| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
HOW THE COLONY WAS SAVED
 AFTER Smith left, the colony of Jamestown fell into wild disorder.
Every one wanted to go his own way. A new President named Percy had
indeed been chosen. But although an honest gentleman he was sickly
and weak, and quite unfit to rule these turbulent spirits. So twenty
or more would-be presidents soon sprang up, and in the whole colony
there was neither obedience nor discipline.
No work was done, food was recklessly wasted, and very quickly
famine stared the wretched colonists in the face. The terrible time
afterwards known as the Starving Time had begun. When their stores
were gone the settlers tried to get more in the old way from the
natives. But they, seeing the miserable plight of the Pale-faces,
became insolent in their demands, and in return for niggardly
supplies of food exacted guns and ammunition, swords and tools.
And now there was no man among the colonists who knew how to manage
the Indians as Smith had managed them. There was no man among them
who thought of the future. All they wanted was to stay for a time
the awful pangs of hunger. So they bartered away their muskets and
powder, their tools, and everything of value of which they were
possessed. But even so the food the Indians gave them in return
was not enough to keep body and soul together.
The colony became a place of horror, where pale skeleton-like
creatures roamed about eyeing each other
suspi-  ciously, ready to kill
each other for a crust or a bone. They quarrelled among themselves,
and they quarrelled with the natives. And the natives, now no longer
filled with awe, lay in wait for them and killed them almost without
resistance if they ventured to crawl beyond the walls of the fort.
Many more died of hunger and of disease brought on by hunger.
So less than eight months after Smith had sailed away, of the
five hundred men he had left behind him but sixty remained alive.
The colony was being wiped out, and the little town itself was
disappearing; for the starving wretches had no strength or energy
to fell trees and hew wood, and as soon as a man died his house was
pulled down by his comrades and used as firewood. Already, too,
weeds and briers overgrew the land which had been cleared for
corn. Greater misery and desolation it is hard to imagine. Yet the
unhappy beings sank into a still deeper horror. Unable to relieve
the pangs of hunger, they turned cannibal and fed upon each other.
Thus the last depths of degradation were sounded, the last horrors
of the Starving Time were reached.
Then at length one May day two ships came sailing up the James
River and anchored in the harbour. From their decks bronzed men in
patched and ragged garments looked with astonished eyes upon the
These were the men of the wrecked Sea Venture, who had been cast
ashore upon the Bermudas. Their ship had gone down, but they had
been able to save both themselves and nearly everything out of
her. Some of the best men of the expedition had sailed in the Sea
Venture. Their leaders were brave and energetic; so instead of
bemoaning their fate they had set to work with right good will,
and after ten months' labour had succeeded in building two little
ships which they named the Patience and the
Deliverance. Then, having
filled them with such stores as they could
 muster, they set sail
joyfully to join their comrades at Jamestown. But now what horror
and astonishment was theirs! They had hoped to find a flourishing
town, surrounded by well tilled fields. Instead they saw ruins
and desolation. They had hoped to be greeted joyfully by stalwart,
prosperous Englishmen. Instead a few gaunt, hollow-cheeked spectres,
who scarce seemed men, crawled to meet them.
Lost in amazement the newcomers landed, and as they listened to
the tragic tale pity filled their hearts. They gave the starving
wretches food, and comforted them as best they could. They had no
great stores themselves, and they saw at once that with such scant
supplies as they had it would be impossible to settle at Jamestown.
Even if they could get through the summer, the autumn would bring
no relief, for the fields, where the corn for the winter's use
should already have been sprouting, lay neglected and overgrown
with weeds and briers. The houses where the newcomers might have
lodged had disappeared. The very palisading which surrounded the
settlement as a bulwark against the Indians had been pulled down
for firewood. All the tools and implements which might have been
used to rebuild the place had been bartered away to the Indians. The
Indians themselves were no longer friendly, but hostile. Whichever
way they looked only misery and failure stared them in the face.
The Captains of the Patience and
Deliverance talked long together,
but even they could see no ray of hope. So with heavy hearts they
resolved once more to abandon Virginia. They were loath indeed to
come to this decision, loath indeed to own themselves defeated.
But there seemed no other course left open to them.
So one day early in June the pitiful remnant of the Jamestown
Colony went on board the two waiting ships. Sir Thomas Gates, the
brave and wise captain of the
expedi-  tion, was the last to leave
the ruined town. With backward looks he left it, and ere he weighed
anchor he fired a last salute to the lost colony. Then the sails
were set, and the two little ships drifted down stream towards the
open sea, carrying the beaten settlers back to old England.
Another attempt to plant a New England beyond the seas had failed.
