Magazine article Humanities

New World Paradise

Magazine article Humanities

New World Paradise

Article excerpt

Virginia looked like the Garden of Eden to George Percy and probably to the English "gentlemen, artisans, and laborers" seeking a place to settle in the name of King James I and to reap profit for their investors, the Virginia Company of London.

Little wonder that these pioneers saw a paradise in the spring of 1607: They had left home dunng the gray, chilly English winter and spent most of the next four-and-one-half months crossing the swelling Atlantic, cramped aboard the Suson Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. The three ships were mere lifeboats by today's standards.

In Virginia ft was a time when the gentle seductive breezes and lush first growth camouflage the inevitable deadly heat of the summer. The wildest dreams of a Utopian New World seemed to be reality.

The Virginia Company officials had instructed the adventurers to settle at least one hundred miles from the ocean, in a place where a major river narrowed, offering defensive positions on either side of any attacking ship-which would surely be Spanish, avenging past English privateering raids. As an alternative, the colonists were advised to settle "some Island that is strong by nature."

As soon as they spied land, the leader of the group and admiral of the fleet. Christopher Newport, allowed the opening of the sealed box containing a list of people preselected by the Company to rule the colony. The list named Edward Maria Wingfield, John Martin, George Kendall, Bartholomew Gosnold, John Ratcliffe, and John Smith, with Newport acting ex officio. These men voted Wingfield, the highest in social rank among them and the only Virginia Company investor present, to be their president. Wingfield then denied Smith a seat on this council, having had him held in chains since an alleged mutiny early in the Atlantic crossing. Led by Newport and Wingfield, and following their instructions, the ships entered the largest river of the Chesapeake, which they named after their king. The party then sailed as far as sixty-five miles northwest looking for that defendable narrow stretch of river. Reaching the Appomattox River without having found an uninhabited place with the right requirements, the colonists turned back toward the bay.

Eventually the colonists explored Percy's paradise of "vivid and sundry color," later called Archer's Hope. …

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