North America was divided up by the first European adventurers into three geographical districts: Acadia, Virginia and Florida. Florida was part of New Spain which was to be found to the west and south of Virginia; Acadia was in the north. Between the northern boundary of Florida (somewhere in the Carolinas) and the southern boundary of Acadia (undefined and which was to cause trouble for two centuries), lies Virginia. New Spain and New France were open-ended at the back, and a massive land continent stretched west; New England was hemmed in by the Alleghenies.
The first permanent English settlement arose as a result of legal rights granted by James the First, on April 10th, 1606. Two Virginian companies (the London Company and the West of England Company) received through these grants rights to the east coast of America. It was quite a wide swath of land from 34º, Cape Fear, North Carolina; to 45º, Nova Scotia. With "sensible and practical instructions,"1 the Virginia settlers came by way of the West Indies in three sailing vessels: the Susan Constant (100 ton) with Captain Christopher Newport in charge, the God Speed (40 tons) with Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, and the Discovery (a very small 20 tons) with Captain John Ratcliffe. During 1607, after having set out from England four months earlier, these small wooden sailing vessels, with their expectant occupants, sailed into Chesapeake Bay; "the first vital germ of English colonization on the continent" was thereby established.2 On the shores of the Powhatatan River, forty miles up, on the north side, thousands of miles away from their beloved England these English adventurers tied their vessels to trees and unloaded a number of their possessions ashore: Jamestown was founded; it was to be the first permanent English colony in America.3 To go into the infancy years of Jamestown would indeed be an interesting story in itself, but is beyond the scope of this work.4 The story of Jamestown is the story of Spanish spies and men who mutiny; it is the story of discord and death: at the same time it is the story of bravery as Captains Newport and Smith extended, through explorations, England's knowledge of the surrounding shores, -- not only of the ocean, but also of the inland rivers and lakes; it is the story of love and loyalty and inter-racial relationships, such as that of Captain Smith and Pocahontas. It is the story of fish, oysters, bread, deer, turkeys, corn and tobacco; it is the story of pigs and the founding of Bermuda by the British; it is the story of making pitch, tar, glass, ashes and soap. It is the story of disillusioned and disgruntled men.5
While on the subject of Jamestown, I should mention Samuel Argall, the first persecutor of Acadia. He was a man with no particular credentials other than he was a captain of "an illicit trading-vessel." Argall was "a man of ability and force ... unscrupulous and grasping." The English Governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas Dale, saw in Samuel Argall an ideal person to deal with the neighboring French. It was of no matter that there existed practically 500 miles of wilderness between Jamestown and Port Royal, English "rights" were to be enforced, and, I might add, booty to be had. Argall was set to the task of clearing out the French to be found somewhere north, up the coast. Arriving off the coastline of Maine, Argall tricked the Indians (normally the Indians had a distinct fondness for the French and a dislike for the English) and was soon led to his quarry. By this time, 1613, the French had made three establishments in the area: Mount Desert, St. Croix and Port Royal.6 In short order, Argall, with lawless violence, ransacked and plundered all three; and, so he thought, Acadia was to be "effectually blotted out."7
It was in Acadia where the first shots in America were exchanged between the English and French, these ancient European enemies. These bloody exchanges -- of which Acadia was to have more than its share -- kept up for over a century and a half and continually shook the struggling communities of North America until accounts were permanently settled on the Plains of Abraham, at Quebec, in 1759. But before we get to 1759, a lot of territory and time will have to be travelled in the pages ahead.
Before passing on and back to Acadia I will give a quick accounting of the founding of the earliest New England colonies. There was of course the colony which was established in 1630 north of the existing colony of Virginia. It was John Winthrop (1588-1649), "a forty-two-year-old Puritan magistrate" who lead his colonists ashore and founded the Massachusetts colony.
"When they landed, there were already some two thousand people in New England, among them the separatists of the Plymouth colony who had emigrated a decade earlier and had by now established a network of small trading outposts as far north as Maine. The influx of English continued, so that ten years after Winthrop's bay colonists arrived there were nine thousand people in Massachusetts alone, more than thirteen thousand in New England, and nearly twenty-seven thousand English in America. What's more, these settlers had financed themselves. By comparison, the three hundred colonists of Razilly's state-supported expedition seemed almost insignificant."8
In 1633, the Dutch settled at a spot which now marks Hartford on the Connecticut River. In 1634, Lord Baltimore founded Maryland. And, in 1635, New Hampshire was granted to Captain John Mason.
Next: Chapter 10, Acadia (1654-1684).