But next day as the little ships dropped down stream the sailors on
the lookout saw a boat being rowed towards them. Was it an Indian
canoe? Did it come in peace or war? It drew nearer. Then it was
seen that it was no Indian canoe, but an English tug boat manned
by English sailors. With a shout they hailed each other, and news
was exchanged. Wonderful news it was to which the broken-hearted
Lord Delaware, the new Governor of Virginia, had arrived. His three
good ships, well stored with food and all things necessary for the
colony, were but a little way down stream. There was no need for
the settlers to flee home to escape starvation and death.
It may be that to some this news was heavy news. It may be that
some would gladly have turned their backs forever upon the spot
where they had endured so much misery. But for the most part the
colonists were unwilling to own defeat, and they resolved at once
to return. So the ships were put about, and three days after they
had left Jamestown, as they believed forever, the colonists once
more landed there.
As Lord Delaware stepped on shore he fell upon his knees giving
thanks to God that he had come in time to save Virginia. After
that the chaplain preached a sermon, then the new Governor, with
all his company about him, read aloud the commission given to him
by King James.
This was the first royal commission ever given to a governor of
an English colony in America. In it Lord
 Delaware was given the
power of life and death over "all and every person and persons now
inhabiting, or which shall hereafter inhabit within the precincts
of the said colony." The colonists were in fact to be his subjects. And
having read aloud his commission, and having thus as it were shown
his authority, Lord Delaware next spoke sternly to his new subjects. He
warned them that he would no longer endure their sluggish idleness
or haughty disobedience. And if they did not amend their ways they
might look to it that the most severe punishment of the law would
come upon them. Having thus spoken his mind plainly, to cheer them
he told of the plentiful and good stores he had brought with him,
of which all those who worked well and faithfully should have a
Now a new life began for the colony. All the settlers were made
to work for some hours every day. Even the gentlemen among them,
"whose breeding never knew what a day's labour meant," had to
do their share. Soon the houses were rebuilt, the palisades stood
again in place, two forts were erected to guard against attacks
by the Indians, and at length the colony seemed to be on the fair
way to success.
Of course this did not all happen at once. The idlers were not easily
turned into diligent workers, or unruly brawlers into peaceful
citizens. Indeed it was only through most stern, and what would
seem to us now most cruel punishments, that the unruly were forced
to keep the law.
The winter after Lord Delaware came out as Governor, although not
so hard as that of the Starving Time, was yet severe, and many of
the colonists died. Lord Delaware, too, became so ill that in the
spring he sailed home to England, and after a little time Sir Thomas
Dale took his place as Deputy Governor.
Sir Thomas Dale was both a soldier and a statesman. He was full
of energy and courage. Far-seeing and dogged,
 he was merciless to
the evildoers, yet kindly to those who tried to do well. Under his
stern yet righteous rule the colony prospered.
At first only men settlers had come out, then one or two women
joined them, and now many more women came, so that the men, instead
of all living together, married and had homes of their own. Then,
too, at first all a man's labour went into the common stock, and
the men who worked little fared as well as those who worked a great
deal. So the lazy fellow did as little as he could. "Glad when he
could slip from his labour," says an old writer, "or slumber over
his task he cared not how."
Thus most of the work of the colony was left to the few who were
industrious and willing. Sir Thomas Dale changed that. In return
for a small yearly payment in corn he gave three acres of land to
every man who wished it, for his own use. So, suddenly, a little
community of farmers sprang up. Now that the land was really their
own, to make of it what they would, each man tilled it eagerly, and
soon such fine crops of grain were raised that the colony was no
longer in dread of starvation. The settlers, too, began to spread
and no longer kept within the palisade round Jamestown, "more
especially as Jamestown," says an old writer, "was scandalised for
an unhealthy aire." And here and there further up the river little
villages sprang up.
Since Smith had gone home the Indians had remained unfriendly, and
a constant danger to the colonists. And now as they became thus
scattered the danger from the Indians became ever greater. Old Powhatan
and his men were constantly making raids upon the Pale-faces with
whom he had once been so friendly. And in spite of the watch they
kept he often succeeded in killing them or taking them prisoner.
He had also by now quite a store of swords, guns and tools stolen
from the English. And how to
sub-  due him, or force him to live on
friendly terms with them once more, none knew.
Pocahontas, who had been so friendly and who had more than once
saved the Pale-faces from disaster, might have helped them. But
she now never came near their settlement; indeed she seemed to have
disappeared altogether. So the English could get no aid from her.
But now it happened one day that one of the adventurers, Samuel
Argall, who was, it is written, "a good Marriner, and a very civil
gentleman," went sailing up the Appomattox in search of corn for
the settlement. He had to go warily because no one could tell how
the Indians would behave, for they would be friends or foes just
as it suited them. If they got the chance of killing the Pale-faces
and stealing their goods they would do so. But if they were not
strong enough to do that they would willingly trade for the coloured
cloths, beads and hatchets they so much wanted.
