virginia Dare, the first-born of English children in the New World. When White set sail for England, he left behind him a colony of a hundred and eight persons. What their fate was has never been ascertained.
The Invincible Armada was now bearing down upon the coasts of England. All the resources and energies of the kingdom were demanded for defense; and although Raleigh managed to send out two supply-ships to succor his starving colony, his efforts to reach them were unavailing. The vessels which he sent with stores went cruising after Spanish merchantmen, and were themselves run down and captured by a man-of-war. Not until the spring of 1590 did the governor finally return to search for the unfortunate colonists. The island was a desert, tenantless and silent. No soul remained to tell the story of the lost.
In the meantime, Sir Walter, after spending two hundred rhousand dollars of his own means in the attempt to found and foster a colony, had given up the enterprise. He assigned his exclusive proprietary rights to an association of London merchants, and it was under their auspices that White had made the final search for the settlers of Roanoke. From the date of this event very little in the way of voyage and discovery was accomplished by the English until the year 1602, when maritime enterprise again brought the flag of England to the shores of America. Bartholomew Gosnold was the man to whom belongs the honor of making the next explorations of our coast.
Gosnold abandoned the usual route across the Atlantic (by way of the Canaries and the West Indies) and sailed directly across, reaching the coast of Maine in about seven weeks. In his single vessel, the Concord, he brought with him a company of emigrants, with the view of planting a colony. After crusing along the coast for some distance they made a landing at Cape Cod--the first landing of Englishmen on the New England coast. Later they chose an island in Buzzard's Bay for their colony. But the colony was short-lived. Gosnold filled his vessel with sassafras root, prized for its fragrance and supposed medicinal qualities, and prepared to return. The settlers begged that he take them back to England. He did so, and thus ended the first attempt to found a settlement in New England.
Gosnold and his companions gave glowing accounts of the country which they had visited, and it was not long until another English expedition to America was planned. Two vessels, the Speedwell and the Discoverer, composed the fleet, with Martin Pring for commander. A cargo of merchandise suited to the tastes of the Indians was put into the holds; and in April of 1603, a few days after the death of Queen Elizabeth, the vessels sailed for America. they came safely to Penobscot Bay, and afterward spent some time in exploring the harbors and shores of Maine. Then, turning to the south and coating Massachusetts, Pring reached the sassafras region, and loaded his vessels at Martha's Vineyard. Thence he returned to England, reaching Bristol in October, after an absence of six months.
Two years later, George Waymouth, under the patronage of the earl of Southampton, made a voyage to America, and passing Cape Cod on the left, came to anchorage among the islands of St. George, on the coast of Maine. He explored the harbor, and sailed up the river for a considerable distance, taking note of the fine forests of fir and of the beautiful scenery along the banks. A profitable trade was opened with the Indians, some of whom learned to speak English preparatory to the actual establishment of a colony in America. The time had at last arrived when, in the beautiful country of the Chesapeake, a permanent settlement should be effected.
The 10th of April, 1606, was full of fate in the destinies of the western continent. On that day King James I. issued a great patent directed to men of his kingdom, authorizing them to possess and colonize all that portion of North America lying between the thirty-fourth and forty-fifth parallels of latitude. This patent, known as the First Charter of Virginia, was granted to a great company which was subdivided into the London and Plymouth companies. To the former was assigned all the region between the thirty-fourth and the thirty-eighth degrees of latitude, and to the latter the tract extending from the forty-first to the forty-fifth degree. The belt of three degrees lying between the thirty-eighth and forty-first parallels was to be equally open to the colonies of either company, but no settlement of one party was to be made within less than one hundred miles of the nearest settlement of the other. Only the London Company was succcessful under its charter in planting an American colony. The Plymouth Company sent out an exploring vessel in August, 1606, but it was captured by a Spanish man-of-war. Another ship was sent in the autumn and it spent the winter on the New England coast. The following year a colony of a hundred persons were sent to the mouth of the Kennebec; but Fortune smiled not upon it and it soon was broken up and abandoned.
The man who was chiefly instrumental in organizing the London Company was Bartholomew Gosnold. His leading associates were Edward Wingfield, a rich merchant; Robert Hunt, a clergyman, and John Smith, a man of genius. Others who aided the enterprise were Sir John Popham, chief-justice of England; Richard Hakluyt, a historian, and Sir Ferdinand Gorges, a distinguished nobleman. By the terms of the charter, the affairs of the company were to be administered by a Superior Council, residing in England, and an Inferior Council, residing in the colony. The members of the former body were to be chosen by the king, and to hold office at his pleasure; the members of the lower council were also selected by the royal direction, and were subject to removal by the same power. All legislative authority was likewise vested in the monarch. In the first organization of the companies not a single principle of self-government was admitted. The most foolish clause in the patent was that which required the proposed colony or colonies to hold all property in common for a period of five years. The wisest provision in the instrument was that which allowed the emigrants to retain in the New World all the rights and privileges of Englishmen.
