The task in which Gilbert2 had failed was to be undertaken by one better qualified to carry it out. If any Englishman in that age seemed to be marked out as the founder of a colonial empire, it was Raleigh. Like Gilbert, he had studied books; like Drake, he could rule men. The pupil of Coligny, the friend of Spenser, traveler-soldier, scholar, courtier, statesman, Raleigh with all his varied graces and powers rises before us, the type and personification of the age in which he lived. The associations of his youth, and the training of his early manhood fitted him to sympathize with the aims of his half-brother Gilbert, and there is little reason to doubt that Raleigh had a share in his undertaking and his failure.
In 1584 he obtained a patent Precisely similar to Gilbert's. His first step showed the thoughtful and well-planned system on which he began his task. Two ships were sent out, not with any idea of settlement, but to examine and report upon the country. Their commanders were Arthur Barlow and Philip Amidas. To the former we owe the extant record of the voyage: the name of the latter would suggest that he was a foreigner. Whether by chance or design, they took a more southerly course than any of their predecessors. . . .
Coasting along for about a hundred and twenty miles the voyagers reached an inlet and with some difficulty entered. They solemnly took possession of the land in the Queen's name, and then delivered it over to Raleigh according to his patent. They soon discovered that the land upon which they had touched was an island about twenty miles long and not above six broad, named, as they afterward learned, Roanoke. Beyond, separating them from the mainland, lay an enclosed sea, studded with more than a hundred fertile and well-wooded islets. . . .
Barlow and Amidas returned to England in the middle of September. With them they brought two of the savages, named Wanchese and Manteo. A probable tradition tells us that the Queen herself named the country Virginia, and that Raleigh's knighthood was the reward and acknowledgement of his success. On the strength of this report Raleigh at once made preparations for a settlement. A fleet of seven ships was provided for the conveyance of a hundred and eight settlers. The fleet was under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, who was to establish the settlement and leave it under the charge of Ralph Lane. . . .
On the 20th of June the fleet reached the coast of Florida, and three days later narrowly escaped being cast away off Cape Fear. In a few days more they anchored at Wococon, an island near Roanoke. In entering the harbor the largest ship, the Tiger, struck a sand-bar, and was nearly lost, either through the clumsiness or treachery of the pilot, Simon Fernando, a Portuguese. On the 11th of July Grenville, with forty others, including Lane, Amidas, and the chief men of the expedition, crossed over to the mainland. Taking a northerly direction, they explored the coast as far as Secotan, an Indian town some sixty miles south of Roanoke, where they were hospitably received by the savages. It is melancholy, after the bright picture of the intercourse between the natives and the Engish drawn by Barlow, to have to record hostilities, in which by far the greater share of blame lay with our countrymen. On the voyage back to Roanoke a silver cup was stolen from the English at one of the Indian villages. In revenge the English put the inhabitants to flight, burnt the village and destroyed the crops. On the 3d of August one ship sailed home, and on the 25th Grenville left the colony, followed, as it would seem, during the course of the next month by the rest of the fleet.3 . . .
The site of the settlement was at the northeast corner of the island of Roanoke, whence the settlers could command the strait. There, even now, choked by vines and underwood, and here and there broken by the crumbling remains of an earthen bastion, may be traced the outlines of the ditch which enclosed the camp, some forty yards square, the home of the first English settlers in the New World. . . .
If the failure of his colony was likely to deter Raleigh from further efforts this was more than outweighed by the good report of the country given both by Lane and Heriot. Accordingly, in the very next year, Raleigh put out another and a larger expedition under the leadership of John White. The constitution of White's expedition would seem to show that it was designed to be more a colony, properly speaking, than Lane's settlement at Roanoke. A government was formed by Raleigh, consisting of White and twelve others, incorporated as the governor and assistants of the city of Raleigh. Of the hundred and fifty settlers seventeen were women, of whom seven seem to have been unmarried. The emigrants evidently did not go as mere explorers or adventurers; they were to be the seed of a commonwealth. . . .
On the 2d of July the fleet reached Haterask, the port at which Grenville had landed on his last voyage. There White took fifty men ashore to search for the fifteen whom Grenville had left there. They found nothing but the bones of one man, slain, as they afterward learned, by the Indians. The rest had disappeared, and it was not till some time afterward that their countrymen learned any tidings of their fate. Ignorant, no doubt, of the altered feelings of the natives, Grenville's men had lived carelessly, and kept no watch. Pemissapan's warriors had seized the opportunity to revenge the death of their chief, and had sent a party of thirty men against the English settlement. Two of the chief men were sent forward to demand a parley with two of the English. The latter fell into the trap, and sent out two of their number. One of these was instantly seized and killed, whereupon the other fled. The thirty Indians then rushed out and fired the house, in which the English settlers took refuge. The English, thus dislodged, forced their way out, losing one man in the skirmish, and at last, after being sorely prest by the arrows of their enemies, and by their skill in fighting behind covert, they reached the boat and escaped to Haterask. After this neither Indians nor English ever heard of them again. . . .