Presently Argall came to the country of one of the chiefs with
whom he had made friends. While here he was told that Pocahontas,
the great Powhatan's daughter, was living with the tribe. As soon
as he heard this Captain Argall saw at once that here was a means
of forcing the Powhatan to make peace, and he resolved at all costs
to get possession of Pocahontas. So sending for the chief he told
him he must bring Pocahontas on board his ship.
But the chief was afraid and refused to do this.
"Then we are no longer brothers and friends," said Argall.
"My father," said the chief, "be not wroth. For if I do this thing
the Powhatan will make war upon me and upon my people."
"My brother," said Argall, "have no fear; if so be that the
Powhatan shall make war upon you I will join with you against him
to overthrow him utterly. I mean, moreover, no manner of hurt to
Pocahontas, but will only keep her as
 hostage until peace be made
between the Powhatan and the Pale-faces. If therefore you do my
bidding I will give to you the copper kettle which you desire so
Now the chief longed greatly to possess the copper kettle. So he
promised to do as Argall asked, and began to cast about for an excuse
for getting Pocahontas on board. Soon he fell upon a plan. He bade
his wife pretend that she was very anxious to see the Englishman's
ship. But when she asked to be taken on board he refused to go with
her. Again and again she asked. Again and again the chief refused.
Then the poor lady wept with disappointment and at length the chief,
pretending to be very angry, swore that he would beat her if she
did not cease her asking and her tears. But as she still begged
and wept he said he would take her if Pocahontas would go too.
To please the old woman Pocahontas went. Captain Argall received
all three very courteously, and made a great feast for them in his
cabin. The old chief, however, was so eager to get his promised
kettle that he could little enjoy the feast, but kept kicking
Captain Argall under the table as much as to say, "I have done my
part, now you do yours."
At length Captain Argall told Pocahontas that she must stay with
him until peace was made between her father and the white men. As
soon as the old chief and his wife heard that they began to howl,
and cry, and make a great noise, so as to pretend that they knew
nothing about the plot. Pocahontas too began to cry. But Argall
assured her that no harm was intended her, and that she need have
no fear. So she was soon comforted and dried her eyes.
As for the wily old Indians they were made quite happy with the
copper kettle and a few other trifles, and went merrily back to
A messenger was then sent to the Powhatan telling him that his
daughter, whom he loved so dearly, was a prisoner,
 and that he
could only ransom her by sending back all the Pale-faces he held
prisoner, with all their guns, swords and tools which he had stolen.
When Powhatan got this news he was both angry and sorry. For he
loved his daughter very dearly, but he loved the Englishmen's tools
and weapons almost more. He did not know what to do, so for three
months he did nothing. Then at last he sent back seven of his
prisoners, each one carrying a useless gun.
"Tell your chieftain," he said, "that all the rest of the arms of
the Pale-faces are lost, or have been stolen from me. But if the
Pale-faces will give back my daughter I will give satisfaction
for all the other things I have taken, together with five hundred
bushels of corn, and will make peace forever."
But the Englishmen were not easily deceived. They returned a message
to the chief saying, "Your daughter is well used. But we do not
believe the rest of our arms are either lost or stolen, and therefore
until you send them we will keep your daughter."
The Powhatan was so angry when he got this message that for a long
time he would have no further dealings with the Pale-faces, but
continued to vex and harass them as much as he could.
At length Sir Thomas Dale, seeking to put an end to this, took
Pocahontas, and with a hundred and fifty men sailed up the river
to the Powhatan's chief town.
As soon as the savages saw the white men they came down to the river's
bank, jeering at them and insulting them, haughtily demanding why
they had come.
"We have brought the Powhatan's daughter," replied the Englishmen.
"For we are come to receive the ransom promised, and if you do not
give it willingly we will take it by force."
 But the savages were not in the least afraid at that threat. They
jeered the more.
"If so be," they cried, "that you are come to fight you are right
welcome, for we are ready for you. But we advise you, if you love
your lives, to retire with haste. Else we will serve you as we have
served others of your countrymen."
"Oh," answered the Englishmen, "we must have a better answer than
that," and driving their ship nearer to the shore they made ready
But as soon as they were within bow shot the savages let fly their
arrows. Thick and fast they fell, rattling on the deck, glancing
from the men's armour, wounding not a few. This reception made the
Englishmen angry, so without more ado they launched their boats and
made for the shore. The savages fled at their coming, and so enraged
were the colonists against them that they burned their houses, and
utterly destroyed their town. Then they sailed on up the river in
pursuit of the Redmen.