The London Company had better fortune. A fleet of three vessels was fitted out, and the command given to Christopher Newport. On the 9th of December the ships, having on board a hundred and five colonists, among whom were Wingfield and Smith, left England. Newport, to begin with, committed the astonishing folly of taking the old route by way of the Canaries and the West Indies, and did not reach the American coast until April. It was the design that a landing should be made in the neighborhood of Roanoke Island, but a storm prevailed and carried the ships northward into the Chesapeake. Entering the magnificent bay and coasting along the southern shore, the vessels came to the mouth of a broad and beautiful river, which was named in honor of King James. Proceeding up this stream about fifty miles, newport noticed on the northern bank a peninsula more attractive than the rest for its verdue and beauty; the ships were moored, and the emigrants went on shore. Here, on the 13th day of May (Old Style), in the year 1607, were laid the foundations of Jamestown, the oldest English ssettlement in America. It was within a month of a hundred and ten years after the discovery of the continent by the elder Cabot, and nearly forty-two years after the founding of St. Augustine. So long a time had been required to plant the first feeble germ of English civilization in the New World.
After the unsuccessful attempt to form a settlement at the mouth of the Kennebec, very little was done by the Plymouth Company for several years; yet the purpose of planting colonies was not relinguished. Meanwhile, a new impetus was given t the affairs of North Virginia by the ceaseless activity and exhaustless energies of John Smith. Wounded by an accident, and discouraged, as far as it was possible for such a man to be discouraged, by the distractions and turbulence of the Jamestown colony, Smith left that settlement in 1609, and returned to England. On recovering his health he formed a partnership with four wealthy merchants of London, with a view to the fur-trade and probable establishment of colonies within the limits of the Plymouth grant. Two ships were accordingly freighted with goods and put under Smith's command. The summer of 1614 was spent on the coast of lower Maine, where a profitable traffic was carried on with the Indians. The crews of the vessels were well satisfied through the long days of July with the pleasures and profits of the teeming fisheries, but Smith himself found nobler work. Beginning as far north as practicable, he patiently explored the country, and drew a map of the whole coast-line from the Penobscot River to Cape Cod. In this map, which is still extant, and a marvel of accuracy considering the circumstances under which it was made, the country was called New England. In the month of November the ships returned to Plymouth, taking with them many substantial proofs of a successful voyage.
The London Company was jealous of its rival, and put obstacles in the way of every enterprise. The whole of the years 1617-18 was spent by the Plymouth Company in making and unmaking plans of colonizatoin, until finally it was formally superseded by a new corporation called the Council of Plymouth, consisting of forty of the msot wealthy and influential men of the kingdom. On this body were conferred, by the terms of the new charter, almost unlimited powers and privileges. All that part of America lying between the fortieth and the forty-eighth parallels of north latitude, and extending from ocean to ocean, was given to the council in fee simple. More than a million of square miles were embraced in the grant, and absolute jurisdiction over this immense tract was committed to forty men. How King James was ever induced to sign such a charter has remained an unsolved mystery.
A plan of colonizing was now projected on a grand scale. John Smith was appointed admiral of New England for lilfe. The king, notwithstanding the opposition of the House of Commons, issued a proclamation enforcing the provisions of the charter, and everything gave promise of the early settlement of America. Such were the schemes of men to possess and people the Western Continent. Meanwhile, a Power higher than the will of man was working in the same direction. The time had come when, without the knowledge or consent of James I., without the knowledge or consent of the Council of Plymouth, a permanent settlement should be made on the bleak shores of New England.
The Puritans! Name of all names in the early history of the West! About the close of the sixteenth century a number of poor dissenters scattered through the North of England, especially in the counties of Nottingham, Lincoln, and York, began to join themselves together for the purposes of free religious worship. Politically, they were patriotic subjects of the English king; religiously, they were rebels against the authority of the English Church. Their rebellion, however, only extended to the declaration that every man has a right to discover and apply the truth as revealed in the Scriptures without the interposition of any power other than his own reason and conscience. Such a doctrine was very repugnant to the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth herself declared such teaching to be subversive of the principles on which her monarchy was founded. King James was not more tolerant; and from time to time violent persecutions broke out against the feeble and dispersed Christians of the north.
Despairing of rest in their own country, the Puritans finally determined to go into exile, and to seek in another land the freedom of worship which their own had denied them. They turned their faces toward Holland, made one unsuccessful attempt to get away, were brought back and thrown into prisons. Again they gathered together on a bleak heath in Lincolnshire, and in the spring of 1608 embarked from the mouth of the Humber. Their ship brought them in safety to Amsterdam, where, under the care of their heroic pastor, John Robinson, they passed one winter, and then removed to Leyden. Such was the beginning of their wandering. They took the name of Pilgrims, and grew content to have no home or resting-place. Privation and exile could be endured when sweetened with liberty.
