Many years ago there lived in the little town of Willoughby, among the Chalk hills of Lincolnshire in England, a small boy named John Smith. But, though born with a very common name, he lived to be a most uncommon man. In fact, people are not yet through talking about him, and believing or disbelieving the stories he told.
His home village of Willoughby looked out upon the restless gray waters of the cold North Sea. South of him was Boston, north of him was Waltham, west of him vas Lincoln, while Newton and Walpole and Lynn were not far way,—all of them good Massachusetts names to-day, you see. Indeed, so far as town names are concerned, a New England man would feel much at home in some parts of old England.


John Smith’s boy friends were fisher lads or sailors’ Sons; his neighbors and acquaintances were seafaring men. All the stories of the sea which he heard again and again awoke in him early that desire for adventure, and for a sight of foreign shores, which sent so many English boys, three hundred years ago, sailing away from their homes in search of fortune oversea.
So, at fifteen, young John Smith left his home among the marshy fens and white chalk cliffs of Lincolnshire and sailed away to seek his fortune. Like that other adventurer iii the old song, “he sailed east he sailed west,” and after a dozen years of wonderful and most surprising adventures, one would think, to satisfy the most restless of roving young Englishmen in the days of good Queen Bess, John Smith determined to try his fortune in the new land across the western ocean, to which for over a hundred years the ambitious, adventurous youth of England and Spain, of Holland and France, had been sailing in search of the wonderful treasures of the yet unexplored America.

One portion of that wild American land had been called Virginia, in honor of England’s virgin queen, Elizabeth. Thither Smith sailed in a fleet sent out by a syndicate of English business men, called the London Company for Virginia.

It was in the month of December, 1606 that Captain John Smith—for he was captain by that time—sailed westward to Virginia. There he had many strange and startling adventures —enough to fill a book. Some of them, such as the story of Pocahontas, the chieftain’s daughter, and how

she saved the gallant captain’s life, you know very well, though whether that exciting story is really true, partly true, or just made up by this always brave but somewhat boastful “gentleman adventurer,” is not yet absolutely decided.
But after several years’ residence in that new colony, during which he became its head man, or the president of Virginia,” and where, so historians now tell us, John Smith helped to found the first republic in America, he returned to England and interested four London merchants in a new venture. This was, as he believed, a good money-making scheme, just suited to his restless and inquiring mind. The four merchants took him in as partner, and, in the month of March, 1614, he set sail with two ships upon a trading trip to those parts of America far to the north of Virginia, to which he gave the name of New England,—”that part of America,” so he described it in his book, “betwixt the degrees of 41 and 45,”—and New England it has been ever since.
Other Englishmen had been there before him. One Captain Gosnold, in the year 1602, coasted the shore from Casco Bay to Cape Neddick, and from Boon Island to Cape Cod; the next year, 1603, stout Captain Pring, hunting for sassafras, with which he wished to freight his ship, “bore into that great gulf” which we call Massachusetts Bay, and, dropping anchor in Plymouth harbor, spent six summer weeks in gathering sassafras, testing the soil with various kinds of seeds, and having a good time generally with the friendly Indians of Duxbury Bay.
But neither of these Englishmen, nor Champlain, the

Frenchman, nor the Dutch explorers who sailed into Plymouth harbor in 1613, staid long, or went about the study of their surroundings in a practical way.
It was Captain John Smith who gave to the English people their first real knowledge of the land which he called New England, and which he explored thoroughly, coasting in an open boat from the rocky shores of the Penobscot to the sand hills of Cape Cod.
He was the first visitor to appreciate Boston, for he called the place the Paradise of those parts.” He was the first man to recognize the vastness of the land along which he was sailing—” dominions which stretch themselves into the main, God knows how many thousand miles,” he wrote, “and of which no one can guess the extent and products.” He was the first one to declare, also, that New England was not an island, but a part of that great mainland which, so he believed, stretched away westward to India.
Indeed, he was so delighted with his explorations and adventures during those summer months of 1614 that when he returned to England he interested a trading syndicate of Plymouth, in southwestern England, in his scheme, and in 1615 again sailed west, with the backing of this Plymouth Company, to plant a colony in New England.
But he was taken prisoner by French pirates, and while he cruised about with them as a captive, he spent his time in writing a book which he called “A Description of New England;” for Captain John Smith was never one to waste time.
At last he got back again to England, and in 1616


published his book, and a map to accompany it. Then he went about the country peddling them, and trying to interest capitalists in his great scheme of colonization. Twice he formed a new company, t scheme, so that the only thing he got out of it was the high- sounding title given him by his backers, the “Admiral of New England.”


But his work was by no means fruitless; his book made people acquainted with the new land, for in it he told the men of old England what a grand country New England was. It had, he said, great fisheries which alone would support a colony, and bring more profit to England than gold-seeking; it had a fur business that was full of marvelous possibilities; it had a soil wonderfully fruitful, and a climate just suited to Englishmen. In fact, he drew so attractive a picture t assured them, they could “recreate themselves before their own doors and in their own boats upon the

sea, where man, woman, and child, with a small hook and line, by angling, may take divers sort of excellent fish at their pleasures,”—for Englishmen were always great fishermen, you know.
“And what sport,” asked the delighted captain, “doth yield more pleasing content, and less hurt or change, than angling with a hook and crossing the sweet air from isle to isle, over the silent streams and a calm sea, wherein the most curious may find pleasure, profit, and content?”
But as he knew that mere pleasure might attract but would not draw people across three thousand miles of sea to settle in a new colony, of which he hoped to be the head, he showed also in his book how the colonists, and the syndicate that must back up the enterprise, could make much money out of his scheme. “For,” he said, “I am not so simple as to think that ever any other motive than wealth will ever erect there a commonwealth, or draw company from their ease and humors at home, to stay in New England to effect any purpose.”
But there were other motives to cause some men and women to leave “their ease and humors” in England and seek a new home beyond the broad Atlantic. These people had heard of Captain John Smith’s report; some of them had read his book. In time they were led to make test of his glowing accounts, and, in the New England which he had praised as a Paradise, to erect upon the shores of what was to be known as Massachusetts a commonwealth which was to be the beginning of a mighty state and a yet mightier nation.