Next day they came up again with the savages. They were now not so
insolent and sent a messenger to ask why the Pale-faces had burned
"Why did you fire upon us?" asked the Englishmen, sternly.
"Brothers," replied the Redmen, "we did not fire upon you. It was
but some stray savages who did so. We intend you no hurt and are
With these and many other fair words they tried to pacify the
Pale-faces. So the Englishmen, who had no wish to fight, made peace
with them. Then the Indians sent a messenger to the Powhatan who
was a day's journey off; and the Englishmen were told they must
wait two days for his answer.
Meanwhile the Englishmen asked to see their comrades whom the
Indians had taken prisoner.
 "We cannot show them to you," replied the wily Redmen, "for they have
all run away in fear lest you should hang them. But the Powhatan's
men are pursuing after them, and will doubtless bring them back."
"Then where are the swords and guns which you have stolen from us?"
demanded the Englishmen.
"These you shall have to-morrow," replied the Redmen.
But, as the Englishmen well knew, this was all idle talk and deceit,
and next day no message came from the Powhatan, neither were any
swords nor guns forthcoming. So once more the Englishmen set sail
and went still further up the river.
Here quite close to another village belonging to the Powhatan they
came upon four hundred Indians in war paint. When they saw the
Englishmen the Indians yelled and danced, and dared them to come
ashore. This the Englishmen, nothing daunted, accordingly did. The
Redmen on their side showed no fear, but walked boldly up and down
among the Englishmen, demanding to speak with their captain.
So the chiefs were brought to Sir Thomas.
"Why do you come against us thus?" they asked. "We are friends and
brothers. Let us not fight until we have sent once again to our
King to know his pleasure. Then if he sends not back the message
of peace we will fight you and defend our own as best we may."
The Englishmen knew well that by all this talk of peace the Indians
wanted but to gain time so that they might be able to carry away
and hide their stores. Still they had no desire to fight if by any
other means they might gain their end. So they promised a truce
until noon the day following. "And if we then decide to fight you,
you shall be warned of it by the sounding of our drums and trumpets,"
The truce being settled Pocahontas' two brothers
 on board the
Englishmen's ships to visit their sister. And when they saw that
she was well cared for, and appeared to be quite happy they were
very glad, for they had heard that she was ill treated and most
miserable. But finding her happy they promised to persuade their
father to ransom her, and make friends again with the Pale-faces.
Seeing them thus friendly Sir Thomas suggested that Pocahontas' two
brothers should stay on board his vessel as hostages while he sent
two of his company to parley with the Powhatan. This was accordingly
done, and Master John Rolfe and Master Sparkes set off on their
mission. When, however, they reached the village where the Powhatan
was hiding they found him still in high dudgeon, and he refused to
see them, or speak with them. So they had to be content with seeing
his brother, who treated them with all courtesy and kindness and
promised to do his best to pacify the Powhatan.
It was now April, and high time for the colonists to be back
on their farms sowing their corn. So with this promise they were
fain to be content in the meantime. And having agreed upon a truce
until harvest time they set sail once more for Jamestown, taking
Pocahontas with them.
One at least among the company of Englishmen was glad that
the negotiations with the Powhatan had come to nothing, and that
Pocahontas had not been ransomed. That was Master John Rolfe. For
Pocahontas, although a savage, was beautiful and kind, and John
Rolfe had fallen madly in love with her. So he had no desire that
she should return to her own tribe, but rather that she should
return to Jamestown and marry him.
Pocahontas, too, was quite fond of John Rolfe, although she had
never forgotten her love for the great White Chief whose life she
had saved. The Englishmen, however, told her that he had gone away
never to come back any more, and that very likely he was dead.
Pocahontas was then
 easily persuaded to marry John Rolfe. But he
himself, although he loved her very much, had some misgivings. For
was this beautiful savage not a heathen?
That difficulty was, however, soon overcome. For Pocahontas made no
objection to becoming a Christian. So one day there was a great
gathering in the little church at Jamestown when the heathen
princess stood beside the fort, and the water of Christian baptism
was sprinkled on her dark face, and she was given the Bible name
And now when the Powhatan heard that his daughter was going to
marry one of the Pale-faces he was quite pleased. He forgot all
his anger and sulkiness, sent many of his braves to be present at
the wedding, and swore to be the friend and brother of the Pale-faces
Sir Thomas Dale was delighted. So every one was pleased, and one
morning early in April three hundred years ago all the inhabitants
of the country round, both Redman and White, gathered to see the
wedding. And from that day for eight years, as long as the Powhatan
lived, there was peace between him and his brothers, the Pale-faces.
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