Captain John Smith (1580–1631) Admiral of New England was an English soldier, sailor, and author. He is remembered for his role in establishing the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia, and his brief association with the Native American girl Pocahontas during an altercation with the Powhatan Confederacy and her father, Chief Powhatan. He was a leader of the Virginia Colony (based at Jamestown) between September 1608 and August 1609, and led an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay.
His books may have been as important as his deeds, as they encouraged more Englishmen and women to follow the trail he had blazed and colonize the New World. He gave the name New England to that region, and encouraged people with the comment, "Here every man may be master and owner of his owne labour and land...If he have nothing but his hands, he may...by industrie quickly grow rich." His message attracted millions of people in the next four centuries.
The General Historie of Virginia
The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles is a book written by Captain John Smith, first published in 1624. The book is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, histories of the territory administered by the Virginia Company.
Originally, two English joint-stock companies had been created to settle North America, then known as Virginia. The London Company was given a charter for a swathe of the continent south of that given to the Plymouth Company. Both companies established settlements in 1607 (the London Company in Jamestown. Although its settlement was soon abandoned, and its charter eventually taken over by the London Company, thenceforth, the territory included in the Plymouth Company's charter was defined as New England. The term Virginia came to refer only to that part of North America covered by the London Company's original charters. The third charter, of 1612, extended its territory far enough across the Atlantic to include the Somers Isles (named for Admiral of the Virginia Company, Sir George Somers), or Bermuda, which the Virginia Company had been in unofficial possession of since the 1609 wreck of the Sea Venture.
Following his return to England, John Smith fell out of favour with the directors of the Virginia Company. Despite this, he wrote a series of publications about the English colonial effort in North America, although, in his accounts, he marginalised the Company's involvement. The Generall Historie was based in large part on information he was given by others, as he had not personally witnessed what had happened in the years between his leaving Virginia and publishing the book. He had never visited Bermuda, which had been separated from Virginia to be managed by the Somers Isles Company (formed in 1615 by the shareholders of the Virginia Company). His information on Bermuda may have come from the then Governor, Nathaniel Butler, who probably provided the drawing which was the basis of the engraving printed in the Historie, a map, and illustrations of important sites in that colony.
How do you views of Native Americans compare to that of John Smith? Smith’s The General History of Virginia shows the Native Americans as backward, barbaric, and dangerous. John Smith saw firsthand the hostile actions, different clothes, and inferior technology of the Native Americans. John Smith wrote his opinion of the Native Americans in The General History of Virginia.
Some of the Native Americans that inhabited the New World were hostile to the colonists. Smith was captured by the Native Americans and brought back to their camp. Smith wrote that “Within an hour, the prepared to shoot him”. They decided against shooting him, realizing his apparent power and waited until Powhatan “ordered two large stones to be brought to him” so the could “beat out (Smith’s) brains”.
When John Smith was captured by the Native Americans he wrote about their different, primitive clothing. He wrote that their leader, Powhatan “sat covered with a great robe made of raccoon skin and tails hanging by”. The other members of the tribe had “their heads and shoulders painted red” and their “heads bedecked with the white down of birds”. Compared to the colonists’ clothing, the Native Americans would have looked barbaric to Smith.
The Native Americans inferior technology led to Smith writing that they were a “backwards” tribe. While being a captive of the Native Americans, Smith saw the Native Americans “marvel at the compass and the glass that covered it”.
After Smith was escorted back to Jamestown to give Powhatan two cannons, Smith demonstrated how to use the cannon to the Native Americans and saw “the poor savages run away half dead with fear”.
John Smith wrote his firsthand account of what he experienced in the New World. He wrote of the relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans. Smith wrote The General History of Virginia in his own opinion of the Native Americans.
Captain John Smith: soldier, author of the work, unreliable narrator
Pocahontas: a young a beautiful Indian girl
Powhatan: her father and the chief of the tribe.
Colonial period, Jamestown, Virginia.
John Smith was just a soldier and therefore his style is quite simple, plain, and quick. He does many mistakes in spelling. He uses long sentences, strange punctuation, and Elizabethan English. He provides in his work some kind of images, myths, and tales. He doesn’t provide true information about the event that he mentions- for example when he is captured by Native Americans he exaggerates the whole situation. First, he states that for them he was kind of a dignity but later on they prepare themselves to kill him. Could this be a fact? No, it is made up story. He also gives us a bit of information about Native Americans- their habits, clothes,
Smith wrote many accounts of his experience in Virginia and New England, including The General Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles. In these works, Smith provided early examples of the tall tale and was among the first English-American writers to explore the important American themes of self-creation, practicality, industry, self-reliance, and cultural contact. In many ways, he is a precursor to Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain.
"Here every man may be master and owner of his owne labour and land...If he have nothing but his hands, he may...by industrie quickly grow rich."
His message attracted millions of people in the next four centuries. He encouraged them to come to America to become rich and the American Dream started.
Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the rivers head, twentie myles in the desert, had his two men slaine (as is supposed) sleeping by the Canowe, whilst himselfe, by fowling sought them victual, who finding he was beset with 200. Salvages, two of them hee slew, still defending himselfe, with the ayd of a Salvage his guid(e), whom he bound to his arme with his garters, and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stucke in his cloathes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner.
In this extract we can see how much he exaggerates the situation. He feels superior to the Natives- he calls them savages, he takes two of them slaves, and when defending himself he uses one of them as a buckler.
At last they brought him Meronocomoco, where was Pawhatan, their Emperor. Here more than two hundred of those grim Courtiers stood wondering at him he had beene a monster; till Pawhatan and his trayne had put themeselves in their greatest braveries.
..., to beate out his braines, Pocahontas, the King dearest daughter, when no intreaty could pevaile, got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death:...