Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature

By Gordon M. Sayre | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
John Smith and Samuel de Champlain

Founding Fathers and Their Indian Relations

The careers of John Smith and Samuel de Champlain, popular "founding fathers" of the French and English colonies in North America, are so uncannily similar that they invite comparison, and such a comparison offers a good point of departure for an attempt to integrate the study of colonial American literature in the two languages. More than merely the leaders of initial seventeenth-century colonies in Virginia and Quebec, each man, through his extensive historical and promotional writing, succeeded in identifying his own fate with that of the colony to the point where the former nearly subsumes the latter. Despite the existence of many narratives by other colonists such as William Strachey, Edward Maria Wingfield, George Percy, and Henry Spelman, 1 Smith's narratives have become central to the history of the Virginia colony up to the 1622 "Massacre," "the slandered Smith becomes, in his own writings, the best synechdoche for slandered Virginia." 2 Or, as Wayne Franklin puts it, still more portentously, Smith "embodies in his own condition the ruin of a colonial ideal" (188). Champlain's story,

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