But the love of native land is auniversal passion. The Puritans in Holland did not forget--could not forget--that they were Englishmen. During their ten years of residence at leyden they did not cease to long for a return to the country which had cast them out. Though ruled by a heartless monarch and a bigoted priesthood, England was their country still. The unfamiliar language of the Dutch grated harshly on their ears. They pined with unrest, conscious of their ability and willingness to do something which should convince even King James of their patriotism and worth.
It was in this condition of mind that about the year 1617 the Puritans began to meditate a removal to the wilds of the New World. there, with honest purpose and prudent zeal, they would extend the dominions of the English king. They would forget the past, and be at peace with their country. Accordingly, John Carver and Robert cushman were dispatched to England to ask permission for the church of Leyden to settle in America. The agents of the London Company and the Council of Plymouth gave some encouragement to the request. The most that King James would do was to make an informal promise to let the Pilgrims alone in America.
The Puritans were not discouraged. With or without permission, protected or not protected by the terms of a charter which might at best be violated, they would seek asylum and rest in the Western wilderness. Out of their own resources, and with the help of a few faithful friends, they provided the scanty means of departure and set their faces toward the sea. The Speedwell, a small vessel of sixty tons, was purchased at Amsterdam, and the Mayflower, a larger and more substantial ship, was hired for the voyage. The former was to carry the emigrants from leyden to Southampton, where they were to be joined by the Mayflower, with another company from London. Assembling at the harbor of Delft, on the River Meuse, fifteen miles south of Leyden, as many of the Pilgrims as could be accommodated went on board the Speedwell. The whole congregation accompanied them to the shore. There Robinson gave them a consoling farewell address, and the blessing and prayers of those who were left behind followed the vessel out of sight.
Both ships came safely to Southampton, and within two weeks the emigrants were ready for the voyage. On the 5th of August, 1620, the vessels left the harbor; but after a few days' sailing the Speedwell was found to be shattered, old, and leaky. On this account both ships anchored in the port of Dartmouth, and eight days were spent in making the needed repairs. Again sails were set; but scarcely had the land receded from sight before the captain of the Speedwell declared his vessel unfit to breast the ocean, and then, to the great grief and discouragement of the emigrants, put back to Plymouth. here the bad ship was abandoned; but the Pilgrims were encouraged and feasted by the citizens, and the more zealous went on board the Mayflower, ready and anxious for a final effort. One the 6th day of September the first colony of New England, numbering one hundred and two souls, saw the shores of Old England grow dim and sink behind the sea.
The voyage was long and perilous. For sixty-three days the ship was buffeted by storms and driven. it had been the intention of the Pilgrims to found their colony in the beautiful country of the Hudson, but the tempest carried them out of their course, and the first land seen was the desolate Cape Cod. On the 9th of November the vessel was anchored in the bay; then a meeting was held on board and the colony organized under a solemn compact. In the charter which they there made for themselves the emigrants declared their loyalty to the English Crown, and covenanted together to live in peace and harmony, with equal rights to all, obedient to just laws made for the common good. Such was the simple but sublime constitution of the oldest New England State. To this instrument all the heads of families, forty-one in number, solemnly set their names. An election was held in which all had an equal voice, and John Carver was unanimously chosen governor of the colony.
After two days the boat was lowered, but was found to be half-rotten and useless. More than a fortnight of precious time was required to make the needed repairs. Standish, Bradford, and a few other hardy spirits got to shore and explored the country; nothing was found but a heap of Indian corn under the snow. By the 6th of December the boat was ready for service, and the governor, with fifteen companions, went ashore. The weather was dreadful. Alternate rains and snow-storms converted the clothes of the Pilgrims into coats-of-mail. All day they wandered about, and then returned to the seashore. In the morning they were attacked by the Indians, but escaped to the ship with their lives, cheerful and giving thanks. Then the vessel was steered to the south and west for forty-five miles around the coast of what is now the county of Barnstable. At nightfall of Saturday a storm came on; the rudder was wrenched away, and the poor ship driven, half by accident and half by the skill of the pilot, into a safe haven on the west side of the bay. The next day, being the Sabbath, was spent in religious devotions, and on Monday, the 11th of December (Old Style), 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the Rock of Plymouth.
It was now the dead of winter. There was an incessant storm of sleet and snow, and the houseless immigrants, already enfeebled by their sufferings, fell a-daying of hunger, cold, and exposure. After a few days in explorations bout the coast, a site was selected near the first landing, some trees were felled, the snowdrifts cleared away, and on the 9th of January the heroic toilers began to build New Plymouth. Every man took on himself the work of making his own house; but the ravages of disease grew daily worse, strong arms fell powerless, lung-fevers and consumptions wasted every family. At one time only seven men were able to work on the sheds which were building for shelter from the storms; and if an early spring has not brought relief, the colony must have perished to a man. Such were the privations and griefs of that terrible winter when New England began to be.
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