A more hopeful omen might be drawn from the birth of a child five days later, the first born to English parents in the New World. Her father, Ananias Dare, was one of the twelve assistants, and her mother, Eleanor, was the daughter of John White. Each event, the birth of Virginia Dare, the baptism and ennobling of Manteo, was trivial in itself, yet when brought together, the contrast gives a solemn meaning. It seemed as if within five days the settlement of Roanoke had seen an old world pass away, a new world born.
In August White wished to send home two of the assistants to represent the state of the colony, but, for some reason, none of them were willing to go. The wish of the colony generally seemed to be that White himself should undertake the mission. After some demur, chiefly on the ground that his own private interests required his presence in the settlement, White assented, and on the 27th of August he sailed. . . .
Soon after White's return Raleigh fitted out a fleet under the command of Grenville. Before that fleet could sail Raleigh and Grenville were called off to a task even more pressing than the relief of the Virginia plantation. Yet, notwithstanding the prospect of a Spanish invasion, White persuaded Raleigh to send out two small vessels, with which White himself sailed from Bideford on the 25th of April, 1588. The sailors, however, fell into the snare so often fatal to the explorers of that age. In the words of a later writer, whose vigorous language seemed to have been borrowed from some contemporary chronicler, the captains, "being more intent on a gainful voyage than the relief of the colony, ran in chase of prizes; till at last one of them, meeting two ships of war, was, after a bloody fight, overcome, boarded and rifled. In this maimed, ransacked, and ragged condition she returned to England in a month's time; and in about three weeks after the other also returned, having perhaps tasted of the same fare, at least without performing her intended voyage, to the distress, and, as it proved, the utter destruction of the colony of Virginia, and to the great displeasure of their patron at home."
Raleigh had now spent forty thousand pounds on the colonization of Virginia, with absolutely no return. In March, 1589, he made an assignment, granting to Sir Thomas Smith, White and others the privilege of trading in Virginia, while he proved at the same time that he had not lost his interest in the undertaking by a gift of a hundred pounds for the conversion of the natives. The unhappy colonists gained nothing by the change. For a whole year no relief was sent. When, at length, White sailed with three ships, he or his followers imitated the folly of their predecessors, and preferred buccaneering among the Spaniards in the West Indies to conveying immediate relief to the colonists. On their arrival nothing was to be seen of the settlers. After some search the name Croaton was seen carved on a post, according to an arrangement made with White before his departure, by which the settlers were thus to indicate the course they had taken. Remnants of their goods were found, but no trace of the settlers themselves. Years afterward, when Virginia had been at length settled by Englishmen, a faint tradition found its way among them of a band of white captives, who, after being for years kept by the Indians in laborious slavery, were at length massacred. Such were the only tidings of Raleigh's colonists that ever reached the ears of their countrymen. White, with his three ships, returned, and the colonization of Virginia was for a time at an end. Even Raleigh's indomitable spirit gave way, and he seems henceforth to have abandoned all hope of a plantation. Yet he did not, till after fifteen years of disappointment and failure, give up the search for his lost settlers. Before he died the great work of his life had been accomplished, but by other hands. In spite of the intrigues of the Spanish court and the scoffs of playwrights, Virginia had been settled and had become a flourishing colony. A ship had sailed into London laden with Virginia goods, and an Indian princess,4 the wife of an Englishman, had been received at court, and had for a season furnished wonder and amusement to the fashionable world.
1From Doyle's "English Colonies in America." By permission of the publishers, Henry Holt & Co.
2Sir Humphrey Gilbert, a half-brother of Raleigh, is here referred to. In 1578 he had obtained royal permission to found a colony in America, but his expedition, after starting, turned back, a failure. In 1583 he again set out, landing at St. John's, Newfoundland, where he established the first English colony in North America. On returning home his ship was lost in a storm off the Azores.
3See in the next chapter an account of Lane's return with Drake.
4Pocahontas, married to John Rolfe, went to England with Rolfe and there died about a year later. She left a son who returned to Virginia, where he left descendants, among whom was the famous John Randolph of Roanoke. John Smith's account of the saving of his life by Pocahontas is printed in Volume I of "The Best of the World's Classics."